Friday, September 8, 2017

Introducing Live-Loop Stitches and Cables, and Two Published Patterns

"Live loop" has long been a term more common to knitting than to crochet - until now!

I'm very excited to announce a new technique that uses live loops to make amazing cables in crochet:

Live-Loop Cables in Crochet - a new technique by Sue Perez :)

The photos above are just a sample of cables you can make with the Live-Loop method.

Live-Loop cables are made by working a crochet stitch, pulling up a set of loops, then working a partial crochet stitch. The hook is then removed, and the two crochet stitches are linked together behind the cable loops. This leaves the cable loops free (or "live") on the front of the fabric.

On each succeeding round or row, a new loop is pulled up in each of the live loops from the previous row, and the crochet stitches on either side are again linked behind the cable. (If this sounds hopelessly confusing, see the video at the bottom of the post.)

The result is a flexible, I-cord-like cable that travels up the fabric surface without disrupting background texture or stitch count. Live-Loop cables can be made 1 or more loops wide (the more the loops, the fatter the cable). They can curve left or right, cross other cables, or individual loops can be crossed within a single cable. Fun fact: a Live-Loop cable can also be frogged and repaired while leaving the rest of the project intact.

If you'd like to try this technique right away, you can find a full tutorial in Interweave Crochet Fall 2017. Also appearing in this issue are two Live-Loop crochet projects: the Blue Spruce Hat and the Bristlecone Mitts.

The Blue Spruce hat is worked bottom-up and packed with fun details: a cushiony, lettuce-edge slip stitch band, Live-Loop cables both winding and straight, bobbles, and a unique slip-stitch crown finish:

Photos courtesy of Interweave Crochet and Harper Point Photography


I think the crown is my favourite part. :)

The Bristlecone Mitts are small bundes of cozy slip-stitch ribbing and cabled joy. Flat 4-loop cables travel up the backs, and the thumb gusset is set off by a tidy 1-loop cable:

Photos courtesy of Interweave Crochet and Harper Point Photography

Interweave Crochet Fall 2017 also features several other cable techniques, and many beautiful non-cabled projects. It's available in both print and digital editions here.

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If you'd like to see Live-Loop crochet in action, here's a video demonstration that explains the theory behind the technique, and walks the viewer through making a Live-Loop cable swatch:



The Live-Loop method has opened up a world of possibilities for cables in crochet. I've learned (and am still learning) so much while developing this technique, and I have a ton of pattern ideas. There's much more to be said on the subject than will fit into any magazine article or blog post - so I'm writing a book about it. :)

I hope you'll try the Live-Loop method for yourself. It's fun, it's fascinating, and it produces amazing cables in crochet.

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Thoughts and prayers are going out for all of you who are in the path of Hurricane Irma.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Flowers of August and July

It's been an odd summer. Torrential rains in July, followed by a cool August, made for plenty of wildflowers on the roadsides, but hardly any tomatoes in the garden. Miles have been sparse too, but there have been a few rides (literally just a few). Of course I can't take a bike ride without taking wildflower photos, so here are some of the blossoms I saw in July and August....

Mid-July, clockwise from upper left - salsify, wild sunflower, Queen Anne's Lace, yellow coneflower, and wild bergamot:


(Wild bergamot is like the Phyllis Diller of flowers. The petals and stamens look as maniacally dishevelled as the divine Miss D's hair.)

Next up, clockwise from upper left - crown vetch, spiderwort, birdsfoot trefoil, hare's-foot clover (charming name!), and spotted knapweed:


I do occasionally drag my eyes from the wildflowers to look at other things, like sandhill cranes in a soybean field. There were three that day, but as soon as they saw me get out the camera, they split up and began evasive maneuvers. So here's a shot of one of them:


Wildflowers are much more accommodating - unless there's a high wind, they mostly sit still for photos. Below, clockwise from upper left - curly dock gone to seed, hoary verbena, lesser centaury (new flower for me this year!), rough-fruited cinquefoil, fireweed with fleabane, and Turk's Cap lily:


Late July - Mr. M and I participated in a local MS ride. It was a damp and foggy morning, not very conducive to photos, but I had to snap these flowers and outbuildings (the barn on the left has two barn quilts, though they don't show very well in this photo):


After we got home and did our laundry, the sun came out. Guess which jersey is mine:


:)

Early August - a short solo ride along roads that seemed to float on a billowing sea of Queen Anne's Lace, wild chicory, and hawkweed. It's hard to do justice to the amazing quantities of QAL that bloomed this year:


A doe and twin fawns crossing another, less-flowered road:


Other wildflowers seen that day included, clockwise from top left - wild bergamot going to seed, whorled milkweed, exotic-looking horsemint, the first lavender asters of the year, and the very beautiful lesser purple fringed orchid (another new flower for me this year):


Mid-August - Mr. M and I did another short charity ride together. I believe I set a personal record that day by not photographing any wildflowers (the exception that proves the rule?). Instead we have, clockwise from upper left - self-portrait with water weeds, Mr. M on a country road, shadow shot, a new use for a cycling helmet, and Iris the bike reposing on a rustic bridge:


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Summer is the time of year when every ride or drive brings continual glimpses of beauty, and the list of flowers rolls like a litany off my tongue as I recite their names to myself.

"But beauty vanishes; beauty passes." There's frost in the not-too-distant future; let's savor summer while we can.

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Prayers for the people of Texas who are seeing not flowers but flooding right now.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Two Patterns Published, and a Tutorial for the Apple Dumpling Hat Join

It's hard to think about Autumn when summer is still at its peak - which is probably why I didn't blog about these patterns when they first came out last month. (It couldn't, surely, be anything to do with lack of organisation on my part. Oh no.)

Now, with goldenrod marching across the fields and September breathing down our necks, the time seems right to mention Love of Crochet's Fall 2017 issue, in which are appearing the...

Photo courtesy Love of Crochet

and the...

Photo courtesy Love of Crochet

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The Apple Picking Mitts feature double rows of mock cables at tops and cuffs, with back loop only, front loop only, and crossed stitches giving plenty of interest and texture. A simple hdc body with built-in thumb gussets makes this project quick, fun, and well-fitting.


The Apple Dumpling Hat uses simple rounds of extended hdc, worked in the back bar, for stretchy texture:


It's topped with a darn cute stem and leaf (though I says it as shouldn't):


Click here to check out all the lovely patterns in Love of Crochet Fall 2017. Both digital and print issues are available.

Image courtesy Love of Crochet

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And now, the Apple Dumpling Hat join.

Any variation of hdc worked in the back bar makes for a striking stitch - but how do you keep those raised ridges flowing smoothly at round joins? Visible seams are a pet peeve of mine, so I developed a special join just for this project. It's a hybrid of the Slipped Slip join and the Mock Invisible Join, with some travelling join vibe thrown in for good measure.

The magazine pattern calls it a "Modified Join". Here's how to make it:

1. Start with a round of hdc foundation stitch. (The first hdc made in each round will be called the "starting hdc", and the last one will be called the "ending hdc".) Bring the two ends together, RS facing outwards, to form a ring. Pull up working loop to about 3/8" tall and remove hook from loop. (The arrows in Photo 1 show where the loop is about to go.) 
2. With working yarn above and behind work, insert hook from WS to RS through top loops of starting hdc.
3. Place working loop back on hook and pull it through to back of project.


4. Drop loop again, turn work so WS is facing you, and insert hook from bottom to top through the back bar and back loop of the ending hdc. (I'm calling them the back loop and back bar because that's what they would be if viewed from the right side. Slightly confusing, I know.)
5. Place working loop back on hook, and ...
6. Draw it down through the other two loops.

 
7. Turn the work again so the RS is facing you. Pull the working yarn to tighten the join. The top of the starting hdc should "merge" with the top of the ending hdc as in photo below.


8. To start the next round, chain 4 (does not count as stitch), skip 1 stitch, ehdc in back bar of next stitch.
9. When you get to the end of the round, make the ending stitch in the back bar of the skipped stitch, keeping the ch-4 behind the work. The round start/end has now shifted one stitch to the left.
10. Ending stitch made and Modified Join complete.


This combination of sneaky join and shifting round start makes the seam much less noticeable. Here's how it looks after several rounds, wrong side (left photo) and right side (right photo):


Pretty subtle, huh? But all is not perfect. See the little arrow in the right-hand photo above? It's pointing to the last stitch of Round 3, which has developed a gap.

There are two ways to avoid a gap like that: pull yarn tail very firmly in Step 7, and make the first chain of the next round very tight to "lock" the join. (Be aware that if you pull things too tightly you can get a puckered seam. The road to perfect tension is not an easy one.)

The best way and time to tighten a chain stitch is after it's made: so chain 1, then press thumb against working loop to keep it from slipping. With other hand, grasp work just below the chain. Tug hook firmly upwards until chain shrinks to a fraction of its normal size (see photo below). Release thumb and gently pull yarn tail to snug loop on hook; work rest of chain stitches normally.


Whew! Making this join is much quicker and easier than writing it out. :) If you have any questions about the technique, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

I hope you'll find this join useful for making an Apple Dumpling Hat of your own, and for other projects too.

You may do whatever you like with objects made using this technique, but you may not reproduce or re-post the text or photos without permission. (Links to this post are welcome.) If you do reference this technique, please credit the author.

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!

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P.S. Are you ready for Fall? Or (like me) still loving Summer?

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Snapshots from the Chain Link 2017 Design Competition


One of the best parts of attending a CGOA conference is seeing what other people are making. (And wearing!) Being surrounded by so much creativity is inspiring, and nowhere is the creativity more evident than in the Design Competition.

Here are some highlights of this year's entries....

Each of these three pieces won a prize. The lovely wrap on the right was constructed
entirely from chain stitch and single crochet.

This amazing wall hanging won the People's Choice Award.

Another prize winner - a beautifully creative combination of beadwork and crochet
by Hazel Furst. Notice that many of the capital letters are musical notes, and the
hangers are made from conductor's batons.

That gorgeous shawl in the foreground was designed by Susan Lowman.

Never heard of this designer.... (cough)

A stunning Tunisian capelet by Juliette Bezold, who used contrast stitches to highlight
the increases and decreases. Sweet!

"Rainbow in Cloud" - this adorable blanket took first prize in the Home Decor category.

Peacock-feather detail from an amazing outfit. I wish I could have
gotten a good shot of the entire project.

Fabulous hairpin lace tunic by Annette Hynes.

Detail of a lovely freeform crochet wrap by Kristin Lynn. Star stitch, Solomon's knots,
and bullion stitch are just some of the interesting techniques used.

"Rock Steady Seasons of Indiana" by Gwen Blakely Kinsler. How creative is this!

I know you've seen this project already,
but check out the ribbon! I won a prize! :D

There were so many beautiful entries - I wish I could have gotten photos of them all. (A complete album should be available soon on the CGOA website.)

Next year's conference is in Portland. Start making your travel plans!

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Shapshots from Chain Link 2017

I just got back from 5 wonderful days at Chain Link 2017, the annual conference of the Crochet Guild of America. This year's meeting was held just outside Chicago, a short 2½ hour drive away.

Here are some favourite memories from the meeting....

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The lovely hotel:


Crocheting in the sun while making new friends:


The Marketplace (cue heavenly choir):


Yumiko Alexander's elegant booth:


Beautiful yarn and breathtaking roving:


Enticing samples and amusing pottery:


Wonderful food:


Interesting people:


A tiny ball of new yarn on my lap:


And a kindred spirit for a roommate:


Not pictured: the learning, the laughter, the fun, the late-night crochet sessions, the tea at 2 am, the airplanes flying past our hotel window at the rate of about one every minute, and the fantastic crochet fashion show. Wish you could all have been there!

Tomorrow I'll post some photos of the design competition.

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Do you belong to any craft guilds, or have you ever attended a craft conference? Do tell.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cycling's Big Heart

When Mr. M came home from the library the other day, he handed me a book, saying "I thought you might enjoy this."

Shut Up Legs! by Jens Voigt (with James Startt)

Those of you who follow professional cycling, or regularly watch the Tour de France, will immediately recognise the name (and probably the voice) of Jens Voigt. For those of you who don't: Jens is a retired professional cyclist, also a happy husband and proud father of six. Born in East Germany, he competed as an amateur for his country before turning professional in 1997. Over the course of his career, he started 17 times in the Tour de France, and rode in countless other world tours and stage races, winning several, but more often playing a supporting role to help his teammates win. He closed his cycling career at the age of 43 by setting a world cycling record of riding 51.11 km (31.76 miles) in one hour.

Jens is a warm, funny, articulate guy, with a gift for saying the unexpected. His voice comes through clearly in his memoir.

On the long hours spent in hotel rooms between race stages:
I’m really good at falling asleep in the afternoon. I’m actually world-class when it comes to taking naps.
On food and drink in various countries:
I don’t know how they do it, but in Italy, even the gas stations have awesome coffee. France was just the opposite.
On sports and friendship:
- One of the great things about cycling is all the great friends you meet out on the road.
- Those days, when I was able to really turn myself inside out for the team, for my friends, go down as some of the greatest moments of my life. I was just enormously proud!
On working through the years of doping scandals:
- If you think that you’re always getting beat by drug cheats, then why continue racing? ….[T]hose of us who wanted to race with dignity had to focus on the positive. We had to believe that winning clean was possible.
- Perhaps I could have won more big-time races if I had cheated [doped], but my life would have been much more stressful. My career would have become this maddening cycle of lies and the constant fear of getting caught…. I was always satisfied in knowing that I had achieved the maximum results possible with my natural talent and work ethic.
On his first major crash, in the 2009 TdF:
[T]he next thing I remember is waking up in my hospital bed at about 10:30 that night…. slowly, piece by piece, I started moving different body parts…. after that very painful process, I understood that nothing was broken beyond repair. And from that point on, it was just a matter of time before I was back.
On kindness from rivals after crashing again in the 2010 TdF:
They waited for me, slowing down and looking back over their shoulders to make sure I was still on their wheels…  There is Cav, a 2-million-dollar superstar of our sport, risking elimination from the biggest race in the world to slow down and wait for a beat-up, tired, hurting guy whom he probably didn’t even know all that well. He and his teammates saved my day by making their own day harder…. To make it even more impressive, there was no TV crew around to capture this display of fairness and camaraderie…. Little stories like these are seldom told and make the beauty of sport, the beauty of cycling, to me. The surprising and unexpected moments of humanity among rivals is what, to me, is so precious about sports.
On money:
Maybe I could have become richer … by being more tenacious or by changing teams more often. But I’ve always been happy with where I’ve been, and as a professional cyclist I’ve basically been happy with the amount of money I’ve been making at any given time…. because when it comes to money, I have always been of the mind that if I’m making enough, why do I need more? It’s like, how many beds do you need to sleep in?
On balancing career and life:
- If you dedicate yourself to achieving perfection, you probably won't have time to go fishing.
- Family was always important to me. Cycling was not my only priority. I also wanted to be a good dad, a good friend, and a good husband.... I come from the country. I come from a simple life, and I always wanted to keep life as simple as possible. Start out simple, because life will get complicated enough by itself.
On popularity:
I don’t have brilliant earrings. I don’t have tattoos. I don’t have a Porsche or Ferrari in my garage. It’s just me. I didn’t grow up in a materialistic culture. Yet maybe that’s what connects.
If you haven't already figured it out, I'm loving this book. There've been so many "Yes!" moments in it for me. He seems like a kindred spirit. I like his attitude towards money, his desire for a simple and balanced life, his loyalty to his friends, his generosity to his rivals, and his outspokenness. I admire his willingness to sacrifice himself for his team members (rather than expecting everyone else to sacrifice themselves for him).

Here is what the English-speaking world's most famous cycling commentators had to say about Jens during Stage 10 of the 2008 TdF:

Phil Liggett: “That man is worth twice his salary, I don’t care what you say, for a team. He’s brilliant….”

Bob Sherwen: “Well, Jens Voigt will go until he drops, he’s that kind of rider. He rides on stomach, he rides on guts, and his heart, I think, is twice as big as anybody else’s here this afternoon....”

Here's one last quote from Jens himself:
As you get older, you come to realize that sports, like life, are not just all about me, me, me! It's not just about winning, winning, winning. And in bicycle racing, you start asking yourself, "Okay, how can I improve the status of the team? How can I help my friend to win?"
What a great attitude, and great read, from a truly great cyclist. Thanks, Jensie.

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