It’s been a very cold winter here in the Northeast. Yesterday, temperatures were in the teens! But March is National Crochet Month, and this year’s Crochetville Designer Blog Tour has a Spring Garden theme. I kicked off the tour by sharing my Hydrangea Shrub granny square pattern, and then the dreary weather inspired me to design some more spring-themed grannies. I’ll be releasing one square a week during NatCroMo, and the patterns are available as free Ravelry downloads through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.
I call this pattern A Ray of Sunshine. My maternal grandmother, who taught me to crochet, had a small strip of garden in her mostly concrete backyard. She often grew sunflowers back there, and as a child I remember them often being taller than me! I loved running up and down on the angled metal cellar door as a kid, and the sunflowers were the first thing I would see as I slid/ran down. Sunflowers always brighten my day, and I hope this block does the same for you!
I used some leftover yarns to crochet the square. I had a lot of fun making the petals.
Yesterday, while going through my neglected blog reader, I came across a Moogly tutorial for wet blocking crochet squares. I usually spray block, so I thought I’d try it out on this square. I was able to spread out the petals a bit more.
For this particular block, I can’t decide which version I prefer. What do you think? I’m wondering how I should block the next square I make!
Download the pattern here for free through March 31, 2014.
This month, I plan to highlight crochet on my blog by sharing interviews with crochet designers, reviews of crochet books, and introducing several new crochet patterns. (For my own sanity, I won’t repeat last year’s daily NatCroMo blogging though!)
I think all of my regular readers know that crochet is my favorite craft. (Ssshh, don’t tell the knitting – it could get jealous!) My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 9 years old, but I didn’t learn to read patterns until I was 27. One of my first attempts at pattern reading was inspired by my desire to crochet a granny square. (I learned using Julie A. Bolduc‘s Basic Granny Square.)
The theme of this year’s NatCroMo blog tour is Spring Garden, and since granny squares were my original inspiration for learning to read patterns (which eventually led me into designing), I thought I’d introduce a new motif pattern today.
I call this 6″ (15 cm) square the Hydrangea Shrub. When I was growing up, my grandmother’s neighbor had delightful, multi-colored hydrangea shrubs in her front yard. I loved looking at them as I walked up to my grandmother’s house, and ever since, hydrangeas always remind me of spring.
I took pictures of those hydrangeas in the small park adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History. I love all the vibrant and pastel colors you can find hydrangeas in.
To crochet the Hydrangea Shrub square, you’ll use basic crochet stitches (the chain, double crochet, and single crochet); working in rounds; increasing; joining new colors; and bullions, crossed stitches, and post stitches. Written instructions for the last three stitches are provided in the pattern.
Download this pattern free with coupon code NatCroMo14 through March!
Halos of Hope is the featured charity for the blog tour. They provide volunteer-crafted hats to cancer centers around the country. If you’d like to crochet some hats for your local center, you can find recommended patterns here.
Enjoy the rest of the tour, and happy crocheting!
You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here. Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!
This month’s giveaway sponsor is Michelle’s Assortment. Michelle sells her wireworked shawl pins, stitch markers, bookmarks, and charms on Etsy and at fiber events around the country. You may remember that I had the opportunity to meet her at Vogue Knitting Live in January.
I snapped that picture of her in her booth, where I helped out for a few hours. Michelle has some lovely work. In fact, I’m the proud owner of three of her stunning shawl pins.
In addition to her Etsy shop, Michelle can be found online as CraftyFlutterby on Ravelry and on the Michelle’s Assortment Facebook page. Michelle will be a vendor at several upcoming fiber events, including the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival from March 14 through March 16. (I had a fabulous time at the festival last year, which you can read about here.) She’ll also be at several Ohio events in the next few months: A Knitter’s Fantasy in April, OddMall in May, the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in August, and the Autumn Fiber Festival in October.
Michelle will also be the MKAL giveaway sponsor in November. Thanks, Michelle, for your generosity and support!
Michelle will be providing the winner’s choice of any straight pin with a single bead in her shop inventory. You can find her current inventory of straight pins in her Etsy shop here. Be aware that her stock is likely to change by the end of March after the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival. (The shawl pins shown above are, from left to right: the Heart Shaped Stone Bead, the Winter is Coming Shawl Pin, and the Glass Bead with Hot Pink Wrap.)
To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during Marcj in the relevant spoiler thread onRavelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday, March 31, 2014. (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with theUnderground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.) Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry. One winner will be chosen at random on or about April 3.
At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm. Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth. It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City). I ran into her again at 2014′s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.
Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?
Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.
UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.
Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester. I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.
UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?
Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.
UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?
Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”
UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.
Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.
My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!
By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013. It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!
I’m happy to introduce my pattern from the collection, the Symmetrical Scallops Scarf.
The sample was knit in Seaweed, which reminds me of the darker green colors we see in our waterways here in New York City. The pattern is based on a stunning vintage counterpane in Knitting Counterpanes: Traditional Coverlet Patterns for Contemporary Knitters by Mary Walker Phillips. (It’s a wonderful book, by the way, and I’m so glad it was republished after being out-of-print for many years.)
I’ll be co-hosting a knit-a-long with the four other designers featured in the collection, Tian Connaughton, Nazanin S. Fard, Faye Kennington, and Carol Schoenfelder. The collection has something for everyone – 2 blankets, 2 scarves, a shawl, mitts, a hat, and mittens – and you can join in the KAL by casting on any one of the projects. Ravelry members can see all the patterns on the Chroma 2014 Collection source page here.
One of the interesting things about being published in this collection was that Knit Picks had a sample knitter create the sample, which means that I can join in the knit-a-long to finish my own version! I started it way back in July when I was working on the pattern, but it’s been in hibernation for quite a while. My scarf will be in Parakeet.
(You only need 3 skeins for the scarf, but I have an extra.) I love these colors, too, so I’m excited to see how my version turns out.
The KAL starts on March 3 and runs through May 5. Knit Picks is donating 5 print copies of the entire collection for giveaway prizes, so why not join in? You can find the details in this thread in the KnitPicks Lovers group on Ravelry. I hope to see you there!
Today, I’m sharing a guest post with Sharon Silverman as part of her blog tour for her latest book, Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets. I previously interviewed Sharon here as part of her blog tour for Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques. I was all ready to write an introduction to Sharon, but she’s been kind enough to introduce herself in the guest post! You can also find links to where to find her online at the end of her post. All photos are copyright Sharon Silverman and used with permission.
I’ve inserted a few comments in purple. Enjoy the post!
Tunisian Crochet Hits Its Stride
Thank you to Underground Crafter for the invitation to write a guest blog. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on Tunisian crochet.
First, a little bit about me. I became a crochet designer in a roundabout way. After writing several travel guides for Stackpole Books, editor Kyle Weaver asked me to do another guide to an area about ninety minutes away from my home. It just wasn’t the right project for me. My children were little, it would have involved a lot of commuting, and I didn’t have the essential insider knowledge that the book deserved. However, we really liked working together, and Kyle mentioned that Stackpole had just started a craft line. His exact question to me was, “Can you do anything?”
Why, yes! I crochet. The timing was perfect, since Stackpole had just released Basic Knitting. They hired me to write Basic Crocheting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started. I rediscovered my love of the craft, was introduced to the fabulous yarn produced today, met a lot of fantastic designers, developed a great working relationship with photographer Alan Wycheck and editors Mark Allison and Kathryn Fulton at Stackpole, and have never looked back. After that first volume, I wrote Beyond Basic Crocheting, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, Crochet Pillows, Crochet Scarves, and Tunisian Crochet for Baby (coming September 2014), all for Stackpole; and Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets for Leisure Arts. My designs have appeared in the 2006 Crochet Pattern-a-Day Calendar and in Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health (reviewed by Marie here). I am a design member of The National NeedleArts Association and a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America. I have taught at venues large and small, and was featured on three episodes of HGTV’s “Uncommon Threads.”
When I was browsing through a stitch dictionary while designing for Beyond Basic Crocheting, I came across something I hadn’t seen before: Tunisian crochet. I didn’t have a long Tunisian hook, but I tried a few stitches on a regular crochet hook. Wow! I had never seen fabric like that created with a crochet hook. It immediately hit me that Tunisian crochet was the perfect solution to the problem I refer to as “rivers of double crochet.” That look does not have much to commend it, in my opinion, and I am always disappointed when I see it in today’s designs. (I think when people disparage crochet, that’s the style they’re reacting to. Can’t blame ‘em.)
Anyway, Tunisian had none of that “loopy” look. I started with a swatch of Tunisian simple stitch. It went so fast! I remember laughing out loud because it was simply so much fun to do. Soon I grabbed some scrap variegated yarn to see how that would look. The way the colors on the return pass appeared between the vertical bars of the forward pass…it was stunning. In short order I tried every single Tunisian stitch pattern in that book. Wait a minute: you mean I can make fabric that looks knitted and purled? Lace? Cables? Relief stitches without having to work around a post? And I can do all of that with a crochet hook? I’m in!
After putting one Tunisian pattern in Beyond Basic Crocheting, I started thinking about a book with all Tunisian patterns. With the right size hook and the right weight of yarn, Tunisian didn’t have to be bulky or just for blankets. It was perfect for garments and accessories as well. I wanted to call the book Tunisian Crochet: Not Just for Afghans Anymore! but Stackpole preferred the more sedate Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting.
At that time is wasn’t unusual for crocheters to say, “Huh?” when I mentioned Tunisian crochet. But everyone I taught it to was crazy about it. This was near the beginning of what I happily think of as the Tunisian crochet renaissance. Other designers were discovering or re-discovering Tunisian and doing fantastic things with it.
Fast forward to today. The Tunisian crochet group on Ravelry has almost 5,000 members—we’re waiting for you! Major magazines now feature Tunisian patterns as a matter of course. And the books! Scads of books either exclusively Tunisian crochet, or with a substantial number of patterns. The Tunisian Crochet Group on Yahoo is an excellent resource and a place to get questions answered. And, of course, you can check YouTube for tutorials.
One indefatigable proponent of Tunisian crochet is Kim Guzman (interviewed by Marie here). I think I have all of her Tunisian crochet books. Kim wrote a wonderful post encouraging all of us to be Tunisian crochet cheerleaders. You can read it here.
Along with Kim, many other designers are hard at work creating fantastic Tunisian patterns. I hesitate to name them because I know I’ll forget somebody—whoever you are, please forgive me, and post your name in the comments!—but some people whose work you might be interested in are Doris Chan, Dora Ohrenstein (interviewed here, book reviews here and here), Kristin Omdahl, Robyn Chachula (book review here), Vashti Braha (interviewed by Marie here), Marty Miller, Lily Chin, Karen Whooley, Sheryl Thies (book review by Marie here), Tammy Hildebrand (interviewed by Marie here), Darla Fanton, Jennifer Hansen, and others. A quick search for “Tunisian crochet” on Amazon gives a long list of titles.
The book gave me the opportunity to try some interesting Tunisian techniques, including stranded colorwork. I used that for the Bright Strands blanket.
Tunisian Crochet for Baby is currently going through the editing process. Here is a sneak peek at some of the projects.
Thanks for stopping by, Sharon!
Today is National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association‘s annual event to bring attention to women’s heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. This year, Jimmy Beans Wool founder Laura Zander is bringing her Stitch Red campaign to crochet, with Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health, a collection of 31 patterns. Since I don’t have much red in my wardrobe, I thought I’d spread awareness by reviewing Crochet Red, instead. (A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to support The Heart Truth campaign.)
The book opens with a stunning image of a stack of red crocheted items, and then shares a thumbnail of each of the designs in the table of contents. Not surprisingly, the book then launches into a series of notes, forewords, and prefaces (by the director of the Heart Truth, Deborah Norville, Vanna White, and Laura Zander), each of which discusses women’s heart health.
The next section of the book, Projects and Profiles, includes 30 patterns. Each pattern includes a designer profile. In many of these, the designer shares their own story related to heart health. Most patterns also include a health tip from the designer, such as their favorite heart healthy foods or exercise. Most patterns, especially the wearables, include multiple views of the project. The exceptions are the two wraps, neither of which is shown on a model, and the smaller projects, like the mitts, which just include one picture. The garment patterns also include schematics (in red, naturally). All patterns are written in U.S. crochet abbreviations, and five patterns also include international stitch symbols.
The next section, Heart-Healthy Living, includes a variety of information about heart health, such as self test, exercise recommendations, tips for staying motivated about healthy lifestyle changes, and nine recipes.
The Crochet Know-How section shares the standard “back of book” information like a glossary of abbreviations, hook sizes, yarn weights, and a US to UK abbreviation conversion chart. It also includes short photo tutorials of the basic crochet stitches (chain, single, slip stitch, half double, and double crochet) and the adjustable ring for crocheting in the round. The book ends with a bonus pattern, a list of yarn suppliers, and an index.
Throughout the book, images of mountains of red yarn, piles of red crocheted fabric, and models in red garments are presented against mostly white backgrounds. The contrast creates a really beautiful effect and you just want to keep flipping through the book. The layout is particularly helpful in the Heart-Healthy Living section because it contains a lot of text. The contrasting colors and the images break up the wall of text and keep the book visually interesting.
Overall, the book includes 31 patterns.
- Women’s top (cardigans, tunics, shrugs, pullover, etc.): 9
- Women’s coat or jacket: 4
- 3 each: cowls, scarves, bags
- 2 each: hats, blankets, wraps
- 1 each: pillow, mitts, sachet
- 13 easy,
- 13 intermediate, and
- 4 experienced.
My favorite designs are the Flower Garland Cowl by Robyn Chachula, the Gingham Afghan by Tanis Galik, the Heart Shaped Coat by Nicky Epstein, the Petal Cabled Hat by Linda Permann, the Slouchy Cowl by Edie Eckman, and the Sweater with Cowl by Marly Bird. Ravelry members can see the 30 main patterns on the book’s source page here. (The bonus pattern, Kristin Nicholas‘ Heart Sachet, is visible on the book’s front cover.)
Although this book has a stunning layout and a great collection of patterns by many of today’s most popular designers, there are a few things I wish were done differently. I would have liked to see the wraps on models, particularly since they can be challenging to style. I think many crocheters would want to see more patterns with international stitch symbols. Most of the garment patterns are in 3-4 sizes and some crocheters will be looking for more. The Heart-Healthy Living chapter is a bit lost at the end – putting it up front would have made everyone look through it and would probably have a greater impact on awareness. I wish there was more information about how much of the proceeds were going to The Heart Truth. (Is it a percentage? A fixed amount per book? Is there a maximum donation? etc.)
This is a surprisingly affordable collection of patterns, particularly since there are so many garments. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who likes pattern collections and who enjoys crocheting projects for women.
Full disclosure: A free review copy of Crochet Red was provided by Sixth & Spring Books. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Check out the reviews if you’re considering either title.
You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here. Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!
This month’s giveaway sponsor is sarahkincheloe on Etsy. Sarah’s shop carries an array of beautiful and functional organizers for crochet hooks and knitting needles. In addition to donating a prize for the giveaway, I asked Sarah to share some background with KAL participants and my readers in this interview. All images are used with her permission.
Sarah Kincheloe with her vintage sewing machine in the background.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and sewing?
Sarah: My mother and aunt are truly remarkable crafters. My aunt sewed all of her husband’s suits and button down shirts back in the day and my mom made most of my and my brother’s clothes (with matching dresses for my dolls, of course). I wholly resisted learning to sew, but did pick up crochet and needle point among other things.
As for knitting, it’s one thing no one in my family did, and maybe that’s the reason it intrigued me. I bought a book for $4 at a craft store and a pair of needles and taught myself when I was 24. My first project was a scarf that rolled horribly but by the time I got to my third or fourth it was a double knit scarf with intarsia that had even the old Polish ladies at my knitting shop in Brooklyn scratching their heads. I’ve never been much for huge projects but I’ve knitted a lot of little toys and stuffed animals as well as blankets, socks, mittens and the like.
Chocolate Brown and Blue Dots Circular Knitting Needle Organizer.
UC: What was the original inspiration for opening your Etsy shop?
Sarah: I wanted a nice knitting needle organizer and couldn’t find one I liked. I asked my mom to sew me one for Christmas and she did. I think this is what convinced me that sewing is actually useful. I flew back to grad school in Chicago with an old school metal Singer sewing machine in the carry on.
I already had an Etsy shop selling hand painted and black and white photography, another passion of mine, but my darkroom was in Texas and I was in Chicago so I decided to try my hand at sewing useful things that were also nice to look at.
Purple and Green DPN organizer.
UC: Your organizers and cases are geared towards knitters and crocheters. Why did you focus on these products and what do you enjoy about making them?
Sarah: I focus on knitting and crochet because I understand those things. I can anticipate how a dpn roll should work because I have an unwieldy amount of dpns myself. People have requested organizers for everything from paintbrushes to bookbinding tools to midwife equipment but I always feel more confident creating something I can really envision using myself.
Inside of an interchangeable needles organizer.
UC: Your photographs have a really clean look. Do you have any photography tips to share with crafters?
Sarah: Seek out good natural light and edit your photos to reflect the real item. I use Photoshop to get a white background as well. It adds extra time and effort to each listing, but I think it’s worth it for the cohesive look in my shop.
Whales straight needles organizer.
UC: How do you balance your business with your professional job? What tips do you have for other small business owners who are also working at another job?
Sarah: This is a constant question in my mind as I do have a full time career that I love as well as a toddler, a husband, and a huge urban garden where I grow as much of our food as possible. I set aside chunks of time to sew and make sure to keep up with orders on a daily basis. Luckily winter is my busiest time of year, and that is when the garden is quieter. I have used slower times to build up a lot of inventory (about 300 items) so I never have to enter panic mode.
Since my day job is pretty intense and requires me to be “on” (I’m a social worker doing therapy with adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), it’s nice to have time to just sew and listen to podcasts and unwind a little.
Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Sarah, and for sponsoring this month’s MKAL giveaway!
Sarah will be providing the winner’s choice of any needle organizer in her shop inventory with a price of $42 or less. You can check out her organizers in the straight needle cases, circular needle cases, dpn rolls, for interchangeable sets, and hanging needle organizers sections of her Etsy shop.
To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during February in the relevant spoiler thread on Ravelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, February 28, 2014. (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with the Underground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.) Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry. One winner will be chosen at random on or about March 3.