Friday, November 30, 2012

OH WRAPTURE, IT'S LAUNDRY DAY!






When the lovely and talented Kristin Omdahl asked if I’d be interested in writing a review of her new no-rinse delicate wash, Wrapture by Eucalan, I jumped at the chance.  Seriously, what person who has ever wielded a crochet hook wouldn’t be thrilled to have a chance to associate herself (or himself) in even the smallest, most tenuous way, with Kristin?  I mean, beeyotch, puh-leeze!  Am I right?  Of course I’m right!  She’s among the most talented of designers; she’s beautiful; she’s the nicest person ever; and she lives within a short drive of my favorite vacation spot on the planet!  Naturally, I wanted to be a part of this project.



Kristin Omdahl

Never having used Eucalan before, I didn’t really understand what I was promising.  You see, there’s the slightest teensy-weensy little problem.  I’m allergic to wool.  That is, I can work with wool, but only for limited time periods, and I definitely can’t wear it next to my skin. I have extremely sensitive skin.  Let’s say for example that you meet me somewhere for coffee, and you happen to be wearing something particularly itchy.  I will break out in hives the moment I see you.  The mere fact of you sitting near me experiencing the slightest discomfort will cause my immune system to generate a huge histamine reaction.   So, lanolin is an absolute no-no for me, and as if that weren’t annoying enough, I’m also allergic to most floral scents and additives. 

What to do – what to do.  The last thing I wanted to do was let Kristin down.  Here, one of my top crochet idols had asked humble little me for a favor.  I had to come through.  So what did I do?  Did I confess the truth?  Did I ask someone else to try the product?  Did I test it on a gift I was making for someone else?  No!  Of course not.  I did what I always do.  I procrastinated until I felt terribly awkward about the whole thing, and then, eureka!  I had an idea.

The first thing I did was to ask Mandy, owner of Chicago's finest yarn store, Windy Knitty (located at 5653 N. Clark St., Chicago), to try the product.  Mandy informed me that she’s used Eucalan delicate wash often, and she really likes it.  It’s very gentle, and because it has lanolin, it sort of re-invigorates wool garments and fibers.  She also uses it to block pieces.  Instead of dipping them in plain water and then pinning them out, she adds a little Eucalan to the mix.  Since I never make anything wool for myself, I hadn’t done a whole lot of research on best blocking methods for wool.  Mandy also said she’d opened the bottle of Wrapture I’d given her, and liked the scent a lot.

Armed with the information Mandy provided, I decided to do a little more research.  What exactly are the ingredients of Eucalan delicates wash?


  They are:  essential oil (pure, natural oil from lavender, eucalyptus, and night bloom jasmine.  So far, so good, though florals could be a little dangerous);  ammonium lauryl sulfate (vegetable based soap); ammonium chloride (a pinch of salt never hurt anyone, right?),  cocamide MEA; purified water (probably obtained from the office water cooler, wouldn’t you think?); hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (I’m not a chemist, but I’m thinking some kind of water-soluble plant fiber?); methylchloroisothiazolinone (preservative and anti-bacterial); and PEG 75 lanolin (ah – there’s the rub).


Okay, I now knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to use this product to wash anything I’d be wearing close to my skin. 

The next step was the sniff test.  I would open the bottle and smell the contents.  If it made me sneeze, I’d have to give the whole project up. 

I opened the bottle and sniffed.  I can’t remember exactly what happened next but it seemed I was transported to a magical fairy-land of fragrance from which I never wanted to return.  I swear, there was harp music in the background and little mythical creatures frolicking around.  Birds were standing on the window sill, chirping and whistling.  Squirrels were making the bed.   I found I was wearing a ball gown and glass slippers.  Bibbity bobbity boo!  I wanted everything I owned to smell like Wrapture.  I wanted to shampoo my hair and wash my dogs in it.  I wanted to paint my walls with it.  I wanted to build a swimming pool in the backyard and fill it with Wrapture. 

And then I sneezed.  The harsh sting of reality.

It was only a small sneeze, so I decided to try the product anyway.  I read the instructions, and washed a small load of lingerie using Wrapture.   Then, to be extra careful with my oh-so-delicate skin, I did put the load through the delicate rinse cycle...twice.  Then I hung everything up to dry and forgot about it. 

The next day, I walked past the room containing my drying unmentionables, and a diluted version of that wonderful fragrance wafted toward me.  This time, the results weren’t quite as dramatic as when I first opened the bottle.  After all, it was only a small amount and it had been through two rinse cycles.   No mythical creatures appeared, but I’m pretty sure that for a second there, my refrigerator did turn into a golden carriage.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Impossible!  For a plain white refrigerator to become a golden carriage!”  Well, all I can say is, you’ve never smelled Wrapture before!   “Impossible – things are happ’ning every daaaaaaay!”

So, after all this, what’s my review of Wrapture?  Well, if you like Eucalan, then you already know all the good things about it.  What makes Wrapture special is its scent – night bloom jasmine.   The press release describes it as romantic and intoxicating.  And honestly, as silly as it sounds, if ever there was a scent that was romantic and intoxicating; this is it.  I will definitely be keeping a supply of Wrapture in my home, and using it to launder all of my hand-crocheted pieces, for blocking, and for all my delicate washables.   I say this as a person with a pretty serious lanolin and floral allergy.  And that’s probably a good thing because if I didn’t have those allergies, I’d probably buy Wrapture by the gallon and use it to wash everything I own.

Try Wrapture!  You’ll love it!  And your wool and delicate washables will live happily ever after.

 © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.


Comment on this blog post about your experience, either with Eucalan or with Wrapture for a chance to win a free bottle of this great new scent by Eucalan.  One name will be chosen at random on 12/15/12.






Sunday, August 26, 2012

RM 1: A STUDY IN CONTRASTS (April, 2002)


April 5, 2002

Gumby


I walk to the subway station in the late silvery morning.  The air is still too crisp but starting to soften.  My muscles, rigid and aching from having tensed against the brutal winter for so many months, are just beginning to relax.  The annual bone-melting of summer is just over the horizon; I can feel what I think of as my inner Gumby beginning to inhabit my skeleton.  My desire for that Gumby feeling borders on sexual.

Entrance to the subterranean cavern that is the Logan Blvd. station is blocked by a herd of sullen,  young toughs in baggy pants, their shirt tails hanging below their fleece jackets.  They're already in full Gumby mode.  They've probably been like that all winter.  I'm envious.  I glare at them ‘til they move out of my way - and then feel what a bitter old bat they must see in me.  They're just kids on spring break.  They don't know about earning a living yet.  I muster a small smile of gratitude as they let me pass, but not enough to make up for the scowl.

The Logan Blvd. Subway Stop

Waiting in the subterranean tunnel is the usual assortment of just-past-normal-commuting-time riff raff.  Nurses, students, moms with babies, and a few straggling working stiffs who just couldn't quite drag their sorry asses out of bed at a more appropriate hour this morning.  I'm among the latter category.  Among the gathering throng is one youngish guy I've noticed a few times before.  He's wearing the same dirty, faded bell-bottom jeans he's worn before.  I know this because the jeans have a raised seam running down the front of each pant-leg, and who would own more than one pair of pants of this description?  Parenthetically, I can't quite get used to the reappearance of bell-bottoms, some thirty years after Bell-Bottom Blues was released by Derek and the Dominoes.  He also wears an artificially distressed leather jacket.  I guess he didn't have the patience to distress it through use.  Slight build, pale freckled skin, square jaw, watery greenish eyes, and a beak of a nose that gives him an intellectual appearance he may or may not merit.  Your basic Ashkenazi Jewish kid.

The train arrives and we all crowd in.  A handful of lucky souls wedge themselves into the few remaining narrow seats.  The young toughs who barred my entrance to the station earlier have saved a seat for me.  I favor them with a dazzling smile, leftover from my days as a hot young babe and inherited from my mother.  One of them winks back. 

Mr. Ashkenazi is seated across from me.  He pulls a hand-held electronic device out of a non-descript backpack and begins doing whatever it is one does with those things.  There's nothing extraordinary in his behavior, his dress or his expression.  What makes him extraordinary is his ornamentation.  It's both primeval and traditional.  The tops of his ears are pierced many times; he appears to be wearing five or six little silver rings in the top of each ear.  It looks excruciating.  Then there are the earlobes, pierced and then stretched so that the hole in each lobe accommodates a hollow cylinder about an inch in diameter.  I can look right through each cylinder and see the acne on the kid's neck.  A young friend recently informed me that there's a sexual thrill to be gained from the pain of stretching one's earlobes to this extent.  Now I appreciate a sexual thrill as much as the next person, but I’ll pass on this one, thanks.
Hollow Ear-Plugs




The ears, bizarre as they seem, are not the feature that rivets my attention.  What calls my attention to this man and will not let it wander, is his hair.  It's been my experience that people who find it necessary to mutilate themselves to the point of scarring their physical beings for life, generally have also dyed their hair to some unflattering color not found in nature (and really, when one has a spider web tattooed around one's neck and arms, "unflattering" doesn't really come into play.  Picture such a person in a fitting room at Nordstrom's, trying on, say, a silk blouse, and saying "this color really isn't flattering for me."  Not so much).  




The Iguana

The Iguana-Do
The ears, bizarre as they seem, are not the feature that rivets my attention.  What calls my attention to this man and will not let it wander, is his hair.  It's been my experience that people who find it necessary to mutilate themselves to the point of scarring their physical beings for life generally have also dyed their hair to some unflattering color not found in nature (and really, when one has a spider web tattooed around one's neck and arms, "unflattering" doesn't really come into play.  Picture such a person in a fitting room at Nordstrom's, trying on, say, a silk blouse, and saying "this color really isn't flattering for me."  Not so much).  Anyway - this kid's hair is the same sandy-red color that he was most likely born with.  It matches his freckles and his eyes.  It's short and gelled up into a sort of iguana crest atop his head.  Okay, it's a slightly strange hairstyle, but it could be washed and combed into something more reasonable if he suddenly had to attend his cousin's Bar Mitzvah, a funeral or High Holiday services with his parents.  And let's face it, the hair is nothing compared to those - uh - ear cylinders.  


Payahs.
With the Iguana-Do?
Very Attractive.
The thing about his hair that rivets my attention is that, in addition to the reptilian crest, he's wearing payahs.    Yes, payahs: those side-curls or ear-locks worn by Orthodox and Chasidic Jewish men.  These are the men who never leave their heads uncovered, who always wear at least a yarmulke, if not a fedora or a big fur hat (though in the present instance, covering his head would mean flattening the iguana-do, so I imagine that's his reason for eschewing any such accessory).  These are the men who wear prayer shawls under their shirts and never touch another human being, except in the privacy of their own bedrooms (where, I might add, they’re rumored to provide their wives with a thrill that puts those silly earlobe-stretching cylinders to shame).

But I digress.  So here's this youngish guy, looking like a cross between a young Woody Allen and every parent's worst nightmare of a date for his daughter (come to think of it, Woody Allen kind of is every parent's worst nightmare of a date for his daughter, but that's another discussion entirely).  Where was I -------- oh yes - so here's this guy who's wearing your standard-issue youthful rebellion uniform, which, while unattractive, isn't particularly offensive except that it hasn't been washed in a month of Sundays.  He has a reptilian hairdo, which is silly, but not all that unusual, certainly nothing to stare at before one's even had one's first cup of coffee.  And then, this otherwise unremarkable young man exhibits two absolutely astounding characteristics, either of which might attract one's notice, but both of which I have never, in all my years, observed united in the same person.  He has mutilated his ears to the point at which they will require a surgeon to return them to anything resembling normal, and at the absolute opposite end of the cultural scale, he's sporting payahs.

Every parent's worst nightmare.
And I watch him.  He sits quietly, minding his own business.  He neither makes eye contact deliberately nor avoids it.  He doesn't shrink from the accidental touch of a fellow passenger, nor does he assert his presence obtrusively.  He doesn't invade the space of the person sitting next to him, doesn't seem to shrink into himself, doesn't listen to loud music, doesn't do anything that would attract attention.  He's just an average guy, sitting there, fiddling with his little hand-held computer thingy, while his physical appearance fairly shouts to the heavens some horrific internal conflict.





The train reaches Clark and Lake Streets.  My stop, and his also.  We both stand, among others.  He steps back to allow me to go ahead of him.  A perfect little gentleman.  We all trudge up the two flights of wide stairs to the street, where I watch him head south, before I turn north and walk toward my office.  I hope the warring factions in his head will reach detente before he explodes.  I enter the lobby of my office building, and am standing in line for that sweet nectar of the gods, a Dunkin' Donuts coffee, when I realize I'm quietly humming Hatikvah.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SAVE THE DATE! SOMETHING SPECIAL THIS WAY COMES ON SEPTEMBER 16, 2012



If you've been reading this blog, you know that I teach crochet at Windy Knitty,  located in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood.

So you may be surprised to read in these virtual pages that there's a wonderful LYS in the northwest suburbs that I encourage all of you to visit.  It's called Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns and is located at 218 W. Campbell Street in Arlington Heights, IL, just a hop, skip and jump from our Toddlin' Town.

What, you might wonder, is so exciting about Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns?  It has an extensive selection of yarns, books and knitting and crochet supplies, but is that any reason for a confirmed City Rat to travel "all the way" out to suburbia?  

Hmmm.  Maybe yes; maybe no.  

But here's something that will really make the trek worthwhile:  On September 16, 2012, beginning at 10 a.m., Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns will be hosting two fabulous crochet workshops, taught by none other than MARY BETH TEMPLE!  I know, right?  I can hardly contain my excitement!  

Crochet Entrelac
and 
Intermediate Tunesian Crochet


Two of the most in demand and trendy techniques in crochet today - taught by one of our premier designers!  What could be more fun?

But wait!  There's more!
Mary Beth will be introducing her latest book, Curvy Girl Crochet; 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter (Taunton Press; September 4, 2012).  Yep, that's right!  This book is not even on the shelves yet, and you could get an autographed copy of your very own!




"Okay," you're thinking, "This might be fun, but really, who is this Mary Beth Temple?  Couldn't I just pick up a book and learn entrelac and advanced Tunisian?  What's so special about her?"

Permit me to enlighten you.  Mary Beth Temple is a writer and designer, as well as being a funny, smart and delightful lady.


Mary Beth Temple
from www.marybethtemple.com

You can find her line of crochet and knit patterns at Hooked For Life, and also on Ravelry.  She has a weekly podcast called Getting Loopy, and is the author of a number of books including (but certainly not limited to):


The Perfect Pillow! (Leisure Arts #5243; February 1, 2011),
Hooked for Life; Adventures of a Crochet Zealot (Andrews McMeel Publishing; April 21, 2009),
The Secret Language of Knitters (Andrews McMeel Publishing; July 1, 2007), and
Rescuing Vintage Textiles (Saint Johann Press; August 15, 2000).

And she's teaching TWO (count 'em) workshops at Fuzzy Wuzzy this September 16!!!

Now here's the catch!  In order to make this trip worthwhile for Mary Beth, Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns needs 10 more class participants.  I plan to attend, and can transport at least 3 of you Chicago peeps.

Once Stitches Midwest, the Ravellenic Games (rolls eyes) and the Yarn Crawl have ended, what were you all planning to do with your weekend afternoons anyway?  C'mon out to Arlington Heights with me.  Meet Mary Beth and expand your crochet skills.  It may be warm and sunny now, but remember, long cold nights aren't far off.  Wouldn't it be nice to have some new crochet techniques in your toolbox this winter?

P.S.  In order to take the Tunisian Workshop, you'll need to learn the three basic Tunisian Crochet stitches.  Don't be shy, now.  I can help you with that!








Wednesday, August 1, 2012

NEW PATTERN FROM YARNOVER CHICAGO


Here's a link to my very first doily pattern:  Flowers and Shells Doily by Yarnover Chicago

Flowers and Shells Doily
Yarnover Chicago
DK Weight Yarn

Flowers and Shells Doily
Yarnover Chicago
No. 10 Crochet Thread


If you're not on Ravelry, signing up is free.  If you prefer not to sign up, but would like this pattern, please leave a comment here and I'll arrange to send you a PDF for $3.25.

Thanks, all.  Enjoy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

RECREATING A FOUND OBJECT OR DESIGNING A NEW ONE?

Last winter, a family moved out of the second floor apartment in the two-flat next to me.  As often happens when people move, they threw out a whole bunch of stuff.  I happened to be taking my trash out to the back alley one day and I saw boxes upon boxes of stuff they didn't plan to take with them to their new digs.  Always curious about the way people live, I took a cursory glance before going back inside.  It was cold and I'm not in the habit of going through other people's trash. 

There seemed to be a lot of broken kitchen stuff, small appliances, toys, clothes and even books.  Nothing fascinating.  Just the detritus of 5 or 6 years of a family living in an apartment they'd outgrown.  But somehow, as I started walking away, one very small item caught my eye.  I don't know how I spotted it, but I assume the same uncanny ability was in operation that enables me to find a perfect seashell amidst all the broken pieces that wash up on the beach.  I took a second look, not even knowing what it was that had stopped me in my tracks in the first place.  Then I saw it and knew it had to be rescued.  I couldn't just let it sit there amidst the broken toasters, worn out galoshes and old toys, could I?  I took it inside and soaked it in detergent and bleach.  Then washed it in the washing machine.


They were discarding a doily.  But whose?  Did the harried young mom who lived next door to me crochet this beautiful piece?  That didn't seem likely.  Did she buy it somewhere?  Did her mom or grandmother make it and send it to her from Mexico?  I had no idea.  I examined it closely.  It's made out of some kind of stretchy synthetic fiber.  The stitches are very even, but the stitch counts sometimes vary.  I decided I'd attempt to recreate it one day, and put it away amidst my other zillion project starts, almost immediately forgetting it existed at all.

The other day, I happened across this persistent little doily again.  I took out a skein of Ultra Pima in Royal Purple and went to work.  To be honest, though, I took so many liberties with the original design that my piece is more accurately described as "based on" the one I found than an actual recreation of the original.

Flowers and Shells Doily - Yarnover Chicago (prior to blocking)

Now most people would consider using DK weight yarn a little unorthodox for a doily.  Well, dears, I used DK because my days of being young enough to design something in thread are long since over.  I wanted to be able to see what I was doing.  And here, on the blocking boards, are the results.  Note the difference between the finished piece above, and the piece being blocked below.  In case you weren't convinced by my last post on the topic of blocking...



Now - to reproduce this item in thread, write the pattern and make it available on Ravelry.

Before Blocking
In Size 10 Bamboo Crochet Thread

Being blocked.

Thread Version - During Blocking
I just love a picot edging, don't you?

Extreme Close-Up

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Do I really have to block my work?




Until about 10 years ago, when I first learned how to knit (shhhh; don't tell anyone), I never blocked anything.  If something didn't turn out quite the way I expected, I just assumed the fault was mine.  Mostly, I made afghans and baby blankets anyway, so I felt that blocking wasn't critical.

Once I learned to needlepoint and to knit, I realized that the benefits of blocking are universal.  Not everything needs to be blocked.  But in general - even if it doesn't seem necessary, I block.  Block first, ask questions later.  Recently, I've been working on designing some unique motifs of my very own.  

I've already posted pictures of my first three, but I confess I wasn't very happy with the way they turned out.  Why, I wondered, do the motifs in books and on other websites look so wonderful, when these look so sloppy?  Am I really just not a very good crocheter after all?  Have I been fooling myself?  Should I send my "Master Crocheter" certificate back to the CGOA?

Then it hit me -- with various family members in and out of the hospital, building a business, out-of-town company and a host of other events, I'd forgotten (or let's be honest - I'd neglected) to block my new motifs.  

So - for the benefit of you still skeptics,  let me just say that blocking your work will make a huge difference in its quality and appeal.  Don't believe me?  Take a look at these before and after pictures.

Crysanthemum Hexagon

After Blocking - Pretty nice, huh?

Blocking creates nice, crisp edges and defines the shape.  I deliberately pulled the corners out a little extra to give a curve to the sides.


Before blocking the motif is blocked, you can see the rounded corners and uneven appearance, and notice how the hexagon is slanting in one direction.  Sloppy! 

The Double Shamrock Hexagon

 After blocking.  It needs a little work, but has pretty even sides, 
and the double shamrock center is clearly visible.



Using blocking wires, rather than pins might have resulted in an even better appearance.



Before blocking - uneven and lumpy.  Not so good.

 And last, but not least:

The Four-Leaf Clover Square


After blocking - nice crisp edges and flat sides.  Looks like a square!


When blocking, I took care to shape the leaves of the center clover.
Really?





Friday, July 13, 2012

Some Product and Pattern Reviews













I've just finished The Elise Shawl (pattern by Evan Plevinsky) that I've been working on between other projects for a few months.  I'll soon be teaching a class on this shawl at Windy Knitty.  

Since the pattern is relatively simple, I decided to try a couple new things with it.  First, I used Hemp For Knitting, which  feels a little different than more traditional yarns.  Second, I decided now is the time to try out my new Blocking Mats.


Hemp for Knitting (TM)

My reviews?

Hemp for Knitting:  8 out of 10

Because I'm allergic to wool and most other animal fibers (I can work with them, but can't really wear them against my bare skin), I'm constantly on the look-out for natural fibers that aren't animal-based.  So I was excited to try Hemp for Knitting (pictured above).  It comes in a wide variety of luscious colors, and is very reasonably priced.  When working with it, I find that the feel of the yarn is very stiff;  and the fibers are not continuous, giving the yarn an appearance similar to the split ends your hair gets if you blow-dry it too much (the curse of every curly-haired girl who wants straight hair - see 1970s).  It takes a little while to get used to the unusual texture.  On the other hand, the stitches really hold their shape, so it's easy to see exactly where to put your crochet hook.  One friend had knit a sleeveless top for herself out of the DK weight in this yarn, and after washing and blocking, it had a very soft hand to it.  Another friend had crocheted a cover for her Kindle out of the same weight I used here (sock?  lace?).  She hadn't washed or blocked it, but it also had a soft texture, which she said just happened over time from handling.  All in all, I thought it would do very nicely for the shawl.   About half-way through the project, I can't say I was particularly thrilled with how the yarn was stitching up.  It seemed kind of meh, compared to other photos I've seen of this shawl.

Pre-Blocking

But I had a deadline and didn't want to start over, so I finished the shawl.  This morning, I decided that for a store sample, the project was large enough, so I did the edging row and wove in the ends.  Then I I ever-so-carefully placed the finished garment into a lingerie bag, and threw it in the washing machine with several other items of similar color.  I washed it on cold / permanent press.  It washed up beautifully, with no loss of color.  There was no unraveling in any of the places where I'd joined new yarn, and the "split-ends" seemed to felt into the rest of the fibers.  So far so good.  Based on the other finished projects I've seen in this fiber,  I expect excellent results.  So all in all - I recommend this yarn for summer projects.  My only objection is that the yarn is made in China, and I prefer to buy American whenever possible.  Still - I do have to say, the results are pretty wonderful.  Here is my crochet student, Ritu, modeling the shawl.

How cute is she?!


Blocking Mats by Knit Picks:  6 out of 10

I was very excited to get these because up until now, I had been using the bed in my guest bedroom for blocking.  When I opened the box, I found several of the squares were stained or dirty, so first I had to scrub them all with dish soap and a brush.  This did not make me happy.  A brand-new product should come out of the box in pristine condition.  The pieces did fit together nicely, with no gaps or uneven places.  However, I notice that the pieces are too thin for standard blocking pins, so the pins must still be placed at an angle, and I don't recommend using these mats on top of a piece of wood furniture (my table has a pad).  All in all, even using these mats, I'll probably still use them on the bed in my guest room more often than not.  Another problem I had was that even using all the squares, I really needed about 5 additional squares to get the size I wanted.  Although they can be configured to various shapes, I still would have liked a larger surface on which to block my shawl.  Fortunately, I'd made the shawl a little smaller than I normally would have done so that it would be ready to be used as a store sample.  But I will probably buy another set of these mats so that I have enough to block larger projects in the future.  The good news?  They're not particularly expensive.


Could have used additional blocking mat space.

The Elise Shawl Pattern:  9 out of 10

I really like this pattern.  It's intricate enough to be interesting, but simple enough to work on while watching television, or chatting, or sitting in a doctor's waiting room.  Since it's made with sock or lace weight yarn, it's fairly portable, especially at the beginning.  Once the initial part of the shawl is completed, there is a two-row repeat.  Because the pattern comes with written instructions and a stitch diagram, it's a great project for advanced beginner to intermediate level crocheters.  The diagram is not the most professionally done I've ever seen, but it's still easy to understand and follow.  And really, I'm not exactly the most proficient stitch diagrammer on the planet, myself.  The final piece has a very lacy appearance - perfect for summer.  The picot edging is somewhat underwhelming - but you can always add a more exciting edging or even fringe if you prefer.  This is a free pattern, which makes the uninteresting edging quite forgivable.




So there you have it.

Hemp for Knitting:  8 out of 10
Knit Picks Blocking Mats:  6 out of 10
Elise Shawl Pattern:  9 out of 10
Getting it done in time for my class:  Priceless

Close-up of stitch pattern, after washing, during blocking.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

REALLY, U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE?

One of my favorite crochet bloggers is Aberrant Crochet.  I don't normally just reproduce someone else's blog post, but if you've been following the controversy between Ravelry and the USOC, then this post might interest you.  It's beautifully written - heroic, even.  If you're a crocheter or knitter; in fact, if you do any hand-crafting at all, I encourage you to read Julia's Aberrant Crochet post in its entirety:

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

http://aberrantcrochet.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/disparaging-handcrafts-in-the-name-of-law-how-far-does-it-push-us-back/


Another favorite crochet blogger is the woman many of us refer to as our "Fearless Leader."  Laurie Wheeler is a force of nature, not to mention being the founder of the CLF (Crochet Liberation Front), and Hookey.org.  Here is  a link to Laurie's:

Open Letter to the US Olympic Committee.

http://www.crochetliberationfront.com/2012/06/open-letter-to-the-us-olympic-committee/

As these ladies have said what I would say on the topic, I won't bore you to extinction with my own commentary.  I'll only reiterate that crochet is one of the very last, if not the very last of the needle arts that cannot be reproduced by machine.  There are only two ways for a clothing manufacturer to add crochet trim to a garment.  The first is to pay a fair wage to skilled workers, raising the price of the garment considerably.  The second is to use sweatshop labor.  Naturally, the same can be said for the production of entirely crocheted garments, home fashions, snowflake ornaments, and the like. 

So whether or not you plan to participate in Ravelry's salute to the Olympic Games, ladies and gents, hold your hooks high, and take pride in the art produced by your hands.  






Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Joy of Teaching

Here's a photo of my Tuesday night crochet class.  These four ladies have become not only students, but friends.  This is what sharing needlework can do.  Our hands are busy, but we're free to talk and learn about each other while we're learning crochet.  I liken it to the quilting circles of the 19th century (though I'm sure there are present-day quilting circles as well).  There are many hobbies and interests in which to form lasting friendships.  There are team sports, individual sports, bands, choirs, book clubs, cooking classes, nature tours, yoga classes, and heaven only knows what else. But there's something uniquely intimate about sitting around someone's living room crocheting (or knitting, needlepointing...) that even open-knit-night at a favorite LYS (mine is Windy Knitty) can't quite equal.  I'm very grateful to my four new friends, Miranda, Karin, Maya and our hostess, Cass for inviting me to be part of their lives.  I love watching their skills grow and learning about who they are as women.

Left to right:  Miranda, Cass, Yours Truly, Karin, Maya
(photo taken by my sister, who joined our group one evening, though I still
can't get her to pick up a hook)





It'd be even more fun if they's stop making fun of me all the time.  :o)