Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And The Last Tester Project

Hello everyone! My anchor tester project is from a new-to-me tester, Rebby, although we've been in the same blanket block swap group (she's a moderator), and we also adore each other pets. She's also designed a few of her own motifs, as well as tested many others.

When I initially approached her as a potential tester a while back, she was busy with other things. The timing of the book's testing phase worked out perfectly for both of us, and I'm so glad her project is anchoring this phase of the book's preview, because it is a total winner - she worked up the Nichols Cardigan. Everyone, please note: this is Rebby's first ever crocheted cardigan. Is this not absolutely fantastic? To the left is Rebby rocking her cardi, front left open, while in New Mexico. This yarn colorway is excellent on her, and the rows of motifs drape so well in the front.

She tinkered slightly with the shrug sleeves to suit her arm length, and provided wonderful feedback on a small yet sticky design point, for which I'm very grateful. 

However, she also took a few excellent photos from her home in Pennsylvania, and to the right is a great shot of the back of the sweater.

The last photo is the cardi closed in front with a great piece of jewelry, which I just love. I mean it everyone when I say if you can make a square and a rectangle, you can make this cardigan! More importantly, the easy shaping looks good on any body type. I have to admit, I've already got my fiber set aside so I can make one for myself. 

I want to thank all of my testers for such super work on the designs in the book. I am so thrilled that each was a part of this process.

I wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year. I am putting the finishing touches on Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace, and making certain all my t's are crossed and i's dotted. The next announcement you see from me here on the blog is when the soft cover book is published (which should be very soon, but no later than mid-January).

In the meantime, you can still order the book during pre-release from my Big Cartel online store. If you purchase it prior to publishing day, you'll receive an electronic .pdf version absolutely free. After the soft-cover publication, it will cost more to purchase both together.

Until next time (in 2015!) ...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tester Project #3 - It's All About That Hood

Hello my fellow crafty readers - here we are almost at the end of the year, and I'm super thrilled to reveal the third (at least on this blog!) tester finished project for the book.

This tester, Kim, has been testing for me for a few years now. She not only is an excellent test stitcher (she catches all kinds of little inconsistencies, which is fantastic), but she also has great fashion instincts, which really helps when picking project fiber and photographs once the project is completed. You can see at least one other test project she's done for me here, although she's completed others.

Kim has, once again, outdone herself. I very much wanted her to make the Bomber-inspired Hoodie Vest not only because of its inspiration, but also because I thought she'd look good in it and the hood might challenge her skills, since the rest of the project is fairly easy and straight forward. As you can see, I was not disappointed.

Initially, I love her color choices here - dusty blue and deep plum work well together. My first big surprise was her choice for fur trim - she used Bernat Boa. Kim had a hard time sourcing the Berroco Marmot I used in my sample, despite my best efforts to utilize fibers that I thought would be readily available in the U.S. and Canada. Quite frankly, I am pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully lush her fur trim and hood turned out (and the pop snow flurries on photography day didn't hurt either). 

The second surprise was her closure placements - her leather toggle closures, evenly spaced down the first 2/3 of the front, look good. It was an unexpected twist, but one that crafters who want to work up this design can look to for additional inspiration.

Kim also didn't tack the fur portion of her hood as far back on the top as I did on my sample, thus making her hood look bigger than on the original. They are the same number of stitches, but as you can see, simple tweaks and different fiber can have a huge impact on how designs eventually look. 

I am completely thrilled with Kim's test efforts (as usual, her input was spot on), and her finished article of clothing is simply fantastic. I hope she gets loads of great wear out of it, as well as many compliments, because the vest looks good on her.

Until next time ...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tester Project #2: Mighty Like a River?

Hello everyone out there in cyberland ... and you know who you are! 

I'm showing off the second of my testers' finished projects. The design: the Earhart Stole. The tester: a Ravelry friend from the 12 Shawls Forever group, Joan. We've known each other from that Ravelry group for the last three years, and I was surprised to learn that this is the first design she's ever tested. I was thrilled and honored that she said yes! That's Joan, though. She's also made one of my crochet designs, which I was thrilled to bits to see her make. Joan is an impeccable, accomplished knitter, and her feedback on this pattern was invaluable.

She worked hers up in MadelineTosh Sport and while the color is a little washed in the left-hand shot, you can still see the wonderful stitch definition and that great, squoishy cable. Joan likened the cable to a river, thus the mention in this entry's title.

Joan and I also share a love of cats. At first I didn't want glamour shots of her stole with her kitty (which I've dubbed Ms. Fifi), but I changed my mind. This cat just loves to sit on all of Joan's shawl and stole projects. Joan's projects with her cat sitting atop them have become the norm, so I just decided to go with it.

I hope that Joan is getting good wear out of her stole. This colorway is wonderful ... with or without kitty.

Until next time ...

Friday, December 26, 2014

And Now for Some Tester Projects!

It's Friday and the day after Christmas, so I hope everyone is taking it easy and enjoying their gifts ... or just relaxing with the day off from work.

Photo used with kind permission
of Ammerican Photography
As for me, wonderful gifts came a little early, in the form of tester finished projects for the book. For those who might not know, I use test stitchers (in varying degrees) for all of my collections. They are invaluable in helping to work out pattern kinks, and each of them always produces projects that are great looking and are a much-sought after tool for others looking to work up the same design. I have had a social relationship with all of my testers for a while, so it always brings me much pleasure to show off their creations.

First up: my friend, mon amie Nicole. By day she's a French teacher (mais oui!), and she's also successfully wrangling three kidlets of her own as well as attempting to have a fiber life (she's become quite the spinner since we've known each other). Quite frankly, I don't know how she does it. I am in awe.

She tested the Leather + Lace Aviatrix Cap for me. Don't you just love how hers turned out? Her lace is slightly more open than mine (different tension + fiber used), and she placed her buttons differently (which look great). I also love this color on her, and her husband is the photographer extraordinaire who took the great photos.

Many thanks to both of them for taking time out of their 3-kid-hectic lives to stage and shoot these photographs. You can find out more about Nicole's project on her Ravelry project page, or search for her Instagram feed under the name massenzifroni.

Until next time ...

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Final Design Preview

Ladies and gentlemen, we've come to the end of the design previews for Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace

For this final design, I thought I would pay tribute to the person who started it all here in the U.S. - Susan Koerner Wright - yes, the mother of the Wright Brothers. We don't hear too much about her for a few reasons: (1) she left behind relatively little in the way of writings (as compared to her husband and children); (2) she was overshadowed in many respects by the aforementioned; and (3) tuberculosis took her at a relatively early age. 

Nevertheless, she was a remarkable woman for her time. Heck, she'd be a remarkable woman today. Educated, married slightly later than her peers, she gave birth to seven children (two died in infancy), knew her way around most things mechanical, yet still managed a household (much of the time on her own) filled with precocious, inquisitive children whom she encouraged at every turn. She left us not only five children including her two most famous sons, but also a daughter who went on to graduate from Oberlin. 

Of the few photographs remaining of Koerner Wright (and we're fortunate to have them!), she is always shown wearing some sort of collar, so I decided to assign to her my own interpretation of this Victorian fashion staple, with a twist:

Fur Collar + Pin in honor of Susan Koerner Wright,
the mother of flight here in the U.S.

My interpretation includes a simple bead-encrusted motif pin that acts as a fastener, and of course I used the wonderful Lion Brand Romance faux fur yarn for the collar.

Both of these pieces work up very quickly, and the collar only utilizes two skeins of Romance. I can envision this accessory pair easily going from day to evening.

While I'm not certain if Koerner Wright ever owned any collar with bling or fur, somehow I think she'd approve.

This concludes the end of the design previews, but not the end of the designs, or some other previews. We'll be taking a Christmas break here at Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace central, but come back on 12/26 with the first of several test stitcher spotlights. Not only were they instrumental in getting several of these designs into tip top shape, but each stitcher brought their own unique personality to the recreation of the design which, I hope, is what everyone who purchases the book will do.

For now, I wish everyone a happy holiday (no matter which you celebrate), filled with light and warmth and cheer.

Until next time ...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Design Preview #7 - Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Well, we are about a week away from Christmas and at the penultimate design in the previews from the Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace collection. 

No design collection honoring the early females of flight could omit a trip to France to honor the woman who received licence #36 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale  (F.A.I.) - the first woman to be issued a pilot's license - Elise DeRoche. The first 35 licenses went to the male heavy hitters of early aviation (including one issued to each of the Wright Brothers). 

DeRoche would later become known as the Baroness Raymonde de la Roche (the baroness title bestowed upon her by the Russian Czar after watching her fly), and she openly encouraged use of the title. She was - by accounts of the time - beautiful, smart and gifted in the cockpit. Trained as an artist and sculptor, DeRoche had ambitions to be an actress but turned her back on all of it once she was bitten by the flight bug. 

Just look at all that great Starry sparkle.
So in honor of this groundbreaking female, I present the Cracked Glass Cowl. Worked up in Dream in Color Starry in the cocoa kiss colorway, you can see how the textured play of lace just sparkles. The body of this slightly asymmetrically shaped cowl is actually worked flat, top-down through the bottom edging; then, after blocking, the front lace inset is worked and acts as the cowl's closure. Buttons at the side of the neck allow for ease over the head.

It comes in two sizes, so it should fit over the shoulders of most women, but the bottom photo also shows it bunched around the shoulders for a relaxed look.

I absolutely love how this design turned out, and the wonderfully tonal, sparkly Dream in Color yarn adds so much depth and personality. I think the Baroness would have quite liked this cowl.

Until next time ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Design Preview #6 - Amelia Gets Her Due

Alright, everyone, you knew we'd get to that big name sooner or later: Amelia Earhart. A huge personality in life, and an even larger myth in death, she continues to hold our collective fascination. Of all the women profiled in Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace, she is perhaps the one I learned the most about; to be more specific, I gained greater insight into Earhart. Critics have used modern day standards to denounce her flying ability and willingness to take risks (and to be certain, many of the precautions she ousted from the plane on her last ill-fated voyage could have been the difference between a successful flight and going missing at sea), yet there are parts of Amelia that get very little notice: the role her family played in her formative years; how early poverty may have affected her decision-making in later life; her deep humanitarian drive; her self-described "non-feminist" approach; her ability to unite female pilots into the still-surviving non-profit The Ninety-Nines.  

One of the things we need to remember about these early pilots: many of them flew in open cockpits. Amelia was always commenting on how cold a particular flight was; as a result, I thought a stole in order to help keep the chill at bay.

My first knit design of the book (but not my last!), this is all about one amazing cable that runs through it. Literally from the bottom right corner, it organically meanders across the main body of the stole to end at the top left corner. I cannnot tell you how much I love this riff on a French braid, and in Neighborhood Fiber Co.'s Studio Sport, the wonderful tonal qualities of Karida's dyeing magic is on full display. While many beginning knitters may be intimidated by cables, I would absolutely consider this a project worthy for an adventurous beginner - once you establish the cable pattern, it becomes fairly rote. 

More importantly, it has luxurious dimensions that are great for wrapping around shoulders and/or neck. Of course I'm biased, but I firmly believe Amelia would have loved this design and would have made it a staple accessory in her wardrobe.

I also note that many of these early pilots (including Earhart) had planes retrofitted for the ability to make landings at sea. It was this knowledge that led me to Kenmore Air. It's why I show as many current seaplanes as I can. The personnel at Kenmore have been nothing but fantastically accommodating; their facilities, planes and personnel are the main supporting cast of the book.

We only have two more design previews left! I hope you are enjoying these previews as much as I am enjoying writing them.

Until next time ...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Beyond the Halfway Point in the Design Previews

Well it's the end of another week, and time for another design preview.

This Friday I'm turning my attention to Bessie Coleman. In case you weren't aware, she is the first African-American female to receive a pilot's license, earning her Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) license in France in June of 1921. She learned French specifically so she could travel overseas and take flying lessons since she could find no person in the states who would accept her as a student. She then stayed a few additional months in Paris, taking more lessons to sharpen her skills, and sailed back to New York and much acclaim.

Coleman fought tirelessly for her race and gender, so I wanted to design something that had a lush element, and this piece definitely does:

The Bomber-inspired Hoodie Vest is a luxuriously tactile piece and deceptively easy to create. Worked bottom-up in Berroco Blackstone Tweed and the oh-so-soft Berroco Marmot, the hood, done half in fur, frames the neck in uber-warmth. While it can be worn up, it is rather more for keeping your neck, shoulders and back framed in luxurious good looks. I opted for actual small fur clasps with a leather element positioned at the top of the hoodie front for a completely functional if somewhat understated notions element. I did not want to detract from the hood, which is the star of the piece.

This vest is not only easy to work up, but easy to wear. It can quickly become that go-to piece to throw on when walking out the door for anything from a day hike to a day of shopping. I am convinced that Bessie, who worked as a manicurist in order to save money for her trip to France, would have loved this design.

Pre-ordering the soft-cover book from my Big Cartel online store for $24.99 + shipping before the end of the year will get you (1) a free electronic .pdf version; and (2) a book signed by yours truly. Ordering both together after January 1st will cost more. The book will also be available for purchase in the new year from various other distribution channels, which I'll announce as they become available. I do hope you'll consider purchasing the book directly from the author, as more of your money will go directly to support more designing.

And that's always a good thing in my book.

I hope you are getting through this holiday season in style. Until next time ...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Here Comes Design Preview #4

I hope everyone had a great weekend. We were fogged in early yesterday morning, and this is what it looked like:

Since there's a body of water in the foreground just underneath the fog that Kenmore Air pilots take off from and land on, I wonder if that fog delayed any flights (it burned off completely about 30 minutes after I snapped this photo).

I have thought a lot about the impact of weather conditions while researching the female aviators for this book. The next design preview might not have helped them navigate the fog, but it would have kept each one stylishly warm:

The Leather + Lace Aviatrix Cap pretty much speaks for itself. I used leather shank buttons on both sides, and the double suede ties actually work in the attached d-ring on the other ear flap, so one could actually wear the cap with it strapped under the chin.

However, most wearers might want a more casual approach, and I think the strap looks super with the suede ties just hanging down. This one skein project (and I used this llama blend sock yarn from January Yarns) works up quickly; I use this pretty lace pattern in an additional design in the book, but with a very different outcome. In this cap, with its sleek edging, it's incredibly modern. 

This design is dedicated to all the pilots in the book via the first Women's Air Derby, coined the "Powder Puff Derby" by Will Rogers, who attended the take-off ceremonies on the west coast. For nine days in August,1929, twenty women agreed to the rules (yes, they all agreed) for the first transcontinental race in which women, not men, were allowed to participate (the male pilots, as Will Rogers sarcastically established, didn't think too much of females in the cockpit). Of the twenty that started the race, only 15 crossed the finish line; one lost her life. The big name, Amelia Earhart, placed third; Ruth Nichols (see design preview #3) came within yards of the finish line only to crash once on the ground (yup, weather conditions did her in). While I write more about the race in the book, it led to the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an international non-profit that survives today and promotes female aviation through a number of programs. It would also bring Earhart and Nichols together in real friendship; they were kindred spirits, each with their respective humanitarian streaks. Nichols would, regrettably, give a moving speech at Earhart's memorial service a year after her plane went missing over the Pacific. 

We're about at the halfway point in the design previews and I hope you are enjoying them as much as I am enjoying revealing them. Until next time ...

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Third Design Preview is Here!

Hello everyone! Wondering what we'll be previewing today? Well, wonder no more my dear friends, I present to you the Nichols Cardigan:

This is motif work at it's most sophisticated for a pilot, Ruth Nichols, who was as sophisticated as they came. Born into wealth and privilege in New York City (one of the few of our early female pilots in that category), she graduated from Wellesley College in 1924, but not before defying her parents and secretly learning to fly while she majored in pre-med. She went on to not only hold women's speed, distance and altitude records at the same time, she also dedicated much of her later flying to various humanitarian causes. In 1940 she founded Relief Wings, which eventually became an ancillary relief service of the Civil Air Patrol during WWII. While her death was rather tragic (suicide by barbiturate overdose in 1960), it was her early flying career that I want to celebrate, and do so much more in the book. 

Just get a look at that wonderfully saturated color, courtesy of Karida's dye pot magic over at Neighborhood Fiber Co. This Studio Worsted in the Shaw colorway has so much depth and character, it really made this cardi come to life. Amazingly simple construction makes this project something everyone can make, and the unconstructed nature of the front makes it forgiving on a wide range of body types. I note that the same size is being worn by two different models with very different shapes, yet it looks great on both of them.The front can be worn in several different ways (I show two in this preview), and it has nice drape when not worn closed. The sleeves are deliberately bracelet length. One can make the skirt length longer or shorter, depending on preference.

The back has slight gathers to make the skirt rounded as well as provide style interest, and that's probably the most difficult thing about this project. Otherwise, it's just a rectangle and squares, a rectangle and squares. 

I am incredibly thrilled to let you know that pre-release book sales are occurring! If you purchase the soft cover print book here in my Big Cartel online store for $24.99 + shipping between now and the end of the year, you will automatically receive a free electronic .pdf version. After January 1st, purchasing both together will cost more. Of course, if you would just like the electronic version, you can purchase it in pre-release in my Ravelry Store for $18.99. The full e-book will be delivered at the end of the year; however, purchase either version and you'll receive a sneaky peek first few pages!

I hope everyone is enjoying the design previews as well as the wee introduction to these amazing female pilots. Risking life and limb, they each set a unique bar for courage that is hard to match.

Until next time ...

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Next Installment of Design Previews ...

... is happening right about now.

I am thrilled to introduce the Markham headband, named in honor of Beryl Markham, the English aviatrix with the private life that Just.Wouldn't.Quit.

Born in England, her parents moved her to an African British colony when she was four. Beryl loved the outdoors and loved men even more, with a particular affinity for writers and thrill seekers ... with money. While she married three times (her third husband was the writer Raoul Shumacker), it was her lovers that were so darned interesting - Antoine St. Exupery (author of Le Petit Prince), and both Karen Blixen's husband Blor and Karen's lover Dennys Finch-Hatton. Beryl rejected Ernest Hemingway, but didn't get the man she really wanted: the one who taught her how to fly.

Don't let Markham's love life lull you into flying complacency, because in the end she was an ace pilot. She was the first female to fly west-to-east across the Atlantic (it took almost a full day to accomplish), was Finch-Hatton's personal pilot, and spent many years flying to far-flung places in Africa acting as messenger, taxi service, ambulance, supplies carrier, you name it. 

Beryl led a full, unconventional first half of her life. During that time, there's a photo of her at a formal affair in which she wore a tiara. Now, a tiara wasn't quite what I had in mind for this book's purposes; nevertheless, it was that photo which inspired this headband. Worked up in Louisa Harding's Grace Handbeaded, this one skein project is quick and utterly gorgeous. Initially, the lace inset is worked (it's super easy), and then a square edging is worked; button/button hole tabs are added at the end. 

I photographed this in the mechanical area at Kenmore Air, and somehow I think Markham would have totally approved of the mix of conventional feminine and the unconventional backdrop. Below is what's just behind and out of the shot's frame:

As I think you can tell, I had fun photographing these designs.

See all that lovely bling?
beads are woven
into the yarn 
by hand.
Pre-release orders for Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace are now being taken in two places: (1) the .pdf e-book version for $18.99 through my Ravelry Store, and (2) the soft-cover print version for $24.99 + shipping through my Big Cartel online store. If you order the print version during the pre-release period (through the end of the year), you'll also receive the electronic .pdf version free. After the first of the year, it will cost more to purchase both versions together.

I'll provide updates here as more online channels are added from which the book can be purchased. In the meantime, look for the next installment of design previews later this week, and do feel free to like Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace's Facebook page and/or follow its wee Twitter feed @LeatherLaceGrit.