Friday, August 29, 2008

Design Journey

Do you want to go on a design journey with me? I'm thinking about letting you in AT THE VERY BEGINNING of a design and letting you come with me until it's completion. I expect this to take several months because the design that I'm going to do is not for publication (because I wouldn't be allowed to share those), but a design for Chickee that may eventually be a self-published design, I haven't decided yet. What do you think? What do I think? Do I want to open myself up and my process up for your voyeuristic pleasure? I'm thinking that you all, dear readers, would like this very much. Maybe I should try it. I'm not going to do a regular post on it. I'll label all the posts about this as "Design Journey: Chickee's dress". My self-imposed deadline for the project is April 30, 2009. Why April 30, 2009? Well, if I decide to do this, I'll tell ya!
Here are the first day of school photos! Wow, they are getting big! (wipes tear)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If I had an intern....

Wouldn't it be great to have an intern? Like the interns on Grey's Anatomy, and I get to be Dr. Bailey and just tell them all what to do. I say intern, because there is no way I could hire an assistant! But if I had an assistant, I would have my assistant:

keep a running inventory of my stash,
remove discontinued yarns from my stash,
go to the post office for me,
request yarn for me,
keep track of my receipts,
keep me organized with which company likes their instructions which way.
Oh! My intern could wind all my hanks into balls!

These are all tasks of being a designer. (well, I don't inventory my stash....)
There are many tasks of being a designer that have little to do with crocheting. I can spend all day "working" and not pick up a hook at all. Several weeks ago, Haley asked me (Hi Haley!) how much time a day I spend crocheting. I should have also answered with how much time I spend on crochet-related business activities as well. I haven't really thought about it, but I would guess that it is an additional 2 hours per day. (checking emails, responding, putting together submission packages, writing letters, writing instructions, going to the post office, etc).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What design to start with?

I asked yesterday if you had any questions and Amy wrote in:

Amy said...
Ok, here goes. Can you suggest a good first project for someone who would like to try designing? That someone being me. I really enjoy your blog and appreciate all the tips and information that you regularly share with your readers.
August 26, 2008 9:11 AM

Thanks Amy! I'm guessing that if you want to be a designer, you have already designed several things. Usually out of necessity, a designer will create something to fill a need. (I need a hat, friend needs a baby blanket, cat needs a toy, etc). What you may be new at is writing it down. I'll get back to your question, but...

Let me digress for a few minutes and tell you that when I first stayed home when Chickee was born and I was looking for some industry for myself, I thought at first that I would write children's books. (How hard can it be, I thought?). Somewhere in a writer's guidebook I read, something to the effect that you need to "write everyday". And I thought, "Write everyday, I don't even write once a month". Then there was another comment about how one writer writes because "she has to" that it is part of her personality, that it is as inherent to her day as brushing her teeth. That's how I feel about crochet. I do it everyday. While I did "set out" to be a designer, it was not a stretch, I didn't have to "fit it in" to my lifestyle the way I would have had to make time to be a writer. I learned that I shouldn't be a writer because it wasn't an inherent part of my personality. (I could probably do it, but it would be work and would be harder for me than for someone who was naturally drawn to writing in the first place, uh and I wasn't passionate about it, it was just something I thought I could do to make money).

Now, a possible un-related comment: We like to go to craft fairs and inevitably we see wood worked toys or bird houses or something, and my very talented husband says, "I could do that" and I always say, "But you didn't". There are many talented designers (woodworkers and crocheters) out there, but we can't all do everything we want to do, we have to make priorities. If you want to be a crochet designer, it has to be a priority, more than a hobby, barely less than an obsession.

Now, back to your question. Choose something that highlights what you are best at (cables? Tunisian? Tapestry?). Choose something where gauge is secondary (scarf, afghan, washcloth). Make something you want for yourself because 1. You might end up keeping it forever, and 2. if you like it, maybe someone else will too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sneak Peek

I think the computer is back up and running today. Nothing sneaky has popped up yet this morning except for this sneak peek! Can you see it? I'm sure the buyer will do a much better job photographing it than I did!
What's new? We just met a family who lives down the road who has kids the same age as Chickee and Chief (plus a couple more)! I am thrilled to meet a family who can be a source of potential playdates for the kids! (I can always use a new friend, and the mom of the family seems terrific). Also, the mom is a SAHM right now, but is trained as a commercial photographer.... do you see some potential for us trading work!? I do, I do!
School starts tomorrow, so this morning is our "trial run". Chief is still asleep (as planned) and Chickee is dressed and....watching tv. I'm really counting on the excitement of 'the first day of school' to motivate her to get ready faster tomorrow.... keep your fingers crossed!
Do any of you have any crochet design questions? I'm trying to think what topics I haven't talked about yet that you might be interested in. Maybe what goes in a file? What goes in a submission? What a contract might have in it?

Monday, August 25, 2008

My point?

What good would a busy weekend be without a computer virus? Not only did Captain end up with a 'bug', so did my computer! So, I'm on the dinosaur right now, which means I can't access any of my photos that are on the 'good' computer. We'll have to make do until I figure out what to do for the 'good' computer to make it feel better.

This seems like as good a time as any to emphasize the role of computers in my design life. Basically if you want to be a crochet designer you must have a computer with internet access. Since you read my blog, you probably already know this. Occasionally though, someone will ask me if it is possible to be a crochet designer without a computer, and I just can't see success with that scenario. 99% of my communication with buyers, yarn companies, colleagues, is all through e-mail. It is RARE that I get a telephone call. Contracts come through email about half the time and half the time they come through postal mail.

Hang in there friends, we'll ride out this virus together. Big Sigh.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Review: Knit and Crochet with Beads

What can I say, it's Lily Chin. Knit and Crochet with Beads is one of the few combo books I've seen that attempt to give equal attention to both crafts. Now, it's not 50/50, but it's close. 150 pages of Lily's experience. The crochet starts on page 89, which is further than halfway. There is a few appendices/index stuff in the back that also cuts into the crochet "half". I think I counted 7 methods of knitting with beads and 6 methods of crocheting with beads, including pre-strung and hoisting techniques. There are projects for each technique. There are also tips on looping techniques, bugles, spangles, etc. There are some notes on design and planning of bead placement. If you are bi-textural (you both knit and crochet), you'll love this book. If you are a crocheter only, and you are interested in beading, you'll love the book. It's good, I like it. I think it will be a good reference for the shelf and I look forward to spending more time with it.

Also, on the fiction front, I just finished reading Brad Meltzer's The First Counsel. It was a fast read with quick wit and an intriguing story line. I really was just as confused as the main character in figuring out "whodunit". The story is set in the White House, which I always find interesting. I've been to the White House twice and it's fun to read about a place where I've actually been, even if it is fiction. I'm also sure he's taken some creative license, but it's fiction, so I'm ok with that. I'll be looking to read more of Brad Meltzer's books. This one strikes me as a book my husband and I could both read and enjoy.

Just a head's up, there probably won't be a post on Saturday or Sunday because the various picnics, family reunion, soccer game, start of school Mass, covered-dish preparation, etc. Oh yeah, and Chief just threw up, so that should add some fun to the weekend. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sneak Peek

Whew, life is busy my friends. The back-to-school frenzy has collided with soccer, with family reunions, company and church picnics, with teaching crochet at the library, with trying to get in some continuing education for the previous career, and I'm sure I'm leaving something major off of the list! Here's a sneak peek still on the blocking board with wires and pins still in!

Also, today is my 100th Jazzercise class of 2008! Usually, I end up with around 180 classes. For the last 10 years, I think I have at least 100 classes for 8 of those years. The years before that, I was in grad school, and I was lucky to get to Jazzercise once or twice a week. Jazzercise has been in my life for about 14 years now. It has given me fitness and stress-relief, and endurance during difficult times. Also, it gives me that "water-cooler" conversation that stay-at-home-parents miss out on when they leave the office. I've also made some incredible friends, (Hi Friends!) who come and read my blog and are supportive of my crochet, because they are supportive of ME, even if they have ZERO interest in picking up a hook. LOL.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, for me, being physically fit (as best I can) makes me feel less guilty about sitting around crocheting, and I think it helps work out the shoulder/neck/back stress that the repetitive crochet does to your body.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The hidden yard

Have I shown you this sneak peek yet? I don't recall....

Get out your tape measure! Let's find the hidden yard. Not in the photo, silly, on YOU! Ok, stand up. hold the 1" end of your flexible measuring tape in your left hand, hold your left arm out stretched, parallel to the floor, now pull the measuring tape across your body with your right hand. Where is the 36" mark? For me, it hits on my right collar bone. (My arms are long, your 36" mark might fall differently). Now, why does this matter? I use it to estimate how much yarn I am going to need to complete a project. I'll make a swatch, let's say a motif, and then I'll unravel it and pull the yarn across my chest, like I did with the measuring tape, and count how many yards it took to make the motif. Multiply by the number of motifs and divide by the number of yards in the skein and viola'. Don't forget to round up, add yarn for sewing/crocheting motifs together, and making the edging.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Whisper Wrap sneak and potpourri

Here's a sneak peek for you! If you look closely you can see some beads in there. I don't know where this one will end up, but if it doesn't get purchased, I'll sell it as a PDF.

What words of wisdom do I have for you today? The other day, at my friend Lynn's house, I noticed a plaque she has on her wall that gave me a chuckle, it said something like, "Be very quiet because God whispers and the world is LOUD". Oh how true!

I just finished "Sea Glass" by Anita Shreve.
The book was good. In the beginning, she introduces all the characters and I felt like it took a long time to show how they were all going to be connected. (I guess I'm impatient). I enjoyed the book that was set in the 1920-30's, but the ending was a surprise. Sometimes that's good. I don't know how I feel about this ending. I think sometimes authors choose an unsatisfying ending on purpose to be different. I would read more of her books.

I'm working on a knitted hat for the Ravelympics. (Ravelry's "Olympic" games), and I'm afraid that I'm going to be a "DNF" (did not finish). One little hat and I'm about 20 rows in and I'm not having much fun because I think I'm still doing it wrong, and I have so much crochet that needs my attention. The kids have playdates this afternoon and Captain is out of town this evening, so, hopefully, I'll get some patterns written, and clear out some of my stack of crochet paperwork that needs to be done! (I probably won't get to crochet probably just do crochet-related paperwork). I ought to write a post on that, huh?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Book Review: Special Techniques & Stitches in Crochet

Here we go! DRG/House of White Birches seems to have a new format for their books! Special Techniques and Stitches in Crochet is on Amazon. This matte-finish has a beautiful, elegant layout! It is edited by Judy Crow, is 176 pages and is full of some great projects and famous crochet names. The 'special techniques' are: No-chain foundation, diagonal crochet, wiggly crochet, Irish crochet, Knit-look crochet and punched fabric. There appears to be about 44 stitch patterns too. There are 3 projects for each technique and several projects in the "stitch patterns" section.

Some of the highlights are: Margaret Hubert's cardigan (love it), Kimberly Kotary's "Puff Stitch Crowns bag" (love it, very unique), Lisa Naskrent's "Alpine Cables" hat and scarf set (gorgeous), and I think my favorite of all, Susan Lowman's "Contemporary Waves Rug" (Love it). It's also full of other great designs by Tammy Hildebrand, Darla Sims, Joyce Nordstrom, Bendy Carter's (knit-look sweater, I totally would wear that!)

It's a really good book. Not only can you learn some new techniques (which is usually why I buy a book), but it has some great patterns too.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Review: Two Balls or Less

I hate to write a bad review of a book. But if I only write good ones, will you ever believe me? There's also the "If you can't say anything nice....don't say anything at all"motto. I also think about if I ever want to write a book, what if I diss a book by a publisher who might want me one day? Is it wise for me to write a poor review?

This book is by Jenny Hill and it's called Two Balls or Less, published in 2007. It says "over 30 simply stylish knitting and crochet projects". I counted only 4 crochet projects. Many of the projects are made in novelty yarns. Because the focus of the book is "two balls or less" and we all know that yarn is not created equal, and the size/yardage of yarns varies greatly, it makes a huge difference WHICH yarn you choose for it to be "2 balls or less". So, I was surprised that the patterns didn't list the actual yarns used, but saved it for a listing in the back reference section.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Review: More Tapestry Crochet

SCORE!!! I got this used library copy of More Tapestry Crochet by Carol Ventura off of Amazon. I tried to get a link for you, but it appears that it can't be found on Amazon or Ebay right now. Oh, I just found it, here it is on Amazon. Check out Carol's Website, to see if you can find it there for a better price. I also got it for a great price considering this is a sought after book just keeps going UP in price. She published this book by herself in 2002. You know, on my wish list is her other book, Bead and Felted Tapestry Crochet. I gotta have it. Maybe that one can wait until my birthday.
More Tapestry crochet is 172 pages. It has projects, it has beads, it has right and left handed instructions, it has history, it has tips on "Alternate Row-Switch Hands" WooHoo. I just learned this.... Get this, when you work in rows, instead of turning at the end of the row, you switch your hook to your non-dominant hand and crochet with the other hand! I just did this for a project and I LOVE it. I can now do sc with my left hand. I tried to do hdc but it's going to take some practice. Of course, there is more design tips and great inspiration from the around-the-world gallery. I just love owning a copy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

lazy afternoon reading

A little off topic today. The book I was reading in this photo is JD Robb's "Naked in Death", the futuristic police detective Eve Dallas' grisly adventure. It was ok, a little (a lot?) violent and graphic. This book was mentioned to me by a mom at the pool. It was interesting, and I would read more if there were nothing else readily available.

After that book, I read Off Balance, but Mary Sheepshanks. Which you can find on Amazon for $.04 right now. It is totally worth it! LOL, Really! I just grabbed this book off the library shelf when I was in a hurry with the kids because it had a zippy cover. I really enjoyed it. It's not a love 'triangle' but a love 'square'. It is written about a modern British family. It is full of humor, but what I really enjoyed was the very subtle (and not so subtle) competition and digs between two sisters. It totally makes me want to go and see if Mary Sheepshanks has written anything else or a sequel to this one.

Late, very late, last night, I just finished the critically acclaimed book: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. I feel disrespectful saying that I 'enjoyed' the book, because it's not a happy read. Still, it was interesting, riveting at times, eye-opening, and vivid. If there were a movie (which I hear there might be soon), I don't think I would enjoy it if they showed all the violence in realistic detail. Usually, I go to the movies for entertainment, and while it had an optimistic ending, it's not a 'happy' read.

The book I'm going to begin today is Sea Glass by Anita Shreve. I have no idea what it is about, but my friend Lynn said she enjoyed it and it was easy to find in a hurry on the library shelf, so I got it. I'll let you know.

Thanks for letting me digress. I really love to read too. (And don't get me started on how much I love the Harry Potter books....)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crochet & Chat

If you are anywhere near the Southwest Ohio area, you can come and see me the 2nd Tuesdays of Sept, Oct, Nov, & Dec at the Miami Township library for Crochet & Chat! I'll be leading a small, beginner project each of the days, but encourage you to bring your own projects if you are beyond the beginner stage. If you want more details, contact me at Ellen at

This is Chickee at her Grandparents' house where she was thrilled to have captured Socks for a quick snuggle. The other cats managed to escape the cuddling.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Glenda's sweater

Unearthed! An original 1970's sweater. Look at this interesting construction! The rows start at the hem and go vertically up over the shoulder and down the back. This construction type is popping up more and more. My toddler jacket is made this way, vertically. It just goes to show that ideas get recycled. This is made in an acrylic yarn, and it looked like worsted weight, but was crocheted pretty tightly. It probably has a little better drape because of it's age and wear.

This sweater inspired a project I am currently working on. I'll get you a sneak peek and see if you can figure it out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review: Harmony Guide 7

I already had book 6 of the Harmony Guides, and was glad to find this book 7. The other 5 are knit stitches. Book 7 is good, really good, but I like book 6 better. Book 7 continues the tradition of book six by providing stitch diagrams for every stitch. Book 7 also has a big section on Irish lace, which I find interesting and beautiful, but I'm not likely to use it right now. What is interesting is the short section in the front explaining how to increase and decrease a stitch pattern. Because every stitch is illustrated in symbols this is much easier than inc/dec other stitches. I find this interesting, because I don't know that I have EVER seen an explanation of increasing and decreasing a stitch pattern in any other text. If you know of one, let me know, I'd like to read it! I like having 7 for my library, but I have the feeling it is not going to be as dog-eared as a few of my other stitch dictionaries.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Boston Proper, Clothing Catalog

Boston Proper is a women's clothing catalog. Here's a direct link to the "crochet" search. They have many, many items that feature crochet (some of them are knit and crochet). I wonder how well it sells for them? Here's a photo that belongs to Boston Proper of one of their crochet items, this one really caught my attention! What a great shape! There is some granny squares there and some dc-3 groups on the sleeves! On closer inspection, the "skirt" (for lack of a better word) is knit in stockinette st, but still, the crochet steals the show! Wouldn't you agree? Very cute.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Book Review: Tapestry Crochet

One day, I will own all of Carol Ventura (nee Norton)'s books. I have been coveting them for some time and finally just got a like-new copy of Tapestry Crochet. It's a soft back 108 page text on the origins and methods of Tapestry crochet. Tapestry crochet is often also called, "Hard" crochet (like the texture, not the difficulty), Intarsia, Fair Isle, and Mosaic crochet. Carol is also a teacher, Carol has a unique global perspective on how tapestry crochet has developed in different cultures around the world.

It's an excellent reference showing illustrations of both right and left-handed crochet stitches. There are many diagrams and "graph papers" for designing your own Tapestry style pieces, either flat or in the round. The book includes patterns too, but the real treasure is in the learning of the techniques. Check out Carol's website and blog!

I'm a big fan of Tapestry crochet (both the book and the technique!) and you'll see tapestry techniques pop up in my work here and there, though rarely, do I do a whole piece in the style. Hmmm, there will be a couple of examples coming up soon...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happiness is....

Happiness is...

...Opening a file to write the instructions to a pattern and seeing that it is already done!

...Fastening off a full project with one yard of yarn to spare.

...Finding the yarn you want/need right now is ON SALE.... with free shipping! Or better yet...finding the exact yarn in the correct your stash!

...Getting gauge right...the first time.
...Seeing comments posted on my blog!

What makes you happy?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What I do with magazines my designs are in

Uh, I keep em. LOL, that's the short version. Usually, lately, I have just been getting one 'contributor's copy' from the magazine, then I also subscribe to the magazines, so I get that copy. I subscribe because it supports the magazine/industry, because if I'm in it it's another copy I get, and if I'm not in it, then I can see what is!

The first copy I receive is usually a little worn from me looking at it so much, so that one goes on my book shelf, eventually. The next one that arrives, I keep crisp and I put it in my "portfolio", which is silly, because it is getting heavy with all the magazines to carry around them all! If I get a third copy, I tear out the page(s) that have my design, this is called a 'tear sheet', and I try to remember to send this with a short note to the yarn company who supplied the yarn for that particular project. Not all the designers do this. One of the magazines actually provides an extra, loose, "tear sheet" when they send the contributor's copy. Also, with the tear sheet, you can put that in a portfolio instead of the whole magazine. Portfolio's are only really necessary (IMHO) if you are going to see a buyer in person, like at a conference. I have a 'resume file and a portfolio handout' on the computer that I can e-mail, I ought to tell you about that one day too.

This is a photo of Charlie chasing a mosquito that got in the house. He jumps up as if he is going to catch it, crazy cat.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Quick and Easy Wrap Revealed

The new issue of Crochet Today is hitting mailboxes all over the world this week. Though the new photos are not up on the website yet (I just checked!) Here is a photo of my Quick & Easy wrap. It is shaped like a mantle runner, triangle, square, triangle put together, but of course, it is crocheted in one piece. There are simple increases and decreases in the project, so it should be a good practice piece for someone who needs an intermediate step from items with no shaping to garments. The yarn is Zoomy by Coats & Clark, which I enjoyed very much. It is a super bulky yarn.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What I do with all those swatches!

As you might guess, I end up with MANY swatches! I really should have an efficient system for filing or keeping them organized, but I don't. I know some designers arrange them by brand, or fiber content or yarn weight. (How organized is that?) Some designers tag every swatch with all the pertinent information (yarn, hook, stitch pattern reference, if it was blocked, washed, etc, measurements, gauge...) I don't do this, I should do this. Some designers hang the swatches like leaves on a tree so that they cascade down in an organized chaos. Not me! Really, I have two bins, one for "sold swatches" and one for "swatches".

Because I often make motifs, the gauge on them can't really be applied to other motif projects. When I am designing an afghan, I'll often put 4 motifs together, design the edging on this placemat sized piece, and submit that to the buyer. These "swatches" are like mini-projects. I also call these 'swatches' and I keep them. These come in handy for when I'm teaching or speaking, you can get a feel for the project without lugging in a big heavy afghan! (Remind me to tell you about the Crochet & Chat I'm doing at the library in Sept, Oct, Nov, and Dec).

Other, stitch pattern swatches, I really just use to remind me of stitch patterns I'm developing. If I do any identification at all, I'll usually tie knots in the tail yarn, if I used an H/8 hook, I tie 8 knots, G/6 hook, I tie 6 knots, etc. So I can know the hook (although that doesn't tell me the hook brand, which can make a difference). I usually can recognize the yarn by looking at it.

Ideally, I would make the swatch, tag it with all the info, create a gauge "worksheet" (Remember that from a previous post?) and put it into a sleeve in a binder? In lots of binders? Where would I keep them all? I could wallpaper my office with them like a scene out of A Beautiful Mind, but then, someone might commit me.

The photo is where I am sitting on the floor next to the couch working, and Charlie is hitting me in the head with his paws. Crazy cat.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mini-tote and Felting Tutorial for sale!

It's more than just an adorable little tote! It's a felting tutorial! This extensive lesson includes details about water temperature, agitation and various methods of felting. The reader learns about the terms used in felting and is led through several swatch practices to gain information about the nuances of felting. Then.... you get this adorable tote pattern! Not to mention a section on recommended reading. Ta Da! Get it at Ravelry or by clicking the "Buy Now" button on the right column of the blog page. It is $10.00.