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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.

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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.

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Mamruana CAL “Wrap Up”

Sleeve cuff test for the Mamruana in progress.
Mamruana (unfinished): sleeve cuff test.

I put “Wrap Up” in quotes because this is a soft ending to a crochet along, not a hard one. In fact I remain inspired by some discoveries I made about it along the way. Plus, I can’t resist a pun.

It’s easy to imagine revisiting this CAL with a springtime project with CAL participants who also intend to start or resume their Mamruanas later.

Mamruana Evaluation Day

I’m going to do a behind-the-scenes evaluation of it as a crocheter of it (the process), wearer (the product), yarn provider (yarn brand choice), designer (art and craft of it), and pattern writer (is it patternable?).

Wearing the Ruana

Mine is in fall colors and I’ll be wearing it to parties here in Florida through the winter. It’s bigger and heavier on me than I expected, but not too much. It means I made a size Large to X-Large instead of a Small to Medium.

I will love dancing in it. It drapes beautifully and the colored diamonds flicker as it moves, vaguely like confetti.

As a Crochet Project

I really enjoyed crocheting it for three reasons:

  1. The half double stitches (hdc) are crocheted into spaces, not stitch loops (helps the crocheting pace). See the stitch close up below.
  2. The rhythm of color changes kept me looking forward to the next strip, with no color juggling or managing ends.
  3. Constructing this in MAM (“mile-a-minute”) strips gave me a satisfying feeling of completion and progress.

As a Design Idea

Mamruana crochet strips in other wearable shapes and striping.
Mamruana crochet strips in some other wearable shapes. Compare how the color stripes drape with first photo of the ruana.

Several inspiring discoveries here for the designer in me!

I love that you’re just crocheting little square patches in simple rows—so elementary—but they end up being diamonds on the bias. Changing the color of each strip adds a big visual effect to the drape. A ruana shape magnifies the effect because the sleeve sections also drape on the body at an angle.

Not only is a patch reversible, it’s rotatable! This excites me because it means a series of patches could be linked up while going in different directions and still look coolly consistent. Freeform-bitmappy, chic, powerfully versatile design-wise. A gazillion options are possible for other wearable shapes and kinds of projects. It’s like each patch is a fashionable “bit” for infinite design “pixels”.

Put a Cuff on It

I’m unreasonably inspired by putting sleeve cuffs on a ruana. I like how it feels to wear it, how it updates the look, and how easy it is to do. It’s a trendy effect I’ve wanted to explore since seeing it so much in Pinterest.

The Yarn Choice

Speaking as both a designer and a yarn provider, I’m very pleased with how the design and yarn go together. (I never really know if that will be the case.) YES I always want to have new crochet patterns for DesigningVashti Lotus yarn, and to show off new colors of it. For example, the new Orange Luxe color inspired the Mamruana.

Yarn-me will ask designer-me to tinker with the final pattern because it needn’t use quite this much yarn—approx. 525 grams or 1350 yds.

As a designer I always need a good design reason for choosing one yarn over another. So, of course I fantasize about other yarns too. Besides the sport weight (CYC #2) Lotus, I think thinner yarns (lace wt./CYC #0 and fingering/CYC #1) would be wonderful; I swatched some for the CAL. I keep picturing a wool or alpaca blend as a generous cowl, for example. What about fine crochet thread for a scarf, panels of a skirt, etc. Beads?!

My takeaways from using Lotus for this Mamruana:

  • Its sheen combined with its drape is key to the whole effect! (That “I want to wear it to holiday parties and dance in it” effect.) Check out the stitch close up at right.
  • For Lotus designs I tend to vacillate between using a G-6 and G-7 (4mm, 4.5mm) crochet hook size. I used a G-7 for Mamruana. For larger sizes at least, I’m thinking it should be a G-6. Probably not an F-5 (3.75m) but I’ll investigate.
  • The color range of Lotus is a significant element in its “just one more strip!” crocheting fun and visual impact. I’d need an inspiring color range in any yarn I use for this.

Mamruana as a Downloadable Pattern?

I’ve learned that you never know what it will be like to write up a design until you’re in too deep, but I’m not worried about this one. No red flags. Nothing that would require a video to be understandable. Unlike, say, a Bosnian color-pooled moebius.

It’s so Plus-sizable. Good Plus Size patterns are another thing I always want more of in my shop.

A nice thing about this CAL is that I wrote up the main pattern in sections and created visual aids as we went.

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Crochet for the Easter Weekend (Check-in)

The matching yarns are shown against the skirt colors for comparison.
The yarn colors match up with the colors in the skirt. Another view: https://flic.kr/p/TkJm53

Happy Crochet Easter! Today I’m taking a break from lots of behind the scenes crochet work to post a quick update. Below is a long silk skirt I’ve worn every spring for years. It’s one of my all-time favorites. This weekend I mused on its colors.

This “Vashti’s Silk Skirt” color combo would make a striking crochet Easter/springtime project, wouldn’t it? Perhaps a wrap, shrug, or bolero to go with the skirt?

Full length silk skirt with a floral print. Lavender and cream colored background with rich gem colors in the foreground of the print.
My favorite long skirt. I look for reasons to wear it at Easter time.

I can picture multicolored motifs. Or, a cream and lavender thing, with the darker colors as a contrasting border–little flowers, maybe.

In fact I’m going to create a project page for this in Ravelry after I finish this post.

I’ll be able to send out a newsletter issue after I meet a big design deadline this week. So close! I’ll also be able to keep moving forward on new blogging and crochet video plans I’m excited to share.

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Happy [inter-]National Crochet Month

This is my Crochetville NatCroMo blogging day.

Larger wrap size of DJC Curaçao Wrap in Emerald Deep Lotus yarn
New pineapple crochet lace wrap pattern for Lotus by Doris Chan in Emerald Deep Lotus yarn.

Thanks for stopping by! It’s certainly a big weekend for us crocheters.

Tomorrow is a very green holiday (St. Patrick’s Dayso check out our DesigningVashti Lotus yarn in the new Emerald Deep color. This is a rich, satisfying, inspiring green to take you from winter to spring.

Want to feel warm and cozy quickly? 

I’ve just returned from teaching “Big-Hook Slip Stitch Crochet” in icy Chicago. I urge everyone to gather up their jumbo crochet hooks and super bulky yarns! Some of my slip stitch projects take only an hour or two this way.

Expedient Cowl Took Only Two Hours to Make.

Beginner slip stitch crochet with a big hook!
Cozy Expedient Cowl: Use beginner slip stitches and a big hook. (Add a third ball and more rows for a trendy skirt!)

Warm up a big hook (size P/11.5 or 12 mm) for this toasty, speedy item. I named it “Expedient” because it took me just two hours tops to make one during LAST year’s surprise cold snap.

No super-bulkies handy? Create your own: just crochet with multiple strands held together of whatever’s in your yarn stash.

Tip: throw in at least one strand of alpaca or angora. These fibers are four times warmer than wool. Add a yarn with a halo like mohair, or a textured novelty yarn, to fill in any gaps between stitches.

Set of 5 Big Crochet Hooks: Perfect for NatCroMo

Set of 5 sizes of jumbo wood crochet hooks, and the crocheted "bucket" caddy for them showing the base that's reinforced by crocheting around a recycled plastic ring.
It’s displayed in my studio and I use it all the time now.

Be ready for the next cold snap with this set of five jumbo crochet hooks—sizes Q, R, S, T, and U—bundled with a free Big Hook Bucket pattern. (It’s already at a discount as a kit so I’m unable to discount it further for NatCroMo readers, sorry.) You can buy these crochet hooks individually here.

Armed with these hooks you’ll also be ready for when I release these new Big-Hook Slip Stitch crochet patterns (links currently go to their Ravelry project pages):

Zumie Lace Vest  I used a size S (19 mm) hook for most of it. This one-skein lace item took only 45 minutes to crochet. Yarn: the fun Hikoo Zumie by Skacel.

SS-Luscious Sampler  Size 12 mm (“P”) crochet hook and two skeins of luscious Berroco Noble.

Pink kitty-ears hat with only 95 yds and an M/9 mm hook. It’s simple back loop slip stitch in rows, then seamed on the top and side. It came out smallish on me and perfect on my friend (she kept it!). No yarn left over so I’m mulling a way to get a slightly more out of about 95 yds of yarn for this.

Slip Slab Neckwrap  It was the first prototype for the Expedient Cowl. I needed only 168 yards and a P/12 mm hook.

Also: Happy Spring Break!

Does it start this weekend for your family? My son’s starts this afternoon.