Monday, January 11, 2010

Laracroft and the Korsnäs Raiders!

I had the holiday of my dreams this New Year's. A crocheter's dream! I was allowed to teach 2 groups of utterly delightful fibrephiles. I was treated like royalty and generally made much of.

Mostly I coughed at them. I think I might have shown them how to do lined jacquard, between hacking attacks. The day after arriving in Toronto I developed a hideous cold, which I suppose I then shared with everyone I met. Even so, they were very nice to me!

I could kick myself for not taking pictures of the 2nd class. Anyways, I'll start with the first one.
So, the thing about Toronto is that you find the most amazing shops in strip malls. This class was held in one of the most beautiful LYS I've ever been to, Spun Fibre Arts in Burlington, Ontario. This is one very classy LYS. I could have spent days there. It could easily be on some fancy New York Avenue, in fact I doubt if any Avenue in New York can boast a LYS like this. But no, it's in a freezing cold strip mall in Burlington. And despite being in a freezing cold strip mall in the middle of nowhere, it has a lively clientele, and it's no wonder why. If I had been given one more day, I would have taken the GO Train out there just for the chance of seeing it again.
I won't tell you the real names of all those girls, just the Ravelry names ( data protection etc). From left to right, those are bjross, isobel, feyrhi (who finished a cowl in lined jacquard!), moi laracroft, jeaniex, ruthknits, spun (another Danielle like me, and the shop's brilliant owner!) and her delicious baby girl in the best ever crocheted booties, and finally, off to the side ever so modestly, so far off that I can't even get her to fit in the blogger format, is Chatouille, but Chatouille doesn't count, being in another category. She's actually an angel and I will shortly dedicate a small basilica to her.
Then a couple of days later I was invited to give a class at a LYS in Toronto called Passionknit. But the shop itself was being used for something else on the night in question, so Tamaralda who is one of its two vibrant managers, had us all over to her home where we crocheted around the dining room table. Tea, homemade spiced nuts, jolly fire crackling in hearth...castanet playing...I should have paid them for the evening!

I did not take any pictures. I just coughed at them with great abandon. (Finally the only cure was to step out and smoke a cigarette in the snow. Works every time.) I didn't even get all their Ravelry names. But they were really very, very accomplished craftswomen. One woman in particular, I'm afraid will be teaching me crochet jacquard by the next time I get to Toronto. Not surprising I suppose, being one generation older, and Latvian!

So...anyways...this Tamaralda is a live wire and as obsessive once she gets her hands on a craft as I am. She stayed up till the wee hours practicing, analyzing stitch structure, and planning further projects, and I swear she hasn't stopped yet. And she and her equally vibrant colleague Alisamcr came up with this crazy idea to start a Laracroft crochet group! I was tickled pink at the chance to keep up contact with all my new crochet cronies, so we've dubbed the group "Laracroft and the Korsnäs Raiders" and officially inaugurated it on Ravelry. I have to come up with a design for the banner, ISO good pics of Angelina Jolie w/guns. I love my group, it sounds like a rock band.

For all this and more, thank you so much Chatouille.

I could go on and on about my classes in TO but actually I have to be up early to meet with the Municipal Engineering Dept. about the upcoming Fire Drill at my school.

Come on, I have my own Ravelry Group! Can't I quit my day job yet?

In their Natural Habitat

Namely, Ontario and snow. These are my sister's Ontario mittens.

What a pretty design! I didn't actually design it, as a matter of fact. It was inspired by a pair of mittens by a brilliant Swedish Raveler called EvaL8, actually her name is Eva-Lotta and I suspect that if you say "EvaL8" in Swedish it sounds like "Eva-Lotta". Here are her "Svantar" mittens on her blog.

I have to say it again: these mittens are SO WARM! While my sister and I were taking these photos outside my Dad´s house, our poor frozen hands were just about to become gangrenous and fall off. As soon as we put our wondrous mittens on, they were Instantly Toasty. Somehow I have to patent this invention and mass-produce it for arctic crab fishermen and the like. I could make a fortune.

And these are the originals. I made the left mitten in Summer 2008! The right mitten I made this December. It's a much better mitten. Having made 2 full pairs since the first one, my technique was much improved. So my poor stepmother gets her left hand fingernails caught in the lining. Luckily she is a classical guitarist (who isn't in this family?) and so left hand fingernails are hardly an issue. The right mitten will leave her nails in perfect playing order.

I have much more to blog about my trip to Toronto. I met so many wonderful new friends! I had a crocheter´s holiday, it was awesome. But at the moment my eyes are self-closing from the enormous jet lag which besets me.

Also, my suitcase is still in Heathrow. Meaning, my newly acquired STASH is in Heathrow. I'll have to up my nerve medication to deal with this.

Will blog further tomorrow. For the sake of my readers, I hope my STASH has arrived by then.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My HOT little hands

They look like mittens, right? But what they really are, is little ovens for fingers. If you have cold fingers, make these. Hidden within, unsuspected by all, is a thick, warm and indescribably soft lining.
There are very few things that make me wish to live in Toronto again. But these mittens are definitely one of them. Here there is no call for wearing mittens of any kind, and much less these ones. So mine are all made for my Canadian family, and I dubbed them "Ontario" in their honour, and because they reminded me of winter night hikes across Ontario farmland. I have more mittens made up in other patterns, but I can't show them just yet because they are presents for my folks, and on the very unlikely chance that they will read this blog, I'd better hold off on posting them.

The pattern for these is in the Winter 09 issue of Interweave Crochet. They changed the name of them without bothering to tell me about it, and christened them with the unlikely name of "Mischa". "Mischa"? Why? What was wrong with "Ontario"? Do these look like you could play the cello in them? They also decided not to use the tutorial that I sent, so the main reason I'm posting here is to give my poor victims that tutorial.

So here we go. You see, we're doing Back Loop Crochet Jacquard with a strand of white and a strand of beige. Only we also have this big hunk of roving hanging there.
We'll just let it hang there for a while, meantime we'll be zipping along in our colour pattern.
Well, not quite zipping. You kind of have to nudge the roving from your last round down a bit to get it out of the path of your hook.

After 5 or 6 (or 7 or even 8) stitches, we're going to catch the roving and attach it to the back of the work.

Working in Jacquard, we always insert the hook underneath the secondary strand, right? Now we'll insert it under that AND under the roving, and draw up a loop.

This is the loop I drew up.
Then I completed the stitch. I've created a "float" on the inside of the work, and because it's such chunky stuff, it becomes a big fluffy puff of insulation.
And now, for your own sanity, grab that roving with a free finger, and pull it back out of the way. And then keep crocheting. You only have to hold the roving back for one or two sts, then it will leave you alone.

If you have to complete the pickup stitch in the secondary strand, which you will invariably have to do at some point, (Note: I'm assuming you know how to Jacquard or Tapestry Crochet already. If you don't, I'm sorry but you'll have to make yourself an iPod sock or wristband or something in that first, then try this technique, which is a bit trickier.) it's just the same, with one difference. The last step, i.e. pulling the roving back out of the way, should be done before completing the stitch.

What I try to avoid is starting a pickup stitch in the secondary strand. If it can't be helped, then I drop the two colours and reverse their position, so that it is no longer the secondary strand.

These are pictures from the magazine. I love these pictures!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Go Gryphon Go!

Fine, I'm a rock star. I have to admit it. Remember the Gryphon For Gryphon Cowl? Well, Gryphon in her modesty changed the name to Cloister Cowl, made up ten (ten) kits at 60$ apiece and posted them for sale on her website The Sanguine Gryphon, at 8pm on Aug.31st.

At 8:05 PM they were all sold out!!!!!! No no no, I say, this is obviously a mistake, a server error. Would that it were true! I went to bed giggling to myself about it, certain that the morning would prove me right.

Well, I was wrong! A pile of friends on Ravelry missed the sale, and now poor Gryphon has to make up more kits!

Have you any idea how good this news is? It means that I will be commissioned to make more patterns for Gryphon! Which means more of that exquisite, indescribable SG yarn running through my fingers! Mmmmm I can just feel it now...

For those poor benighted souls who wish to make the cowl in their own merely mortal yarns, the pattern is also available alone without the kit.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The strand that connects us

My mother knitted this little frock for my own DS when he was born 17 years ago. I'm pretty sure she designed it herself, she was a whiz. It's knitted side-to-side using short rows. I loved it and as you can see it is still much stained with milk and baby mush. It was so easy to put on the little guy. It goes on from the front, then crosses over at the back with one strap passing through a little opening at the side, to button at the front. She passed away only a few weeks after seeing it on him.

So I've spent the last 2 weeks of my holiday adapting it to crochet for Manolo and Maria José's brand new baby, Miguel's little brother Carlos.

Conquering Death by Crochet: handling my Mom's handiwork, the years evaporate. In thinking about her design and her creativity, I remember also the nobility of her heart and her dear, serious geekiness. Just as I share her love of fiber arts, picking up the strand of yarn that she left for me, I find her sweetness and gravity in my own heart.

Little Carlos was born on the same day as my own DS. Cool coincidence!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Fully Clothed Troubador

Scheherazaad, thank you for providing the title for this post! Scheherazaad, my friend on Ravelry, commented on this vest as follows: "Congratulations. You will eventually fully clothe this troubador." In my lively imagination, I am the troubador of course, and I get to wear all this stuff.

The point is, after what - 2 years? The Secret Project is no longer a Secret. This is it.
It's published in Inside Crochet, the new British crochet magazine, Issue 3, which came out yesterday. So now I can release my long-endured complaints about how bloody difficult it is to design crocheted garments! Granted that it was my first, but the task of calculating this in 5 sizes was worth a doctorate degree. It has a lot, a lot, of shaping. It's supposed to be a perfect fit. Which it is, on me: it remains to be seen how good my math was for sizes XS, M, L and XL. It took me 3 months non-stop work, and the grievous neglect of my other duties to pull it off. It required me to disturb my very beloved friend Annette Pétavy 4 or 5 times a day with a barrage of whining questions and pleas for advice. Pages and pages of charts graphs etc. I felt a bit like Charlie Eppes in Numb3rs. I should have had a government research grant for this project. But pay scale for crochet design being what it is in this world, I get about a week's worth of groceries for it. So while I feel immensely the richer for having conquered the garment challenge, I don't think I'll ever design another one!

The good thing is, I get the vest back! And I get to wear it this winter! It really is the warmest, softest thing imaginable. Here's what it's like: it's made of Malabrigo Merino Worsted and worked tight on a 4mm hook. So it has no drape, but it has a very definite shape, like a leather jerkin. If I did the math right, one's body will not cause this to bulge in the wrong places. It just sits there and holds its shape. It's Top-Down which means you can keep trying it on. The shaping is done on either side of 6 columns of mini-bobbles. Then you get to do jacquard all over the place, using Silky Merino and Colinette Cadenza. Its official title is "Troubador Vest: Guillaume Dufay".
So that's my Once-Secret Project. And now I have to share this picture with you so you'll all be jealous:
Who is that gorgeous, brilliant, funny and inspiring blonde in the picture with Laracroft? It's Annette Pétavy! In my house! We had the best idea of 2009: she came to Barcelona for 3 days, then we returned to Lyon together where I spent 3 days in her house. Now that, my friends, is a Stash Expedition. With cooking, clothes shopping (yay!!) wandering on mountains and sitting around crocheting. The Extended Version of the Stash Expedition.

So that you will know how brilliant this girl is, I will share with you her theory on Stash Acquisition. Which states, and demonstrates, that it is cheaper to buy cashmere and silk than cheap acrylic. As follows: given that buying a mass-produced acrylic sweater is probably cheaper than buying and making an acrylic sweater oneself. Given that a buying a silk or cashmere garment will cost a small fortune, far more than the cost of buying the yarn. Therefore, it is more economical to buy silk and cashmere, Q.E.D. Did I score in the friend department, or what?

And she took me here: La Droguerie. That stuff I'm fondling is 100% linen. Needless to say I came away considerably poorer than when I entered!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Further Adventures

I also managed to finish another project without a deadline. This one took me about 6 months. It's the pattern for the Cloister fingerless gloves, and I uploaded it to my Ravelry pattern store yesterday. The charts are cool, look:
I made 2 more pairs, for the purpose of writing this pattern. One pair for Iolanda, who teaches violin at my school and is also my academic secretary and great friend. She likes brown and mauve. I loathe both brown and mauve, but I must say I love these.

The mauve and pale green are in a wonderful yarn that I discovered in Perpignan and spent 100€ stashing up on, Songe by Bouton d'Or. Here's a picture of my lifetime stash thereof.

I've been using a lot of it for one of my Secret Projects. It's so cool. It looks like Mithril once its crocheted up.

And then I still didn't understand my own bloody pattern, so I had to make another pair, this time for myself. I surprised myself by making them both the same: usually I need to make the left glove somehow different from the right so I can keep myself amused looking at my hands in boring faculty meetings. I did make one tiny change in one glove. But that was by mistake.

The pattern for this is done and for sale for 5€ in my Ravelry pattern store. I'm going to try to add a button for it and Veritas Equitas, here on this blog, but it may take me a while. My Blogger skills are pretty limited.

Secret Service Crochet

I'm so sorry I've been away from this blog for so long. I've been crocheting like one possessed all this time, but the bulk of it is top secret. I don't think I'll ever get used to this not being able to share my pretties with the whole world.

But not all of it is top secret. I finished Gryphon for Gryphon. What, after 3 months? Didn't you get that yarn back in October, for Chrissake? Well, the thing is this. All the other projects had scary deadlines. So I had to shelve it 3 times to work frantically on other stuff. And contrary to my assumption, it was not easy to make. Pleasant and delightful, yes, but I had a hell of a time combining the colours just right.

Gryphon sent me this exquisite note card along with a sample of yarn. It's a medieval tapestry depicting the Moirae or Fates. So I said, I'm making the cowl in these colours! Ha! Easier said than done! The wonderful woman dyed up a number of them just for me and sent them. Upon which I discover that I'm not enough of an expert to combine them correctly. As it happens, A+B+C is not at all equal to A+C+B. Did you know that? I didn't. But I do now. What infuriates me is having to achieve success by trial and error, rather than by theoretical knowledge and expertise. The next time this happens it'll have to be trial and error all over again, because I'm not knowledgeable enough about colour theory! Well, enough griping, here's Gryphon for Gryphon just before it goes into the box and off to Maryland.

It's so soft! Luckily I have one of my own to keep (one of my failed test runs!) because I don't think I could live without it. After DH took this picture I totally forgot that I was still wearing it and had it on for hours. Every other cowl I own starts to bother me after a while: either it itches, or it bunches, or it tickles. I guess cashmere and silk is after all cashmere and silk.

Since I've been silent for 3 months I'll post again today.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Veritas, Equitas pattern for sale on Ravelry

I'm not sure how the wondrous Camanomade manages to be so wondrous. She created this awesome book which boasts about 30 fabulous patterns and articles. My Veritas, Equitas fingerless gloves have the honour to be in there. And somehow she has given us all permission to sell our own patterns individually as well. I was very loth to do this for a long time. To me it seems this practice can only hurt book sales. However, seeing so many of the book's designers selling their patterns as Ravelry downloads, and the book continuing to sell just fine, I can only conclude that Camanomade is protected by angels, as she deserves to be. I asked her permission anyways, just to be sure.

She very happily gave it. So I set up my Ravelry pattern store. It costs 5€. Also I posted a tutorial which is free. Here's the link to both: .

These would make a perfect Christmas gift, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tracery FO!

They're both done at last and I'm thrilled with them. They are such a perfect fit! One day I'll try to write a pattern for them. I have to say that this is the most difficult project I've done to date. The fingers are very fiddly to make. But worth every fiddle!

Now that my hands are warm, I'm ready to start making the Gryphon Cowl out of that awesome liquid gold yarn from the Sanguine Gryphon. I worry that this may fall into the category of Pleasures Not Meant for Mortals.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Quintessence of Delight

Comparable only to the aroma of baking bread. My Gaia DK from Sanguine Gryphon arrived. No photograph can capture the magic of this yarn. Touching it is like kissing the top of a baby's head. The colours are infinitely complex, deep and compelling. And it shines like gemstones.
O come, let us adore it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love of Glove

I am over-the-moon in love with this glove! It has fingers! And they fit PERFECTLY! And it's pretty, and soft, and green!

Don't laugh guys, but I've been working on this for months. I've tested 4 or 5 different methods for making fingers and thumbs with jacquard before achieving this. Sideways, backwards, intarsia, jacquard, fingers-first, cuff-up...and the winner is: cuff-up, intarsia.