Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Doily Affair

Pineapple Top
Freeform Doily Wrap
My affair with doilies started the first time I made one. I think it was the lace that first hooked me. Crocheted lace is so feminine yet the crochet and thread combine to create a surprisingly strong piece of fabric. Like many women I know, it can appear delicate but has an inherent strength built it.

Rockin Raspberry Top
Tongass Princess
The other thing that attracted me to doilies is their beautiful geometry, especially the round doilies. Because they are worked in concentric rounds, they can radiate like starfish or snowflakes. They can have pinwheels or wheat sheaves or the lovely and ever popular pineapples. Round by round, the doily is built up to make a complete design.

Filet Crochet Top
I've never really used doilies much for their intended purpose. And, I haven't made any for years (except to do yarn bombing – see previous posts). What I've been doing is collecting the doilies made by others, many of them vintage. And, I've been turning them into clothing. I use some as embellishments on clothing. For the Rockin Raspberry top, I cut off the spaghetti straps and used a crocheted collar for the neckline and triangular shaped doilies as embellishment. The Pineapple Top and the Tongass Princess top also started with a vintage crocheted collar.

Filet Camisole
I also use doilies as a fabric to make new clothing. Sometimes, the doilies are hand sewn together. Sometimes they are crocheted together, like the Freeform Doily Wrap, which also has a beaded edging. 

Doily Top
Sometimes, I do a combination of both sewing and crocheting together. Most times, I add an edging to pull the whole thing together. I also often dye the doilies in some fashion, such as with wild Alaska blueberries or with tea, to give them a more cohesive look. The Filet Crochet Top has an overall blueberry dye, while with the Filet Camisole, I used blueberries to spot dye. 
Priscilla Dress
I have also been experimenting with combining doilies with existing garments to make altered couture, such as with the Priscilla Dress. It has a large doily sewn to the slip under the sheer dress and another doily sewn to the left side slip bottom that shows after the side was gathered. One top includes doily printing, which I will write about in another blog. 

I have quite a collection of doilies now and many ideas for new garments. Hopefully, doilies will never go out of style so I can continue my doily affair. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beach Bombing

I'm a little early for the International Yarn Bombing Day, which is set for June 11, 2012, but I just couldn't resist because the weather was so nice. We don't get all that many really sunny days here. When we do, though, it really reminds me just how beautiful it is.

I'd been eyeing the four big trees in front, which are bare of branches half way up. They are calling out for some big crocheted spide webs or something that I'd like to string between them. Since I don't have enough time to make something that big, I thought I'd start small and just play around down on the beach.
I started out by making a swatch using a shell stitch (seems appropriate for the beach, don't you think?) and then attaching the piece to the branch stubs of an old beach log. I used a scratchy wool yarn so it would biodegrade over time.

When I got done, those branch nubs seemed like they needed more, so then I worked some chain stitches between two of them. But, it looked kind of boring, so I made a circular flowery, spider webby shape and crocheted it onto the chain stitch structure.  
Because it was still too nice out to go home and because I was really enjoying doing art outside, I started making a flower vine. I crocheted a flower and then made some chain stitches and then crocheted another flower until it was the length I wanted. I then wound it around one of the branch nubs and then added some more crochet chains and a couple more flowers.
By then, it was time to go home. Now, the next day, I'm thinking about other things I can crochet down on the beach. There's the trail to the beach to decorate, all that driftwood just lying around, all those big granite rocks that could use some doilies on top...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Freeforming around the House

Sometimes, I get inspiration for the shapes or colors for my freeform scarves from things around the house. Lately, that inspiration has come from, of all places, my bathroom. Every time I sit, you can probably guess on what, in the bathroom, I admire the colors and flowing lines of the floor tiles. They mimic stone of some kind and have nice complementary yet contrasting shades of brown, cream, and tan. I wondered if I could create those swirls in freeform and how I might go about it.
I’ve used tile as an inspiration for crocheting before but not for freeform. Tile patterns can make good motifs for, say, afghans. In fact, I think it was Carol Alexander, executive editor of Crochet! magazine, who told me that she once designed an afghan after being inspired by tile in a restroom.
So, I dug into my yarn bins and went back and forth to the bathroom with balls of yarn, laying them on the floor and standing back until I got a nice collection of yarns to match the colors. I couldn’t match them exactly but tried to capture the flavor of the tiles.
Brown Flower scarf, bathroom tile,
and River Rock scarf
I made the River Rock scarf first by making a chain and then crocheted along both sides of it. The flowing lines were created using a technique that I think was in a book by Sylvia Cosh. You create a wave effect by crocheting a number of single crochet stitches, then half double crochet, then double crochet, then half double crochet, then back to single crochet. I did this until the scarf was the width I wanted and then added surface stitches using the same wavy lines. While crocheting around the outside edge of the scarf, I sometimes worked a single crochet several rows down, gathering the scarf a little at that spot.
I made the Brown Flower scarf next, using the same yarns, because I really like making flowers and I find it interesting to try making a totally different scarf using the same collection of yarn. I made each flower individually and sewed it to the next in a line. I then crocheted around the entire scarf with a nubby yarn that I’d gotten out to use with the yarns for the River Rock scarf but felt it was too fuzzy for the look I wanted. It worked perfectly, however, with the flowers.

Pink Granite scarf and Pink Granite Flowers scarf
with bathroom vanite countertop

Those two scarves were so much fun that I decided to play with capturing the look of the pink granite countertop of the bathroom vanity. With the first scarf, I again took a more literal approach and tried to mimic the look of the granite. I crocheted rows of single crochet with each row being a different color of yarn. I randomly worked some single crochet stitches into rows below, folded over the corner, skipped stitches or made lines of surface single crochet stitches.
Again, I used flowers for the second scarf. This time, the flowers were smaller and I attached them into two rows. I now have my eye on the inside of the bathroom door where a black and burgundy mirror hangs against tan wood. I like the color combination and want to play with it next. And then there's the area rug in the living room....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eye Candy

Inspiration for the things I make comes from many sources. I need lots of eye candy to keep my brain moving in new and unexpected directions. Because I’m on a small island with not a lot of places to get eye candy, I often turn to the internet or to books and magazines. 
Soft Peach Convertible From Cowl to Scarf with Color Inspiration

I use the internet mostly by looking at pictures of other people’s work and fashion photos. I can bookmark pages for inspiration but because I find so many, the bookmarks have quickly gotten overwhelming. Plus, they often go away. Because I don’t have a color printer, printing them isn’t an option unless I’m just looking to the shape or idea of something instead of the color for inspiration.

Steampunk Neckwarmer with Color and Style Inspiration
 I also buy or borrow books for inspiration. I copy pages out of borrowed books, but again, without the color, I can only use them for shapes etc. Books that I’ve bought, I put little sticky notes on inspirational pages or fold down the corners. But, it is kind of a pain to go through a bunch of books trying to find that one picture I know I saw somewhere.

Rose Scarves with Several Inspiration Pages and Yarn Used

By far, though, magazines are my favorite place to go. They are easily portable from the beach to the couch. They are cheaper than books and I don’t feel bad about ripping out the pages. I then file them into categories such as sweaters, color inspiration, or freeform crochet ideas. When I need some inspiration, I start pulling out the files and going through them. I take the page and match yarn colors to it. Then, I keep the inspiration page nearby as I work on the item. I’ve started taking photos of the item with the inspiration page because I want a record of what I used and how the final item turned out. I find it interesting to observe my own creative process. Brains are such amazing things! The creative process can take you to such unexpected placesa page torn from a magazine and a pile of yarn transformed in an evening to a soft scarf that becomes eye candy itself.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Traveling with the Pack

Unfortunately, part of the time that I lived and worked in the Puget Sound area, I had to drive 40 miles one way on the freeway to work. One of the things this taught me is that people are basically herd animals, therefore, cars travel in packs. Although this phenomenon could be attributed to stop lights letting cars onto the freeways at regular intervals, it doesn’t explain why they stay together on the freeway, which they do. The glom together and blindly follow the person in front of them, sometimes way too close, presumably so they don’t have to stay aware and think while they’re driving, which would be asking way too much.

Maybe it’s the independent-spirited Alaskan in me or maybe I’m just a loner at heart, but I relish the open spaces between the packs. They’re not completely empty—often there are one or two independent souls out there with me. But, for at least a few blissful minutes, and sometimes longer, nobody is tailgating me, changing lanes abruptly in front of me without signaling, or speeding up right when I get alongside to pass them. I was able to set the cruise control and daydream or maybe even get a few glimpses of something nice like Mt. Rainier.

Of course, being separated from the pack does make me vulnerable to predators—namely, the cops because I did travel a little over the posted speed. Like the blips of salmon prowling the edges of a herring school on a fish finder, or a pack of wolves culling a herd of caribou, cops seem to like darting in to nab motorists going too fast along the edges of, or outside, the pack. I suppose that one reason us loners are more vulnerable is that it must be hard to get a bead on speeders when there’s a whole mess of cars going by and they’re all speeding.

Pulling over a speeder causes all kinds of traffic problems. For one, everybody wants to slow down for a look—often too far down. In fact, any kind of activity on or near the roadway can cause traffic to slow, even when it doesn’t really seem necessary. I’ve seen traffic slow considerably (down to 30 mph) for a sheen of water about 50 feet wide where it had seeped onto a dry road. And, yes, this was in Seattle, where the drivers freak out about a little water on the road and don’t seem to know how to drive in the rain at all. Granted, my first 15 years of driving were on this island where it rains three to four times as much as Seattle, but everybody knows you have to adjust your driving to the road conditions, don’t they? Well, that is everybody who doesn’t drive an SUV, who seem to think that their machine allows them to ignore anything in their way – rain, snow, ice, smaller cars…

Living in Puget Sound, I’d forgotten the joys of driving. How nice it is to just go for a drive. You can do that here. Nobody tailgates unless you’re going incredibly slow and maybe not even then. Sometimes, I drive the 4 miles to town and don’t pass a single car. Going for a drive also keeps many of us on the island sane. You see people pacing around and around in their cars sometimes, searching for something new to look at. Wait, look, the Johnson’s put up some new decorations. Is that a new appliance being delivered to the Smith house? What’s her car doing parked at his house? Interesting stuff like that. It may be boring sometimes but it’s still better than being fed to the wolves on the freeway.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bog Rubies

Stepping carefully over moss- and lichen-covered slate and granite boulders, I find the first of the cranberries at the muskeg’s edge. Sand spewed from the wheels of passing cars mimics the sand spreaders used by commercial cranberry growers. As a result, the berries grow bigger, and there are more of them here than farther out in the bog. Scanning the spongy ground for berries, my mouth waters as I think about making cranberry muffins. My kids used to take the berries straight from the freezer, suck them until they’re thawed, then bite down until the berry’s chilly tartness burst with a pop.

I work my way along the road’s edge, squatting and picking every few feet, until my neck aches from looking down. I take a break, stand up straight and refocus my vision to a wider vista. I inhale a deep breath of crisp air that tingles my nostrils. I look to mountains across the strait, where new snow was dropped by the last storm. A peak like a vanilla ice cream dome looks like you could ski for hours there, where I bet no one has ever skied before.

A crow’s “caw” catches my attention as it wings to a shore pine near the center of the bog. The pine’s natural growth is distorted so that it looks like it belongs in an Oriental painting. I wonder if the crow is announcing my presence to the critters in the rain forest fringing the muskeg, or if a black bear is lumbering unseen toward me. For a minute, I pretend it’s 200 years ago and I’m a Tlingit girl with a cedar bark skirt and berry basket. She would not have been singing the bears away alone; other women would have been along enjoying being away from the men.

The crow caws again and I realize that, except for the squish of rubber boots in soggy moss, I’ve been too quiet. I get out my keys and jingle them to let any bears that might be around know where I am. The noise makes the crow caw again and fly over me to the woods on the other side of the road.

I’ve picked most of the berries at the edge and, now that I’m rested, move out toward the center of the muskeg, scanning the ground as I go. Water striders, on legs as thin as fiber optics, skim the surface of small ponds. I think about my first trip into the muskeg with my dad and his buddy, Lance, on a day just like this, except we hunted deer instead of cranberries. The men each held one of my hands and swung me over the ponds. Muskeg is tough walking for a five-year-old. In some spots, it sucks at your feet so hard, you walk right out of your boots. As children, my friends and I believed the ponds were bottomless, even though a soft muddy floor is usually visible through the brackish water. But, I once probed the depths of a muskeg stream with my fishing pole, and it never touched so some parts of the bog are definitely deep.

Even though soaked by an average of 85 inches of rain per year—some years more than a hundred—the muskeg looks deceptively like solid ground dotted with ponds. Until you step on it. Any newcomer who sets foot on it quickly learns why locals wear rubber boots. All this rain has to go someplace. Much of it is drained by streams every hundred yards along the coast. The rest collects to create the bogs that grace mountain slopes and surround large lakes. Sometimes it’s a smooth swath through the trees with only a few ponds, in other places, muskeg ponds terrace down steep slopes like rice paddies.

The Forest Service calls it a “wetland complex,” but the rest of us just call it muskeg. These areas of saturated soil are made up of scrub forest interspersed with a variety of plant communities—the exact mix depends on the degree of saturation. I watch where I walk so that I don’t step on any cranberries, avoiding the soggiest sections. Disappearing soon after I take the next step, my footprints are first watery indentations, then the sphagnum moss slowly rises back to obliterate my passage. It’s easier to walk on the small hillocks that occur every few feet. Labrador tea, bog rosemary, and bog Kalmia occasionally dot the centers of these slightly raised areas. The pink cups and bells of the Kalmia and rosemary, as well as the Labrador tea’s white flower balls, bloom in June.

I find some waist-high huckleberry bushes near a copse of cedar trees that have a few juicy nuggets left, overlooked by bears, people and birds, so I pop them into my mouth. The tart-sweet taste tickles the back corners, a perfect complement to the mossy musk smell of the woods. I spot some bunchberries at the base of a cedar tree and eat those too. I think the white foamy centers are wonderful and don’t mind the single small seed in the middle.

This woodier section of the muskeg has cranberries, too. They trail down the bank ruby-red-side-up, pasty white on the bottom where they get no sun. Other low-growing plants intermix with the bog cranberries: delicate fiveleaf bramble, stout bog blueberry, stiff clubmoss, creeping crowberry, and evergreen mountain cranberry. All weave together in and out of the moss in a delicate symbiotic dance of roots, berries, and leaves.

I hunt and pick bog rubies until the sun starts to set. There’s too little daylight this time of year and too many storms to pick as many cranberries as I’d like. Because I have so few, the muffins will taste all the better.