Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And one for Jennifer

If Claudia was going to get a new blanket, it followed that Jennifer should be next. Jennifer is an outdoorsy type gal, and works at a very outdoorsy type place. She is controller for a lumber company that does sustainable harvesting of their trees. Their lands do not look denuded, and are not monocultures after being replanted. Their lands are maintained as close to nature as possible. That means that if there is a certain percentage of oak, birch, cherry, poplar, etc. in a wild forest, then that is what they will have there. Because who knows what wood will be popular sixty years from now? And animals need the diversity to be happy. So the firm employs foresters to keep things healthy. With all this in mind, Jenn needed trees and critters. I am pretty pleased by how the trees came out, while a bit embarrassed by how cartoonish the critters are. I charted them myself, which is fine. But right after this blanket was made, I came across charts for all sorts of animals, all looking much better than what I did here.

The trees' leafy bits are a textured yarn, Patons Mosaic, that I had never tried before. And the critters are Patons Pebbles, once again a new experience. On a run to the yarn store, I'd come across a sale on these, and thought I would try them. While I was at it, I made a bath mat from the Pebbles. It came out very soft and cushy. I want to try working with it again, this time with better charts.

A Blanket for Claudia

My dear friend Claudia and her partner received the first blanket of the modern era of Annie. It was complicated as far as chart, but extremely simple in terms of color. So, remembering the success of the blanket for Christina, I asked Claudia for a color consult. Claudia is a quilter, and assembles color on a regular basis. She and I went through my stash and picked out colors for her blanket.

It was more a matter of grouping colors together. Then with those groups, I picked out patterns. There is more of the metallic yarn from the stash of Barb Grossman, and Claudia picked out some truly lush color combinations.

The text for the names has finally come into focus. The letters are not so tall and skinny any more, but nice and round. The spirals next to the name were a particular challenge. I m
ade a couple of tries before I was happy with the chart for these. But then the experiments became coasters to go along with the blanket.

As you can see, it is very rich in color indeed. If I had a favorite blanket, this one might be it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Horizon Becomes Broadened

I'd been happily making wash and wear blankets with my acrylic for some decades when a friend popped out of nowhere with a bag of yarns for me. I took it happily, not knowing where this would lead. Yarn addiction is a serious thing, and I was being lead in a dangerous direction indeed. But I didn't know that at the time. I was an innocent in the ways of the yarncrafters.

To make matters worse, the friend with the stash was Barbara Grossman, founder and director of the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival. The first one of these festivals was five years ago, and I attended in a working capacity. I was on the board of directors for The Midwife Center for Birth and Women's Health www.MidwifeCenter.org and we were selling snacks and lunches as a fundraiser at the festival. Most of my day was spent behind the food counter, but I did wedge myself into the crowds to look around a bit. There were vendors selling an astounding collection of pretty things that were rather overwhelming to me. There was a dazzling array of classes in subjects that were completely foreign to me. My limited experience, self taught as I was, had ill prepared me for this environment. It was just as well. The first festival was so jam packed with attendees that one could barely insinuate oneself through the throngs.

But back to that stash. There was some yarn that had a metallic thread through it. Since this was a stash, there were no labels, so I had no chance of finding that particular one again. I set out to find something at least similar. What Was I Thinking??? My first searches were online, and I began to taste some of what is out there. Wool, linen, alpaca, merino, cotton, silk, bamboo, mohair, soy (!), angora, cashmere, et cetera an nat. I could and did search for yarn with metallic content. I could and did search for machine washable.

And I found far more than I ever bargained for. But that is for the next blog entry. For now, a suitable yarn was found. There was not nearly enough of it to make a blanket, but it could accent one nicely. Here began a collaboration. I make the patterns and designs using Excel, and Christina is my color consultant. She, being an architect, has more sense of color than I do. Chris had in mind something with an overall unity of design. It was a foreign idea to me, but what could it cost to humor her? She grouped colors together, and this is what came out. I was almost shocked by how well it worked.

Now, I ask for color consult on a regular basis. A huge resource had been right under my nose, and I hadn't known it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


The evolution of names on the blankets has taken a while. The charting of each letter was done in Excel, using cells as pixels. In my usage, one cell on an Excel page represents one stitch of crochet. I learned fairly early on that in crochet, stitches are not square. If I followed a pattern that was charted on a page of squares, my finished crochet work would look very tall and skinny, simply because my stitches are not square like the graph. It took a lot of fiddling and fooling until I found the proper ratio for my stitches. When charting on graph paper, my pixels - one pixel representing one stitch - needed to be taller than wide. These letters were made early on in the scheme of things, and so look pretty tall and skinny.

Since making the above, the letters
have come along nicely. This letter C, for example, is better proportioned. The proportion was getting straightened out, but the lines still didn't look quite right. The horizontal lines looked fine, and even the diagonal lines looked better than the vertical. In experimenting, I found that the trick lay in where to switch colors of yarns. I had been changing yarn colors after a completed stitch, but found that I got a much better vertical line by changing colors halfway through a stitch. This leads to its own particular set of troubles, but it does solve the problem of letters looking all spiky and zippery along their edges. Contrast these two vertical lines, each from the letter i.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dward and Spot

Dward is my friend Edward. When he needed a dog in his life, Sydney and I took him to the shelter to shop. Sydney needed to approve whatever choice he made for a canine companion, since she would be spending time with the new arrival and might tear it to shreds on sight. My approval was needed since Ed's health is a crap shoot from day to day, and I would inherit any dog he came home with, just in case.

The first dog we visited with was at the same shelter Sydney had been adopted from. This was a sweet doggie, and she was not a puppy which in my mind was a big plus. But she was a heavy, heavy shedder. We happened to be browsing at the shedding time of year and she was "blowing" her coat. After sitting on the floor with this dog for five minutes, Ed was surrounded by a rug made of her fur. I turned her down. Sydney had no opinion.

At the next shelter, Sydney was asked to stay in the waiting area,
since there was a touch of kennel cough running through the inmates there. I sat with her, wondering (and dreading) what Ed might bring forth from the many dogs in the pens. Not two minutes later he returned with an indescribable glow emanating from his every pore. "I found my dog. She's perfect. I found the perfect one." If you know Dward, you have some inkling of what I was going through as I waited to see what he had set his heart upon. "Just wait till you see her," he kept saying as he rocked from one foot to the other in a frenetic back-and-forth dance. I learned in a few moments that he had found a puppy. A puppy covered in dog shit.

I had to wait while they scraped her off a bit to make her somewhat presentable. When this puppy was brought out, Ed and I both held our breath. What would Sydney do to this baby? Into how many shreds would she be torn? We needn't have worried. Sydney, like most dogs, knows about babies. This little pup crawled all over Sydney, pulled her tail, nipped her ears, and Sydney posed like a Sphynx on the floor under all this indignity. We were amazed.

Ed named her Spot. Here she is the next day, at the park. That was April, 2004. Since then, Spot has become a part of the pack, and a part of our lives. Ed and I are both convinced that she saved his life, in a number of ways and on a number of occasions.

This was my first attempt at anything other than letters and numbers.
Spot just had to have, well... spots. The spots weren't charted, I just made them up as I crocheted along. That explains why they are somewhat lopsided here and there.

Dward needed to have his name in two colors, to commemorate the mismatched socks he wears.

And the intertwined hearts?
You figure it