It's Makealong time!

I've teamed up with nine other knit and crochet designers and five indie dyers to produce a collection of summer accessory patterns, the Progress, Hope, and Happiness collection. My contribution is the Budburst shawl, a profusion of leafy lace in a pretty speckled yarn which was dyed specially for the occasion (you can find out all about it in my previous post).

One of the designers, Denise Voie de Vie, created a beautiful look book for the collection. You can read about the inspiration behind the event and our journey in putting it all together on Denise's blog here and here. The designs are individually published by each designer, but you can see the whole collection here on Ravelry: Progress, Hope, and Happiness Designs.

I'm co-hosting a Makealong for these designs from June 1st to July 16th, complete with prizes and even some surprises. I hope you'll join us!

These are a few of my favourites from the collection:

Breeze of Happiness by Tanja Osswald

Dusk On TheMoor Shawl by Solène Le Roux

Chiguroo by Lana Jois

From Dusk To Dawn by Christelle Nihoul

This has been so cool to be a part of, and the Makealong is just beginning! Hope to see you over in the Ravelry group. :)

Ombré crochet: How to make a gradient square

I've started a new 'relaxation project'! I really like having something uncomplicated to work on when I want to pay attention to conversations/tv or when I'm tired - I'm all for multiple works-in-progress with a variety of techniques and difficulty levels.

I'm making another crochet blanket, this time made up of squares which I'll seam together later. In each square, the colours will radiate from dark-to-light or light-to-dark, alternating like a chessboard.

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Up for a crafting challenge?

Like any popular website with a big social element, Ravelry has its own traditions and special events. One of my favourites is the Ravellenic Games, held every two years to coincide with the winter or summer Olympics.

Ravellenics participants choose one or more projects that will be a personal challenge, and try to finish before the closing ceremony. The next Games are coming up in a few weeks beginning on the 5th of August, so if this sounds like fun you still have time to pick your projects. Joining a team is optional, but definitely adds to the fun in my opinion!

Last time around I crocheted a great big rainbow blanket:

I'm still super proud of it, and it's fantastic to have a real wool lap blanket in the lounge when it gets cold.

This time, I'm going to go big again and knit a Blank Canvas sweater. It's DK-weight, with 3/4 sleeves, and using a pattern I've knit before, so it shouldn't be impossible to finish in two-and-a-bit weeks (I hope). But it will still be a stretch for me, since I usually take ages to finish a garment. My plan is to halt all design-related knitting during the Games and concentrate on making myself a new comfy jersey. :)

Swatching ahead of time is encouraged (by analogy to 'training' for an event), so I've begun my quest to get my gauge correct. This is my first swatch in Madelinetosh Longrider DK, which I need to undo and knit again on smaller needles:

Wish me luck!

A rainbow of lace

Well, my Indie Gift-A-Long knitting is off to a slow start. I somehow sprained my right index finger (don't worry, it's nearly better now!), so I've had a frustrating week of trying not to knit or use my laptop too much.

One slight silver lining was that I finally found time to watch some Craftsy class videos. I'm now in the middle of Miriam Felton's 'Lace Shawl Design' class, and I'm getting some new insights into how lace works. I'm looking forward to the 'fixing mistakes' video, a subject dear to my heart! Here's a Craftsy affiliate link to the class if you're interested: Lace Shawl Design

I clearly have lace on the brain, because I soon found myself browsing through lace patterns on Ravelry. Here's a selection, all by fellow GAL designers - some are more complex, some more simple, most are knitted, one is crocheted, some have texture, some have beads. There were so many that caught my eye, I started narrowing them down by colour, and a rainbow happened...

Tiong Bahru by Åsa Tricosa, photo by Åsa Söderman

Hugs and Stitches by Yuliya Tkacheva

Afterglow by Diana Rozenshteyn

Laura's Leaves by Emily K Williams

Lichen Mists by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Midnight in Sydney by Meg Gadsbey

When The Leaves Fall by Lily Go

And for one final bit of lace, check out this amazing yarn-bombed tree! It's part of Yarn Corner's series of tree-cosies in Melbourne's City Square, all with a Christmas theme. The others were cool, but this one really wowed me, especially since I don't see much knitted lace yarnbombing around. The red and green striped under-layer sets off the lovely lace patterns beautifully. <3

Designer interview: Marie Segares

I had the honour of interviewing another designer as part of the Indie Design Gift-A-Long. I love hearing about other people's creative processes! Here it is, my interview with Marie Segares of the Underground Crafter. :)

Marie, wearing her lovely crochet design Thaden's Asymmetrical Shawl

Hi! Please tell us a little about yourself…  
Sure! My name is Marie Segares and I'm the crochet and knitting designer, teacher, and blogger behind Underground Crafter. I also host the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show, a weekly podcast for yarn industry indies filled with ideas for launching, managing, and evolving your yarn-related business. Random fun facts about me: I'm a native New Yorker and have lived in New York City for 92.5% of my life. I am a "cat person," though I think other people's dogs are really cute (most of the time). 
How did you begin designing? 
I got started designing because of my somewhat unique crochet teaching situation. I've taught crochet for a local union since 2008 (and knitting since 2011), and I often have repeat students. At first, I would create projects to demonstrate a particular technique or skill, or to give them practice with reading patterns. Eventually, I started submitting designs to magazines. I now have a mix of patterns published in magazines and other publications, self-published patterns for digital download, and free patterns on my blog. 

What is your favourite type of item to design? 
Accessories and blankets are my favorite things to make and to design. 

Which is your favourite design? 
Right now, my Thaden's Asymmetrical Shawl is my favorite crochet design. I love asymmetry when designing - I think it looks interesting and it keeps me on my toes when I'm making the sample ;). I've been wearing mine almost every day now that it's getting cold. The Dream in Color Jilly Lace is so soft and cuddly, and since it's a lace weight yarn, it's thin enough to fit under any coat. It's great for layering in this weather. My Alaskan Moonrise Scarf is my favorite knitting design. I just love the look of the stitch pattern, and the Miss Babs Yowza! Whatta Skein really lets the stitches shine. I guess you can tell I love hand dyed yarn, too! Both of these yarns are great - stunning colors, and the skeins are "jumbo sized" so you can splurge and be frugal at the same time!
Thaden's Asymmetrical Shawl

Alaskan Moonrise Scarf

Alaskan Moonrise Scarf (detail)

Are there any of your designs that need more love? 
Haha, I've always wished that my Visit to the Kantcentrum would get a little more love. It's a Bruges crochet design, and I had fun taking pictures for the tutorial. It's one of those patterns where gauge isn't critical and you can adjust the size easily, so it's fun to make. 

Visit to the Kantcentrum

What is your design process, and which are your favourite parts? 
I have two different processes. When I'm designing for other publishers, I usually look through their mood board or design call and immediately will get certain project ideas. Then I may dive into a stitch guide or look at different yarns to flesh out the idea a little further before I start swatching. For my self-published designs, my inspiration either comes from fashions I see in the streets of New York, or from thumbing through stitch guides, or from a great skeins of yarn. 

What skills do you find come in handy as a designer, other than crochet and knitting (e.g. sewing, drawing, coding)? 
I think comfort with math is critical for designers. I've always been that person who calculates how much everyone should pay and what the tip is when eating out in a group, so that's not a problem for me. Also being confident about writing is helpful. I'm not the world's greatest author, but I don't second guess myself too much about descriptions, blog posts, and social media conversations, either. I wish I had better (or, even some!) illustration skills since I think that would be helpful when submitting sketches to publishers. 

What special equipment do you find useful (e.g. software, fancy hooks/needles)?
 I do enjoy using ergonomic hooks and wood needles when I can, since I find that as I crochet and knit more often these days, I want to avoid strain. I LOVE my DSLR camera, and I use Lightroom for basic photo editing. 

What’s your absolute favourite yarn to work with? 
Oooh, this is tough. As I mentioned, I love hand dyed yarn, and I'm a huge fan of wool of all varieties. I also like undyed wool and alpaca. I know that may seem contradictory, but it's true! 

I just love Marie's Chubby Sheep!

Do you prefer to work with charts or written instructions?
I think it depends a bit on the project. I sketch charts when I'm creating my own crochet stitch patterns because I find it easier to figure out how things will line up and how many chains I'll need to get started. I am not that comfortable reading knitting charts, though, so I usually write out those patterns. I find it easier to work from written instructions on the whole, though, since I am often working in suboptimal lighting conditions and it's usually easier to mark them up to keep track of my progress. 

Have you noticed any differences between the worlds of crocheters and knitters? 
Haha, yes, at least in the U.S. There's definitely a lot of baggage about crochet and knitting here and which is "better" or "more versatile," etc. Since I teach a lot of international students, though, I realize that some of this is cultural.

Quadrilateral, a broomstick lace shawl - so pretty!

Do you have any advice for a newer designer?
Yes, lots! I share a fair amount of it on my podcast every week. But here are a few things I think are important for designing newbies.
Keep excellent notes while designing and creating your sample, especially if you don't already have a relationship with a tech editor you trust and who is "in synch" with you.

Remember what's important to you and your business and design career, and try not to get caught up in what others are doing. It's great to learn from other people, but you never have the full picture and everyone's situation is unique, so don't compare too much.

Try not to let negative comments and trolling get you down, but at the same time, listen to constructive feedback and see what may be valuable to help you to grow. I give you permission to throw a 5 minute pitty party after you get a mean comment, but then delete it and move on with your life! 

Lastly, are you making anything for the Gift-A-Long?
Yes! I'm working on cheezombie's Crochet Splat Cat Coaster to accompany a custom mug I bought on Etsy for a friend, and Bruno Bear by Justyna Kacprzak for my toddler cousin. 

Thanks so much, Marie!