Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lucky You!

In March I posted the following on my Facebook page:
Lucky You!

I don't know where this started but, it came to me from a person I admire and I love the idea!-
The first four people to respond to this note will get something made by me. My choice. For you. Conditions: - What I create will be just for you, and I'll definitely put a lot of love in it. - I make no guarantees that you will like what I make! I promise to try. - You will have no clue what the item is going to be. It could be a story or a CD. It could be a piece of handmade jewelry or potholder. I may draw, paint, collage or crochet something. I might bake you something and mail it to you. I may grow you a plant. Who knows? Not you, that's for sure! - I reserve the right to do something extremely strange. The catch? The catch is that in order to receive a gift, you have to re-post this and make and send out four surprises of your own, so if you aren't gonna follow through and make something for four others, you get nothing from me. Come on people, who doesn't like getting mail? If I did not tag you it is still Ok to Post. I did put a bit of thought into those I tagged. In your responses put your address (unless you're certain I already have it) and your favorite color.


I got one, count them, ONE reply. So I decided to send ALL of my somethings made by me to her. I know that she has a husband and three kids, so instead of four things, I bent the rule and made five. I hope they enjoy.

A Scarf Done in Shades of the Sea

This is a skein of yarn I found at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival. An idea for a scarf had been burbling about in my head for a while, and I'd been looking for just the right colors to make it. The texture comes out looking like waves, or at least is intended to look that way. So the colors needed to be in sea shades. This one worked quite nicely.

Since I don't know about yards or gauge or that sort of thing, working this in a round worked out very nicely. When the yarn ran out, the scarf was done! Now for some cold weather so I can wear it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Washcloths Revisited

The Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival gave some lovely door prizes, and did I ever score! There's this bundle of mercerized Egyptian Cotton from Classic Elite Yarns in swirls of blue that I have not yet begun to play with.

Please click on any photo for a close-up. Use the back button on your browser to return to the blog.

Then there's this jumble
of hand dyed colors in mercerized cotton, CRAYONS LITE from Rainbow Mills. Each skein contains approximately 962 yards, which meant nothing to me. I'd never worked with cotton before making those green washcloths, and I'd certainly never worked with yarn this fine before. I'd been a worsted weight gal with the blankets. The festival was back in February, and it took me until the last day of April and the first day of May to get over the intimidation and work with it.

First attempt was the washcloth pattern I have used before. It makes a pocket for left over slivers of soap that then can be tucked inside. The heavier cotton ones in green were a bit heavier than were handy to use, so this thinner yarn looked like just the thing. And since I had no idea of gauge or yards, I just dug in. What came out was a washcloth that was about two thirds finished when I ran out of yarn. This led to some stitch counting, re figuring, and pulling it all out to start over. Next attempt led to this.

Here is the second skein from the bag of that same color. When the cloth was finished, there were about two feet of yarn left over. The recalculations worked!

Then I decided to try just a flat cloth. I stole the idea from the scarf I made recently, which was to work it in the round, and when you run out of
yarn, you're done. The first one was made the same way I would make the top of a swirly flat top hat. When I got to what looked like halfway through the yarn, I stopped.

The next one I *thought* was going to be the same pattern as the first, but it turned into a pinwheel pattern with the stitches. I want to figure out how I did that, so I can do it again.

And voila! They turned out, while not the same pattern, to be exactly the same size. Those two cloths are made from one skein. Another skein is shown for comparison.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flat Top Swirly Hats

The swirls were coming along. Next challenge is to figure out a hat that is flat on top. Many many circles were started and torn out before finding a configuration of stitches and increases that works for me. At the same time I wondered if I could do away with beginning the hat with one color and introducing the other color(s) a few rows down. After several tries, I got it.

Please click on the photos to see them more clearly.

It fits pretty well. The nice thing about this hat is that it can be worn high and loose, or if things get chillier it can be pulled down over the ears without looking all that stoopid.

That takes care of the two colors beginning at the start of the hat. Now, can it be done with four colors? This looked like a total rat's nest before some passing fairy godmother took pity on me, waved a magic wand, and suddenly it all came together.

A Swirly Hat

So I'd been making hats using the pattern by Carol Ventura as a starting place. Then came variations. The first variation was the Registered Architect hat. Then came this one, with the swirls. It took some doing before finding a way to make the swirls come out looking ok. The hat is a little lop-sided, since I was making it up as I went along. The lop-sided quality gives this hat a front and a back. It actually fits better on the head this way. Serendipity!

You can see that the hat begins at the top with white, then the swirls begin a few rows in. This frustrated me, and I began to wonder whether I could do it any differently.

The hat came out so well I decided to make a scarf to match. It is not as stiff as I thought it might be, and is very warm. Next time I might make it a bit longer.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More Hats!

I've been so taken with the notion of crocheting things that are not flat rectangles that I have been making hats almost non stop. Today I asked myself whether I was becoming a slave to the dictates of a pattern. Where's the innovation? The testing, the trying of the untried? So I put an innovative border on the bottom of one of the hats. So there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Celtic Cross

Whatever posessed me? What came over me? I could have saved myself so much heartache if I had just said, "That's pretty," and gone on. But no, I had to go and try to chart the darned thing.

Celtic designs were the fancy of the moment. And I was devising ways to chart out designs for myself. The down side of being self taught is that you can't do things in the ways that lots of people have spent time streamlining. The upside is that there are no boundaries! There Is No Box. So I was merrily making charts of celtic patterns, when this photo came along.

Saint Moluag was an Irish lad who did his missionarying in Scotland. There is a little church named for him in Scotland, and outside that church stands this cross.

One of my favorite sayings is one from the Finnish people.
"The work will teach you how to do it." And this little project did indeed teach me. I can now draw pretty quickly in Excel. Yes, I know it is spreadsheet software, but to me it is an art form, just as valid as charcoal or watercolor.

The finished piece measures eight feet tall. It's pretty impressive.

Look Ma, I'm Famous!

I'd been happily crocheting along all by myself. Then I was given the sparkly yarn, and that is what set off the series of events that led me to here - world fame!

Ok, not world, and not exactly fame. But noticed and mentioned?

In searching for more of the sparkly yarn, I met the nice lady at the local yarn shop. (Hello Lindy!) She told me about, and I tripped over the Yahoo group. And in these online sites is where I learned that what I had been doing was called Tapestry Crochet.

Dr. Carol Ventura looks to me to be the Grand Poobah of Tapestry Crochet. She teaches the technique, and celebrates others who use this art form. It was she who wrote the directions for the hats in the previous entry.

Anyway, Dr. Ventura was kind enough to feature me on her site under "artist profiles." I can't begin to say how honored I am to be in the company of such creative folks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Annie Makes Hats

Check it out - I made a hat! I followed directions and made something that I did not design myself! Up to now, this has not been possible, because I have no earthly idea how to read a pattern. They are full of abbreviations and assumptions of what you know. But this pattern, or set of directions, was written by someone who bridges that gap by writing her patterns in plain English. What an innovation! This first one turned out a little coneheaded, but that's ok. Hats made after the first one fit better.

Carol Ventura is the mastermind behind all this. More about her in the next post.
First I'm gonna show off my pretty hats.

This hat is made in the colors of Mardi Gras
, that being the time of year and all. I had a particular Mardi Gras partygoer in mind, but once it was finished, it was snapped up by a certain blonde. She likes wearing it turned up at the bottom, with the option of pulling it down over her ears when things get chilly.

Here's the top of the hat, and the pretty design crocheted into it.

And look inside - no loose threads!
This is the beauty of Tapestry Crochet. There is no 'wrong' side to the fabric. The inactive color gets carried inside the active color, and serves to strengthen the fabric at the same time. No cutting, tying knots, weaving in loose ends, or dangly yarns hanging loose inside your hat.

So I've proved to myself I can make a hat. What else can I do? With the Schess in mind, (and thinking of that stolen hat) I made one for the arc

This hat got made several times, pulled out, made again, over and over, round and round. In the process some shortcuts became necessary. When pulling out a row, it is difficult to know where to stop pulling. So now each row gets marked with a different color thread stuck in the last stitch in a row, and that color gets noted on the pattern.

A new set of alphabet letters was made for this hat. I now know that small letters can be readable at this size.

The buildings were not too tricky. The main headache was getting the curve into the hat in the proper proportions.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival

Did I mention that it was Barb Grossman who led me down the slippery slope to yarn addiction? She only compounded the issue by organizing these festivals, and then having the audacity to invite me to come see!

Look at her trying to appear innocent of it all....

I was dazzled by all the textures, the colors, the many types of yarn. They don't make it easy!

My friend Pat was my date for the festival. She and I took a class together, even though she already knew what was being taught. I got a little basket started, and finished it at home the next day.

Here is the demo of the giant knitting needles. The nice man signed and personalized each set as it was purchased.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Horizon Gets Broadened, Continued

Around the corner from my house is this sign. I see it while out and about walking the dogs, and it has been a handy landmark when giving people directions to our house. "Turn left just past the sign for the yarn shop." When my hunt for more varieties of yarn intensified, I called the number for the shop. After a few tries, I reached the proprietor, Lindy, who invited me over for one of those 'hours by appt.' What Lindy failed to mention was that the entrance to the shop is around the back. So I spent some time on a bitter cold day standing and stomping on the front porch, shivering. No Lindy. The long story is that we played phone tag - I am not kidding - for months. The slightly less tedious story is this: I am happy to report that I no longer obsess over the painful details of that time of my life. It is all behind me now. Anyway, during the process of phoning and tagging, Lindy told me about a gathering she and some other ladies have on a regular basis at her shop. They get together and knit, and they would welcome someone who could crochet, also.

Here's the gang at a recent meet:

One of the gals can knit just about anything. Here she shows us an example of what she called "Russian Knitting." She is a real help in figuring out a tricky pattern.

Judging by the way they looked at the work I did, I would guess that they had never seen tapestry crochet before. But they have always been very complimentary when I have brought something to show off.

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 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.