Invitation to Design Crochet

CGOA20thAnniversaryLogoThe Crochet Guild of America continues to celebrate and reward excellence in crochet design, as we invite you to participate in the CGOA 2014 Design Competition.  Please download the official information package here and find out what our membership already knows: this is the only competition of its kind and is an amazing showcase for our craft.  This is my sixth year of involvement with the competition and I am so proud that each event brings more and greater prestige not just to crochet and to the competition itself, but also to the participants and the award-winning designers we honor.

Perhaps you saw the back page of the Winter 2014 issue of Interweave Crochet, and marveled at the little face staring out at you.

Crochet Bandit

Marcy Smith, editor of Interweave Crochet, President of CGOA Board of Directors and one of our competition judges last year, was so entranced with this entry, Summer Visitors, that she asked winning designer Sachiko Adams for permission to feature her work in a magazine piece. YAY, Sachiko!Summer Visitors

Of course there’s more at stake here than pride, crochet glory and a gang of prize ribbons. Thanks to generous grants from our magnificent sponsors we have thousands of dollars in cash awards, sweet indeed. Please join me in acknowledging and appreciating these supporters of crochet and CGOA, including to date:

Cari Clement

Crochetville

Interweave Crochet

Gwen Blakley-Kinsler

MainlyCrochet

Red Heart

WEBS, America’s Yarn Store

The competition is open to CGOA members; deadline for entries is July 1, 2014.  Judging and exhibition of entries will be held during the CGOA Conference, 23-27 July in Manchester, New Hampshire. If you’re up for the challenge, please visit the CGOA website at crochet.org to become a member and then get ready to show me your crochet!

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Crochet and Yarn: Seriously Twisted

I just freaked myself out, seriously.  My entire crochet life I assumed, and was assured by the writings of others, that it makes no difference whether you begin working with a skein, ball or cake of yarn by pulling from the outside or by pulling from the center (see here). HOKEY SMOKES!  As a result of some geeky experiments I did this morning while snow bound at home, I now know that there is a difference. Yes, I should get a life.  But if you’d like to know what I discovered, then read on.

Let me take a step back and talk about yarn twist for a moment.  I’ve been examining and writing about yarn twist for years (see here) and hope you’re all caught up, but I will summarize.  Except for ribbon, tape and tubular constructions (and perhaps roving, but I never work with unspun roving so I can’t say for sure) where the finished yarn is a wider or flatter product and the spinning, plying or twisting of the yarn fibers is not evident and not an issue, every yarn has a finished twist.  Yarn is either S-Twist or Z-Twist.  That particular twist is always the same no matter how you are viewing the strand, no matter which end is up or down.  How can you tell which twist?  Look at a single strand of yarn; if the fibers or plies make a slant this way \, like the center stroke of an S, then it is S-Twist.  If it slants this way /, like the center stroke of a Z, then it is Z-Twist.  Below, Z-Twist on left, S-Twist on right. That’s all pretty straightforward… so far.

twist

Z-Twist yarn on left; S-Twist yarn on right.

The huge majority of commercial yarn is finished with S-Twist, no matter how the individual fibers, strand and plies are spun.  No idea why.  Maybe it’s a manufacturing thing.  I suspect that it is an end-user thing.  Most hand-crafting yarn is designed to be used for knitting, by right-handed knitters.  S-Twist favors the knitting process; knitting reinforces S-Twist and keeps the plies coherent and the strand stable.  The opposite happens in crochet by right-handed crocheters.  Because the yarn is wrapped around the crochet hook (yarn over) in the opposite direction of the knit yarn over, and because crochet stitches have height and may contain multiple yarn overs each time, crochet tends to un-twist the S-Twist.  Eventually, if this continues throughout the length of a skein (exacerbated by the act of fixing mistakes, frogging and re-crocheting) then that S-Twist yarn will become seriously untwisted, splitty, lose coherence and begin to fall apart.  When the yarn is a loosely S-Twist product to begin with, crocheting it can result in disaster.

Manufacturers create the final put-up (ball, skein or cone) without additional twist.  They do this by rotating the spindle that holds the skein, so the yarn is wound straight onto the core, not twisted around the core.  You do this as well when you wind a hank onto a ball-winder.  From the perspective of the yarn itself, you are not putting any additional twist into the strand.  However, from the perspective of the user, there is more twist happening.  Why?  When you go to use the skein, you either pick up and begin with the end on the outside of the skein, or you dig inside the skein for the center pull, right?  The skein stays put, the yarn winds around the skein as it comes off.  You are adding twist.

If you consider the orientation of the skein each time you draw some yarn from it, you can choose for this user twist to be S or Z.  If you’re looking at the skein from one end, and if you continue to wind the skein it would be in a clockwise direction, then pulling the feed directly from the outside from this end will add S-Twist.  If you pull from that center end, you will add Z-Twist.

clockwise end

If you’re looking at the other end of the skein, and the yarn is winding around in a counter-clockwise direction, then pulling directly from that outside end will add Z-Twist.  If you dug around and drew the center of the skein through this same end, and you pulled from the center, then you would add S-Twist.

counter end

For most yarn users, this matters not, really.  The amount of twist may be negligible in the overall picture, and you may never have a problem. But if you have noticed your yarn feed getting ratty and loose, if the splitting gets worse and worse as you go, if you tend to crochet and un-crochet the same sections over and over, if you like to work loose gauges and tall stitches, if your finished fabric looks crappy and worn before you’ve even worn it, then you may have an issue with twist.

There is a way to eliminate user twist, and that is to rotate the skein as you use it, pulled from the outside.  Know how it is when your yarn ball flips and jumps around while you pull from it?  That’s your feed coming off the ball without twist.  I have a tool, a contraption, that holds skeins, balls and cones, lets them spin freely and allows you to pull yarn in the manner it was put on.

YP-2013A-W

It’s called the Yarn Pet, designed and crafted by my friends at Nancy’s KnitKnacks, and adapts (a tiny tool and some assembly required) to all sorts of yarn packaging.  The commercial Yarn Pet is what we use at DesigningVashti when winding Lotus into cakes from the manufacturer cones.

Not everyone needs to get so geeky about twist, but if you are experiencing twist issues, at least now you know it’s not your fault!  Just saying….

Baby Crochet Territory

Specializing as I do in seamless crochet adult garments and accessories (how’s that for a pigeon-hole?), I rarely wander into other types of crochet design.  Aside from the occasional home decor items and my couple of indie tween girl designs for DJC2 , I keep myself to my usual MO.  That’s why I appreciate when my friends invite me to preview and review their work that goes where I do not dare to tread.

If you don’t count a chihuahua and more recently a couple of bunnies in my temporary care, there have been no babies in my life for many years. Baby stuff is truly alien territory for me. Yes, I did crochet for my sons when they were infants, but that was well before I turned designer.   Somehow I had the impression that baby clothes and accessories shoulda been… well… easier to design than adult garments. I discovered that while baby projects are tiny and therefore faster to finish, they aren’t necessarily simpler to create.  I always got hung up on sizing for babies.  Aren’t their heads so much bigger than the rest of them?  So my sons didn’t get many crocheted wearables from me.  But baby blankets and afghans they had in abundance.

The key to getting a baby blanket design right is hitting a balance between practical and pretty.  My friend Sharon Silverman, with whom I shared a startling orchid experience back when I talked about her Crocheted Scarves book, works her passion for Tunisian crochet into a collection of adorable baby blankets that are both.  I am quite late to the party for the book tour for Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets, Leisure Arts, December 2013, but I don’t mind batting clean-up.

tunisian-crochet-baby-2014jpg-copy-150x150

Sharon has taken eight different Tunisian stitch patterns, both colorful and textural, and turned them into projects that not only give you an opportunity to learn or practice your Tunisian skills, but result in beautiful gifts for the special little people in your life. Fully loaded with clearly written patterns, an appendix of Tunisian techniques with photo tutorials, plus access to bonus free online video tutorials, this book overflows with Sharon’s considerable expertise. And since a baby blanket is a small, accessible size (30″ by 40″ average), it’s a terrific canvas for experimenting with yarns, colors and new stitches with reasonable commitment in time and materials.  Think baby, Baby!

Tammy and Me: CFFs (Crochet Friends Forever)

Who’da thunk it?  My CFF Tammy Hildebrand has just published her beautiful new book, Crochet Wraps Every Which Way. I believe mine is the final stop on the book’s blog tour, the trail of which you can backtrack by visiting Tammy’s Facebook page, Hot Lava Crochet.

Tammy Hildebrand's new book!

Tammy Hildebrand’s new book!

Others have written reviews and extolled the wonderfulness of Tammy’s bouquet of designs.  I can only sit here stunned.  HOKEY SMOKES!  Ten years ago when we first met, we could only have imagined this happening in our wildest dreams.

I kept running into Tammy (and I do mean literally) at a Crochet Guild of America conference, summer 2004 in Manchester, New Hampshire. This was my first CGOA event and I was a wannabe professional crochet designer there to meet like-minded people and forge a network, so I was going full tilt, dashing around and blithely bumping into… well… everyone.  The first days I was there I ran over Tammy a number of times wandering through the hotel lobby, piling into and out of the elevator.  We had a little mutual admiration thing going on, trading comments and compliments about each others crochet wear. Back then Tammy seemed a shy thing, hanging back from the crowds and commotion, hesitant about public speaking, avoiding any glare of attention on herself. Her husband George, the gallant gentleman, was ever at her side, carrying the huge bags of yarn Tammy had collected from the show floor market, lending his steady calm support and encouragement.  GOD, he really believed in her and wanted so much for her to realize her potential as a crochet designer, even if Tammy was reluctant to put herself forward.

Being complete newbies to the design game, we both jumped at the chance to worship at the feet of crochet legends Rita Weiss and the late Jean Leinhauser, who were on site scouting talent for their latest publishing ventures.  Tammy, not realizing that the two crazy ladies were holding court, like queen bees, smack in the center of the hive of activity in the hotel lobby, had missed her appointment and was anxiously looking around for a clue as to what she should do.  I found her there at the edge of the crowd and offered to share my own appointment with Rita and Jean.  From there we became buddies.

I don’t remember exactly when she started calling me her “little buddy”.  Oddly, geekily, it makes me think of the Skipper and Gilligan (“…a three hour tour…”). Through the years we have shared our crochet lives as best we can, long distance by phone and e-mail, meeting once or twice each year at CGOA events. Tammy, once too painfully shy to be coaxed into the limelight or onto the catwalk, would go on to serve on the CGOA board of directors (she was just elected Vice President!), chair the Professional Development committee, became one of my go-to models for fashion shows and the Design Competition parades, where she now enthusiastically models her own award winning designs and anything else we throw on her!  Tammy blossomed, not into a delicate flower, but one of those Steel Magnolias, now in charge of her destiny and enjoying life to the fullest.

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It was to Tammy I turned in 2005 when I desperately needed help to finish samples for my first book, Amazing Crochet Lace.  She put her own work on hold and crocheted the Allegheny Moon Mobius and the huge Pistachio Parfait Ruana.  And now in 2014 I am thrilled that Tammy asked me to contribute a comment for the back cover of her book and to participate in this blog tour.  Again I ask, who’da thunk it?

I am bursting with pride and happiness for her and can’t say enough about Crochet Wraps Every Which Way.  Please see for yourself with this wonderful Look Book created by her publisher, Stackpole, and join me in congratulating Tammy on her success.

DesigningVashti Lotus Crochet

I did promise to show you just what I’ve done to put our new yarn, DesigningVashti Lotus, to work in crochet design.

First I substituted Lotus for a few sportweight gauge pieces from my book Convertible Crochet; the vest Callisto, the shrug Phoebe, the collar Corsair.  Also I used Lotus for the Jolimar Skirt, originally designed in now discontinued NaturallyCaron.com Spa.

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But the ultimate test of this yarn, the real reason I considered designing a yarn because I could never find the right one anywhere else, is to make… pants.  Finally, with the convergence of the perfect yarn at the point in my crochet career when I have the skills to actually do it, there be seamless crocheted pants!

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The same pattern set will offer the Boy Shorts, Tap Pants, Capris and Lounge pants.  Naturally, I had to design tops to go with; a babydoll and a sleeveless tunic.  The tank in Sapphire Lotus is already out, but you may not recognize the design; it’s DJC2 Tank Girl, made in Junior Size S and worn tight and cropped.  I know, I know.  Wearing crochet head to butt is considered to be a bit too much, over the top.  A No-No.  A Fashion Don’t.  However, these are pajamas.  Sleep sets.  Unless you invite the Fashion Police to your next slumber party, who’s gonna know?  Lotus Pants and the tops, oh, and one pretty, flirty little lace dress in one of my favorite crochet stitch patterns are coming to DJC Designs, Spring 2014.  Thereabouts.

Until then, what can you do to get to know Lotus?  If you see this in time, you can join me and the boss, Vashti Braha, in the Crochetville chat room, Friday, 10 January, 1:00 to 2:00 Eastern time.  Check this Facebook event page in the morning for info and a link to the chat location. We will be spilling our guts about Lotus and stuff.  Also, Vashti’s brain has been working overtime and she dreamed up a fun way for you to sample Lotus.  It’s the Lotus Color Chip Kit, yarn snips in each shade, enough to make these itty bitty, goofy but cool color chips.

Lotus_Color_Chipsc9face1a301e

Lotus Color Chip Kit

Join us in the Crochetville chatroom and find out how you can get your kit.  I’m already limbering up my typing fingers in anticipation.  Hope to meet you there.