Monday, October 17, 2016

Make A-longs Past and Present

As most everyone who reads this blog knows, I am in the midst of a final K/CAL (knit/crochet a-long) celebrating my five year design anniversary. While I will get to a progress photo of my projects (and they really are coming along), I do want to provide an update on a CAL I hosted last Fall in the Crochet! Magazine Ravelry group.

I wrote several blog posts last year around the design that was the focus of that a-long, the Gradient Flower Cowl. I made several cowls for myself using up stash (so pleasing!), and have worn them in the intervening months. However, the (now) editor of Crochet! Magazine's special newsstand issues as well as Crochet World Magazine, Jackie Daugherty, was also participating and trying to decide on exactly what form her project should take: cowl, shawl, or (gasp!) blanket. 

A process photo of Jackie's
amazing shawl, based on
my Gradient Flower Cowl
Well, I am so thrilled to report that Jackie has completed her project - a stole - and all 505 motifs are made with amazing Koigu fingering scraps given to her by a friend! Isn't that shawl a piece of art? I think it looks like a springtime flower bed. You can read more about the journey of this beautiful shawl on the Crochet World blog, as Jackie has provided some additional background tidbits (including a great photo of the heap o' Koigu) in today's post. The shawl will also be on display next month at the Fiber Festival of New England, so if you are around that area and attending the event, definitely seek it out.

And now, onto my current K/CAL projects:

Pieces of another New Wave Skirt (on bottom) are topped by the
beginnings of both a Bomber-inspired Hoodie Vest (the cream textured
 piece on the right) and a Mixlace Poncho in awesome deep green.
My New Wave skirt pieces are almost completed, but as I have told my K/CAL peeps, I am having a devil of a time finding a short zipper in an appropriate color. I have been to three different places, and I have one more on my list before I give up the ghost and go online (but there's something about buying so small an item online that really doesn't sit right with me - all that gas for travel time and such). I am thoroughly enjoying the textures of my other two projects, as well as that gorgeous fall color palette. This is definitely my color sweet spot. I want to wear all of this right now!

I hope everyone is enjoying the season and making all kinds of wonderful projects. Get thee to thy needles and hooks and yarn!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Long-Worn (and Used) Meets Handmade

Nichols Cardigan in NFC's
Studio Worsted
For those who love all things fiber, this is the weekend of the fall season - The New York Sheep and Wool Festival, otherwise known as Rhinebeck (where it's held)  - is happening. For many knitters and crocheters, it's an annual event. For others (like moi), we aspire to make it to Mecca one of these years very soon.

While I personally will not be in attendance, I am happy to report a few of my designs will be courtesy of Neighborhood Fiber Co. If you are anywhere near Rhinebeck Building C, booth 40 this weekend, not only will you get to pet some awesomely hand-dyed fiber, but you can also check out my Nichols Cardigan as well as the Lace Decadence Shawl.

Of some note, this year New York Sheep and Wool is hosting a used equipment auction in addition to a wool sweater upcycling class for kids (old wool sweaters are felted and then used by kids to craft plushies and other things). I have found the knit and crochet community to be extremely good about recycling, upcycling, mending, and just generally squeezing every ounce of wear out of their respective handmade (and commercially purchased) items. 

For me personally, it's been a more mixed bag in this regard. Growing up, we didn't get many new wardrobe items, but we absolutely adhered to the hand-me-down and mended theory of wardrobe management. Of course, through middle school that also made me an instant stand-out in the poor/working-class person's fashion parade, which was not the superlative to which I aspired. Once I hit high school and started making my own money, I cheerfully waived good-bye to hand-me-downs and ditched my meager mending kit. I cheerfully (and fairly mindlessly) breezed my way through the next few decades purchasing what I wanted, whenever I wanted as my budget allowed. 

Lace Decadence Shawl worked up in NFC's
Rustic Fingering Gradient Kit in Shades of Umber
It was not until the last decade or so that I have started to be more mindful of clothing - and designing for myself the last five years has shifted my mindful wardrobe gear into overdrive. It has not ever been a question of knowing the simple monetary value of my wardrobe - I have always paid for my own clothing - but gaining insight into and valuing all the other aspects of clothing has opened my eyes. From design, to materials, to production (including the all-important labor), waste management, and then upkeep - I have experienced nothing short of a slow fashion conversion. If I can crochet or knit it, I will (and no, there is NO sewing machine in my future). I have not made any real ready-wear clothing purchases in the last oh, at least, three years. Since I have no jeans (really, not one pair), I will need to make a few well-placed buys very soon, and they will be new, as opposed to used. I have no per se issue with used clothing - for others. Admittedly, this former hand-me-down kid will almost always choose new or handmade. I am not the vintage or used pied piper - every person is entitled to source their wardrobe in their own way based on their own rationale. Clothing is just too personal to expect anything less.

Despite my thin wardrobe depth, I am not-so-secretly jealous of those with wardrobe depth that demand a separate room in the house. One, to me, that seems to demand just such a room has to be Sonya Phillip of 100 Acts of Sewing. Her wardrobe, as well as her energy to sew, knit and otherwise create it, seems to be boundless. I may not want to sew, but I do covet Sonya's daily wardrobe choice possibilities.

All this gets me to my final point - I am not certain, if one is being mindful, that there is such a thing as "too much" in the context of a handmade wardrobe. Similar to thoughts expressed in Sonya's project statement, if one is fully conversant with the process of personal clothes making, and actively engages in that process, then what they produce is perfect for them. The last thing the DIY community needs is the consumption or politically correct police. Anyone with nominally imaginative powers can see exactly where that well-intentioned path will lead. If a person wants 10 skirts in 10 different colors, and is mindful about sourcing and acquiring said 10 skirts, then more power to him/her. Personally, I'm working on New Wave Skirt #2 for myself - and if I want 8 more, I will darn well make them.

Enough from me on this for now

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We Resume with Day 8 of A La Maison 2 Introductions

I hope everyone in the U.S. had a wonderful Columbus/Indigenous People's day yesterday, and we are all now back to the normal work-week routine.

Not, however, routine for me, since I am still introducing designs from A La Maison 2, and today we have some awesome pillows - a Bevvy of Granny Square Pillow Covers to be exact.

I have not done much with the traditional granny square, despite my love of motifs. The granny square tends to be well represented, so how does one make it fresh? For me, the answer was in the details: buttons, buttons, buttons, outer seams, and a little mixed size play. The results are pillow covers with tons of personality that instantly give my space a pick-me-up. And of course, they are George Bailey-approved.

Get a load of that amazing vintage button!
I found that awesome vintage button during my summer travels around the Pacific Northwest. I could have waited to use it while I searched for some small replacement baubles (you might be able to see there are a few missing at top and center), but I decided I actually like the button exactly as it is - it's got history with its missing pieces and it gives the pillow cover so much personality.

You will find these designs' written patterns in my Ravelry pattern store in just a bit.

What will be revealed tomorrow? Hmmm ...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Day 6 of A La Maison 2 - Lace, Lace and More Lace

Does this photo show it emphatically enough? Lace atop lace atop more lace - I cannot get enough of it. The Lace Decadence Shawl is lace worked to (beautiful!) death. 

This design gets an autumn makeover in the graphic NFC Rustic Fingering Gradient Kit in Shades of Umber. Don't you just want to reach out and touch that color? That lovely lace? This crescent-shaped shawl will look oh-so awesome wrapped around your neck and shoulders; the 100% superwash merino will keep you toasty, whether inside sipping mulled cider or outside leaf-peeping.

This will, of course, hit my Ravelry Pattern Store in just a wee bit. The design's pattern page also shows a new photo of the original sample in NFC's Rustic Fingering Gradient Kit in Shades of Jade, for a springtime take on this shawl. 

And the A La Maison 2 introductions train keeps chugging along.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Day 5 of A La Maison 2: It's All About Blocks

 We are at the fifth design introduction in the A La Maison 2 collection, and it's really more about a re-introduction.

The L'architecture Cowl is a design where architecture and art
come together in one of my favorite forms: the cowl. Utilizing individual blocks - squares and rectangles - a cowl is formed with no seams. Then, a simple edging is added et voila! a stylish wardrobe piece is ready to wear. Brushed mohair-blend yarn ensures warmth and light weight; pailettes bring just the right amount of bling. One can use just about any four-color palette - I opted for one more on the warm, yet color-popped side, but just changing out even one of these colors, say, for instance, the silver for red - would yield a cowl with a completely different personality.

See how swapping out just
one color can change
this cowl's personality?
This design was originally published in the February 2016 edition of It is a perfect season-spanning piece. It can be layered underneath or above heavier outer layers or, as in the photo above, worn on its own for a little light warmth when the seasons change. It's generous circumference allows for many styling options.

I hope you can see why I felt it an appropriate piece to add to this collection!

I'll be back tomorrow with the next design in this, my second home collection. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A La Maison Introductions - Day 4

Well, my crafty friends, I am shaking things up just a wee bit with a knit design today. Please say hello to The Perfect Little Pillow Cover.

Why so perfect? Well I am glad you asked. Large needles and squishy, hefty yarn make for quick work. There is not one seam in this pillow cover; rather, an ingenious three-implement bind-off that produced those lovely, clean seam lines. Finally, buttons make for easy cleaning, because you know you are going to use this pillow a lot

I am a real lover of garter stitch, so this design was personally very satisfying to work up. It combines almost all of my favorite design elements and techniques. Parfait, oui?

Definitely work up one (or more) for yourself in easy-to-care-for yarn. Your head (and your heart) will thank you.

This fourth design from the A La Maison 2 collection will makes its way into the Ravelry database and my Ravelry Pattern Store today. 

October, so far, is so much fun!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Third Design from A La Maison 2

Hello everyone - here we are at day 3 of the A La Maison 2 design roll-out. May I present the Buds Bag.

This green gem was originally published by back in June 2015. I reimagined it using Lion Brand Heartland in colors that speak to my fall-loving heart (and I admit, I am very much in a green mode at the moment). It is lined, and the green/gold fabric I used from stash also played a big role in determining the reimagined bag's colors. 

I have been using my original sample bag so much, that it needs new handles! Thus, this new take is not one moment too soon. 

This bag is not only stylish but, in fact, rather sturdy, thanks to single crochet seams, crab stitch edging, and the aforementioned lining. Additionally, included only with the collection's e-book, is a tutorial I originally wrote for the e-zine on how to line a bag (one of those editorial bonuses I mentioned yesterday).

My self-released version of this design also includes color schematics for the motifs, which were not included in the originally published version. There is something about seeing colors together that can spark one's creative juices. If these colors don't float your boat, then just work up a palette that does.

Until next time ...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Second Home Collection is Here

It may be Slow Fashion October, but here at chez Voie de Vie it's also time for the second Home Collection. 

I am so pleased to be able to finally introduce this second collection. As the name suggests, you will see a lot of pillows ... and a lot of buttons. It also includes personal accessories and one garment - many, if not all of, the elements necessary for a cozy early autumn existence. 

It has been a cooler-than-expected end of summer here in the Pacific Northwest, and that, along with these new designs, provided the backdrop for me to look at my space in a whole new light. Though the photos are, of course, staged, these home pieces (not all of which are in the cover photo above) provided inspiration for a whole new way of looking at my space. To me, that's the hallmark of autumn - a fresh, crisp breeze blowing through all of the design areas of one's life.

I will be rolling out this collection one design at a time through the first few weeks of October; of course, readers of this blog received the first design just a wee bit earlier than the beginning of the month.

To the left you will see the next design in the collection - the Buttons + Stripes Place Mat (You see? Already with the button theme). This super easy place mat takes just one package of the natural colorway of Lion Brand Bonbons - in fact, you will have one color left over! An interesting construction leads the way in this design; stripes mixed with lace make it fresh, and of course buttons guild the table lily.

This is a quick project that is good not only to inject some new life into your table setting, but also to make as a gift - an individual place mat or a set would be great as a housewarming present. The Bonbons color choices also allow for myriad palette possibilities. I chose the natural mini collection because it fits in best with my everyday living environment. Make several of the same color combination, or have some color fun and mix and match.

This design will hit the Ravelry database today. It will be available individually now, or as part of the collection's e-book which will be available mid-October, once all the introductions are done. There will be a few additional editorial elements in the e-book that won't be included in the individual patterns, so if you like several of the designs, it's something to keep in mind.

I'm so excited to finally be able to reveal this - woot!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

It's Time for Slow Fashion October - Take 2

I am so excited about the second year of Slow Fashion October! Fringe Supply Co., the mastermind behind organizing around this concept, has provided all of us with a month's worth of weekly prompts to get us thinking and writing about this free-wheeling (and sometimes unwieldy) concept.

So who am I, how do I come to this concept, and how does it impact my making and my closet? As a designer (knit- and crochet-wear) and maker, I have a fine appreciation for small-batch and handmade. To be honest, I have not always had such an appreciation. As someone from modest, blue collar roots who has actually worked in a mill (I made men's shoes for a summer), I wanted education so I could escape such sweaty, oppressive work. My grandmother was a textile worker and an avid sewer well into her elder years, and I wanted nothing to do with sewing (and you can read more about my anti-sewer stance as well as other fashion beginnings from last year's Slow Fashion October blog entries).

Nevertheless, I have always loved clothes (some things from my grandmother rubbed off on me), as well as crochet and hand-knit (and interior design, which I consider an extension of all this). It has been a long, strange trip to get to this place - complete with oodles of education - but designing and making, both for myself as well as my living space seems second nature to me now. The "small-batch, hand made ... well-loved [and] long-worn" part of this celebration fits me perfectly. Environmental, humanitarian, and budgetary concerns all definitely have played a role in getting me to think more deeply about all of this (helped along by a major portion of that education spoken of earlier), but there's an uneasy intersection between these first three influences (which can have a real dilettante quality to them) and that poor and struggling shoe-factory-working girl who wanted something better for herself. I will always have much respect for working-class values which, if a working-class person is being honest, s/he longs to escape. Please have others make things for me. Why should I mend my clothes - I want the resources to just buy something shiny and brand new. It is only with time, self-knowledge and reflection that one can make peace with and find balance among these clashing values. It also, in many instances, means walking a solitary path, so getting in on this month-long social discussion is a really welcomed gift.

Since Slow Fashion October coincides with a two-month Wardrobe Weather a-long I am hosting in my Ravelry group, I will definitely be making things this month. I am almost done with another New Wave Skirt for myself, I have (shown above) swatched for a Bomber-inspired Hoodie Vest and I am just tucking into a green/cream/taupe version of my Mixlace Poncho. Admittedly, budget and easily accessible materials have dictated my yarn choices for these projects (including using my own stash). I am looking forward to adding them to my wardrobe and showing them off.

A certain balance achieved.