Thursday, July 30, 2015

21st Annual Chain Link Crochet Conference Report

We always come home from the Crochet Guild (CGOA)-sponsored conference on such a high. It does take a while to come down from the excitement. This year I came home on the "red-eye," San Diego-Chicago, and spent all of Sunday in a fog-like trance. Probably won't do that again!

It was not without great forethought and trepidation that I attended this year leaving my husband with 24-7 caretakers in charge. All went real well from start to finish for both him and me. I couldn't have had smoother travel. I loved my hotel room and enjoyed the balcony and the near-perfect San Diego sun & air. I logged lots of steps on my Fitbit. To my great relief, I found everything in good shape when I returned and thank goodness for texting as I was able to keep in close touch with my dear husband every day and often!

I arrived Thursday afternoon and enjoyed a leisurely time getting the lay of the convention center, getting registered, and running into familiar faces. Oh yeah, and I pre-ordered the Annual CGOA Commemorative Hook and picked it up.

Unraveled Ewe Company: Cocobolo wood
While there, I kept a Facebook Journal, so will direct you there if you want to follow my every step. #KCS2015.

Thursday evening's Annual Membership Meeting has become pretty much a non-event in my opinion! Since we hired the management company, it has been boiled down to a scripted session consisting of introducing the board, last year's minutes and treasury report. It doesn't feel like members are welcome to ask questions (except the ubiquitous "Where are we meeting next year?), air concerns or offer ideas. Nor do the board members seem willing to speak to what they have accomplished or plans for the future. Please tell me I am wrong!! Caring & Sharing has become chaotic with no one in charge. It would be more interesting if I just randomly handed a gift to a person on the street and then hoped someone would come along for a gift for me!

For the first time in a long time, I actually ventured outside the hotel and took the Trolley Tour of San Diego. It was $39.00 well spent; I saw so much in two hours. I had to be back at the CGOA booth at 12:30 on Friday as they were honoring the Hall of Famers by having us greet members.

Knowing how these things go, I organized a dinner on our free Friday night and shared a meal with some old friends. It is always so hard to have good conversations during these hectic weekends as we all run hither and yon. The gathering was well received and I got many comments of appreciation for bringing us together.. Everyone seemed to have a good time; maybe it will catch on as something we do every year!

Although I only took one class, it was a great one. Engineered Tunisian by Jennifer Hansen offered some Tunisian stitches I had never tried. It was challenging, fun and at some point I will have a beautiful cravat! Jennifer is an excellent teacher: knowledgeable, relaxed and more that willing to help everyone who needs her guidance.

Engineered Tunisian: Cravat
After 40+ years of crocheting and twenty years of attending these conferences, I really didn't have a wish list for the Marketplace. In fact, I vowed not to buy any yarn. Welllllll, vows are meant to be broken! At the Knitting Tree booth I noticed notecards with a knitting theme. Of course, I had to speak up for crochet and was told that they had them also for crochet but sold out. Good work crocheters for buying products that keep our venders coming back! The sales person was also wearing crochet so I took that as a sign. A 3-pack of coordinated colors started calling to me and I caved in; excited to figure out what I will make with these lucious colors. No regrets! I had come away without stitch markers so I also picked up a pack of Clover markers that were new to me. I've always been a sucker for stitch accessories anyway!

Louisa Harding Yarns: Azalea, Amitola, Anise
There is no readily evident reason why I would need to purchase another pair of scissors, except that they are just so darn adorable! They were also for sale in Tumiko Alexander's booth. She is the author of Rustic Modern Crochet which I have reviewed here on the blog.


It was so exciting to meet her in person and see her lovely model projects on display.I was happy to support her in this small way.

Tailleur:  La Belle Vie De La Couture
I have a weakness for handmade soaps and the grandfatherly figure in the booth wearing  his white lab coat cinched it for me!

Harmony Skin Care: Coconut
Throughout the weekend, I enjoyed meeting cyber-friends and Courtesans from my Ravelry Group. At the Saturday night Banquet/Fashion Show, I enjoyed the dinner, but then had to exit to get to the airport. No report on how that went.

Time will tell if I am able to attend the 2016 Conference in Charleston, SC. Here's hoping....

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: Colorful Crochet Lace by Mary Jane Hall

Colorful Crochet Lace
I loved reading Mary Jane’s introduction, and felt like I was right there in the room with her as she shared her excitement for creating this book of chic crochet patterns for us. Inspired by the architecture, fashions, gardens and culture of France, the patterns all carry French-inspired names. I couldn’t wait to take a look at this collaborative approach and to see how Mary Jane translated her inspiration into crochet!

Known for her exquisite styling when it comes to her pattern designs, this book is no exception! The pineapple is a classic crochet pattern, but used as a peplum on the cover design, Haute Couture, it is a perfect example of how Mary Jane uses vintage style to create on-trend fashions. She has also developed the use of another classic technique which she calls the Graduated Stitch Method as her signature approach to create elegant shaping in her garments.

As we’ve come to expect from the folks at Interweave, great diagrams, beautiful color photos and even symbol crochet bring together all the tools crocheters need to achieve great results.

Tunique Unique Pullover
Tunique Unique Pullover is shaped to flatter just about anyone’s shape and will even camorflage any flaws you might have!

Au Naturel Cropped Top
 Au Naturel cropped top is the perfect example of a lacy garment that fits both casual and more formal occasions. Paired with denim jeans, it is a winner because it looks so comfy and stylish at the same time.

 
Dominque Dress Overlay
I was particularly taken by the back of Dominique Dress Overlay because of the back opening which is not often seen along with the sweet buttons that complete it. Fairly easy, this pattern comes with bonus options, as it can be made as a crop top, skirt or tunic!

Colorful Crochet Lace offers 22 chic garmenets and accessories and you will have a tough time deciding with which one to start! Available at Interweave/F+W, it retails for $24.99


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: IMagical Seasons Crochet Couture for Kids 2-12, Vol.1-Spring; Vol. 2-Summer By Alla Koval

Imagical Seasons Vol. 1: Spring












Imagical Seasons Vol. 2: Summer





















The interesting title of these books sets the tone for what crocheters will find inside! Making use of the “portmanteau word” which blends two or more distinct forms like smoke + fog = smog, Alla has blended the words "imagine" and "magical." You'll find imaginative and magical designs for the little ones in your life.

Alla Koval “creates happy fashion designs by combining colors, texture and materials that make her designs unique and enticing.” After selling hundreds of custom-created children’s fashions, she decided to start writing up the designs to instruct others to make them. She is well suited to create original fashions that will thrill mothers as much as their children! At first Alla feared that she would burn out, but she now feels that writing the patterns is what makes her the “happiest person in the world!ead!” Read the whole story in my in-depth interview with Alla.

At first glance, I was so inspired by her fashion sense. Before I even received these books, I explored her website and bought two "can't resist" patterns that I immediately ordered. I really enjoyed making Polka Dots Hat for my granddaughter.


Polka Dots Hat
Based in Seattle, Washington, Alla moved to the United States in 2013 and brings a European sensibility to her designs which makes them fun and stylish! A very useful chart for standard measurements and standard sizes is not often found in books; and is here as a great go-to for the crocheter’s library, along with the UK and US conversion charts.



Millefiori Apron Top (Summer Volume): photo courtesy Alla Koval/IMagicalSeasons.com
A 4-part series, IMagical Seasons shows how a little imagination can
-transform a simple ruffle into an endless variety of designs for Spring


Sakura Top (Spring Volume): photo courtesy Alla Koval/IMagicalSeasons.com
Sakura Top (Spring Volume): photo courtesy Alla Koval/IMagicalSeasons.com
-show yarn weights can change the same square motif to create anything from a blanket to a halter dress (Summer volume)
-adapt a lace pattern from one theme to another to achieve different Fall looks


Daisy Beanie (Fall Volume): photo courtesy Alla Koval/IMagicalSeasons.com
-vary the puff stitch to create cozy and trendy project

Tutti-Fruitti Blanket (Spring Volume): photo courtesy Alla Koval/IMagicalSeasons.com
Simplicity and versatility are attributes of the book. For example Tutti-Fruitti Blanket starts in the center so it is adjustable to make a fun pillow or even a tablecloth!

Self published at MyLttleCityGirl website, these books can be pre-ordered after June 15, 2015. They will be available in early July in soft cover ($22.46) or digital ($15.95).  Alla is offering a special deal between July 13 and August 1: buy the pint edition at her websiteEtsy or Amazon and the Summer version on Amazon and get the digital version for free! Use the code, IMAGICAL.


Below is a complete schedule for the talented bloggers who are partipating on the tour. Check in often to read varying takes on the books, chances to win prizes and in-depth interviews of the author, Alla Koval!
Alla Koval Blog Tour 2015

July 13:  Knitting and Crochet - Amy Solovay
http://knittingandcrochet.net/

July 14:  Faina’s Knitting Mode – Faina Goberstein

July 15: Crochet Queen: Royal Ramblings – Gwen Blakley Kinsler

July 16:  Crochet Concupiscence – Kathryn Vercillo

July 17:  Petals to Picots - Kara Gunza

July 18:  Stylish Knits – Simona Dest Merchant

July 19:  Craft Gossip – Sarah E. White

July 20:  Positively Crochet – Mary Jane Hall

July 21:  Magic with Hook and Needles - Vendula Maderska

July 22:  Cute Crochet – Jocelyn Sass

http://crochetcafe.blogspot.com/


Monday, July 13, 2015

Interview: Alla Koval, Kids Couture Designer


I am participating with 9 other bloggers in the Blog Tour to promote Alla Koval's 2 new books: Imagical Seasons Volumes 1 and 2. See my review here on the blog at 8:00 AM (CST) on July 15, 2015. To join in the blog tour and see other reviews, interviews and give-aways, see the schedule below.



Alla Koval with Pixie
CrochetQueen: Your kids fashions are charming and unique. What inspires you?

Alla: Thank you so much, Gwen!
Sometimes, the idea for a design just comes into my head and I don't know from where. I just visualize it clearly and then somehow turn the mental images into something real.

Other times, I find inspiration in paintings and photographs—Pinterest is an amazing source of inspiration and eye-candy. I look at things and try to understand if I can see something special that has to be noticed. Many times I start by looking for unusual stitch patterns, and start building my ideas from them. It’s so interesting to see how a stitch pattern evolves when you start modifying it, especially when combining with other patterns!

But most of my inspiration comes from colors of nature and changing of seasons. It’s no secret that I am endlessly inspired by beautiful colors, you just have to take a peek at my portfolio to see that most my designs are thoroughly and obsessively color-coordinated.

One of a brightest memories from my childhood was my very first set of 48 color markers. I was super excited to experiment with the colors, and my mom paid attention to how I used them. Later she told me that when she asked why I combined the colors that way, I explained - “They felt happy together.” Well, I still have that excitement about colors, and l am always on the lookout for new color combinations with which to work.

CrochetQueen: I know you have children. Is it a passion for motherhood that allows you to create such unique designs?
Alla: Indeed! I have been knitting and crocheting since I was a child, but rarely created any children’s items – just did not have much motivation. But when I had my own daughter, I started imagining all the cute things Kristin could wear, and this is how I started designing children’s clothes. It was then that I realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do in my life!


CrochetQueen: How long have you been designing? What got you interested in crochet? What have you discovered about crochet that is unique to you or your life?
Alla: From early childhood I was involved into the joy of creating my own garments. My mom is a professional seamstress and amazing knitter/crocheter; and she preferred to make most of the dresses for me and my sister by hand. As far as we all remember, I participated every single time - as a trouble maker when I was too small and as artist and designer once I got older. 

The very first garment I designed and made by myself was a sweater for my daddy which I knitted when I was about 11 years old.  I was so proud of the fact that my dad loved it and wore that sweater until it practically started to break apart. Since then I enjoined knitting garments and accessories for gifts or by request from my friends and family.

Surprisingly, but I do not remember exactly when I started to crochet on "regular base" and what was my first crochet project... But, Russian and Ukrainian languages have no word for determining crochet apart from knitting. We say "knit with needles" and "knit with hook". Back in Ukraine I was mostly knitting with needles, but always had a bunch of crochet hooks just to fix something or to crochet embellishment, finishing edging and so on.

Crochet creates easy textures and flexibilities and works just ideal for the purpose of my books - to show the imagical way. That's why I decided to start my first books with crochet but I do have a plan to release a book where both techniques would be used. I will finish book volumes 3 and 4 - Fall and Winter -  around New Years and then I will be able to talk about future plans more freely. 
           
CrochetQueen: You also design for knit. Do you find any differences in what inspires you for one or the other. Do you find the customers are different for crochet or knit? Have you ever created crochet patterns in other categories besides for children?
Alla: I knitted for a long time, but there were years when I didn't do it. Learning to knit happened in the early years of school, mostly during after school day care hours.After I finished that sweater for my father, I was knitting garments and accessories as gifts or by request from my friends and family.

When I discovered the crochet world, I was completely hooked and amazed of all the magic and possibilities of crochet textures and techniques. I do love both knitting and crochet equally because they’re so different. I tend to use crochet more for lace on summer and spring garments and knitting when I want something more fluid or use textured yarn. But my absolutely favorite part is to use both techniques together in one project; they both add so much to each other and there is such a sense of freedom in the creative process.

Do I find the customers are different for crochet or knit? Hmm  … I don't have statistics but from my own experience I see that majority of US customers prefer crochet over knitting - I pretty often receive requests to "turn" knitted designs into crocheted version, but not often the opposite. And I've noticed that European and Australian customers use both techniques and actually ask for projects where knitting and crocheting are combined.  

I enjoy creating accessories for ladies—scarves, hats, wraps, necklaces, pins, etc, which have appeared in several magazines, including Crochet! and Interweave Crochet. Also my accessories patterns can be found at  my website and in the Imagical Seasons book series.

CrochetQueen: I don’t see any patterns for boys. Do you design for this species?
Alla: I definitely would love to design more for boys and creating a boy's line is one of the exciting projects I have in mind! It's just a matter of timing, but so far I have couple designs for boys:

·     Petit Mousse Sweater with removable sleeves/vest 2 in 1 designed for collaboration with amazing French designer Servane Barrau: 
Petite Mousse Sweater

·     Mr. Mouse Jacket, designed and knitted for our friend's handsome son: 
 
Mr. Mouse Jacket

        Give a Hoot Crocheted Hat pattern, I am offering for free download: 
 
Give A Hoot Hat
CrochetQueen: You say you are happiest designing instructional patterns so others can make your designs.
Give me some of the feedback from people who have crocheted your designs.

Alla: One of first and most memorable stories from the wonderful people who make my designs was told by dear Karen Gaskell:
"I saw your site listed on a group to which I belong, Crochet Partners, and I checked it out, as I always look at their referrals.  When I saw your Sea ShellsScarf  which looked so familiar. I recognized it immediately as a scarf which I had recently seen. I knew in real life that it was a stunning piece and I knew I had seen in done in a pale to mid shade of blue. It then came to me that I was in line at Starbucks in Ponte Vedra, Florida yesterday. The weather was really nice & warm so most people in the very long line wore shorts. The woman in front of me, though wore a light blue sweat suit, carried an incredible large and lovely blue handbag. She also wore this gorgeous blue scarf….yours……she looked stunning. I know she was from Europe as she and her companion were speaking Italian and her clothing was well made with that European style. Anyhow, that scarf made the outfit and everyone in the long line was admiring her. - Karen Gaskell, Beautiful scarves"

"Thank You so much for posting these wonderful- cute as a bug patterns! Finally some REALLY cute crochet patterns for real life wear. My girlies and myself LOVE to wear crochet but almost everything you find is soooo outdated. My 7 year old's head is just about to pop off with excitement because her summer outfits are going to be so cool… - Jennifer in Missouri"

"Alla, I am truly amazed by your creativity! I haven’t seen such beautiful designs in years. It is so wonderful that you share your gift with others. You have inspired me to move on to more challenging projects. I look forward to seeing your new masterpieces in the future. Again, Thank you for sharing!- Joyce"

"I do not want to go to work. I just want to sit down and crochet. Your designs are so inspiring. I wish I had half of your talent.- Rania"
  
CrochetQueen: What is your educational background? Did you have a career before getting into designing?
What brought you to Seattle and from where did you move?
Alla: After graduating from the University of Economics, I worked as a computer programmer for 8 years until my family moved from Ukraine to the US in 1999. During the first year I met a wonderful lady, who was running her own business and I worked as designer and knitter of ladies coats and Judaica crocheted hats for two years. I have found Seattle to be wonderful and friendly! 

CrochetQueen: Is fashion design/pattern writing a full-time career for you? Are you not selling any custom fashions now?
Alla: Since 2004 and for the several years I’ve created and sold hundreds of custom-made (mostly one of a kind) items online. However, one day I realized that I have too much on my plate and couldn’t keep up with all orders anymore. And I want to create instead of repeat. I thought if I start to write patterns, I could make something just once and let other knitters and crocheters make garments by themselves, and even sell finished projects made from my patterns. I really feel that it was the right direction to take, and since 2008 I am 100% a pattern writer of knit and crochet.

CrochetQueen: Are you a current Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) member? 

Alla: Yes, I am a CGOA member since 2007 and decided to become more active and participated in 2015 Member Design Competition for first time.

CrochetQueen: Is there anything you want to add that I have not covered already? 
Alla: I would add couple words about my Imagical Seasons book series. I wrote these books pretty much to express myself to the other crocheters and designers. The main message, I believe, is a language of design and inspiration. which is not only international but targeted all ranges of skills. I tried to show how to apply same pattern in different ways to get outstanding results. I created a totally new style of my pattern, and each pattern includes: unique and very detailed crochet stitch diagrams, schematics, tutorials, easy-to-follow written instructions and stunning full-color photos. Many Thanks to Edie Eckman for tech-editing my patterns; and as a result of taking her Edie Eckman’s How to Say It class, they have never been in such terrific shape! 

My book is useful for English readers from US or Europe and for readers with no English at all; useful for crocheters of any skill level - from beginners and to advanced designers; and finished projects to be worn by girls from 2 to 12 years old and some pattern are suitable for adults also!

Alla Koval Blog Tour 2015

July 13:  Knitting and Crochet - Amy Solovay
http://knittingandcrochet.net/

July 14:  Faina’s Knitting Mode – Faina Goberstein

July 15: Crochet Queen: Royal Ramblings – Gwen Blakley Kinsler

July 16:  Crochet Concupiscence – Kathryn Vercillo

July 17:  Petals to Picots - Kara Gunza

July 18:  Stylish Knits – Simona Dest Merchant

July 19:  Craft Gossip – Sarah E. White

July 20:  Positively Crochet – Mary Jane Hall

July 21:  Magic with Hook and Needles - Vendula Maderska

July 22:  Cute Crochet – Jocelyn Sass
http://crochetcafe.blogspot.com/



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Upcoming Blog Tour: IMagical Seasons by Anna Koval



Imagical Seasons - Crochet Couture for Kids 2-12/Spring 2015 AND Imagical Seasons - Crochet Couture for Kids 2-12/Summer 2015.  These books are adorable and whimsical and perfect for the crocheter who loves making custom children crochet garments and accessories.  The books will be available for pre-order mid-June and will officially go on sale early July, Etsy being one of several sites where they can be purchased.

Return here on July 15 to read my complete review during the Blog Tour of the first two volumes for Spring and Summer. Below is a complete schedule of the talented bloggers who are participating on the tour. Check in often to read varying takes on the books, chances to win prizes and in-depth interviews of the author, Alla Koval!

Alla Koval Blog Tour 2015

July 13:  Knitting and Crochet - Amy Solovay
http://knittingandcrochet.net/

July 14:  Faina’s Knitting Mode – Faina Goberstein
http://fainasknittingmode.com/blog

July 15: Crochet Queen: Royal Ramblings – Gwen Blakley Kinsler

July 16:  Crochet Concupiscence – Kathryn Vercillo

July 17:  Petals to Picots - Kara Gunza

July 18:  Stylish Knits – Simona Dest Merchant

July 19:  Craft Gossip – Sarah E. White

July 20:  Positively Crochet – Mary Jane Hall

July 21:  Magic with Hook and Needles - Vendula Maderska

July 22:  Cute Crochet – Jocelyn Sass
http://crochetcafe.blogspot.com/