Secret Santa!

Making gifts is one of my favorite Christmas activities. I love picking yarns and patterns to match the personalities of friends and family. Even though it’s not quite Christmas yet, I’ve already had a chance to give a gift through my robotics team’s secret Santa gift exchange.

When the team pulled recipient names out of a hat, I drew the name of my sister Bam Bam. After a bit of stash diving, I found the perfect yarn to use for her gift: Yarn Bee Diva Sequin in the Istanbul colorway. With its intense jewel tones that segue into murky greens and purples, it reminded me of the fairy tales Bammy loves to read.

Then I found a pattern, the Geminio Neckwarmer, that reminded me of another of Bam Bam’s interests: Victorian literature.

There was one obstacle to my chosen pairing: the pattern was written for fingering weight yarn, but the Diva Sequin was Aran weight.  I decided to go for it anyway. With a few tweaks, I successfully completed my project, which I dubbed the Victorian Fairy Tale Neckwarmer.

Victorian Fairy Tale Neckwarmer

Of course, receiving my own present was enjoyable as well. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of my secret Santa.

The first thing I noticed as I opened my package was the pretty origami bow adorning the box. I chuckled when I pulled it off and found a little face on the underside.

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When I opened the box, I found an enormous skein of rainbow yarn. I immediately knew it would be perfect for the blanket shawl I’d been wanting to make myself.

Rainbow Yarn

Underneath it was an awesome knitting ornament. There was also a snazzy necklace with my logo on one side and a bar code linking to my blog on the other side.

Caution: Weapons of Mass Construction

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In the bottom corner of the box was my favorite gift of all: an awesome mug decorated with puns and a knitting dragon. Thank you, secret Santa!

Knotty or Nice Mug#1 Tea-m Manager Mug

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The Great Yarn Haul of 2015

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As soon as I saw the announcement of Knit Picks’ annual Cyber Sale, I started planning my order. I even made a spreadsheet with my design ideas, yarn line choices, and preferred color combinations. The sale did not disappoint. Here are some close-ups of the yarns I bought:

Hawthorne Sport in Alameda

Hawthorne Sport in Alameda

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Kettle-Dyed Hawthorne Fingering in Conifer

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Kettle-Dyed Hawthorne Fingering in Faun (brown) and Delphinium (blue)

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Stroll Tweed in Wellies Heather

 

 

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Stroll Glimmer in Black and Potion

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Palette in Spruce and Ash

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Felici Sock in Rainbow

 

How I Tamed the Bulky

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I found a gentle creature while wandering aimlessly in the Fiber Forest. The bulky had a teal-green coat with hints of brassy gold and lustrous emerald. Fascinated, I reached out to touch her silky fur.

It wasn’t until after I’d brought the bulky home that I realized I had no idea how to tame her. I’d worked with many kinds of yarn-creatures before, but never one so large.

I knew that if I was going to keep her, I had to get creative. I pulled out my hook and set to work. Unfortunately, she refused to cooperate and kept running off to look for frogs. Strange creature.

I grew increasingly frustrated at my failure to tame the bulky skein. I was almost ready to set her free when I remembered the advice a wise yarn-charmer had once given me. “Let the yarn tell you what it wants to be.”

How could I have forgotten? I had been so bent on controlling the bulky’s behavior that I hadn’t noticed her personality. Before I could tame her, I needed to get to know her better.

The next time I approached the skein, I played with her instead of trying to direct her. The bulky softened under this new approach, and by the end of the session she had revealed to me what she wanted to be: a simple infinity scarf.

This time, the crocheting process was delightfully quick, easy, and frogless. And we lived happily ever after.

Do you have a skein that just won’t be tamed? I hope this goofy story inspires you to ask it what it wants to be.

Interview and Giveaway with Julie of ACCROchet

 ACCROchet logo

Meet Julie

“In French, ACCRO means addict. I am a crochet addict,” Julie writes on the About page of her blog. Julie is a French-English designer who specializes in modern crochet accessories with unique shapes and constructions. One of my favorite ACCROchet designs is the Twisted Cowl, a multicolored scarf worked in Tunisian crochet. I also love Julie’s shawls Theoretically, Adstock, and Granite and Quartz.

You can find all of Julie’s designs in her Ravelry designer page. You can also follow her on Facebook and on her website.

Left to right: Adstock, Granite and Quartz.

Adstock shawlGranite & Quartz Shawl

The Interview

1. Describe your favorite place to crochet! If you crochet everywhere, describe the most unusual place you have crocheted.

One D Crochet

Well, I really do crochet everywhere. Most often I crochet in my living room, after the day is done. I also crochet in the car when it’s not me driving, while waiting for my food when I have breakfast out with The Man and/or The Teens, etc.

To my daughter’s dismay though, the most unusual place I’ve crocheted is probably at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal earlier this month, as we waited for One Direction to come on stage. =)

2. How did you become hooked on crochet?

I initially tried knitting, but it didn’t stick. It made my shoulders tense, and I was so anxious that my metal needles were all scratched at the tip.

A friend of mine in Minnesota (hi Heather!) was really into crochet, and she was cranking out projects like a madwoman. She got me hooked long distance. She’d help me via email! At the time, there were few resources online (pre-Ravelry, pre-Crochet Me, pre-modern fiber world) and her help was definitely what fed my becoming forever hooked.

3. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Everywhere seems like a cliché, but it’s really true! Often I’ll just grab yarn from my stash and play with it until I figure out what it wants to become. My entire online world is filled with crochet images – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, RSS feeds – and they all feed that creative part of me. Images also impose themselves in my head and refuse to leave me alone until I make them come to life.

I like my designs to be simple, clean and modern. I want beginners to feel like they can accomplish them, and I want long-time crocheters to see something new in them that they want to try.

4. What is your long-term goal for your design business?

My ultimate goal is to carve a name for myself as a modern bilingual (French & English) crochet designer. It’s still somewhat hard to find good crochet designs in French, and that was my original goal, but I do also speak English and so I want to design for everyone.

I hope that ACCROchet will be a synonym of simple, clean and modern quality crochet designs. Of a designer that cares about the people who trust her, and of a trusted resource in the fiber world.

5. What advice would you give someone making one of your designs for the first time?

Crochet looks awesome and sometimes complicated, but it’s really just a matter of knowing your basic stitches and then reading where to put them. You have to take it line by line, with patience, and definitely not be afraid to frog when you find a mistake. I really believe that anyone can crochet anything, if only they have the right mindset. I write with the Craft Yarn Council guidelines, and I find they’re a super resource for beginners. I’m also around whenever anyone needs help. I love receiving emails from crocheters. =)

Giveaway

Julie has decided to give the winner of this giveaway the choice of 3 free patterns from her Ravelry Store! For a chance to win, comment below with your 3 favorite ACCROchet designs. Then, click here to enter. The giveaway will end on October 15 at 23:59 PST.

Interview and Giveaway with Patty of Happy Patty Crochet

Moth Orchid - Happy Patty CrochetRanunculus-HappyPattyCrochet

African_Violet-HappyPattyCrochetMagnolia_Grandiflora-HappyPattyCrochet

Meet Patty

Patty of Happy Patty Crochet designs amazingly realistic crochet flowers. Above, you can see pictures of her Moth Orchids, Ranunculi, African Violets, and Magnolia Grandifloras. In all, Patty has almost 50 different flower designs.

I love how strikingly accurate Patty’s work is. She masterfully reproduces not just the shape of each leaf and petal, but their relative positions in the finished bloom. Patty also does a wonderful job capturing the delicacy of the flowers.

You can find all of Patty’s designs on her website, her Ravelry designer page, and her Etsy store. Also make sure to check out her blog here, where she shares updates about her patterns as well as tips for executing them.

The Interview

Q. Describe your designing workspace. Do you work inside or outside? Are you surrounded by fresh flowers, or do you work from photographs?

A. My studio consists of a large round table that stands in the middle of the room, and around it cabinets filled with yarn, more yarn, and more yarn and lots and lots of crocheted flowers – roses, ranunculi, orchids, daisies, magnolias, lilacs, finished flowers and failed attempts of finished flowers. 🙂

I work mostly inside. I work outside or in a coffee shop if I find that I need a change of scenery, some inspiration or when my two normally little lazy cats decide that its time to chew and destroy everything I’m working on. 🙂

If I can find the flower I’m working on, I get it from the local flower market or from just outside my house. If I cannot find the flowers, I work with photos.

Q. In what ways have you used your crochet bouquets?

A. Mostly as gifts – most of my designs either end up as decoration in my home, or in the homes of my family and friends.

Q. What advice would you give someone trying one of your designs for the first time?

A. Just enjoy it! crochet is all about fun and relaxation. Take your time, and just enjoy it! Oh, and pay attention to shaping. 🙂

Bonus Question! I read on your blog that you have a passion for fruit carving. How did you get started with that?

Fruit Carving - Happy Patty CrochetA. I was first introduced to fruit carving when I was around 9 years old – in school we had art classes, and occasionally, classes that focus on Thai Art. In one of those classes, we learned fruit carving, it was very basic, and we had to bring our fruits from home – I, as per usual in those days :), forgot to bring mine, and had to share a small papaya with a friend, on which we unleashed our small not-fit-for-carving knives. 🙂

As time passed, I fell in love more and more with Lai Thai (Thai Art), with its beautiful smooth and curved lines, and stunning shapes, and I got closer to fruit carving. I kept attempting and practicing at home, using mostly papayas, and I slowly got better. My teacher noticed that I had a passion (and maybe talent) for this art, and I started participating in competitions – where my responsibility was carving flowers out of pumpkins 🙂 We won some and lost some, but it was great fun and an amazing experience that changed the way I look and approach flowers even today.

Giveaway

For those of you who would like to attempt a Happy Patty Crochet design, she is sponsoring a giveaway of one of her patterns! To enter, comment below and tell Patty which of her designs is your favorite. Then, click here to submit your entry. The giveaway will end on September 23 at 23:59 PST.

More Designer Interviews

Tanja Osswald

Dedri Uys

Vicki Chan

Katya Novikova

Interview and Giveaway with Katya Novikova

   Katya Novikova's Hourglass Katya Novikova's DunesKatya Novikova's Overcast

Meet Katya Novikova

Katya Novikova is a self-described “yarnaholic” and crochet addict. She designs hats, mittens, and cowls, but the majority of her designs are airy lace shawls and scarves. I admire Katya for her ability to create light, drapy crochet fabric without large holes. I also love that Katya’s designs use stitch themes that are cohesive but not repetitive.

Pictured above are three of my favorite of Katya’s designs: Hourglass, Dunes, and Overcast. You can find all of Katya Novikova’s crochet patterns, which are both written and charted, on her Ravelry designer page, here.

The Interview

Q. Describe your yarn stash! What does it look like? Where is it stored?

A. My yarn stash is my treasure. I store it everywhere in my home, and, as a treasure, it is well hidden in places where my daughter can’t find it. I like natural fibers and I really enjoy to work with them. I have anything you can imagine in my stash – variegated and solid yarns from lace weight to bulky.

Q. Who taught you how to crochet?

A. I taught myself to crochet when my daughter was about 6 months old (now she is 3 years), just to kill the time while she napped. I used photo- and video-tutorials, mostly from YouTube. I didn’t expect I would love it so much – it turned into an obsession immediately.

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

A. I think the fine, airy textures of Japanese style impact my work. And I’m inspired a lot by other designers’ work, maybe because I’m a novice to crochet. I always find something absolutely new for me.

Q. What is your favorite part about being a crochet designer?

A. My favorite part is crocheting as it is – I always love making things with my own hands. I need to work with a material and transform it into an object. And, as a designer, I can make things my way.

Q. Can you tell me about Picnic, your newest design?

A. When I was a child, each summer I spend in countryside in my grandma’s house. And my newest shawl, Picnic, is a summery design as I mean it – in a country, rustic style.

Giveaway

Katya Novikova's Picnic

Katya is sponsoring a giveaway of her beautiful shawl design, Picnic! To enter, comment below and tell Katya which of her designs is your favorite. Then, click here to submit. The giveaway ended at 23:59 PM on September 9, 2015. Congratulations to girliefriend, the winner!

Interview and Giveaway with Vicky Chan

Vicky Chan Designs

Meet Vicky Chan

Vicky Chan is a talented knitting and crochet designer whom I have long admired for her sophisticated garment designs. Though she has only been designing for two years, Vicky has already been presented with prestigious awards.

For example, she placed third in the Pierrot Yarns Contest of Spring 2015 for her continuous motif shrug Clair. She was also the recipient of two 2015 Flaming Hook of Justice Awards. Jordan, a lacy pineapple top, was named the Best Tank/Sleeveless Top Design. Cynthia, a lacy shorts design, was named the Best Shorts/Pants design. My personal favorite of Vicky’s designs is Angela, which is a beautiful seamless oversized cardigan.

You can check out all of Vicky’s patterns, which include both charted and written instructions, on her Ravelry designer page here.

From top to bottom: Clair, Jordan, Cynthia

Vicky Chan's Pierrot Award

Vicky Chan Crochet Award: Jordan Vicky Chan's JordanVicky Chan's Crochet Award: Cynthia Vicky Chan's Cynthia

The Interview

Q. What are your favorite crochet tools to use?

A. I love my good old Areo crochet hooks that I have kept for many years. My other favorite tool is my Clover locking stitch markers (I actually wrote about it on my blog). Sometimes I may also use my beautiful Japanese bowl as a yarn bowl (it’s featured in the photo here on my blog).

Q. What inspired you to become a crochet designer, and what were your toughest struggles along the way?

A. I have always enjoyed arts and crafts since I was a kid. I’m glad that Ravelry has made it possible for me to become an independent designer and explore my artistic creativity. Of course, my husband’s moral support and encouragement have also played an important part, even though he cannot tell the difference between crocheting and knitting. Couple of my toughest struggles are:

  • writing pattern instructions to accommodate different crochet skill levels, text and chart readers while keeping the number of pattern pages down.
  • providing multiple sizes when the crochet stitch patterns are often quite challenging to size up/down.

Q. Which of your designs do you or recipients of your work wear the most?

A. “Irene”, “Clair”, “Jordan” and “Julia” are worn by me the most.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give someone creating a crochet or knit garment for the first time?

A. My advice is to take the time to make a swatch, even though it’s very tempting to dive in and make the garment right away. The swatch can help you obtain the correct gauge and is ultimately less time consuming to frog.

Giveaway

Be sure to check out Vicky’s blog, her Facebook page, and her Pinterest!

Vicky has kindly offered to sponsor a giveaway of one of her designs! To enter, comment on this blog post and tell Vicky which of her designs is your favorite. Then, click here to submit. The giveaway ended on August 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM PST.

Bam Bam and Devin: Push Ups at the Aquarium

My sister Bam Bam is best known as a sweet talkative girl who has a passion for glitter and cooking. When she’s with her friend Devin, however, she unleashes a side of her rarely seen: her athleticism. Whenever they meet, Bammy and Devin end up in some sort of physical contest.

One day, I went with the two on a visit to an aquarium. It was rather busy that day, and I briefly lost sight of Bam Bam and Devin in the crowd after pausing to look at some jellyfish. When I caught up, I found my sister on the floor doing push ups. Next to her, I saw Devin apparently trying to do an arabesque.

I came to a standstill in front of the pair of weirdos and stared. I was as nonplussed as Dr. Watson presumably was when Sherlock Holmes strode in one morning with an enormous spear under his arm. As a group of people jostled past me, I collected myself.

“What are you doing?” I asked quietly, trying not to call too much attention. Devin, noticing my presence for the first time, quickly put his leg down and tried to assume a casual stance. Bam Bam got to her feet without embarrassment.

“Devin was implying that I couldn’t do push ups,” she calmly informed me. “I was proving him wrong.”

“Might I also ask why Devin was attempting ballet moves?” I inquired as we began to walk through the aquarium.

“I challenged him to.”

“Couldn’t you have waited until we got outside or something?”

“Well, I suppose so.”

There’s Bam Bam for you.

30 Day Blogging Challenge Recap

I’ve finished my 30 day challenge!

At the beginning of 2015, I made a goal to blog at least once a week. Since I only blogged 8 times by halfway through the year, I challenged myself to write a blog post every day for 30 days.

I kept my resolution for 16 days, but missed the 17th day because I didn’t plan ahead. To make up for it, I decided to end the challenge one day later. By the end of the month, I had missed 4 days. Nonetheless, this challenge taught me to commit to writing blog posts.

My 30 day challenge also helped me develop some regular post themes! Going forward, these regular posts will include my Tuesday Bam Bam and Karissa feature as well as designer interviews every other Thursday.

If you would like to see the posts from my blogging challenge, I’ve added a gallery below featuring pictures from those posts. Click on a picture to see the corresponding post.

Tom Baker Fingerless GlovesRandom WIP Royal Crescent WIP - Knot Theorist Comet WIP - Knot Theorist   Tanja Osswald's Igel - Knot Theorist Comet by Tanja Osswald - Knot Theorist  Fibonacci's Biased Scarf - Knot Theorist     Vest for a Thlee Year Old      Grey Swatch - Knot Theorist RollingAlpaca

Bam BamRoyal Crescent Shawl - Knot TheoristLe Chale Gris - Knot TheoristBowties: Crimp, Dowlas, and Jagged Checks

Dedri Uys' Gregor the Rhinosaur - Knot TheoristStreak Bow Tie - Knot TheoristName the Bow Tie - Knot TheoristMy First Garment - Knot TheoristTitan TopRuby Pullover - Knot Theorist

Ruby Pullover

Jewel

In contrast to my Titan Top, which is a warm-weather garment, this pullover is meant for the cooler seasons. My Ruby Pullover, made from Doris Chan’s design Jewel, was one of my first top-down sweaters.

Also unlike my Titan Top, Ruby has seen little wear. One reason for this is the yarn I chose: Simply Soft, which is a 100% acrylic worsted weight yarn. The solid stitch pattern combined with the heavy weight of the yarn made Ruby bulky, and the acrylic content caused a lack of drape.

Another reason I don’t wear Ruby as much as my other garments is the fit. Since I was still relatively new to crocheting when I made it, I was nervous to add waist shaping, so I worked the garment straight down from the chest. Unsurprisingly, the finished garment lacked shape.

In summary, Ruby had no drape and no shape. If I were to make another project from the same pattern, I would likely choose sport weight yarn instead of worsted, and crochet it at a looser gauge. I would also look for a cotton or linen fiber content rather than pure acrylic. Finally, I would add waist shaping and be sure to try it on as I go to check the fit.

Ruby may not be the most successful of my crochet projects, but by making it, I learned about gauge, drape, fiber content, and shaping. Have you ever crocheted a project you weren’t thrilled with? What did it teach you? Please comment below and let me know.