New Favorite Crochet Yarn For the New Year

Today I sit and contemplate the approaching new year.  As is my nature I am not looking back at 2013. It is not my way to evaluate or analyze the events, triumphs and complete bummers of the past.  Rather, I am anticipating the excitement yet to come.  2014, the Year of the Wood Horse, promises to be an auspicious one for me, as I was born in the previous Wood Horse Year.  It’s also going to be a brilliant year for crochet if we have anything to say about it (“we” being me and the boss, Vashti Braha), for 2014 will be the year of Lotus.

Vashti and I, both avid crocheters and professional crochet designers, both writers for and about crochet, really love yarn. Between us, we have tasted and tested hundreds of products from the ubiquitous craft store brands to esoteric and/or ultra-luxe boutique yarns. But, sadly, few yarns in our experience have been completely lovable.

A couple of years ago when Vashti and I were once again bemoaning the fact that most yarn is S-twisted and not very happy for our styles of crochet, she started asking me pointed questions about what I look for in the perfect yarn. I thought she was just making conversation; she was actually taking notes, while her brain was furiously and obsessively planning her new venture.  Since we couldn’t find or buy the yarn we wanted, Vashti set out to design it, have it produced (in the USA) and offer it on her website, DesigningVashti.com. That’s how Lotus was born. It is quite simply the yarn I could live in…. and couldn’t live without.

DesigningVashti Lotus Color Card

Lotus fills a place in crochet in a way that no other single yarn has done. It is a sportweight blend of cotton and rayon, with a gorgeous drape, pretty sheen and just the right amount of Z-twist.  Lotus substitutes perfectly in just about any crochet pattern that calls for sportweight yarn; for example it works well in most of my designs for the discontinued yarn, NaturallyCaron.com Spa. And with a bit of care and attention to tension, you can crochet it in a range of gauges from sock to DK. Lotus is sturdy as well, and holds up incredibly well in garments, even ones you sit on (dresses, skirts, pants). This is, left to right, Becky Barker, me, Vashti, and Diane Moyer, modeling Lotus wear on the runway at the CGOA 2013 Fall Fashion Show, Charlotte, NC.

Lotus Designs at CGOA Fall Fashion Show

I have kept quiet about Lotus until now, but Vashti has already been blogging and news-letting about becoming a yarn designer. Following a soft premier in December (see DesigningVashti Crochet newsletter issue #55) the major promotion begins in 2014. Please join us on January 10th for a live chat at Crochetville; here’s the Facebook Event page for information. Look for interviews and features about DesigningVashti Lotus in magazines and e-zines in the coming months.  And very soon there will be a butt-load of Lotus design support from DJC Designs, my independent pattern line.  Next time I will post a peek at what I’m working on.  For now, the anticipation is killing me!

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Giftable or Not: Products for Crocheters

We crocheters know exactly what gifts we’re giving to everyone on The List;  we raid the yarn stash, find an interesting or appropriate or not-been-previously-gifted pattern, and just crochet our gifts.  I pity the civilians (non-crocheters and non-fiberazzi) who don’t have a clue as to what to give us.  In case you are wondering what to get for the yarn enthusiast (or anyone who works with their hands) in your life, and you’re open to a few suggestions, here’s a gathering of stocking-stuffer type products I’ve had the pleasure to own and use this past year.

1) The Perfect Notion Case.

Perfect Notions Case

This little wonder box was a bonus from the adorable Shroyers, Nancy and Bob, after purchasing the Yarn Pet from Nancy’s Knit Knacks following TNNA in June 2013.  Bob told me it was originally manufactured to be a pill box, but that it turns out to be really useful for holding and keeping track of yarn doo-dads.  The six clear lidded compartments provide different sized storage for stashing pins of all sorts, from T-pins to safety pins, stitch markers, tapestry needles, beads and the odd band-aid and breath mints emergency stuff.  The outer case has a tab that locks down the two halves like a clam shell so there are never any escapees or spillage.  I put mine to the test earlier this month while coordinating the CGOA 2013 Design Competition at the conference in Charlotte.  Throughout the arduous task of creating a 60-foot long display of 100 crochet entries my notions box proved perfect, and got more than a few comments.  Where did I get it? It’s probably available in yarn shops and on line at fiber sites, but I got mine from the source. Around $5.  Here.

2) Gingher 4-inch Featherweight Thread Snips

Gingher Thread Snips

I don’t travel very often, but when I do and I need to carry crochet tools, this is the cutting tool I prefer; incredibly sharp and precise for cutting yarn ends. In fact, be vewwy vewwy careful with the tips of those blades, and always snap the protective cap back on after use.  At half an ounce, they won’t weigh down your crochet hook case.  I’ve found them for considerably less than the full retail price, around $20, so it pays to shop around and use sales/coupons at craft stores like JoAnn.com.  I know that’s still a bit pricey for just tiny scissors, but I know they are worth having.

These remaining three products aren’t as much about crochet as about hand care.  I know they might not be gift-worthy, but I have no doubt that all would be welcome and at least are worth seeking out and having around.

3) Band-Aid ACTIV-FLEX

ACTIV-FLEX

Band-Aids?  Really?  Yes, really.  These are the best fracking bandages on the planet for those tiny nicks (think paper cuts!), needle and scissor stabs, torn hangnails and other annoying hand and finger injuries that might bleed on your yarn or keep you from crocheting on.  They are nearly invisible on the skin, stay on for potentially days, and they do flex comfortably on fingers.  Although this style is becoming increasingly difficult to find (I get them here), they remain the bandage of choice for DesigningVashti.  At around $5 for a box of 10, they are not cheap, but what price absolute protection?

4) Revlon Shape-n-Buff

Revlon Shape N Buff

Ain’t nothing as horrifying as crocheting (or simply petting) your precious luxury yarn and having it snag on your rough or splitting nails, cuticles or fingertips. Now, I have never had a professional manicure in my entire life, but if even that’s your thing your hands will still need occasional maintenance to keep them smooth. I like this tool, a half-inch thick foam block with two long filing sides and four graded buffing areas.  It’s easy to hold and use, lasts a long while.  No snags, no worries.  Around $3.50, find it pretty much everywhere.

5)  EOS Complete Care Hand and Body Lotion

EOS Hand and Body Lotion

Trust me, I’ve squeezed out, applied, slathered on a million thousand hand creams, from the highly rated and prized brands (like the perennial beauty favorite L’Occitane) to ordinary dollar-store no-brands.  I got annoyed with paying over $10 for an ounce (maybe a couple of weeks worth) of hand cream.  Really.  Even if the ingredients list for less expensive products isn’t as clean, natural or special, they can still do the job and be mostly harmless. For stay-at-home hand care, I like the pump action of this EOS Complete Care Hand and Body Lotion in the Boost variety; works one-handed, with no caps, pouring or squeezing to mess with. It dispenses as thickly as what others call a cream, and is not runny.  It does three things for me: keeps hands soft, smooth, moisturized; absorbs quickly and completely so you can touch your yarn and projects right away; has only a touch of sweet-ish, vanilla-y fragrance that is non-offensive and never transfers. It does contain some good stuff, skin-nourishing stuff; it also contains two ingredients that I normally try to avoid (mineral oil and petrolatum); it does not contain two things that are for me unacceptable, parabens and lanolin. Overall, this lotion is a great compromise and wonderful for frequent use, and not just for hands naturally, at around $8 for a 12 ounce bottle.

Merry Crocheting, Happy Hands!

CGOA 2013 Peoples’ Choice

The winner of the CGOA 2013 Design Competition $100 Peoples’ Choice Award, sponsored by Karen Whooley/KRW Knitwear designs, as voted by attendees at the CGOA Conference, Charlotte/Concord, NC, is

Sparkling Shells Evening Shawl, designed by Susmita Mullick:

“This “sparkling shells evening shawl” is designed by Susmita Mullick. It is a light and lacey shawl done in Lion Brand Vanna Glamour yarn in a platinum with diamond color shading. The design features diagonal shells which are interconnected with a slip stitch on both sides of the shawl. This sparkling shells evening shawl is perfect for holiday gifts or to wear on gala occasions.”

Sparkling Shells by Susmita Mullick

Sparkling Shells by Susmita Mullick

CGOA 2013 Design Competition Results

CGOA 2013 Design Competition Results, as announced during the Awards Ceremony at the CGOA conference in Charlotte, NC, 3 October 2013:

In the category Accessories, sponsored by WEBS, America’s Yarn Store:

Honorable Mention

Fiji Flowers on Flowers (61), designed by Linda Dean

Fiji Flowers on Flowers by Linda Dean

Fiji Flowers on Flowers by Linda Dean

$100 Third Prize

Josephine’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcape (86), designed by Maxine Pike:

Josephine's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Maxine Pike

Josephine’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Maxine Pike

$200 Second Prize

Windowpane Wrap (19), designed by April Garwood:

Windowpane Wrap by April Garwood

Windowpane Wrap by April Garwood

$300 First Prize

Dragon Wing (1), designed by Joyce Lewis:

Dragon Wing by Joyce Lewis

Dragon Wing by Joyce Lewis

Dragon Wing is also the winner of this year’s $200 Technical Merit Award, sponsored by Designing Vashti, for outstanding, fresh use of Tunisian crochet techniques.

In the category Afghans and Home Décor, sponsored by Red Heart:

Honorable Mention

Granny’s Tree of Love (42) designed by Deborah Bagley:

Granny's Tree of Love by Deborah Bagley

Granny’s Tree of Love by Deborah Bagley

$100 Third Prize

Alpine Lodge (88), designed by Sue Solakian:

Alpine Lodge by Sue Solakian

Alpine Lodge by Sue Solakian

$200 Second Prize

Octie: Flower to Octagon Blanket (70), designed by Jessie Rayot:

Octie Flower to Octagon by Jessie Rayot

Octie Flower to Octagon by Jessie Rayot

$300 First Prize

Simple Pleasures (24), designed by Julia Bryant from Canada:

Simple Pleasures by Julia Bryant

Simple Pleasures by Julia Bryant

In the category Small Accessories, sponsored by Tulip Company, manufacturers of Etimo cushion grip crochet hooks:

Honorable Mention

Rainbow Crochet Carryall (100), designed by Cynthia Fiebig:

Rainbow Crochet Carryall by Cynthia Fiebig

Rainbow Crochet Carryall by Cynthia Fiebig

$100 Third Prize

Is That A Platypus Scarf? (74), designed by Laurinda Reddig:

Is That A Playpus Scarf by Laurinda Reddig

Is That A Playpus Scarf by Laurinda Reddig

$200 Second Prize

Purple Cascade (56), designed by Jean DeMouy:

Purple Cascade by Jean DeMouy

Purple Cascade by Jean DeMouy

$300 First Prize

Fair Isle Love Beanie (2), designed by Deja Jetmir:

Fair Isle Love Beanie by Deja Jetmir

Fair Isle Love Beanie by Deja Jetmir

In the category Thread Crochet, sponsored by Boye and The Crochet Dude, Drew Emborsky:

Honorable Mention

Rendezvous (9), designed by Kathryn White

Rendezvous by Kathryn White

Rendezvous by Kathryn White

$100 Third Prize

Rose Ensemble (20), designed by Kathie Earle:

Rose Ensemble by Kathie Earle

Rose Ensemble by Kathie Earle

$200 Second Prize

Calcutta Doily (8), designed by Kathryn White:

Calcutta Doily by Kathryn White

Calcutta Doily by Kathryn White

$300 First Prize

Princess of Circles (25), designed by Carol Booth:

Princess of Circles by Carol Booth

Princess of Circles by Carol Booth

In the category Fashion, sponsored by Interweave Crochet:

Honorable Mention

Summer Lace Dress (94), designed by Janelle Ponte:

Summer Lace Dress by Janelle Ponte

Summer Lace Dress by Janelle Ponte

$100 Third Prize

Frilly Summer Cardigan (13), designed by Susan Walsh, from Australia!

Frilly Summer Cardigan by Susan Walsh

Frilly Summer Cardigan by Susan Walsh

$200 Second Prize

Connemara Beauty (51), designed by Jennifer Ryan:

Connemara Beauty by Jennifer Ryan

Connemara Beauty by Jennifer Ryan

$300 First Prize

Afternoon Tea (6), designed by Kathryn White:

Afternoon Tea by Kathryn White

Afternoon Tea by Kathryn White

And in the category Artistic Expressions, sponsored by Jenny King Designs:

Honorable Mention

Meeting Mr. Tumnus by the Lamp in Narnia (41), designed by Deborah Bagley:

Meeting Mr. Tumnus by the Lamp in Narnia

$100 Third Prize

Owl Sit With You (43), designed by Deborah Bagley:

Owl Sit With You Bean Bag Chair by Deborah Bagley

Owl Sit With You Bean Bag Chair by Deborah Bagley

$200 Second Prize

Philomena (96), designed by Kate Buckner:

Philomena by Kate Buckner

Philomena by Kate Buckner

$300 First Prize

Summer Visitors (63), designed by Sachiko Adams:

Summer Visitors by Sachiko Adams

Summer Visitors by Sachiko Adams

Summer Visitors is also the winner of the $100 Founders Prize, sponsored by CGOA founder Gwen Blakley Kinsler;

And finally, the $1,000 Grand Prize sponsored by Crochetville and MainlyCrochet.com:

Mille Fleurs Dress (32), designed by Dot Drake:

Mille Fleurs Dress by Dot Drake

Mille Fleurs Dress by Dot Drake

One last prize, the Peoples’ Choice Award,is still to be decided by popular vote during the course of the conference; winner to be announced on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, enjoy a slideshow of the entire competition, all images provided by Doris Chan.

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CGOA Design Competition: Going Pro

Whether you’re an entrant ready to go pro… or so not interested… the annual CGOA Design Competition is for many the gateway to publication.  Let me be clear.  The competition is open to all members, amateur hobbyists and professional designers alike; the event is about celebrating creativity and excellence in crochet, and not about publication. It is a fact that we don’t require written patterns. However, when such a collection of outstanding crochet goes on display at our event and on-line, certain entries are bound to catch the attention of magazine editors hungry for fresh meat… uh, great designs. The prize winners in the Fashions and Accessories categories are the particular targets, with some designs getting sold and snatched right off the exhibit.

So, if you are a professional designer, or hope to become one, or think that you kinda sorta might be able to write a pattern (especially since they’re paying you!), you could find yourself among the ranks of our past winners who have gone on to further fame and glory: publication.  Here’s a look at some of our 2012 crossover hits.

Designed by Tammy Hildebrand, her Mystique top, 2012 First Prize winner in the Fashion category, morphed into the published design, Bloomsbury, featured on the cover of Interweave Crochet, Spring 2013.

65 MystiqueTammy HildebrandIWCSpring13Bloomsbury Top

Designed by Jennifer Ryan, the Glendalough Shrug, winner of the 2012 second prize in the Fashion category, got a makeover to become Kerry, as seen in the Spring 2013 issue of Crochet! Magazine.

49 Glendalough ShrugJennifer RyanKerry Shrug

Designed by Kathryn White, winner of the 2012 first prize in the Accessories category, Knots of Love shawl became Love is a Rose, featured on the cover of Interweave Crochet Summer 2013.

29 Knots of LoveIWCSummer13Love is a RoseLove is a Rose detail

Designed by Linda Dean, Vineyard at Dawn, winner of the 2012 second prize in the Accessories category, appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Crochet! Magazine.

44 Vineyard at DawnLinda DeanVineyard at Dawn

Designed by Diana Toni, The Whirlwind, 2012 third prize winner in the category Fanciful Fashion, also graced the pages of the Spring 2013 issue of Crochet! Magazine.

62 WhirlwindDiana ToniWhirlwind

I am now preparing the 2013 Design Competition to be held next week at the CGOA Fall Conference in Charlotte, NC. Winners will be announced here following the official Awards Ceremony, Thursday evening 3 October.  Keep a close eye on the results, and watch for some talented winners and their brilliant designs to pop up in our favorite crochet magazines in the coming seasons.  Best of luck to all!