paper doll

when i moved up to the Hudson Valley from NYC in 2009, i knew exactly 2 people who lived up here, and wondered how i’d ever make new friends since my plan was to become a complete hermit. i also wondered if i’d ever be able to find *my* kind of people… makers, artists, oddballs… i suspected they were up here, but when you live in the woods, how do the introductions get made?

i needn’t have worried. the makers will always find each other. i was selling my handmade clothes at a farmers’ market when the sunny smile of Jenny Lee Fowler appeared before my eyes. she introduced herself and i felt star-struck because i was already a big fan of her work; within minutes we had arranged a trade of one of my dresses for a piece of her artwork, and we’ve been friends ever since…

this is the silhouette portrait she made for me, framed by a crochet doily! isn’t it spectacular? when she works with a live subject she cuts purely by eye; she doesn’t draw them first. this is just so fascinating to me… i love watching her cut out the image of the person sitting before her, with her nimble fingers and tiny sharp scissors. they only take a few minutes, but i know they become treasures for life to all who are portrayed…

the piece above, once unfolded, becomes the piece below:

i could go on and on posting images of my favorite works of hers, but you can just pop over to her shop or photo albums to see more. i just adore her choices of subject matter, usually “reflecting her deep love of folk, flora, and fauna.” and, if you didn’t know, Jenny is also teaching four workshops at the Taproot Gathering next month: Botanical Paper Cutting, Advanced Botanical Paper Cutting, Birch Bark cutting, and Family Paper Cutting. each looks more fun than the next; as usual the desire to take every one almost overrides my excitement for teaching my own!

i think you know, but i’ll remind you once more that registration closes tomorrow (August 15). i just don’t want anyone to miss out!

all images courtesy of Jenny Lee Fowler.

collage crochet

photo by Thea Coughllin

as Summer whizzes by, while i try to savor these days to their fullest, i am also looking ahead and preparing for the workshops i’m teaching this Fall. one that i’m SO looking forward to is Collage Crochet at the Taproot Gathering in September. you all know that one of my roles in life is Crochet Crusader, and one of my goals for this class is that it will illustrate many of the reasons i love to crochet…

that photo above? that’s elizabeth, in her spirit session with thea coughlin. it is so delightful to me that elizabeth chose to wear her shawl that i made for some of those portraits, because one is supposed to wear what makes them feel happy, comfortable, and beautiful. that shawl was the inspiration for this class, and is an example of the way i like to crochet best: no monogamy to any one yarn, or stitch, but rather a spontaneous series of choices that can change with each row, or not, as my mood would have it. when i sit down to start a project, i often decide only whether it’ll be a hat, a shawl, a cowl… and leave the rest to serendipity…

Are you ready to play with hook and yarn like brush and paint?  We are gonna do that!  We’re even going to experiment with some tapestry (colorwork) techniques. All you need to know are the most basic crochet stitches: chain and single crochet, and you’ll be on your way to hooking up a magical wrap that will forever remind you of your time at Squam.

The beauty of crochet is that it lends itself so easily to a playful, freeform approach: mixing yarns, colors, textures and stitches can yield a new fabric every time you pick up your hook!

i hope some of you will be joining me for this glorious day of crocheting, in a cabin in the woods, by a lake. so many people, especially of those who knit, know the very basics of crochet, but have no faith in their ability to dive in and make a beautiful project. this is the ideal opportunity to spend some time getting to know this technique that lends itself so well to improvisation and play!

i’m developing several shawl *formulas* for different shapes of wraps (or scarves, or blankets), all of which are very adaptable, and can be worked until you decide they are done.

all of the choices– fine or chunky gauge,  smooth or fuzzy yarns, simple or fancy stitches, tonal or riotous colors, warm and cozy fabric or open lacy fabric– will be yours to make…

we’ll experiment with some colorwork, or tapestry crochet as well, to add yet another dimension of pattern to your shawl if you wish.

registration for the Taproot Gathering closes this week– August 15– so don’t delay sending yours in!

Squam Smock report

one of the classes i taught at the June session of SAW was Squam Smock. this was the very first time i’ve ever taught people how to sew their own versions of my popular smock dresses, using my original patterns, and what fun we had! it was a pure joy to teach this class because it was intermediate level, meaning no one needed me to help thread the machine, or wind a bobbin, and i could explain a step and they would run off and DO it!

i think for most of my lovely students, it was just a comfort to have me (not to mention a whole group of peers) in the room for support, advice and tips when needed, as they were all very capable sewists. for many, it was their first time making a garment. i was worried about all we had to accomplish in a limited time, and pushed them hard for the first half of class, but they were rock stars and kept their noses to the needles for 6+ hours (which flew by in a heartbeat)!

several did completely finish in class; some still had a hem or yoke to complete, but most had finished by the time the afternoon knitting party began, or at least for the Art Fair that evening. so for the rest of the weekend, i ran into my girls wearing their dresses and snapped pics when i could!

seanna (above right) used the adorable typewriter keys print from Julia Rothman’s Type collection and hand-embroidered some of the keys on the yoke. i wish i’d have taken a close-up detail so you could see!

and tracy made hers out of her own hand-printed fabric!!! it made her smock a real show-stopper, and the perfect thing to wear while selling her textiles at the fair that evening.

these two kept me laughing throughout the class, and happily shared a machine even though they had to change thread colors each time one sat down to sew. thanks zoe and megan and i’m so proud of you both!

i am beyond excited to teach Squam Smock again at the Taproot Gathering in September. registration ends soon, so if you’ve been hemming (ha!) and hawing, it’s time to take the plunge!

(this awesome photo by nancy aka emeraldlane)

reflections on Squam (spring 2013)

1. Eldorado, the funnest cabin ever 2. Rainbow bag 3. Air pose 4. Rainy day on the dock 5. The yarnification 6. I love that lake 7. I am here. 8. Process gallery 9. Tiny Tomten 10. The heart 11. Bedroom morning light 12. Ravelry Revelry!

another June, and another magical Squam have come and gone. this was my seventh time attending and teaching, and each one is sweetly unique and has its own special flavor. this year’s spring session –the fiber and textile one– was spectacular as always, and celebrated its five-year anniversary with a Ravelry Revelry shindig on saturday afternoon. so MANY happy knitters in one place!

some of my favorite memories from this time include having the most awesome group of cabin-mates ever, all teachers and superstars of the fiber world and our evening fireside yarning and story-telling will stay with me for life. and how lucky am i to have had dear Maya as my actual roomie! we never ever get to hang out and have heart-to-hearts, so this was extra special and we took full advantage.

it’s always wonderful to see friends and students from years past, and this year was brimming with them! sweetly thoughtful nancy brought me a gift which she made using clues from some of my pinboards to be sure i’d like it. how amazing is that?

the woods were even more colorful than usual with knit and crochet goodness surprising you at every turn. the Process Gallery (the table in the dining hall where we bring our projects from class to show off) was off the charts! i’ve never seen so many incredible objects, making us all wish we could have taken every single class.

as you can well imagine, i’m over the moon to be teaching again in September at the newest incarnation of SAW: the Taproot Gathering. this one promises a whole new flavor: (pickling! herbal potions! wood carving! dyeing with plants! paper cutting!) and yes, some fiber fun too, that sounds like it’s not to be missed. i’ll be teaching two workshops: Collage Crochet and Squam Smock, (more on each of those this week) and i couldn’t be more excited about them. and guess what? it’s not too late to join in! registration is open until August 15, and as of this moment there are still a few spots left. perhaps one of them is yours…

are the woods calling to you?

we have a winner!

…and the winner of a whole month of unlimited Creativebug workshops is: Cari! selected by the RGN, and who said “I’ve been meaning to make a granny square doll blanket for my daughter.”

i loved reading the responses to what you’d make with granny squares. here are a few of my favorites:

“I’ve long fantasized about making a modern granny square afghan – same classic squares, but in a good wool yarn in, say, shades of gray or something like that.”

“What wouldn’t I make with grannies?! vests, afghans, scarves, cat clothes, booties, bunting, baby stuff!”

“I am in mad love with grannie squares right now. I’m thinking of going home tonight and digging up some lovely fingering weight yarn to hook up a shawl (can’t decide on shape yet).”

“I would love to make a blanket for the apartment we just moved into to make it feel more comfy and personal.”

“Right now I am crocheting a granny square throw for my four legged grandson (Pomeranian mix named Freeway). He absolutely loves to snuggle up on the one I made for my daughter – so now he will have his own!!!”

“I’m planning a granny-based cowl in Sixth Doctor Who colors!”

thanks to all who entered the giveaway! and i’ll be emailing you Cari…

YIPPEE! hook up some grannies with me!

if you know me at all, or most especially if you follow me on Pinterest, you’re probably all too aware that i’m Gaga for Grannies. Whether they be bright, drab, fancy, basic, kitschy, elegant, chunky, or lacy, i love them all.

i’ve been crazy about these totems of crochet since i was a child and my grandmother crocheted those iconic seventies vests for my sister and me. it irks me to this very day that there is not a single photo of us wearing them! so last year i took matters into my own hands and made one for myself (you’ll note that i’m wearing it in the above videos!). i made it into a dress because i knew i’d wear it much more than a vest, but i used the original pattern published in 1971 by Red Heart. shockingly (to me), this 40-year old pattern boasts only 11 projects on Ravelry!

and now, i want to make YOU go Gaga for Granny Squares too! and then i’m hoping to hook you into the Hexi Cowl! my two newest online workshops launch today on Creativebug, as part of their new Makerie channel. they’re calling their new collaboration “a handmade partnership” and it’s super lovely that these two awesome entities which i’m already involved with have joined creative forces! when i went out to Colorado last April to teach at this all-sewing retreat, i arrived a few days early to film these in a cozy cabin in the middle of a crazy Rocky Mountain blizzard! we had so much fun, and now i’m SO excited to share them with you at last.

to celebrate, i’ve got a free *month-long* all-access subscription to Creativebug to give away! just tell me in the comments what you would make out of granny squares or hexis, by midnight tuesday 7/16, and a winner will be randomly chosen on wednesday the 17th.

now, go grab some yarn and a hook and let’s get grannying!

A-Line Skirt SAL: now where were we???

so, above you see what might just be the cutest skirt ever. the piping! the buttons! and of course i always adore denim, especially if it has linen in it! and such a lovely, clear photo too. that’s what i call a Picture of a Skirt! this is the stuff that makes a teacher’s heart sing. melissa did an amazing job and i’m so proud to have played even the tiniest role! i love that she got creative and turned the darts into piped seams.

anyhoo, hopefully now i’ve distracted you from the fact that i totally dropped the ball on this sew-along business. i have a long list of excuses but we don’t really need to dwell now, do we? most of you who i’ve heard from have only been saying that you have fallen behind, but no one has yet called me out on the fact that i’ve been MIA! maybe you’re all just too nice…

so! back in the saddle! are you still with me? i’m secretly hoping that some/many/all of you (who haven’t gone ahead and finished on your own) will have been relieved to have a few extra weeks to catch up or join in. now what i’m wondering is, what stage are y’all at? what would you like to see from me? a french seam tutorial? invisible zipper tutorial? bias tape facing tutorial? those were my plans, but i want to know if those will be useful to you. let me know your thoughts and i PROMISE not to leave you hanging again… i’ve got the french seam tute halfway done already!

also, if i haven’t lost you altogether, are we still on for a Shift Dress Sew-Along when we’re done skirting? how’s August looking for you?

workshops on sale!

NEWSFLASH: this week only (offer ends Saturday 6/22) all of my *a la carte* workshops on Creativebug are reduced to only $9.99! if you’ve been wanting to try online learning, this is a great opportunity. you can have me in your living room or studio any time you like, 24/7, and i will patiently show you anything you’re struggling with, over and over and OVER! not to mention FOREVER! once you purchase a workshop it’s yours; your access never expires.

and, in full disclosure, and because i don’t want you to miss out: it’s not only my classes that are on sale; ALL of them, by all the amazing teachers (oh, you know, like Rebecca, Jill, Liesl, Maya, NatalieAnna Maria, Alix, Heather, Diana, Courtney, Kaffe…) are reduced this week too.

see every single one here.

they make awesome gifts too!

Squam Art Fair is this weekend!

oh my goodness, can you even believe this list? yes, it does include Stephen West, Ysolda Teague, and Gudrun Johnston, just to name a few of the knitting legends who will be there! if you’re within driving distance of New Hampshire, and a fiber lover of any kind, i strongly urge you to come to the Ravelry Revelry party on Saturday afternoon, and then the incredible Squam Art Fair that evening. both events are free, open to all, and feature super fun times, refreshments and PRIZES!

i’ll be there, and you should be too if you possibly can!

A-Line Skirt SAL Week 3 (4?): start the REAL skirt!

1. Chautauqua A-line, 2. A line skirt wearable muslin, 3. Mel’s muslin, 4. Design-it-yourself SAL A-Line Skirt, 5. Finished A-line, 6. Upcycled black velvet skirt, 7. Muslin, 8. Wearable muslin fits!, 9. Lisa’s skirt

well helLO my dear SALlies! so, yes, i did sort of miss a week back there; don’t know if you noticed. hopefully it gave all of you late-joiners and fall-behinders a chance to catch up! i, of course, am eternally behind and haven’t even touched my own skirt-a-long project yet, though i do have my fabric (kelly green denim, just like Jill’s above in the center photo).

so, we’ve got muslins! er, fit samples. and most of them wearable. woo HOO! for most of you that i’ve heard from, this stage went pretty smoothly, yes? and i suspect the few of you who DID have to do some tweaking are probably extra-glad for this fit sample pre-cursor to the final skirt.

onto your next assignment: time to cut and start sewing the REAL skirt! or at least, your first real skirt. it’s helpful to think of this one as the first of many, and there are still lessons to be learned here. in other words, i still wouldn’t suggest cutting into the Liberty quite yet! a few tips and answers to the questions in your head:

– it is definitely a good idea to pre-wash your fabric before cutting, to get any shrinkage over with. wash it just like you do your laundry; if you put all of your clothes in the dryer, do it with the fabric. now, if you already cut but you skipped the pre-wash, don’t fret. you’ll just want to hand wash and air-dry this skirt. or machine-wash it, but don’t put it in the dryer.

– cutting out your skirt should be fairly straightforward, and not too different from cutting the muslin. if you have a print with a direction, pay attention so you don’t end up with a skirt featuring upside-down giraffes. make your markings (really just the dart points) on the wrong side of the fabric. if the difference between right/wrong side of your fabric is subtle, make some chalk marks on the wrong side so you don’t get confused.

– the first steps are to sew the darts and the French seam on the right-hand side seam only. the left side seam is where the zipper will go, and that seam gets done after the zipper is installed. i’ll be posting a French seam tute for you in another day or two. do you need one for the darts as well, or can you handle them? [note: you can do any kind of seam you like; French are just my favorite and i use them wherever possible].

– if you haven’t already done so, be sure to pick up your invisible zipper (7″ is good, longer is fine too as they’re easily shortened), invisible zipper foot (usually they don’t come with your machine; just the regular zipper foot does. i like the YKK brand plastic foot that fits any machine, but you can also order the foot from your machine manufacturer) and single-fold bias tape (or make your own). i’ll be posting more about bias tape later this week…

okay, go to it!

p.s. thanks SO much to all of you who are posting your pics over in the DIY clothes group, and most especially you brave souls who even posted ones of fitting-in-progress! it’s hard for me to know if anything’s really happening until the photos start showing up, and it makes me so happy to see the evidence that projects are happening. plus, it gives others inspiration to see the lovely finished ones, and confidence to see the less-than-perfect ones (of course they’re ALL perfect and lovely in my opinion)! i encourage you all to take a peek over there and leave a comment or two to support your fellow SALlies who are bravely showing their work! there is also a discussion thread over there for each week’s topic, which is a good place to post questions or comments, or hot tips (got a favorite online zipper source?) for the whole group to see. of course you can also comment here, or email me. i’m here for you!

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