An Extraordinary Man

January 15th, 2014

Let me introduce you to an articulate and talented artist who celebrates his heritage every day.  Many people know him as Diego Juárez Viveros, but he is Atlachinocolotl Paquiliztli on Facebook and in the dance community.  

He moved from Michoacán, México, to the United States when he was 4 years old. As you will see, he has accomplished quite a lot since then!

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Atlachinocolotl Paquiliztli, 2005, and his tapestry crocheted Aztec Dancer, Red Heart acrylic yarn, 5′ x 2’6″, 2013.

He explains, “All of my life, I have stood out for being out of the ordinary for many reasons. I stood out in school for my excellence in academic achievement. Despite growing up in a family with low economic means, I have found ways to become successful. After graduating from high school with an outstanding academic record, I pursued a biochemistry degree at University of California, San Diego and graduated in 2008.  I then decided to pursue a career in pharmacy and I was accepted to University of California, San Francisco School of Pharmacy.  In September 2013, I completed the Doctor of Pharmacy degree program.” 

“I put a lot of passion in everything I do.  Aside from crochet, I am interested in astronomy, photography, technology, and learning languages. I speak Spanish and English very fluently. I am currently learning Nahuatl. Nahuatl is an agglutinative language, which means that words are constructed by combining word particles in order to form single ideas.  My name can be broken down as “atl” + “tlachinolli” + “colotl”, which mean “water”+ “burnt” + “scorpion”, respectively. My name means Burnt Water Scorpion.  “Paquiliztli” means happiness.”

Atlachinocolotl Paquiliztli’s unique tapestries are crocheted back and forth, but instead of showing the back of the stitches on every other row, the face of his fabric shows only the front of the stitches. There are a few ways to accomplish this, so I asked him how he did it. He explained, “When I crochet in the opposite direction, I crochet backwards just like it is described in your book. I hold the right side forward and the wrong side toward me. Then I use my right hand to crochet. You can see a little in the photograph of me crocheting that way (below).”

crocheting

Atlachinocolotl crocheting across the back of his Aztec Dancer with Red Heart acrylic yarn, 2012.

“In 2010, I saw my mother crocheting a piece and I asked her to show me how to crochet. She showed me how to do single crochet and, instantly, I was hooked (hehe). I started experimenting with crocheting that day. I wanted to know more. So I bought some books to learn the basics of crochet. I made some rather simple projects at first. After much experimentation and exploration, a vision of what I wanted started to take hold: I wanted to recreate pictures with crochet. I set off on a quest to find out more information about switching colors but I could only find basic instructions. I started making basic pieces with two colors to experiment at first. I created charts using square graphs. The designs came out okay, but I wasn’t satisfied.”

“The piece below was my first attempt at creating a tapestry crochet piece (at that time, I didn’t know the term). The pattern was modeled on a square graph paper.  The piece was crocheted with double crochet stitches, using blue and white Omega Crys yarn.   While creating this project, I learned the basics of switching colors to create a pattern. 

white blue
Bag, Omega Crys acrylic and polyester yarn, 8″ x 8″, 2010.

“One day, I came across your videos on YouTube. That is how I realized that pictures could be reproduced using tapestry crochet. I began to experiment. My first major crochet piece (The Aztec Dancer) was modeled on a square graph. With this project I began to understand the intrinsic structure of single crochet and figuring out how to reduce bleeding of colors. I realized a square graph is not an adequate model for tapestry crochet but that the stitches are better Erica the Mexican Folkloric Dancer modeled by a hexagonal graph. I spent an entire day figuring out how to overlay a hexagonal graph over a picture in Photoshop. Once I figured that out, I had a working model.”

Atlachinocolotl Paquiliztli Dancer

Graph, front, and back of Erica the Mexican Folkloric Dancer.

“I then started crocheting. With this most current project, I refined my technique more and created ways to make lines crisper with single crochet.” He describes the Erica the Mexican Folkloric Dancer tapestry in a short YouTube video.

3' x 6' tapestry

Erica the Mexican Folkloric Dancer, Red Heart acrylic yarn, 3′ x 6′, 2013.

When I asked about his yarn and hook preferences, he said, “It depends on the type of project I will be making.  In general, I prefer bright colors so I pick yarn brands that provide those colors. For projects that require fine detail, I like to use Omega Crys, which is a fine yarn (size 10) made of 68% acrylic and 32% polyester. It is imported from Mexico and is available in a wide variety of bright colors.  For fine projects I use a 2.00 mm hook.  For bigger projects, such as the colorful blankets I have made, I use Red Heart yarn (size 4) with a Size E hook.”

For his newest piece, Atlachinocolotl Paquiliztli digitized his own scorpion drawing with a pen tool, then layered a hexagonal graph over it in Photoshop.

graph

Atachinocolotl’s scorpion graph.

unfinished

Colotl Scorpion in progress, Omega Crys acrylic and polyester yarn, 2013.

“This is my most recent piece.  I crocheted it with a 2.00mm hook and tapestry single crochet techniques.  This project is different from my previous projects for two reasons. This is the first time in which I have incorporated beads in a project. It is also the first time in which I joined another fabric in the back in order hide the yarn that I carry in the back.”

Atlachinocolot lPaquiliztliWithScorpion

Atlachinocolotl Paquiliztli and Colotl Scorpion, OmegaCrys acrylic and polyester yarn and glass beads, 7′ 3″ x 8 3/4″, 2013.

 “After seeing the huge online response to my work, I intend to teach about my technique.  After comparing my results with those of others, I realized that my techniques allow for crisper edges with single crochet.  I plan on writing an ebook in iBooks format. This book will include pictures, text and video explaining my technique.  It will have designs inspired by my Mexican background.  It will include the patterns for the Aztec Dancer and the Mexican Folkloric Dancer as well as some more of my ideas.  I am currently undergoing a huge life transition since I have just graduated from pharmacy school.  You should expect to see my book within 1-2 years.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Atalachinocolotl Paquiliztli’s future work – both his tapestry crochet and his publications!

Knot a Hat Thinking Cap

October 25th, 2013

You can find the pattern of my Thinking Cap in the 2014 issue of Crochet Accessories. I submitted photos of the red and white Knot a Hat (below) to Interweave. They sent me Pavlova and Kiwi colored Kenzie yarn to tapestry crochet the hat for them, then tweaked the name of the project.

Red Tapestry Crochet Hat

Proposed Knot a Hat

This playful hat was inspired by the blue baby beanie (below) that Maarit Aalto gave me in 2005 at the Crochet Days Conference in Finland. Instead of starting at the top, crocheting begins at the rim. The rounds spiral around towards the top, so the tail can be as long or short as you wish!

Tapestry crochet hats

Tapestry crocheted hats begun at the rim.

This year’s edition of the magazine is full of other fun projects, too, so I hope you’ll take a look and give this knotty project a try!

Much Ado About Something!

August 21st, 2013

It’s in the press and all over the airwaves – but in case you haven’t heard, next week is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington! Martin Luther King‘s dream is slowly becoming a reality. We are not there yet, but we’re much further down the road towards equality than we were fifty years ago!

. . . I still have a dream . . . , tapestry crocheted cotton, 27" x 56", 1983.

. . . I still have a dream . . . , tapestry crocheted cotton, 27″ x 56″, 1983.

One of Twenty

July 24th, 2013

I’m proud to say that Gwen Blakley Kinsler included my tapestry crochet and me in her wonderful new  book!

Fine art of Crochet

The Fine Art of Crochet doesn’t have crochet patterns, but instead focuses on the individual stories of twenty artists who use crochet as their medium. Gwen included several photos of my work, but could not include everything she mentioned.  No problem, though, because my Self Portrait, Mothers Advice Pearls, Mothers Advice Harvest, and our house can be seen online. Unfortunately, the Hidden in Plain Sight book she mentioned has still not been published – someday soon, I hope!

Gwen had a difficult time getting this book printed because publishers assumed it would not be a hot seller. Please prove them wrong and show your support by either purchasing a copy or by requesting that your library do so.  Currently, Amazon.com has both the paperback and kindle editions for the lowest prices.

Congratulations, Gwen, for making your dream come true (and thanks for including me, too)!

Vogue Tote

May 13th, 2013

Have you seen the new Vogue Knitting Crochet? My tote is one of thirty four projects in the stylish 2013 special edition of the magazine. Members of Ravelry can see all the accessories, skirts, tops, and dresses here.

As usual, I experimented first. After finishing the brown and white bag, I emailed a project proposal with a photo to Vogue. They liked it – sent me a contract and several skeins of Prism Windward yarn – and voilá!

First and final version.

The first version is on the left, in front of the Vogue Knitting Crochet Tote on the right.

Their photo looks much better, don’t you think?

Tapestry Crochet Tote in Vogue

Tapestry Crochet Tote in Prism Windward and Windward Layers, Vogue Knitting Crochet 2013 (photo by Rose Callahan).

I hope you’ll take a look and give this project – and some of the others – a try!

Just in time for summer!

 

Kippot

April 18th, 2013

Today I received this email that I thought you would enjoy:

“Many years ago, you and I corresponded. I had been looking for the key to incorporating different colors into kippot/yarmulkes, and had been asking people to teach me. Now one could. Finally, you introduced me to the answer…tapestry crochet! I had bought your first book on the subject and you sent me an autographed copy of the second. I think that crocheting patterns into kippot is more interesting than straight colors.”

Kippa Monica Stripes

Monica’s kippa, tapestry crocheted with DMC.

“When I told DH I wanted to make him a kippa to match his tallit, he asked for a plain pattern. I matched the colors in the fabric with DMC skeins. I finished every color as if it were the outside of the kippa. I don’t like the ‘bump’ at the end of a row. (I will often incorporate the wearers Hebrew name so that the bump is woven in and not noticeable.) The gold thread was difficult to use which is why I put it on the inside, instead of the outside.”

“I actually had to unwravel the ecru outside band and redo it because the stitches were too tight for DH. He has a very flat head… LOL!”

Kippot Monica

Three more of Monica’s kippot, two with Hebrew names and a feminine one with beads.

Here are details on the argyle kippah. I have a couple of books in Hebrew with lots of patterns. I usually make up my own.

Here are details on the argyle kippah. I have a couple of books in Hebrew with lots of patterns. I usually make up my own.

“I thank you to this day and wanted you to know that I’m still inspired.”

Thank you so much, Monica, for your wonderful email and for letting me share it with the world!

Mitla Purse

October 27th, 2012

My Mitla Purse is one of more than fifty projects in Interweave Crochet Accessories 2012.

Mitla Purse tapestry crocheted with Cotton Classic by Tahki.

As with many of my other patterns, I needed to experiment. I adjusted both the size of the motif and the purse.

The first version is on the left.

The motif was inspired by one of the geometric patterns on the pre-Columbian building seen below from Mitla, Mexico. Stepped fret motifs work well with tapestry crochet and an almost infinite variety are found around the world.

Mitla wall from (photo from Wiki Commons).

The shape of the Mitla Purse was based on a change purse pattern in my first Tapestry Crochet book. It’s is out of print, but some of the patterns are available online for right handed and left handed crocheters.

Change purses from my 1991 Tapestry Crochet book.

What’s old is new again!

Biennial Award

September 24th, 2012

I was honored to have two of my tapestry crochet pieces accepted into the 2012 TACA Biennial: The Best of Tennessee Craft exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

My Hat and Geometry Tote in TACA’s 2012 Biennial Exhibition.

Even better is that my Geometry Tote received a Purchase Award! I’m so excited that it’s now part of the Tennessee State Museum’s permanent collection. I blogged about this Tote earlier, when it was published in Crochet World and recently posted about the Hat, too.

The Biennial Exhibition runs through October 21 and the reception will be this Saturday, the 29th, from 6-9pm. I would love to see you there! If you can’t make it to the reception, you can still make it by crocheting your very own Geometry Tote from the instructions in the February 2011 issue of Crochet World.

Switching Colors

September 15th, 2012

Do your yarns twist around each other when you tapestry crochet? Well, there’s a simple solution to avoid this problem. Just place one color on your right and the other on your left (or both colors on your lap next to each other) and then allow a slight twist to occur next to the most recent stitch when changing colors.

I’ve switched colors back and forth this way for years, but just recently noticed that the back of the work does not always look the same. To see what I’m talking about, please take a close look below at the back of the fabric (on the right). Do you see the jagged edges?

1. Front of the fabric (on the left) and back of the same section (on the right), showing the “twist” that occurs when switching colors.

Now look at the right half of photo 2 below. Notice the consistently smooth edges of the stripes on the back. The fronts of each sample (shown on the left in the photos above and below) look very similar, but the backs are quite different.

2. Front of the fabric (on the left) and back of the same section (on the right), showing the “twist” that occurs when switching colors.

Why do the backs look so different? Let’s see if you can figure it out. I’ll give you a hint. The jagged stripes in photo 1 document how many rounds I crocheted at one time. From bottom to top (the way it was worked), I crocheted 3 rounds, put down the work, then picked it up and crocheted 4 more rounds, then kept putting it down every time I finished a round. So, what was I doing differently each time?

It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally realized that the position of the balls were reversed each time I began crocheting again. When the brown ball was on one side of the yellow, the back of the work looked one way, but when it was on the other side, the twist that formed in the back looked very different. Eureka!

After figuring out which position produced the best results, I made sure the yellow and brown balls were always in the same place while crocheting the sample in photo 2. Much better! It’s amazing that this slight variation in technique makes such a difference – don’t you think?

Arrowhead Tote

September 2nd, 2012

The Fall 2012 issue of Interweave Crochet has several colorful projects, including my Arrowhead Tote (below).

Arrowhead Tote, Tahki Cotton Classic, 13 3/4″ wide, 2012.

I tapestry crocheted the first version (below) with some Stitch Nation Full O’Sheep wool left over from my Beautiful Basket project. The arrows looked great at first, but after the bag was felted they lost too much definition for my taste.

Tapestry crocheted wool bag on the left –  the same bag felted in my washing machine on the right.

So – when Interweave sent out a call for original designs, I submitted a photo of the wool bag before it was felted, but suggested a new version tapestry crocheted with a single handle in Tahki Cotton Classic.

I really enjoyed crocheting the colors they chose and love how the cotton bag looks and feels. What do YOU think?

Bamun Inspiration

August 14th, 2012

I never copy exactly what I see. That would be unethical and too easy. Instead, I prefer to challenge myself by reinterpreting motifs and designs. So when Interweave asked me to write about and design a Bamum hat, I looked through my collection, chose a style, and took it from there.

My first attempt (bottom left) turned out too small. The octagonal top was produced by increasing in the same spot each time. I didn’t like the way the wedges lined up with the motifs and they were too large to allow for slight size adjustments, so I made the next one (bottom right) with several improvements.

Bamun inspired hats tapestry crocheted with Cotton Classic by Tahki.

I was happier with the second hat – so that’s the one you’ll find in Interweave’s 2012 Crochet Traditions. The circular top was produced by making more random increases. The motifs are small, so the circumference and height may be subtly changed by increasing or decreasing the number of motifs.

I’m not saying that the first hat is awful. In fact, it’s included in the upcoming Tennessee Association of Craft Artists Biennial Exhibition at the Tennessee State Museum! More about that later.

Summer 2012 Crochet Show Update

August 1st, 2012

I’m back from New Hampshire! Along the way I visited family, friends, and museums and filled up my car with lots of fabulous stuff!

The tapestry crochet classes I taught at the Crochet Guild of America Knit & Crochet Show were great fun – beginning with the Bead Bracelet class. Everyone learned something – even me!

The Bead Bracelet class.

After being taught how to use tapestry crochet graph paper, several of the ladies designed their own motifs.

Karen Ballard incorporated cool cats into her bracelet.

Almost everyone finished their bracelet during the six hour class.

Becky Barker correctly steam ironed the bracelet that she designed from the side of the cloth without beads.

The three hour Bead Felted class was small, but again, everyone picked up new skills and shared a lot.

The Bead Felted class.

The Flat Tapestry class went by very quickly; there was so much to remember and practice in three hours!

Flat Tapestry Crochet Deer class.

These brave women tried both methods; switching hands every other row and turning the piece over and inserting the hook from the back. As usual, most preferred NOT to switch hands.

Anyway, my exciting 18 day trip is behind me – and it’s wonderful to be back home again, too.

The Lesson

July 20th, 2012

Othman Ribatallah has really grown up since Bronwyn met him in 2006. Maybe that’s why he and his Father were able to change places. Othman now runs the family store, stocked with a variety of high quality items, some of which Othman crafted himself. The inventory includes fine handwoven rugs, sterling silver jewelry, crocheted hats from all over Morocco and sculptures from other African countries, like Cameroon.

Othman and me (with my hat purchases) in front of his store in Essaouira.

Othman’s father now crochets and sells hats around the corner from the store. He learned to crochet from his father, who learned from his father, etc. Slip stitched hats were traditionally made by Berber shepherds as they tended their flocks of goats and sheep (today both men and women crochet hats in Morocco). His wife and daughter crochet the style of hat he’s holding (below) with a small hook and fine cotton thread. It takes them two to three days to slip stitch one with such small stitches. He prefers to crochet hats with a larger hook and heavier cotton yarn, which take two to three hours to finish. Prices reflect time spent to make each hat.

Othman’s Father and our tour leader, Susan Schaefer Davis, in Essaouira.

Our tour didn’t include Essaouira, so I asked if an extension could be added so we could look for tapestry crocheters there. Not only did Noble Journeys add the extension, but Susan found Othman on an earlier visit. When Othman mentioned to Susan that he taught crochet, she scheduled an informal private lesson for me!

But first things first! A proper Moroccan host must serve hot, frothy green tea made with fresh mint to welcome his guests! So after we arrived, Othman asked us to give him some time so that he could prepare everything. In the meantime, we visited the interesting nearby Fort.

Othman served us hot tea in the traditional way – pouring it from above.

Othman began the lesson by showing me how to crochet a hat with alternating rows of blue and white back loop slip stitches. The rim will have several rounds of front loop stitches for textural contrast. Othman often combines front loop (which he calls bottom loop) with back loop (top loop) stitches. (This slip stitch technique goes by many names, including Bosnian crochet.) A friend brought him the fine Italian wool that he’s using to make the hat.

Othman slip stitched a hat with alternating rounds of blue and white wool while I photographed his technique.

Othman then began another style hat with chunky cotton yarn. Like the Fes crocheter that I met earlier on the trip, he held the piece with his left hand, inserted the hook with his right hand, yarned over the hook with his right hand (like a knitter), then immediately pulled the new loop through both loops already on the hook. Colors were changed after the stitch was complete. His wooden hook was begun by a local carpenter, then Othman carved the large and small hook on both ends himself.

The yarn over is made by wrapping the yarn across the front of the hook, then around the back.

Othman crochets traditional hats and new styles of his own design. After showing me how to crochet three different types, he explained that someone with an open mind and imagination could crochet anything.

Othman is an EXCELLENT teacher and would gladly teach slip stitch tapestry crochet to you in Morocco or abroad. His English, French, and Moroccan Arabic are excellent, he patiently explains every step of the process – then helps you do it, and his fees are very reasonable.

Othman would also be happy to sell you his work, hats made in other parts of Morocco, and merchandise from his store. He is also willing to crochet hats with wool or thread that you send him. Packing is time consuming and postage is expensive, so several items would need to be purchased together to make the order worthwhile. Payment would have to be made in advance through Western Union. For purchases or to schedule a lesson, please email Othman at othmanshopp@gmail.com or phone him at 212 610 745 701 or write to him at Boutique N. 22, Rue Skala, Essaouira, Morocco.

I hope you’ll be able to visit Morocco someday! It’s such a beautiful and interesting country full of friendly, talented people. Although we flew into Cassablanca, some take the ferry from Algeciras in southern Spain (near Gibraltar) to Ceuta to enter the country. No matter how you get there, please say hello to Othman and his Father for me!

Sunrise Afghan

June 29th, 2012

So, how did my Desert Sunrise Afghan end up in Robyn Chachula’s new Unexpected Afghans book? Well fortunately, she invited me to submit a proposal, explaining that, “The book will be a designer showcase of crochet through afghans.  We will be featuring 25 designers to showcase their craft through the medium of an afghan.”

Robyn suggested I tapestry crochet a 48″ diameter sunburst, kind of like a Gothic stained glass window and my Sunburst Basket, with colors inspired by the photo below:

Sunburst Basket

Robyn selected seven colors of Caron Simply Soft yarn. She gave me the freedom to change them, but I decided to challenge myself with her selection. I eliminated one of the reds she sent, though, because it didn’t contrast enough with the other reds. The yarn and colors really took me out of my comfort zone – a good thing. I arranged them with high contrast in mind.

Sunrise Afghan
Detail of the Sunrise Afghan.

If you give this afghan a try, there is a mistake on page 80. The graph is great, but the color key on the right is incorrect. MC should replace A on the top, the pink square should be A instead of B, the orange square should be B instead of C, etc.

Robyn’s wonderful book includes twenty-eight other innovative afghans and five exquisite pillows, too! I hope you’ll take a look!

More Morocco

June 16th, 2012

I’ve been wanting to go to Morocco for some time now, especially since Bronwyn introduced me to the interesting tapestry crochet hats made and worn there. Fortunately, my husband and I were able to join Susan Schaefer Davis during “WARP does Morocco” and Noble Journeys added an extension so that we could also go to Essaouira, the town where Bronwyn saw a hat being crocheted. A future blog will feature our wonderful adventure in that seaside town.

Anyway – on the first morning of the tour, our accommodating and very well informed multilingual guide, Ismail Bourqqadi, brought us to a fortress that overlooks Fes to give us an idea of the city’s expanse and beauty. We were really lucky to have the best guide in Morocco! During the week that Ismail shepherded us to and through numerous interesting cities and towns, he taught us about Moroccan history, culture, politics, and religion. He also made sure that we learned a little bit of Moroccan Arabic.

WARP tour group overlooking Fes while learning about Morocco from Ismail.

As we walked around the corner to get another view of the city, we found a gentleman busily tapestry crocheting hats for tourists. I’m not sure who was more excited – him or me! He was more than happy to show me his slip stitch technique and I was more than happy to buy several of his hats. I also purchased the piece he had just started and one of his cast metal crochet hooks.

Sherqi Said showing me how to do a yarn over. Part of my blue and purple tapestry crocheted camera case is on the ground in front of him.

Like many Moroccans, Sherqi wore a patriotic baseball cap, but the hats he designed and crocheted with double strands of brightly colored acrylic yarn featured the national colors and symbols or names of several countries. Some of them included filet work and other crochet stitches, but most were constructed with slip stitches worked into the back loop.

Patriotic acrylic hats designed for tourists by Sherqi Said of Fes.

Sherqi’s working method was quite different from mine. His left hand held the work and after inserting the hook under the back loop with his right hand, he let go of the hook and yarned over with his right hand like a knitter, then grabbed the hook again with his right hand and pulled the yarn through both loops.

While holding the piece with his left hand, he inserts the hook into the back loop of the stitch below, then does the yarn over across the front of the hook with his right hand, then pulls the loop through both loops on the hook, producing a slip stitch.

Hopefully, you’ll make it to Morocco someday soon! Ismail explained that Sherqi is not always at Borj Sud – especially during bad weather – but luck was with us that warm, sunny day – and maybe it will be with you, too!