Thursday, January 31, 2008

Whose sisterhood is it anyway?

In my last post, I mentioned coming across a rather negative online discussion of a crochet pattern. I said I had no problem with that, and I want to elaborate on why, because I think it's an important issue. And because I feel like ranting.

I've said in the past that there seems to be an attitude in the yarnosphere of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." To a certain extent, I think that's a lovely idea. After all, what can really be gained from snarking on a brand-new crocheter's first lumpy finished object? Nothing. It just leads to hurt feelings, and I can see how in a worst-case scenario it could turn someone off the fiber arts and/or blogging. We all have made projects that didn't turn out like they were supposed to -- that's why Ravelry has UGHs! Saying someone is smelly and fat just for shits and giggles may fly on some parts of teh intarwubz -- that's the main reason I've never started an NBA blog. But it isn't acceptable in the yarnosphere, and I think that's a good thing.

However, I am extremely skeptical of people -- who often also happen to be designers -- who carry on about how fiber artists shouldn't say anything bad about anyone or anything because fiber arts are a "sisterhood." If you are going to put a pattern out there and charge people money for it, then you should know that people will discuss it, up to and including "OMG this pattern sucks I cannot believe anyone would have the gall to charge money for this." If designers cannot deal with this, then IMNSHO, designers should not charge for their patterns. Or at least should not go looking for criticism and then get bent out of shape about it (I know, easier said than done, but there's a reason they tell the American Idol contestants not to go on the message boards). As for designers who rely on the "sisterhood" claim to avoid criticism, all I want to know is, if fiber arts are such a sisterhood, then why are you trying to make a buck off your sisters?

Grrrrr. Arrrgh.

So I put the finishing touches on the thing I was going to offer up as my part of the Bloggy Giveaways Winter Carnival, only to discover mere moments later that I was too late, as spammers had forced an early end to signups. It was like a metaphor for my current issues with crochet. And by "current," I mean "last night." It seemed like a really big deal at the time.

I was winding some Alchemy Bamboo in hopes that I could get started on the project I wanted to submit to the first Crochet Liberation Front pattern collection -- a lacy nightie. I'd had it in mind ever since I first saw the yarn in another Ravelrer's destash list. It was going to be so pretty.

But in the process of winding, the yarn got tangled, and one of the Mad Cats (the younger one; we'll call her No No Bad Kitty, as she probably thinks that is her name) started trying to eat said yarn, and then I realized what should have been a short project had taken two hours, and then I realized that I had no clue how I was going to make this beautiful nightie in the first place, let alone adjust the pattern for different sizes and whatnot. And then I thought about the discussion I'd seen online yesterday savaging a new designer's pattern (and I have no problems whatsoever with this, for reasons I'll describe in another entry), and I thought about how I really didn't want to put bad stuff out there and cause people to think I didn't care about doing it right. It was all enough to make me think I should give up on designing.

And then the Mad Husband got home and I told him all of this (well, most of this summarized in the interests of not putting him to sleep), and he said, "Your problem is you want instant gratification."

StringTheory2.0 not only agrees with the Mad Husband, she's kinda astonished that I, the instant gratification junkie, ever got into fiber arts in the first place.

It does give some perspective on why I'm so bad about buying yarn, though.

So, after talking to our Fearless Leader, I feel better about revising my goals for this go-round from a lacy nightie to something simpler. You've gotta walk before you can run and all that. Man, I wish I could think of a way to end posts that doesn't involve invoking a cliche.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Perhaps I'm not so resolute after all

Since we're nearly done with January, I thought I'd review my list of New Year's Resolutions and see how I'm doing.

  • Restraining myself on yarn purchases -- Well, there was the one day I went to Knitch (during a sale, no less) and managed not to buy anything. I get points for that, right? Enough points to make up for indulging in Webs alpaca closeouts?
  • Designing my own patterns -- Was making progress on my scarf, till I realized I was one stitch off and though I could have just ignored it like I do when I'm working from other people's patterns and worked around it and no one would have noticed, I frogged the whole thing because it's my pattern, so it's different.
  • Using up stash yarn -- Ha. Bwahahahahahahaaaa.
  • Crocheting socks -- I've got two cuffs and half an ankle. Compared to my other resolutions, this qualifies as positively impressive.

If I didn't mention a resolution, assume I haven't even tried to keep it yet. But I'm not worried, I still have eleven months to procrastinate, I mean keep my resolutions.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stitch-Stirrers: Crochet Resources

From this week's prompt at Stitch-Stirrers:

If someone new to crochet who had never really picked up a hook or someone who wanted to advance their skills were to ask you for some good materials for learning, what’s the best resource(s) you've found on the subject of crochet, on-line or otherwise that you would suggest?

I kinda hate to give such a cliche answer, especially with the whole Son of Stitch 'n Bitch debacle still fresh in my mind, but I really have to give it to The Happy Hooker: Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet by Deb Stoller. The how-to-crochet instructions and illustrations are simply the best I've seen anywhere, and I had been looking for instructions I could grasp for years. Maybe it's the bright colors, or maybe Stoller's just speaking my language. Concepts that I just couldn't make sense of when they were accompanied by grainy pictures in my grandmother's tattered crochet booklets suddenly made sense. The book also provides fun patterns that were good choices for my first garments (though check the errata).

As for other resources I'd recommend as absolutely essential (at least for myself), I have trouble resisting any stitch guide, but my favorite is The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden. And I know I say it all the time, but for stitchers, Ravelry is the best thing since... ummm. Maybe ever. It's that good.

In the interest of full disclosure...

I have seen a shrug pattern that I like.

This is the Maui Shrug by Jennifer Reeve (pattern available at CrochetMe with registration). I think it's way cute. I also feel a little embarrassed that I have to eat my words on shrugs that quickly, but still, it's one cute shrug against dozens of not-so-cute shrugs, and I did say I liked lacy little bolero jackets, and this is one of those, even if it is called a shrug.

It's cute though, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Now I think I should make a post complaining about the lack of crocheted sock patterns in the hopes that I'll suddenly start finding those once I've publicly stated that I can't find them. Might as well work the eating of words to my advantage.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm the Goldilocks of yarn.

I'm hoping to put my first pattern out in the world this week, via Ravelry and this blog. Well, at least I was. After tonight's stitching, I may have to revise that estimate.

The pattern is for a men's scarf, subtle, with clean lines. It's just seemed to me that there are very few scarf patterns designed specifically for men, and most of the crochet patterns for scarves are so frilly and/or lacy you wouldn't think of a man wearing them. (Of course, if the gents want to, more power to 'em. I support everyone's right to wear outrageous crochet, as long as they respect my right to go to What Not to Crochet and snicker. Come on. You know you've all done it at least once.)

I originally started this scarf in Louisa Harding Kimono Angora, but gave up on that yarn pretty quickly once I realized the fuzzy texture of the angora was going to obscure the subtle design I was trying to incorporate. Then I tried Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK from my stash and got a bit further in before deciding the alpaca was too drapey and the design was unlikely to show up. Then I was thinking merino, something with good stitch definition. So I went to the Needle Nook (I needed more Panda Silk anyway) and asked for recommendations on a nice smooth yarn, not too much drape, and good stitch definition, and the one Arlene recommended that I liked best was Wool Bam Boo.

I really, really like working with the Wool Bam Boo, don't get me wrong. (Hey, between the Wool Bam Boo and the Panda Silk, I think I'm having a wild fling with bamboo. Man, I hope alpaca doesn't find out.) But now I'm thinking there's yet another factor I forgot to consider: yarn weight. As much as I believe in DK-weight for the average crochet project, this one might benefit from worsted-weight or even bigger. So now I have to come up with a worsted or bigger yarn, smooth, not too much drape, and good stitch definition. And then I have to buy it. And then I have to keep the Mad Husband from becoming the Really Mad Husband once he realizes how many different types of yarn I've bought for this one project. And in the meantime, what do I do with the Wool Bam Boo? Do I continue on or frog it? Finish it and stick it up on Etsy just to see what happens? Dude. The smallest part of energy I've expended on this one is the actual designing of the pattern. The devil's in the details.

Sock stress

So last night I finished the second cuff of the Looks Knit Great Fit socks. Then I stared at them in delight for a while because they're just the same size. Then I looked at the next part of the pattern and that's when I started getting nervous. Heel flap? I'm not even sure what a heel flap is, exactly, and I've been wearing socks my whole life! This is going to be the hard part, I can tell already. I've kinda lost the gauge because I had to make the cuffs bigger to fit me, so I'm not even sure that the directions will hold water now.

But I will persevere. Because socks may be intimidating, but the Panda Silk is worth it. The socks, they will be mine. Muahahahahahaaa.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shrug, I don't get it.

Can somebody please explain to me what is the deal with shrugs?

Oh, don't get me wrong. I love the look of crocheted cardigans, crochet and cardigans go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and even I can appreciate a lacy little bolero jacket to cover your shoulders in an evening gown or spaghetti tank. (Though I hope we're talking about two different boleros for that, since I haven't seen many that would go with both.)

But shrugs? The solid ones that look like regular sweaters that you cut off and tied together right under your boobs? I just do not get those at all. To me they look like the Daisy Dukes of sweaters. For one thing, they generally look like you were making a regular sweater when you ran out of yarn. And what would that missing yarn have covered? The stomach! It's like addition by subtraction -- my eye just gets drawn to what's missing. And I may be fairly comfortable with my body, but that doesn't mean I want to walk around wearing a flashing neon sign that says LOOKIT MAH BELLY!!

And even for those of us who would like to show off our tummies... Daisy Dukes, man. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

As for the shrug patterns that avoid the belly issues by not having a front part and just being sleeves connected in the back... those just don't look comfortable. Wouldn't they get all twisty and stuff?

Maybe I'm just missing something, but I don't think so. Otherwise I'd be seeing shrugs on the other addicts at the yarn store, and I can't remember seeing a single one. Yet there seems to be a rule that every crochet publication -- book, magazine, what have you -- must include at least two shrugs. Someone must be making them. Or is this some rule I don't know about, that every new designer has to crank out a shrug pattern? Kinda like hazing? And then once you're in, you sit around and drink beer and laugh at all the shrug patterns?

I wondered if this was just irrationality on my part, so I pointed the Mad Husband to a couple of particularly bad shrugs (no, I'm not posting them here, I'm the Mad Crocheter, not the Bitchy Crocheter Who Calls People Out) and he said "yeah, they're trashy." However, you shouldn't take his word for it because I'm pretty sure when it comes to crochet, he just agrees with me. I just asked him if I did a 180 and made a shrug, would he claim he liked it because he'd be worried if he said otherwise, I wouldn't make dinner? His response? "Ding ding ding."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The joy of sox

I'm really starting to understand why so many of my knitting friends are obsessed with socks:
  • They're portable.
  • Sock yarn comes in all sorts of wild colorways that might be scary in sweaters, but are fun in socks.
  • You can splurge on the good yarn because you only need a ball or two.
  • You get hundreds of yards out of that ball which will keep you busy (and hopefully not buying yarn) for a while.
While I admired my friends' socks, I didn't think I was interested in making them myself, because for me socks are boring and utilitarian. I don't even really have my own socks -- the Mad Husband and I share a large stockpile of black socks because they match our shoes. But now I get it. Handmade socks are beautiful little works of art.

The Looks Knit Great Fit socks are made in the opposite direction of most of the socks I've seen knitters working on -- you start with the cuff. Luckily I'd learned a lot about how important to try socks on as you go by watching those knitters, so that didn't come as a surprise. Camanomade suggested making the two cuffs first so I could make sure they're the same size, so now I'm happily hooking away on cuff #2. I was so excited when I reached the point where I understood how this big flat piece I was working on would become the cuff. It sort of clicked and now I'm all sorts of excited to see how these turn out.

Though frankly, even if the pattern weren't making sense to me, I'd still be enthralled because of the Panda Silk. I might marry this yarn if I weren't already taken.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

For all the Hello Kitty fans...

Ravelry users are totally the best.

Recently I saw Dustinthewind's adorable kitty on Ravelry, and followed the links to find the pattern she had written in French. I noticed her profile was in English, so I took a chance on being called an ugly American and wrote her to ask if she was going to translate the pattern. She responded very graciously and here's the pattern in French and English:

Kitty en tuto

I am just blown away by her generosity and creativity. Check it out!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Two skeins long and bulletproof

First of all, before I start telling you about this other project, you all, but especially the sock yarn addicts, need to run out and get some Crystal Palace Panda Silk. It's the bomb. Light and soft and fabulous colors. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way...

I mentioned the Crochet Chocolate Top from Moda Dea that I've been working on. Not bad, huh? The picture quality isn't the greatest, but you get the idea. Unfortunately, this photo doesn't really show the things about the pattern I really like. The main stitch is a single crochet/double crochet combination that I initially thought was a misprint, but it's really attractive and makes a pretty solid fabric. I'm making it in Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton, which is wonderful to work with. So fluffy.

Unfortunately, I fear the yarn is unwittingly contributing to a common crochet complaint: The fabric is pretty stiff. Or as some knitters would say, bulletproof. The yarn is worsted, just as the pattern calls for, but I think the incredible loft (which I love, don't get me wrong) of the Blue Sky makes it thicker than the Moda Dea yarn the pattern was designed for.

However, so far I'm still liking this enough that I'm sticking with it. I've decided if the thickness makes it too heavy for the warmer months, I'll just make the sleeves longer and make it a winter sweater. I'm not sure what I'll think of the sleeve construction, which appears to be drop, but I'll work with it. I definitely like the pattern enough to take the yarn companies' free patterns a little more seriously. I know many will look down their noses at that, but with the shortage of high-end crochet patterns, we have to get creative.

One more thing about the Blue Sky: I'd love to crochet a bathrobe out of it. It would probably be prohibitively expensive and not the most sensible use for such wonderful yarn, but it sure would be fun!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow and socks

This morning I looked outside and much to my Southern joy, it was snowing! Sticking, even. Snow is always a cause for panic and celebration in the South. Panic because we don't know what we're doing and can't drive in snow and must all run to the grocery to buy milk, eggs, and bread if snow is predicted. Even if we don't even use milk, eggs, and bread. It's a tradition. And celebration because everything in the South tends to shut down at the sight of snow. And we Southerners sure do like to sit in nice warm houses and look at the snow and/or go outside and play in the snow (though it's rare that we have enough snow for a snowman). And it always melts before we have to shovel it or anything unpleasant like that. So to us it's just fun. Hopefully now this makes a little more sense to those from regions with lots of snow. I hear snow gets old really fast when you have it six months out of the year.

Of course the snow is a little less exciting because it's happening during a three-day weekend.

Even so, I did venture outside in the snow because I managed to lose my I hook this week and I can't do any work on my Crochet Chocolate Top without one. Can you believe that pattern is from Moda Dea? They're making some real progress, I think. I'm doing it in Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton which is like crocheting with a big fluffy cloud.

Of course this is where the problems started because Needle Nook has a $10 debit card minimum and the hook was only $2.25. Luckily (or unluckily for my supposed yarn diet), I fell in love with Crystal Palace Panda Silk sock yarn in the jade colorway. It was so pretty and soft, and also machine washable, which Alpaca Sox is not. I'd wondered if alpaca socks might be too warm for Atlanta, so I think you can tell what happened: I got the Panda Silk and I'm going to frog the Alpaca Sox and use the Panda Silk instead.

I hope I didn't give the impression last night that I didn't have faith in the Looks Knit Great Fit pattern. I do. It's myself I'm worried about. But I know I've got other great crocheters to lean on (including the designer -- luv ya, Fearless Leader!), and I want to have cool socks to stick on the table at Knitch too. So here I go. It's 408 yards of sock yarn, I've got a crockpot full of chili, half a clue what I'm doing, it's snowing and I'm wearing glasses. Hit it!

Friday, January 18, 2008

You're never too old to break some rules.

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

This is an excellent piece of advice which often in my life I have considered and then ignored. Only I used to ignore it in regards to boys in berets and drinks that glow in the dark. Now I'm ignoring it to crochet socks.

Let's have a moment of silence for my misspent youth. Man, it was fun!

Truth be told, I may have gotten married and developed a bum knee, but right now the thing that's making me feel the oldest is that I was supposed to be out tonight swilling margaritas and instead I stayed home to crochet.

So yeah. Back to the crocheted socks before someone starts screaming at me for claiming to be old.

I've actually agreed with a few knitters that knit is better than crochet for some things and socks are one of them, but I should make a least a token effort to keep a new year's resolution. Plus lately a whole bunch of hookers over at the Crochet Liberation Front and other assorted crochet spots have been talking about crocheting socks all of a sudden, so I can always blame the peer pressure.

Truth is, I have no idea if these crocheted socks will even be wearable. But I have to try. I have the Looks Knit, Great Fit crocheted sock pattern from Laurie Wheeler (also known as the Fearless Leader and Big Cheese of the CLF) and some very pretty Alpaca Sox yarn (I needed one more skein to bump my order up to free shipping).

I'm not at all confident this will work, but I have nothing to lose. All together now: It's just yarn!

And if nothing else, working with that C hook is going to be good practice for when I get around to keeping the new year's resolution about lace. Wow, that hook is small.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crochet malaise

I haven't picked up my hook since the Bay Blue Hat went to hell. I'm not sure what's going on, but I do have a few theories:
  • I'm so annoyed with the Bay Blue that I'm not in the mood to try and fix it right now.
  • I have some really nice yarn that I'm dying to work with, but after the Bay Blue mishap, I'm scared I'll mess it up.
  • I could do a dry run of the projects intended for the nice yarn with crap yarn, but right now I don't want to work with crap yarn. Not even for kitty beds.
  • I have some ideas for my own designs, but I'm so out of sorts I'm pretty sure I'd screw them up if I started them now.
...Oh well. Only way out is through, right? The only thing to do is pick up the hook and get to work. After all, I've got basketball to watch tonight and for me, basketball and crochet go together like white beans and sandwich bread. (Which is to say, for everyone else not so much.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Stirrin' some stitches

Over at the Crochet Liberation Front (don't all my posts start that way?), Tracie of Shade Tree Crochet talked me into joining Stitch Stirrers. I'd heard mentions of Stitch Stirrers but wasn't sure what it was; Tracie describes it as "a blog of prompts and other fun stuff for crocheters." I joined up last week, and today was rewarded with Mission 2008, which is for everyone to crochet a really nice afghan of our own design by December and then share or submit the pattern.

Pretty awesome idea, huh?

It's a good thing I have almost a year, though. Because I have no freakin' clue what to do.

The last afghan I did (aside from some baby blankets, which I'm not going to count because they were just rows and rows of hdc) was back in September. I was on a deadline for it (it was a retirement gift), and I blame the deadline for the fact that by the end, I was about to puke every time I looked at it. Which is too bad, because there's a neat story behind how that one came about: My grandmother had passed away last April, and since I'm the only other crocheter in the family, I inherited all her crochet things. (Her stash was actually very small, as was my other grandmother's too, but that's for another time.) One of those things was a booklet from Wal-Mart with instructions for a sampler afghan. At first I didn't think I'd have a use for it since I wasn't really interested in the sampler, but then I got to looking at the stitch patterns for the different blocks and realized I could repurpose those for other stuff. One, the Snapdragon Stitch, became that afghan.

But that wasn't designing -- it was using someone else's stitch pattern back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. It seems like by now all the basic stitch patterns must have been invented (though they probably haven't; crocheters are endlessly inventive). Maybe I should try something with color -- I've done next to no colorwork. Oooooh, this means I'll get to get some more yarn, right?

For now I'll just keep this mystery afghan in the back of my mind. I'm sure something will hit me eventually. And if not, well, I've still got Granny's booklet.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ribbon Yarn: The Revenge

Apparently ribbon yarn can read. And it knows every bad thing I said about it the other night, and it is out to get me.

Crocheting with the ribbon yarn gets much easier as you get used to it, and though I'd previously wondered if the Yarn Cocktail ladies were actual crocheters, I was actually amazed to see the huge circle transform into a little ruffled one that I was quite taken with. It was kinda like magic.

Now imagine my horror as the little circle kept decreasing... and decreasing... and decreasing...

See that cute little ruffle? See that look on my face? That's because it's way too tight.

I have some ideas on how I might be able to make this work, but unfortunately they're going to involve frogging and I doubt the ribbon yarn's going to like that. Also, they're probably going to involve messing with the pattern, which has the potential to be disastrous. I had a bad feeling about crocheting a hat from the bottom up in the first place.

I have gotten some helpful suggestions for alternate uses:
  • garter
  • sleeve trim
  • Renaissance faire garb

At this point I just want to make something else that is no challenge at all. Maybe I'll work on the baby blanket that's just rows and rows of hdc. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

How all this looks to a non-yarner

A little while ago I set down my computer, picked up my hook, and said "I've been spending so much time on Ravelry and my blog lately that I haven't been crocheting enough."

The Mad Husband threw both his arms in the air and shouted "WOO-HOOO!!"

I looked at him in confusion. "I already knew that," he said.

"Well, what was the 'woo-hoo' for?"

"I thought it would take you another month and a half to figure that out. I'm proud of you."

(Of course, then I had to post this on my blog, which may render the whole conversation null and void.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ribbon yarn and other crochet hazards

This week at the Crochet Liberation Front forum, someone was asking for suggestions on patterns to crochet with ribbon yarn. I've been planning on making the Bay Blue Hat from The Crocheter's Guide to Yarn Cocktails for a while and in fact had bought the Berroco Zen yarn for it just recently, so I decided to bump it up in the queue and report back to the CLF.

Somewhere along the way when I seriously got into crochet and started shopping at yarn stores instead of Michaels, someone must have told me that ribbon yarn was not good for crochet. I say "must" because I don't specifically remember someone saying it, but for quite a while I've had a sense that crocheting with ribbon yarn is something to be avoided at all costs. But the Bay Blue Hat was cute, and only required two hanks. And now I had incentive. So today, I accidentally fed the yarn to a pug, shrieked, retrieved the yarn, and then got started.

Initial impressions of crocheting with ribbon yarn:
  • The ribbon yarn is going to twist. I can't imagine a way around it. So I figure either you can put on your thinking cap and waste a lot of valuable crochet yarn, or get used to it.
  • The twistiness makes counting your stitches hard, so if you lose count on the base chain, you're screwed.
  • Foundation chains are even more unpleasant and time-consuming with ribbon yarn. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was even stitching in the right place.
  • This may just be particular to Berroco Zen, but... here, have a look at the structure:
See how the yarn is constructed, with three threads running lengthwise and all those little ones running between those threads? Yeah. Holy snagging on my crochet hook, Batman. I'm starting to understand why we leave this stuff to the knitters.
All that said, crocheting with the ribbon yarn did get easier as I got used to it, and, perhaps more importantly, as I got past the foundation chain and had distinct stitches to stitch into. Despite an initial suspicion that the ladies behind Yarn Cocktails were just knitters out to get our money, I'm liking how the hat's starting to look. That said: I would not recommend ribbon yarn for process crocheters. If you like the look of the finished object, it may be worth the frustration, but if you mainly crochet for the sensual pleasure of yarn running through your fingers (does that sound dirty? It's not supposed to), I doubt that ribbon yarn has got what you need.

Actual pictures forthcoming at some point. (I've recently learned that half the people who "read" this blog don't actually read, just look at the pictures, so I'm trying to react accordingly. Don't say I never gave you anything.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And here's something pleasant for a change

I am really just thrilled to death with this awesome pattern called the Cuddle Bed, designed by the also awesome CrochetKitten as part of her wonderful Cuddles for Kitties project. Bob is too, from the looks of it. Bob is that handsome fellow reclining to the right. He is my parents' cat and unlike the Mad Crocheter, he is never mad about anything. (Speaking in the third person. I get 50 Pretentious Points! Woooo!) When I gifted Bob with this bed, he promptly attacked it, but my mother has since sent this picture to assure me that Bob has figured out what it's for.

The Cuddle Bed is really an excellent charity pattern. It's fast and simple -- it uses three strands of yarn so it grows fast, and it would be great practice crocheting in rounds for a beginning crocheter. And it's gotta be acrylic for easy washing, so it's a great way to use up your scrap yarn (or as I call mine "crap yarn"). I guess you could do it in wool if you really wanted to, though I'd recommend washable unless you want a tiny little felted kitten bed. (Which would be wicked cute, come to think of it.) My knitting friends liked the nice structure crochet gives this. And Tabitha the office cat at Furkids (the cat shelter where I volunteer when I'm not crocheting or wreaking havoc on teh intarwubz) is giving it two paws up, when she's awake that is.

So if you have a couple free hours and some acrylic you need to get rid of, consider whipping one of these up for your cat or local animal shelter or better yet both. Because cats are so cute in them, and one thing the world definitely needs is more pictures of cats being cute.

The last word on Lidsville

I just saw a young woman at my workplace wearing a very cute newsboy cap -- the same style of cap as Lidsville. I studied her cap as I walked by, and that's when it hit me.

Was the "inner band" actually supposed to go on the bottom rather than the inside? That probably would have helped with fit and making the cap "longer" like my dad wanted.

Then again, I found a comment on Ravelry from the designer saying no, the inner band was supposed to go on the inside. But I still don't understand the brim construction.

Maybe I'll figure it all out once I make a Lidsville for myself... but with so many new projects on my plate, I think it'll be a while before I'll come back to one I've already done.

It is kind of hilarious that I'm sitting here still obsessing over this hat weeks after it's been finished and gifted, though. Clearly I need more new projects to take my mind off this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Can you resist the fig-leaf bikini?

I may live to regret this, but tonight I think I'm going to break one of the cardinal rules of yarn blogging and say something negative. Please hold your rotten tomatoes till the end, folks. I promise you'll get a chance to throw them all.

In a discussion at the Crochet Liberation Front board at Ravelry, ProperTrappings (who for some reason does not have a blog I can link to, boo) asked if anyone else was familiar with this book:

So far, I'm the only person to admit to seeing Hookorama, and, as I explained to ProperTrappings, "and to be totally honest, I’ve since cited it as one of the reasons knitters think crochet is crap."

Hookorama is filled with bright, cartoony patterns for things I can't figure out a single use for. The thing everyone, myself included, brings up first is the Garden of Eden section with the fig-leaf bikinis. It's not that I'm opposed to crocheted bikinis (though you'd have to be daft to go in the water in one) or even fig-leaf bikinis, necessarily -- I imagine there are designers out there who could make them look beautiful. But unfortunately Hookorama's version looks more something the goofy middle-school kids playing with construction paper came up with. (I can't find a picture online, so I guess you'll have to take my word for it. Or not.) And then there's a lot of cartoony fake fruit... I cannot recall a single pattern I felt would be useful enough to make. ProperTrappings rightfully points out that it's probably aimed at the teen market and anything that gets people interested in crochet is good, but to me, I can't help it, it looks like a crochet joke book.

But why does that bother you, Mad Crocheter? Don't you have a sense of humor? You really are mad, aren't you?

Well, to answer those questions:

1). It bothers me because for some reason, Hookorama is one of the few crochet books I've seen in multiple LYS (local yarn stores, Mom, just in case you're reading). Yet I can't find a copy of Everyday Crochet -- a book hailed for its creative yet wearable garments -- in any of them. Maybe Hookorama looks like a cute, fun, colorful book, and I'm sure lots of people have picked it up. But I'm equally sure most of those people put it back down -- only two Ravelry users have done projects from the book, and one was a contributor to the book and the other one frogged the project . And I'm also sure quite a few of those people were knitters who, as they put it down, made disparaging remarks about the fig-leaf bikini, followed by "but what can you expect from crochet?" I understand that there's not as much of a market for crochet as knitting right now, and therefore I don't badger my LYS owners to stock more crochet books, knowing I'm just one person and I barely know any fellow locals who crochet. But when that precious crochet shelf space goes to a kitsch collection, how will anyone ever know there's more to crochet than that? My Google research suggested the book was originally published in 1980 -- if true, that's a long time ago. There's been a lot of innovation since then, in both knitting and crochet. Why can't we have new stuff instead of kitschy reprints? Is the market really that bad?

2). I do have a sense of humor, and sometimes it even intersects crochet. But amigurumi takes care of my humorous crochet needs just fine, thanks. With style and creativity in spades. The Japanese are currently reinventing crochet, but I'll save that for another time.

3). Not mad so much as frustrated. The cycle as I imagine it: LYS owner doesn't know much about crochet. LYS owner stocks book because it looks bright and colorful and will look nice on the shelf next to SnB: The Happy Hooker. Crocheter picks up book. Unless crocheter has a fig-leaf fetish, crocheter puts book down, figuring LYS has nothing for crocheters. Knitter picks up book. Knitter puts book down, figuring crochet is just as tacky as they've been told. Book doesn't sell. LYS owner figures no one wants crochet, and doesn't stock more crochet books.

And now, because even though I broke a cardinal rule of yarn blogging and am now a jerk, I don't want to be a super-duper jerk (by yarners' standards; I think those are stricter than most bloggers' standards): If you are one of the writers or designers of this book, please understand: I don't want you to starve, I don't hate your work, I know there's a place for it. I just wish there were a place for the new things too.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lidsville, Completed.

I finally have a picture of Lidsville, so I might as well explain the last few snags in its making.

I arrived at my ancestral home to discover that in my hurry, I had left the plastic canvas brim behind. Swearing ensued. My mother helped me improvise with a piece of cardboard. Then came yet more problems with figuring out exactly where I was supposed to sew stuff together. I asked my mom for advice; she said she had no clue. (It seems for a lot of us stitchery skipped a generation, huh?) I finally got the hat slapped together about two minutes before giving it to my father. He put it on... and immediately wanted me to make the back longer.

He may be getting a Chia Pet next year.

I added a few rows to the back and some decreases to make the hat tighter. Then, in what I would call a true stroke of irony, I found plastic canvas in my late grandmother's stash and had to figure out how to swap out the cardboard for it. Finally I handed it to my father, who put it on and said "that's good." I replied "it better be. I'm out of yarn."

I would say I'm... content with the final product, and might even try making myself one someday. However, I had an issue with the pattern, and based on the comments I've seen on Ravelry and some of the Google search strings this blog has gotten, I suspect some of you had the same problem: The crochet instructions are just fine, but there is very little direction on how to do the sewing. I'm a crocheter, not a seamstress, and I didn't really know what to do with directions like "sew the brim to the hat." Where, exactly? I realize that I sound like a dolt, but, well, when it comes to sewing I am a dolt.

I'm not saying this is a bad pattern, because I don't think it is. I think it's a good pattern. But with clearer sewing instructions, it could have been a great pattern.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Not dead. Yet.

For those of you (all two of you) wondering where I've been, I've been knocked on my butt by what is by my standards an exceptionally bad cold. Even with all the ideas floating around in my head, I just lack the energy to crochet or really do much of anything other than lie on the couch idly surfing Ravelry. Oh, and buying yarn online. I'll be living in a cardboard box by the time I get better, but at least I'll have all that yummy yarn to keep me warm. Worse, I gave my bug to the Mad Husband so now neither one of us has anyone to take care of us. We just take turns grunting at each other to get the orange juice while we're up.

If I could just motivate myself to pick up the hook, I figure I'd probably feel better or at least distracted, but right now that's just not enough motivation. I may just hand-roll some skeins into balls because it requires no brainpower and at least I'll get to play with the yummy yarn.

(The Mad Husband has begun referring to really soft yarns as "yummy." It's wicked cute.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Addendum on Lace

So not so long ago I seem to recall giving a bunch of you grief for not knitting lace. Well, now, after my own failed go at the lace, I understand a little better why people don't knit and crochet lots and lots of lace: Because it sucks.

Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. But the lace will definitely take some getting used to. It's so freaking small. (Yes, I know! That's why they call it lace-weight!) The yarn's small, and the hook's small, and the stitches are small... Wow, I have a whole new respect for thread crocheters. Actually I already had a pretty healthy respect for them, but now I know that thread crochet must be even tougher than lace, because at least lace-weight yarn generally feels better than mercerized cotton thread. Thread crocheters are really dedicated to their art.

Despite these misgivings, please don't misunderstand: I'm not giving up on lace crochet. I can't. I bought all that yarn.

Is this one of those learning experiences?

So over my holiday break I sat down with a design in mind -- not just some random design, but a very special design, one that I had sketched out in my Very Special Crochet Notebook (bought at a stationery shop in Japantown, San Francisco -- I'm telling you, this paper is buttery) and all but finished in my head. It was beautiful, it was functional, it was brilliant. Now all I had to do was crochet it.

Not so fast, Mad Crocheter!

Oh... crap. What the hell was Snidely Whiplash doing here? I did my best to ignore him and soldiered on.

Before I get any further in this sad tale, let me tell you about the yarn I had selected for this project. Better yet, my yarn, let me show you it. (So I think I'm a lolcat. So sue me.) It's Kaalund Enchante from the good folks at Knitch, lace-weight Australian silk, colorway Pawpaw (so I like pink, so sue me. Again. It's not like I have any money, I spent it all on yarn).

From the moment I brought this beauty home from the store, I knew what I wanted to do with it: lace fingerless gloves. They would be delicate and luxurious and so, so beautiful.

And this is where it gets really embarrassing.

See, at this point I had already received my copy of Camanomade's Secrets of Yarn Project Guide. And there it was in black and white. Silk. Stretch Memory: None. But I was so determined that I knew I could work with it. So I picked up my (tiny, tiny) hook and got started.

And then after a while it dawned on me that not only was this not working, it hadn't even put forth the effort to call in sick. The total lack of stretch was not going to do anything for warming my arms. The yarn just kind of hung on my arm, looking like a stretched-out-of-shape friendship bracelet. That beautiful vision in my head? It dissolved in a ring of loopy triple crochet.

And now I'm actually feeling kind of upbeat about it.

I figure massive miscalculations like this one are part of the whole process of learning to design. Didn't Anne of Green Gables say something about making mistakes was okay, because then she didn't make the same ones again? You always learn more from your failures than your successes (and when I say "you", I mean "me"). I learned some information that I'm in the process of repurposing. And I think I've still got enough silk left for a pretty little scarf. (Actually, I don't really wear scarves, not as a fashion accessory, but I think I'd better start.)

Of course, none of this was a consolation at the time. This is one of the benefits of getting some perspective before blogging, unless of course you'd rather read an entire post of "#$@*&$ %@$#%& *#@^$*@!!"