Monday, April 29, 2013

New Crochet Pattern at KnittingGuru

Brand New This Week -  the 'Round the Loop Crochet Scarf Pattern. It's super-fast and easy to crochet. The stitches used are chain, slip stitch and half double crochet. You'll be surprised at the intricate texture you'll achieve using these simple stitches. Even a new crocheter could make one of these in an evening.

The scarves shown are made with Paton's Roving - a soft wool unplied yarn, and Web's Berkshire Bulky - a wool and alpaca singles yarn. Because of the pattern's openness, the yarn texture really stands out so that the scarf looks very different in these two yarns. Suggestions for ways to vary the scarf are given in the instructions. An effective substitute for the bulky yarns, for example, is to use knitting worsted doubled.

These scarves don't take much yarn at all. With one skein of each color, you'll have enough yarn left over to make a matching hat.

You can get your pattern here at Craftsy or Etsy.

I hope you'll enjoy making this quick scarf! Please comment or ask me questions below.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Variety is the Spice of Life

I like a lot of variety in life. When I knit or crochet something, I try to design it so that it may be worn many ways. My customers feel the same way I do and appreciate the versatility of their KnittingGuru designs.

The Tangerine Sherbet Swirl Summer Scarf exemplifies this philosophy. The addition of a removable tasseled drawstring allows the scarf to be worn gathered as a ruffled cowl, tied at the neck or lower, or tied casually without the drawstring. That's lots of variety for one small scarf!

The Tangerine Swirl Summer Scarf is available at my Etsy shop.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vintage Knitting & Crochet Patterns: Buyer Beware!

When it comes to buying vintage knitting and crochet patterns, the Latin phrase Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware - needs to be taken seriously. I'm in love with vintage knitting and crochet patterns and have been collecting them for many years. This is just a small fraction of my collection:

 To look at the great styles of the past and the beautiful workmanship of previous generations of knitters and crocheters is always inspiring. However, it's important to remember that many things have changed since those patterns were written. Do not expect to buy a facsimile pattern or a cleaned up PDF pattern and be able to follow the directions!
Here's why: yarns have changed, needles and hooks have changed, sizes have changed, and most important standards of clarity have changed. The handbag pattern begins with these instructions:

Please keep in mind that the only parts of the pattern that are missing in this picture are the directions for the straps and inserting a zipper. In other words, this is all the instruction you get to make this lovely crocheted handbag from 1944:

What do the pattern instructions tell us to do? First of all we need 6 75 yard tubes of Jack Frost Cordet or we could substitute Soutashe, Ribbon Braid or Straw for that. Do you know what Jack Frost Cordet is or where to get it or the other yarns? The answer is that none of these yarns are available now. Cordet is now generally called corde and it's a dense, stiff yarn as is the soutashe. I'm not sure what ribbon braid looked like in the 1940s, but it definitely wasn't what we now think of as ribbon yarns which are usually quite lacy. I once had some of the yarn that was used to be called straw in the 1940s. It was very thin and dense also.

Looking further into the pattern, we're told we need a Size 5 White Crochet Hook. Would you know what size hook to use? Do they mean a vintage bone crochet hook? Possibly, but what size modern crochet hook should you use?

Modern knitting and crochet patterns always include the gauge which tells us how many stitches and rows equal an inch, or more likely 4 inches (10 centimeters). If we knew the gauge, we could crochet some swatches with yarns that seem similar to what is shown in the bag picture. After making several swatches, we would eventually find something suitable - maybe some heavy crochet cotton such as size 3. However, THERE IS NO GAUGE given in this pattern! This is not unusual for patterns published in the first half of the 20th century and earlier. Because of this, a lot more time would be necessary in order to come up with a suitable pattern for this bag.

Now let's examine the actual crochet instructions. We're told to make 79 circular motifs. That seems OK, but do they mean to actually make each motif separately, or do they want you to join them in strips? If you are to make each one separately, you're going to have a huge number of threads to weave into the inside of the bag! I suspect that the authors want you to join the motifs as you go along, but they don't say how. The finishing instructions tell indicate that strips of motifs should be sewn together, but they don't specify how to do that either. Looking at the bag, it seems to me that there are crochet stitches between the motifs, but the pattern makes no reference to them. Should the motifs really be crocheted together?

At the end of the pattern when we're told to attach the zipper, we're instructed to join two of the motifs together and attach them to the zipper pull. There is no mention of lining this bag with it's hundreds of loose ends from all those motifs. I would expect that the average crocheter would be stymied by these instructions and would give up on this pretty bag. What a frustrating waste of time and money!

The next time you're tempted to buy a vintage pattern, please keep all of this in mind. It's not impossible to duplicate the design, but it does take a lot of work and time.

Because I adore these patterns, I've started to produce some that I've updated - or translated - into modern knitting and crochet instructions so that they are doable. So far I've only done two: one for a belt and one for a hat that we would call a fascinator. Here are the two patterns I've updated.

 1940s Retro Crochet Belt Pattern

 1940s Crochet Tassel Hat Pattern

 To make these patterns, I first went through the process of figuring out what yarns would be suitable that are available now and what size crochet hooks should be used. I then retyped the instructions using large, easy to read type. (Did I mention that most of the vintage patterns are in tiny type?)

Then I worked on the pictures using Photoshop. I made them brighter and clearer, and just for fun I added color to the bag and belt. Each pattern shows several color variations to get your design started. I also added suggestions for ways to vary each pattern and finishing techniques so that the end result is professional looking.

Needless to say, each pattern took many hours to produce. I'd love to hear what you think of this project I've started. How interested would people be in acquiring these updated patterns? Please leave your comments here and I promise to answer them.

Meantime, you can get these patterns in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Floral Forms Inspire Fiber Art Jewelry

Flowers are an inspiring source for many kinds of crocheted and knitted jewelry. If you pick a simple floral shape, you can interpret it in thread crochet using perle cotton or embroidery floss. Stitched with tiny hooks, these threads will be dense and will keep their shape. You can wash the rings by hand so they will last indefinitely. 

I'm very fond of Zinnias. They come in many colors and shapes and always look quite bold. I began with a pretty zinnia in gold, orange, and hot pink. First I crocheted the flower. It took shape beginning with a circle and proceeding outward in tendrils of variegated color. Then I crocheted the band in a cotton and metallic dark gold perle cotton. I securely attached the flower to the band. This dramatic ring weighs almost nothing but packs a big visual punch. I hope you like it as much as I do!

This ring is available now at my Etsy shop. Each of my fiber art jewelry pieces is one-of-a-kind so when this ring sells, I could only approximate a similar one.

There's a nifty little app available at Sherwyn-Williams that lets you separate out the colors from a picture you have. Here's what I came up with for the Zinnia: 

 That was a little harsh for me so I ended up choosing these colors in floss for the ring:

 They're similar shades but with a more predominant red/peach tone for the flower's center. 

I hope you enjoy the spring and summer flowers and look to them for inspiration as I do. Please leave your thoughts, comments, etc. below and join in the conversation!