Usually when I do a Pattern Roll-Call, I like to feature several patterns by different designers. But as I was sifting through all the mini-skein patterns on Ravelry, I came across a little treasure trove full of patterns that I just love so much that I had to dedicate a whole blog post to them.
It started with this sweet little Pinwheel Purse. Isn’t it lovely? It’s the same origami you did as a kid — but in knitting! So cool.
And so from there, I began looking through the rest of the designer’s work, and found that her sense of colour and shape really spoke to me. I love the gentle, organic changes of colours and yarns, the very simple shaping, the modular construction, and — maybe most of all — the almost complete lack of sewing up!
There’s a lot of yarns that would work well with these patterns, but I love how well these patterns would suit mini-skeins of fabulous variegated and semi-solid yarns. Can’t you just see it? All the colours coming together to compliment each other in some places and contrast one another in others. Beautiful!
If you’d like some amazing mini-skeins to knit these patterns in, check out the SpaceCadet’s new Mini-Skein Club. Each month you’ll receive a surprise selection of gorgeous SpaceCadet yarns delivered to your door, so that you can try out all the SpaceCadet bases and feed your mini-skein project addiction!
Last weekend was Rhinebeck, otherwise known as the New York Sheep and Wool Festival and one of the best and most exciting fiber festivals in the country. Or… so I’d been told. I’d never been to it before, but this year the stars aligned and I got my chance!
Rhinebeck was everything I hoped for. Sheep, alpaca, llamas, kangaroos (seriously!), fair food, fine food, wine, spinning wheels, spindles, fiber, and yarn yarn yarnyarnyarn. At the Ravelry meet-up (above), I got the chance to meet Laura Nelkin, a designer I’ve featured here before and whose work I’ve admired a long time. I also ran into the delightful Ariane of Falling Stitches, my friend Julia of Knitterly Things, my friend Gwen of GwenErin Natural Fibers, and Ravelry’s own Mary-Heather and Sarah (wearing a fast-asleep Carlton).
But never mind all that, because I discovered two people whose products I loved so much that I really thought you’d want to meet them!
First is Melissa Tompkins-Stahl, whom I liked right from the moment I met her but — more importantly for you — who also makes absolutely lovely ceramic buttons. Seriously, they are like candy for knitters. My friend Kristen introduced us and pointed out how beautifully the colours of Melissa’s buttons and colours of SpaceCadet yarns go together. Kristen put several buttons against a cowl she’d spun with SpaceCadet fiber and she was right. Melissa and I clearly share a colour connection, and if you’re ever looking for buttons for a project you’ve made with SpaceCadet yarn, it’s worth looking at her website…
And the other person is Leah LaFera of Ulster Soaps. I knew I needed to check out Leah’s stall even before I saw it — the smell of her soaps was tugging at me! And when I got there and met Leah, I knew I wanted to tell you about her. I’ve always wanted to try soapmaking (don’t you?), so I asked her a whole bunch of questions, and she answered them all so enthusiastically. It’s clear she loves what she does! I chose some soaps: Peppermint Delight, Lavender Dream, and Lemon Poppy Seed (nom nom nom!) and I knew I wanted to share them (and her!) with you too.
And of course, there was all that yarn — so much fun to look at it, to smoosh it, to pet it! And it inspired me to do a shop update…
A friend mentioned the other day that I haven’t done a Pattern Roll-Call in a while and, as I realised she was right, I also realised I knew exactly which patterns I wanted to include! Usually, I focus on one-skein projects that work well with hand-dyed yarn but, just lately, everywhere I look it’s been mini-skeins mini-skeins mini-skeins… So I think it’s in the stars that I have to do a few Pattern Roll-Calls focusing on all the fantastic mini-skein patterns that are so hot right now.
And the place to start is with the Beekeeper’s Quilt by Stephanie Dosen of Tiny Owl Knits. It’s the pattern that’s turning everyone into hexipuff addicts and it’s just so intriguing. All those puffy little hexipuffs, all mixing their colours together gently, and the result is a like a patchwork quilt but with a funky, modern twist. So cool!
And here’s another that’s really calling to me: The Sock Yarn Blanket by Shelly Kang. I’m crazy about this design! That’s partly because I’m a sucker for mitered squares but also because I love how it looks like feathers of some fantastical bird flowing down from top to bottom. Again, a million colours that really shouldn’t work together and yet, somehow they do… This pattern also comes with some really helpful tutorials to get you started.
And then there’s the Babette Blanket by Kathy Merrick. And the thing I love about this pattern is that it demonstrates how beautifully the Mini-Skein craze works in crochet. And I also love how these three examples show the way Mini-Skeins can work in any colour combination — bright or subdued, matching or contrasting, each one is just gorgeous!
See what I mean? As a dyer, these projects really get my blood pumping, because they are just so full of glorious colour! I want to dive in and roll around in them! Mmmmmmm…. Gorgeous!
And if these patterns have got you as excited as they’ve got me, do check out the SpaceCadet’s new Mini-Skein Club. Each month you’ll receive a surprise selection of gorgeous SpaceCadet yarns delivered to your door, so that you can try out all the SpaceCadet bases and feed your mini-skein project addiction!
I got some great news last month: SpaceCadet Creations yarn has been chosen for two designs for two upcoming books! How cool is that?!? Seriously, I am so excited!
And I want to introduce you to the designer, Amy Maceyko. Not only because she turned out to be a really nice person, but also because it’s really interesting to see as she how she applies her experience as an architect to her fiber arts. So I asked her a few questions…
I know you are an architect, a knitting teacher, and a crochet designer. How do these three parts of your creativity influence each other?
Good question. They are honestly even more intertwined than I expected them to be back when I started knitting. The way that I work as an architect definitely influences my process when I’m designing knit or crocheted pieces. Just as an architect draws 2-dimensional plans of a 3-dimensional building, I tend to draw 2-dimensional “plans” of my designs in yarn. I even add notes and dimensions the same way I do it for buildings. It is entirely possible that an architect could look in my knitting/crochet notebook and understand my creations better than a fellow designer, but I haven’t had a chance to test this theory yet.
As for the other way around, I think the way that my yarn endeavors influence my architecture is a bit more subtle. Crochet and knitting gives me a way to play with color and texture in a much faster medium than architecture. So all of the time I have spent putting different colors of yarn together, playing with proportion and looking at ways that textures react to different 3-dimensional shapes has improved my work on the interior design aspects of the job.
And lastly, there is a lot of similarity between teaching and working with a client as an architect. Most people who are building a building have never done so before (with the exception of the head honchos), so there is some teaching that goes along with working with any client. In general, all teaching that you do makes you a better teacher, so I felt ready to jump into teaching knitting and crochet quickly even without a lot of past experience.
What came first for you, crochet or knitting? Has that influenced the way you design?
Technically, I learned to crochet first because my mom taught me when I was little. But it didn’t stick and I only cross-stitched and sewed for many years before coming back to yarn crafts in my late 20’s. I learned to knit first and then to crochet (again) about 4 years later. I think my brain probably tends to swing more toward knitting designs because at this point I’ve been knitting about twice as long as I’ve been crocheting and I’ve made so many more knitted objects. But since there don’t seem to be as many independent crochet designers out there, I am trying to force myself to keep thinking about crochet designs to build an audience. I also think there are some things that knitting does better and some things that crochet does better, so when I think of a particular look I want to achieve I try to imagine which fabric will serve the purpose best.
Hmmm…that kind of sounds like the famous Louis Sullivan quote “Forms follows function.” Apparently my architectural influences are everywhere…
When did you make the jump from knitter/crocheter to knit/crochet designer? What defined that change in your mind?
Some of it was gradual and some of it was much more sudden. Even since I first learned to knit I have made up patterns as I went, and whenever I followed a pattern I always altered something about it. At least the yarn, probably the gauge, maybe the edging, etc. It is just in my DNA to try things differently. I had a student who wanted to learn a free online hat pattern a few weeks ago, so I knitted one the week before the class to ensure that I could teach her all of the skills she needed. As soon as I finished, I cast on another that removed all of the garter ridges and added 4 columns of cables. I just couldn’t stop myself!
But in all of these years I haven’t actually written my made up patterns and shared them with anyone. I have thought about it. But by the time I really felt confident enough to do it I had a 2 year old and a baby…and not enough sleep to do pattern writing after they were in bed.
And then a year ago I was laid off from my architecture job. After the first optimistic 6-8 looking for a job, I started talking to my local yarn store about part time work and looking at design submission requests on ravelry. Within a couple of months I was teaching classes, working some part time hours in the shop and had three designs accepted for a series of crochet books! I am still looking for full time work, but now that my kids are older and I have “established” myself a little, I plan to keep up some teaching and designing even if (when) I find another position as an architect.
How do you approach hand-dyed yarns that’s different from the way you design in commercial yarns? What do you suggest to knitters/crocheters who are nervous about using hand-dyed?
It is somewhat easier to design with commercial yarns because you can tell the knitter or crocheter exactly what to buy, and I’ve found there are lots of crafters out there who even want to use the same color that’s used in the sample. There are people who want to see exactly what they’re going to make before they make it.
There is so much potential in hand-dyed options and so many people spinning their own yarn, it is really an important market to consider designs that go beyond the workhorse commercial yarns. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I have some yarn in my stash that I have acquired at wool festivals. This is yarn that few, if any, of the people buying my patterns could acquire. It is also yarn that I *really* want to design with, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the best ways to go about it.
One thing I have been thinking about is including a picture of the yarn in the hank as a part of the pattern when I use something unusual or hand-dyed. This would give the knitter or crocheter a sense of what I started with to help them in the shopping process.
But in the end, it is really all about swatching. I can look at a skein of hand-dyed yarn and have an idea. But until I swatch I don’t know for sure if it will work. The more I work with variegated yarns the better sense I have of what will and won’t work before I swatch, but not well enough to describe it to other people yet. 🙂
My advice is that if a hand-dyed yarn has caught your eye and you can’t stop thinking about it…buy it! Yarn is not a precious commodity, it should be used. Buy it, wind it, and swatch it! In the worst case, if you don’t like what you try making, you can undo it and try something else.
How many projects do you have on the go right now? Is there such a thing as too many projects or too much yarn?
2 baby blankets (One of those babies just turned 1 – oops!), 1 Babette blanket, 1 sweater for class and for the book series – 2 blankets, a girl’s cardigan and a girl’s jumper. I also have a small pile of hand knits that need mending or sweaters that aren’t quite right.
I did find that when I had an infant I really had to keep my number of projects low so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by my projects. I also don’t tend to have WIP for years and years, Babette being the one exception because I tend to work on it in fits and starts. That list above is really everything that I have in progress. I don’t have a bin of items that I abandoned. Although I do have a number of bags with yarn and an index card with the description of the item that yarn could (should?) become. But since I haven’t actually started them yet beyond the idea, they aren’t WIPs.
What can you tell us about the two designs you’re doing in SpaceCadet yarns?
The first is a wrap cardigan in girl’s size 4, 6, 8 and 10. Although someone saw me working on it at my LYS this week wishing I would make an adult pattern. The cardigan has some flower motifs along the front, but most of the fabric is worked in double crochet through the back loop. It has been a little tricky to figure out, but I think it will be pretty straightforward for the crocheters to make.
The second is a very textured blanket. I’m actually making two versions of it for the book, one in Space Cadet yarn and a second in Berroco Vintage, one of my favorite commercial yarns. My initial goal in making two is to show the amazing opportunity to play with the yarn choice – from high contrast to something more subtle and variegated.
I’m very excited to see how both projects come out!
Both of Amy’s designs will appear in the Fresh Design Crochet series from Cooperative Press: her cardigan will be in Fresh Design Crochet: Sweaters, coming out in Spring 2012, and the blanket will be part of Fresh Design Crochet: Home, in Autumn 2012. You can check out Amy’s blog, Structured Stitches, to follow her adventures in fiber arts design.
The PLY Party was seriously crazy! There were so many people that, at moments, I hardly knew where to stand. It’s so much fun when it gets like that… when everyone’s starting to get a bit high on the fiber!
But, before I tell you all about it, I just want to let you know that there are only FOUR DAYS LEFT to join the InterStellar Yarn Alliance. This is the SpaceCadet’s Cosmic Yarn Club and it is a BLAST! Click here to read more about it, or just click on the button below to join now…
Ok, back to the PLY Party… First, yeah, it was crazy, and then when it calmed down a little… well, that was really nice too, because I got to chat with some really great people. A couple of them were members of the InterStellar Yarn Alliance: one I’d met before in person (and who had such nice things to say about the Alliance that she actually made me blush!) and one whom I’d known only through the forums — what a lovely surprise to get to meet her in person!
I also ended up in a conversation with a brand-new crocheter and showed her a couple of exciting patterns on Ravelry, so (I hope) I helped to get her even more excited about new yarny adventures. And I had a wonderful conversation about England with a lady who’d lived there for years. Really joyed meeting everyone!
But after a show… exhaustion. And yet, there’s so much to do! First, I have to fill the shop back up after emptying it for the show. That was supposed to happen Tuesday — I’m hoping to get it done today. Check in throughout the day to see if I manage to do it…!
But more exciting than that are some great things on the horizon…
First, I’m working on an ebook: a short introduction to using hand-dyed yarns and choosing patterns that will bring out their best. I know hand-dyeds can be a little daunting to some knitters and crocheters — all those crazy colours! — so this will be a quick guide on how to understand them and get started without fear. It should be done in the next month or so, so if that sounds like what you’re looking for, be sure you’re signed up the newsletter to get first dibs!
Speaking of newsletters, I’m about to send out the first InterStellar Yarn Alliance newsletter with exclusive offers just for members. This is a new feature for the Yarn Alliance, so if you’re already a member, please make sure you’ve told me it’s ok to sign you up to the mailing list so you don’t miss out on the offers. (We value your privacy, so of course we will never put you on a mailing list that you haven’t requested to join. Just fire an email to me with “PUT ME ON THE ISYA MAILING LIST!” and I’ll get you on it straight away!).
And… there’s another Super Secret Thing in the works. I can’t say any more about it, but I am so excited, I’m ready to burst! All puffed up and ready to burst! (…That was a hint. Did you get it?) The Super Secret Thing will be ready nearer the end of September — again, make sure you’re on the mailing list to hear about it first.
So, lots of exciting stuff going on. And, also… the post-show exhaustion. It’s sooooo not a good combination. sigh… Could someone please grab me a coffee?
It’s going to be an exciting weekend! We’re packing up all the yarns and heading to Baltimore for Lovelyarn‘s PLY (Peace, Love, Yarn) Party on Sunday, and — so long as the rain holds off — I think it’s going to be a blast!
The PLY Party is a gathering of the indie dyers that Lovelyarns carries in their shop, selling their yarns in person and getting to meet the customers (and that last bit is the part I’m really looking forward to). If you’re anywhere in the Baltimore area this weekend, please do come to the party!
Here’s all the details:
Lovelyarn’s PLY (Peace, Love, Yarn) Party
Sunday, September 11th from 12noon – 6:00pm The party starts inside Lovelyarns at 846 W. 36th St. Baltimore, MD 21211
with a beautiful array of complimentary food, drink (and cupcakes!)
Then go through the shop to enter the THREE TENTS in the backyard parking pad. And for even more incentive, five door prize bags full of goodies will be given away!
Now, because we’ll be taking most of our stock to the PLY Party, I will be emptying the Etsy shop for the weekend. I’ll probably do that on Saturday night and hope to get it opened up again early next week (Subscriptions to the InterStellar Yarn Alliance will of course remain available over the weekend).
And this is the first time I’ve ever done the PLY party, but I’m told it’s really popular and gets a bit crazy. …So if there’s anything in the shop that’s been calling your name, you might want to grab it now, because there’s no telling if we’ll still have it next week!