We are in the middle of a heat wave, so what am I working on? Halloween projects, of course. Unfortunately thinking about cooler weather isn't making me feel any cooler. Actually, handling acrylic yarn is making my hands feel hotter and stickier. Oh well - I love Halloween and I'm not going to let the fact that it is a freakin' hot August stop me.
I threw together a couple of quick Jack (or Jill)-O-Lantern masks on Redbubble.
And updated one of my first fabric designs to look like it was appliqued, and added a fall design with a similar technique.
Then I decided to work on a fall themed collection with a hero fabric called Forest Floor and a few coordinates. This is still a work in progress so I'd love to hear which coordinating designs you like best.
And since I have nothing else better to do during this pandemic I just started a hand knit version of my Halloween Stocking. I plan to sell this as a pattern, but I doubt it will be available this year. But I do have a couple of the machine knit ones available for sale!
Wow - this is just a few of the things I've been working on. Thank goodness I have something to help keep me sane during this crazy time. What have you been working on?
Stay safe out there!
The other pattern that is available is also cat themed - a Gingham Cat blanket done in C2C (corner to corner) crochet. There is a story behind this blanket that I plan to tell at some point. Both patterns are available on Ravelry and you can get them through my Patterns page.
Now I am working on three patterns with yarn I bought from Hobbii. This is the first time I bought yarn from them and I have to say I'm impressed. I was able to get enough yarn for free shipping (yay!) and actually got it in less than a week despite being on the other side of the planet and in the middle of a pandemic. Pretty impressive.
My first project is something I'm calling an "Un-Shawl" because I don't know what else to call it. Essentially it is a V shaped wrap that reminds me of a triangular shawl with the middle missing. My sample is done, but I need to figure out how to take decent pictures without contact with other humans. I used Cotton Kings 8/4 cotton, which is now one of my favorite yarns. (I'm allergic to wool and don't really like synthetics so I'm a sucker for a good cotton.) This yarn is about fingering weight, doesn't split and is super soft!
I need to finish writing up the pattern and get it out for testing, which I hope to do any day now. If you are interested in testing the pattern let me know. It is made entirely of mitered squares which are super simple to make, and the squares are joined as you go so no sewing!
Next up is the canine version of the Gingham Cat blanket. This time I am using cotton rather than acrylic, specifically Eko Bomull. This yarn is similar in weight to dish cloth cottons, but softer than any I have used. It does split and untwist quite a bit though. My sample is just past half done and the pattern should be out for testing in a few weeks.
My final project with my Hobbii haul is a knit wool hat. I have only gotten as far as the gauge swatch since it is just too hot to work with wool, even for something as small as a hat. OK, I am making a blanket in this heat, but it is cotton and I only work on it at night. Plus I usually have to bandage a finger or two when working with wool to deal with the itching and I don't like wearing bandages on hot, sweaty hands. I've got a lovely purple shade of Mayflower Easy Care which I think will look fantastic once it is done.
Speaking of having to bandage fingers, does anyone else ever injure their right index finger after poking it too many times with the left knitting needle trying to move stitches forward? I've got this weird callus sort of thing going on at the moment - but I've been known to actually break the skin with my tiny little metal sock needles. Those things are dangerous!!
Oh, and one more thing before I sign off - I've got face masks for sale. I've put them in my new store just to make it easy to handle the odd variety of colors, sizes and styles. You can get to the store here. I also have set up a donation option in my store for anyone that would like to help me get mask making supplies. If you know of a place that needs masks and can help with supplies and delivery let me know - I'd be more than happy to provide free labor, I just don't have the cash to get materials.
Stay safe out there! - Janene
Very special crochet projects
I'm currently trapped under a cat, busy crocheting away, and thought I'd take a quick break to report on my current project. Last night I finished my first joey pouch and I'm about 3/4 of the way done with a nest. These, and whatever else I can whip up, are going to the Animal Rescue Craft Guild (https://www.facebook.com/groups/arfsncrafts/) which is gathering items for the animals displaced by the fires in Australia.
I found out about this group a couple days ago and immediately decided to put all other projects aside to help out. Personally I have been avoiding the news on the fires because it is too heartbreaking so I don't really know how bad it is - I just know it is really bad and I don't like feeling helpless in the face of such devastation. I can't put out fires and don't have spare money to donate, but I can stitch so that is what I'm doing.
If anyone is interested in helping check out their Facebook page (link above). They need various items and have patterns for sewn, knit and crochet projects. There are also folks around the world coordinating the collection and delivery of items so no one is too far away to help.
Now I need to get back to work. Thanks everyone!
Well, I did manage to finish my first amigurumi crochet project! It's a little odd looking, but it's done. I assume a big part of the oddity is because I didn't use the right yarn. It is supposed to be Knit Picks Brava Sport Yarn, but I didn't happen to have any of that on hand, and since it was an experiment, I just grabbed some scraps of worsted weight acrylic I had in my stash. So of course my cupcake is rather large. Not sure why it has such a pointy top, but I have a theory.
But first, some notes on the pattern itself. It didn't say whether the terminology was in US or UK terms, but I figured out it was US based on the pictures. The bottom (cake) was pretty straightforward and the instructions were easy to follow. I did have a bit of a hole in the bottom, but that is to be expected with the way it was started. I just tightened it up with the tail.
The top (icing) was more of an issue. Not that there was a problem with the pattern, it was more that I seemed to have developed a sudden inability to handle half double crochet stitches. A few months ago a did an entire sweater in HDC's and it went really well. But with the cupcake I kept getting hung up pulling the final loop through and splitting the yarn. Then I had to redo the stitch, which meant I lost count. So I started pulling a bit on the work to make more room, which is probably why my cupcake looks like it had way too much baking powder in it.
The only real issue I had with the pattern itself was when it came to sewing the top and bottom together. Somehow my brain couldn't wrap itself around what I was supposed to do. After a couple of false starts I thought I had it figured out until I got almost done and realized the top and bottom didn't fit! If I had paid more attention to the stitch count this would have been obvious, but I didn't bother checking such details. Once I figured that out I did manage to sew it together just fine.
I like the somewhat rippled edge that is added to the icing after it is sewn together. This is one of the good things about crochet as opposed to knitting - the crocheted edge doesn't curl up the way knitting does. The edging on my knit cupcake is all rolled up! Crocheting the edging was a bit tricky though, given how the stitches I was working into sat once it was sewn together.
Oh, and I should probably mention that I changed the eyes since I didn't have plastic eyes handy. Plus yarn eyes are less dangerous if Salem gets a hold of it.
So what did I learn from this experience? Well, I'm better at understanding crochet patterns than I thought, for one. But the main thing I realized is that I need to pay more attention to my tension and hook size. Since I changed the yarn I used the hook recommended on a ball band for worsted weight yarn. This meant that I forgot one of the key lessons I learned from knitting stuffed toys - use smaller than normal needles to knit a tight fabric so the stuffing doesn't show. It's hard to see in the pictures, but the holes in the icing are just too big. If I used a smaller hook the stuffing wouldn't peek through, and maybe it would look more like a cupcake and less like a smiling hut😊.
If you want to try the pattern you can find it here: Amigurumi Crochet Cupcake. And the "real" yarn is here: Knit Picks Brava Sport Yarn. (And you can support my work by using my links!) Now time for me to find a new pattern to try...
Happy new year!
Happy New Year everyone! Hope everyone one has a fantastic (and safe) celebration😊. I’m spending the night in trying to comfort my critters – the fireworks started around 5 in my neighborhood, and both Poppy and Salem took off to the back room. So, I’ve got dog soothing music playing and decided to do a little stitching.
The women in my family crocheted, so I learned about as soon as I was old enough to hold a hook. But I wanted to knit, so once I learned to knit I pretty much quit crocheting. Then about a year and a half ago my niece asked me to help her with a crochet project and I felt a little awkward not being able to do much to help with this family tradition. So, it was time to relearn to crochet.
Once I did, I discovered something I hadn’t realized before – crocheting generally goes much quicker than knitting. I decided to start an afghan last fall and joked that it would probably take about 5 years…and it ended up being closer to 5 weeks. Super cool, huh?
But now that I am back to crocheting, I need to revisit my stuffed food collection. That’s right – I have a collection of stuffed foods that I have knitted. I seem to have a bit of a food obsession – I even have a variety of food themed fabric designs in my Portfolio. Maybe because I am hungry all the time?
So, while crochet amigurumi has been all the rage I have only ever knit these fun little items. But no more – it is time to break out the crochet hook and add to my food collection!
Why am I telling you unknown strangers this? Because I have never been good at understanding crochet patterns. As a kid I tended to just make things up (and never finish them – I’m a bit infamous in my family for this). When I dabbled as an adult I spent more time trying to understand the instructions than actually crocheting. And usually I just gave up. Then I realized that the stitch names don’t mean the same thing everywhere! Who on earth decided that “single crochet” should mean one thing in the US and quite another thing in the UK? What sort of madness is this? I can only assume it is some sort of punishment for that little revolution thing we had a couple of centuries ago.
At this point I have made a few crochet items and have developed some level of muscle memory, but I still do best if I see pictures with the pattern so I know what “2 SC in first ST and 1 SC in each of the next three STS” means in this particular instance. Actually, if it weren’t for YouTube I probably wouldn’t have re-entered the world of crochet. Big thanks to Arne and Carlos (www.arnecarlos.com) for their slow-motion demonstration of the stitches. And Arne – if you ever read this – don’t worry that you can’t remember the English names for the stitches. I’ve only ever spoken English I clearly I can’t remember the names either😊.
I have found a cute cupcake pattern on KnitPicks that I am going to try, and report back on my success. The free pattern is here: Amigurumi Crochet Cupcake. (Disclaimer: the fine folks at KnitPicks give me a commission if you use my link. So, support a food obsessed, starving artist and go buy some of their fantastic products!) When I’m done I will report back on how easy it is for the easily confused to follow the pattern. And show you my newest stuffed food.
Happy New Year!
New year's dietary advice
Now that the new year is almost upon us it is time to start thinking about making resolutions to eat right, exercise and get into shape. So, let me help you out with your healthy endeavors by providing the Knitter’s Food Pyramid as a guide. By following this simple guide, you are sure to lose weight and get into shape.
Level 1: A high fiber diet is the foundation of any healthy diet, so be sure to get multiple servings of fiber a day. For added benefit, be sure to consume a variety of fibers like wool, cotton, alpaca and silk. Don’t be afraid to occasionally add something more exotic to your diet, like a dash of qiviut from time to time.
Level 2: Every body needs a strong frame to support it, so support your frame with daily servings of needles. To get the proper building blocks be sure to partake of a range, from straights to double points to circulars, and of various materials like bamboo and steel to ensure that you get all of the essential minerals in your diet.
Level 3: In order for your body to be able to properly utilize the nutrients from the first two levels you must consume proper guidance in the form of instructions, patterns and charts. As we get older some people think they need less of this food group, but to ensure continued growth and vitality be sure to consume servings from this group on a regular basis.
Level 4: Add accessories to your diet as needed to maintain proper function. Be sure to include a variety of colors, styles and materials to guarantee that your diet includes all required vitamins. No diet is complete without a little spice so be sure to add some exotic beaded stitch markers and colorful cable needles.
Level 5: Top off your healthy diet with a good beverage. Tea is always a good choice, but might I recommend a pint of hard cider? Just be sure to consume alcohol in moderation, especially when working with complex lace patterns.
To help remind you of these dietary essentials, the Knitter’s Food Pyramid is available in prints to hang on your kitchen wall, stickers to place on your computer and tote bags to carry to your local yarn shop. In fact, you should get a few bags so you can carry home all of your goodies as you stock up for the year ahead. Click on a picture below to be taken to my Society 6 shop to see all of the options available.
Happy New Year!
Since I've been on the subject of fabric print designs that mimic other textile techniques I suppose I should mention my woven prints. Because of course I'm going to make a pattern that looks like it was woven.
My floor loom is in storage because it doesn't fit in my little house, and my rigid heddle loom is otherwise occupied so this is the closest I can get to weaving at the moment. But this design is giving me the sense that digital art is a bit like cheating. In real life, if I wanted to weave a fabric in a different colorway I would have to re-dress the loom with new yarn to weave a new fabric - a process that takes hours to days. But with this newfangled computer thingy I can change the colors in seconds.
I could spend hours playing with the colors on this pattern, giggling with glee like a little kid with magic crayons. Yes, I am easily amused.
I haven't really gotten around to weaving real ikat, so I decided to try imitating it too. For those of you who don't know, ikat is a technique where the warp threads are dyed into some sort of pattern before putting weaving. (The warp threads are the ones put on the loom first - the framework of the fabric. The weft thread is what is woven into the warp.) Because things tend to shift a bit in the process, stripes of ikat tend to be irregular, like you can see here:
The great thing about digitally creating ikat is the lack of mess. Most of the looms at my old art school were stained with dye from people painting their warps directly on the loom. Personally, I don't want dye all over my loom!
But making new digital colorways still feels like cheating, even if it did take an extraordinarily long time to make the basic design in the first place. Yes, still very new to digital art and everything seems to take much longer than it should. I actually spent the whole weekend trying to make a clean pattern of triangles. All weekend! And it still looks wobbly. I think I need to spend some time making new woven stripes colorways!
Many years ago, my sewing machine’s embroidery function went awry so I decided to try my hand at freehand machine embroidery. I had a lot of fun making embroidered fruit on scraps of fabric that have since gone missing☹. I haven’t gotten around to doing any more freehand work on my machine since then, but I really liked the effect it made. So, when I decided to try my hand at digital art a few months ago I just had to find a way to mimic the effect of those little stitched works of art. My first attempt turned out pretty well.
So, I continued my fruit theme from long ago.
Then did some more fruit.
I seem to have a thing for fruit. These look surprisingly like what I remember from my embroideries, except I don’t quite know how to mimic the sheen of rayon thread. They are almost as much fun to make too.
In case anyone is wondering how I made these, I use Krita and first tried to draw individual lines to simulate the separate stitches. This promptly drove me slightly mad because there are about a million “stitches” in each piece of fruit and if I wanted to work that slowly I would hand embroider it. Then I started playing with some of the stamps that come with Krita and found that the one called “water” could make it look like I had drawn a handful of stitches at a time. This made the drawing roughly as fast as machine stitching😊.
The fun part of doing this, either on cloth or computer, is building up layers of color. When I did the embroideries I started by outlining the shape in a color that could disappear into the perimeter. Then I would do straight stitches to fill in the shape, starting from the outside working in. Colors would change periodically, with plenty of overlap to blend. This moved pretty quickly so sometimes stitches ended up where I didn’t want them. But as Bob Ross taught us – there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. So if I didn’t like something I would just stitch over it. Yes, they did end up pretty thick.
For the digital versions I took the same approach, layering different colors until I got the result I wanted. But one thing I cant do digitally is replicate using variegated thread. One of my favorite aspects of the machine embroideries was using multicolored thread. This saved having to change threads as often, but also created a bit of a game. As the color changed I would move the area I was working on to get the best placement. Eventually I got into the rhythm of the color changes and would know when to move from the light purple to the dark purple and back again. (This worked like magic on the grapes.) It ended up being quite meditative. But alas, I can’t find a way to convince Krita to variegate my “ink”. Oh well.
Printed Plaid and other issues
When I was a kid I thought that fabric like printed plaid was cheating. Plaid, after all, is supposed to be woven from different color threads. Printing a plaid design onto plain, white fabric just seemed wrong. Then I got to art school and what did I do? I screen printed plaid onto five yards of linen fabric. What was I thinking?
What happened? Had I lost my mind? Well, maybe. But on the other hand, I have also been fascinated with knitting that looks like weaving, including knitted plaid. Seems like I have a habit of wanting to make one textile look like another. And what have I discovered? It is harder than I thought.
Case in point – the great thing about woven plaid is that it looks like more colors than were actually used. A simple black and white check looks from a distance like it is black, white and gray. Or if you weave it in an unbalanced weave, like a 3/1 or 1/3 twill, the simple black and white check will look like it is black, white, light gray and dark gray. Cool, huh? This way you can make cloth that looks more colorful than it really is, which is quite the advantage when dyes were hard to come by.
So how do you replicate this in another textile design? For a knitted plaid you could use black, white and gray yarn to mimic woven check. (But that tends to result in the dreaded intarsia. Ick.) But gray yarn doesn’t look quite look the same as black and white threads crossing. Maybe use a tweedy gray that is spun with black and white fibers. Or alternate black and white stitches for the gray squares, twined knitting style. Or carry black and white yarns together for the gray. See, not quite so easy.
After years of contemplating ways to make knitting look like a woven pattern why not go a step further and make a printed fabric design that looks like knitting? Here is my first (successful) attempt:
This turned out way better than I thought it would! I actually knit a bag with this pattern and colorway first (which I will show a picture of when the sun comes out again – which is roughly July around here😊). I can’t believe how much the print looks like the real thing. So of course I had to try another one:
You may have to zoom in to see it, but both of these are made up of a gazillion tiny little knit stitches. Thanks to the handy custom brush feature in my drawing software I now have a special stamp that looks like a knit stitch. I haven't done a purl stitch stamp yet so I guess that may be my next trick.
Later I will have to tell you about my attempts to draw a pattern that looks like free hand machine embroidery...
It has OCCURRED to me...
That the point of a blog is to write something. So I guess I had better write something.
A couple of months ago I got the hare-brained idea that I would start designing printed fabrics using digital art. Why is this a hare-brained idea? Well...
In the first few days I alternated between wanting to tear my (very limited) hair out and laughing hysterically at the seemingly random things that kept appearing on my computer screen. And of course I had help from my friends. Someone should really invent a touch screen computer that only responds to human touch. Or maybe my cat is the better artist? Hmmm...
Anyway, I managed to do enough doodling to come up with some designs I actually like - and the beginnings of a fine case of carpal tunnel. Now I have an inexpensive tablet to save my creaky old wrist. I assume it works well, but I'm still too seasick from it to tell. Kind of reminds me of when I first tried to use a mouse. I was using my boyfriend's computer and it was just infuriating. It was only after I managed to get the hang of it that he bothered to tell me that his mouse didn't work right. Argh...
Despite my ignorance, sore wrist and disorientation, I have managed to create some designs I rather like. Do most of them look like a child drew them? Yes - and I'm owning that. It's my style and I like it! As a child I was embarrassed that I couldn't draw well. In art school I was frustrated that my work didn't seem to fit in. I am now old enough to not care. I'm going to draw what I enjoy and hope that someone else out there likes it. If you happen to be one of those someones, hop over to my Shop page to find links to where my work is sold!
Yarn fanatic. Cat lover. Dirt digger.