Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Confluence of Art & Science: Alchemy of Crochet & Chemistry

Welcome Travelers and Tourists!

Thank you for stopping by today and visiting! Please take a moment to read all that awaits you and at the end of this journey you'll be gifted with a pair of awesome discounts to use at my Ravelry store, Shrone Designs! I'd also encourage you to visit the other designers and show them support by purchasing their wonderful designs. Your support is greatly appreciated!

I picked today as my stop along the tour because it's The Ides of March. Just what are the Ides of March? It was a term used by Romans to denote the middle of the month and it marked the full moon. We recall the Ides of March because it was the day in which Julius Caesar was assassinated. I first read the play by Shakespeare when I was about 13 years old and it has stayed with me over the years.

Alchemy: Crochet & Chemistry

Today I'm releasing three new self-published patterns that compliment my Caffeine and Chocolate Molecule Earrings published last year in Crochetscene 2015: A lovely trio of porphyrin molecule pendants! Behold the splendor of Phthalocyanin, Chlorophyll, and Heme!

Left: Phthalocyanin; Center: Chlorophyll; Right: Heme
I'm a science geek at heart but I also have an inner artist. Many years ago as a biology pre-med student in Organic Chemistry class I was awed by the beautiful symmetry of the heme bio molecule. I was so excited by the crisp geometric shape that I didn't understand why my fellow classmates were unimpressed by its majesty. Thinking back on it I'm sure they were terrified of failing the next exam and since there wasn't a requirement for artistic appreciation of molecular shapes there was no need to concern themselves with such details.

What prompted me to translate the two-dimensional structures of these molecules was a submission call. Yet, how to go about manifesting a line drawing into a functional crochet piece? My philosophy is that if you dig deep enough into a subject matter you'll find math at the center of it all. Crochet is all about using math to create either a beautiful or functional piece out of yarn or thread. I opted for thread to re-create the thin, sharp lines of a standard 2D molecular line drawing as well as to make it into a fun, wearable piece of jewelry.

The math used was quite simple since the molecules are composed of hexagons and pentagons with equal length sides. Circular construction was used in combination with chains and single crochets reinforced with slip stitches to provide rigidity to the openness of the structure. A technique I call "the loop back" is used to created the pentagon and hexagon extensions. I explain how to use the loop back technique in my pattern, of course!

Lovely Departing Gifts

Your support of my creative efforts by purchasing one or all of these geeky pendants to festoon your suprasternal notch is greatly appreciated! I have two incentive offers available to use in my Ravelry store.

15% Discount on Entire Purchase
Expires March 31, 2016

Buy 2 porphyrin molecule pendant patterns, get 3rd free! (Save $3.50)
Coupon Code: ********** (answer will be in all caps)
The code for this coupon is the answer to the following question: In William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, who bid Caesar beware the Ides of March?
Expires March 15, 2016 at midnight

Monday, March 9, 2015

My Totally True Amazing Adventure in Growing Cotton

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NatCroMo2015 Designer Blog Tour

This is my second time participating in the blog tour and I’m glad to be part of this amazing virtual experience! I thank Amy and Donna for making this event possible as I know they put a lot of energy into making this happen. When you’ve finished reading my post, please visit the other participants on the tour. Everyone participating has something unique to share and you don't want to miss a day! All photos are clickable to view a larger image.

When I signed up for this year’s blog tour I asked Amy if it would be alright to share my adventure in growing cotton plants as it was such an amazing experience for me, yet not entirely on topic of crochet. She agreed as it’s truly an extraordinary journey. While we may be familiar with cotton yarn as crocheters, what about the plant that produces this ubiquitous versatile fiber?

Now you might think that a thread crocheter like myself would want to grow cotton because it is the fiber that I primarily crochet and design with, and that I plan on spinning my own thread. On the contrary! I grew them because of their sublimely beautiful flowers and foliage! The flowers are so marvelous that I was tempted to sing to them out loud. I sort of did in my mind. I definitely beamed at them quite a bit.

I’ve been engaged in some of kind of gardening for more than 20 years as it is a way for me to direct my creative energy. Gardening helps me be patient, to have delayed gratification, connects me with the seasons and nature, inspires me, and is restorative. Growing cotton has been one of my most fantastic gardening experiences as there are many milestones to mark progress. Let's get started in recreating this awesome journey!

It Starts with Some Seeds
Considering that cotton has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years there is an abundance of information about how to grow it readily available on the Internet. This is how I learned about growing cotton in addition to the practical experience I gained by growing it. Most importantly the Internet was how I discovered that some states (mostly where cotton is commercially grown) have laws concerning the cultivation of cotton for personal or ornamental use. Some states prohibit it while others require registration and compliance of a few laws. In North Carolina I contacted my county's Plant Protection Specialist who came to my house each month to check and replace a free boll weevil trap. 

Cotton is a member of the Mallow family (Malvaceae) making it related to okra, cacao, and hibiscus. The two species of cotton most commonly grown are upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and pima cotton (Gossypium barbadense). Pima cotton is distinguished by its long fiber length as well as other attributes.

Cotton seed is available for purchase from a number of online retailers. As it requires at least 120 days to grow in order to yield cotton it is grown in areas with at least that many frost free days. I start my seeds indoors to make sure the plants are off to a good start before transplanting. I've found blog posts from fellow gardeners who've successful grown cotton in Oregon and Indiana. 

The commercially grown cotton we typically see has green leaves, green bolls, cream flowers that fade to pink, and white fibers. More colorful combinations exist that are spectacular and readily available to cultivate. There is a variety of red foliated cotton as well as one that is black foliated. In addition to white lint fiber there are varieties of natural green lint and brown lint fibers. 

Colorful Cotton Seeds
White lint fiber Green lint fiber
Brown lint fiber

Germination occurs within 4-14 days. The cotyledons are big and green no matter what color the leaf will later become. Red and black foliated cotton plants will, however, have reddish stems.

Plants are grown indoors and transplanted up to bigger pots as they grow. In April when the weather warms up I'll let them play in the sun on the porch if the temperature is in the mid to upper 60s and bring them inside at night. Once all danger of frost has ended and the overnight low temperature remains above 60°F I transplant them into the ground. Cotton also does very well in containers.

Meet the Cotton Plants
I grew three varieties of cotton plant to get an idea of what each had to offer. I was quite smitten with the petite size of the Black Beauty cotton, its deep pink flowers, and handsomely dark foliage.

Red Foliated Cotton
Fertilized plants grew over 5 feet with tallest reaching 6 feet; non-fertilized grew about 4 feet. Grows well in a container. All plants received at least 6-8 hours of full sun. Not deer resistant as deer will eat leaves and bolls.
Pink & Cream Flower Red-green leaves
Red bolls White fiber

Black Beauty Ornamental Cotton
Fertilized plants grew about 2 feet. Did very well in a container. Flowered later than red or green plants. Strikingly beautiful flowers. Not deer resistant.
Pink Flower Black leaves
Black bolls White fiber

Green Fiber Cotton
One fertilized plant grew over 6 feet, others around 4-5 feet. Grew well in container. Color of green fiber variable and amazing. Not deer resistant.
Cream Flower Green leaves
Green bolls Green fiber

Then One Day Something Magical Appears
I'll never forget that morning I went out to check on the cotton plants and found the first bracts! I made a lot of happy sounds and I probably danced around a little. A flower on a cotton plant is called a square and there are 4 stages of flower development: pinhead square, match head square, candle, and bloom. Once the first flowers appeared in June the plants kept flowering until the first killing frost sometime in November.

Flower Stages
Pinhead Square Match head Square
Candle Bloom

The flower lasts for about a day before it begins to fade. White flowers turn pink, pink turns deeper pink, and the deep pink turns magenta. After about a week the flower falls off revealing a little boll that will take about 50 days to grow into cotton, provided that the deer don't eat it first.

Cotton Bolls
Baby boll Mature boll
Opening Ready to pick

Cotton plants are heat and drought tolerant and like at least 6 hours of full sun. However, these are ideal conditions. The plants I grew in 12" containers with less than 6 hours of sun did well, though didn't get as big or have as many flowers as the ones in the ground. Once they got established they flourished. Aside from watering them the only thing I routinely did was apply fertilizer which seemed to help one grow well over 6 feet. Insects seemed to hang out on the leaves but never did any damage to the plants. During a 6 week dry period in June and July the deer would help themselves to eating the leaves and bolls. This caused many of the first bolls to form to be lost. Once the rain returned the deer found other plants to eat.
Happy Plants
Plants in Containers Topped out over 6 feet
Average height of
cotton plants was 4-5 feet
Base of plant that
stood over 6 feet

The Journey Ends..Sort Of
I originally wanted to winter over some of my plants but state law requires them to be destroyed by the last day in November to prevent any boll weevils from hanging out. I was sad to have to say good-bye to these majestic plants that I had spent 8 months getting to know. Then I realized that it wasn't exactly good-bye because I'd plant their seeds in the spring and I'd get to know their children and grandchildren and so on. On February 26th of this year I planted 18 seeds and had the first one germinate 4 days later. On March 4th I had 15 out of the 18 germinated.

The Next Generation

Thank you for accompanying me on this virtual journey! This year's journey will be documented so if you'd like to follow along I'll be posting pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Tsu.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Story of a Design: Cintamani Jewelry

Cintamani necklace and earring set was inspired during my attendance at the 2013 CGOA Conference in Concord last October. I was doing some color swatching during Professional Development Day when fellow crochet designer and friend Lynn noticed what I was doing and said my doodle would make a great earring. Others agreed and I felt inspired to turn the swatch into a usable design. After conference I set about creating a matching necklace as the pair of earrings needed something more.

The design was inspired by element of mehndi as well as gold jewelry from India. The final result is reminiscent of an exotic talisman of precious rubies, amethysts, and sapphires in-layed within brilliant gold. The inlay effect is created by working behind and in front of stitches in addition to the back loop only. This creates subtle layering that is less dramatic that front or back post stitching. Two colors are alternated on the outer round to create jewels; substitute a suitable variegated thread to achieve a color-changing effect.

Pattern is available at the subscription website 

Finished Size: Necklace medallion - 2.5” diameter
Neckband - 15.5” circumference including clasps
Earring - 2” diameter
Cintamani is a Sanskrit word that means “thought gem” or “wish-fulfilling stone.” It refers to the legendary Cintamani Stone, an artifact in Hindu and Buddhist mythology thought to possess extraordinary powers. According to the legend, the gem fell from the heavens to Earth, but since it was so powerful and potentially dangerous, it was sent to the mystical hidden city of Shambhala.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Story of a Design: Bread & Butter Coaster

This quick and easy to make coaster came about through a conversation I had with my mentor, crochet designer Kathryn White. We were able to spend some time together at the 2013 CGOA Conference in Concord, NC. One of her helpful suggestions to me was to add more simple designs to my portfolio. She called them "bread and butter" designs. We looked through a stack of mehndi designs I brought with me and we chose one that was fairly straightforward as far as translating it into crochet.

When I got back from conference I began working on the translating. Some of what we talked about got tossed aside once I started designing. Things will take on a life of their own. I took to heart her idea of "bread and butter" and went outside of my usual color palette of purples and pinks and ventured into the territory of yellows and browns. Originally this was supposed to be a doily but when I reached the outer round I looked at it and knew it wanted to be a coaster.

It just so happened that Crochet World Magazine had an upcoming deadline for submissions and their color palette for their August issue were the exact colors I had chosen to design with. Though it looks like a sunflower of sorts, the colors are meant to represent bread, butter, and then the crust.

Available in the August 2014 issue of
Crochet World Magazine
My photo of Bread & Butter Coaster