Monday, November 23, 2015

Seeing Stars and Walking with the Moon

I've been seeing a lot of stars lately. Neither celestial stars nor cinematic, but ****s - the kind found in crochet patterns.

When you design for crochet magazines, mailing off the completed projects is not the end of the process; it's only the beginning of the end.  Next comes pattern-writing (blogger emits hollow groan). Even after years of practice, with copious note-taking during project construction, it's sometimes a struggle for me to write a clear, concise pattern. I've often wondered why; language is, after all, my strong suit, and crochet patternese is just another language, right?

Wrong. After this last round of pattern-writing, I've reached the conclusion that crochet patterns are more akin to math than to grammar. Think about it: you've got numbers, brackets, addition and multiplication, sequential actions, parentheses, and mind-numbing strings of abbreviations, all combining into a mystical formula that you hope will yield the desired result (but so often doesn't). As with math, there's an order of operations to be followed, in both the writing and the stitching - and if you miss a step you get the wrong answer.

Brackets and stars in particular are my downfall. You know the sort of thing: *dc, shell, sc in next v-st. Rep from * to end of row. Or should it be [dc, shell, sc in next v-st] across to end? Or *[dc, shell, sc] in next v-st. Rep from * to end? Brackets are to crochet what commas are to grammar; misplace them and disaster can result.

After hours of pattern-typing and -proofing, staring at parentheses and semi-colons and repeating from * to **, my brain goes numb. I begin putting brackets around everything in sight, scattering asterisks with abandon in a futile-seeming effort to make sure the reader understands that something, somewhere, must be repeated until she reaches the next something, somewhere. Crystal-clear though the pattern may be in my brain, it somehow gets muddied on its way to the page - and polishing it up to make it fit for use is a laborious process.

Thank God for tech editors, say I. And for charts!

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I haven't posted any outdoor photos for weeks; not because I haven't been outdoors, but because I've had neither time nor energy to spare from yarny projects and yarny writing. But now that the woolly tide has ebbed, some pictures are in order.

November has, however temporarily, turned its face from fall to winter. At first it was red and gold, and still quite green underfoot, with surprisingly warm days fooling the trees into budding out. Poor trees! victims of a false spring, only to have their hopes frozen in the bud - for last week the mercury plummeted, and on Friday came an iron-cold snow. Saturday we woke to an icy white world that made summer seem distant and exceedingly unreal.


On Sunday I take a walk through this snowy world, with the moon for my companion. Here she is, shining silver-bright in a pale blue sky:

A marsh has frozen into satin stillness:

A Favourite Tree near the start of the trail is dusted with white along the bough:

Ahead is the moon, now scarfed with cloud:

Gone are the flowers of summer; in their places stand elegant brown ghosts:

Meanwhile the moon floats higher, over a horizon faintly tinged with rose...

...and over delicate grass seeds on the restored prairie:

The wind is bitter; it's time to head for home and warmth. The freshly-iced marshy lake reflects the pink of the sky as I pass:

Today (Monday), the temps are slowly rising. By Thursday the snow will probably be gone, but we've had our first taste of winter.

How's your weather? Is it cold where you are?


Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, and a happy week to all.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

A Yarny Post

Whew. (Sound of blogger taking a deep breath of relief.) Three magazine projects have just been mailed off. After weeks - make that months - of drowning swimming in a sea of yarn, at last I can come up for air.

No matter how I try to pace myself with magazine projects, they always seem to run right up to the deadline. This is partly due to poor organisation, partly to perfectionist tendencies that keep me fussing around with technique when I ought to be crocheting full steam ahead, and partly to the fact that no matter how perfect I think a pattern is, there's always a flaw that needs to be fixed, or an improvement to be made. So I end up with one eye on the calendar and one eye on the hook, neglecting husband and housework and crocheting like crazy while the pressure mounts and the deadline creeps nearer and nearer.

It's at times like these that a little boost is needed. And what better boost could there be than a magazine cover featuring something I made?

Interweave Crochet Accessories 2016

Seeing the cover of Interweave Crochet Accessories 2016 put a new spring into my crochet step (nothing like a good mixed metaphor), and gave me the oomph I needed to persevere with the latest batch of projects.

Four of the patterns in this issue are mine (a new record for me!), including the two on the cover.

Knotty Waves Hat, Knotty Mitts, Graphic Lace Cowl, Both Sides Now Scarf

The Knotty Waves Hat and Mitts were squeezed from a single skein of worsted-weight yarn (that little coil in the photo is all that was left). Hdcs worked in the back bar give softness and texture to the crochet fabric, with Forward Loop Bobbles providing the "knots" of the patterns' names. The Graphic Lace Cowl contrasts a circle-and-stripe center panel with lace-pattern sides, while the Both Sides Now Scarf combines two of my own unvented stitches with back-loop slip stitch for a project that looks great on either side.

It's always a surprise to see my own work on a magazine cover ... and very humbling too, considering the many wonderful projects that might have been chosen instead. Do check out Interweave Crochet Accessories 2016 ... it's chock-full of amazing patterns for hats, mittens, scarves, cowls, and more, with plenty of interesting techniques to explore (by and for crochet geeks like me), and gift ideas galore.

Click here for a quick peek at all the projects on the Accessories 2016 Ravelry page.


Jennifer at Thistlebear is hosting a Winter Link Party, and it's time for the November project update. Between magazine commissions, I've been slowly working on a small project of my own: a crochet top with colourwork center panel.

Progress so far: the stripes I had in mind for the center panel have been tentatively replaced by eight-sided motifs, which I hope will give a sort of flowery-tile, mosaic look.

Prototype motifs:

Same idea, slightly enlarged and with revised center portion:

Each eight-sided motif will feature a little brown flower shape against different background colours, all worked in the luscious tints of Planet Penny Cotton Club Ice Cream Colour yarn.

The difficult part, for me, is deciding on specific colour combinations and block placement. Here's one way I test out placement ideas without having to crochet a lot of motifs, using a drawing program:

What do you think? Should I make it mosaic/quilty, like the idea in the center, or something that shades from colour to colour, like the on on the left? I'm leaning towards a shaded placement myself.

Oh, and I now have a name for my project, inspired by the little brown flowers of the motif. Would you like to hear it? (Of course you would.) Here it is:

"Chocolate Goes with Everything."

'Nuff said. :)

Click here to see all the Thistlebear Winter Project Party links.


How are you?

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