Monthly Archives: September 2011

Granny Square Love blog tour day 4 and giveaway

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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.

Full disclosure: A free electronic review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

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.

Ami Ami Dogs 2 Winner!

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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 and Yarn

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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 ;).

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)

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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.

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.