Valerie Baber: a designer with a knack for beauty

If you love knit and crochet accessories that are both beautiful and practical, you really should take a look at ValerieBaberDesigns.  Since 2012, her designs on Etsy have really stood out as both impressively beautiful and unique. The first time I saw her shop I clicked through everything admiring her work. It was – and still is – different than anything I had seen in any crochet pattern magazine.

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ValerieBaberDesigns

“I love architecture from the past and continue to bring this inspiration into my designs,” Valerie says. “I am amazed and awed by the incredible designs of the past especially the Gothic architectural designs. The beautiful and detailed designs of these amazing buildings have so much inspiration to draw from.”

As you can see, Valerie is also inspired by nature. “It is perfection at its best yet not so perfect,” she says. “It all blends together and inspiration is never ending. Both architecture and design of the past and the present as well as nature work together seamlessly in design and you can see many influences of nature in Gothic architecture as you will also see in my more recent designs. Stained glass on a neutral base of stone in the beautiful cathedrals of the past and flowers in a field of grass and trees have a similarity in colour and influence. You can see in the architecture of the past the influence nature had on many artists as it does today.”

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ValerieBaberDesigns

“Colour and shades are also a great influence for me,” she continues. “A yarn colour may inspire me to go a certain direction when I am designing. I love shades and subtle colours of architecture as much as I love the bright bold colours of stained glass and in the nature and landscapes around us. I love bringing these influences into my designs.”

Valerie started knitting at 18 when her sister invited her to attend a class. The class signaled the beginning of her designing career. “The first item I knit was a combination of three different sweater patterns I combined to make a style which I couldn’t find a pattern for. My teacher thought I was crazy and was sure it wouldn’t work. To both of our surprise it did!”

As she progressed in knitting, Valerie continued to change patterns to suit what she

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ValerieBaberDesigns

wanted. Then in 1994, after her first child was born, she opened her first business HeyDiddleDiddle Knitwear and designed ready to wear children’s sweaters and hats for boutiques. She also began to crochet and published patterns with Cast On Magazine.

“A hand injury interrupted my designing, so off to school I went to study Interior Decoration and Design. Oddly enough a back injury interrupted my schooling and I ventured back into designing and making handmade scarves, hats, hand warmers and the like,” she says.

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ValerieBaberDesigns

When another injury occurred this past summer, Valerie started writing crochet patterns for her shop ValerieBaberDesigns. “It’s interesting that injuries have played a big part in my direction. Life is funny. Basically, I have been designing from the first pattern I made and continue to design every day. It’s an amazing joy to me to sit down and pick up some knitting needles or crochet needles and some yarn and just see where I can take it, evolve it, and make it into something beautiful. There isn’t enough time to make all the designs that play around in my mind.”

If you were like me and believe that from looking at the items in Valerie’s store that her patterns are difficult, you might be surprised. I recently made the Elegant Rose Scarf and hand warmers. Here is how they turned out:

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I was quite pleased with the clarity of the pattern and how the scarf and hand warmers were to crochet. If you’re a very confident beginner, you could probably navigate this pattern pretty well, especially with the pictures and charts that Valerie includes in the downloadable. Crocheters with intermediate skills will love it.

In addition to her patterns, Valerie is selling kits. You will definitely want to try these since the yarn is from Sweet Georgia Yarns, a Canadian company, that I hadn’t heard of before working with Valerie.  The 100 percent superwash merino wool yarn is soft and very smooth. It is also hand painted so the colors are vivid and there are small variations of tone throughout.

If you don’t want to make anything, ValerieBaberDesigns sells plenty of ready made products that are suitable for gifts and for yourself. What fun it would be to receive a package with one of these products from a designer who has an incredible knack for beauty!

In our next post, I’ll show you how to make the two-toned roses for this pattern.

Retail giant takes on refugee crafters

The Swedish company IKEA is planning to sell rugs made by Syrian refugees in 2019:

IKEA to sell rugs made by Syrian refugees in 2019

What a great way to help people who need work and a sense of purpose during a time of terrible upheaval and suffering.

Wouldn’t it be great if more companies took on crafters and artists, rather than depending on mass production, to help them make a living doing what they love?

Will AI take over crafting?

Electronics has moved into the crafting world. Check out this article from Make: 

Check Out the Behemoth: An Oversized Robot that Makes Nerdy Quilts

A computer that makes quilts.

Actually, it’s not as astounding as it sounds. Crafters have taken advantage of electronics and computer software programs for a while. That’s how we get laser cut wood, machine embroidery, dobby looms, sock knitters, etc. It’s just that as the development of artificial intelligence (AI) increases, the question we need to ask is how much do we want AI and robots to take over crafting?

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from Pinterest

At present, this robot that makes quilts still needs a human element, but that could change. There is evidence that drones equipped with artificial intelligence have worked autonomously, or independently. What if that happened in crafting? In the future, you could be using a computerized sock knitter.  Before you go to bed, you turn it off and then the next morning awake to realize that the knitter has turned itself back on during the night and has created more socks in a much more intricate pattern than you were making previously. If it had an extra arm, it might even order more yarn on your credit card because you inadvertently left your phone charging nearby. You find that your credit card is maxed out and Knit Picks is calling to see if there is anything else you’d like to order because you are now their very best customer!

While this may sound silly, within techie society there is serious talk of the Singularity, a time when machines become more intelligent than humans. This will completely transform our society and, as you can imagine, we may not be able to master it.

Hollywood has taken this subject and gone wild with it. Think of movies like Terminator and I, Robot.  The X Files had an episode about a computer that began killing people in order to protect itself. What if one day you went to work on your loom in the future and the loom threw a shuttle at you to keep you from disturbing its work?

Computers are certainly capable of making beautiful designs much faster and more intricately than our own capabilities allow. Are we willing to give into the temptation to allow them to make everything for us because we feel that our own creativity  and abilities are not enough?  In the future will we sit around like the blob humans in Pixar’s            Wall-E allowing robots to do everything?

It’s certainly something to consider. Or perhaps I should ask Siri what to do?

 

Snowflakes

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It snowed this weekend. In Colorado mountains, snow is a common winter time experience, but here on the High Plains where the weather can be unpredictable, we don’t take the moisture for granted.

I love snow. People think I’m crazy, but there is nothing more beautiful than watching it fall, from the window of my cozy house. It looks beautiful as it gathers on branches and fence posts. It is also amazingly quiet when it snows. Have you ever listened to the silence? There is something calming about it, almost ethereal.

Do you believe that the presence of God can be found anywhere? In Romans 1, Paul writes:  “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”  In other words, the attributes and presence of God are demonstrated throughout creation. God indwells creation so that it speaks to humanity about his wonder and salvation.

That fact makes for some interesting introspection. What can a tree tell me about God? What can the snow tell me about God? What does my dog say about his creator?

As I lay in bed Sunday morning, listening to the silence of the snowfall, I thought about how snow whispers to me about my Creator. My mind drifted from the silence being similar to God’s still small voice on down to the minute snowflake. Through a microscope, the snowflake is a wonder. No two are alike. All are intricately created as if the angels sat around in heaven cutting them from ice crystals. In the big picture, snowfall transfigures the landscape, making it something beautiful. Snowflakes resemble human beings. They have a common Creator who made no two alike. We are all intricately created with great care. If we all worked together, we could transform this world into something beautiful. Yet, oftentimes, we think that to work together we all have to think, believe and behave the same way. That is impossible!

In his daily post, Father Richard Rohr stated that “spiritual unity is diversity loved and overcome, never mere uniformity.” We can still be unified despite our differences. We can compromise, accept and love each other for who we are and make something beautiful. To do this we will have to give up selfishness and our own feelings of self-importance. However, we do not have to give up the very essence of ourselves; nor do others have to give up what makes them who they are. To require this, to force everyone to be carbon copies of one another, goes against the grain of our Creator and the way God does things.

Just ask the snowflake.

“…Spiritual unity is diversity loved and overcome, never mere uniformity.”

                                                                        – Richard Rohr

Dyeing Silk

I spent the weekend dyeing silk for my shop Pen and Hook. It’s not available yet, but it will be very soon. Meanwhile, my hubby was playing with his video camera and invaded entered my work space. Despite my protests due to the fact that I was in work mode,  he came up with this video about dyeing sari silk. Hope you enjoy it.

GT Designs shouts out for Pen and Hook

Renee, from GT Designs and Vintage Art Supplies on Etsy, recently did a shout out for Pen and Hook on her YouTube channel.  Appreciating the finer points of our bone ivory sari silk ribbon for assemblage art, Renee also shows us her very cool booklets comprised of vintage papers and photographs.

If you’re into assemblage art, or if you just like shopping for an assortment of interesting items, Renee’s store is for you. You will also enjoy her YouTube channel.

 

Thank you, Renee! I really appreciate your creativity and your kindness in doing this. Here is the ribbon that Renee is talking about. It’s a best seller in our store. If you would like to look at it more closely, just click on the link in the caption.

 

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Bone Ivory Dyeable Sari Ribbon

The Fiber Art Saints: Anthony, the fulfilled basket maker

In the early days of Christianity, life was difficult for those who claimed to worship Jesus

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Anthony the Abbot, Piero di Cosimo

Christ. They were harshly persecuted by the Romans and others who disagreed with them. It was during this time, in 270 A.D., that a man named Anthony heard a sermon that inspired him to sell his worldly goods, give the proceeds to the poor and follow Christ (Matthew 19: 21). He wanted to draw close to God, so he left and set out to live in the desert. During this ‘desert period’, which lasted perhaps twenty years, Anthony was a hermit and suffered many temptations. He was also given a gift to heal others. Thus, his reputation grew and people began to seek him out for healing and counsel.

Around this time, Christianity was changing. Roman persecution of the church ended in 303 A.D. and not more than 10 years later, the emperor Constantine ended all persecution toward any religion by declaring freedom of worship. As a result, life for Christians became comfortable for the first time. So much so that some feared that they may deny Christ because they were too comfortable. To guard against this, they sold what they had, gave to the poor, and moved to the desert to take part in what is called the ascetic life and what would become monasticism.

The ascetic life was difficult. Devoted to prayer and drawing closer to God, the ascetics denied themselves of anything that would make them comfortable – sleep, fancy foods (and sometimes food in general), family, friendships and material goods. They lived a very simple life. These men and some women gathered together in communities and became known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

Because of the influx of so many, Anthony opened two monasteries. To support themselves, the monks made baskets. Athanasius, who wrote a biography of Anthony’s life, said this about Anthony’s introduction into the trade that would fund the monasteries:

“According to Athanasius, Saint Anthony heard a voice telling him ‘Go out and see.’ He went out and saw an angel who wore a girdle with a cross … and on his head was a head cover … He was sitting while braiding palm leaves, then he stood up to pray, and again he sat to weave. A voice came to him saying, ‘Anthony, do this and you will rest.’ Henceforth, he started to wear this tunic that he saw, and began to weave palm leaves, and never was bored again.”*

The last statement, “never was bored again” jumped out at me. As a hermit, Anthony did suffer from boredom; in fact, boredom was one of the many temptations with which the devil used to torture him when he first lived in the desert. Boredom can be an awful state since it is borne out of frustration and  a life that lacks purpose. It can also cause people to do wrong things – ever hear the statement “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? Yet, boredom can also stimulate us on to greater creativity if we let it.**

Basket making or weaving seemed to be the antidote to Anthony’s problem with boredom. It gave him a means to support himself and his people. It supported him so that he could spend his life praying – the very reason he had moved to the desert.

Nowadays, many people use the fiber arts to help support them as they do other things that are important. For example, opening a fiber arts business can be a means of helping a mother stay home to raise her children. I sell yarn and hand made goods so that I can support myself later on in life, but I have never thought of it as a means of support so that I could live a life devoted to God. That’s pretty awesome.

One thing that I have also noticed about the fiber arts is that they can yield simplicity if we let them. By making our own clothing, household decor, goods and even gifts, we learn not to depend on outside sources so much. We may not have as much as others because making things takes longer than going to a store and buying ready made, but what we have is good quality and will last. By learning new techniques and teaching others, we are certainly not bored and the quality of our work is fulfilling.  The time we spend making can be devoted to prayer. Maybe this fiber arts lifestyle is a God thing after all.

What do you think?

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Fathers

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_the_Great

http://www.aquinasandmore.com/fuseaction/store.patronsaintpage/saint/167

**http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141218-why-boredom-is-good-for-you