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.


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!


Rewards for Alternative Crochet

I hope it has not escaped your notice that I occasionally refer to award-winning crochet designer, writer, instructor, blogger and deep-thinker Vashti Braha as “my boss”.  Not that she is in any way bossy.  Quite the opposite, she is as laid back as anyone I know, perhaps due to the languid {outside of hurricane season} sub-tropical climate where she resides.  Maybe it’s something else. I get the impression that she can smile while all hell breaks loose simply because she knows stuff that we don’t.

I teasingly call Vashti the boss because she owns the site Designing Vashti, where she hosts her own patterns as well as my independent pattern line, DJC Designs.  She is technically, then, my landlady, shopkeeper, stockperson, shop accountant, payroll manager and the one sweet voice in my ear who propelled me into self-publishing land.  So OK, she charges me exorbitant fees {not really!} for the privilege of having my designs listed, but it works… works astonishingly well… as a partnership in crochet goodness.

I also hope that her popular Crochet Inspirations Newsletter has not escaped your notice, either.  By free subscription, this gem can arrive in your e-mail inbox every couple or three weeks, the frequency of publication dependent on whether I have been successful at enabling procrastination.  Funny how the disease/sin/vice of procrastination, although not exactly infectious, can easily be encouraged by a few words at the right moment!

Anyway, when she manages to ignore me, Vashti pours out her heart and soul in vibrant full color on the pages of her newsletter.  She delves into the mysteries of crochet techniques, spills about the designing process and generally goes where the rest of us go except she confesses all to YOU, whereas we are mostly too embarrassed to speak up. And she swatches WAY too much. What Vashti has learned and experienced through her incessant uber-swatching could fill… well does fill going on 50 issues of her newsletter.

Her crochet aesthetic and mine co-exist happily at DesigningVashti and also on the pages of magazines and books.  We thought it so funny that our latest Tunisian crochet designs, her Rivuline Shawl and my Shantay Skirt, appear back to back in The New Tunisian Crochet (Interweave Press, February 2013) by our friend Dora Ohrenstein.

Rivuline ShawlShantay Skirt

On one thing we agree completely; Vashti and I strive is to pass along our love and obsession for alternative, mind-expanding crochet techniques, and we put our money where our mouths are. As we have been for 2011 and 2012, DesigningVashti is the proud sponsor of the CGOA 2013 Design Competition prize for Special Technique. (The idea for rewarding technical merit was pioneered in 2010 through a personal grant from KJ Hay, another fellow crochet geek.)  Although it is necessarily Vashti herself who chooses the winner as I am always up to my eyeballs with producing the competition, we both want to see design entries that make us think, “Holy Crap, why didn’t I think of that?”.

It is our hope that the $200 prize for 2013 will encourage design entries using alternative crochet such as Tunisian, Broomstick, Hairpin, plus beading, innovative colorwork, fresh approaches to all types of ethnic, vintage or historic techniques, and in particular, brilliant new directions in which to take our beloved craft. Past special merit prize winners illustrate the glorious and wide-ranging possibilities:

2010, KJ Hay prize for Technical Merit: Rose Infinity Doily designed by Kathryn White

Rose Infinity2011, DesigningVashti prize for Special Technique: Poptastic Purse designed by Janice LonnrothPoptastic Purse2012, DesigningVashti Special Award for Technical Merit: Summer Dreams Bolero designed by Dot Drake

Summer Dreams BoleroAll during March, as the 2013 celebration of National or International Crochet Month continues, it’s a great time to kick your crochet skills up a notch by practicing or tinkering with new crochet stuff.  Vashti and I hope you will be as fascinated by alternative crocheting as we are and that you might be motivated to come to where crochet is spoken, Crochet Guild of America, become a member if you haven’t joined us yet, and watch for information about entering the CGOA 2013 Design Competition. We are on this voyage with you… to explore strange, new worlds… to seek out new crochet forms and new techniques…. to boldly go where no crocheters have gone before.  🙂