Sunday, April 29, 2012

Money Matters

 It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Swirl: A Ruffled Moebius

Here is your first chance at a Yarnover Chicago original pattern.  This is a ruffled moebius scarf I designed for my beginning crochet classes at Sifu Design Studio and Fine Yarns, on Clark Street in Chicago.  The original pattern was called The Sifu Swirl, but I changed it to The Swirl for purposes of this blog.  The photos are of Lisa Whiting, owner of Sifu Design Studio and Fine Yarns, modeling the finished creation, made in Cascade 220.  If you stop by Sifu, you can see the scarf up close and personal.

I like this scarf because it's super warm.  If you make it a little longer than is called for in the pattern, you can double it up.  I do recommend that you use a nice soft yarn.  A number of my students tried this pattern in worsted weight crochet cotton (the kind you often see used for tote bags or dishcloths).  The results were pretty, but very stiff and dense, and not comfortable to wear.  Since I'm allergic to wool, I've made a few of these using Lion Brand Cotton Ease and they came out pretty nicely.

This is a free pattern.  Feel free to download and share.  If you're using it to teach a class, I'd very much appreciate it if you'd have each student download his/her own copy.  Feel free to sell these at craft fairs and the like.  If you choose to sell on ETSY or other similar on-line marketplaces, please be sure to include a link to the pattern.

I hope you enjoy this easy-as-pie beginner pattern.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Crochet Fashion Rennaisance; This Ain't Your Granny's Square

Okay, so crochet is fun to do; it's faster than knitting; and for some people it's easier to learn.  But really, isn't crochet all about doilies and shawls?  I mean, you might wear a crocheted scarf or hat.  It's good for stitching up a wrap for your 97-year-old granny, or a baby blanket for your niece's kid, but beyond that, no one really wears crocheted stuff anymore, do they?  Who, in her right mind would be caught dead in public sporting a crocheted dress?!  Can you imagine?  It'd be just ghastly, Auntie Mame!  Why not just put a macrame plant hanger on your head, a granny-square poncho over your shoulders and be done with it?!  Unless you're time-traveling back to the '70s, what possible use could you have for crochet?  The Age of Aquarius has been over for a long time, my dear!

First of all, Miss Thing (or Mr. Thing, for that matter), don't you be dissing doilies and shawls, okaaaaaaay?  

Secondly, though we picture crochet as being all about motifs, granny squares and lace, you can actually make some very sleek fabric using crochet stitches.  But that's a discussion for another day.  

Let's consider the stereotypical image of crochet, shall we?  Who on earth would even consider wearing it?  Well, how 'bout Beyonce Knowles?  Is she hip enough for you?  Here she is in a blonde wig, sporting a uni-kini.  Sure doesn't look like some aging flower child, does she?  (Not, mind you, that there's anything wrong with being an aging flower child.  Why, I see one in the mirror whenever I brush my teeth .... What can she be doing in there?)

For more about this image, check out
Think Ms. Knowles might be the exception that proves the rule? Well, here are some more young celebs sporting elegant crocheted garments:

For more about this image, check out
Here we have Leann Rimes in an Emilio Pucci creation, Kate Bosworth in a dress from Topshop, and Selena Gomez wearing the Willow and Clay sweater.  Again - not exactly aging flower children.

Crochet is enjoying a renaissance in the fashion world.  You'll see it on every runway.  So even if you're just a beginner, you can still enjoy wearing crocheted fashions.  Following are some links for crochet fashions that you can buy right off the rack.  Having them in your wardrobe will, I hope, inspire you to learn how to make them for yourself.  

One caveat:  unlike knitting, crochet cannot be done by machine. Any crocheted item you see has been hand-made.  So if you go to a discount store and find a great crocheted sweater for, say, $25.00, it was likely made by slave labor.  When you're shopping, please give some thought to the skilled craftsperson who did the work. If the garment you're purchasing costs a little more than you expect, that might mean that the person who made it is being paid a living wage. If it's amazingly cheap, maybe you can live without it.


Robin Piccone Penelope Crochet Overlay One-Piece Swimsuit

Key Largo Dress by Sanctuary
Also from Nordstrom's:

Camilla Crochet Skirt

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stitchual Orientation: born that way or don't stitch / don't tell?

Crocheted Rippled Wrap in Progress
(pattern by Cheri McEwen)

Beginning students often ask, “Which is harder, knitting or crochet?”  I usually answer that the craft you learn first is the easiest.  But more often than not, other students will chime in with their opinions, and their opinions tend to be equally divided between knitting and crochet.

What’s my opinion?  Well, I’m bistitchual, but I lean toward crochet.  Generally, in crochet (unless you’re doing Tunisian or Afghan crochet), you only have one live stitch at a time.  So if you find you have to rip back to correct a mistake, it’s easy to determine exactly where you are in your pattern, and to begin from that point.  In crochet, you can’t really “drop a stitch.”  If you find you’ve missed a stitch, you can just go back to that point and start again.  In knitting, if you miss a stitch, the whole column can unravel like a run in a stocking (and we all know how attractive those are).  Now if you’re knitting stockinette or garter stitch, a dropped stitch is pretty easy to fix; but if you’re knitting cables or lace, unless you’re a very experienced knitter you can forget it.

On the other hand, knitters will tell you it’s all just knit and purl.  If you master the knit and the purl stitches, creating knitted fabric is just a matter of how you combine them.  In crochet, there are many different stitches.  The basic building blocks of crocheted fabric are the chain stitch, slip stitch, single crochet, double crochet and triple crochet.  Everything else is a matter of combining and arranging.  Generally, I find that crocheters who want to learn knitting complain that there’s no hook on the end of the needle to hold their stitches in place.  Knitters who want to learn crochet complain that they hadn’t realized there’d be so much math involved. 

THERE’S MATH INVOLVED?!  Well, yes, I guess there’s math. But there’s also math in knitting.  How many times have you watched a knitter on the subway counting her stitches?  In my classes, the students who are able to visualize how their stitches will fall into place seem to be the ones who catch on the fastest.  There are always students who simply can’t see how it works, but they can follow the written directions and achieve the correct results.  Those students will generally prefer knitting.  It isn’t that they can’t master crochet – just that to them, knitting is more intuitive.

My theory is that if in school you were better at geometry than at algebra, you’ll be better at crochet than at knitting.  If you preferred algebra, you’ll be a knitter.  So I guess stitchual orientation really is a matter of being born that way.  And for that reason, I think we can all agree that knitters and crocheters should be allowed to marry and get yarn insurance. 

But if you’re bi-curious enough, you can do both.   So if you’re trying to decide which stitch is for you, I say try them both.  You’ll know soon enough which you prefer.  If you’re already a knitter – why not add crochet to your repertoire?  Expand your horizons.  We promise not to tell.  And who knows?  You might just fall in love all over again.   

Knitted Botanic Hat in Progress
(pattern by WestKnits)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Voulez vous crochet avec moi?

African Flower Motif

Welcome to my blog, a chronicle of my journey through the world of crochet. I'm a Master Crocheter and crochet instructor.  While teaching crochet at a couple of local yarn stores here in Chicago, I decided the next logical step would be for me to start blogging about crochet.  Well, okay, maybe I didn't actually decide that.  Maybe a few of my students decided I should give it a go.  In any event - here I am - taking that step, ready to share my hard-won wisdom (more like my random opinion) regarding the art of crochet.  Being new to this whole blogging interface virtual web thingy, I expect to take some time learning about all the bells and whistles - so do be patient with me.

In these virtual pages, I will share with you tips for crocheters, common mistakes and how to correct them, stitch patterns, designs, yarns, supplies, information about a variety of crochet designers, magazine and book reviews, links to blogs and websites I think you'll like (or at least to the ones I like) and of course, my personal take on all things crochet.

Voulez vous crochet avec moi?
Let's begin!