Posted on 7 Comments

Wearing Crochet to a Memorial Service

Four views of Graven worn with its buttons in front or back.

I traveled over the weekend to attend a memorial service for the sudden death of a beloved uncle.

The chapel accommodates 280 people, and 360 attended. Fortunately the weather was ideal (around 80º and sunny) so that the building could be open on two (maybe three? sides. The overflow of people could sit comfortably outside and feel included.

I designed something specifically to wear to this event and had two weeks to make it. That includes all swatching, blocking, and any do-overs.

The Challenge: Accepted.

Wearing crochet to this event meant meeting three strict requirements.

The short, fixed deadline.

I had to rule out my very first idea: to crochet a Chanel-style jacket. Instead I started imagining something that would take two balls of yarn or less.

Result: The finished Graven weighs 108g (slightly over one 256-yd ball).

The second limit was its style and color.

The 3-button front Graven capelet and black dress and pearls.
A stop at Starbucks after the memorial.

Graven would have to be far more subdued than my default personal style, so I ruled out several initial ideas. It also had to be solid black; a challenge because that’s not what I tend to crochet. Sure, I often wear black clothing as a plain first layer that forms a background to a (sometimes crocheted) lighter-colored layer. I struggled at first to picture wearing crochet in solid black on a sunny Florida morning, not for evening, or in a northern office.

Result: I wore Graven all day. It was mostly easy and comfortable to wear, and felt elegant and proper style wise. I did have to adjust it periodically so that the buttons stayed centered. (I think this is because I accidentally increased some rows unevenly.)

It had to work with my dress and high heels.

The dress was a simple sleeveless deep V-front shift made of an inky black pima-modal fabric. Its surface had a woven linen look but it was actually a fine knit. Very comfortable to wear in Florida! It needed a dressy covering for the upper arms and chest though.

Result: Armed with these three requirements, I narrowed down my project to a fairly traditional shoulder covering, crocheted in a fairly tame lace stitch texture, with a polished-looking yarn that’s not too thin or thick: a capelet in Tunisian crochet with Lotus. (Our “Black Gleam” color matched the dress! whew.)

Other Requirements I Hoped to Meet

Half of the capelet shown flat along its hem while it blocks.
Half of the capelet shown flat along its hem while it blocks.

Learn something new about crochet: this was the first time I tried doing a Tunisian “wicker” mesh in short rows with a built-in shaped collar, and a distinctive twisted-loop edging at the hem.

Use yarn already in my stash, ideally my Lotus yarn. I try to feature a different Lotus color each time I design with it. This was the first time I designed with the black.

Try out a trendy style: The trend of using mesh textures in a modern, sort of sporty way inspired the stitch pattern. (The edging later added more of a medieval-ish wrought iron look.)

Give my handmade item the kind of polish that could even make someone wonder if it was a store-bought designer label. (I don’t know if this actually happened).

Wearing Crochet to Memorials

I’d do it again. It was a tangible comfort to me.

Although I don’t think I caught sight of all 360 people individually, I feel confident in saying that I was the only one wearing crochet, or even a hand knit item.

To me, fabric has a language, and crochet adds a necessary voice to the conversation, at memorials too. Time spent crocheting Graven was also time spent contemplating the uncle I will miss so much. Crochet caught and is holding my feelings for him.

Posted on 2 Comments

On the Hook: New Tunisian Crochet Design

Last week I started a new design that I need to wear soon. I’ll be attending a daytime memorial service in Florida. My plain black sleeveless dress just needs a light covering for my upper arms and chest. That’s why this project is in all black Lotus yarn. (It’s purely a coincidence that I’ll finish in time for Halloween tomorrow.)

Its tentative name is Graven because I first thought of raven’s wings, and it has an engraved-looking texture. I think the last all-black thing I designed was a 2007 mini skirt of single crochet for Caron yarns in their Simply Soft yarn.

Story—its Style and Texture

Early (earliest?) Wicker variation swatched
Early (earliest?) Wicker variation swatched.

The main stitch pattern is similar to one I created for Weightless and Liebling. I’ve planned to design with it for years. I chose short rows to shape it instead of steadily increasing in the round from the neck down, or gathering the neckline. This made it an interesting process.

Sleek black lace crew-neck capelet for daytime urban streetwear (Oct. 2016 Valentino ad for "Glamgloss" sunglasses)
Oct. 2016 Valentino ad for “Glamgloss”

A recent “Glamgloss” ad by Valentino inspired the design idea. Originally I was going to name it “Glaze” or “Lotus Glaze”. It evolved and now will probably be more of a capelet to be worn open in the front or closed in the back.

About the Edging

New Tunisian Crochet Mesh Design in Progress

Last night I tried out the edging you see here. It blocked overnight and today I’m very happy with how it resolved some issues.

Edging priorities:

  • Prevent flaring or ruffling at the hem
  • Add a bit of length because I made it too short for me
  • Give it a restrained but special design detail.

I hope it’s restrained enough! (I struggle with that.)

The stitch choices are very carefully picked to deal with how the hem hangs. This is my top priority because I feel like a little girl if something ruffles even slightly over my upper arms. Some of the stitches recede to create a subtle ribbing effect that pull the hem in just enough. I like the vertical texture they add.

The tiny twisted loops (the shortest I could make them) are actually energy coils that add resilience to the flexy rib, since this yarn has no wool or other stretchy fiber in it. The picots I tried didn’t do this. It’s also dense enough overall to weigh down the hem without the need for beads or a hidden chain.

Close up of the change in stitch pattern for the collar, in progress. These are twisted Tunisian crochet stitches in DesigningVashti Lotus yarn, "Black Gleam" color. (It's inky, glossy, deep black but doesn't look like it in this lightened photo.)
Close up of the change in stitch pattern for the collar, in progress. These are twisted Tunisian crochet stitches.

I first used a twisty loop edging for Aquarienne, my newest published pattern. For that design they’re beaded and a bit longer.

For the neck edge I used a different stitch pattern while crocheting the main piece. You’re looking at twisted Tunisian extended stitches. Interesting texture! I haven’t used them like this before.

As a Crochet Pattern

If/when I write up Graven as a downloadable pattern, it will be for an Experienced skill level and with a video. This is mainly due to what it’s like to do the main Tunisian mesh in short rows. Graven has a project page in Ravelry where I’ll post updates.