Inspiration Everywhere

Posted on by MK Carroll

One of my latest projects: wild yeast sourdough starter. I'm using the instructions from Donna Currie's Sourdough Starter-Along over at Slice, and I'm on Day 6 (technically, this has been going for 7 days, but I had to fridge it for a day while I was away). 

It's burbling away contentedly and actually smells like bread, which I am counting as success. To allow air circulation, I'm using a paper towel held down by a canning ring (although I'm going to switch to a plastic screw-top lid later today, so that the lactic acid can start developing). Because I've been sketching out ideas to submit to Defarge Does Chaucer (one of the follow-ups to the fabulous book What Would Mme Defarge Knit, edited by Heather O. of the also fabulous CraftLit podcast), I've been daydreaming about medieval illuminated manuscripts, The Door in the Wall (which I read over and over again as a kid), The Chronicles of Prydain (ditto), the A Song of Ice and Fire series (which I am re-reading), etc. etc. I walked into the kitchen this morning, looked at the jar of sourdough starter, and giggled. It looks like it's wearing a wimple and headrail

Fresh Designs Crochet: inspiration board (Bags)

Posted on by MK Carroll

This plastic bicycle/shopping basket was designed by Marie-Louise Gustafsson, inspired by her grandmothers crochet tablecloths. Although I didn't know it until after I'd finished the inspiration boards, Shannon got one of these last summer. Besides being crochet-inspired, I like that this basket comes with a shoulder strap and can be easily put on and taken off a bicycle.
This bike basket is also designed to be portable and removable and has a carry handle instead of a strap. Fabric basket liners with straps or handles can be purchased separately. The inspiration board caption for these photos is "Start with a removable bicycle basket and add crochet. Whose bicycle is this? Where are they going today?" Good, functional design has specific users in mind. You can never predict who will use the design and how, of course - and that's part of the fun, isn't it?

I also asked for visually interesting - but still practical - market and produce bags, showing examples of common and basic net bags. One of the most re-pinned Pinterest pins of mine from the But What Do You Knit or Crochet in Hawai'i board is the Valley Yarns 219 Crocheted Linen Market Bag, a free pattern for a big - really big - market bag. It's plain, simple, and really roomy. It doesn't have to be so plain though - can you imagine using Jenny Hart's Chaotic Rose Cross Stitch drawing as a guide to doing a big, exaggerated cross stitch on the side of an otherwise plain market bag?*

The second half of the inspiration board is a collection of high-end designer bags that include crochet as an overlay or as the body of a bag. There's a lot of high-end crochet out there; it's not always easy to find if only because even industry people are confused or create confusion. How many times have you spotted a crocheted piece in a catalog or magazine, with a caption describing it as knit? How about macrame pieces labeled as crochet? Online, I've seen a lot of attempts to cover the bases - calling something "crochet-knit" or "crochet-macrame." Or how the fabric was created just isn't mentioned at all. Whenever I see a crochet garment with a hefty price tag, I hope whoever made it got paid a fair wage. There is no machine-made crochet - every crochet item in existence has been made by hand. When I see crocheted items priced really cheaply (like a lace cardigan crocheted with cotton thread), my heart breaks a little.

As for the challenge questions at the end of this inspiration board? What can I say, I've been watching Project Runway from the first episode of the first season, even though I kept saying I wouldn't watch the most recent two seasons.

*same reminder that all of the inspiration boards for this series has - we are not looking for imitations or replicas

Fresh Designs Crochet: inspiration board (Mittens & Gloves)

Posted on by MK Carroll

These crochet mitten patterns for children are from 1916 and 1946. Would these look out of place in a book published today? Is it because they are classic, timeless designs? If you click the photos, the links will take you to websites that have the magazines these photos came from in more detail and I think you'll agree, most of the patterns in them would fit right into a Debbie Bliss or Lucinda Guy collection, so "classic" is accurate. I also think that crochet mitten patterns haven't changed much in almost a century. Crochet mitten patterns for colorwork beyond stripes and variegated/self-striping yarns are few. Danielle Kassner's Crochet Codex jaquard crochet mitts, mittens and cuffs patterns, for example, are exceptional, and arguably would stand out even if colorwork crochet mittens were more common. Still, part of what makes them exceptional is that they are, really, an exception to the standard. While one of the reasons is likely because crochet colorwork can make a very thick, stiff fabric, there are other approaches, including embroidery and appliqué, that can be used to add color and detail without too much bulk.

Pet peeve moment: the number of patterns for mittens/gloves that are just tubes with slits for thumbs suggests to me that we don't need any more of those (especially ones where the fabric is so thick it looks almost like you are wearing chopped-up oven mitts). Gussets and actual thumbs are not terribly difficult. Of course, that there are so many patterns available also suggests that they are popular and a lot of crocheters like to make them, so take that with a grain of salt.

The Fresh Designs Crochet call for submissions is open until June 11, 2011; guidelines and form are available from Cooperative Press.