Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Twelve Days of George Bailey: Day 1

I am going to take some intermittent time off from blogging between now and the end of the year (although I'll still be checking in from time to time). However, I am leaving everyone with some kitty eye candy: the best of George Bailey from 2011. He's a good, furry purr monster, and I don't make him a focal point ... so seeing him front and center for a little while is something I hope will make you smile.

Feel free to post how you would caption the photo in the comments - you never know what you might receive for something exceptionally witty.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If It's Not Made By Now ...

... then it might well be Bah! Humbug! time for those last minute gifts.

I hope this Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday finds each of you in fine, calm spirits. I'm pleased - I got all of the gifts I wanted to complete finished. There might be one or two more I make, but not because anyone is expecting one. I will probably send out a few extra gifts next week ... just because. Why should the presents stop?

While several of my gifts I can't share with you until the recipients receive them, I can share one - my most recent shawl. Made from the Flamenco Flair crocheted shawl pattern (from the Vogue Knitting on the Go! series for crocheted shawls), this was an easy and quick gift, with great bang for the crafting buck. Add in some sunshine for picture taking, and this is the result:

I'm not certain why this shawl doesn't get more play, especially since it's perfect for beginning crochet lace makers. I used up the remaining Misti Alpaca Lace in my stash, and I will definitely get more. I loved this yarn! (Ok, I just love alpaca yarn, what can I say?)

I also have samples of my latest pattern to share with you:

These little jewels for your napkins - Les Bijoux Sur La Table Napkin Rings - can be made in no time flat, and they sparkle and shine something fierce. The pattern is free (consider it another gift from me to everyone) and will be downloadable both from my site here (the patterns page) as well as Ravelry.

I hope everyone checks in with Andrea's blog  ... and I'm wishing each of you great food, good conversation, and an expanding heart of joy this upcoming holiday weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Biology, Good Yak Energy and Frustrating Socks This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

50 bumblebees recreated by Hannah Haworth using laceweight
Malabrigo yarn. Original bumblebee pattern by the artist
and available for purchase on Ravelry. Photo by Hannah Haworth,
used with kind permission.
Well everyone, I've got three hand-crafted holiday presents in the bag, three more to go. While I'll have photos (and another pattern to share) next week, I thought we'd all like a bit of a break from holidaze madness. I've got just the thing: how about the latest installment in the Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire? This time I asked Hannah Haworth, scupltor, knitter extraordinaire, artist, and all-around creative pixie to give the questionnaire a go. I think her answers will make you smile. At minimum, I have found a kindred sock spirit.

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
With Artist Hannah Haworth 

Hannah Haworth. Photo used with kind permission
of the artist.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to create knit art pieces?

I was born in Birnam, Scotland but I lived most of my childhood (3-12) in south east Asia, predominantly with a tribal community in the Philippines. I think this is probably where I got into making things, I would do a lot of beading with the local women there.  I think having that super close connection with the land also influenced my work deeply. When I returned to Scotland I was a teenager and didn’t craft, I was still awkwardly settling into my own skin, and that seemed to take up all my time! It wasn’t until I was at Art College in Edinburgh that I took up knitting.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to become an artist?

There wasn’t that big aha moment, it was kind of gradual. I wanted to do biology for years… but ended up doing art instead as creativity was something that came naturally. I think the whole biology thing was because of my big love and interest in animals, but I’ve found more ‘me’ ways of pursuing that.

White Noise, hanging from the ceiling at Vogue
Knitting Live, New York, January 2011.
Please describe your personal artistic philosophy?

I'm not sure how to answer this! What I believe in, in terms of my art? I try my best to find my inspiration at the source, for instance, when I created White Noise, I wanted the whole piece to be channeled by beluga whales themselves and arctic tradition, and my emotional response to that, rather than any cultural commentaries about whales or something I had seen made by another artist. I need it to be as personal as can be. Other than that, I endeavor to use all natural materials and keep it local too when possible.

What is your greatest knit (or design) memory?

I really got a kick out of learning traditional Scottish colour work. I remember learning that and having to incorporate it into every project for a while after. I still think it's amazing, especially doing my own charts and making little motifs, its like drawing but with yarn, in a very organized fashion, and the rich history behind it makes it supremely fascinating to me. I’m trying hard to love cables, I love how they look and the amazing things you can do with them. But they can be tedious for me. I’m currently making my dad some ‘effing socks’ to match his kilt for Christmas, they are very intricate Celtic knot-work in lace weight and they were supposed to be finished for him to wear to my wedding, well, that was a wee while ago now…

If you could have dinner with any three artists, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

I would have to eat with Frida Kahlo, she was my favorite artist when I was little! And she had many animals too, as well as an embarrassingly large collection of dresses – I think we would get on.

Joseph Beuys I’ve always admired. His work is so raw and so wild, and he seems so too, and he would definitely be invited if he were to bring his coyote. I have a feeling I would crush on him pretty hard!

My third is Bjork. She is so beyond cool and has a great sense of aesthetic and humor too. I think she would be interesting in combination with the other two. I could just sit there and listen to them talk.

Continental or European?

Euro, baby!!

It’s your last project to create. What is it, and what fiber do you use?

I would make a life size yak maybe, and use yak fiber and maybe a yak skull underneath. And I would keep him around, yaks have such an incredible energy to them, very calming and very strange. I've been working with a herd for the last year and I am sad to be leaving them, this way I would always have the essence of one with me.

More knit animals from the artist Hannah Haworth,
on display at Vogue Knitting Live, New York, this
past January.
What trait do you most admire in artists/designers?

The good ones have a great way of looking at things, they can pick out the strangest thing, and it will become beautiful - just looking at it through their eyes, in their hands.

What trait do you most detest in artists/designers?

It’s a little too easy to get a big ego, and that tends to encourage rudeness – which I find intolerable.

You are recommending an artistic gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. What would you recommend?

Well that would depend on the person in question, but I feel like it's hard to go wrong with a drop spindle and some camel fiber.


Thanks so much, Hannah! Her current work can be seen at Union Gallery, Edinburgh as part of the "Winter Wonderland" exhibition through January 24, 2012. You can also check out her daily artistic adventures at her website.

Now do buzz on over to Andrea's blog to see how everyone else is holding up just one week before the big day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On All Things Foggy This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

When shutters work hard in fog.
What an amazingly busy week it's been. It is, of course, that time of year. However, things got just a little more hairy when the Pacific Northwest was fogged in for two days straight. And a freezing fog at that. Not only could one not see the hand right in front of them, they could barely walk or drive in certain places because the roads were slippery. A bad mix I tell you. Bad. I saw two instances of elderly mishaps during my travels this week - one needed a medic call. Let's be careful out there, everyone!

The fog did not help my camera's shutter one little iota. In order to get this week's finished object photographed, my poor shutter was working in single-digit speed. Needless to say, absent a tripod, some of my shots were less than crystal clear. Arthouse affect - that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Nevertheless, my Canon still performed well under foggy pressure, and I am proud to show you the FO for my latest pattern, my La Vitre scarf. My first knit pattern, I'm proud of this silky soft scarf, complete with beads at each end for just the right amount of weight and bling. Using one skein of Wonder Why Gal's Alpaca the Way it Should Be (thanks, Andrea!), this is a perfect little pattern for whipping up a last minute gift or two.

Named after one of the French words for window or glass, this super-easy one row pattern came to me when I least expected it - in the middle of working up a crochet swatch during the summer. That's the way with creativity sometimes: you have one idea being worked out, and inspiration hits. Keep that inspiration notebook handy at all times.

This pattern is available exclusively through the Wonder Why Alpaca Farm until the end of the year. It's free with a purchase of Super Fine Airy alpaca/silk yarn, and Andrea's hand-dyed some gorgeous holiday colors (roving as well). This sample is the cranberry; the burgundy also looks good enough to drink. Hmmm, come to think of it, after this week, a glass of burgundy sounds wonderful. Sign me up.

I hope everyone else isn't in a holiday fog - check back with Andrea's blog to see what holiday cheer everyone else is putting forth this week.

Super Fine Airy alpaca/silk blend
hand-dyed in cranberry. In a sunnier moment.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And the Great Juggling Act Begins

Sneaky peak of next week's FO. I'm
further along now than when I
snapped this photo.
December has barely begun, yet I feel the bite of deadline pressure already. I'm not certain how I'm going to get it all done, but somehow I will find a way. And I don't have children - those that do deserve Hall of Parental Fame induction at this time of year.

So, along this theme, I have two FOs and one recipe to share with everyone this Friday ... along with the sneaky peak of next week's FO (they're coming fast and furiously folks, just like the deadlines).

My first completed project is my Gourdy Shawl, so named because of its awesome pumpkin color. From a Pierrot pattern (this one, to be exact), I held two strands of alpaca laceweight together to achieve this wonderful fallish color. (Alpaca with a Twist Fino and Misti Alpaca Lace Canada - I knew you were going to ask.)

Additionally, I added some size 6 Japanese silver-lined seed beads in a light peach color on the edging for a little bling, as well as some weight:

This is my second FO this year from a Pierrot pattern, and I couldn't be happier with the result. They are very well charted ... so much so, in fact, that I didn't need any other direction.

My next FO is also the end result of the recipe I have for everyone. As I stated a few weeks back in my review of Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia, I said to watch for projects inspired by the book. Here's the first one, and just in time for me to send it (along with other hand-crafted goodies) to Appalachian Outreach. They specifically asked for 36" square lapghans to keep the elderly warm, so:

The Crochet Stitches  36-inch 'Ghan Recipe

Ingredients (my choices in this 'ghan are to the right):

1 Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia by Robyn Chachula, from which you will choose:

1 or more  motifs                                                            Posy in the Granny, p. 173
1 motif joining method                                                     Chain Space Seam, p. 242
1 stitch pattern                                                               Rocking, p. 7
1 edging pattern                                                             Mari Cluster Edging, p. 261

approx. 450 grams of worsted weight yarn, at least 250 grams of which should be one color
1 U.S. size H/5.00 mm hook

Construction Set-up:

1. Make a sample motif to determine the finished dimension, given your yarn.

2. Swatch, using your main color, in the stitch pattern that you've chosen. It doesn't need to be blocked, but knowing how many stitches/rows per inch will be useful as you create your 'ghan.

3. Swatch a sample of your chosen edging. This row/inch measurement will also be needed later in 'ghan construction.

'Ghan Construction:

1. Create 16 motifs (or any number that will yield a square - 4 [2x2], 9 [3x3], 25 [5x5]).

Note: This is the part of the project that can be a great stash-buster - I used up bits of Lion Brand Wool-ease, Cascade 220 Superwash and Noro Kureyon from previous projects.

2. Once you have all of your motifs made, join them using the joining method you've chosen. A nice treat to yourself: weave in your ends, to this point, now. Once completed, celebrate with hot chocolate (or beverage of choice).

3. Using your chosen stitch pattern, determine how many foundational single crochet stitches you will need on each side of your motif square. (Stitch multiples are provided for each stitch pattern in the book.) Then, with your main color, join just after any corner with a slip stitch. Ch 1, then work a row of single crochet around entire motif block, working three in each corner. Join with a slip stitch in beginning ch 1, and your foundation row is complete.

4. Start working your chosen stitch pattern around the motif block. This is where your swatch work will come in handy. The number of rounds to be completed will be determined by the amount of inches of the stitch pattern you will need: 36 inches - (the measurement of your motif block + the measurement of your edging swatch) divided by 2.

Example from my 'ghan (in inches): 36 - (23 + 1.5 twice [edging doubled]) = 10 = 5" of
                                                                              2                                 2

stitch pattern, or 10 rounds of rocking stitch, since I was getting 2 rows per inch when I swatched.

5. Once you have completed your required number of stitch pattern rounds, work one row of single crochet around, working three single crochet in each corner. This is the set-up round for your border.

Note: This set-up row is where you need to make any adjustments in stitch number to ensure your border will work up without a hitch.

6. Work your border of choice.

7. Weave in final amount of ends.

8. Lightly block your 'ghan. My unblocked 'ghan was 33" square, and paying particular attention to my middle motifs when blocking made a world of difference. In fact, I pinned my middle motif block first, getting it to be square, and then I pinned the outer edge.

9. Once done, enjoy more beverages of choice.

Definitely don't hide under any rocks - get on over to Andrea's blog and see what other deadlines loom this holiday season!