Nov 16, 2008

Think Globally, Shop Locally

It's that time of year again. No, not Thanksgiving. For federal employees like me, its Open Season during which we make decisions about our health benefits and other allotments we choose to deduct from our paychecks. In addition to health care, disability, retirement, and insurance decisions, we are asked to consider charitable giving. I just turned in my pledge card for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Lisa, our friendly CFC worker (should I say our sweet Charity Nazi) worked us good. Actually, we really didn't need much prodding. We reached 100% participation -- the first office in our part of the agency.

Every year as I sit down to prepare my pledge card, I think of how to make my limited dollars have the most impact. Typically, I scour the CFC Catalog of Caring, going page by page and running my finger down each column. That's how I found Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit, alternative trading organization providing vital fair income to people in developing countries by selling their handmade crafts here in the United States. Alternate trading organizations market products from arts and craft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries. Finally! A "charity" that encourages sustainable economies through marketing of handicraft -- fiber, clay, art, basketweaving, et al. Right up my alley!

The old Chinese proverb says, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." The main objective of fair trade is provide vital, fair income to improve the artisan's quality of life. Ten Thousand Villages is a NGO whose mission is to build long term relationships with artisans in developing countries. The store in Alexandria is one of several nationwide that helps increase awareness by telling the stories of artisans from Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Latin America. Although organizations like Ten Thousand Villages actually do not teach artisans to "fish," they do help build sustainable futures by supporting local artisan's efforts to make their way with fair, vital income earned from their own abilities.

Yes, it is that time of year again. A time to give thanks for all that we have and are about to receive. So, do your part. Find something you are passionate about. Give to help secure our world's future.

Nov 2, 2008

Tippets Galore -- Busting some stash!

To paraphrase all the Leisure Arts how-to-craft books, I can't believe I'm crocheting! Actually, I took back the hook with a vengence about a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I have completed six small projects, just to test out my arm, albeit with baby steps.

I have three active swaps on Ravelry, two of which require a handcrafted item. The holidays are fast approaching, as are birthdays for a few friends. Of course, I could sew up a few gifts but just couldn't think of anything I wanted to make. I started looking at yarn in my stash for inspiration -- determined was I to not buy any new yarn -- I seem to be going up rather than down. I also looked at one-skein patterns that called out for similar yarn. I stalked projects completed by other ravelers within the discussion groups I subscribe to. I searched for simple yet elegant patterns. And I found this wonderful neck scarf by Lion Brand Yarn. Forget the official pattern picture because I saw what other Ravelrs did with the pattern and they are wow!

Some folks call these neck warmers or mufflers -- I like what the Brits call them -- tippets -- a stole or scarf-like narrow piece of clothing, worn around the arms and above the elbow but I like the short version that closes at the neck. Each scarf took about three to four hours to complete, including weaving in the inevitable loose ends and sewing on the buttons. My models were getting tired of repeatedly trying on the scarves as I sought to position buttons and pins.

My first attempt was this blue mohair muffler made from Kartopu's Eva, a lapis blue mohair acrylic boucle blend (what a mouthful, try saying that fast 10 times). Yet, I couldn't deal with the flower although the brown and purple version crafted by Sia on Ravelry is what inspired me to even attempt the pattern. Instead of the flower, I paired this with three tiny pearl buttons that just peep through to make their presence known. I gifted my mohair blue neck warmer to a friend for her birthday (a very active and youthful 50th). Perfect timing because the weather had taken a steep dip as we all struggle to stay warm during our morning commutes.

My second version of this pattern was this vintage-inspired "tippet" made of Dalegarn's Heilo in pine. I trimmed the scarf with the bit of James Brett's Marble in Moss leftover in my stash, recently frogged from my first serious attempt at making a scarf in stockinette stitch (which I never finished because I couldn't find another skein in this colorway). So, there really wasn't much left to do anything with so trim it had to be. Rather than a flower, I added a pewter button and a second row of shells. I love how it turned out. It can be worn several ways:

I hope my Vintage swap spoilee likes it as much as I like her work. In fact, it was her tiny tippet that inspired me to look for something in crochet.

My third is this soft Chilean cotton neck warmer (see the top of this post), again without a flower. The beauty of this hand-dyed cotton is accented by Naturally Caron's Country trim. The vintage brown button is the final touch. I couldn't believe how incredibly soft this yarn is. I love to work in cotton because it really shows off crochet stitch definition. Yet sometimes, I miss the easy drape that comes with working in soft wool or high quality viscose. Araucania Pategonia Nature Cotton is a dream -- you get softness, texture, stitch definition, and wonderful color. Can you tell I like this yarn and want to get some more?

My fourth version of this pattern is the furthest from the original. Done in an unknown blue acrylic with intermitten twists of yellow, green, or turquoise strands, it forgoes the shells to focus on the form. It's kind of militaristic is style with a pointed collar and round epaulets that form the front of the scarf. Made with a blue yarn reminiscent of I don't know what but it is soft. This was a find in the skeins without a label bin at my LYS. I had hopes it was a James Brett Marble but don't really think so anymore.

My last two quick projects weren't scarves or tippets. Rather, the theme was things inspired by tea. I made this "tea towel" and tea cup cozy for one of my secret box buddies. Luckily, she doesn't know it is me so I can blog all I want about it because only I and the swap moderator know who she is. Both items were made using the split single crochet stitch (SSC) which produces a stitch that is reminiscent of the knitted stockinette stitch. The yarn was TLC Cotton Plus in white and dusty pink, leftover from my Delta-in-Training dress.

So, I'm on the mend, ready to tackle bigger projects. But, I like the tippets and want to explore the split crochet stitch even more. Next time in sock weight yarn or possibly DK. I wonder if it will look good done up in half double crochet or even, dare I say, double crochet? Hmmmm. Off to explore.