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  • Conference Prep Crazy Zone


    Conference Prep Frenzy: A Two-Week Zone

    For Future Vashti’s reference: I shifted into conference prep frenzy at a specific time three days ago: end of the night on Monday, June 27th. It’s like stepping into the cockpit of an airliner, flicking on all switches and activating ‘all systems go’. (Like in the movies, anyway.) It’s obvious when it starts.

    The next morning I did my teacher’s conference prep ritual: put on a pot of coffee, spread a big white sheet on the floor, lined up a row of empty boxes, and labeled each with a class topic:

    Teacher's conference prep ritual! Box per class topic on the white sheet.

    The five boxes on the white sheet, one per class topic. This is how I get the final big picture of all the teaching stuff to ship soon(!) to the conference.

    Completing the Teacher’s Conference Prep

    I rounded up everything to bring: first the completed designs, then the handouts, yarn and other materials for students to use, optional materials like printed patterns, key newsletter issues, visual aids like class swatches etc., topic-related teaching aids like a “blocking demo kit” for the Weightless class and a “beading demo kit” for the love knots class.

    Doesn’t it seem like with a pot of fresh coffee, one could just whip through this? The reality is that it does start this way, but my completed designs are spread all over the house and I forget about some. It’s as if the white sheet cordons off an area of the house (and my brain) that keeps it under construction for 24-36 hours. That’s what makes it a ritual, really. I get through the first layer so that the next layer can be seen.

    After that time I can condense it all into 1 or 2 shipping boxes. That’s the quick and easy part.

    More Show Booth Conference Prep

    Here’s what else got done since I blogged 2 days ago:

    • Wound new Lotus colors in a few 100 gram balls—so that I could label and take photos of them—so that I can add them to the website. (Also means I committed to color names for them: Carbonite, Lavender Ice, Orange Luxe, and Emerald Deep.)
    • We build our booth with grid panels. Found out how hundreds of them will get to the show floor! Thanks to Linda Dean whom I can’t wait to finally see again.
    • Placed final order for crochet hooks I’ll need for the booth and classes.
    • Finalized arrangements and logistics for how everything and everybody gets there and gets back!
    • Formatted several crochet patterns for kits, classes, etc (printed):
      • a fun new one-ball pattern for Lotus that Doris designed for the booth (a printed crochet pattern). More on that later.
      • My Mesmer patterns (scarf, stole, sized vest variations on a steeky theme and with double-ended hook option) as one printed pattern set for the class, and extras for booth.
      • Did the same with my Starwirbel pattern.
      • Still have 3 more patterns to do if I can.
    • Back & forths with tech editor on edits of class handouts and patterns formatted for printing and kits.
    • Delegated my distress to my husband over both of our home office printers breaking within weeks of each other! He’s got that now.

    I know from last year that there will come a point when I won’t be able to focus on pattern formatting or class handouts, so I’ve been doing as many as possible these past few weeks.

    Woke up the next morning to emails from others who were now also ‘all systems go’ with their conference prep too. And now today is Thursday June 30: twelve days from lift off. I predict these blog updates will get posted more erratically but I’ll keep trying. It forces me to find a peaceful moment to collect my thoughts.

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    • June 30th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Steek Crochet With Pattern Schematics in Any Language


    Pattern schematics inspire me to steek crochet.

    I wish every crochet garment pattern offered a schematic. It outlines the sections of a garment, like puzzle pieces. Schematics cut through illusions cast by fashion photography and lovely models. A single pattern schematic can distill a fancy design to its simplest essence. I created two Pinterest boards of things that inspire me to steek crochet: Steeks: Ideas and Wearable Simple Shapes.

    Schematics also cut through language barriers. I can understand a non-English pattern if it includes a schematic.

    I created a few sample schematics for the Tunisian steek crochet class handout and realized how much I get out of them. This would be the next newsletter issue if I had time to do one! (Too much conference prep.)

    Steek crochet using pattern schematics from around the 'net

    Some simple squares and rectangles from my Tunisian class handout. Add a steek where you see a pink bar, fold on the dotted line, et voilà!—instant garment.

    A schematic is sensational to me when a garment that looks chic on a model, yet its schematic reveals that it’s made of simple shapes, such as rectangles. This is exciting because every crocheter or knitter first learns how to make rectangles, right?

    Sometimes all you need is a rectangle that drapes, or is clingy/stretchy (or all of these). Sometimes weightlessness brings it home, other times it’s a luxuriously weighty swing. The schematic tells you what’s what when you know what to look for.

    Sometimes the key to chic is a well-placed seam on a simple shape. Sometimes it’s a special edging. And sometimes it’s the where and how of the steek. Steek crochet for the easy chic of it.

    I love this conference prep blogging because it makes me aware of things that I’ve done for years, like collect pattern schematics.

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    • June 24th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Project Tests for New Crochet Classes


    I’m still testing new crochet designs…

    …for the five classes I teach next month! This started months ago. It never stops, actually.

    I have other new crochet ideas in progress for this year’s classes too. For Tunisian Eyelet Meshes I have a draping collapsible “Leanin’ Loopholes” wrap to finally start when the new Lotus colors arrive. Another project in motion for the Stitch Games class is an argyle (only a few rows done, no photos yet).

    When CGOA puts out a call for class topic proposals in the fall, I submit more than enough: all the topics that I’ve enjoyed teaching in the past, plus interesting variations on them, plus new ones. Designing new crochet examples starts the moment I find out which ones I’ll be teaching. (Not on purpose, it just happens.)

    Meanwhile

    Meanwhile I stand ready (with camera) to receive a giant new lot of Lotus yarn. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new colors. Doris has her designing cones already so I know UPS will be here any day. Once the yarn arrives–on giant cones–I get some of it turned into Z-Bombes (1-pounders). A bit of it becomes Magnum cones (2-pounders). A lot of it will be “pull cakesASAP.

    I also stand ready to design with it. I’ll need some new crochet for the road trip up to the conference, right? Doris got started immediately with a new design in emerald green. This reminds me that I also need to lock in the new color names for the ball bands and snip cards.

    I’m on Day 35 of my 50 blogging days of crochet conference prep and I’m feeling behind! I still need to get some crochet patterns reformatted into print versions (for some of my classes and for kits in the market booth).

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    • June 23rd, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Best Crochet Conference Shoes Ever


    Having attended twenty-five crochet conferences in twelve years, I’ve found that a lot depends on my weird, favorite conference shoes. Tomorrow’s post will be about the clothes, which are partly determined by the shoes.

    I get asked about my choice of shoes a lot. (In the future I can just refer people to this post.) I wear one ultra-comfortable pair of Z-Coils all day, and maybe fancy heels or sandals for evening. This year I’ll have a new pair of Z-Coils, the “Z-Breeze” with an enclosed heel.

    When I go all out and wear sensationally uncomfortable shoes, it’s for only two hours at a time. I love fabulous-looking shoes, but I stop having fun after about two hours of wearing them if they’re uncomfortable. Another way to say this is, I have an insane amount of fun at these conferences when I wear mostly Z-Coils. Shoes make or break events like these.

    Here’s a little gallery I created of Z-Coils from around the ‘net:

     

    Benefits (and a few drawbacks) of these Conference Shoes: 

    After a month or two of wearing them, my lower back strengthened as the shoe’s coiled heel took over the job of shock absorber. Until then, I didn’t even know that my lower back had been my “shock absorber” whenever I walked on tiles and pavement, or lifted heavy things. (For other people it might be their knees, ankles, or thighs.) I could lift almost double the weight than I could before, without problems. It turns out that I have good upper body strength. It was my lower back that was limiting it.

    Some people only find out about Z-Coils when they develop walking difficulties. In my case, I met a local knitter who first wore them while recovering from a knee operation. She loved them so much that she continued to wear them long after. I liked how weirdly futuristic they looked on her. When I tried on a pair I was hooked! This was about ten years ago.

    [Do I have to do a disclaimer that I’m not a doctor? Not only am I not a doctor, my lower back has never been examined by one. And while I’m disclaiming, I’m also not a representative of the Z-Coil co. and they’re not rewarding me for blogging this.]

    What this means at crochet conferences is that I can stand on my feet all day every day while teaching or in my market booth, and carry stuff from my hotel room to the far end of a convention center and back.

    I don’t start the conference already exhausted from carrying luggage and dashing through airports to change planes in the middle of the night. I never take long flights without Z-Coils. These conference shoes come through for me even before I arrive at the event.

    By the second and third days of a conference, other people’s legs and backs are tired. They look around constantly for somewhere to sit. It’s thanks to Z-Coils that I’m looking around for a place to go dancing instead! (Doris is rolling her eyes right about now.)

    [I’m adding this link to Pia Thadani’s blog post about her first time attending this conference last year. Her pointers and photos convey everything very well.]

    These are significant benefits, right? Now magnify them when I don’t get enough sleep. What if I have to sleep in the airport and switch planes at 5 am? My Z-Coils “have my back”. It’s such a relief to rely on their strength when travel mishaps occur.

    Two big drawbacks. One is that I don’t feel hot in them (as in sexy). Skirts are out of the question with Z-Coils for me. Some women can make it work, but I’d always feel self conscious. I love how I look in delicate, ultra feminine shoes and dresses, but I can only happily wear girly shoes for a few hours at a time.

    The other drawback is that Z-Coil shoes are expensive (+/- $250.) Mine lasted me ten years, though! Plus you can replace some parts yourself. It’s not a big drawback when I think it through, I just get sticker shock. It’s a bargain, actually. I’m telling myself this as I prepare to buy a new pair of the best conference shoes ever.

    Interested? Then you must see the Customized Z-Coils Pinterest board I found today!

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    • June 20th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Tunisian Crochet Books for Research


    At first glance, the materials I use when researching Tunisian crochet (a.k.a. afghan crochet, & including double-ended types) seem the same as for other crochet topics. Besides Tunisian crochet books and online sources that I find by Googling and searching Ravelry, I use sections of other books, notable designs, and antique sources. (Click on on of the thumbnail photos to enlarge.)

    Tunisian Crochet Books are Keepers!

    Over the years I’ve noticed distinctive differences in the information I can depend on for Tunisian crochet research, compared to other kinds of crochet. The most intensive research I do is for classes, but I also need to for some newsletter topics and when I’m writing a pattern for an unusual design.

    100% Tunisian crochet books are special and really pretty rare. Many of them are slim, booklet-like volumes. They tend to be hard to find and to get. Some go out of print quickly, are self-published, or are only in Japanese, for example. I treasure each one. That first book stack you see is my go-to stack.

    I’ve found a lot of useful information buried in general books about crochet.”TC” (Tunisian crochet) has long been presented in crochet books as a specialization. This means the TC topic sometimes gets its own thick chapter, and that’s a beautiful thing. Other times, the chapter or section is lean, but can make an important contribution somehow. It may have fresh and original material, or offer well designed instructions, stitch symbols, and other valuable publishing standards.

    From my TC perspective, it makes a big, big difference when the book’s production staff, especially the technical editors and illustrators, also understand TC (not just regular crochet). It also matters what is used as a standard, because basic Tunisian crochet publishing standards are still being forged.

    The book stack in the second photo shows general crochet books I own that contain TC sections I refer to often. Missing from the photo is A Treasury of Crochet Patterns by Liz Blackwell.

    I’ve been thinking about this post topic ever since I did one about the very different kind of book stack I devoured for the Stitch Games class topic. (That stack was mostly written about yarn by and for knitters.) I’m also considering a post about what it has been like to unearth and use every resource I could for classes on love knots (Solomon’s knots) and star stitches over the years.

     

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    • June 16th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Reinforced Steeked Crochet Hole, Two Examples


    Reinforcing a Steeked Crochet Hole

    There’s more than one way to reinforce a cut made into crochet stitches because there’s more than one kind of steek and use for that steek. Here are just two kinds of projects made in the same stitch pattern.

    Both of these projects are part of the Mesmer Tunisian Veils pattern. If you steek crochet stitches the easy way—within one row—you have at minimum two yarn ends to fasten securely and then weave in. Some Tunisian stitches will cause you to have more (see newsletter #79 about that).

    The more stitches you unravel, the larger the hole and the longer the yarn ends will be. I only unraveled 3 of the pink stitches and that left me with yarn ends that were just long enough to work with comfortably.

    If the steeked crochet hole won’t be getting a lot of direct wear and tear, use those yarn ends to reinforce the stitch at each end of the slit. Look closely at the pink photos where I weaved the fine mohair yarn in and around the stitch at each end. This will get light wear. It’s a “keyhole” opening for a scarf.

    Steeked Crochet Hole for Sleeves

    You’re looking at an edged armhole in the brown example. An armhole needs more reinforcement because of the constant pressure it supports in a garment. I switched to a double-ended circular crochet hook to crochet a few rounds of the same Tunisian stitch. It gives a really nice cap sleeve look when it’s worn. In the future I’d love to try longer sleeves this way.

    This is part of my blogging goal of 50 posts for these 50 days of epic crochet conference prep. I’ve missed a day here and there lately because my dear friend from college is here for the week! We’re about to leave for the day to see the mermaids of Weeki Watchee. It’s a spring fed lake and water park.

     

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    • June 15th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Tunisian Crochet Love Knots: Thoughts


    Tunisian Crochet Love Knots, New Swatches

    It’s been on my mind to incorporate love knots into Tunisian crochet since teaching the first Love Knots Adventures class in 2012. I don’t mean a few rows of love knot mesh alternated with a few rows of Tunisian simple stitch (Tss), which could also be interesting and pretty. I mean love knots thoroughly integrated—where the experience of crocheting the love knots feels seamlessly like other Tunisian crochet.

    In the Forward Pass or the Return Pass?

    For some reason, at first I thought only of making love knots during the Tunisian forward pass (while adding loops onto the hook). A few weeks ago I added love knots to the return pass (while working the loops off of the hook) and the possibilities are inspiring. Also, the experience of doing it feels like true Tunisian crochet love knots.

    These are preliminary, so I haven’t tried turning them into actual stitch patterns yet. I think these are promising rough swatches though. I don’t recall ever seeing eyelets or buttonholes created within and by the return pass.

    For these two swatches I used Tunisian extended stitches because they’re featured in a new class for July, Steeked Tunisian Lace. It’s just my go-to stitch right now. It has fascinating, sometimes unpredictable properties, so I make a point of using it whenever.

    At first I got excited and thought, “Wow, a different kind of steek! OK no, a faux steek!” But actually I think its real promise is as a type of eyelet with the power to change the look of the return pass.

    I just sent out a newsletter on steeking Tunisian crochet vs regular crochet stitches. If you haven’t seen it, have a look and compare it with the look of these “faux steeks”.

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    • June 13th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Steeking Crochet Newsletter Overflow


    Three images that didn’t make it into the newsletter I sent out yesterday on steeking crochet:

    Not sure if it’s obvious in the middle photo: I removed two stitches in the forward pass. It freed up the return pass AND the stitches above them in the next row. This is because these stitches are crocheted around the post of the stitches, not into a base (i.e. into any return pass loops).

    Without a lifeline, these post stitches just dissolve into messy loops. It’s not as bad as Tks or Tfs (as mentioned in the newsletter). The unraveling is contained.

    My friend arrived last night from Kentucky! So glad I got the newsletter sent off. I hope you enjoyed my exploration of steeking crochet. My next critical conference prep task is to complete my last class handout (Starwirbel Way). After that milestone, I’ll add corrections to all handouts as I receive them from my editor, and direct my mental energies toward writing patterns.

     

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    • June 12th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Crochet Class Yarn Sponsor: Lorna’s Laces!


    Why is a crochet class yarn a big deal?

    Crochet classes at national CGOA conferences are a big deal. In fact, they have been the raison d’être of the event since the first one in 1994. Of all the places I’ve taught crochet, this event is my first choice. These classes are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced–as a student in many of them too, not just a teacher. Each one is intensive and three hours long (sometimes double that). They’re not cheap but you get what you pay for and more. I’ve also made life-long friends in these classes.

    For some in-depth CGOA classes, the yarn either helps make the most of the 3 precious hours, or it can actually add obstacles. Conference attendees have to try to pack the best yarns and crochet hooks for the classes ahead of time, and it’s not easy. You can’t even buy the right yarn in the conference market if the class takes place before the market opens. Stitch Games is one of these classes this year.

    The crochet class yarn for Stitch Games could make or break that class! Lorna’s Laces really came through. They are graciously (can I say heroically) providing enough of the perfect hand dyed yarn for everyone in the class to use.

    How Does a Crochet Class Get Sponsored?

    When a yarn company donates yarn for a CGOA class, it means the teacher has carefully selected that yarn as being the ideal way to experience the class topic. S/he then contacts the yarn company personally.

    For Stitch Games I’ve swatched and designed with a gazillion yarns since 2009. I’m happy to say that Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, in bolder colorways, is the ideal crochet class yarn. We’ll have a full three hours-worth for everyone in the room.

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    • June 10th, 2016 by Vashti Braha

    Two-Color Tunisian Crochet Swatches


    One Color or Two?

    Want to see some stitch patterns change when the yarn color changes?

    The two-color Tunisian crochet swatches are for my class handout (yes, still working on them!). I needed to clearly distinguish the forward row from the return row, so I color-coded them. The one-yarn versions are below their two-color swatches.

    Isn’t it surprising how different the same stitch pattern can look when you alternate yarn colors?

    Sometimes a swatch needs to convey more than words when space is a premium (such as in a class handout).

    Progress update on my crochet conference readiness: only ONE class handout left to send to the tech editor! That’s FOUR down, one to go. My goal is the end of this week. Then you’ll start seeing blog posts of other topics. Like, new Lotus yarn colors. Charleston. Etc.

     

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    • June 8th, 2016 by Vashti Braha


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