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Archive for June, 2008

Fruits of our Labor

During the warm months, it’s great to have projects you can easily carry around with you. This week’s featured designs fit in that description. Now that the garden is in – and we’re finally reaping the rewards of planting 6 different types of greens (during the winter months, my husband, a true foodie, hunts down seeds for some of the more unusual varieties), it’s time to take time to sit back and enjoy the FOOL (fruits of our labor). Which, to me, means being able to finally do some knitting or crocheting on the back deck.

Tell us what YOU’re doing in your backyard – whether it’s planting, harvesting, running after kids, lolling in your pool – whatever makes summer summer. AND tell us what you’re knitting or crocheting. Write to editor@caron-connections.com

For this week’s featured designs, it’s something fun and something functional – both practical, though – the Chakra purse in Spa and the Keene toddler vest in Country.

And Now for Something Completely Different…
I’d like everyone to meet Liz Walsh, Caron’s new Fashion and Design Coordinator. Liz has some great talents, such as quilting and crocheting. But with regard to the latter, while she may know how to crochet, she says, “I just pick up a hook and pull through stitches. I have no idea what they’re called or how to write them down.” But that’s going to change with future blogs. We’re going to go step-by-step in making Liz’ wonderful sunflower, crocheted in Country. You can follow along, send in your suggestions (there are SO many more qualified crocheters out there than me) and make your own sunflower. At the end, we’ll have a pattern!

Chakra Purse
Kim Rutledge, who designed the Chakra Purse, describes her inspiration for her design like this:

I was sent NaturallyCaron.com’s new Spa yarn in Rose Bisque right before Valentine’s Day and asked to design a purse and filet scarf [editor’s note: you’ll have just enough time to create the purse before you see the scarf, one of August’s featured designs.] Since I am currently a woman in love…….

I am lucky enough to have a love with a sensitive heart, a fondness for old sweet love songs, and the thoughtfulness to send me love notes often. He inspired “Love Notes,” a motif of musical notes with hearts used as the whole notes on a music staff. I designed the purse with a raised heart pattern to contrast the open stitch of the filet scarf, which you’ll see in August.

NaturallyCaron.com’s new Spa yarn has the softness that Caron’s Simply Soft is know for yet is a thinner gauge yarn (yaaa!!!). Don’t be afraid of thinner than worsted yarns! Yes, a project may take a little more time but more stitches per inch allow for more intricate patterns, a lighter hand for greater drape and softness you wouldn’t believe.”

Keene Toddler Vest
Designer Marilyn Losee I’ve known for many years as being someone of multiple talents: she hand knits, knits on the Sweater Machine, crochets and embroiders. Marilyn describes her Keene Toddler Vest, knitted in Country’s Spruce and Silver Service…

“After 12 granddaughters, it was such fun to make something for a boy! I designed the vest to be somewhat fitted, more dressy, and something that could be worn under a jacket.

“I also find that the nicest quality of Country is its great blocking capabilities. All I need to do is pin the piece to shape and spray the piece lightly with warm water, then let it dry.” [Editor’s note: if you choose to steam the project, be sure NOT to touch the iron to the piece and that your piece is upside down on a thick towel so the cables aren’t inadvertently pressed so they lose their texture.]

So be sure to come back next week when I’ll get into the history of knitting – it goes much farther back than you imagine! AND I’ll bring you two more new NaturallyCaron.com designs.

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Girly Garments

I’m so delighted to hear from many of you on how much you like our new NaturallyCaron.com yarns. But I’d like to also hear about what you’re making with Country and Spa. Are you using the patterns on the website? Are you using a favorite pattern of your own but using Country or Spa? Are you making up your own pattern? What types of projects would you like to see more of on NaturallyCaron.com? Baby? Throws? Fashion? Accessories? Tell me, tell me! editor@caron-connections.com

I hope all of you enjoyed Frank’s description of S and Z twist yarns. I know that Dee Stanzio did, as she contacted me about using NaturallyCaron.com yarns in her class at Chain Link, the CGOA annual meeting in Manchester NH. If you’d like to learn more or sign up for Dee’s class, just go to http://www.crochet.org.

Now for this week’s featured patterns.

Coco Bay WrapThe first one, the Coco Bay crocheted shawl by Doris Chan, done in Spa is just amazing, as are so many of Doris’ designs. But rather than my describing it, I thought it should come from Doris herself, so heeeeere’s Doris….

If you’d asked me twenty years ago I’d have said I’d rather eat worms than wear a shawl. How times and tastes have changed. Since I rediscovered crochet and found ways to make shawls that stay on your shoulders I have a much improved opinion of these graceful, beautiful and, yes, girly garments.

When Cari Clement suggested I design a shawl for NaturallyCaron.com I immediately gravitated toward a personal pattern I’ve been nurturing for many years, my All Shawl. If you were a relative or an Extremely Good Girl Friend of mine ten years ago you could have expected some version of this shawl, hand-made by me, under your Christmas tree.

For Coco Bay, I’ve taken the basic shape of my treasured All Shawl and adapted it to take full advantage of this new yarn, NaturallyCaron.com Spa. Because Spa is wonderfully lightweight, soft and easy to work with, this design is a dream to make and wear. The rounded, roughly 3/4 circle shape allows just the right amount of fabric for wrapping around and staying on the body. Beginning with a section in an easy mesh stitch, this design then flows into a three-color pattern of V’s and Clusters for a dazzling center section. Finally, the shawl is ringed in a deep flounce of flirty, girly lace.

Feel free to adapt the shawl length and the colorway to suit yourself. I’ve chosen the three shades Misty Taupe, Rose Bisque and Ocean Spray, but any combination from the eight available colors of NaturallyCaron.com Spa would be lovely.

Asheville JacketAnd for our knitted design, the Asheville jacket done in Country is perfect for cool summer evenings. Pair the jacket with a black dress and add a wide belt and you have a whole new look. Designer Kathy Perry is known for her expertise on the Sweater Machine, but her hand knitting design talents are also quite evident here. The Blackberry stitch edging makes the jacket very special. Working the body in stockinette stitch is SO great when you don’t want to think about fancy stitches – just knit and purl. Making the blackberry stitch band is perfect for travel knitting. The band is attached once the edging has been finished.

Per Kathy: I got some quiet TV time in making the trim with lots of little hand knit “blackberries”!

So check out the audio fashion show for both the Coco Bay shawl and the Asheville jacket!

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Doin’ the Z-Twist

I thought I’d share with you a few comments by one of our top designers and my friend, Vashti Braha’s, about the unique properties of Country and Spa yarn.

“I love what it looks like crocheted, partly because of its soft sheen and loft, partly the fine-grained type of plying, but most of all because it’s Z-twisted. I seek out Z-twist yarns. I find it reduces splitting while working, and prevents a stringy or sloppy-lumpy look to lacier stitch patterns because as one works multiple “yarn overs”, one is either mildly untwisting or adding more twist, and it’s better to add more for handsome fancy stitches. The overall look and performance of this yarn brings to mind stylish and upscale casual classics that convey a modern, quietly sophisticated spirit.”

BarcelonaVashti is on the board of the Crochet Guild of America and her Barcelona jacket, done in Country, is one of the most popular designs on the NaturallyCaron.com site, as it’s a project that works for so many body types. Check out what Vashti has to say about z-twists on her blog

Technical descriptions of yarns may sound pretty boring (hey – most of us just want a great yarn, we don’t necessarily want to know how it got to be that wonderful yarn). But yarn isn’t like a good hamburger – lots of us DO want to know how it was put together and got to be what it is now. I think you’ll agree that this is pretty interesting stuff, especially when described by Caron’s own yarn product development manager, Frank Jankowski. Here’s how Frank describes NaturallyCaron.com yarns:

Z-TwistNaturallyCaron singles yarns are given “Z” twist. The 2-ply yarns made from these singles yarns must have “S” twist to balance the torque {twist tightness). This is where it gets interesting! You can cable the yarns with either “S” or “Z” twist. If I cabled Spa and Country with “S” cabled twist, the resulting yarn would have unbalanced torque and a more pebbly look. On the other hand, cabling with “Z” twist gives a completely balanced yarn, no residual torque, improved softness, and improved drape.

Thus Spa and Country are called “ZSZ” yarns. There are cabled yarns in the US mass market that are “ZSS” and “ZSZ,” but without a doubt, to take advantage of the balanced twist, no residual torque, and the best possible drape and softness, “ZSZ” is the way to go.

For reference, in the UK (and Europe in general), there is more widespread use of “Z” twist in hand knit yarns in general, but for most plied yarns in the US, the final twist that the needle or hook will see is often “S” (including SS and Pound). Fortunately in our case, Spa and Country are cabled and have that additional twisting process that allows us to offer “Z” twist to the needle/hook.

Too much information maybe, but worth knowing from a crafter’s standpoint.

Belize  WrapFREE PATTERNS
But, before you go, check out the two new additions to the Country and Spa Pattern Boutique:
The Belize circular wrap designed by Kristin Olmdahl and crocheted in Country is shown in two totally different color Belize Wrapcombinations on two totally different models. If your complexion is dark, the wrap done in shades of Sunset, Foliage and Gilded Age is perfect. If you are fair, the combination of Deep Taupe, Deep Purple and Foliage is just right for you. Just changing two colors can result in a totally different look.

BotanicoAnd for knitters, it’s the versatile Botanico top designed by Margret Willson. Using the very complexion-friendly Soft Sunshine, this top is wearable at work as well as on weekends. The super-easy stitch pattern gives just the right amount of texture.

Stop by again next week when I’ll let you know about two more exceptional NaturallyCaron.com designs available online.

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