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Draping Simple Shapes 
(A Designer Secret?)

This issue #35 is big and late because I've been having foundational realizations while writing it!

I’ve been crocheting slipper-socks at my family’s request. I figured I'd test some new crochet stitches for toes and heels, and this would be a nice newsletter topic.

However, something bigger happened while making "Kaleido-Soxs." (It's the quickest, easiest slipper-sock design I can think of. Pattern described here: )
The two flat rectangles looked and felt too magical to seam right away. The yarn is plump rainbow wool wrapped with silky rainbow angora-like novelty yarn. The stretchy slabs feel silky, warm and plush. I wanted to wrap myself with them, so I draped and seamed them every way I could think of before turning them into socks. Rainbow photos shown are the same pieces draped different ways. This Flickr set shows all 90+ photos:
I was so struck by how a shape-shifting brainstorm overcomes me that I took a good look at it for this issue #35. Below I have some suggestions I’ve learned from the experience. More realizations spilled into the right hand column.
I’ve changed over time as a designer, thanks to this experimenting method. I see now that the method is responsible for some of my distinctive published designs. It’s also responsible for delaying other ones! See some of them at right. It’s a simple pleasure and you don’t need to be a designer to be inspired by it. It’s a fun way to multiply WIMs (Works in Mind)!
If you’d like to try it, even if you don’t want to design your own stuff, give your crochetself a mannequin. I love using mine just to display what I’ve freshly crocheted, or am currently working on. And, it’s not just for clothing; even if I were crocheting an afghan, I’d fling it over the mannequin’s shoulders now and then, just to see it at eye level, draped in 3D and lit in 360º. (Mmm…I’d try belting it too, just to see…) 
Some people, especially if they sew a lot, have dress forms. These are like mannequins without arms and legs, and work well as mannequins for most things, but sometimes I really do need some upper arms. Knees are nice too for when I crochet skirts.
I now wonder how I designed and photographed crochet before my mannequin Lindsay came into my life. (This was at Doris’ urging, I might add. Thank you, Doris.) Lindsay is infinitely patient and holds very still for photos. Her weight fluctuates less than anyone I know. What she lacks in a head she makes up for as a hand and foot model. I usually keep her dressed in smooth plain black clothes because I can see the crochet the best in person and in photos. 
Besides a mannequin (or else a dress form or patient human), the only other thing I need is simple hair grabbers to use as clamps for the quickest, easiest temporary “seaming.” The full-size ones work, but the smaller and lighter they are, the better. The goal is to simulate a weightless, flexible, and unobtrusive seam.

Now What?

Start simple: I draped my kaleido-shape on the mannequin as if it’s a scarf end, then over one shoulder as a capelet or stole. I clamped it into a cowl shape around the neck; made it tighter, then looser. Found a pretty brooch and tried pinning it somewhere. Having two pieces to clamp together multiplies the experiments. 

Warmed Up?

Here's how I ramped it up a notch:
1. Clamped together a seam only part of the way. (at left) You can get instant fold-over collars, notched hems, or a mandarin collar effect this way. 
2. Variation of #1: seamed two edges such that they are offset.
3. Seamed the rows of one edge perpendicular (at right angles) to the rows of the other edge. (see above, 4th from bottom)
4. Added a moebius-style half-twist before seaming.
5. Overlapped, then seamed or pinned. (at left)
6. Gathered with a drawstring (like a temporary elastic binding or ribbon).
7. Combined more than one of the above.
8. While I tried out one of these ideas, I imagined what a different texture or color along an edge would do; and what would happen if I added or subtracted some stitches or rows.
If you try this, take care to create the kind of temporary 
seam that you’d be willing to make permanent if you love its effect. It’s tempting to just clamp anywhere and throw it on the mannequin! In the leftmost photo below, the two green clamps are standing in for a diagonal seam. In the other photo, the temporary "seam" is vertical.
A temporary seam not only stands in for a 
permanent sewn or crocheted seam; for experienced crocheters it can also indicate where stitch increases, or decreases, or join-as-you-go crocheting would result in some exciting projects, making a seam unnecessary.
A temporary seam that runs diagonal to the rows means you’d be committing to shaping, or a seam with bulky extra fabric. Or even cutting your crochet: horrors!

It's So Worth It!

#1 reason: It really brings home our power to crochet our own fabric. Draping experiments reveal easy new wearable shapes, and new looks for a stitch and yarn. We can add a seam, a slit, more rows, or a contrasting edge at will.
#2 reason: It's easy to see the ideal number of stitches or rows to add or subtract to create the exact finished size and shape desired. This designing method can circumvent the “Lying swatches that lie” phenomenon that I’ve seen frustrated designers commiserate about in Twitter LOL.
#3 reason: 360º Perspective. See the scale of the stitch pattern from different distances. Speaking for my designer self, I’ve noticed it’s easy to lose the full stylish impact of a design idea because I hold it close to me the whole time I’m crocheting it. If I intend for it to make a statement from several distances, I just ask Lindsay the Mannequin to, um, lend a hand.

That's it for #35! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!      --Vashti
Shifting Swatch Shapes
I took 238 photos of the Tunisian Shakti Scarfythings. That's a lot even for me -- I average 35 per design. (Some photos are not public, but you can see them when you click on a guest pass link in the pattern.) (DV site), (Ravelry) .
I took 97 photos of the 'Kaleido-Sox" slabs (at left), which triggered a reorganization of my photo sets, as well as this newsletter issue!

Below is another shifty montage like the one above. Like it? I'm learning how to create them for shape-shifters like
Undaria Flutterscarf:

Yep, took 53 photos of this one. (DV site), (Ravelry).

I noticed three more things about this shape-shift phenomenon as I traced it through my designing this week:

1. Some projects don't actually "shape-shift" until they're completed. That's when I discover that I can wear or style them several ways. For example, Waterlily Layer can be worn upside down, backwards, or both; but it's still the same finished item.
Wish I had more montages to insert here! Link:

The L-shaped Five Peaks Wrap fits this category of shifters too (100 photos in this set): So do shallow triangular scarves like Tunisian Islander --just drape the completed shape any ol' chic way without altering its construction.

2. To my surprise, I've been underestimating the shape-shifting nature of some crochet jewelry designs -- both during construction, and while wearing. It's one of the primary reasons that I'm passionate about crochet for jewelrymaking.

I need a Dichroic Lariats montage.

3. This shifty shapin' is why some patterns take me longer to write. It's nice to have some insight! Thaxton Cowl (73 photos) threw a curve by giving itself a hood at the last minute, for example. The languishing Jasmine FancyCords (56 photos) is another. (this photo doesn't even begin to deal with the shifting.)

You might enjoy browsing a photo collection I created for my own use. I've begun to catalog designs that shift their shapes for the camera: 
You'll need the guest pass below to see some unpublished designs and swatches in this set: 
“Crochet Projects, Shape-Shifted”

An early shape-shifting surprise was what Dessert Party Apron did! This is one of about 5: 

(Apron: )

Links I Enjoyed This Week
Herrschner’s 2012 Afghan Winners:
Renée Barnes is designing 12 Shawls in 2012:

DesigningVashti News
I'll be teaching two slip stitch classes this February at A Good Yarn, a yarn shop in Sarasota, Florida. Classes will be posted soon.
Introduction to Slip Stitch Crochet on February 4 from 1pm to 4pm.
Advanced Slip Stitch Crochet on February 11 from 11 am to 2 pm.

This newsletter's biweekly publishing schedule is still recovering from the holidays. Also, if you don't see issue #36 on January 26, you can blame it on my 19th Wedding Anniversary :-)

That Thaxton Hooded Cowl is being revised slightly thanks to tester feedback. If you're using the beta version of the pattern, email me anytime if you have a question.

Have I mentioned that the Chaps asked to be updated in magenta for 2012? The magenta is partly Doris' fault. Project page:
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