19 September 2019

More Textile Exhibits

Wow! There is just so much to see around here.

SCAD FASH continues their amazing run of exhibitions. Closing this Sunday 22 September is Kaleidoscope Katrantzou. This is a 10-year retrospective of the work Greek-born, London-based designer Mary Katrantzou. Her work begins with digital printing on fabric, but evolved beyond that. Often she uses unusual materials.

Some pictures:

Printed images of landscapes in black and white combine with bold, simplified, sculptural forms. I love the full moon on the shoulder of the foreground dress with the cherry blossom tree. The partly obscured dress immediately behind is printed on a diaphanous material, creating an intriguing layered effect with the image.

Here couches and upholstery serve as the source of inspiration. On the left, I love how the jacket looks like an overstuffed chair. The quilt pattern on the skirt reminds me of a handmade blanket thrown across the back of a couch. The dress on the right is reminiscent of an oriental rug.

These two are examples of unusual materials. The "stamps" are linked together, but with gaps between them. Appropriate undergarments are key.

This dress was made specifically for Cate Blanchett to wear at Cannes' film festival in 2018. There's an article about it in British Vogue. In this work, Katrantzou has started with a digital print fabric resembling a floral paint-by-number. The dress is then lavishly embroidered and embellished. This is one you need to see in person to appreciate the color and details. Talk about a party dress!

The SCAD FASH people have done a great job posing the mannequins in ways that are both expressive and complementary to the garments.

Running concurrently is Form & Function: Shoe Art by Chris Francis. You have more time to see this show, as it goes until 8 December 2019. Chris Francis is amazingly self-taught. Some of his designs seem almost like small architecture rather than footwear.

A sampling:

If I recall correctly, the one on the far left is inspired by The Varsity restaurant in downtown Atlanta. The range of materials and textures triggers all sorts of associations.

The pair on the lower left looks like a cross between a golf cart and a child's toy. And they seem simultaneously very cute and a little dangerous, as if the wheels would make the wearer unstable. The shoe in the upper right takes Gain detergent as its inspiration point. The shoe looks like a silly over-the-top magazine advertisement.

I love this one for its cross between I Dream of Jeannie and Dr. Seuss. It is somehow exotic, alien, 1950s, and oriental all at once.

Here's a good example of one that looks like an architectural model. I'm not a fan of Brutalism, but this works here. The shoe seems like a cage for the foot. And when I imagine wearing it, I imagine the heaviness of trying to move as well as the uncomfortable concrete and metal.

If you have found yourself stuck artistically, Chris Francis' play may push you out of your rut.

The final exhibit I want to review just opened tonight: A Taste of TASA: The Woven World. This is at the Mable House Arts Center, right around the corner from where I live. TASA is the Textile Appreciation Society of Atlanta. I am a member of this group. I sometimes refer to them as the group for textile patrons. While there are some artists in the group, the majority of the members are collectors. Many of them are well-traveled and have been to unusual places. This exhibit will take you around the world.

Some photographs:

Here's a wall of Indonesian textiles. Some are printed. Some are ikat.

These Asia textiles include exquisite embroidery. The red jacket in the upper left is layered with pearls and metal threads. The banner is also heavily embroidered and textured. The purses in the case at right are encrusted with beads.

Really, what can you say about an African tunic covered in porcupine quills? I guess it is the ultimate expression of "leave me alone." The Moroccan mantle at center is a complex weave with supplementary warps and weft to create the complex patterns. Bold Kuba cloth on left.

The exhibit is up until 31 October 2019.

For all of these, I've purposely refrained from showing you details. As with so many textiles, you need to see them in person to appreciate them.

And if that's not enough to do, this Saturday is Spin in Public Day. Trillium Vineyard in Bremen, Georgia, is planning a big day. Spinning, wine, music — it's all good.

No excuses if you need inspiration. And it's all local!

26 August 2019


We all have those moments when we don't think things through.

Right now, I'm working on a versa lace circle jacket. It is lace weight yarn on 60-inch Addi needles. Most yarn shops do not carry the 60-inch length. Even many of the online retailers either do not carry the length or they carry it only in the larger-sized needles. I, of course, somehow came up with a project that needed a couple of 2.5mm needles in the long length. I had to order them from Paradise Fibers in Spokane, Washington. Yes, even Webs (yarn.com) did not stock long Addi needles in the fine lace sizes.

I'm working on a versa lace project. I am knitting it center-out, growing the project to the desired size. The yarn is changing gauge when wet-blocked, so I'm dunking the project as I go and checking what size it really is. A couple weeks ago, I did this in the evening around 6 or 7 PM. I had three needles in the project — two of the working size and a third even smaller even harder-to-find size I was using as a stitch holder. Addi needles are so shiny and pretty I thought they had a special coating.

They don't.

When I went to bed around 11 PM, the needles had spots from getting wet. They were especially bad where the needles had been in contact with the damp yarn. I did not expect this deterioration in only a few hours. However, I really should have known better.

This is a magnified view after cleaning the needles with size 0000 steel wool.

The steel wool got the needles smooth enough and clean enough I could continue to use them for knitting. But I was annoyed at myself. And I was concerned that over time, the needles might oxidize and pit in the discolored places, creating damage that would affect their use. After all, the joy of Addi needles is that they are super slick!

After a few days of thinking about this, I remembered something about using jeweler's rouge to polish musical instruments. I went to my friendly local hardware store. The nice gentleman sold me something called rubbing compound. It is a pinkish-peachy color. Considering how little I need to use to polish needles, the $4 tub is likely to be a lifetime supply. I used a little dab on a soft paper towel. Here's the result:

As you can see, the needles are much restored!

Lessons learned:
  • If you dunk-block something with an Addi needle in it, wipe the needle completely dry and protect it from the wet yarn.
  • If you forget, a paper towel with a little rubbing compound can reverse your indiscretion.

19 July 2019

More Things to See

Here's an update to my previous post.

At this point, Small Expressions is on display at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance. The quality of work is high. There is a nice range of weaving techniques — wedge weave, multi-shaft, tapestry, even some basketry and three-dimensional sewing. The exhibition is on display through Thursday 12 September 2019. You can view it:
Sundays from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Tuesdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Wednesdays from 6:00 pm. to 8:00 pm and
Thursdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Also just opened at the DeKalb History Museum on the main floor of the historic DeKalb County Courthouse is Silk and Stitch. I haven't been yet; and I'm not sure how long it is up. The description indicates it highlights embellishing techniques in women's fashion from the 19th century through the mid-20th century.  Hours are:
Monday - Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and
Saturday 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

And a late reminder that tomorrow is North Georgia Knitting Guild's annual Beat the Heat Retreat from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm. The event includes potluck food, knitting, mini-
workshops, and general camaraderie.

And farther over the horizon, Atlanta Knitting Guild hosts superstar Patty Lyons 6-8 September 2019. Patty is an excellent teacher who knows lots of subtle and obscure tricks. I've signed up for two classes. Follow this link to learn more and register while space is still available.

10 July 2019

Things to See Soon

There are several opportunities in the area right now to see fiber art on display.

The Prince Cherrywood Challenge 2018 Tribute Tour has been touring through the area. I first saw these on display at the Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival back in March. These quilts were also on display at STITCHES United a month ago. Thank you to East Cobb Quilters Guild for one more opportunity to enjoy these beautiful art quilts! Right now, the quilts are finishing up a one-week run here in my neighborhood at the Mable House Arts Center. They will be on display for one more day on Thursday 11 July 2019 from 9 AM to 5 PM. There are actually three separate groups of art quilts touring the country. Follow the Cherrywood Challenge link above to see the places and dates. I may get to cross paths with the quilts again at STITCHES Salt Lake in early October.

There is a yarn bombing at the Rose Creek Library on Towne Lake in Woodstock. This is right next to Hillside United Methodist Church, where North Georgia Knitting Guild met for many years. The yarn bombing will be up at least until the end of July. Local crafters who meet weekly at the library have yarn bombed prominent locations, including the detection devices at the entrance and the blue man sculpture on the front lawn. My dear friend Betty Salpekar was heavily involved. She kindly showed me around. Much of the yarn in the installation came from abandoned or unfinished projects. Betty made "The Universe of Stories" panel to match the theme of the library's summer reading program. Much of that sleeve is made from leftover swatches — a knitter's sketches from her creative process. It was exciting to re-purpose these! When you see it in person, be sure to appreciate the ribbon yarn fringe and the turquoise corkscrew hair on the blue man.

The Handweavers Guild of America Small Expressions show will be on exhibit at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance from this Friday 12 July 2019 until Thursday 12 September 2019. Since the show isn't up yet, I don't have pictures to share. On the other hand, this also means you can mark your calendar for 6-8 PM this Friday evening to attend the opening reception! Hope to see you there!

25 June 2019

Vincent, 8 July 2003 - 25 June 2019

Who knew the physical embodiment of unbridled joy and unconditional love was a shaggy black cat?

In that miserable summer of 2009, something good happened. Scenter's cats/familiars came into my life.

They were already six years old. At the time, I remember thinking I would be replacing cats between the 2016 and the 2020 election cycle. I remember thinking if I could get ten years out of them, that would be about right.

Well, Brûlée checked out during the week of the 2018 midterm election, the very middle of the presidential election cycle. And now, I've lost Vincent as we come up on exactly ten years.

Having those two cats in my life made a huge difference. They taught me love was possible again after losing Copernicus and Sophia. When Cuddly Hubby went to work in another state in 2013, the feline contingent in our household was an important source of morale and support. Brûlée was the more extroverted. Similar to Copernicus, he liked to supervise suspicious humans. Vincent, on the other hand has been our big, black, shaggy ball of love. He has been my emotional support animal.

Both of them became my feline electron cloud — not always right next to me, but probably nearby drifting around the house in close proximity. Cuddly Hubby might be on the couch watching a football game with no cats in sight for a couple hours. I would walk in the room to ask him something, and within a couple minutes, two cats would appear. Then I might wander into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. I would hear Cuddly Hubby counting down from the living room, "5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1. There are no cats in the living room." But there would be two cats in the kitchen, watching me make tea.

In many ways, Vincent has been the perfect lap cap. He liked laps, and would come greet me at the computer to be up in my lap while I typed. He would curl up next to me on the couch when I was knitting, or watch me from the couch while I spun yarn or wrapped holiday gifts. I joked that he loved crafts! Back when he could still navigate stairs and hop up on the bed, he slept in my arms most nights, just like a teddy bear.

Vincent greeted me. In the mornings, he would be ready for his morning tuna. His plume-y tail would be held high, and he would wave it back and forth. Back in the day, both Brûlée and Vincent would queue at the top of the stairs in the morning, and the three of us would be a little parade to the kitchen. And when we arrived, Vincent would dance around in a figure-eight — the bee dance — until the tuna appeared. Vincent showed his joy in life, and I showed my joy back to him. There were times when I came home, either from a teaching trip or from being out at a guild meeting or Mensa event, and as I backed down the driveway I would look in our big front windows to see if cats were waiting. When they were — especially if both were there — I would pause and take in the moment. Two happy cats to welcome me home. I was delighted to reciprocate the greeting. 

Vincent was definitely the keeper of the joy and the love. Although he was a black cat, Vincent was the opposite of ominous. If you had wanted to breed for personality, Vincent would have been your stud muffin. I wasn't sure why Bruce had given him that name. Then one day, I heard an NPR interview with Ron Perlman. He was talking about playing the beast in the Beauty and the Beast television series from 1987-1990. The name of the beast in that series is Vincent. In other words, this is somebody who looks scary, but isn't. Vincent also means "conqueror." He definitely conquered my heart.

Cuddly Hubby and I would joke that Vincent was the unplayable Dungeons and Dragons character — poor scores in Intelligence, Wisdom, Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. (How he could have that negative modifier to Dexterity, we don't know, since you get a bonus to Dexterity just for being a cat!) His only good trait was Charisma. I would remind Vincent to please keep up the points in Constitution and to use his Healing Power of Love feat every day.

Vincent has has a legendary run in the bonus rounds. In 2012 he came down with pancreatitis. I took him to the veterinarian on a Monday and he was on intravenous medication until Friday. But he bounced back. In 2013 he had a series of seizure-like episodes, the very first one being about an hour after midnight on the new year. They became less frequent and ultimately went away. In 2014 Vincent suffered a serious vascular issue in his back, causing paralysis. We gave him medications for months on end, slowly tapering them, and he recovered. He has suffered relapses over the years; some of which were worse than the original episode. I originally wrote this post in December of 2015, during a very bad relapse when I thought Vincent had reached the end. He even had a one-day recurrence of seizures on a Friday in 2016 when it looked like he might not last the weekend. I never set foot in the man cave in 2016 because every time I was about to leave, Vincent had a relapse. But then we found the magic pharmaceuticals. Vincent went through all of 2017 and three-quarters of 2018 without a relapse. He went eleven months without being in the veterinarian's office. I am very, very grateful for the good year that was 2017. But I've lost track of the number of times I've given Vincent the "goodbye" speech.

Vincent suffered a relapse in October of 2018. For the last eight months, he has been just barely nominal. Some days were good — he could get around and was interested in eating and soaking up love. He even managed a new adventure — a two-week trip to the Maryland man cave so I could see Cuddly Hubby and attend Maryland Sheep and Wool. Other days were not so good. Like Copernicus before him, he became expensive and inconvenient as he needed more medications as well as weekly physical therapy. I became both his care giver and a knitting teacher with a travel schedule that took me out of state eleven weekends in the first half of 2019. On at least one teaching trip, the cat sitter made visits three times a day. But Vincent had such a wonderful temperament that he took it all in stride, charming the veterinary technicians and the Maryland cat sitters. And there were times when I came back after teaching where he curled up in my arms at night and purred and purred and purred; he was so grateful I was home.

Quietly, Vincent has persisted. His mobility reduced with each relapse. Accommodations were necessary. I added two pet gates to prevent Vincent from attempting stairs, when it became clear those were no longer safe. I moved the litter box from the basement to the main level. Then I replaced the box with a shallow tray when Vincent couldn't get over the lip. He became the furry turtle — capable of moving from one place to another but never quickly. Still, he would see me in the den, walk all the way down the hall, down the one step, and put his front legs up on my bench to signal me to pick him up and put him in my lap. He learned to use a step stool to get up and down off the couch. I would sit to watch television or knit, and Vincent would come over to slowly and carefully climb up to be next to me. He became a second shadow. I began sleeping downstairs on the living room floor in January, since Vincent seemed to do better the more time he spent with me. But I could also see he was in his hide-y hole more, eating less. Weight was slipping away. He had good days and not so good days. His veterinarian mentioned that if he were human, he would be using trifocals. Age was overtaking him.

His body became more fragile everywhere, except his heart. His veterinarian, Dr. Friedlander, would examine Vincent and listen with her stethoscope. Then she would remark with just a hint of surprise that his heart was still strong. Of course it was! That's where he put all his build points. He was all about the love!

Brûlée and Vincent connected me back to Bruce. I have nothing of Bruce's stash or knitting, not even any of his single socks from the sock guild, as he seemed to get through one sock a month but not the full pair. His solar wind sock on display at The Whole Nine Yarns was destroyed by moths and sunlight. But for almost a decade I had Bruce's cats. I still had that connection, however tenuous. Now they are gone, too. My grief is a big knot of the loss of Bruce and Brûlée and Vincent. I need to remind myself the love is real, and those connections are never broken, merely less obviously displayed in the physical world. But I also know there can be love again. Brûlée and Vincent showed me it was possible. I will always be grateful for that important lesson.

And now, they have both been returned. Thank you, Scenter, for allowing me to borrow your knitting-compatible familiars.

I've already started my journey towards new love. The eras of my adult life:
Copernicus & Sophia:  August 1989 - June 2009
Brûlée & Vincent: July 2009- June 2019
Ozymandias & Ramses arrived on Sunday 2 June 2019.

Thank you, Vincent, my beloved love bug, for lasting long enough for me to begin the new journey. You will always be dear in my heart.

09 June 2019

Blue Ridge Fiber Fest 2019 debrief

I had all of three days between STITCHES United and Blue Ridge Fiber Fest. This festival in Sparta, North Carolina, is only in its second year. The six-hour drive put it right on the edge of doable. It was worth it.

The drive up was lovely. The mountains are beautiful most times of the year. Of course, in June the hills are freshly green. There is one piece of the drive that is six miles of very winding road. I'm sorry there was no easy way for me to grab a picture of my Garmin's screen while I was driving.

Sparta is a small town. There is one hotel, which is where I stayed. Fortunately, there is a nice locally-owned restaurant right out front. It was definitely the place for breakfast — if you walked in at the wrong moment, it was hard to find an empty table! I must remember for next year that many of the businesses in Sparta are cash-only. I don't mind it; but I need to know before I leave. Fortunately, one of the locals was able to point me towards an ATM.

The festival took place at the fairgrounds while the classes were about a mile away in a wonderful old Victorian house. The class section was extensive — knitting, crochet, weaving, spinning, dyeing, basketry, felting. For example, there was a class on how to get a purple natural dye from lichen. There was a beginning spinning class. There was saori weaving and band weaving. Much diversity!

The market for this festival was excellent. Really excellent. Worth the six-hour-drive excellent. I made a few purchases.

I knew Clarksville Weaver Randie Felts was going to be vending. She and I shared a hotel room, so as to reduce costs. I saw her work last year at SAFF but did not buy anything quickly enough. This time, I came prepared. In the end, I bought two pieces.

While I do understand the basics of weaving, I do not have the skills and color sense Randie does. Every piece in her booth is beautiful. If I tried to mix yarns in the warp as she does, I am sure I would not be even close to her level of success.

I walked the whole festival, including the tent area, the barn, and the indoor arena. I found another irresistible item at the booth for Alpacas at Cherry Run.

In spite of having motifs of alpacas and Peru and mountains on it, the shawl is cotton. The price was very good (under $30). I initially admired that shawl thinking it would surely be expensive. When it wasn't, it became an impulse purchase. I love the dramatic patterning. And the colorway will complement many outfits.

My final impulse purchase was another cotton shawl.

This one was handwoven in India. Proceeds from the sale of these traditional textiles greatly benefit people in these developing areas. I had a lovely talk with the lady staffing the booth. She said the extra money makes many things possible, such as sending girls to school. None of the textiles had blue. Apparently, this area had no indigo dye tradition. The edges of the cloth are unfinished. However, this is a fine-weave cotton. It will work well as a shawl, but it could also be perfect as a large towel for drying glasses or wiping iGadgets.

Overall, this is an amazing show, especially for only being in its second year. I highly recommend it!

03 June 2019

STITCHES United 2019 Debrief

I must say how grateful I am that STITCHES was back in Atlanta this year after a five-year hiatus. Many of you know the last few months have had a lot of change in my personal life. Spending a weekend of teaching, learning, and just hanging out with my creative tribe was exactly what I needed. I didn't know how much I really needed it.
I also must thank my students. Both of my classes, "Brioche Rosetta Stone" and "Knit Faster with Combination Knitting" sold out during the early registration period. Thank you!

Of course, by now you all know that if I'm not teaching, I'm probably taking. For STITCHES I chose three classes.

Thursday was Xandy Peters' all-day "Fox Paws Technique" class. Yes, I could probably have figured out this pattern on my own. This was one of those I-want-this-on-my-résumé choices. Plus, I wanted to meet the creative genius behind Fox Paws. Xandy is an excellent teacher. She walked us through the technique, first with little pieces, then bigger pieces, then finally working the Fox Paws pattern. She used a video rig. I can't image effectively teaching this technique without one, since it requires unusual maneuvers more easily shown than described. What was most surprising was what Xandy said about color and design. For example, she mentioned that when you are looking for contrast, you can contrast based on hue, value, or intensity. When I discussed the class later with other people, they also mentioned the color and design elements in class. If Xandy ever teaches a color and design class, it will be high on my list of classes to take.

On Friday morning I took Marly Bird's "Interwoven Crochet" class. Marly is well-known for her upbeat and down-to-earth personality as the public face of Red Heart yarn. I like the interwoven crochet technique a lot. It is basically two pieces of filet crochet. The overall structure reminds me of double-weave. The technique produces grid patterns in two colors. Each color is worked all the way across as one row, then the other color is worked all the way across in one row. It is a three-dimensional technique, so definitely something you want someone to show you, rather than something you try to figure out from a flat, stationary picture in a book. In addition to being reversible, the fabric is also somewhat thick. And it is made entirely of double-crochet and chain, so fairly quick. I can definitely see myself using this for an afghan. And I've already added the foundational text, Interlocking Crochet by Tanis Galik, to my wish list. The zig-zag swatch shown above is a reversible pattern on both sides. Some of the patterns are reversible in the sense that both sides are good, but the patterns are different.

In addition to teaching us, Marly also gave us free yarn, which is what I've used in the zig-zag swatch. Marly has designed her own yarn, Red Heart Chic Sheep. It is 100% superwash wool. I am generally not a big fan of superwash wool. My experience with it has involved knitted items growing to unmanageable proportions when wet-blocked. Chic Sheep is four-ply, producing excellent stitch definition. And while I haven't yet tried it for knitting, it behaved well during the crochet class. It would be an excellent choice for crochet projects where you want the softness and warmth of wool, but need the easy-care qualities of superwash. Marly mentioned that yarn buyers for big box stores often are people who do not knit or crochet. This explains why yarn choices in national chains can be disappointing. All the more reason for us to support our friendly local yarn shops!

One last thing to mention about Marly's class — her handout is a Google document. There are pros and cons to this approach. On the one hand, lots of people are moving away from the dead tree approach toward environmentally-conscious communication. And the Google document link means all the students have access to future revisions. Those are definitely positives. But, if you take notes — and I do — where do you put them? Marly gave us the link at the end of class. I took notes on my phone during class. Now I have notes, but those notes aren't written on the handout, which is where I need them to be. I've printed the handout, so I can go back and annotate it. But that is adding an extra step. And Marly's pedagogy is text-focused not visual. Her handout is primarily words without any pictures of the complex crochet hook positions necessary to produce this fabric. She doesn't use a video rig to teach. If you are a strongly visual learner, be prepared to adapt if you take a class from Marly.

The third class I took was "You Want Me to Put My Hook Where?" on Sunday morning with Edie Eckman. I've taken classes with Edie before. Her work is always thorough. I trust that if Edie hasn't figured out how to do it, it very likely can't be done. I signed up for this class because I am seeing more and more amazing crochet. There are some fascinating high-relief and three-dimensional effects that are more easily produced in crochet than knitting. I figured this class would be an entrée. I was not disappointed. Using a video rig, Edie showed us a wide range of interesting ways to crochet. Her handout includes both the words and the charts. (If you are a crocheter and don't know how to read charted crochet, go learn now.) Again, this is exactly the sort of technique you want to learn in person. In addition to a printed handout, Edie gave us links to photographs of what the swatches should look like and video links. There's no reason I can't go back and revisit this information if I find a project years from now utilizing one of these clever maneuvers. Some of the terms she covered included crocheting in the front or the back of the loop, in front or back of the post, between stitches, crossed stitches, some stitches made from partial stitches, linked, dip stitches, and tuck stitches. As you can see, the swatch is long because there was lots of material to practice.

23 May 2019

Irish and Aran Crochet

On the second day of the workshop, Rita showed us Irish and Aran crochet techniques. In class we worked samples using size 10 crochet cotton. Yes, the fineness of the materials can be a challenge, especially if your hands shake or your eyes no longer see in high definition. But the patterns are lovely and definitely worth the effort. For reference here on the blog, I've worked these motifs in the same worsted-weight yarn as the other posts.

bullion stitches at top, limpet stitches at bottom

Possibly the toughest stitch we did was the bullion stitch. Like the Tunisian stitches, this is another technique where a crochet hook with a long plain throat is better than one with a thumb rest. The bullion stitch makes fabulous texture by wrapping the yarn multiple times around the throat of the crochet hook and then pulling a loop through this long spiral worm. As you might guess, part of the trick is not catching the spiral loops on the hook. Scrunching the spiral worm together helps, as it makes the spiral open outward ever so slightly.

As you can see from the picture, a shell of bullion stitches makes a lovely edge. Rita had us work picots on the other edge. When I got home, I also made a swatch using limpet stitch. It is similar to bullion, except the stitches are "cast-on" to the hook with half-hitches, similar to backward loop or e-cast-on in knitting. The limpet stitch ends up with a line between the coils. Both techniques would be great ways to embellish a quiet design to give it more drama.

Irish crochet Rose of Sharon

The classic Irish motif is, of course, the Rose of Sharon. It is worked from the center out. Basically, you make a wheel with long spokes. Petals are formed over chains connecting the spokes. Layers of ever-larger petals are added behind by using post crochets to lay in more chain structure. The motif is very three-dimensional.

After the bullion stitch, the pattern that gave the class the most trouble was he leaf. The leaf isn't difficult per se, but it is constructed in a way that is not intuitive. The center is established by making a line and working around it. Then the leaf is shaped by swinging back and forth, akin to short rows in knitting. To make it easier to envision, I've drawn a colored diagram. Start at the red and the top and follow the rainbow line in color order to the violet at the bottom.

One thing that helps — the pattern has three single crochet in the same spot whenever you get to the base of the leaf. Once I understood that, it was much easier to keep track of what I was doing.

One of the last swatches we made was an Aran cable swatch. Cables are associated with knitting, but you can do them in crochet. In this case, the swatch is all double crochet. The stitches forming the cables are always worked around the post. This gives them higher relief texture. Crossing is a little weird, but very similar to knitting. You simply work the stitches out of order and around the post at the same time. Jumping ahead isn't too tricky, but backing up to work the stitches you skipped can be a little challenging. The wrong side of the fabric is very different from the right side, as it has strong horizontal elements rather than vertical ones.

Overall, the weekend-long workshop was an opportunity to explore a different direction. I'm not sure how much I will use what I learned. For me, creativity is often about learning and exploring and then waiting. You don't know how a technique will be used until you get to the project that incorporates it. The heritage crochet techniques definitely expanded my creative horizons.

22 May 2019

Tunisian Crochet

In the afternoon on the first day of Rita's workshop we learned Tunisian crochet.

Tunisian stitches are characterized by a right-to-left ("forward") pass creating loops, then a left-to-right ("backward") pass crocheting them off. You don't turn the work; the public side is always facing you. When you are at the right-hand edge of a piece of Tunisian crochet it looks like you are crocheting — there is a single loop on a crochet hook. But when you are at the left-hand edge, there is a strange hybrid of a crochet hook with lots of live loops on it as if it were in costume pretending to be a knitting needle. If you think of Tunisian stitches as a grid, you can think of the forward loop-creating pass as making vertical posts and the backward binding-off pass as making horizontal lintels.
|    |    |    |    |    |

For class we were able to work swatches on regular crochet hooks. Please note, this technique is best executed on crochet hooks that don't have large handles and don't have big thumb rests. You need cable or a slender stick to hold the live loops, just as you would in knitting. If you decided to pursue Tunisian crochet, then a set of Denise crochet hooks would be your first stop.

Rita has instructions for Tunisian crochet in both her books, but I think the instructional pictures are better in Crochet for Knitters: A Marriage of Hook and Needles, especially pages 52-56, where she describes four basic patterns.

Tunisian simple stitch:

In this case, the forward pass is knitting up loops by inserting the hook right to left through the top of the vertical post, then binding the loops off on the backward pass. It forms a very firm square grid with an obvious right-side and wrong-side. This fabric is not stretching and possibly not draping, either. Choose wisely when to use this. It would make good fabric for jackets, upholstery, or bags. I've seen blanket patterns where you make an entire afghan this way, then go back and work a counted cross-stitch design on top of it. That's commitment!

Tunisian double crochet:

This is worked the same as Tunisian simple, except the vertical posts are now almost-finished double crochet stitches. This means you could experiment with Tunisian treble and taller stitches. Because this pattern is more open, it has a little stretch and a little drape compared to Tunisian simple. It has a right-side and a wrong-side, but the wrong-side of the work isn't too bad.

Tunisian cross stitch:

This pattern produces pretty star-like crosses at the intersections of the grid. It is worked the same as Tunisian double, except the stitches are worked out of order, just like cabling in knitting. Skip the next stitch, work the one after it, then back up and work the stitch just skipped. The backward bind-off pass is the same as other Tunisian stitches. While the fabric is attractive on the right side, the wrong side is a chaotic field of bumps.

Tunisian knit stitch:

This fabric looks very much like regular stockinette, but is thicker and firmer. If you want the look of stockinette but with no stretch, this is it. Unlike the previous three patterns, the vertical posts are picked up front to back, as if knitting. Backward pass is the same as the other stitches. The wrong side of the fabric resembles reverse stockinette, but with pronounced horizontal ridges.

Tunisian lace stitch:
This pattern is an outlier, in that it involves action on both the forward and backward passes. Also, Rita does not include it in Crochet for Knitters but instead has it on page 32 of Heritage Crochet in a New Light: Enriching Your Designs with Antique Lace Techniques. The backward pass involves creating alternating chains and clusters by chaining several stitches, then drawing through multiple loops on the hook all at once. The forward pass creates stitches in the chains. The result is a series of stacked clusters. Like the other Tunisian stitches, this fabric is firm and stretches only because it is open. The wrong side is different from the right side, but only noticeably so at close range.

I've written previously about Tunisian knit (rather than crochet) stitches in this post from February 2017.

21 May 2019

Broomstick and Hairpin Lace

On the first day of Rita de Maintenon's workshop we learned two related techniques — broomstick lace and hairpin lace. In all the pictures below, the swatches are oriented in the direction they were worked, from bottom to top.

a sample of broomstick lace

Broomstick lace is a technique where large loops are created over a broomstick or other oversized dowel, such as a size 35 or 50 knitting needle. As in knitting but unlike ordinary crochet, there are many loops. These loops are crocheted together in groups, as in the example above. You can see how a group of loops forms and "eye," with a "crown" of single-crochet stitches at the top. In the photograph below, loops have been crocheted individually to make a mesh reminiscent of condo knitting.

broomstick mesh alternating rows over two different-sized dowels

In either case, this is a technique that would lends itself to showing off a pretty yarn. I can definitely see this done with a ribbon yarn; and I am wondering how it would work for an art yarn? I am also wondering if you could work the big loops with a ribbon yarn but crochet them off with something plain? And then there is the question of adding long bugle beads? Or what if you made the loops and then wove them together? What if you woven a strip of fabric through the loops? What about different stitch patterns between the rows? What about working the eyes in a half-drop formation instead of lined up? What about using stitches other than single crochet for the crown? What about beads across the crown? As you can tell, there is a lot of opportunity for experimentation.

close-up of a strip of hairpin lace

Hairpin lace can resemble broomstick lace in that both make big loops grouped together. In hairpin lace the loops are created on a hairpin fork. There are two rows of opposing loops secured in their shared center by a crocheted spine. Something about hairpin lace reminds me of a centipede. Typical hairpin lace projects involve making strips and then joining the strips together, either by crocheting or lacing (what knitters would call Russian grafting). In the swatch below, two strips of hairpin lace have been joined by lacing clusters of four loops up the center of the swatch. Crowns of single crochet were worked on the sides to form eyes from the remaining loops. The effect mimics broomstick lace.

two stripes of hairpin lace joined at center and crocheted around edges
There can be variations. You can offset the spine so both sets of loops are not the same size. You can change how loops are laced together or join them alternative ways. You can use different-sized hairpin forks to make the strips narrower or wider. If you want the strip to be wavy, you can join single loops and then join a cluster together to cause the strip to twist to the side. You can even make a strip and gather all the loops on one side together for form a circle. Because of the long loops, this is another technique with the potential to show off ribbon or art yarns.

Because both broomstick lace and hairpin lace involve making rows of live loops, they lend themselves to collaboration with knitting. Rita's book Crochet for Knitters: A Marriage of Hook and Needles explores this. I can see the potential to use either technique to create insertions of unusual yarn in the middle of garments made from otherwise fairly ordinary yarn.