Monday, March 22, 2010

It's All About The Green

So this is it... this is the post many of you have been waiting around for. I made mention of this in my {Crochet... How it all started} post. For those of you who don't know, I have entered into a national crochet and knitting contest for Red Heart - a yarn company & Jo-Ann craft store. The Contest opened January 1st and closes March 31st. It is to help Red Heart promote a new line of yarn that is Eco friendly. The yarn is made up of 30% recycled material, mostly bottles. Even the label on the yarn is made from recycled paper.

The contest has 2 parts, the beginning round where everyone submits original designs using only Red Hearts Eco-ways yarn bought exclusively through Jo-Ann (craft store). The designs will be judged on 4 different categories (a) Originality of the design (25%); (b) Use of Color (25%); (c) Knitting/Crocheting Technique (25%); and (d) Overall Quality (25%). The five highest scoring entries in each category will be

the finalists.

The finalists will then be featured on Red Hearts Website where anyone can go on and vote for the design they think is the most original.

There will be a grand prize winner in both the knitting and crocheting categories.

$1000 - gift card to Joann (for the first place winners)

$ 500- gift card to Joann (for the second place winners)

Naturally I got to thinking of what I could create to enter this contest... my first idea was a tree. Not just any tree but a 3D crochet tree. Crochet toys have become increasingly popular lately and so I thought it might be fun to try it out.

Crochet toys actually have a specific name and definition - Amigurumi, what is it and how to do it? Amigurumi is the Japanese art of crocheting small animals or toys. The dolls are done in single crochet in the round. The rounds are never joined, instead being worked in a spiral. Amigurumi are made up of parts that are crocheted, stuffed, and sewn together. The parts are usually an over-sized round head, a cylindrical body, arms and legs, ears, tail (if needed) and embellishments. Sometimes, felt is used to create the ears, face, or nose. Felt can also make some pretty cute embellishments.

After thinking about it for awhile I realized... what use would I have for a 3D crochet tree? It's not something I would really want to display or anything. So I didn't give it much thought after that.(I basically resolved that I just wouldn't spend the extra money that it would cost to buy the stuff to enter.)

Well March came and I was just about to finish up one of my many projects; I was feeling rather restless about not having something to keep my hands busy. Scott asked me if I would be entering the contest and I said, no I don't think so. But as the day went on I got a crazy picture in my head of what my "project" should look like. I could clearly see a big tree on top of a green hill with puffy white clouds. The whole project would be textural, and one of those things you just want to go up and touch. It would work kind of like a patch work quilt except it would be crochet. I would use different stitches to make lumps, bumps, lines and swirls, to make this blanket more like art than anything else. I started to get excited just thinking about it!!! I knew I had to enter.

I asked Scott if we could go buy the yarn to make the project. He didn't even hesitate to let me. (He is always supportive like that.) So we jumped in the car and bought the yarn. (about $26 bucks worth) He said that I could only start the project on one condition... I finish one of the other projects I had started (Sometimes I get so excited about a new project I forget to finish the old one) So I hurried and finished the other project. (I will blog about that one at a later date)

Mean while I had not even sat down to sketch out a plan of what this blanket would look like, I just bought the stuff without even really planning it out. So after I got home (and finished the other project) I made this sketch.

Here is the first and only sketch.

Notice the direction of the lines... I was also toying with the idea that the tree would have a bumpy texture (The stitch is called popcorn that I was thinking about using for it) The clouds were also going to be lines. Little did I know that would end up changing.

After I had the sketch done I went to work... It wasn't easy trying to make thing perfect and not really knowing what you are doing. It's a process of guess test and revise. Here is the main hill.
I had to practice different ways to emphasize the lines. I tried about 5 different methods just to find the right pop for the line quality.

Here is the second hill added on. See how the lines on this hill run vertically and not horizontal... That was a must have!!
Here is the second hill as well as the tree and the idea for the leaves.
Whenever I think of a whimsical tree I always picture a big knot in the middle or a hole, so I tried to do the same with my tree. I also made it have strong ridges run vertically so that you could get the real feeling of a tree with roots as well as dimension. (Scott tried to convince me to make a bird or squirrel in the hole of the tree... it didn't happen)

Once the leaves were made I crocheted a branch on top of the leaves. I also thought it would be cool to do over lapping bunches of leaves. I think it was successful idea, don't you?

After all of that I attached the branches to the tree trunk... I think this picture is funny because it looks like a squid or something. Not really much like a tree hu.

When I attached the pieces I left little parts sticking up just like you would see on a tree.

Here I am trying out leaf placement as well as the idea for the new clouds. My original idea for the clouds didn't turn out so well so I decided to try out something else. I started by making circle in a spiral form and then going back on that spiral to emphasize the ridges of the spiral. I made all different sizes and then pieced them together to make one cloud. You can see in this picture only one circle has the emphasized ridges and the other done not.

This picture collage is kind of funny because you can see the color changes in each photo. I took these at all different times of the day. You can also see my feet in one of the pictures... Scott and I were going to the symphony that night and I had to bring my crochet stuff. It also happened to be the day I was inspired to swirl my clouds ;) Imagine someone crocheting while at the symphony... yeah leave it to me.
I also started to add my blue background. This part was actually very tricky and I wasn't too excited about it. The hard part was to get the lines I wanted and to have it connect perfectly to the grass. I also had to keep everything in perfect alignment so that my blanket would be rectangle and not triangle (It happens all the time) I think I tried this process almost 4 times unsuccessfully.(I had to undue about 5 hours worth of work just to get it right)

Here is the edging... I wanted to tie it all in with a nice white edge to give it a clean picture look. Everything was going well until I got to the end and realized that there was bunching. Bunching is bad because it means that there are too many stitches and so it won't lay flat. So the best way to fix it is take it all out and start again. This time I would have to do a decrease stitch ever couple of normal stitches to make it lay flat.

That is about 7 hours worth of work on the floor and the yarn to prove it. UHHH sooooo not my favorite. But as many years of experience has taught me.

It is better to start over 100 times and make it right than finish a project quickly and have a mistake glaring at you for the rest of your life.

After finishing the edging the right way.

Sometimes things are in the details. I noticed that when I had joined my sky to my grass there were a few little specks of blue that didn't line up perfectly with my green. It was really bothering me so I did a little fixing and tadahhhhh I added a nice ridge to my hills. It really did make it look nicer and gave it a finished look.

Next I had to sew on the tree, branches, and clouds. I got a tapestry needle awhile ago at Jo-Ann to help me with sewing on buttons and flowers to my crochet hats. This thing is a life saver. Nothing like the right tool to get the job done!!

I decided to leave the leaves free so they could move around and stick up randomly. I really enjoyed that part. Kind of reminds me of a bunch of grapes. :)

Here it is the final product in all its textural, artsy, crochet, glory. All in all I think this project took me about 12 days from start to finish. Ask me how many hours and I couldn't tell you but it was a lot. But glancing back at my sketch and original concept... not too far off hu? There is nothing like having a picture come to mind and being able to execute that project and display exactly what you wanted. I guess that is the fun of being an artist.

I find out if I qualify for the finals around May 16th so I will let you know how it goes!!

Just as a side note... I did a lot of looking around for things like this online, I was sure that this type of crochet has already been done. I just wasn't really sure how many people did it. The more I looked the more I realized that there isn't a whole lot of crochet projects out there that look like this. I did find one type of crochet that is called tapestry crochet, it is a flat crochet type that keeps all the stitches on the front side allowing the piece to be viewed from both front and back. So I guess my project can't really be called tapestry crochet because it is more of a textural thing and can only be viewed from one side. Do any of you know if the type of crochet I am doing has a name, and are there any other people out there that do things like this? I have been looking and looking... any ideas would be great!!

Love to hear from all of you!!

I didn't make it into the finals... :( sad face. Darn I was looking to spend some of that money for my first sewing machine. Guess I will have to save up.

Here are the winners. If you guys are interested in seeing the winning designs take a look here.


Cherie March 30, 2010 at 8:24 AM  

good luck! Oh I hope you win! You are just so dang talented! :D

The Matthews Family April 1, 2010 at 11:50 AM  

Ashley, I am not kidding you-- I got goosebumps looking at the finished project! It is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! I am in complete awe! Love it, love it, love it!

Wudaifu April 30, 2010 at 2:41 PM  

You asked if anyone knew what your style of crochet is called and I knew immediately. I suspect that you may also know, but are just too modest to announce it. And actually there are several different names by which such crochet projects are known. Here is a sampling of just some of the names: BEAUTIFUL, AWESOME, INSPIRING, UPLIFTING, AMAZING, ORIGINAL, SATISFYING, LONG-LASTING, PACE-SETTING, ATTRACTIVE, TASTEFUL, LOVELY, SWEET, GORGEOUS, & PRICELESS. There are many more names, as well, but you get the idea. Best Wishes.

Scott and Jillian June 14, 2010 at 9:22 AM  

I can't believe you didn't win or at least place. I like your blanket a lot better than the things that won.


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