Monday, 5 November 2012

Bargello Crochet

This is Not Your Nana's Needlework!

All has been quiet on the blog for a while now. I wont bore you with too many details, but one of the reasons  behind this silence is that I have been dating! Yes, Dating!

After being single for over a year, I met a wonderful man.

He is an Author of Children's books. If you are curious, you can find his blog and his books here.

Anyway, the 1st of November marked the start of National Novel Writing Month  so DC is, for the majority of the month, going to be holed up in his sanctuary dementedly writing a book!

In the lead-up to this insanely optimistic challenge of stringing 50,000 words into coherent sentences with various characters and plausible (and often hilarious)  plot-lines; the creative outpouring of ideas is inevitable. It was during this time that I had the (possibly idiotic) idea of showing my support for his work by setting a goal of my own:

To develop 12 original crochet patterns during the month of November!

And so I started pouring over my Vintage (and one or 2 new) Needlework books and patterns, trying to find inspiration for something new.

I fawned all over the Bargello (sometimes called Florentine) embroidery patterns on canvas. The patterns are so beautiful and colourful.

I dreamt about them.

I woke up and the images of Bargello in CROCHET were still stuck in my head. So by hook or by crook, I was going to develop something new! Chevrons that were a combination of different heights and widths, that had a 'pixelated' look to them AND had great colour combinations.
Thank goodness I was a hairdresser for 13 years (with colour theory was in use constantly) before I got sick!

 And that I have 2 years worth of Technical Writing under my belt!

And Praise God/Allah/Buddah/Mars the Bar God that I have a fantastic team of pattern testers from all over the world, with differing levels of experience to check my work! They are amazingly patient, forgiving, helpful, excitable and fun to work with!

With the input of the lovely men and women who 'like' The Crochet Case on FaceBook, the 12 pattern series has quickly been converted into the challenge of creating an e-book; or 2 or 3!

You can find more sneak peeks of Bargello Crochet on my Facebook Page.

Until we meet again,

Happy Hooking!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Yarnbomb disasters!

Who loves a good yarnbomb?

I do!

This year I decided (albeit a little late due the general craziness of life) that I would join in on the fun of International Yarnbombing Day – 9 June 2012. My first EVER yarnbomb adventure!

I decided to draw upon a local festival for inspiration. Annually, on the first weekend in June, our little town holds “Scarecrow Festival”. Every year, people create and display scarecrows in their front yards. There are prizes for most inventive scarecrow and the flea markets make a killing!

With excitement and enthusiasm I raided my yarn stash, my craft cupboards and dragged out the trusty old hot-glue gun for a little added bling. Colour! Lots and lots of colour! And feathers! Piles and piles of them! But I will get to those later.

Before worrying myself with feathers and bling, I wanted a simple tree cozy. Nothing fancy... just a colourful strip wrapped around a huge tree... can’t be too hard right?

Like a demented woman keen on self denial I have, for the last four days, been working my fingers to the bone – literally! One may have described me over the last week to be some kind of [questionably] high functioning insomniac with an unhealthy obsession with YARN!

I calculated the number of stitches that went into the 20 cm wide and 4 metre long strip of crochet fabric to be wrapped around a branch... the whole thing was made in single crochet and chain stitches [weave stitch].

A 20cm square requires 841 stitches (excluding the foundation chain)

1 metre  of this crochet fabric (5x 20 cm) = 4205 stitches

All four metres of this THING = 16,820 stupid stitches!!!

Why did I do this again? Couldn’t I have chosen to make this strip of crochet fabric in a taller stitch?

Oh but wait... I get madder still. Back to the inspiration drawn from the festival... With all of these scarecrows about, I wondered (in this wildly irrational, slightly loopy mind of mine) about the poor little birdies all frightened by the - sometimes ugly, always quirky - Scarecrows of Milton. In come the feathers and the bling!

In total, 53 birds have been made. Each created from a basic HDC circle. They have felt beaks, feathers for wings and beads for eyes, all attached with the assistance of a hot glue gun. Each bird required 5 dots of hot glue. I’m certain I have burnt the tips of my fingers at LEAST once for each bird. That’s 53 little red dots, blisters and cuss words expelled!

Each complete bird consists of 55 stitches (80 including sewing them closed). Let’s see now...

55 x 53 = 2115
4240 including finishing!

In four days, I have made a total of 21,060 complete stitches to create tomorrow’s yarnbomb!

Besides the sheer number of stitches required OMG the mess! Good Lord the mess! My living room, craft room and bedroom all look as if someone has spewed a revolting mix of yarn, brightly coloured feathers and the entire contents of a Diva store (!) every day for the last week – and they didn’t have the courtesy to at least clean it up!

When do the fairies get back from holidays? Maybe I should have paid them more?

The preparation for a yarnbomb has been fun, frustrating, awesome and challenging! Yes, I am poking a little fun at the Scarecrow Festival, but that does not mean that I don’t love it, or our town. On the contrary in fact! It means that I love it so much; that I am willing to put myself through the pain of the last few days to brighten up the place a bit on what is, despite the Festival a wintery weekend!

I think next year I will be more organised, and enlist some help! 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Five Reasons

NOT to craft when you are cranky:

1. You are more likely to get frustrated with your work. 

The piece may end up being thrown across the room or worse, become a WIP that never gets finished. 

2. Your mood shows in your work. 

I don't know about you, but if I am in a particularly bad mood when crafting (especially if working on an Amigurumi piece) my mood is reflected in my work. See example below. 

Poor Nana here was supposed to be all cute and sweet. She ended up looking like a deranged old zombie with bad fashion sense instead. 

3. If you prick yourself with a needle; instead of quickly drawing in a breath and sucking the injured finger, you may be inclined to swear - loudly. Not so good if the kids are about. 

4.  Your colour choices will be affected.

5. You are much less likely to be able to concentrate on that difficult pattern you have started for the first time (or remember to write down what you are doing if you are designing a new piece). 

That said, I found a fabulous quote from the amazing Melody McDuffie yesterday: 

"Crocheting apparently, for many of us, generates a healing sense of peacefulness akin to that produced by meditation. My theory is that, like meditation, crocheting requires a narrowed and disciplined focus that results in a quieting of the mind. Therefore, when it is engaged in regularly, it eventually produces many of the same results as daily meditation: reduced stress, an enhanced sense of well-being and self-esteem, an easier acceptance of life's vicissitudes, and an attitude of greater compassion for one's fellow beings.

I know I'm going way out on a limb here, but think about it this way: it would explain why, at least in my experience, crocheters, as a group, are among the world's kindest and most generous-spirited people."

I know many crafter's whose sole reason for crafting is to give to others, to charity, the less fortunate and family or friends. Others craft to help support their families by selling their patterns or finished items. I like to support all of these crafter's alike where I can. Even if it's just a 'shout-out" on Facebook. Art and Crafts of any medium are implicit in the growth of our heart, spirit, family and society. All I will ask of you is to love your fellow artisans. 

Happy Crafting. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

I Heart Inspiration

I must confess! I love Amigurumi Koeshi. They are cute, easy enough to 'dress' up and work up relatively fast compared to something you need to sew limbs onto.   I also confess that I have been a fan of Heart Candy for over a year now, gleefully looking on as the magnificent Jess works her magic with paint, paper, buttons, ribbon and glue. I love seeing her creations. I love the colours she uses. I love the artistic vision she has to be able to make such perfectly whimsical art pieces. My only problem is that-  as a single mum, I cant afford to purchase an original as much as I envy those who do.

oh boy *gush* over.....

What to do?
I decided to apply the concept of Jessie's work to 3D - with a crochet hook, yarn, needle thread and buttons. Lots and lots of buttons! I don't mean the ones you can purchase in a store. I mean crochet buttons! 30 of them to be exact. Have I mentioned yet that I have patience the size of a flea? Have I mentioned that I hate working repetitively? Arrrrrghhh! What did I get myself into?

The crochet buttons were used to create the bun upon bun upon bun look of Jessies' artworks. I think I may have gone a little overboard with it, but I love my new little friend nonetheless.

Four toothpicks, eight beads and a little craft/wood glue to make the chopstick bun holder thingies.

Six more beads for the flower stamen.

A little embroidery thread, a funky button from the discount store and TA-DA! 

Her head is stuffed with cotton card-fly and her body is fabric lined and stuffed with rice. The rice is heavier than the cotton, so stabilises her enabling her to stand autonomously (if you push her head the right way that is!).

I'm scared, petrified even.... that Jess wont like what I have done. I am crediting her with the design, because lets face it, we all get inspiration from SOMEWHERE and today, its Jessie' turn to be recognised and credited for inspiring others to create something wonderful (well, I think this little Kokeshi ptetty cool anyway).

THANK YOU JESSIE for being my inspiration today!

If you would like to see more of Heart Candy, click here to go to Jessie's Big Cartel Store.

Happy Crafting!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Tangles, Tantrums and Times Tables

The Anatomy of a Spiral 

For a long time, designing the perfect spiral eluded me. I just couldn't seem to get them right. Sure, I could follow a pattern all-right, but DESIGNING a spiral confused me. I'd get lost on which row I was supposed to be working on and almost always ended up frogging anything that I had managed to do out of sheer frustration.

As usual, I like to be a little difficult and wanted a spiral with more than the usual three or four colours.
I wanted a spiral with eight colours. Again, I went in search of a pattern or image to work from (I'd rather not reinvent the wheel) but found NOTHING.  :(

Being the geek that I am, I've searched high and low for information about the anatomy of a crochet spiral- and the mathematics behind it all, but alas, I kept finding complicated equations for Hyperbolic crochet (not very practical for blankets or garments really - with the exception of a few cool ideas bouncing around in this nutty head of mine -  and the Fibonacci theory; none of which really makes sense unless you are AWESOME at algebra and geometry and can understand what all of those weird little symbols mean.

I searched for patterns, tutorials and numbers and finally came across something that made the anatomy of a spiral "CLICK". Ahhh! So that's it!

I eventually found a tutorial  from the amazing Elisabeth Wetsch of Nadelspiel , (a German knit and crochet cooperative) of a spiral granny square. which is a really cool take on the 'circle to square' that I had been playing with last week. The video is in Deutsch and my German is VERY rudimentary - I only had one year of lessons when I was in the 7th grade and that was a long time ago now. However, my language skills were good enough for me understand most of the video, for what I couldn't understand I just had to wing it.

So I reverted to my mathematics again. 

But where to start???? 

No, no, don't run away.... I couldn't understand anything unless the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)  principle applied to everything - All of the sums you need to do are very basic. If you know your times tables and/or can use a calculator, you'll be just fine. 

Step 1: 
Decide how many colours you want in your spiral. 
In my case, I wanted 8 colours. 
My first number is 8. 

Step 2: 
You will need a foundation circle to get you started. You need 3 stitches in your foundation circle for every colour you want to use. 
Multiply the number of colours by 3. 
In my case: 8 x 3 = 24
The stitch count of my foundation circle needs to be 24. 

Step 3: 
Make your foundation circle, applying the law of circle to ensure you get off to a good start. 
In my case, I used a Magic Circle, 
Row 1: 12 SC
Row 2: [INC, SC] x 6 (18sc) 
Row 3: [INC, SC x 2] x 6 (24 sc) slst to join. 
Now, you will notice in almost any pattern that calls for a spiral, the first 2 or three stitches are shorter than the rest. This is why I used Single Crochet as my foundation circle. The increase in the height of the stitches gives the spiral the 'lift' it needs to get out of being a plain old circle. 

Step 4: 
Regardless of how many colours you have chosen, using the equation  above for your foundation circle, when colours are added, each colour is worked in the same manner. 
Row 4: Section 1 - first colour (same as your foundation circle) *Ch 1, SC, HDC, 2DC into next stitch, place a stitch marker or pull up your loop so that stitches are not dropped *
For all additional sections/colours - join new colour into same st as 2DC using slst, then  repeat ** 
I used 8 colours, so each section in Row 4 is repeated 8 times. 

This is the foundation circle with the first coloured row (row 4).
Hahaha I know I know - you can only see 6 colours right??? Look closer. I used the white and rainbow yarn  twice! :) 

Step 5: 
This is the really cool part. You remember the Law of Circle? Increase (inc), 1, increase, 2, increase 3 etc. etc... 
It STILL applies to the spiral! 

What had me confused (before it clicked) was the differentiation between the increase for each section and how it just didn't seem to fit. 

We finished our first coloured row on an INCREASE, and this is our first round that builds upon the spiral,  so each section in your following round should start with ONE stitch into the ch 1 sp, then an INCREASE, then One stitch into the next stitch. I'll give you the example again using the 8 colour spiral. 

Row 5: *2HDC, DC into next st, 2DC into next st,* repeat ** eight (8) times (5 st in each colour)
See how we are applying the law of circle? inc, 1, inc, 1? 

Row 6: *DC into next st, 2DC into next stitch, DC into next 2st's, 2DC into next* repeat ** eight (8) times (7 st in each colour) 
See how we are applying the law of circle? inc, 2, inc, 2? 

Continue in this manner for as long as you like. 

Remember that your rows are worked on top of one another, so you if you want to check your work,  count on a single colour line the spaces between each increase. Your spiral should literally have from the first coloured row to the last (excluding your short stitches), the law of circles applied. You should have 1, inc, 2, inc, 3, inc, 4, inc, 5, inc, etc... all on the one colour. 

Can you see on the image below? 
Looking at the while row and counting backwards from the last increase, there are 5 double crochet's before another increase. Keep going backwards, you will see that there will be 4 Double Crochet before the next increase. 

When you have finished your spiral, as you work  the last row, slowly step down using shorter stitches to bring the spiral back to a true circle. For example, if your next row needs 20 stitch in each colour, work 10 stitches in your tallest stitches (DC in the case of the 8 colour spiral), then 5 stitches in  the next shortest stitch (HDC) then the last 5 stitch in SC, slst to join.

HINT: The only real problem you might incur when working in a spiral, is the entangled trap you set for yourself as you spin your work around! The yarn works itself around each other and can in some cases get so bad that you'll need to cut and rejoin your yarn if you aren't careful.

To avoid at least some of the tangles I've used 2 gift boxes with holes punched in the sides to try and keep the yarn tidy. I have four colours in each box, in order of their placement in the WIP. By keeping half of the yarn in one box, and the other half in another, and sitting with one box either side of my body as I work, the tangles are reduced (I said REDUCED - not eliminated altogether) and there wont be quite as many tantrums on your part.

Don't forget I love to see your work, so if this information has been useful and you have created something special, why not share your work on my Facebook page (there is a link at the top right of this page)?

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Life is a Beach!

Well, on Tuesday my plans all went out the window! I WAS going to post the pattern for the Crazy Square. BUT! The kids were going nuts, the weather has been awful here and the poor little loves have been stuck inside for too long.

Today is my "kid free' day. Thursdays are the day when both of my children are off with their Daddy and I get a WHOLE DAY to do anything I want/need/could be bothered to do.

I live in the most amazing area, where beach, bushland and farmland meet. There is never a shortage of placed to walk, hike, ride or just admire.

This morning I decided to go for a walk. The sun (briefly) came out of hiding and I thought a walk along the beach would be nice. It was beautiful however - very different to how our local beach usually looks.

Where this driftwood, seaweed and water is; there is usually perfectly calm seas and sandy white beach. 

Apparently there were swells of 12-15ft. Not hard to believe if you saw it. Of course, with swells so big, the surfers were out there having a ball. I was too scared to look. Every time one of them caught a wave I held my breath, prayed and turned the other way. 

Though the sun disappeared behind the clouds very quickly, the rain did not come. YAY! So I thought.... A bush-walk would be nice. 

The fungi on this sculpture looks like the Hyperbolic crochet we all love - or the Hyperbolic crochet looks like the fungi? Either way, it was spectacular. I walked for about an hour and came across all manner of natures goodness; flowers with petals that look like feathers and native birds in [what appeared to be] the throws of a mating dance. All along this particular track there are carved sculptures and the sound of the ocean crashing against the cliffs was entirely soothing and refreshing.

After all of this walking it was time for some retail [?] therapy. I add a "?" because my idea of 'retail' therapy is a trip to the local thrift stores to see what I can find. Eight vintage pattern magazines and a whole heap of neon - nylon mesh ribbon was purchased for the grand total of $8!!

Sorry. I know. All of this has nothing to do with crochet. I'm getting to that part.
So, I WAS going to post the pattern for the Crazy Square on Tuesday like I said. When I got home I decided to tidy up and then post this afternoon except, when I went looking for my Pattern Diary it was missing!

I searched in every room of the house. High and Low. Then I found it. Under the lounge. With pages torn out. The pages with the pattern that I was going to post on Tuesday that I wanted to post (albeit late) today! Not only were the pages torn out, but also shredded! My little girl must have got hold of it while I was in the shower yesterdayand decided to play a fun game [she LOVES the sound of paper tearing!] while Mummy wasn't looking.

With embarrassment, I offer you my deepest apologies for my failure to upload a new pattern today.

On the upside, the neon- nylon mesh ribbon (or whatever it is called) will have a new purpose soon. Can you guess what it will be from the hint in the photo above?

Until next time....

Happy Crafting!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Oh Yeah?!!!!

I have a confession to make.

I am a raging bull in a china shop if you even THINK about telling me I cant do something.

I will take the "NO", "IF", or "I bet you cant ......" that comes from your lips and I will run with it, toss it around by the tail, stick a pointy horn into its rear end and yell: "OH YEAH????! WATCH ME!"

Be warned. Don't stand in my way or make a noise if I am trying to do what it is that I have set out to do. You know... that thing you think I cant do? You might get hurt. It doesn't matter if the only person using these terribly negative words is the little devil inside my head. I'll still rip into it like it was a red rag in a bullfighting ring.

So when the little voice in my head said yesterday: "I bet you cant make a circle into a square, into a star, then back to a circle then a square again can you?" What do you think happened?

I DID NOT SLEEP A WINK last night. The yarn was flying the hook was raging and my brain was fried! But guess what! I managed it! Yeah! To that little voice in my head that said "I bet you cant" ..... UP YOURS!

I'll tell you, it's a good thing that this bull doesn't react to the word "dare". You never know what might have happened. Maybe I would have jumped out of an aeroplane with nothing but an umbrella for a parachute; or dived headlong into a river in the middle of the worst drought in history. If the bull reacted to Dares ..... Gah! I'd hate to think!

As you can imagine, I am exhausted tonight, so off to bed with my pretty little head. I'll try to post the pattern up for you all tomorrow.

Sleep tight!