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V-O-T-E Early and Often with Crochet

Crocheted letters V-O-T-E against sunrise-colored crochet background
View the image above full size.

Last week I used a new Tunisian crochet stitch to swatch up a few letters of the alphabet. You can see four of the letters above. (The background is something I crocheted for the kitchen years ago.) Just look at what I can spell! I also made an ‘L’ to spell LOVE. I’ll explain how to do the cool Tunisian stitch below.

Eight-Color Poster

Tunisian crochet letters spell V-O-T-E against a rainbow aran crochet background.
It came out to approx. 12″ x 14″. View full size in Ravelry.

I’m working on a newsletter issue (#95!) about COLOR. It gave me the idea to crochet a “poster” background for the letters using as many of my Lotus yarn colors as possible.

Does the stitch pattern of the background look familiar? Maybe not—it’s rarely done with color changes. (Not sure I’ve ever seen it in more than one color. I think it’s traditionally thought of as an Aran crochet texture in off-white wool.)

I used this stitch pattern for the Chainmaille scarf, in just one color. The shiny alpaca-tencel yarn gives it a very different look!

Chainmaille: Free for October

Add the Chainmaille pattern to your cart then use the code free-poster-stitch.

For the poster, just use four pattern repeats of the Chainmaille scarf. For the flatter middle section where the letters go, I did the [ch 1, skip next ch-space, sc] part of the stitch pattern across each row for about 18 rows, then resumed the Chainmaille pattern again. Use a shallow single crochet instead of a regular single crochet if you know how. (Keeps the background a bit denser.)

 The Tunisian Stitch I’m Excited About!

I don’t know what else to call it but a shallow extended knit stitch.

First you must do a row of Tunisian Extended Stitch (ExtTSS or as I much prefer to call it, TES). It’s how you crochet the next row into them that turns them into shallow extended knit stitches.

For the alphabet letters I did just one row of TES into the foundation chains: skip the chain nearest your hook, insert your hook under the bump loop of the next chain, yarn over and pull up loop; at this point you’d leave it on your hook for a TSS. Chain 1 and it becomes a TES. To continue, [insert hook under the bump loop of the next chain, yarn over and pull up loop, chain 1] in each remaining chain of the row.

Standard return pass: chain 1, then [yarn over and pull through next two loops on hook] until one loop remains on the hook.

Have a look at your TES row. Compare them to TSS. The chain-1 you added to each TSS doubles its height and adds a horizontal loop on the back of the stitch. See it? See how it resembles the horizontal loop on the back of a single crochet stitch? (See this blog post about that “third loop”.)

Close up of how to crochet a shallow Tunisian extended knit stitch.
This is the front of an extended Tunisian stitch. (This one is an extended knit stitch: a TEKS.) If your hook went where the red arrow points—between the front and back vertical bars—you’d make a TEKS. Insert the hook where the yellow arrow points and it becomes a SHALLOW TEKS.

To do a row of shallow extended knit stitch: chain 1 to begin the row (count as first stitch), *insert hook knitwise (between the front and back vertical bars) and under the lower horizontal “bump” loop (as seen on the back) of the next stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, chain 1. Repeat from * in each remaining stitch of the row.

Return pass is the same.

As with all occasions when you’re crocheting shallow stitches, the looser your gauge is, the easier it is to pick up speed crocheting them.

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First Look: Yveline, a Tunisian Wrap

Photos by Daniel Shanken
All Images © 2018.  Photographer: Daniel Shanken for Stackpole Books. View hi-res.

I’ve been looking forward to sharing some sneak peeks! You’re looking at Tunisian crochet eyelets on the diagonal, frilled ? with love knots ?. I used our Lotus yarn in these colors: Carbonite, Pearly Pearl, Satin Grey, and Lustrous Tan.

Yveline is one of two new crochet patterns I contributed to a forthcoming book. It’s called Delicate Crochet: 23 Light and Pretty Designs for Shawls, Tops and More by Sharon Hernes Silverman. The book’s official publication date is December 1, but look for it as early as October. 

Yveline Goes to Class

I’ll be traveling with Yveline to the CGOA crochet conference in Portland OR next month because she wants to meet everyone who is taking the Tunisian Crochet on the Diagonal class AND 21st Century Love Knot Adventures.

If you’re going to the conference and you took one of my earlier Tunisian lace classes, Yveline will want to meet you too. I brought swatches to those earlier classes that have since come of age in the form of the lovely Yveline.

Her Story

First, the name. It started out “Lean In” because that’s what I called the early swatches. It fascinated me how much some Tunisian stitches liked to lean with a little encouragement. Not just how much, but the kind of movement; sometimes it’s like Tunisian lace stitches have hinges or ball joints.

When it came time for a grown up name, I was in a dual swoon from binge-watching the Versailles series while adding the love knot frills! I looked for names associated with Versailles and learned that the city is located in a département called Yvelines.

About Those Love Knots

Wallet-sized beige cashmere bag of Tunisian crochet, embellished with double ruffles, woven with grey satin ribbons.
A small bag I designed 9 years ago inspired the ruffle idea. Image missing? View it here.

I’m still swooning a bit from using love knots for surface embellishment. I haven’t seen anyone else do this and it’s just the kind of odd new thing I like to try each time I teach 21st Century Love Knot Adventures. (I mean, look at what I called the class.)

It did take several swatches. Remember last year when I did a newsletter on ruffles? It was shortly after I shipped Yveline to Sharon, the book author. I’d been swatching and meditating on the essence of a crocheted ruffle for a few months.

The Tunisian eyelet fabric is so airy and “flexy” (another name I gave to the early swatches) that most of the ruffles I tried were too heavy. I love how airy the love knot frills are! Love!

About the Ruffle Idea

The urge to frill has a story too. Years ago I crocheted the cutest little bag. It’s Tunisian simple stitch with ruffles surface-crocheted on it.

So that’s my Delicate Crochet story of Yveline. I have a very different story coming up about the other design I did for the book!

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CGOA’s Lotus Yarn Pattern (Last Day Free!)

My swatch in Crystal Blue DesigningVashti Lotus yarn, and sketches of scarf and yarn amount options

Happy NatCroMo! (National Crochet Month)

Designer Andee Graves featured our Lotus yarn with her new Shining Day Wrap crochet pattern. She’s one of CGOA’s 2018 board members. At her blog she explains,

“There will be 3 other patterns available free for CGOA members only, each only for 1 week. Be sure you’ve renewed your membership or joined CGOA before you miss out!”

Today is the last day you can get this pattern for free.

Why? It’s part of the 2018 CGOA NatCroMo celebration and this one is free for everyone—CGOA members and nonmembers.

Shining Day is crocheted in a lacy stitch pattern that is flowing wonderfully off my [pink] hook. I think it flows so much because you crochet into chain spaces at an easy gauge.

A Flowing Foundation Row

This wide lacy rectangle is worked from the center out on both sides of the foundation row. You’ll have matching ends, each with a pretty picot border.

For a design like this, you wouldn’t want the foundation chains to look noticeable or feel tighter than the rest of its flowing lace. No problem! Andee uses a great type of foundation row. It’s not only stretchy, it has a nice texture that blends in.

About Yarn Amounts

Andee used four 100g. balls of Lotus to get a wrap that is 16.25″ X 68.5″. Four balls is 1,024 yds (4 X 256 yds).

The Cone Idea

Some folks have wisely been ordering Lotus Z-Bombes, which are value-priced one-pound cones. One pound of Lotus is a bit over 1,100 yds, or about 4.5 balls. (I always allow a Z-Bombe to go a bit over a pound after subtracting the weight of the cardboard. I write the exact unique weight of each Z-Bombe on its tag.)

The Lotus Snacks Idea

A floral six-pack: Orange Luxe, Grenadine, Pink Sugar, Peachy SHeen, Rose Red, Lala Yellow.
One of several springtime color combos!

In my recent newsletter issue #90, I mentioned a multicolored Shining Day using a six-pack of Lotus Snacks. I think spring fever made me do it. I kept picturing a riot of floral colors like I do every spring.

Unfortunately I miscalculated the yarn amount for that in the newsletter. The mini Snacks are one-third the size of a regular Lotus ball: 85 yds per 33 g. Not one-half.

CORRECTION: A Six Pack O’ Snacks totals 512 yds, not the 768 yds I stated in the newsletter.

My 512-yd. Shining Day

Andee Graves aka Mamas2Hands produced a lovely PDF to match her pretty lace wrap design.
Page one of Andee’s pattern. Isn’t it pretty? 

See my drawings above in that photo of my light blue swatch? That’s me figuring out that a two-ball (same as six Snacks) Shining Day would come out to 12″ X 51″ (or a bit longer).

My swatch is 11.5″ wide. I needed 46 foundation stitches to do 4 stitch pattern repeats.

Andee’s Shining Day pattern is definitely worth paying for if you miss the free version. It includes stitch charts and a photo-tutorial on making the picots.

Join the CGOA MEGA CAL group in Facebook!

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A Crochet Year in Review (2017)

Long term projects define my life in crochet.

Sure, a crocheted item can be quick and easy, but I mean producing patterns, teaching, and other business-oriented projects. For example, I completed two interesting Tunisian crochet patterns in 2017 that will appear in a 2018 book.

I should do this review every year​! It’s easy to lose sight of the wins when so many projects are complex or long-term.

Favorite discoveries in 2017

Discoveries about crochet are what motivate me to design and teach!

  • Crocheting a twisted loop fringe edging at the start of a row is so promising! Make it any length. Add beads to it without stringing them on first. I discovered this with Aquarienne. It was also the perfect thing for the border of Graven.
  • Discovering which crochet stitches are “self-healing” when you cut them (and why) is a game changer! See Zumie. Scroll down to see Lovatar.
  • My experimental yoke worked! The yoke of the Tripuff Tunic is just a draped scarf.
  • Rosepuff inspired new clustered puff swatches that make me swoon, like the one above.
  • I made too many discoveries that are too technical to go into while covering bangles with crochet in December and January! It was completely inspiring and rejuvenating.
  • When I matched my yarn stash to a favorite silk skirt I discovered two things. First, using the skirt’s colors is a tribute to a favorite thing that can inspire me indefinitely (past the life of the skirt). Second, I also matched my yarn colors to a favorite painting and realized chances are good that the yarns you add to your stash also correspond to the colors of favorite items because you are the common denominator.

​DesigningVashti 2017 by the Numbers

  • Our Lotus yarn in magazines: Morning Dew Wrap by Kristin Lynn and  I Do Shawl by Cindy Adams, both in Crochet! Magazine. I published two of my new Lotus patterns, Rosepuff Shawlette and Aquarienne. Two new Tunisian designs coming out in a 2018 book will also feature Lotus yarn.
  • 12 blog posts in 2017 (monthly is ok but my overall average is 17.5 posts per year and I’d like it higher than that).
  • 6 newsletters, so they came out bimonthly in 2017. Originally (2010) they came out every other Thursday. Overall, the average frequency is monthly. The six topics in 2017 were Hidden Pictures in Cut Stitches, Crocheted Ruffles, New/Favorite Stitch Patterns, Edgings That Multitask, Announcing a Ruana DAL-CAL, and Yarn Overs & Yarn Unders.
  • Posted 18 different crochet tips for new crocheters in Facebook and Twitter. One of them became a full blog post.

​Favorite Designs in Development

These favorites link to their project pages in Ravelry if I haven’t blogged about them yet.
Mamruana, Lovatar, Laluna (and the Tripuff Tunic and Graven mentioned above) are all crocheted in our Lotus yarn.
SS-LusciousQuailfeather, FunweltyZumie Vest, and Jumbo Heart Cushion launched 2017 and were all inspired by the weekend workshop I taught in March 2017.

2017: Big Year for Business Improvements​

  • Renovated a seven years old website. I’m still cleaning up broken links and stuff. This 2017 project is spilling over into 2018.
  • Found someone who makes wonderfully intuitive stitch diagrams for my patterns. An easy win!
  • Acquired what we affectionately call a ‘warehouse’ for my shop yarns and hooks (it’s a small Rubbermaid shed). Did important maintenance on my Lotus yarn equipment myself. Got some helpful IKEA office items.
  • Taught a weekend crochet workshop at Mosaic Yarn Studio and got up to speed using Airplay instead of an overhead projector. I loved using that set up.
  • Videos -deep breath- learned how to edit footage, and what filming equipment I wish I had, so I’m further along than in 2016; a hurricane put a dent in that momentum. For 2018 I figure I’ll try again keeping it simple, short, casual. Otherwise I’ll never get anywhere! Ellen Gormley and Mary Beth Temple inspire me.
  • Digitized crochet archives: In 2017 I started a process that works for me. (It also helped me during Hurricane Irma!) Here are my stats: I have 4 or 5 shelves of stuff to digitize; each shelf is 20″ wide. If I’m getting 15 to 18 images per shelf inch, I’ll need 4.5 to 8 gigabytes of storage.

A Year’s Worth of Crochet

I can see why bloggers do a year-end review now that I’ve done it. It feels good to see a year’s worth of highlights–you’ve always done more than you remember. I appreciate everything more. It’s easier to be objective about what is significant. I can see what obstacles I overcame, and what it took to do so, instead of expectations I had at the time that I didn’t meet.

I love to see the glimmerings of 2018 crochet in 2017.

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Wearing Crochet to a Memorial Service

Four views of Graven worn with its buttons in front or back.

I traveled over the weekend to attend a memorial service for the sudden death of a beloved uncle.

The chapel accommodates 280 people, and 360 attended. Fortunately the weather was ideal (around 80º and sunny) so that the building could be open on two (maybe three? sides. The overflow of people could sit comfortably outside and feel included.

I designed something specifically to wear to this event and had two weeks to make it. That includes all swatching, blocking, and any do-overs.

The Challenge: Accepted.

Wearing crochet to this event meant meeting three strict requirements.

The short, fixed deadline.

I had to rule out my very first idea: to crochet a Chanel-style jacket. Instead I started imagining something that would take two balls of yarn or less.

Result: The finished Graven weighs 108g (slightly over one 256-yd ball).

The second limit was its style and color.

The 3-button front Graven capelet and black dress and pearls.
A stop at Starbucks after the memorial.

Graven would have to be far more subdued than my default personal style, so I ruled out several initial ideas. It also had to be solid black; a challenge because that’s not what I tend to crochet. Sure, I often wear black clothing as a plain first layer that forms a background to a (sometimes crocheted) lighter-colored layer. I struggled at first to picture wearing crochet in solid black on a sunny Florida morning, not for evening, or in a northern office.

Result: I wore Graven all day. It was mostly easy and comfortable to wear, and felt elegant and proper style wise. I did have to adjust it periodically so that the buttons stayed centered. (I think this is because I accidentally increased some rows unevenly.)

It had to work with my dress and high heels.

The dress was a simple sleeveless deep V-front shift made of an inky black pima-modal fabric. Its surface had a woven linen look but it was actually a fine knit. Very comfortable to wear in Florida! It needed a dressy covering for the upper arms and chest though.

Result: Armed with these three requirements, I narrowed down my project to a fairly traditional shoulder covering, crocheted in a fairly tame lace stitch texture, with a polished-looking yarn that’s not too thin or thick: a capelet in Tunisian crochet with Lotus. (Our “Black Gleam” color matched the dress! whew.)

Other Requirements I Hoped to Meet

Half of the capelet shown flat along its hem while it blocks.
Half of the capelet shown flat along its hem while it blocks.

Learn something new about crochet: this was the first time I tried doing a Tunisian “wicker” mesh in short rows with a built-in shaped collar, and a distinctive twisted-loop edging at the hem.

Use yarn already in my stash, ideally my Lotus yarn. I try to feature a different Lotus color each time I design with it. This was the first time I designed with the black.

Try out a trendy style: The trend of using mesh textures in a modern, sort of sporty way inspired the stitch pattern. (The edging later added more of a medieval-ish wrought iron look.)

Give my handmade item the kind of polish that could even make someone wonder if it was a store-bought designer label. (I don’t know if this actually happened).

Wearing Crochet to Memorials

I’d do it again. It was a tangible comfort to me.

Although I don’t think I caught sight of all 360 people individually, I feel confident in saying that I was the only one wearing crochet, or even a hand knit item.

To me, fabric has a language, and crochet adds a necessary voice to the conversation, at memorials too. Time spent crocheting Graven was also time spent contemplating the uncle I will miss so much. Crochet caught and is holding my feelings for him.