Friday, July 31, 2009

Adventures on Ebay and a Sneak Peek at Joy

Hi, my name is Ann and I am addicted to Ebay.
There, I feel so much better.
It is true; the day I discovered that you can buy old crochet books on Ebay, I was hooked. No more searching garage and estate sales, junk shops and flea markets hoping to find an old Elizabeth Hiddleson or Lilly Mill's book I didn't already have; I could sit in the comfort of my own home and browse to my hearts content!!! But when I realized you could also buy old crocheted items (often for a pittance!) all hope for me was lost. I saw amazing creations I had never dreamed possible; beautiful Irish crochet, incredible doilies and tablecloths and magnificent filet pieces. As a designer, I was inspired by many of these lovely creations, and dismayed at the fact that they were being auctioned off to total strangers who might not love them the way they deserved to be.
But I digress..
I could spend a fortune buying up all the beautiful things I saw and lusted for; but on a designer's income, one must be selective. So, what is it, then, that I actually buy? What strikes my fancy to the point I actually plunk down my cold hard cash? Well, here are a few examples (and please note, I did not make or design any of the filet pieces shown here, they were all purchased off Ebay, so I do not have any info on the patterns or the talented persons who crocheted them):
For some reason, old filet pieces that have been worked in color fascinate me. I have done many filet pieces, but always in a single color. I can't even imagine how much work went into this piece! Even the background is incredible.
A varigated blue deer, gotta love it!!!!
This is one of my all time favorites. I love the peacock's tails! This piece is so beautifully worked, the different colors of thread are carried through the work but you can barely tell it.
What beautiful workmanship!
I love how spiderwebs are worked into this piece- and the variegated purple grapes. Beautiful leaves and clusters of grapes.

This is my newest piece. The sweet little shamrocks were calling my name. And talk about pretty! I use this little piece on my night stand. The rose and leaves look exactly the same on both sides (the front and the back.) Who ever made it was a master crocheter!
Okay, kids, that is all of the show and tell for today; except, for those of you who have asked, here is a sneak peek at the Christmas Angel doily I am working on (and please excuse the mess on my work table): So, she is bald and unblocked, but I think she is going to be very pretty when she is finished. Her name is "Joy" and I hope to have her in my Etsy shop by the middle of August. I hope you like her!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boo Boo on the Poll

I just wanted to let everyone know I made a mistake on the last option on the new poll. I meant to say "It is how I spend most of my spare time." Maybe that was a Freudian slip or something, because it does seem like I spend most of my time crocheting. But hey, I would rather be crocheting than a lot of other things I can think of!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Such a Simple Thing: My Best Tip For Thread Crochet

When my mother taught me to crochet (over 33 years ago now!) she taught me by making granny squares out of yarn from her stash. She held her hook in a pencil hold and her yarn like this:So that is what I did, too. It worked just fine for the first year or so, because I only worked with yarn. But I was longing to try working with thread, even though I was intimidated by it (I don't really know why, but I was.) So one fine day I bought some size 20 thread and a doily book from Perry's (a local 5 and dime store in my home town, Gilmer, Texas) and rushed home to try it out. I loved crocheting with thread, but I was surprised to find that after only an hour or so my hand was tired, and I had to stop. I had been crocheting with yarn for several hours every day, and didn't know what difference working with thread made, but something was definitely going on.
A few weeks later, I was visiting my Grandmother, Dorothy Ferguson, whom all of her grandchildren called "Big Mama." I think it is a southern thing, she wasn't really big, but she was about the best crocheter I have ever known. I told her about my hand getting tired, and she said "Let me see what you are doing." She handed me the doily she was working on and I crocheted a few stitches. "I see what is wrong," she said. She took the end of the thread as it came from the ball, and wrapped it around my pinky finger. "Now try that," she said. I did, and was amazed at how much better it felt!
It seems that my problem was that I had been squeezing my fingers together to try to control the tension of the thread, and that was what had been making my fingers and hand get tired so quickly. "That is so much better!" I said. "That wrap is your brake," Big Mama said, "Like the brakes on a car. And sometimes, with some threads, you might even have to wrap it around your finger twice."
Thread wrapped around my pinky finger.

Another view of the wrap.

I find 2 wraps work better on smaller sizes of thread, such as 20 and 30.

It is amazing that such a simple thing could make such a big difference; I might never have become a designer if I hadn't learned this little trick!
So I want to share it with all of you; maybe you already know this and are thinking, "Well, duh, Ann, everyone knows that!" but I have met many crocheters at conventions and other places who do not know it. You learn from the person who teaches you, and you do things the way you are taught (even if it is wrong!)  My mother only crocheted with yarn, so the way she held the yarn always worked for her. (She also "hooked" her yarn, and I did that too, until I went to work at Annie's Attic and an editor showed me the right way to do it; but I will post about that another day).
Simple things can make all the difference; do you have a favorite tip that makes your crocheting easier? I would love to hear about it; anything that makes crocheting easier is of great interest to me!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Harvest Moon Doily is now in my Etsy shop!

I finally got little Autumn and her cat Shadow added to my Etsy shop (in doily form, that is.)

I think Shadow is so sweet! And it was so much fun making Autumn's broom!Here is what the hold up was. I have been working on this doily called "Gothic Lace," which is based on the stitch pattern in Autumn's skirt. When I was making the skirt I thought "wouldn't this make a pretty doily, all by itself?", so the idea for the bonus pattern was born.
I worked on the pattern all weekend, and did the photography this morning. It is funny, now that it is finished, I almost think I like it better than the "Harvest Moon!"
I hope you all like them!
And now, I am going to finish up editing a set called "Butterflies and Roses Pineapple Doilies" and start work on the third in the Fairy/Witch series, which will be a Christmas angel in a wreath. I can't wait to get started on her.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

20 Years of Designs

I saw this pattern for sale on Ebay today, and it sent me on a trip down memory lane. You see, this pattern is special to me; it is a pattern that I know and love very well.
This was my very first published design.
20 years ago, this "Framed Flower Basket" was on the cover of Annie's Crochet Newsletter No. 40, the July/August '89 issue. I was so thrilled to actually be published, and to have my design on the cover of the magazine was almost overwhelming. I also had another design in this issue, a night gown yoke in filet called "Flower Filet Nightgown" on page 44.
I look at this picture and I still think it is a pretty good design; if I designed it today I know there are things that I would do differently, but hopefully that just shows that I have grown in skill with time.
It seems so long ago (and in fact it was!) that I nervously walked into the Annie's Design Department in Big Sandy, carrying a black trash bag full of my crochet designs. I met with Deborah Hamburg, who was the head of the Design Department at that time, and showed her what I had brought in. She looked at my designs, and asked me lots of questions about the stitches I had used and where I came up with the ideas. I know now that she was making sure that I actually did design and crochet them; after all she didn't know me from Adam, and I heard later that they had had some problems with people trying to sell designs that did not belong to them. Anyway, she asked me to leave everything with her so she could show them to someone else (I always wondered if it was Annie herself, I never did find out who it was). 
The next day I got a phone call; they bought everything that I had brought in, and had some ideas for some more designs they would like me to make for them.
My career was launched, I was a crochet designer. My dream was coming true.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Harvest Moon Doily

I found out last week that if I wanted to get my "Harvest Moon Doily" in the Oct. issue of the Annie's Attic catalog, I only had a week to get it completly ready. Yikes! Since she has a Halloween theme, it was important to get her ready, or else she would have to wait until next year. Of course I will be adding her to my Etsy shop, but I really wanted to have her in the catalog.
Anyway, here she is. The little witch's name is Autumn, and her cat is Shadow. I had a lot of fun designing her, and I am very pleased with the way she turned out. I hope you all will like her!