Monday, November 15, 2010

"How did I do that...?"

I love learning and developing new knitting and crochet techniques.  Occasionally I will just pick up yarn and needles or hook, and play.  This can either be exhilarating, or extremely frustrating, depending on whether my idea "works" or not.  I will often start with an existing technique, and play a "What If?" game.  What would happen if I wrapped the yarn a different way, or combined elements of two different stitch patterns, or tried to imitate a knitting technique in a piece of crochet (or vice versa)...?

Earlier this year, I decided to use some yarn from my stash to make some fingerless gloves, which seem to be all the rage at the moment (The aforementioned gloves rapidly disappeared at the bazaar last weekend!).  I decided to crochet the gloves, but wanted to add some special touches to make them unique. 

I had been playing around with crocheted foundation rows, and had come up with some interesting ideas.  A foundation row is used in place of the starting chain at the beginning of the work, and is basically a way of crocheting the chain and the first row simultaneously, which seems to avoid the problem of a tight chain at the beginning edge of the work.  This experimentation (a "beaded" foundation row which I hope to use in a future project) sparked the idea to try creating a scalloped foundation row to begin the gloves.  I liked the way this looked.  The great thing about this is that the same scalloped edging can be used at the other end of the gloves, as a standard edging.  What fun! 

The Scalloped Foundation Row

The Edging at the Other End of the Glove

Sometimes I am too clever for my own good, though.  If I neglect to write out how I did a technique at the time that I create it, I may have a hard time deciphering it when I later try to duplicate it.  Last weekend, I picked up one of my products at the bazaar and said, "How did I do that...?"  Hopefully, I wrote it down, and maybe one day I will find it among the sheaves of scribbled-upon paper that comprise my pattern "library". 

To continue my story, a couple of months ago, a lady convo'd me on Etsy to ask if she could buy the pattern for my fingerless gloves.  I told her I would try to get it ready to publish, but I didn't know if I had written down the pattern.  A vigorous search yielded no sign of a pattern.  So I pulled the gloves out of my stock so that I could re-crochet them.  True to form, when I examined the gloves, I asked myself, "How did I do that?"  It took me a couple of days to figure out what I had done!

But I finally did manage to recreate the gloves.  Here are a couple of photos of the finished product:

By the way, I did finally get the pattern written and published:

If you prefer, the pattern is also available as a download on

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cross-Pollination II

The second shop that we visited on our trip to Lincoln City was Mossy Creek Pottery.  It is just down the road from Alder House, and is actually closer to the highway.

This is a gallery with quite a variety of pottery and fused glass items.  There are both functional and purely decorative items here.  I love the "tiled" texture in these lovely vases:

And the vivid blue in this soup tureen took my breath away (wouldn't that beautiful gradation make a great knitted or woven scarf??).

Here are some beautiful but functional blues:

My husband liked this wall pocket, tucked away in the little corridor between two of the rooms:

I liked it, but was more drawn to this one:

In the next room, we found this shimmering platter:

And also these scenic plates, mounted on the wall:

I have always liked the contrast of matte and shiny, earthy and colorful in this line of products:

And I found this little cabbage-y tea set to be enchanting:

There was a whole shelf of shimmery urns:

Here's a closeup of my favorite one:

Check out the texture on the teacups and the cannister:

Even the bottom of the teacup has texture!!  I love it!  If I remember right, these teacups were more the size of a soup bowl.

 And last but not least, here are some bowls with great texture.  The center one reminds me of a crocheted basket.

There is much more in the shop--these are just some of my favorite pieces.  I think I need to go find some yarn--my mind is brimming with possibilities!  I hope the tour has inspired you, as well.  Go forth and create!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Inspiration from Other Art Forms

Sometimes, I find inspiration in things that have been created by others, often in totally different media.  My husband and I recently made a badly-needed day trip to the Oregon Coast, and visited a couple of our favorite shops there.  We have been fans of these shops for over 30 years now, and always enjoy browsing the beautifully crafted products they contain.  Today's post is about the first of these shops.

Alder House is the studio of Buzz and Anne Williams.  They, along with a few other artists, create gorgeous hand-blown glass objects in their studio just south of Lincoln City.  The studio has windows at eye level, with wide sills for display of the glass, so that the light shines through it and makes it glow.

Seeing the brightly colored shiny glass glowing in the sunlight always inspires me.  I want to create this kind of glowing color in my textile projects!

Alder House is more than just a gallery of objets d'art, though.  It is a working studio, in which the artisans create the objects that will be sold there.  The artist demonstrates his craft in front of the visitors, explaining what he is doing and why.  As much as I enjoy drooling over the gorgeous glass display, I cannot resist watching the artist at work, even though I have watched this process many times over the years.  It is somewhat mesmerizing to watch the twirling glass at the end of the blower's rod take shape, almost always in a rather surprising way.

This time, we got to watch glassblower Treasure Collupy create a glass starfish.  Here he is heating the starfish towards the end of the process:

Here's another shot of the starfish.  In this one, I believe he's smoothing the points at the end of the starfish's legs.

Of course, the color of the starfish will be very different when it has cooled.  I believe this one will be green and blue!

And now, for a sampling of the vibrant colors and graceful shapes of Alder House glasswork:

I hope you have enjoyed the tour as much as I did.  The question now, is, how will this affect my creations in fiber and yarn?  How will it affect yours??

Monday, September 20, 2010

Explorations in Reversible Cables

The matching Saxon Braid Cap and Scarf
Sometimes, my inspiration comes from playing around with a technique or an idea.  How can I change an existing stitch pattern to make it look the way I want it to?  I often spend a fair amount of time experimenting, trying different variations on a technique or a pattern before I am even half satisfied with the results.

This happened earlier this year, when I was knitting some cabled hats with the Saxon Braid cable pattern around the rim.  I wanted to make a scarf pattern to match the hat pattern I had designed, but I really, really dislike making scarves that are not presentable on both sides.  As most knitters are aware, most cable patterns look totally different on the back.  And the Saxon Braid pattern was no exception.

There is a technique for making reversible cables which do look the same on front and back--it involves working the cable over twice as many stitches, and working the cable stitches in a k1, p1 rib.  The cable is twisted in the normal manner (for example, a 4-stitch reversible cable is worked over 8 stitches, with four stitches crossed over 4).  When the fabric is knitted, the knit stitches pull to the front of the work, and the purls pull to the back, and you have a knitted cable on each side of the fabric.

A typical reversible cable utilizing k1p1 rib
I tried using this principle to knit the Saxon Braid cable, but it just didn't work.  The Saxon Braid is made up of six two-stitch columns that interweave across the braid panel, and I just couldn't figure out any way to easily do these crossings, some of which involve knit stitches crossing over purl stitches.  And the resulting fabric was quite unsatisfactory, anyway.

One day, as I was knitting a Saxon Braid Cap, I happened to notice something on the back of the fabric that piqued my interest.  An idea was born--and I soon found myself knitting a reversible scarf with the Saxon Braid pattern on one side, and a slightly different interlaced pattern on the other.  Woohoo!!

The Saxon Braid pattern is on the right; the interlaced pattern is on the left.
If you are curious about this technique, I have just published the Saxon Braid Reversible Scarf pattern.  It will be available in my Etsy shop, and on Ravelry!

I hope to soon have some of these scarves listed in my Etsy shop, as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Light and Shadow, Part 3

In this post, I will share some of my own creations in which I have explored light and shadow.  This first photo is a clutch type bag, in a light lavender with a lacy. black flap.  I like the contrast between the black lace and the pastel fabric behind it:

I really enjoy beading, when I get the time to do it.  This next item is a beaded needle case in peyote stitch, with a stained-glass-like diamond pattern on it.  The shiny beads seem to glow, just like a stained glass window!

And here's another beaded needle case.  On this one, I was trying to portray the luminous colors of an ocean sunset:

This tam was the result of my explorations of the Domino Knitting technique.  Its pattern utilizes two shades of gray:

This short-row tam from handspun yarn also has a stained-glass glow:

In another technique, here's a kumihimo braided necklace, with bright colors contrasted with black.  I love how the black makes the colors "pop"!

Highly textured items create light and shadow effects, as in this Saxon Braid Cap:

Some fibers have a reflective quality, like the handspun silk embroidery thread in this embroidered pincushion:

This knitted scarf mixes shiny metallic yarn with matte and furry yarns to create an interesting effect:

Here's another scarf, crocheted with shiny, furry novelty yarn and matte wool yarn:

And finally, a mini paperweight made of shiny colored glass encrusted with crochet:

Most of these items are listed in my Etsy shop, if you would like to see more pictures or find out more about them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Light and Shadow, Part 2

What would we do without light?  It is so basic to our way of life that I can't even imagine life without it.  Here are some more images that have inspired me--all have some relation to light and shadow.

This moth has a subtle pattern of light and dark brown on its wings:

This forest "tunnel" has a bright green meadow at the end of it:

This next "tunnel" is created by an arch of bright, sunlit leaves; can you see it?

Here is a mossy silhouette, framing the streambed beyond.  I see lots of texture here,as well!

Light cast obliquely on an object makes its texture show up dramatically.  The light and shadow on this tree's bark create interesting patterns:

These bejeweled flowers have varying shades of pink:

And, speaking of jewels, this cedar tree is encrusted with sparkling dew-diamonds, with the sun shining through them ( I am forever trying to capture the brightly-colored sparkles of dewdrops in photographs, and have thus far been highly unsuccessful;  does anyone have any tips for me?):

The different shades of green here are partly created by light and shadow, and partly by different pigments in the leaves of this evergreen shrub:

And finally, here are trees silhouetted against the luminous sunset sky:

Whether it is dark and light shades of the same color, or light shining through translucent substances like flower petals or colored glass, or the contrast of dark against light, I love the effects that light and shadow create.  In my next post, I hope to share some of my own creations using light and dark elements.