Monday, 20 September 2010

A trip round the East End

Last week was the start of many a college's autumn timetable. Tutors and staff were shuffling papers and generally gearing up for a bunch of new students. The University of East London was certainly in a fevered state on Friday as it was a staff training day and there were busy groups of tutors and librarians having fun trying out new skills.
Circus skills, origami, photography and (I'm pleased to say) the most popular, crochet. Sixteen of the library staff rolled up at the door for an hour's speed-learning. I must say it was pretty impressive as the majority had never lifted knitting needles let alone a crochet hook and by the end of the hour all of them had got off the starting blocks and some had even got the basic knowledge to enthusiastically go off and continue the good work.
I've since heard that this is exactly what happened and that scarves and I don't know what have been crafted since!
Forget about paint-balling or brain-storming. Just learn to crochet for your training days!!!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Inside Crochet - new designs

I'm very pleased with the latest edition of Inside Crochet which is featuring the pattern for my mesh dress and their back page column of some of my crochet musings!! My friend and collaborator in makedomend, Claire Montgomerie, has taken over the editorial helm so I'm expecting some super new designs to start appearing between the pages!!!
The mesh dress was actually a project for myself but Claire saw it and whisked it away to the IC studios for featuring in their revamp edition. I had been inspired by the sport wear on the catwalks this season and particularly the shift tunics of the Y-3 collection.

Magazines are often a great way to pick up on good patterns, tips and interviews and coming from the Yarn Forward stable, I'm sure Inside Crochet will become a 'must have' for any ardent crocheter.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Joining up the grannies

One of our lovely guests at the makedomend London workshops recently wrote to me to ask how to join the motifs of a blanket she's making as a gift. Our granny square workshops are very popular and it would be nice to pass on the knowledge of how to join all the lovely squares that we make.
Well, it's really a question of how many ways are there? Hmm, alot. So here are a few tips I found on the net but if you've got others then send them in!!

The last one has some pictures to help you along which always is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

wood and wool stool

As you know, I love to bring you little precious gems from the world of crochet and this is a particularly lovely one that I discovered - well, I just don't know how - it was like discovering treasure. Ingrid Jansen is a designer from the Netherlands and she is a very modest person! Her blog profile is so understated but I'll let you draw your own conclusions! I love the inspiring images on both the blog and her website and she has many fans worldwide for her 'little company'! Hope you like it too! And you who love granny squares, it's summertime, so be inspired by Ingrid's bunting garland. The wonderful colours are one of the particular attractions of Ingrid's work and her images perfectly capture this. I really loved the colour punch of the Ionie hanger, you can almost hear the Mediterranean at your open window!!Hej, I'm Ingrid Jansen and I run a little company called WOOD & WOOL STOOL in the Netherlands. A few years ago I designed my first (recycled) wooden stool with a crocheted cover for my home. Since then I've made a lot of stools and other interior objects.'

Monday, 31 May 2010

Loop Knitting Lounge

Some excellent news for all yarn crazy folk is breaking!! Stop the press - Loop Knitting is moving!!
As many of you already know, Loop is a mecca for all knitters and crocheters both in the UK and from very (we're talking global) far afield. Susan Cropper, who owns this wonder of the London craft scene, has created a unique destination shop for everything you could possibly want to create your own beautiful piece of knitwear. From classes to 4-ply, haberdashery to silken thread, it's all there and now it's expanding and moving lock, stock up the road to 15 Camden Passage, conveniently located a mere stone's throw from Angel tube station and any number of buses to whisk you there and back again barely lifting your groaning bag of goodies.
In addition to all of this there is now more ways than one to get into the Loop vibe from Twitter, Facebook and Loop's very own blog, LoopKnitLounge! Chaincreative welcomes Loop to the world of blogging and will definitely be rushing hot-foot to the new store, opening on Saturday 12 June.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Projects galore

I've been away from the chaincreative desk these days for a variety of reasons, the most important being that I've been doing some designing for two publications that might be of interest to you. The Art of Crochet is an subscribe-online publication that mixes patterns with tips and techniques so is a big mix of all that you might need to get started with crochet without having to leave your home. I've been welcomed on board with a pattern for an evening top which will be coming out during the summer so if you're interested then mosey on over to them.The other publication I've been contributing to is Inside Crochet which is the sister publication of Yarn Forward and is available through newsagents. It has a good mix of patterns and interviews (look out for my Q & A with Jo Hamilton who've I've featured here at chaincreative!) and has some nicely up-to-the-minute designs which are sorely needed. Keep your eyes peeled for designs by yours truly and I'm really enjoying putting my crochet talents (!) to good use. Hope you agree!!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Crochet a dress - creative stamina required!

When Claire and I finish a beginners' or intermediate crochet class for makedomend I often wonder what our happy, smiley crocheters are going to make when they get home with their new-found skill! When we ask people why they are particularly interested in learning how to crochet they might say that they want to be able crochet flowers or motifs (granny squares, of course!) or they would love to make trims for well-loved garments that need an update.
I always hope that there will be some maverick who will pipe up that they want to make clothes. It sounds ambitious, I know, but it's not outside the realms of possibility. Problems arise when you realise how few really good commercial patterns there are. In desperation you can resort to the world of vintage. Crochet pattern central is a good place to start if that's your chosen route.I'm quite excited at the moment as I've been asked to design an evening top for an online pattern company (I'll keep you posted when the deal's sealed!!) but on the whole there is a very large and gaping hole.
Inspiration is all over the catwalks and has been for some time. I'm happy to draw your attention to all the wonderful crochet from Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana and Yamamoto. I love fashion and I want to encourage all crochet-addicts to get stuck in and design their own clothes.
Here's some more inspiration from a new kid on the fash block. Mark Fast, a Canadian based in London, has caused quite a stir by using what I would call normal looking models. Women of shape!! Why I appreciate him for in particular is his use of crochet styling in his very fitted garments. It might not be very 'high street' but it certainly is inspiring. Talking of high street, his collection for Top Shop goes on stream in June and there's a wonderful crochet skirt that will have you puzzling how it's made and feeling rather pleased with yourself when you know! The examples I've shown are all from his spring/summer 2010 collection.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Jo Hamilton - artist and crocheter

Well, I must have been dozing on duty because I missed this Portland, Oregon-based artist. Although trained in Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art, Jo Hamilton has branched out into using crochet as a medium of expression. I'm going to link you to some of the bloggers who have already featured her as her work has been noticed by more observant people than me!!!I'm going to just say that her cityscapes are what attracted me and I'm going to use this introduction to Jo Hamilton's work as a springboard for featuring some other 'landscape' crochet in the future. So - watch this space...crocheted of course.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Simple mesh

Over at makedomend you might have noticed that I've gone crazy for mesh. My intermediate class on Sunday were happy to indulge me and they happily crocheted mesh as if their lives depended on it, amongst other things!
The reason why I'm happy to return to the simple things of life is that often they are the most effective. My scarflettes were so easy and allowed me to buy more yarn in order to make them. Hmm, excellent reason!!

Then I saw these fabulous examples in the latest Y-3 collection from Yohji Yamamoto so that's going to be another yarn hunt and then the cute vest from rag and bone. I really like their philosophy of production. See what you think...
'Beginning in Kentucky, rag & bone surrounded themselves with people who had been making patterns, cutting fabric and sewing their whole lives. Working with these kinds of craftsmen taught them the importance of quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail early on.'
To that end, we all want to perfect our craftmanship through workshops, classes and just plain practice.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Simple samples

When life is a bit too busy to even draw breath it's even more important to have my crochet with me. Lots of train journeys give me plenty of time to get to grips with the project mountain. My latest was using some of my favourite yarns in some simple mesh scarflettes. I had some Habu yarn on a cone which was more beautiful in it's raw state than worked up so I left it. Then I couldn't stand it any longer and out came the 1.75mm hook and away I went with a really simple mesh pattern. I was so pleased with the result that I made another muffler out of Berroco Alpaca Light in the divinest shade of marine blue. I love both of them and was so pleased with the pattern. It's drawn comments but is so basic that it taught me a lesson. Keep it simple for maximum impact.

I like these other examples too.There are still a couple of places left on the Intermediate Crochet at Kingly Court, W1 on Sunday for anyone interested. Contact for details.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

I maestri - crochet from Dolce e Gabbana

Completely forgot to mention the house of Dolce and Gabbana in my crochet fashion lace post. How could I manage that?! It was well and truly on my radar this season and there had been some splendid pictures in February Vogue that had set crochet tongues wagging.
So, very sorry to the boys and here is my favourite blooms of the latest collection courtesy of Plays with Needles.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Lace and crochet

Ooo, lace is sooo crochet. Or crochet can be soo lace(y). We do tend to neglect the lovely laceyness of crochet. I'm up to my eyes in work but can just see the wood for the crochet hooks and wanted to just say that I've been mostly thinking - lace and fashion.

Maybe it's La Gaga or just the passing of the fantastic(al) Lee McQueen but I just can't wait to get my finest crochet hooks out and get cracking on something lacey. Maybe similar to my Nico dress in Vintage Crochet.
Inspiration have come from the fashion shows in Milan and latterly London and it will be a feature of the catwalks for evermore I'm sure. Crochet gets a peek in there too. The lovely striped Missoni top is fresh, trendy and crochet!!! Hurrah.

How crochet is this handbag from Zagliani.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Flying the flag - From Britain with Love

In my other life as a Mender at makedomend I am so pleased to say that we are listed amongst the wonderful new design-gathering at From Britain with Love. You really can't better their mission statement "Hello and welcome to - the brand new online guide to all things beautiful and British made.
Our mission is very simple... we want to let people know that there are beautiful things being made in studios, workshops, factories and farms across Britain every day, and our aim is to help you find them." and I heartily raise a cheer to that!! There is so much talent churning around in field and backstreet and we do need to nurture that. Amazingly, despite the growth and decline of the high street this country still keeps a strong design heart beating but we do need lovely websites like this to keep it in good health. Hurrah.

I thought I'd make a little personal selection from their comprehensive list and this is what I found in a very unmethodical 5 minute survey!!

Smith & Coates - handmade, recycled clothes for adults and children with cute crochet trims and embellishments.

Andrea Williamson - colourful and cosy knitted accessories
Jennifer Collier - innovative textiles and craft pieces

Of course, that is a random and small selection. If you're a design and handmade freak like me then you're going to love visiting From Britain. God save that!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Leanda Xavian - crochet and colour

With all the crochet going on here at chaincreative I should be beginning to look like a crochet hook. Preparations for the makedomend are going apace and the granny square workshop is full to bursting and waiting for all the lovely patterns we've devised for them. I wanted to introduce the workshop, not only to the more simple methods of making squares, but to the more challenging and interesting. I felt it was important that we introduced everyone as to how to make the designs really zing. As you know, Sarah London is a big favourite here so we shall certainly be checking out her work. Emma Lamb is another new discovery and we shall be definitely exploring all her beautiful crochet. In addition, we'll take a peek at the designs of a good crochet friend of chaincreative, Leanda Xavian, of One Loop Short and her new persona, One Little Bird. Her inspirations are beautifully illustrated in one of her many lovely mosaics above. Leanda certainly knows how to photograph her work to make it really leap out from the screen and drive you to the yarns you've been saving and get going on yet another blanket.
She very kindly agreed to jot down some thoughts on crochet and her inspirations which I think you'll find very instructive and may ring some bells for you. How many of us learnt some of our skills from a member of the family only to find that there were more things to learn and not enough time.

'I’ve wanted to be able to crochet since I can’t remember. Both my grandmothers crocheted, but they lived too far away for me to sit down with them and watch. My mother taught me to knit a bit. But I always wanted to learn crochet, but thought it was just too difficult.'

Teaching yourself crochet is a minefield. Alot of the students I teach are refugees from their own attempts to learn on their own. Doing so can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure and frustration.
'Every time I picked up a ‘learn-to-crochet’ book I was throwing my hook down in frustration after 5 minutes. That’s because a lot of these ‘teach yourself’ books start with a foundation chain, which you are then supposed to build on with single crochets and double crochets and so on. Not only is working back along a chain one of the hardest things to do in crochet, it’s also boring to work row upon row of the same stitch.'
So using a book or having tuition are one way into the craft. The starting point can be in a variety of ways but Leanda has some suggestions for that.
'If you are learning to crochet you must start with a granny square, as a child would. Working in the round is so much easier than row work and if you end up with something pretty after half an hour you feel like you’ve really achieved something. And this is good news if you have always hankered to make a doily. It’s a lot easier than it looks. Crochet is easier than knitting full stop.'

Now for some design tips. Listen up and really get some inspiration.
'The other advantages of crochet are the amount of yarn you use compared to knitting. Much less that’s for sure. You can make something beautiful from the merest scrap of yarn. And what is particularly exciting about crochet is that there are absolutely no rules when it comes to colour combinations. Just go for it! Just look at all those amazing vintage blankets that your grannies made. They used anything that was to hand. And it just works. So experiment, go wild. You will be pleasantly surprised!'
The next few tips are straight out of chaincreative wish-list. Thank you, Leanda, you've listed all the most important advise I would offer any serious student of crochet. Look and learn!!! I've italicised the bits I particularly love.

'I don’t have any particular method when I’m starting a project. I just remember wanting to be able to do everything at first, so I pushed myself to use a tiny hook very early on. I thought if I could make a vintage doily I could make anything. So I’m very into thread crochet and how beautiful and delicate it is. But I equally love big chunky yarns so it just depends on my mood. I discovered Japanese pattern books, which are simply amazing and they’ve inspired me greatly. And if you can I would advise you to learn to read symbol charts early on. They really are so much easier to follow than written instructions so persevere if they seem alien at first.'
Thank you again, Leanda, for your kind words and help on writing this blog and for the use of all your beautiful images.
I love these designer interviews as they open up a windown on how people go about a skill that I think can give endless possiblilities to your creative instincts. I never thought that after so many years of writing this blog I would still be discovering new designers and ideas. I'm hooked!!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Alexander McQueen - Designer

I heard with such sadness of the death of Alexander McQueen today. The circumstances and the loss are endlessly sad for his friends and family. For anyone involved with design and the arts, it is a huge cultural loss as he was a supremely talented designer and engineer of fabric and garments. To die and leave the future of his work unfinished is a terribly sad thought for me as I really admired his work. His past archive is a wealth of inspiration and I do urge you to look and explore the many resources he has left.
There will be many obituaries written but I liked this short and simple tribute to him on
Too often fashion design is dismissed as meaningless and irrelevant to the many other aspects of life. That is not something I subscribe to. Respect to the legacy of Alexander McQueen, 1969-2010.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Waste not!! - 'Handemadeness is an antidepressant'

I love yarn. Texture, weight (or lack of it as I love fine yarns more than chunky), colour and all it's wonderful variety. I've got a confession though. I've never really been attracted to the possibilities of undoing long-lost garments. Well-worn and well-loved jumpers and sweaters just get more well-worn until they're a rather threadbare wisp of a garment. There are alternatives and I stumbled on them thanks to a new friend on Twitter (I know, it's got it's critics but there are little gems there), Joyce Crochets, and she passes on some great little crochet links and I've followed many a tip-off from her tweets.This week's trail was to the methods of undoing woollen fabric and I never realised what an art there was to it. There are two really informative resources from two favourites of chaincreative, crafty stylish and craftzine. Different seams pose different problems and then there's prepping involved before you can wind up and get working. It's all worth it in the name of wasting not a precious resource and that's a big deal right now. While you're feeling virtuous hanging your freshly laundered yarn on the line (hmm) just think what a saving you've made. Enough to maybe treat yourself with some gorgeous little gem from Loop!
Once you've finished all the processes to turn that sad sack to crochet gold then you need some inspiration and I followed some more trails to a recycling diva called Cecile whose philosophy is very much of the moment and is the quote in the title of this post. Calling her business Recycled by Hyena and quoting her from her Etsy profile, 'My work is infused with my ethic and each of my creations is the result of passion and dedication. My clothes are made from scratch but not from new materials. They are made with fabric from clothes I purchased in Goodwill stores and non-profit thrift stores.

I "believe" in the craft revolution and I think it is our future. The handmade and eco-friendly life is the only alternative to the consumerism destroying our planet and the living beings surrounding us.'I must say I love her designs and the twist she puts on them. Of course, the fact that they're made from the sad, lost and forgotten makes them even more precious. Above is an example of how she encorporates crochet into many of her designs called Empire and below is the patchwork of fine fabrics that she combines in her work which she calls Comie.

As a little postscript, I've been frantically preparing for makedomend's first outing to Stoke Newington's Tea Rooms for our granny squares workshop. I've been making up samples and patterns for the event and I'm very excited with Sarah London's Wooleater Blanket which is worked as a square and which uses as much scrips and scraps of yarn as you would wish to see the back of!!! It's not quite recycling but is certainly not waste!!!
Here's my humble offering of the pattern but I would suggest you go to Sarah's blog for the definitive example.