Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Top-Down Sweaters

One of my favorite designers is Dora Ohrenstein. I have several of her books, and each one is well worth the price. They are more than pattern books. She always includes lots of useful information for learning new skills. Dora's latest book is Top-Down Crochet Sweaters. The top-down style of construction is popular because it allows you to try the sweater on as you crochet it and adjust the fit as needed. I haven't made a lot of top-down sweaters so I was eager to get this book. 

The book contains 14 sweater patterns that are arranged in pairs. The members of each pair share the same basic theme - the style of yoke, either round or raglan, and the stitch pattern. But other than that, they are different sweaters. They're made with different yarns. One may be a pullover while its pair is a cardigan. One might have long sleeves and the other short sleeves. The necklines might vary. I've never seen a book arranged this way, and it's very intriguing. 

One of the most eye-catching designs in the book is Nanette which is featured on the cover. It's a lovely half-sleeved cardigan that can be worn buttoned in the front or the back. It's pair is Erde, a pullover with 3/4 length sleeves. They both use an interesting crossed stitch with plenty of texture.

As I mentioned above, Dora always includes more than patterns in her books. Chapter 1 contains a detailed discussion of top-down construction including the two styles of yoke, neckline shaping, creating the underarms, and adding the sleeves and body. Chapter 2 contains information on choosing an appropriate yarn, swatching to get gauge and achieve your desired drape, and how to block your sweater. Chapter 3 describes how to take your measurements so your finished project will fit the way you want. Dora also explains reading schematics, how different fibers affect fit, and here's the best part - how to make alterations to customize your sweater both in fit and elements of the design. Want a tighter neckline? Dora tells you how to do it. Prefer long sleeves to short sleeves? That's covered too. So is adding waist shaping and adjusting bust size. She even explains how to change a pattern from a pullover to a cardigan. I love this! Dora gives you the tools to make exactly the sweater you want. 

I know I'm going to make several sweaters from this book. I chose Zora, a pullover with lace panels, as my first one for a practical reason. I had appropriate yarn in my stash. The biggest modification I made was to lengthen the half sleeves to full length. I also tightened the neckline a bit and increased the armhole depth all with information contained in this book. I'm very happy with the result.

So, what shall I make next? I think I'd like a cardigan. I have yarn that should work for either Janelle or Magda. I love Janelle's relaxed look, and Magda's cables. I'm going to swatch for both of these patterns and see which which one speaks to me. 

If you're tempted by a sweater or 3 from this book, get yourself a copy and join us in Dora's Crochet Insider group on Ravelry for a crochet along. No worries about starting or ending dates because it's open ended. Some lovely sweaters have been the result so far.

Dora has several earlier books that I also recommend. Custom Crocheted Sweaters tells you how to customize sweaters of various of constructions to achieve your desired fit. Creating Crochet Fabric is a manual on how to take virtually any yarn and get the fabric you want. It's a great resource and includes a small stitch dictionary. See more of Dora's books and individual patterns here

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to leave a comment if you decide to make a pattern from Dora's book.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Granny Does Yoga

Back in August, I made a granny rectangle for Granny Square Day (August 15). 

Starting granny rectangles is a bit different from starting a granny square. Probably the most common way is to start with a chain for the length of your starting round. I don't care for the flimsiness of the chain so I started with a double crochet eyelet. I've seen this technique a variety of places, but I learned it in Marty Miller's Craftsy class Mastering Crochet Foundation Stitches. It's a great class, by the way, and covers all sorts of variations of foundation stitches and things you can do with them. For the eyelet foundation, chain 3 then dc into the 3rd chain from the hook. That's one eyelet. Repeat for your desired length. How long should that be? If you know what you want for your finished dimensions, subtract the short side measurement from the long side measurement. The result is how long to make your foundation. The first round of 3 dc clusters is made into the spaces of the eyelets.  

I liked my rectangle so I decided to continue working on it and use up some more leftover bits of yarn. I wasn't sure what I was going to make with it until I hit on the idea of a bag for my yoga mat. I kept going on the rectangle until its short dimension was a bit larger than the circumference of my rolled up yoga mat. Then I seamed it into a tube. For the bottom of the bag, I made a granny circle.

I made a strap that resembles a granny rectangle using this tutorial from the FutureGirl blog.

It needed to be a bit longer so I added a few rounds of granny clusters to the top, and this was the result. All and all, not bad considering I had no plan. Plan?? Who needs a plan??

So, dig out your stash of little leftover balls of yarn. You know you have one. But don't be square. Try a granny rectangle!

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival 2016 


The Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival was last weekend. It was a gorgeous fall weekend if a bit on the warm side. I spent the weekend hanging out with my crochet guild buddies at the display our CGOA chapter - Always in Stitches put together. Many thanks to Karen for these 2 photos of the display.


I loved this felted octopus mobile that was entered in the felting category of the fiber crafts competition. There was also a great felted octopus hat.

There were 2 wonderful knitted blankets. One was adorned with many little sheep and has a matching pillow. Here's a section of it.

This fabulous blanket was made with the fiber of all the breeds whose names are knitted into it. It deservedly won the Diamond award - the best of the best.

There was the cutest little jackalope among the crochet entries. It was in a glass case and hard to photograph so this doesn't do it justice. It won grand prize in the crocheted toy category.

My shawl made from Laurinda Reddig's Robin's Wings pattern didn't do too badly either.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Granny Square Day 2016

Hello, everyone!  Did you know that tomorrow (Aug. 15) is Granny Square Day? I didn't until I heard it mentioned on the Skein Enable podcast. I found this post on Facebook about it. The idea is to make a granny square and post a photo on Instagram to help create a virtual blanket. Sounds like fun to me! So grab a hook and some yarn, create a square for the worldwide blanket and post it on Instagram if you play in that forum. If not, make a granny square anyway! If you want to follow me on Instagram, I'm Greenhook over there too.

Speaking of granny squares, I spent several hours yesterday teaching people to crochet including making granny squares. It was the local Knit Out and Crochet - an event started by the Craft Yarn Council in 1998. I'm a member of Always In Stitches which is a chapter of the Crochet Guild of America, and we participate in the Knit Out and Crochet event every year. We teach people to crochet and help them to improve skills they already have. It's always a good time spreading the crochet love. 

Judy spent the day at the registration table checking people in.

Karen had a table with kids' activities. It's quiet in the photo, but it saw a lot of action with kids making pompom and pipe cleaner people.

Here I am with my new friend Gwen. She was so excited to learn how to make a classic granny.

I made this placemat incorporating African hexagon flower motifs and the 3dc granny cluster as an example of items that can be made with squares. It's also a great way to use up leftover yarn.

 Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Black Sheep Gathering 2016

What have I been up to lately? Another fiber festival, of course! On June 25, I was able to attend the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. The BSG started in 1974 as a way for farmers who raise colored sheep and goats to connect with fiber enthusiasts. Last year, alpacas were added to show. There are many educational opportunities at the festival including workshops in animal husbandry, fiber processing, spinning, dyeing, weaving, felting, knitting, and best of all crochet!  There's also a market where sellers offer roving, yarn, spindles, spinning wheels, and anything else you can think of that a fiber lover might want. I'll let the photos do most of the talking. First, the animals.

An Angora goat who likes to scratch his back with his horn. Look closely, and you'll see wool caught on its tip.

This little gal was tied to the fence all by herself and not one bit happy about it. You could hear her all over the barn.

These guys are really attractive. I have no idea what breed they are. If you know, please post a comment.

There were some beautiful alpacas. I just love their color, and according to the sign, I could have become an alpaca owner that very day! Tempting. So tempting. Good thing I had someone with me who has more restraint than I do. 

The marketplace had anything you could possibly want related to fiber including a felted animal parade.

Of course, there was fibery eye candy everywhere.

These, glass crochet hooks and knitting needles are made by Michael and Sheila Ernst. Seriously? Glass? Yes, and they have a lifetime warranty. 


This booth had wonderful wooden buttons, shawl pins, pendants and earrings. The gentleman is the talented maker of these lovelies, Jeff of WoolyMossRoots.

Here are the buttons I bought.

In another booth, there were buttons of a different sort. I claim the title of Crochet Hussy!

These and other vintage spinning wheels had been restored and were up for sale.

Here's something you don't see at every fiber festival - guanaco fiber from Royal Fibers. The Royal Fibers web site is not current, but was available on the Web Archive and is interesting reading. Guanacos are camelids related to alpacas and llamas. While the latter 2 are domesticated, most guanacos and another South American camelid, the vicuna, are wild. Wild guanacos are captured and sheared for their fiber then released. Their populations have been greatly reduced by over-hunting and grazing activities, and they are considered endangered over most of their range.  According to the Royal Fibers web page, there are a few hundred domesticated guanacos in zoos and private herds in the US. Here's some of roving from the Royal Fibers guanacos. It reminds me of what cotton candy would like like if it came in chocolate and caramel swirl.

Of course, there was a fiber arts competition. The entries included a lot of felted items. Baaaa room dancing, anyone?

Love this cute pig with cow slippers!

A granny square scarf! Great colors.

And a shawl in natural colors.

As five o'clock rolled around, we were ready for a rest and something to drink. Fortunately, I had arranged ahead of time to meet up with Kelly and Marsha of the Two Ewes Fiber Adventures podcast and Ravelry Group. Check out the podcast to see what spinning, dying, knitting, crocheting, bee raising, dog training, and other miscellaneous adventures the Ewes are up to. Then join the fun on the Ravelry group. We had a great time chatting with Marsha and Kelly and some of their other listeners. Snacks and beverages were graciously provided including some awesome ceviche from Kelly's husband Robert. A bit of spinning and knitting was done while we chatted. Ruedy the dog decided to have a nap.

Before leaving, we all gathered for a photo next to Kelly and Robert's vintage trailer.

That's it for Black Sheep Gathering 2016. If you're in the Eugene, OR area next June, it's definitely worth a visit. I'll likely be there again and hope to have another chance to meet up with the Two Ewes and friends!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Forward to the Retreat!

A couple weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending a crochet retreat. I love crochet retreats as much as I love fiber festivals, and it had been a while since I'd been to one. This retreat was organized by designer Laurinda Reddig (ReCrochetions). She hosted it at Quinn Mountain, property her family owns east of Camas, WA. 

Those of us who arrived in Camas a bit early had time to explore the town for a few hours. We checked into the historic Camas Hotel, a very comfortable and friendly inn. I especially loved the fun embroidered pillows on the beds and chairs of the hotel.

The first event of the retreat was a meet up on Friday evening at A Beer at a Time. A large selection of microbrews were available on tap including Walking Man Black Cherry Stout which was fabulous. 

The next morning we drove to Quinn Mountain - a former B&B that was set up for weddings. It's an absolutely beautiful location with gorgeous landscaping as well as natural areas. As we entered the premises we were met by Aylen who stood guard by the driveway.

Around the curve, the house and meeting room building came into view.

The building where we met is the former wedding chapel. 

Enter the garden by way of a trellis embellished with clematis.

And inside you'll find one of the many whimsical touches on the property - a model railroad. No trains were running that weekend however.

Enough about the beautiful setting for now. Let's do some crochet! The first day Laurinda taught us how to do shaping with the classic chevron stitch pattern. Here's a room full of happy crocheters concentrating on their work.

By the end of the day, we each had a fun chevron stitch bag.

The second day we learned to use post stitches to make an endless Celtic knot motif that's a simplified version of one used in several of Laurinda's patterns. This is a challenging bit of crochet, and it turns out that getting the knot to show up in a photograph is just as challenging. I hope you can get the general idea from the shot below. The swatch we made in the class is on the right. The bag on the left is Tavey's Satchel from Laurinda's most recent book The Secret Stitch, A Crochet Companion.  

The book also includes a hat, mitts, and capelet  using the Celtic knot motif. The patterns are inspired by the historical fiction The Secret Stitch by C. Jane Reid. (Pssst! Crochet plays a role in this story line of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and eagerly look forward to future installments in the series.)

During the weekend if we needed a break from crochet (yes, it can happen), we were free to explore the property. One of its unusual features is a labyrinth. Many people find that walking a labyrinth can be meditative. I especially find that to be true in a beautiful outdoor setting.

While wandering the property, I also discovered The Door to the Forest! And you just knew I had to see what was on the other side, didn't you?!

The door didn't lead to more crochet retreats, but Laurinda will be offering some soon. Check for announcements on her ReCrochetions website where you can also sign up for her newsletter. I'm already looking forward to another crochet adventure at Quinn Mountain.

Thanks for reading! 


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Willamette Heritage Center Sheep to Shawl Festival

I love fiber festivals. The yarn! The animals! The other fiber lovers! The yarn! The demonstrations! The yarn! It can be difficult and expensive to travel to one of the big fiber fests, but if you can't get to one of those, there might be a small one near you. Last weekend the annual Sheep to Shawl festival was held at the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, OR. The center is located in the buildings and on the grounds of an old woolen mill so it's an appropriate place for a fiber festival. I'm going to let some photos tell most of the story of our fun day.

The old mill building:

Where does fiber come from? Plants and animals mostly except for the synthetics. Being a "sheep to shawl" festival, the animals were featured. There were, of course, sheep. This is Rosanna Caswell of Caswell Farms with some of her Dorpers. I had never heard of this sheep breed. They're very nice looking sheep. A little googling told me that they are a breed developed in South Africa for meat production. I did find at least one web site selling Dorper fiber.

A sheepdog brought his little buddy along.


In addition to sheep, there were goats like these Angoras. Keep an eye on the guy on the left. We'll see him again later.

The Cashmere goats had kids all of which insisted on staying partly in bright sun and partly in shade.

The camelids were represented by these alpacas. We'll see the white one later as well.

Lastly we have the Angora rabbits.

This fuzzy guy sat right there while people brushed him and his owner spun the fiber.

We've got our fiber animals. Now we have to get the fiber off the animals. First up was one of the alpacas. He wasn't thrilled with the process so his owner lent a hand. The gentleman doing the shearing was a real pro and gave an entertaining description of the procedure.

And here's our much cooler alpaca. It was a hot day. I'm sure he was more comfortable.

Next up was one of the Angora goats from which we get mohair. The shearer said that they go completely limp like they have no backbone, and that's just what it looked like. It's a good thing because he could have done some damage with those horns if he'd wanted to.

 Ho hum. Just relaxin' here while I get a haircut.

I think he lost half his volume. That was a lot of mohair. Very dirty mohair.

The next step in the process is cleaning and carding the fiber in preparation for spinning. There weren't any demos of that, but here are some bags of processed fiber (roving) for sale to spinners.

Some local spinners demonstrated their craft. Notice the woman at the right with a drop spindle.

Here's Wanda Jenkins with one of the old time walking spinning wheels. Wanda is holding one of the Turkish drop spindles hand made by her husband Ed Jenkins.

After the spinning we finally have our yarn! A local farmer and hand dyer - Shaggy Bear Farms - was there.


Her yarns are lovely, and I bought two skeins in different colorways for some experimenting in planned pooling. More about that in a future post.

I was going to stop with two, but I found this skein of Paca Peds in another booth, and it really wanted to go home with me also.

All of this work - raising the animals, shearing, processing, spinning, then knitting or crocheting - finally gives us our shawls. Here are some made from hand spun yarn.

Even this sheep has a shawl.

Thanks for stopping by!