Granny Square Love blog tour day 4 and giveaway

I’m excited to be a stop on Sarah London’s blog tour for her new book, Granny Square Love: A New Twist on a Crochet Classic for Your Home.  Keep reading for an interview with Sarah, a review of her book, a promo code which allows you to save $10 off the retail price of the book, and a giveaway inspired by the book!

Interview

Sarah London is a crochet designer, teacher, and author living in Australia.  She has a large body of self-published work, and has also been published in Inside Crochet (UK) and Flow Vakantieboek (Dutch).  You can find Sarah on her blog, her Ravelry designer page, her Twitter page, or on Flickr.  (In particular, I love the vibrant pictures in her Granny Squares, Wool Eater Blanket, iCrochet, and A Granny a Day sets.)  All photos in this post used with the permission of Sarah and her publisher, North Lights Books/F+W Media.

Sarah London

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Sarah: My Grandmother taught me to crochet, I began with granny squares made from scraps of yarn and then progressed to crocheted roses.  (UC comment: It seems that Sarah’s grandmother encouraged more advanced projects than mine :).  I made nothing but scarves worked in rows for the first several years after my grandmother taught me to crochet!)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Sarah: I love color and I love yarn. Crochet was the perfect medium to combine the two and hence my design journey began.

Stool cover, from Granny Square Love.

UC: I’ve just read through Granny Square Love.  Your grandmother, like mine, inspired your love of the granny square.  What about this motif appeals to you as a designer/author?

Sarah: I love, love, love granny squares! I love the rhythmic construction of each square and the opportunity within each square to create a kaleidoscope of color.

UC: Crocheters and granny squares (and granny square home decor items) sometimes get a bad rap.  When you’re designing with granny squares, do you feel any additional pressure to break those stereotypes?

Sarah: Granny squares are trending at the moment, we are seeing them on international catwalks and as a result the trend is filtering into our homes. As with all trends it either appeals to you or it doesn’t. I don’t set out to break stereotypes, I would like to think though that perhaps someone may take a second glance and embrace the trend and be inspired through my dispersion of color when they would otherwise maybe not.  (UC comment: Like Sarah, I’ve been so excited to see one of my favorite crochet motifs reinterpreted on catwalks in recent years!  Sarah’s amazing eye for color really does show the granny square in a lovely light.)

Bold bedroom cushion, from Granny Square Love.

UC: What was the design process like for Granny Square Love?

Sarah: I basically flowed through each room of my home with a hook in my hand. Cascade Yarns generously donated all the yarn for my book. Once the huge shipment of yarn arrived on my doorstep, the hooking began. Abbreviated notes were scribbled down throughout the construction of each project. Once I completed each project then I would write up the pattern. Once that process was complete then it was time for the photography. I shot all of the photography for Granny Square Love with the help of my daughter Emma.  Bless her heart, she had the tedious task of holding the gray card for each of the shots and there were many! All in all it was an amazing process, especially considering that my publisher and I were on different continents!

UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides yours of course)?

Sarah: I don’t have an absolute favorite, but my most treasured are those that my Grandmother has generously passed on to me.

Stockings, from Granny Square Love.

UC: Do you have any favorite crochet/craft blogs or websites that you’d like to share?

Sarah: Cascade Yarns,  where you’ll find the most delectable yarns, and Crochet Poet’s Pattern Collection, the absolute best online resource for crochet lovers! 

Thanks so much, Sarah, for stopping by for an interview, and for introducing me to the Crochet Poet’s Pattern Collection.  I’m amazed by the sheer quantity of patterns posted there!

Blog Tour Schedule

Don’t forget to stop by and check out the other stops on the Granny Square Love Blog Tour!

September 26 Sarah London’s Blog

September 27 Crochet Concupiscence

September 28 Knit Purl Gurl

September 29 Underground Crafter

September 30 Interlocking Crochet

October 1 Crochet Mama’s Blog

October 3 Crafty Pod

October 4 Lindamade

October 5 Cute Crochet Chat

October 6 Crochet Liberation Front

October 7 Create Loves

October 8 Whip Up

Book Review

I received a PDF review copy of Crochet Granny Squares from F+W Media as part of this blog tour.  I can’t address how the book is printed or bound, so my review will focus on the content and overall appearance of the book.

Granny Square Love includes many elements of Sarah’s signature style – vibrant colors, fun photography, and, of course, grannies!  The book is organized into six chapters.

Getting Started is a beginners introduction to crocheting and granny squares.  This section includes a brief overview of materials and multi-color illustrations of the basic crochet stitches.  I found these illustrations to be larger and clearer than most.  There are three pages of step-by-step photos of the process of making a granny square.  Finally, this section includes an overview of patterns and addresses both abbreviations and stitch symbols.  (The actual abbreviations and stitch symbols are explained in the reference section in the back of the book.)

The next five sections feature projects focused on different rooms in the house. Each pattern is presented using both U.S. abbreviations and stitch symbols.

The Living Room includes cushions in two sizes, an ottoman slipcover, a sofa blanket, the holiday stockings, and the lampshade cover, which is one of my favorite projects in the book.

Lampshade cover, from Granny Square Love.

The Kitchen includes patterns for the stool cover, the dishcloth, potholders, a grocer’s tote, and an apron pocket.

The Dining Room features a tablecloth trim, placemats, napkin holders, a circular garland, and a tea cozy.

The Bedroom includes a decorated headboard, bedsheet trim, a bedroom blanket, a hot water bottle cover, and the striking black and white bold bedroom cushion.

The Bathroom and Laundry includes patterns for coat hangers, a curtain, a bathmat, and towel trim.

The book closes with some reference information, including hook sizes, a yarn comparison chart, and a guide to pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.

What I like about this book:

  • Sarah includes “Color Commentary” throughout the book.  She is known for her use of vibrant colors, and shares some insight into her pairings of different colors.
  • The patterns includes both stitch symbols and abbreviations.
  • The photographs are great “eye candy” and Granny Square Love is a fun book to look through.  It will definitely get your creative juices flowing.
  • The book is very beginner friendly.  The illustrations are quite clear and the step-by-step photographs of the granny square in progress are very helpful.
  • The patterns are well organized, so it would be easy to find one you liked later.

What I don’t like about this book (or what’s missing):

  • The information on pattern reading is largely in the back in the reference section.  The book seems targeted to beginners, and they might prefer to see this information before the patterns start.
  • The patterns are limited to home decor projects featuring granny squares or similar motifs, so there isn’t a tremendous variety.

Overall, I think the book would be an excellent addition to the personal library of a crochet beginner.  It could also be great for someone who is a more experienced crocheter but is timid about using bold colors.  More experienced crocheters with a strong color sense are not the target audience of this book at all.  I give the book 4 out of 5 stars for beginners or crocheters who are afraid of colors.  Even if you don’t make all of the projects, it is presented in a lovely, visual fashion.

Promo Code

Get Granny Square Love now for just $12.99 ($10 off the retail price!)  Visit the Martha Pullen Online Store and use promo code GRANNYTOUR to get your exclusive price.  (Offer expires October 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST.  Special Price in US Dollars, for items that are “in stock” only.)

Granny Square Love Inspired Giveaway

To get you started on your next granny square project inspired by Granny Square Love, I’m giving away a granny square supply kit including three crochet hooks (G, H, and K sizes), a set of yarn needles, and a gauge ruler.

You will have 10 days to enter this giveaway. To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, October 9, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, it will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.

Good luck!

Ami Ami Dogs 2 Winner!

Congratulations to Dorothy from Hooks ‘n’ Grannies!  She left the 12th comment, and since Random.org decided that #12 was the winner, she will soon be the proud owner of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet.  Thanks to everyone who entered!  Dorothy, I will send you an email shortly to get your mailing address.

Thanks again to Harper Design for providing me with a review copy.  (You can check out my review of Ami Ami Dogs 2 here.)

WIP Wednesday: Crocodiles, Yarn, and Week 22 Craft Goals Update

I thought I’d combine my WIP Wednesday post this week with my craft goals update, which I usually post on Thursday.  Why, you ask?  (Ok, you didn’t ask, but I wanted to tell you anyway.)  Because tomorrow I’ll be a stop on Sarah London‘s blog tour for Granny Square Love: A New Twist on a Crochet Classic for Your Home.  Be sure to check back because I’ll have an interview with Sarah and some other fun stuff in that post.

I’m still working on the crocodile stitch project I started on Sunday night.  It’s at the point where I could still transform it into one of several accessories.  I haven’t firmly committed in either direction – I’m waiting for the project to “speak to me.”  At times, it seems to say “keyhole scarf;” at other times, it seems to say “buttoned cowl” or “headband.”  We’ll see what ultimately becomes of it.

What is this crocodile stitch saying to you?

I confess I was a bit jealous of Denise from Voie de Vie when she posted two weeks ago about the wonderful yarn she is using for her design in the upcoming Fresh Designs Crochet (Home) book.  I have a design in the Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book but haven’t started work on it yet.  When I got home today, my yarn support had arrived!  Cooperative Press has given the designers permission to share some tidbits of the process on our blogs, so here’s a bit of eye candy.

Aren't these colors great?
Great yarn, fun label.

I love working with Spud and Chloe Sweater.  It has such a great color palette, it is soft on the hands, and it works up beautifully.  I can’t wait to get started.  Well, I guess I can wait, because I’ll have to wind up the yarn first ;).

On to my craft goals update, where the routine of reporting keeps me moving forward!

  • I blogged about another chapter in Crochet Master Class (personal craft goal #2).
  • I filmed my first video segments (professional craft goal #2).  I have yet to edit…
  • I self-published another pattern, the Bobble Diamonds and Posts Scarf, which is available on both Etsy and Ravelry (professional craft goal #3).

  • I started the Crochet 101 CAL/class on the blog over the weekend, and I’ve kept up with my post frequency (professional craft goal #4)
  • I’m pretty much done with packing up supplies for my workshops at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival on Friday (professional craft goal #5).
  • I mentioned last week that I was working with BuddyPress (professional craft goal #9).  After further investigation, I’ve decided that I’m not ready to undertake an online forum because I don’t have a full understanding of the security issues involved.  I consider this realization to be a bit of progress on my part :).

At this point, I am over 40% through with the year, and it is clear to me that the number of craft goals I set (25) was way too ambitious.  I’m hesitant to remove anything though, so I guess I’ll keep pushing ahead with the understanding that not everything will get finished.

How are your works in progress coming this week?  Check out Tami’s Amis for links to other WIP Wednesday posts.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Aran Crochet (sort of)

(This post is part of my Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class series.  You can read the other posts in this series here.)

Although I’m still working on some Tunisian crochet projects, I decided to turn to another chapter in Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crochetersthis week: aran crochet.

This chapter focuses on the work of Jane Snedden Peever.  I first became aware of her work about 5 years ago through More Crocheted Aran Sweaters.  In 2007, I even attempted to make an XL version of one of those sweaters for MC.  I made the front and back and one and a half sleeves, but ended up ripping it out this year because while it was lovely, it didn’t seem like a sweater a man (or should I say, my man!) would actually wear.

This weekend, a few things came together and I had post stitches on the brain.  On Saturday, I started up my 10-week DC 37 crochet and knit classes.  A few returning students  in the crochet class mentioned they wanted to spend more time with post stitches, so I started thinking of the aran crochet chapter, as well as of 99 Crochet Post Stitches.

I was also hosting a little pity party for myself since I couldn’t attend the CGOA Chain Link conference.  Naturally, I was living vicariously through the blog posts of those who were in attendance :).  I read this post on Crochetbug’s blog about Lianka Azulay and her crocodile stitch patterns available on Etsy.

I originally came up with the idea of working my way through Crochet Master Class to further develop my own crochet skills while coming up with interesting projects and activities for my crochet students.  I decided the crocodile stitch would be something fun for them.  It is, of course, only marginally related to the aran crochet chapter in Crochet Master Class (because it involves post stitches).  But, we all know I’ve been liberal in interpreting my projects from the book, and I’ve decided my soon to be completed crocodile stitch pattern and handout will count as my exploration of aran crochet :).

Here is the beginning of my swatch. Taken on the phone cam, so excuse the horrific lighting.

For other Year of Projects updates, check out When Did I Become a Knitter.

Reminders

  • I’m giving away a copy of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet, courtesy of Harper Design.  You can enter this giveaway through September 26 here.
  • Did you always want to learn to crochet?  Join in on my Crochet 101 crochet-a-long, the first in my Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter series.  You can read the course overview here or start the first lesson here.

Crochet Lyceum: Crochet 101 – Week 1/6: Materials and Project Planning

Welcome to Week 1 of Crochet 101, the first CAL/class in the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter series. Visit this post for the full course outline and more information about how to participate.

Week 1: Materials and Project Planning

This week, we will focus on the basic crochet tools – specifically, the materials you will need for this six week CAL/class.  We will also discuss different beginner projects.

This week is more text heavy than future weeks :). Feel free to “skim” to pick up the information that you need.  Our outline for today’s post:

  • Yarn
  • Hooks
  • Notions
  • Choosing a project for the CAL
  • Making a supply list
  • Homework

Yarn

There are two main ways to categorize yarn: by fiber content and weight.

In recent years, yarns made with many different types of fiber have been introduced in the marketplace.  Rather than overwhelm you with every type of yarn that can exist in the world :), I will focus on fibers that are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and otherwise “beginner friendly.”

Some yarns are made with natural fibers while others are made with synthetic fibers.  In general,

  • Natural fibers create projects that are more breathable.
  • Natural fibers are biodegradable and are frequently more eco-friendly than synthetic fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers are often inexpensively priced and more readily available in “big box” stores and large retail outlets.

The fibers that I would generally recommend to beginners are (in alphabetical, not preferential, order): acrylic, alpaca, bamboo, cotton, and wool.  This chart has more information about the properties of different fibers.

In the U.S., we use a weight numbering system standardized by the Craft Yarn Council (CYC).  In this context, weight refers to the thickness of the yarn.  The numbering system ranges from 0 to 6, with 0 being the thinnest and 6 being the thickest yarn.

When the manufacturer is dyeing the yarn, there might be slight variations in color between batches of dye.  The dye lot number allows you to identify yarn dyed from the same mixture so you know colors will be consistent across multiple balls of yarn.

Dye lot

Hooks

There are many varieties of crochet hooks.  The most common materials are bamboo, metal, plastic, wood, and steel.

Bamboo hooks come in a wide range of sizes. They are generally easier on the hands than metal hooks. Often they are unfinished and, as a result, the yarn may not "glide" as easily off the hook.
Metal hooks are typically made from aluminum. They are sturdy and inexpensive. Because metal is thermally conductive, these hooks become sticky from sweat in warm weather and feel icy in cold temperatures. For people with arthritis and other hand conditions, metal hooks can be uncomfortable to use.
Plastic hooks are relatively inexpensive and are usually cleared for airline use. When they are cheaply made, seams will snag on your yarn or the hooks will break from frequent use. They also tend to get sweaty in warm weather. In larger sizes, plastic hooks may be the easiest to use because they can be lighter weight.
Steel hooks are available in small sizes and are used for working with thread and very light weight yarn. Expect the same thermal conductivity issues you would experience with aluminum hooks.
Wooden hooks are often more expensive and less readily available. They are gentle on the hands and are usually finished and smooth.

There are also specialty hooks.  I don’t recommend that beginners run out and spend a lot of money on supplies :), but you may find these hooks useful as you start to crochet more.

Comfort hooks generally use an ergonomic design and/or rubberized material around the center of the hook to reduce strain on your hand and elbow when you grip the hook. These can be fairly costly, but can be well worth the price if you have a hand condition or need to use a tight tension with a small hook (e.g., for amigurumi).
Decorative hooks include functional or non-functional ornamentation. This hook has floral decorations on the polymer clay handle.
Interchangeable hook sets are wonderful if you crochet frequently and use a variety of yarn weights and crochet techniques. These sets include a range of sizes and can be adjusted for Tunisian or double-ended crochet. The hooks in this Denise Interchangeable Kit can also be used for knooking.

Like yarn, hooks come in a range of sizes.  The millimeter size refers to the circumference of the hooks.  In the U.S., hooks are also lettered and numbered.  As the numbers increase and the letters move further into the alphabet, the circumference is getting larger.  (The opposite is true of the U.K. sizing.)

For each yarn weight, there is a recommended hook size.  This chart has more information and includes U.S. and U.K. hook sizing.

Notions

In addition to the yarn and hooks, there are some other tools which crocheters use regularly.

Measurement tools are critical to the success of most crochet projects.  You can use a standard ruler or tailor’s tape.  If you want to get fancy, the Knit Picks View Sizer or the Susan Bates Knit Chek can assist with both measuring gauge and figuring out the sizes of those mystery hooks in your collection.

We will start talking about gauge and measurement in Week 3.

A decent pair of scissors is invaluable.  You can use full size, child size, or embroidery scissors.  I prefer the portability of child size scissors because I do a lot of crocheting on the go.

Yarn needles are generally considered optional for crochet.  However… when I compared the look of my finished crochet projects before and after I began using yarn needles, I decided to make them mandatory for myself :).  Yarn needles come in metal and plastic varieties.  I personally prefer 2 inch steel yarn needles, like Susan Bates 14081.

We will use yarn needles in Week 6. (The Susan Bates 14081 2 inch steel yarn needle is pictured at the top. It looks much less threatening than the other needle, doesn't it?)

Choosing a project for the CAL

Next week, we will start crocheting!  You will get to choose what type of project(s) you would like to work on.  I will post a tutorial and/or video each week and will also be sharing some stitch patterns.  Since we are focusing on the basics, most of what you make will be rectangular or square.

Some project ideas:

  • One small project each week, such as a washcloth, a short scarf, or small, decorative pillow, or
  • A larger sampler project for the whole 6 weeks, such as a pillow form cover, blanket, rug, or multi-stitch scarf.  Each of these projects could be worked in one large piece with color changes or in squares/rectangles which could then be joined together.  (Week 6 will focus on joining.)

Your choice of project(s) will influence your selection of yarn.

Making a supply list

Now that you have an awareness of the different supplies used for basic crocheting, you should get together a supply list.

Yarn: If you have a really defined project in your mind, review the Yarn Comparison Chart to see what type of yarn fiber would be best for such a project.  Remember, you can post a message here, on Flickr, or my Ravelry group if you aren’t sure what type of yarn fiber would be suitable for your chosen project.

I recommend #4 medium weight (also known as worsted, afghan, or aran weight) yarn with a straight texture for our CAL.  (In other words, no boucle or novelty yarn.)  This type of yarn is readily available and easy for beginners to use.  You should expect to use at least two colors for this CAL.  If you are a beginner, light colored yarns will be best because it is easier to see your stitches.

Hooks: You will want to get at least two hooks in different sizes.  If you get #4 medium weight yarn, what are some hook sizes you might want to buy? (Hint: review the Recommended Hook Sizes chart.)

Notions: Your notions purchases could be spaced out during the CAL.  You will need a scissor starting in week 2, a measurement tool starting in week 3, and a yarn needle is optional for week 6.

Will you be collecting all of your supplies now, or week by week?

Homework

Your assignment for next week is to get your hands on some yarn, hooks, and scissors.

Remember that yarn labels often contain a lot of helpful information.

Fiber content
Yarn weight
Recommended hook size

If you are already a knitter, you are welcome to search your stash for an appropriate yarn.  If you are a new crocheter, your crafty friends might be willing to donate some yarn to your swatching fund :).  Unless you have a very specific, large, beginner project in mind, or live very far from a store that sells yarn, I don’t recommend running out to buy tons of yarn.  You may discover that you don’t love crocheting with a particular type of yarn or that you don’t need as much as you expected.  Also, when we learn about gauge in week 3, we will talk about ways to estimate the amount of yarn you might need for a specific project.

You can post a reply here, on Flickr, or my Ravelry group if you have any questions or want to share your project ideas or supply finds.

Crochet 101 Overview

My FO Friday post this week is about my online Crochet 101 CAL, which starts tomorrow.  I’ve been working all week on photos and tutorials for the first two weeks of lessons, and am very excited to share the details with you.  If you are new to crochet, please feel free to join in!

For more finished objects, check out Tami’s Amis!

Welcome to Crochet 101, the first class in the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter series!

Course Overview:

Crochet 101 is an introduction to crocheting and is suitable for an absolute beginner or as a refresher course for a crocheter who is “feeling rusty.”  The course uses U.S. terminology with reference links to U.K. terminology.  Through this course, you will learn the six basic crochet stitches, how to crochet in rows, and some basic techniques for changing colors and finishing.  You will also be introduced to pattern reading (using both U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols).

The Crochet-A-Long (CAL) portion of this course runs from Saturday, September 24, 2011 through Wednesday, November 2, 2011. During the CAL portion, I will be available to help you out by answering questions and looking at uploaded pictures of your work for troubleshooting.  The lessons will be available here on the blog, and you can share your pictures in the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter Flickr group.  While participation during the CAL is free, starting on November 3, 2011, an ebook with all of the lessons will be available for sale for students to work through at their own pace.

Students who share their work in the Flickr group by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 may be included in a student showcase post here on the blog on Saturday, November 5, 2011.  More details will follow.

Course Outline:

Week 1 (9/24): Materials and Project Planning

  • Different types of yarn, hooks, and notions
  • Choosing a beginner project

Week 2 (10/1): First Stitches

  • Forming the slip knot
  • Chain, single crochet, and slip stitches
  • Working into the front loop

Week 3 (10/8): More Stitches, Gauge, and Pattern Reading

  • Half double crochet stitch
  • Working into the back loop and the “third loop”
  • Introduction to gauge
  • Basic pattern reading using a two stitch pattern

Week 4 (10/15): More Stitches, and Changing Colors

  • Double crochet stitch
  • Creating simple stripes
  • Basic pattern reading using a three stitch pattern

Week 5 (10/22): The Last Stitch and Alternative Techniques

  • A new way to start the foundation chain
  • Triple (treble) crochet stitch
  • Basic pattern reading continued

Week 6 (10/29) (11/5): Basic Finishing Techniques

  • Weaving in ends
  • Joining
  • Blocking
  • Taking care of your crocheted items

Student Showcase goes “live” on 11/5.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Underground Crafter (and why should I trust her as a crochet teacher)?

Marie Segares works full time in higher education administration.  At night and on the weekends, she transforms into Underground Crafter, a needlecrafts teacher, designer, and blogger/writer.  Marie has been crocheting for more than 27 years, and is a Craft Yarn Council Certified Crochet Instructor (Level 1) and Certified Crochet Teacher (Level 2).  She has been teaching crochet professionally since 2008, and has taught over 120 beginners to crochet!

Why should I participate in the Crochet 101 CAL?

Because it is a great way to learn the basics!  There are many online resources available, but many beginners struggle to make sense of it all.  During the CAL, you will have a real, live, certified crochet teacher working along with you and helping you out.

What do I need to do to participate?

Each week during the CAL, there will be a new class posted on the blog.  (Links to each post will be added to this post, below, as they go “live.”)  I will also post a reminder in my Underground Crafter Ravelry group.

This CAL is free.  Each week, I will add new information, including a lesson with photographs, illustrations, and/or links to different helpful resources.  Some lessons will also include links to videos.  At the end of each week’s lesson, there will be a homework assignment :).

To get the most out out of the CAL, read through the information, work on the homework between classes, and post your questions and pictures to the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter Flickr group.   (You won’t get in trouble if you don’t do your homework, but you probably won’t get as much out of the class.)  You can also post questions directly on the relevant blog post.  I will check in with the group daily, and will be available there to answer questions during the CAL.  You can also upload pictures of your work and I can give you glowing compliments or help troubleshoot (or both!).

Edited to add: You may also want to subscribe to the blog to make it easier to remember to follow along.

  • If you use a blog reader, such as Google Reader, just add the blog’s feed address: http://undergroundcrafter.com/blog
  • If you’d like to get an email every time the blog is updated (including the Crochet 101 posts), go to the upper right hand corner of any page on the blog.  Enter your email address next to the “Subscribe” button.  Click the button, and then follow the directions to subscribe.


Do you have any general questions about the Crochet 101 CAL? Post them here!

Do you have any general questions about Flickr groups? Check out the Flickr Groups help page.

Course Links

Week 1 (9/24): Materials and Project Planning
Week 2 (10/1): First Stitches
Week 3 (10/8): More Stitches, Gauge, and Pattern Reading
Week 4 (10/15): More Stitches, and Changing Colors
Week 5 (10/22): The Last Stitch and Alternative Techniques
Week 6 (10/29): Basic Finishing Techniques and Student Showcase Post (11/5)

Thursday craft goals update – Week 21 and KnitCircus giveaway winners!

Since my last installment of my weekly craft goals update (dramatic drum roll, please):

  • I have officially given up on finishing Producing Video Podcasts: A Guide for Media Professionals (professional craft goal #1).  I bought the book online, and frankly, I didn’t notice the “for Media Professionals” part of the title :).  The book is great and very helpful, but way too technical/advanced for the likes of little ole me. I read as much of it as I thought was relevant to a non-media professional, so I think I could consider this goal “accomplished,” even though I will probably never finish the book.  What do you think?

  • My Gorillapod Video Tripod arrived safely, and I have been planning out video segments (professional craft goal #2) for Crochet 101.  (If you missed the initial post about it, I will be offering a free online crochet-a-long class for beginners starting this Saturday!  Crochet 101 will be launching my Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter series of online crochet classes/CALs.)
  • I haven’t been very active this week with the blog (professional craft goal #4) because I have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work for Crochet 101.  I will have a post tomorrow which explains everything before it kicks off on Saturday!
  • I have about six patterns/booklets in progress for self-publishing (professional craft goal #3).  I have two patterns which are currently being tested, one booklet which is being finalized with pictures, and three more patterns that I will start testing next week.
  • I had a wonderful time teaching at my very first fiber festival, the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival, last weekend.  I’m looking forward to the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival next Friday (professional craft goal #5).  The workshop registration deadline was extended to 9/23 if you plan to attend.

  • And perhaps the biggest news of the week is the work I’ve been doing with WordPress (professional craft goal #9).  I’ve been working on setting up an online forum using BuddyPress.  More details coming soon!
  • Finally, I set up my indoor photo studio (professional crafting goal #10).  I was heavily influenced by this tutorial on Candied Fabrics.  My pictures are not as awesome as Candy’s yet, but they are definitely an improvement over my previous indoor pictures.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

I meant to get this post together in time for WIP Wednesday with Tami’s Amis, but life got in the way.  Full disclosure: My list of entrants was organized thusly: members of my Ravelry group listed alphabetically, then posters on this blog post listed in chronological order, and then Facebook posts listed chronologically.

Now, without further ado…

The first winner of the Fall 2011 KnitCircus PDF Pattern Collection is Stacey, from Fresh Stitches!


And the second winner is drmonica on Ravelry, who recently completed a pattern test for me.

Yay, congratulations to both winners.  I will email your PDF out shortly.

More giveaways…

Don’t despair if you didn’t win!  You still have a chance to enter these two giveaways!

  • My local Etsy team, The {NewNew}, is offering 3 September giveaways, including an in-person knitting lesson with me, or a PDF Tunisian crochet tutorial if you are too far away to meet me in person.  You can enter this giveaway through September 23rd here.
  • I’m giving away a copy of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet, courtesy of Harper Design.  You can enter this giveaway through September 26 here.


Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival 2011

(This post is part of my Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class series.  You can find my first three posts on Tunisian crochet here, here, and here.)

On Saturday, I taught Introduction to Tunisian Crochet at my very first fiber conference, the 17th Annual Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival at the Fairgrounds in Hemlock, NY.  I had such a great time at the Festival – even though I couldn’t stay for the whole event :( – and would definitely recommend it to anyone for next year!

My dirty little secret (to those from the rest of the universe that isn’t New York City) is that I can’t drive.  Yes, I took a few weeks of Driver’s Ed in high school but never finished the class.  Thus far, I’ve only lived in cities where driving isn’t required (New York for about 92% of my life, with a year after college in Washington, D.C., and a few years in San Francisco as a pre-schooler).  My lack of driving hasn’t impaired me in my hometown, but it has limited my vacation options and has made me dependent on others when traveling – and, of course, it has kept me living in major urban areas.  (Driving lessons are on my to do/bucket list, by the way.)

Anyway, the person who I was going to be dependent on for this trip :) had to work over the weekend.  So I had a very interesting itinerary as a result.

Here's a blurry phone cam shot of my Friday train ride.

I started out on Friday afternoon on Amtrak to Rochester.  I took a taxi to the hotel in Henrietta, which was, er, um, well let’s just say the price was right and there was free wifi :).  In the morning, I was lucky enough to picked up from the hotel by CR, another teacher on the festival committee.  She’s been working at the festival for the last 8 years, so it was great to hear about her experience with the event during the ride.  We also “talked shop” about teaching for a bit.

This is the building where I taught my class. The class areas were very spacious and we had plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

Since CR dropped me off early, I had a chance to check out the vendors and the animals before preparing for my class.  As a City Gal, seeing the goats, sheep, and alpacas who are responsible for my favorite yarns was a real treat.

Some of the yarn vendors setting up.
How cute is this alpaca?
"Are you talking to me?"
These guys didn't feel like posing. They were too busy munching.
"Look at me, I'm smiling for the camera!"
Miss Molly is a true "Chatty Cathy" but she clearly doesn't want her picture taken. This is the least blurry of the several pictures I snapped of her.
More super cute alpacas.
What do you call the black sheep of the alpaca family?

There were vendors from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania at the event, but it was great to see a local vendor, the Hemlock Hills Alpaca Farm, too.  I especially loved this sign from their booth.

Besides workshops, demonstrations, and vendors, there were also wagon rides at the Festival!

After watching the vendors set up for about 40 minutes, I went back to the 4-H Exhibit Building to set up for my class.  While cleaning off the tables and organizing the chairs into a circle, I was thinking about what I was going to buy :).  I knew that I shouldn’t go wild, but I definitely wanted to pick up a few things that I had seen during set up.  Once my workshop area was organized, I stepped back out when the vendors were officially open for business.

I should mention here that I’ve had a bit of a soap crisis in the past few years.  I used to make my own soap, which, of course, did wonders for my skin since I could formulate it exactly for me.  Unfortunately, my current kitchen layout isn’t conducive to safe soap making (especially with my cat around).  For about a year, I bought soap from Simply Sensational, which was a shop on Etsy that the owner closed for health reasons.  Then for a while I shopped at Dirty Loves Clean, but she seems to have disappeared, too.  For the last year or so, I have tried soaps from tons of online and in-person vendors and have not found the soap which really works for my skin, and I have been back to buying soap at Whole Foods.  So naturally, I was on the hunt for some soap at the Festival.

I found these three soaps - all with great scents - at the Longmeadow Farm tent.

I haven’t used them yet, but I have high hopes.  (By the way, I couldn’t find an online presence for Longmeadow Farm, except in this ad on the Creekside Fabrics website.)

I also wandered into the Bitsy Knits tent and left with some goodies.

My haul from Bitsy Knits.

I got two skeins of superwash Merino wool, the Squoosh! Superwash (in the back) and the Bitsy’s Sock (in the foreground).  Although I don’t “need” another gauge ruler/needle-hook sizer, I was very attracted to this Knit Picks View Sizer, so I decided to add it to my collection.

I was hoping that the yarn would work well with my coat.  I ended up with a Blue Chalk colored coat last year when I waited until the last minute to buy my winter coat and the color options were quite limited.  As a result, I can’t wear any of my handmade accessories that were designed when I had a black coat.  I really want to show off my stuff this winter, and I think these colors go well with my new-ish coat.

Here is the hood from my coat, along with the yarn. What do you think?

After my shopping spree, I went back to the 4-H Exhibit Building to teach my class.  I had a wonderful time, and I think my students did, too!  I’ll be teaching my Tunisian Crochet Basics class again at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival on September 30.

After I finish my online Crochet 101 class as part of the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter, you can expect to see a version of my Tunisian Crochet class online :).

Once my class was finished, I had to hurry to reach the Rochester bus depot in time.  I was picked up from the Hemlock Fairgrounds by a taxi right after class and I was whisked away to a Trailways bus.  Seven hours later, I was back in New York.

Bright lights, big city: The view of Times Square from my phone cam.

MC picked me up at Port Authority and we headed back home.  It was a lot of traveling within 36 hour period, but well worth it for the chance to see the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and to teach my Introduction to Tunisian Crochet class.

Visit When Did I Become a Knitter for more Year of Projects posts.

Reminders

  • My local Etsy team, The {NewNew}, is offering 3 September giveaways, including an in-person knitting lesson with me, or a PDF Tunisian crochet tutorial if you are too far away to meet me in person.  You can enter this giveaway through September 23rd here.
  • I’m giving away two more PDF patterns collections of the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus!   This issue includes 26 crochet and knit patterns.  You can enter this giveaway through September 20 here.
  • I’m giving away a copy of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet, courtesy of Harper Design.  You can enter this giveaway through September 26 here.

 

Book review and Giveaway: Ami Ami Dogs 2 by Mitsuki Hoshi

Today, I’m teaching at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival in Hemlock, NY.  I scheduled this review of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet by Mitsuki Hoshi to keep you company while I’m away :).  I’m also hosting a giveaway for one copy of the book, which I received courtesy of Harper Design!

Book Review

Some of you may already be familiar with Mitsuki Hoshi’s work from her website.  According to the Visitor counter, which is about the only thing on her website I can actually read, most of her visitors (over 35,000) are from Japan (not surprisingly), but she also has about 1,400 visitors from the U.S.  Her books have been translated from Japanese into several languages, including English, Dutch, and French.  Mitsuki Hoshi’s work has appeared in pet magazines as well as craft books, and she also teaches amigurumi classes.

Ami Ami Dogs 2 is the follow up to her Ami Ami Dogs: Seriously Cute Crochet, which was published in English by Harper Design in February.  Ami Ami Dogs 2 is scheduled to be released on September 27.  My amigurumi book collection is fairly small (Annie Obaachan’s Amigurumi Animals: 15 Patterns and Dozens of Techniques for Creating Cute Crochet Creatures, June Gilbank’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi, and Amy Gaines’s Cute Little Animals), so I was looking forward to seeing the review copy for Ami Ami Dogs 2.

Ami Ami Dogs 2 is a great little book.  As the name suggests, it is focused entirely on dog related patterns.  There are “full size” (a strange word to use for amigurumi, I know!) versions of 11 different breeds (Bernese Mountain Dog, Boston Terrier, Bull Terrier, Chihuahua, Dalmation, Hokkaido, Jack Russell Terrier, Japanese Shiba, Papillon, Shih Tzu, and Toy Poodle), and patterns for magnets and cell phone accessory projects to make with the same breeds.

The first section of the book is a two-page photo gallery of each pattern, which includes variations of each dog or project in multiple colors and poses.  Most of the “full size” dogs would be between 2-1/2 and 4 inches tall (depending on whether they are seated or standing), and the accessories and magnets would measure about 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 inches.

This section is followed by a fourteen page technique guide.  The technique guide includes numerous step-by-step color photographs, and demonstrates working in the round, changing colors, proper stuffing, and assembly.  This guide would definitely be clear enough for most crocheters new to amigurumi, and might even be enough for some complete beginners who learn well from still images.

The remainder of the book is the pattern section.  There are several things I really like about it.

  • Each pattern is shown through international stitch symbols.
  • Each pattern includes step-by-step written directions explaining the progression of tasks (e.g., “Crochet each body part.  Stuff cotton inside the head, body, and legs.  Attach the eyes to the head.”).
  • Patterns include illustrations of variations (e.g., dog sitting, standing, or reclining; various ear poses, etc.).
  • The stitch symbols are annotated to indicate eye placement and other important assembly guidelines.

There are a few things about the book that could be improved.

  • There are no pattern abbreviations, so if you are uncomfortable using stitch symbols, this book may be hard for you to follow.
  • The supplies have not been well adapted for the American market.  For example, when a pattern indicates that you need 0.64 ounces of white thread, should you use crochet cotton, sewing thread, embroidery floss, or a light weight yarn?  Similarly, I haven’t seen mohair thread readily available in the U.S.  Obviously, you can adjust the materials but that might turn off some beginners.

Overall, I think Ami Ami Dogs 2 is a really cute amigurumi book.  It has a really fun photo gallery that will inspire you to pick up your hook and make a little puppy of your own.  If you are an absolute beginner to crochet, you will probably need an adventurous spirit to tackle the patterns.  But if you have crocheted for a while, are familiar with stitch symbols, and/or have made amigurumi before, you will be able to make the necessary modifications and get started on a pattern right away.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  Overall, it is a visually stimulating amigurumi book.  Even though all of the patterns are of dogs, the skills covered are applicable to any type of amigurumi.

Giveaway

Here’s your chance to win a copy of Ami Ami Dogs 2: More Seriously Cute Crochet, courtesy of Harper Design.

You will have 10 days to enter this giveaway.  I will announce the winner on Tuesday, September 27 (the same day the book is released).

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, September 26, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, it will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.

Good luck!

    Thursday craft goals update – week 20

    I’ve been very focused on preparing for my upcoming classes at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival on Saturday and the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival on September 30 (professional craft goal # 5), so I’ve done little else on my other craft goals this week.

    Some quick updates:

    I hope your week is going well, and that there is plenty of time for creativity!

    Three reminders:

    If you want to learn to crochet or improve your skills, check out this post about my upcoming Crochet 101 class as part of the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter.

    And, there is still time to enter the giveaway being hosted by my local Etsy team, The {NewNew}.  There are three prizes, including an in-person knitting lesson with me, or a PDF Tunisian crochet tutorial if you are too far away to meet me in person.  You can enter the giveaway through September 23rd here.

    I’m giving away two more PDF patterns collections of the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus!   This issue includes 26 crochet and knit patterns.  You can enter this giveaway through September 20 here.