Friday, September 24, 2010

Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers by Amy Polcyn



I am so happy to be the fifth stop in the Blog Tour of Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers by Amy Polcyn and House of White Birches!

This is a great book of thirteen knitted slippers patterns by Amy Polcyn. There is something for every taste and skill level! Directions are given for three different sizes and the instructions are easy to follow and explained well. Following the review, Amy was gracious enough to answer some questions about her design work.


Brightly Beaded Moccasins is one of my favorite pair of slippers in the book. They look so comfortable and functional, but because of the added touch of seed beading, have just the right touch of elegance. The color pattern looks simple to do and is highlighted by contrasting beads that are sewn in place. What a nice addition!

Crochet Cafe: Can you explain the beading technique that is used on the finished knitted slipper? 
Amy: To keep it easy and to use the size beads I wanted,  I simply sewed the beads in place on the finished slipper, following the chart and using matching thread.  Alternately, you could string the beads on the yarns and knit them in as you go, but along with working the colorwork pattern at the same time this might be too "fussy" for some. If you choose to string the beads on the yarn, slightly larger beads may be required.
Crochet Cafe: Is there a special technique for changing colors in knitting?
Amy: I used a stranded colorwork technique for the toe of the slippers, similar to Fair Isle designs.  Carry the yarn not in use loosely along the wrong side of the work, and knit each stitch in the color shown on the chart.  To keep the work from puckering, be sure to avoid pulling the yarn tightly when making a color change.  This usually requires keeping the tension looser than you would normally. 


Another great pair of slippers in this book are Mary Jane Slippers. Mary Jane's are one of my most favorite designs to crochet and having a fun, simple pattern in knitting is a great change of pace. Using variegated yarn, as shown in the photo, makes a simple garter stitch even more attractive!

Crochet Cafe: Would a beginning knitter be able to follow this pattern?
Amy: These and are an excellent choice for a beginner!  The slippers are worked in garter stitch throughout, so each row is knitted (no purling).  Although the short row heel may seem tricky for a new knitter with the "wrap and turn" instruction, it is simply a matter of moving the yarn between the needles, slipping the next stitch, and moving the yarn back. The bulky yarn and larger needles make this a fast project, so even a new knitter can be done in no time. For a more experienced knitter, it's possible to whip these out in an evening.  I'm planning to make a few pairs of these for myself to use up some leftover yarn-- Mary Janes are my favorite.

Crochet Cafe: Do you have a favorite way to cast on your stitches?
 Amy: My favorite cast on is the long tail.  I think it's fast to work, easy, and gives a neat, fairly elastic edge.  I don't like taking the time to calculate how long the tail needs to be before casting on, though, so I just overcompensate and cut off the excess when I'm done.  
Thanks, Amy! 
Knit a Dozen Plus Slippers can be purchased HERE
Be sure to check out the next stop on this blog tour tomorrow at:
Two Sticks and a Sheep by Amy Duncan 

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

MEET THE DESIGNER - Vashti Braha

We are introducing a brand new feature here at Cute Crochet Chat! Periodically, we will be posting an interview with some of your favorite crochet designers! Today, we are lucky enough to have the incomparable  Vashti Braha with us! Vashti recently launched a new website with some incredible crochet designs for sale. After reading our interview, check out all the wonderful crochet patterns she has to offer!


1. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CROCHETING AND WHEN DID YOU FIRST LEARN?

My mother taught me when I was nine. She had started out a self-taught knitter, but as a young mother with two children under the age of three, she taught herself to crochet so that she didn’t have to worry about dropped stitches. Her grandmother’s crochet inspired her to learn. I instantly fell in love with crochet when I learned it. I felt like I was empowered to make anything that I could imagine.

2. IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANYONE, LEARNING AND SHARING ABOUT CROCHET,  WHO WOULD IT BE?

Ooo, that’s a tough one! I’m going to rule out those with whom I’ve already been able to do that. It would be James Walters or Annie Potter. Two very different people! It’s because of both the breadth and depth of each of their penetrating explorations into stitch structures and range of materials.

3. How did you become interested in actual designing in crochet?

Once I knew what crochet was, I don’t think there was a time when I wasn’t interested in designing. It just took me a long long time to find out how to go about it! I didn’t know that’s what I was doing all along. I found out six years ago by attending a CGOA conference and being asked to sell the designs that I was wearing.

4. Where do you get most of your inspiration from, for crochet designs?

Most often it’s from the challenge of solving a problem, and from specific crochet stitches. My fingers will start craving the feeling of a type of stitch in a type of yarn, and I’ll start getting a vision of the kind of fabric I want to end up with. The “Weightless Tunisian Stole” is a perfect example. I was driven by a specific fabric fantasy. Or take love knots. The stitch fascinates me and the space “inside” each love knot captured my imagination. The Love Knot Embracelet and the Lovepod Boa designs result from my daydreaming about the spaces as being places.
  



Currently a Weightless crochet-along is starting up in Crochetville HERE










5. Would you say that you have a particular design style?

If you mean an overall look and feel, I suspect I do by now but I’m not good at stepping back and looking at my stuff that way. I think of myself as doing a quirky range of different things, but one word editors have used from the beginning to describe my stuff is “breezy.” Maybe living in Florida influences my design style.
If you mean a particular approach, overall I seem to favor side-to-side construction, and mixing types of construction in one piece. Lately I’ve been on a “corner-start/on the bias” jag. I like unexpected ways to arrive at the same thing....or to arrive at an unexpected thing :)

6. Has your style changed at all since you first started crochet design?

I look at some early designs now and think, “Ah, yes, that was from my exuberant phase.” For example, “Lunar Window.” Back then I had just learned how to make chainless foundation stitches of any height. Meanwhile in the Crochet Partners forum, people were complaining about Fun Fur because it was difficult to work the first row into the foundation chains with that yarn. I figured, people would have more fun using their Fun Fur stash if they avoided using a foundation chain altogether. I used 3 colors of Fun Fur so that the color would change as the stitch heights changed.


I’m very fond of my early patterns and the way I went out on a limb sometimes. I had no idea what I was really in for when it came time to write up the patterns for them!
On the other hand, I feel like I’ve always used crochet to express everything, as my “mother tongue”, just like how I use English, and time seasons my skills and reveals new crochet vocabulary. Not sure how much that changes my style.
I sure don’t understand people who think they know all there is to know about crochet! Sometimes I hear this from people who learned how to knit and crochet and only seem to let themselves be challenged by knitting. For me, crochet is ever full of mystery. There’s plenty more to discover. I’m grateful for every day that I have the time and health and passion and funds to explore it!

8. Do you have a favorite pattern of your own design, either sold or self-published that you love the most?

I have a few kinds of favorites. When I succeed in designing something that is perfection in function, it’s a “go-to” pattern--the first thing I reach for and use all the time, like Quencher. When my current Quencher wears out, I will make another to replace it immediately. (To this day I’ve never succeeded in creating a go-to cardigan for my picky self, but I keep trying. It has to settle across my back neck and shoulders a certain way, allow freedom of movement, not feel heavy, be something that I want to make in every color, etc.)


Other patterns are my favorites because they express my spirit so much, such as Mermaid Shrug, Lovepods Boa, Crystal Jubilee Vest (and of course the infamous Chaps LOL). And then there are the ones I’m proud of because of the engineering: the Barcelona, Baroque Tabard, Tokyo Jacket (the first is a join-as-you-go side-to-side raglan with invisible lace seams; the other two are simple shapes with various features that give the illusion of shaping).

Crystal Jubilee Vest (to commemorate CGOA’s 15th Anniversary)



Barcelona Jacket (free pattern)

Baroque Tabard (free pattern)

Tokyo Jacket (free pattern)


9. How did you first become involved with the Crochet Guild of America?

I discovered the online crochet world shortly after I became a mom in 1999. It was heaven. (It’s still heaven!) I found out about CGOA and their Chain Link conferences from the first forum I ever joined, Crochet Partners. The first Chain Link conference I attended (for 1 day!) was in 2002 because it was held in West Palm Beach and I could drive to it. It was my first time away since having a baby. I was hooked from then on. My next conference was 2004, where I met Gwen Blakely Kinsler, the founder, and I learned all about the history of the organization; and I met Marty Miller, who told me about CGOA’s mentor program for Associate Professionals.

Here’s a photo of Marty and me at the CGOA design booth for the 2005 Chain Link conference: 


10. Most of our readers love learning about 'breaking into' the crochet design business. What advice or tips can you give other crocheters who are interested in such a venture?

If a crocheter would like to go professional, the best thing he or she could do is to crochet every day in an exploratory way. This accomplishes many things: you grow your skills which strengthens your designs; you develop a bank of design ideas so that you’re primed for when an editor puts out a call for design proposals or for when you’re ready to launch a pattern line, or put together a book proposal; and you get habituated to a productive routine. Try a new-to-you stitch pattern, or a hook size outside of your comfort zone, or a yarn with a different texture or fiber than you’re used to. It doesn’t have to be for a long period of time every day, but it’s even better if you keep a pen and design notebook nearby, get into an introspective/reflective zone, and start playing with hook and yarn. When you discover something, jot it in your notebook and save that swatch. Have little hang tags at hand so that you can label it with the hook size you used (get a box of them at any office supply store). Tape the swatch to the page, or if that’s not practical, write the notebook page number on the tag.
I keep colored pencils nearby too. I’ve learned about myself that I forget to experiment with colorwork, so after I experiment with a stitch combination, I try visualizing what would happen if I changed colors here and there, and I sketch for later.

11. What's on your hook now?


Four things:

- A diamond-shaped vest/wrap shape experiment with an interesting picot mesh stitch pattern worked on the bias. This one’s suspenseful! I have no idea how it’s going to turn out.

- A beaded craft yarn version of “Frostyflakes,” a wide shallow side-to-side triangular wrap that I’ll be adding to my pattern website soon. I made a white one in mulberry silk yarn shop yarn, and I like to show my designs in yarns from both yarn shops and craft chain stores.

- A thing, which will be in a book. You can wear it. I can’t talk about it because I’m not the publisher :)

- Teaching a class on my popular “Satin Pillows Necklace” in a yarn shop inspired me to use my pale pink pearl strand to make a third one. It has a Ravelry project page:

Thank you Vashti, for an extremely informative and interesting Meet The Designer!!

 
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