Saturday, December 19, 2015

Indie Gift-A-Long Designer Interview - Amy van de Laar of Baroque Purls

                                                    (photo copyright Amy van de Laar)

The Indie Gift-A-Long is still going strong! While the sale at the beginning is a fantastic way to both add to your pattern library and discover some new designers, the KAL/CAL feature of the Indie Gift-A-Long is probably even more important for many knitters. I love that it goes right to New Year's Eve, which should help all of us hopelessly overcommitted knitters to both finish their gifts for others and have company to get going on projects that result from holiday gifts we receive. I may have dropped a few hints of that sort, but for the moment I'm still trying to get done with the 2 projects I've signed up for in the KALs in the Indie GAL group.

                                                      (photo copyright Amy van de Laar)

To wrap up the GAL, today I have an interview with the designer of one of those projects, Amy van de Laar of Baroque Purls. A few weeks ago, I published this review of Amy's Paper Snowflake Hat pattern. While I got going on that project, Amy was kind enough to answer a few questions from me about her work, inspiration, and recreational knitting. There was an excellent interview with Amy during last year's GAL here , which I recommend you start with to learn more. Her explanation of how she chose the name "Baroque Purls"in that interview was particularly interesting to me. Amy describes herself as a "pattern designer, singer, and early music geek" on her blog Baroque Purls. It's a very enjoyable read, with great posts about her diverse sources of inspiration, patterns, and life. So many of the photos are so full of joy you will just have to smile yourself. (never mind all the beautiful knitting photos!) The photo above is of Amy's latest designs, the Rose Jam Hat and Mitts, which are available individually or as a set. Trying not to repeat the questions asked by other interviewers, I kept the questions fairly short, so please do follow the links above! Without further ado...

(BP= Baroque Purls aka Amy, RBK = RocketBoy Knits aka me)

RBK: Would you say you have any strong influences that are new this year? Along those lines, do you see any influence of Baroque music on your designs? I can see that for someone really immersed in that music there could be a certain structure or rhythm that might seep into the visual world...
BP: I've been more inspired by historical art and design lately, and I have some designs at the planning stage which are based on decorated Baroque instruments. Some of the old violins and viols had beautiful inlaid, carved or painted designs which could be translated into colourwork or cable motifs. I don't know that any of the music itself has snuck into my knitting, but my taste for complicated things covers both realms!

RBKDo you have a tool or a book that you find indispensable?
BP: The 3 mm crochet hook that always lives by my side when I knit has saved my bacon on many, many occasions. While I can pick up dropped stitches and fix errors with just my needles, I find the hook much easier and less precarious.

RBKDo you have a favorite place (or type of place) to be while working on new designs?
BP: I usually sit cross-legged on my bed, and spread out my draft charts, laptop, and yarn around me. One day I'd like to have enough space for a dedicated craft area, with a comfy chair, table, and shelves nearby, but this will do for now.

RBK: Is there anything you can share about new design challenges or goals you hope to take up in 2016? Anything you are particularly looking forward to trying out?
BP: I'd like to get through some of my favorite design ideas which have been on the backburner while I've prioritised others, for example, the musical-instrument-inspired designs I mentioned I'd also like to design more shawls, which I love to knit!

RBK: If you have any time for recreational knitting, what do you gravitate toward? Are you working on projects from anybody else's patterns for the GAL?
BP: These days I gravitate toward garments for my just-for-me knitting, because I have some gaps in my wardrobe that need filling. I've nearly finished a Stephen West cardie, and I have a Laura Aylor tee half-done as well. For the GAL I'm making quicker knits for gifts - I've made a good start on a Preserving Life Cowl, and I also plan to make an Elektrocute cowl, a pair of Fightin' Words mitts, and a Warren hat (all for gifts). We'll see how far I get through my list!

Thanks so much to Amy for answering my questions, and for her lovely designs. Photos of my Paper Snowflake Hat soon, I promise! In the meantime, wishing everybody a Happy New Year and happy knitting!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Indie Gift-A-Long continues! Pattern Review: Hogmanay Shawl by Jen Lucas

In my (not so humble) opinion, a great gift knitting project needs to have that wonderful combination of being engaging for the knitter without requiring obsessive focus, but special enough to make the recipient say, "Wow!" For a real hat trick, it should help the knitter use up some stash. It's alchemy, really. The Hogmanay shawl by Jen Lucas is one of my new favorites in this category. To start with, I know very few women who could not use a new accessory to liven up their wardrobe choices every now and then. (myself included!) This lovely shawl is knit on the bias in fingering weight yarn. The pattern calls for 400 yards, which means that one skein of many hand-dyed yarns is all you need. The shawl shown here is knit in Mountain Colors Bearfoot. The lace pattern has a great rhythm to it, which makes the knitting really enjoyable and meditative. The long diagonal lines that run from the beginning point to the bind-off edge are almost like built-in lifelines that make it easy to remember where to start again when you've had to take a break. After a few repeats were complete I found that I could just glance at the chart for the beginning of each Right Side row and follow intuitively from there. This quality makes it a good traveling project, as well - easy to carry along anywhere, easy to keep track of. Mine has been everywhere in its short life - the theater, work, school field-trip, meetings, coffee with friends. I also love that you can just keep on knitting and make the shawl bigger without any extra math if you have more yarn than is called for. I feel very optimistic that I may even finish it by New Year's Eve if not by Christmas...(if I can control my compulsive startitis!)

I'll post photos of Hogmanay and my Paper Snowflake hat soon! In the meantime, happy knitting!