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!

Summer 2012 Crochet Show

March 12th, 2012

Are you looking for a fun way to learn more about crochet and knitting? Well, if you’re able to get to Manchester, New Hampshire, June 29th through July 1st, you’ll be able to learn from twenty one teachers and designers (including me!) at the Summer Knit & Crochet Show.

I’m teaching the same classes that were so popular during at the CGOA show Buffalo, NY, in 2009. They are all designed to teach specific tapestry crochet skills, but the projects are small enough that most participants are able to finish them during class.

The first class features bead tapestry crochet. As you probably already know, tapestry crocheting with beads is revolutionary! Since more than one color thread is used, each thread only needs to be loaded with one bead color, eliminating the need to load the beads in a specific sequence ahead of time! A pattern is formed on one side of the fabric by adding a bead to each stitch and on the other side the colored threads create a design. The motif does not need to be pre-planned and offers fantastic design potential. Using the single crochet stitch, create a bracelet and also learn how to design with tapestry crochet graph paper.

My next class features felted and bead tapestry crochet. A large hook and loose single crochet stitches are used to make the bag, then it’s felted in a washing machine. The finished felted tapestry crochet fabric is thick and patterned on both sides. Using the single crochet stitch, students will crochet a bag and learn how to design a motif on tapestry crochet graph paper. Felting instructions are included, but the bag must be felted at home.

The focus of the last class is what I call flat tapestry crochet. Unlike traditional crochet, flat tapestry crochet does not show the back of the stitch on every other row; the front of the stitch is always on the face of the tapestry and the back of the stitch is always on the reverse of the piece. Two methods to do flat tapestry crochet with the single crochet stitch will be taught. Students will also learn how to design on tapestry crochet graph paper, how to crochet a border around their piece and how to block flat tapestry crochet.

These classes are just three of more than ninety others that feature everything from Tunisian, Color, Fair-Isle, Bruges-Lace, to Illusion crochet and more! Registration begins March 30th. Hope to see you there!

A New Wiki Page

February 29th, 2012

Wikipedia is a very popular online encyclopedia written by non-paid volunteers. Although some areas are extensively covered, not all topics are fully represented. After seeing no mention of tapestry crochet, I started a Tapestry Crochet Wiki page and linked it to the Crochet Wiki page. Right now, the new Tapestry Crochet page is ranked as C-class on the quality scale.

Anyone may edit Wiki articles, so I hope you will consider expanding the tapestry crochet page. Wikipedia is very careful about copyright. Text and photos must be your own, or in the public domain. Editors are not allowed to promote themselves or their own products, but are encouraged to edit what has been written and add more original information. For more about editing a Wiki page, please look here.

The tapestry crochet page, as it stands right now, is pretty basic. With your input, though, it could be more complete and move up to B, Good Article, or even Featured Article status! Together, we can do it!

Jocelynn Brown

February 6th, 2012

Jocelynn Brown is a very talented and creative journalist. Her column in The Detroit News includes a variety of media, but my favorite articles showcase some of her own tapestry crochet designs!

Hats, bag, and bowl by Jocelynn Brown, 2011 (photo: The Detroit News).

Jocelynn was nine years old when her mother taught her to crochet. She reminisced, “We’d spend hours together crocheting in front of the TV and sometimes on the back porch. I continued through my adulthood, designing and making hats, afghans and baby clothes.”

Hat designed by Jocelynn, 2012 (photo: The Detroit News).

Jocelynn tried to teach herself tapestry crochet in 2008, but didn’t really grasp it until last year. Since then, she’s been designing colorful hats and other accessories. Her goal now is to learn how to use graph paper so that she can add more shapes and motifs.

The instructions for the golf club cover below were included in Jocelynn’s A golf club cover for old times’ sake column in the February 3, 2012 Lifestyle section of The Detroit News. The golf club cover is also featured in her Crafting Blog.

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Jocelynn’s Golf Club Cover, 2012 (photo: The Detroit News).

Jocelynn Brown (photo: The Detroit News)

Jocelynn says, “I find tapestry crochet to be very relaxing, and I’m always planning my next project. Right now, I’m looking forward to making a summer tote with lots of jewel tones, using a mercerized cotton.” I’m really looking forward to seeing it. Hopefully, she’ll share it with us in another inspirational column!

Wrap with Love

January 22nd, 2012

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Tapestry crocheted with Lion Brand’s Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton, this blanket is so soft and cuddly, it’s sure to be treasured every day of the year.

Patterns for both right handed and left handed crocheters are now available online.

Happy Day!

January 16th, 2012

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

The light blue background symbolizes water and green the land that both unite and divide us. The rows of people represent the different human races, which are all the same size – with their hearts in the same place. Large hearts form between them as they unite and hold hands in the top row.

While crocheting the figures, I deliberated about whose portrait to place above them. Who best promoted the idea of different types of people living and working together as equals in a peaceful world? After considering many famous mythological and real people, I realized it had to be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To design the face, I projected Dr. King’s image onto graph paper that I modified to accommodate the tall single crochet stitches.

The facial proportions were good, but the curves were not as smooth as they could have been. It was after this project that I designed tapestry crochet graph paper to better accommodate stitch shape and placement.

In front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, this great man shared his dream that “. . . all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands . . .” This is my dream, too, that people around the world will learn not only to tolerate, but also to celebrate different points of view and beliefs.

Happy Martin Luther King Day! May it be peaceful and inspirational for you and the world.

Graphs from Photos

December 26th, 2011

There are many ways to make tapestry crochet graphs from photos. The ideal subject is lit from the side and includes several values. A variety of graph papers and information about how to use them are included in my Tapestry Crochet and More Tapestry Crochet books. In summary, the image may be projected onto paper or placed under tapestry crochet graph paper on a light table. After tracing the major lines, the cells are then colored in with light, medium and dark colored pencils.

Another approach utilizes computer graphics. The below images were done in a just few minutes with Photoshop, but several other programs could have produced similar results. Reducing the colors of the photo helps visualize the crocheted version and often makes it easier to trace onto tapestry crochet graph paper.

The “posterize” feature of Photoshop produced the image on the right from the photo on the left.

The number of colors and the posterized colors themselves are easily changed in Photoshop.

The colors on the left were altered with Photoshop’s “color balance”, then the image was transformed into black and white with “grayscale”.
Photoshop’s “mosaic” feature further simplified the image into squares of various values.

The online site, KnitPro, quickly (and for free) transformed my photo into a square-ruled graph.

Square-ruled graph done on KnitPro from a 3 color photo prepared in Photoshop.

KnitPro just as easily produced the rectangle-ruled graph below.

Rectangular-ruled graph done on KnitPro from the same 3 color photo.

To my knowledge, though, there is no computer program available that will fill in tapestry crochet graph paper automatically. Digital versions of the most popular tapestry crochet graph papers are posted in the files section of the Yahoo Tapestry Crochet group. The graph paper may be printed out, then placed over an image on a light table and filled in by hand or the graph may be digitally placed over a photo, then filled in (cell by cell) with the paint bucket tool.

Some the flesh tone was filled in on the right with Photoshop’s “paint bucket” tool.

For creating graphs of animals, flowers, etc., there are millions of free online images available for inspiration. For instance, Google “horse”, then click on “images” to find a profile view, then trace it onto the appropriate graph paper. This method helps achieve more accurate proportions and had I used one of those images, perhaps my horses would NOT have turned out like donkeys!

Simply Felted Basket

December 9th, 2011

The new Simply Crochet book by Robyn Chachula includes twenty two patterns from a number of crochet designers. My felted Tapestry Basket is one of them – crocheted with Cascade Yarns’ dreamy 100% Peruvian Cascade 220 wool.

Tapestry Basket in Simply Crochet Book.

My bead tapestry crochet Master Bag featured a woven twill motif, so this time I chose a different basket weave. The colors didn’t contrast enough in the first attempt so I crocheted the final version with yellow instead of beige. The first one was also too narrow, but since the motif was ten stitches wide and there were ten increases per round, it was easy to add three more rounds to make it wider without affecting the motif.

First and final versions of the felted tapestry basket.

I love felted tapestry crochet! The large, loose stitches are easy on the hands and the projects materialize so quickly. The felted fabric is substantial and the pattern is visible on both sides.

Interiors of the first and final versions of the felted tapestry basket.

A washing machine transformed the crocheted basket below into the felted basket above.

This is how the Tapestry Basket looked before it was felted. 

Are you hooked by felted tapestry crochet yet? If so – or if not – please look at my video tutorial and at my web page and Bead & Felted Tapestry Crochet book for more felted tapestry crochet projects.

Shallow Single Tapestry Crochet

November 2nd, 2011

Ariana Thompson taught herself how to crochet more than fifteen years ago from the 1993 Harmony Guide To Crocheting: Techniques and Stitches by Debra Mountford. That’s where she discovered the shallow single crochet stitch. Fortunately, Ariana decided to experiment with this stitch while doing tapestry crochet.

Ariana’s “shallow single” tapestry crochet swatches with designs from Alice Starmore, Tone Takle, and Lise Kolstad. Most are superwash wool DK worked with a 4mm hook. The two on the top right are cotton, and the small red one in the middle with two isolated motifs were crocheted with Kroy sock yarn.

According to Ariana, “The finished project does not behave like knitting – structurally it’s still single crochet, but the look is nice. It is actually a little firmer than regular single crochet, as you are working into the stitch below a little . . . deeper, I guess you could say. I think that’s why they call it ‘shallow crochet’, because you don’t actually gain as much height with each round as you would with a round of regular single crochet. It has a firmness that’s great for jackets, purses, pillows – with a finer yarn, like sportweight or sockweight you get a fabric than behaves like . . . maybe light denim. Shallow stitch has a significant bias and has to be wet-blocked to be straight, so I like to use a fibre that can be blocked – a wool or a cotton rather than acrylic.”

“I often do tapestry crochet using a ‘shallow single crochet’ usually abbreviated in patterns as ssc. Instead of working your single crochet into the top two loops of the stitch below, put your hook in the centre of the stitch below, between the two uprights. You have to work this stitch in one direction only so you always have the right side facing. The result is the perfectly stacked little “V” shapes of knitting.”

After Ariana shared her swatches with the Ravelry Tapestry Crochet Group, I began to experiment, too. Several attempts were required to successfully produce the red and white sample below – done with a large hook, loose tension, and stretchy yarn.

Both pieces were crocheted following the same instructions, but the blue one was tapestry crocheted with size 3 cotton thread and the pink one was “shallow single” tapestry crocheted with a larger hook and stretchy worsted wool.

The motifs on my sample didn’t slant – maybe because the hook was stuck under the carried yarn of the stitch below.

The back of the blue tapestry crocheted piece looks quite different from the back of the red shallow single tapestry crocheted piece.

I’m not only intrigued by the look of the front and back – but also by the incredible thickness of the fabric! To me, it looks like shallow single tapestry crochet has great potential!

Out of Print – But Not Out of Style

October 21st, 2011

Tapestry Crochet was the first of three books that I wrote to spread the word about this fabulous technique. I couldn’t turn this out-of-print book into an e-book because the publisher owns the copyrights of the layout and graphs – but I own the copyrights of the projects and text.

After Interweave said I could republish the projects, I updated the text and redrew the graphs – this time making separate sets for right handed and left handed crocheters (the written instructions are the same for both right handed and left handed crocheters, but the photos and graphs are reversed).

My second book, More Tapestry Crochet, has expanded history and design sections, so I only concentrated on making the eight most popular projects available online, grouping them together by format.

“Rounds’ projects for left handed and “Rounds” projects for right handed crocheters from Tapestry Crochet, 1991.

Spiral’ projects for left handed and “Spiral” projects for right handed crocheters from Tapestry Crochet, 1991.

I actually wrote Tapestry Crochet in the early 1980’s, but it took ten years to get it published! Most of the other pattern books at the time featured expensive fibers, but my Mom and her friends preferred to crochet with inexpensive synthetic yarns, so I made most of the projects with their favorites to appeal to people like them. Unfortunately, most of those yarns are no longer made – but that’s the situation with many published patterns.

I’m an artist and art professor, so the projects were designed not only to teach the basics, but also to provide crocheters with fresh ideas and design tools. I try to encourage crocheters to tweak the patterns, but even when the instructions are followed to the letter, each finished piece is still unique because substituting yarns makes them that way!

What really amazes me when I stop and think about it, though, is that these pieces were crocheted 30 years ago – but they don’t look dated – at least not to me!

Down Under Wonder

October 9th, 2011

Anne Churches and her husband live in Kyabram, a small dairy and fruit farming community around 124 miles /200 km north of Melbourne, Australia. They retired around five years ago to part of the property that used to be their orchard. Anne enjoys golf, weaving, seeing her eleven grandchildren, and of course, tapestry crochet.

Autumn and Fall, first made in 2009.

This talented artist has been designing and hand weaving stunning shaft shifting rugs on a large floor loom in her home for about ten years. While looking for something to do with the left over wool, she discovered tapestry crochet. As you can see, Anne’s unique sense of design and color have translated well. Over the past two years, she’s sold more than seventy tapestry crocheted bags at Wool Shows, Handweaver and Spinner Sharing Days, through her network of friends, and on her web site.

When asked what inspires her motifs, Anne said they develop as she explores the technique, adding that “I like free form shapes and also flowers. My most popular designs have been called ‘Organic’. A wonderful way to use up many colours.”

Green ZigZag and Felix, 2009.
Pink Waves and GreyNight, first made in 2010.

And how does she achieve the vibrant variegated colors? After purchasing New Zealand yarn from carpet manufacturers in Melbourne (similar to Jason Collingwood rug yarn), she dyes it with Lanaset dyes, 500 grams at a time in a 5 gallon / 19 liter stock pot on her kitchen stove. For the bags, she doubles the yarn and crochets them with a size G/ 7 / 4.5 mm hook with a wooden handle, specially made for her by a wood turner. Most of her bags are around 13″ 33 cm x 13″ / 33cm in size (not including the strap).

Some of Anne’s Tapestry Crochet and her hook.
Cool Kats and Caesar Tote, 2010.

If you’d like to tapestry crochet one of Anne’s bags, you’re in luck, because the pattern for her Summer Bag (below) is for sale on her website. The instructions are clear and the pattern includes several stitch diagrams photographs. Anne plans to add more patterns in the future.

Summer Bag and Organic Bag, 2010.

For hands-on workshops, Anne will be teaching how to tapestry crochet a bag in Kyabram and Wangaratta in October and November. Although students are not able to finish it during class, she shows samples of the base, the beginning of the sides, the strap, and the flap and tie and explains how to complete each step. So far, all of her students have finished their bags afterwards!

Anne, tapestry crocheting one of her wearable art bags, 2011.

Anne says it best, “I never tire of making bags. Also I am forever developing new designs. I have found an activity that can go with me anywhere. You can’t weave a rug in the car!”

Just in time!

September 28th, 2011

If you like to crochet loosely – then this project is for you. It’s tapestry crocheted with Plymouth Galway worsted wool and a size K hook. Size 5 silver-lined gold beads add sparkle.

Both of the below baskets were crocheted following the same instructions, but the basket on the right was felted in a washing machine. Loose stitches, feltable yarn, washable beads (the color washes off some beads), a HOT soapy wash and cold rinse are the keys to successful bead felting.

Before felting (left) and after felting (right) Jack O’Lantern Baskets, 5 1/2″ high.

The Jack O’Lanterns are visible on the inside and outside! This online pattern is being sold by Patternfish for left handed crocheters and right handed crocheters – just in time for Halloween!

Online Vultures

September 13th, 2011

I finally put my vulture bag patterns on Patternfish after Barb Holman sent me the wonderful wake-up call below.

Juvenile turkey vulture that Barb rehabilitated – isn’t he cute? 

I admire them from afar, but Barb helps all sorts of raptors and knows a lot about them. The following may be more than you want to know, but I found it very interesting. Describing the photos, she said “Anyway, here is the only juvenile turkey vulture I ever rehabbed. I’ve rehabbed several rascally adults but this little guy came to us almost right out of the egg. I wish I had photographed him then because when they’re hatched all white soft fluff with that beautiful black head, and they’re rather nice to get along with. These photos show his black feathers coming in and his black head. Their heads turn red with sexual maturity.”

“I’m sure you already know these things but just in case … They keep cool by urinating on their feet. Early in the morning, they’ll gather in groups high up in the trees and turn their backs to the rising sun to warm up. They’re easy to recognize in flight by the dihedral (V) angle of their wings and silvery grey underside of their flight feathers. Most birds have no sense of smell which is why you can put a chick back into their nest without the parent noticing. Vultures hunt mainly by smell and can detect carrion far away.”

“They actually have very delicate systems and regurgitate their food at the slightest upset. Luckily, they’re not picky and will simply re-eat it. Disgusting to most people but, like all of nature, they serve the very important role of cleaning up.”

“As adults, they can be very dangerous to handle. I once read of a rehabber being killed when he held an adult vulture too close to his face and the bird reached up and bit his neck, opening his carotid artery. I was very accustomed to handling large birds of prey and trained several as education birds. My own bird, Luna, was a great horned owl I trained from nestling age.”

“I caught and handled adult vultures fairly often as well. They’re huge by comparison to all but eagles and condors and very strong. The big difference in safety while handling them is that other raptors use their talons as their main defense while the vulture’s feet and talons are relatively weak. Its that beak that you must be very aware of.”

“We have many eagles where I live now and yesterday, moved roadkill off the road so the feeding eagle wouldn’t be hit while enjoying his lunch. Beautiful birds and try as I might, didn’t get a good photo.  Also have vultures here … We’re at the top of a hill on a peninsula overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks and I love watching them circle, higher and higher in order to make it over our roof. We have often found as many as ten of them sitting on our deck rail discussing whatever it is that vultures discuss.”

“Being on the lake, the eagles come every year and a few winter over. We even have a nest not far away and have watched the youngsters fledge. A couple of years ago, we were down the hill on the bank of the lake. It was very cold and quiet and suddenly, almost in front of us, a gull swooped low and dropped a big fish. Right behind him, a huge eagle landed on the ice and took the fish. Behind her came a smaller male and a juvenile. They made no move to take the fish she had stolen from the gull and the gull just kept going. I’m assuming their sexes because, with raptors, the sexes usually look alike (no sexual dimorphism as with most other birds) and the female is half again larger than the male. An exception to this rule is the American kestrel. Its our smallest true falcon, the sexes are marked differently but about the same size.”

She sent the pictures because of my old blog post about the Carrion Bag.

Vulture Purse and Carrion BagTapestry Crochet Vulture Purse and Felted Carrion Bag

You might already have these patterns because the Vulture Purse used to be available online, but was taken down when The Inside Loop went out of business. The instructions for the Carrion Bag are included in The Anticraft Book. Fortunately, I was able to keep the copyrights, which means that I can distribute these patterns myself. So the Vulture Purse for Right Handers and Vulture Purse for Left Handers and the felted Carrion Bag for Right Handers and Carrion Bag for Left Handers are now for sale – just in time for Halloween!

Free Wallet Pattern

September 2nd, 2011

Crochet Today! just posted the pattern for my Tapestry Crochet Wallet as a free download. The November/December 2011 issue includes a picture and instructions for carrying and changing colors.

I didn’t want to line the wallet, so I tapestry crocheted it with Aunt Lydia’s Size 3 Fashion Crochet Thread and a size 1 (2.25mm) steel crochet hook with a handle to produce the dense fabric. A plain hook would have been OK, but the handle helped my wrist and hand work the tight stitches much more easily.

Even though three colors were used, there are only two colors in each round. The carried colors were switched five times in the solid rounds as needed.

A short zipper was not available locally, so I adapted a longer one from my sewing stash. (The pattern includes zipper instructions – how to shorten and sew it into the wallet.)

This project would be great for using up small amounts of left-over thread and yarn – just switch the colors more often and / or use more colors! What a wonderful gift idea!

I hope you’ll crochet this wallet for yourself or someone else – and fill it with all the money you save!