Prism

{Though today’s post is about a specific piece, each month I write a letter to you where I share all my latest creations and discoveries. Click here to subscribe - or scroll down and to the right - I love connecting with you}

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One of my favorite ways to use the remaining fiber from previous projects is in a method I call “gradient.” While technically not a true gradient, the projects that employ this method involve one color transitioning to - and interweaving with - neighboring fibers and colors.

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You can see this method in the Favorite Things and Firecracker pillow covers, and the Hot Mess pillow cover currently at BedStraw Studio.

The remnants I use are any combination of cotton, linen, alpaca, silk, and wool that are either conventionally or botanically hand-dyed or are natural undyed shades of white, cream, brown, or grey. The finished piece is truly unique and one-of-a-kind because it’s entirely dependent on what and how much fiber I have on hand - I literally can never make the same item again.

This wall hanging, called Prism, is also fashioned using my “gradient” method. The crochet stitch I use can be thick, which means the bigger the piece, the heavier it becomes. Hanging a piece like this in a flattering way is a challenge.

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I knew I wanted to hang the piece from a perfect piece of smooth silver driftwood I found a few years ago in Boulder Creek, Colorado. At first I tried crocheting a chain of yarn that could be looped through the piece and around the driftwood multiple times. This did not cut it - a picture of this method is not even worth sharing!

When I finally realized I needed more overall stability, I turned to the process I use for all my gradient method pieces (and also for all pillow covers) - hand-sewing the crochet top to a linen cover.

I used several pieces of white and/or cream linen from my stash to create a large linen back to this piece and hemmed its edges.

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Then I created wide linen loops. They required a bit of sewing by hand to get the lengths and shape just right.

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I adjusted the length of the loops to accommodate the undulating shape of the driftwood. This means that the driftwood lays a specific way through these loops so when mounted on the wall, the piece hangs straight.

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When I got the loops to the lengths I wanted, I then sewed the loops to the inside of the linen back so that they would be sandwiched neatly between the linen back and the crochet top.

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I then sewed by hand the crochet top to the linen back using “invisible” stitches.

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I love the clean and finished look of the chunky linen loops! And I love the weight and the stability this piece now has.

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I believe life reflects art and art reflects life. It is not lost on me that while I was working on the linen structure of this piece, our yarn community was / is having intense conversations about marginalized people like BIPOC and LGBTQI+.

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Ravelry’s recent statement helps communicate how hate speech and actions have no place in a just and peaceful society that values equality and safety of all persons.

KnotKnot Yarnables and I, Trista, emphatically support marginalized individuals in our communities. I am in solidarity with the most marginalized, and am committed to learning how to best support those adversely impacted by ongoing justice and equality issues.

This Prism piece - and more photos - can be found in the shop at this link. May we do the work to create more just and peaceful communities and societies, locally and globally. May we do the work to ensure every person feels valued and loved.

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Syzygy

{Though today’s post is about a specific piece, each month I write a letter to you where I share all my latest creations and discoveries. Click here to subscribe - or scroll down and to the right - I love connecting with you}

Syzygy is defined as:

1. any two related things, either alike or opposite;
2. any pair, usually of opposites; and
3. the configuration of the sun, moon and earth in a straight line (in any order).

I love to find the perfect name for each item I make, and all the above apply to the design and materials of this Syzygy crochet pillow cover.

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My favorite fibers are those that come from small farms and people who know and love their animals. The rustic grey-brown is from Ruth Werwai of Raincloud & Sage - it’s natural yarn grown and spun in central Germany (their story is here). The silky cream is from Maple Smith of NorthStar Alpacas - Maple is a retired schoolteacher in Michigan who can name the exact animal who contributes to each skein, and she is also famous (she was featured in the show Craftsman’s Legacy).

I love that such special fiber is brought to us through the intentional hands of entrepreneurial women.

Though they’re similar in origin, these fibers are remarkably different in how they look and feel. The heather grey-brown is a thicker rustic merino wool that sticks to itself in the most delicious way. The silky cream is an 80/20 mix of alpaca/Finn wool that effortlessly slides and glides over itself and the hook. Both yarns register as the same weight and gauge, but behave in opposite ways when worked into fabric.

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These distinct similarities and differences were exactly what I was looking for when creating this piece.

The challenge: Can one strong yarn personality exist independently but also play with and complement another in the same design?

Cables are not what one automatically thinks of when they think of crochet, which is of course why I wanted to feature a big and rather complicated one as the design’s central focus.

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I did not want to constantly be cutting / weaving in a million ends as a result of frequent color changes. Because this crochet top would be stitched by hand to a linen pillow cover, the back of the work would never be seen. So the backside is where you can see the system of “floats” I used to switch between the two colors.

In knitting (and coincidentally, in crochet, too) “floats” entails skipping adjacent stitches and carrying the yarn to a location further down the row. The trick is to not pull the yarn too tight or leave it too loose, as both balls of yarn are connected to the work at all times. It means keeping close track of what is happening on the hook AND what is happening in the back of the work to avoid unnecessary entanglements (and frustration, and swearing).

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It was pure tactile pleasure to flip between a light silky fiber to a darker, rustic wool, often and again. It felt as if each fiber was telling a story, and between them a conversation / dialogue was unfolding - a switching of scenes, a deliberate taking of turns, each describing opposing realities in an even and equal exchange.

I was initially afraid one might dominate the other - it turns out these fibers knew how to play well with each other, to coexist without ever losing their own identities.

When it came time to create the border and bring the entire work to 16” square (the size of all my ready-to-go pillow covers, for reasons I’ll explain another time), everything I tried to do looked lopsided. I experimented with several configurations before I finally realized it just made sense to carry what was happening color-wise in the twists straight into the border. This meant more color-changing and carrying of fiber over and across in a slightly different manner.

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I had several linens on hand for the actual pillow cover. But the undertones of these yarns are unique - no one linen would do. I ultimately chose two linens that mirrored the value and shade of each fiber’s natural color.

My linen covers are a simple overfold construction - for easy removal, no zippers or other hardware are used. The cream in this cover is the top flap. I don’t typically get precious about how the linen folds over itself on the backs of pillow covers, but because this crochet top was so balanced, the back deserved a similar color-balance treatment, which meant… MATH.

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I am in love with this design and can’t wait to pair other small batch yarns and see how they play together in this way. Blue and cream, green and grey, rose and coral, black and white. The opportunities are endless.

For me, this was a beautiful exercise in breaking down assumptions about what will and will not work, what does and does not go together, what you should and shouldn’t do.

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So, to hell with norms.

I love how natural farm fresh fiber twists can be aligned like celestial bodies. I love how opposites attract, complement, and even highlight each other.

I love that creative work can be personally and universally symbolic. I love that art and creativity help us say what’s hard to say.

And I deeply love that, when given the chance and opportunity, disparate ideas and opposing forces - without losing who and what they are - come together to tell a story of harmony and equanimity.

{This Syzygy pillow cover can be found here.}

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