Rainbows

I’ve lots to write on here about the wonderful time I’ve been having with Jan’s visit. But we are having so much fun it may have to wait until she is headed home.

We have been on the go everyday since her flight landed in Denver. There has been Vera Bradley, Yarn, Antiques, more Yarn, Glass Galleries, some more Yarn, Hiking, and Yarn. Yes, you are seeing a trend there. Of course, considering how we met originally it is no surprise that yarn is the common thread.

Rainbow08212013

Today there was a lovely rain storm in the early evening, pouring rain with bright sunshine. So of course, there was a gorgeous double rainbow. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to catch the double, but the remaining rainbow was pretty spectacular by itself.

More soon, including pictures of my lovely yarn and other goodies.

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Running Around

Yes, I was running around like a crazy woman today. Trying to get things finished up because….

Jan is coming to visit starting tomorrow thru the 24th!

Since I want to be free to play and sight-see with her, I’m trying to have all my projects work and household caught up. Of course, trying is the key word there. Those old sayings about Murphy and no rest for the wicked seem to be quite true.

Good thing Jan is a crochet yarnie like myself, so I can do some “work” whilst we are playing.

Paintbrush

We will be going down to PJ Jam at the LambShoppe this Saturday, then joining my Mountain Top Stitching Group on Sunday. Clearly getting the visit started off with some fun yarn stuff. Then hopefully part of our week will involve making stops at the various yarn stores that are part of the “Hot August Knits Yarn Crawl”

A couple of the shops involved are in Wyoming, so we may be re-tracing some of our travels from last September when we drove to Reno for the Knit & Crochet Show.

Will try to get some blog posts up about our adventures as the week goes along, but we might be having too much fun.

My Secret Weapon

Anyone who is successful will tell you that they couldn’t have done it alone. This is certainly true for me and my crochet design work. In fact, two of my recently published designs owe their existence to my secret weapon, Val.

At the July 2012 Knit & Crochet Show in Manchester I had a meeting with the lovely Carol Alexander.  She is the editor-in-chief for Annie’s “Crochet! Magazine” and “Crochet World”, and a former designer herself. We were discussing all the design ideas I have, but that my time for creating samples was limited.  She suggested that I look into finding some contract crocheters that could stitch up samples for me while I work on creating the designs.

So I talked to a number of my designer friends to find out if they used contract crocheters and what was the best way to go about finding someone. Many of them use contractors that live far away from them, this involves shipping yarn and projects back and forth. Some are fortunate to live in an area where they have lots of reliable crocheters nearby to choose from.

But I live on a mountain, a fair distance from most everyone I know of that is interested in doing contract crochet.  Then I had the brilliant idea of my friend Val doing some crocheting for me, she lives down the mountain from me so shipping wasn’t an issue.

Val and I have known each other for about 7 years and have been getting together regularly to crochet for the past 3. She helped me teach the Crochet Club at our local elementary school. So all that was left was to ask her if she would be interested in doing contract crochet work. We discussed the details and logistics of her doing this work for me. And thus began a new facet of our relationship.

Photo courtesy of Crochet World / Annie's Publishing
Photo courtesy of Crochet World / Annie’s Publishing

The first design she worked on was my “Butterfly Days Baby Blanket” published this summer in the June issue of Crochet World.

Greek Squares Afghan

The second design she worked on was my “Greek Squares Afghan” that just came out in the August issue of Crochet World.  Val crocheted all the blocks for me, then I crocheted them together and did the final edging.

The photo was taken by me in my living room before I shipped off the finished afghan.  I found myself glad that I had photographed it, as there was some confusion when the photography was shot for the magazine. The picture in the magazine shows the afghan from the backside. Fortunately, I always finish both sides of my work to look good.

Val has worked with me on a couple other projects since that one, but they haven’t been published yet. Because of her work I am able to design more large projects, like afghans and throws. Keep an eye out for more designs from me, now that I have my not so secret weapon.

Water, Pins and Magic

I really enjoy making lace work in crochet.  Open stitches are lovely for imparting drape and a more economical usage of yarn for the amount of fabric created.

One of the things that really made me fall completely in love with lace work though was when I learnt about blocking my work.  I had used a version of blocking in the past without knowing it.  All those wonderful hard-wearing 100% acrylic afghans and scarves I had made were blocked in the simpliest way possible.  Machine washing and drying.

A lot of blocking is about the combination of water and heat. When you wash and dry acrylic yarn you are using a version of steam blocking. You can be more deliberate with it by using an actual garment steamer.

Until a couple years ago I had never used wires to block.  Since getting some wires and using them I’ve become a true believer. Wire blocking is most effective when working with natural fibers like wool, silk or cotton. But you can wire block synthetic fibers too, you may need a bit of steam or heat to “set” the blocking though.

Photo courtesy of Annie's Publishing/Crochet! Magazine
Photo courtesy of Annie’s Publishing/Crochet! Magazine

My “Right Angle Wrap” design in the Autumn 2010 issue of Crochet! Magazine is a great example of the magic of using wires to block lace. When my dear friend Jan came out for our Reno adventure, last September, I got a chance to introduce her to wire blocking.

Jan had crocheted up the “Right Angle Wrap” to wear at the conference, but it first needed to be blocked. She had never used wires and wanted to give it a try, so I told her to bring the wrap with her and we would block it before leaving for the conference.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the wrap before we started, so you don’t get the full drama of how the fabric changes.

shawl in bucket

First step in this process is to get the item wet, I gently soaked Jan’s shawl in a solution of luke warm water with a bit of Eucalan wash in it. Eucalan is a good product to use with hand wash only fibers especially as it doesn’t need to be rinsed out.

While the shawl was soaking Jan and I laid out the blocking pads on the floor in my design office. You can buy really nice blocking pads that interlock and are marked with a gird pattern to help with precise alignment.

Blocking Pad

My blocking pads are actually some interlocking foam flooring pads that are 18″x18″ and designed for use on concrete floors. I bought a set of them at our local Costco a number of years back and they have served very well. I cover the pads with towels to help absorb the moisture from the garment I am blocking.

We were ready to take the shawl out of the bucket and remove some of the excess moisture from it.  In Colorado, items you are wet-blocking tend to dry very quickly, but Jan lives in New Jersey which is a great deal more humid. So I wanted to show her an easy way to get most of the water out of the shawl.

Wet Shawl

I laid out a couple more towels that were folded in double layers. Then neatly laid the wet shawl on the towels.

Towel Roll

Once the shawl was in position I rolled the towels up and pressed on the resulting log to squeeze out the water. The shawl was damp enough now to block nicely, but not so soggy that handling it would stress the stitches. It also dries quicker.

Shawl laid out for wires

I helped Jan lay the shawl out on the blocking pad and we shaped it to roughly the layout we wanted. You can see here that the fabric is still not all that defined, but it gives you a feel for what the coming transformation accomplishes.

Jan Threading wires

Now began the somewhat tedious task of threading the wires to open the lace pattern. Jan and I took turns with this part of the project. The point of threading the wires into the fabric is to create an even amount of pressure along the fabric.

Top Edge Pinning

Once the wires are threaded in the real fun begins. I usually pin out the top edge of the shawl to act as an anchor.

Close up Top Edge

Then I gently pull the other wires to open the stitch work, pinning and re-pinning as necessary to create even pressure.

Shawl Drying on Wires

Once the shawl was fully stretched and pinned in place we left it to dry overnight.  If you live in a more humid climate than Colorado you might want to have a fan or such blowing on  the piece to help it dry faster.

I have occasionally used a blow-dryer to speed up the drying process, but you want to be careful not to melt your yarn if it contains any sort of rayon, polyester or acrylic fibers. Of course, a blow dryer or garment steamer is a great way to “set” the blocking if the yarn you used contains a dominate amount of synthetic fibers.

Finished blocking Wires out

The next morning we removed the wires and you can see how much the blocking has opened the stitches up and really allowed the lace to be shown to it’s best.

Jan modeling her shawl

And here is Jan modeling her beautiful finished shawl.

Happy Birthday Grandma

Today is August 8th and it was the birthday of my Grandma V. Grandma V taught me a lot about thread crochet and to appreciate quality in craftsmanship in all things.

She was my maternal grandmother and wasn’t always easy to get along with. She often was dismayed at my preference for playing in the barn and mud-puddles, and endlessly attempted to turn me into a “lady”.

She passed away nearly 20 years ago. She owned and ran a very successful antique business and had many beautiful doilies and fine pieces of crochet around her house and shop.  With all the designing I’ve done in thread crochet the past year she is often in my thoughts.

I wonder what she would think of her “tom-boy” granddaughter being a crochet designer? I’m pretty sure she would be surprised.

Watercolour Rose

 

Today is also the birthday of my dear youngest sister, Hatty, and my good friend Mary Beth Temple. Clearly August 8th is a date for the birth of interesting and dynamic women.

Happy Birthday to Hatty and Mary Beth too!

Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag!

One can never have too many bags right? Well that is the theory I operate under.  I do have quite a collection of bags, especially ones that are used for carrying around my various crochet, knitting or crafting projects.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on point-of-view) I tend to wear my bags out. Eventually they begin to look fairly ragged and sad. They may still be used around the house or demoted to shopping bag status at that point.

An opening in the queue though, means I need a new bag, and I’m always on the search for a bag that is beautiful, functional and durable. A trifecta that is not always easy to manage.

Enter my friend Jan, who is an enabler extraordinaire when we go shopping together. Jan has an amazing bag that she travels with to our many conferences, it’s a bit like Dr. Who’s Tardis in the amount of stuff she seems able to fit in it.  At the Indianapolis Knit & Crochet Show she told me it was a Vera Bradley bag.

Then the real trouble began, the hotel we were staying in was connected by walkway to a very nice upscale mall, and Jan had been exploring there during her free-time one day. I hadn’t had all that much free-time myself, so on Sunday after the show market floor had closed we decided to go over there.

And Jan pointed toward the Vera Bradley store. Oh My!

As many of you that know me personally can attest to, I like color.  Brilliant, Flamboyant, Bright Color.  The Vera Bradley store looked like color Nirvana to me.  I was drawn inside it like the proverbial moth to flame.

Loaded Tote

I knew I was in real trouble when I spotted this tote bag. Not only was it beautifully colorful, it was in my favorite colors. The patterned fabric it is accented with is called “Heather”. This is a signature Vera Bradley fabric that I really like. Though it was hard to narrow down to a favorite initially, the tote bag helped me make up my mind.

Cosmetic Bag

I had to wait for the bag to be shipped to me, as I already had a full suitcase for the flight home from the conference. But I did purchase this handy little cosmetic case to take along with me.

Pocket

Since the bag’s arrival here on the mountain it has rapidly become my favorite. It is wonderfully designed and constructed. There are 2 generous outside pockets that are ideal for my water bottle and other necessities.

Interior of Bag

The inside is just as wonderful as the outside, with seams completely covered and reinforced, plus a nice sized zippered pocket (handy storage for stitch markers and scissors), and a reinforced polka-dotted fabric bottom flap. The solid color sides are a sturdy twill fabric that I am hoping will stand up to some wear, and the outside seams are reinforced with a vinyl leather-like piping that help it stand up and should help with wear as well.

This was the larger of the 2 bags they had in this style, but I am thinking I may be acquiring some of the smaller sized ones for individual projects. Because, you can’t have too many bags. Right?