Winner! Knit Local by Tanis Gray

(Check out this post to read my interview with Tanis Gray and review of Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns.)

According to Random.org, the winner of today’s giveaway of Knit Local is # 33.  Congratulations to

Tami!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and to Sixth & Spring for providing me with the review copy prize.

Interview with Susan Huxley, organizer of Chase the Chill, the Original

Susan Huxley is an accomplished needlecrafts author who first came to my attention when I checked out her book, Today’s Crochet: Sweaters from the Crochet Guild of America, from the library a few years ago.  (And, no, I didn’t get around to making a sweater from it before I had to return it.)  I had the pleasure of meeting Susan virtually through the Crochet Guild of America‘s Yahoo group for Professional and Associate Professional members.  Susan is an active member of the Arts Community of Easton, and is involved with many fiber arts events.  I was so “hooked” on her Chase the Chill: The Original project that I asked to interview her here on my blog.

For those of you in the Easton, Pennsylvania area, you can get involved with Chase the Chill on Saturday, November 5.  Read on for details!

Susan Huxley's plarn gown at the CGOA Fashion Show, 2010. (Photo by Nancy Smith.)

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Susan: I was wielding a hook when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. There isn’t a time in my life when I wasn’t exposed to knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other crafts. My grandmother was at home crocheting when this little bundle came home from the hospital. When my military-sailor father went to sea we lived with “Nannie.” And thus began my stitching education. It continued when I lived with her full-time until I was 12. By then I was more than capable of initiating and stitching on my own, and had plenty of craft magazines close at hand to teach myself interesting new things. That’s how I learned circular work on double-pointed knitting needles, for a stuffed octopus toy. Nannie had me make several more to grace the back of her living room sofa.

My first distinct memory of a crocheted project was “The World’s Longest Crochet Chain,” worked as the family drove across Canada, from an island off the West Coast mainland to the new place Dad was stationed in Halifax.

UC: When/why did you decide to merge your love of crafting with writing and publishing?
Susan: It was accidental…and inevitable. First, I was a truck driver, only crocheting or embroidering while waiting to load. Yes, 18-wheels. After establishing my fallback job skills, I took up clothing and textiles in the Home Economics program at the University of Alberta. A sudden move to central Canada put the kibosh on that career path. Shortly before the move, my English prof offered me a position in the Honors program. I couldn’t find a home ec program in Toronto, but her offer inspired me to move in new directions. I was accepted into the English program at York University and the Journalism program at Ryerson. The Ontario College of Art rejected me. I chose the Journalism program as more practical, and after a year had quit to work full-time as a reporter on a community paper. Then I freelanced for the national newspaper The Globe and Mail. And starved.

Answering an ad for assistant editor of a craft magazine put food on the table. I loved the work. Within weeks of my start date, the editor quit. I didn’t realize that slapping my resume on the editorial director’s desk and asking for the job was ballsy. He continued to interview others. I think I was eventually given the job because no one else would work at the offered salary. So, at 28, I was responsible for the editorial content of a national, glossy, subscription-based craft magazine.

Susan at Easton Sheep to Shawl, 2010. (Photo by Robin Phelps.)

UC: How did you get started teaching crochet?
Susan: At Rodale Inc., I was a senior editor on the sewing book team. (Note the jump from magazines to books…and the change of countries. Risk doesn’t scare me…being hungry does.) I discovered that promoting books I worked on won me brownie points. I didn’t actively pursue teaching gigs, but when they were requested, I didn’t turn them down. The sessions were popular with guilds and stores since I didn’t charge. These teaching sessions naturally progressed into crochet as I took on other craft titles.

I wasn’t afraid to stand in front of a crowd, thanks to competitive Highland (Scottish) dancing and a public school teacher who steered me into the debate club when I was in grade 8. I have some public speaking and debate awards to my name, including a provincial (the US equivalent of a state) title. Being a military brat also played a role since I moved enough to learn to come out of my shell in order to make friends quickly.

As an editor I spent a lot of time attending conferences in various craft categories to hunt down new book ideas and authors. This taught me a lot about good teaching, although I’m not there yet and continue learning how to be a better educator.

UC: Has teaching crochet impacted your personal crafting?
Susan: Absolutely. Even if I pick up a hook and start to stitch for the pleasure of feeling the yarn slide through my fingers—or to learn a new stitch pattern—it isn’t long before the laptop is open and I’m jotting down what I’m doing or ideas on how it can be applied to a project, pattern, or piece of art.

Recording what I’m doing is important because anything a student sees could turn into a request for instructions and further guidance. Rather than trying to recreate the work, it’s easier to write as I stitch. Of course, only a week ago a friend, Robin, asked me to show her how to make a very specific type of mobius, and I fumbled around while trying to remember what I did because I didn’t have access to the notes on my computer. I don’t like wasting a student’s time like that.

Chase the Chill, 2010. (Photo by Robin Phelps.)

UC: You organize Chase the Chill, “an annual happening with a cause.”  How did this event start and what was the motivation behind combining public art, charity, and yarn bombing together?
Susan: I blame my friends, the core group of the Saturday Stitchers of Easton: Robin Phelps, Elinor Levy, and Bonny Peters. And my artist friends. And the shelter down the street.

Safe Harbor has beds for the homeless, a meal program, and counseling. First thing in the morning and at other specific times throughout the day, there’s a steady stream of people who live in nearby inexpensive rooms and apartments—and homeless people—walking down the street where I live, heading over to the shelter to eat. In the winter, some aren’t dressed for the cold. It’s heartbreaking. I’ve bought coats and boots for a few, but that doesn’t have much of an impact.

I wanted to do more. Something that allowed people the freedom of personal choice and the dignity that comes from not having to qualify for aid or be exposed to sometimes well-meaning but smug donators.

Around the same time that these thoughts were bouncing around, I was enjoying weekly stitching sessions with a group of gals. I was kicking around ways to free them from the tyranny (VBG) of the pattern, stop beating themselves up over mistakes, and think of stitching as an art form. I also wanted to encourage others to look beyond their own lives and embrace random acts of kindness. And, finally, I had been cold sheep for a couple of years and was sick of looking at my huge yarn stash. It was time for a stash-down by working up as much yarn as I could.

At the same time yarn bombing images were starting to pop up everywhere online.

One day, all of the above ideas managed to be in the same spot of my brain at the same time. There was a grand collision and Chase the Chill was born. That’s often the way things are with me…they surface as a full-blown idea. Or, in the case of an art piece, as a visual of the finished work.

Scarf bombing works because anyone can claim a scarf without any qualifiers. Do some go to people who can afford to buy their own? Of course. Are some distributors helping themselves to scarves made for others? Probably. Are some low-income people taking more than their share? It doesn’t matter. Who “deserves” a scarf? Does a person have to “look poor to receive a gift?”

Interesting exercise, isn’t it?

The whole idea is to have fun putting the scarves out there and inviting people, via a hang tag that says you can take it. Like a Happening in the 60s, the bombing takes on a life of its own. The only rules are no placement on private property without permission, covering signs or working parts of parking meters, or around trees.

UC: How can people get involved with Chase the Chill?
Susan:

  • Donate yarn: Synthetic is best because it’s easy-care for the recipients. That said, the Saturday Stitchers continue to go overboard, creating many exquisitely stitched scarves in the most luxurious yarns. A couple of last year’s distributors told me how satisfying it was to see the thrill on someone’s face upon discovering a real treasure. So special yarns can’t be ruled out.
  • Donate scarves: Last year we had close to 80. I’m pretty sure we’ve topped our goal of 250 for this year, in great part because The Comfort Zone in Phillipsburg, NJ, has been so prolific. I take a photo of every scarf received. Every contributor gets a photo folder attached to the Facebook page Chase the Chill, the Original. And I post the pics, one at a time, to my Facebook page.   Ship to 67 N 4th St., Easton, PA 18042.
  • Start your own local Chase the Chill. I’ll help any way I can.
  • Donate a few dollars to Safe Harbor Easton: It has a Paypal button. Funding has been cut dramatically recently.
Chase the Chill, 2010. (Photo by Robin Phelps.)

UC: Where do you find your creative inspiration?
Susan: A better question for me might be “Where don’t I find inspiration?” It’s everywhere. I love looking at fashion and art on the Internet. And listening to Easton artists talk about their work. Lately, though, I’m drawing inspiration from people. Just this past week I was chatting with a wonderfully experienced stitcher and spinner. Gaye and I were comparing yarn holding/tension techniques. She said she’d love to make a study of this. I’ve built on this comment and now have a new project in the works for 2012.

UC: You seem to be multi-craftual.  What is your favorite “go to” craft when you have time for personal projects?
Susan: I go through phases. I’m also obsessive. I latch onto, say, crocheting with plastic bags. And that’s all I do during my spare time for a year. When I’m working on something my minds wanders to other ways I can work with the same material/technique/concept. Then I wake up one day, decide I’m bored, and move on to something else. My top two craft loves, though, are crocheting and garment sewing. Knitting is third. Quilting isn’t even on this list, although I’m still obsessing about piecing old clothing into new garments these days. I can feel the passion waning, though.

Chase the Chill, 2010. (Photo by Robert Gerheart.)

UC: What are your favorite crochet/craft blogs?
Susan: Do I have to pick one? I only allow myself an hour on Facebook and 30 minutes on the Internet every day, otherwise I’d be lost to the world. A whole new meaning to plug in and tune out.

My favorite art blog is Joanne Mattera Art Blog, which is about marketing every Monday, because the advice is often applicable to us professional stitchers who do fairs, submit teaching proposals, deal with clients, educate the public…

UC: What other projects are you working on right now?

Susan:

Chase the Chill, 2010. (Photo by Robert Gerheart.)

Thanks Susan for stopping by and sharing your projects with us.

If you have a chance to visit Easton for Chase the Chill on Saturday, November 5, you should!  (I won’t be able to attend since I’ll be teaching a beginner crochet class at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden.)

Yay, I survived my first Blogtoberfest! To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

Reminder:

You have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time tonight to enter my giveaway for Mini Christmas Crochet (Twenty to Make) by Val Pierce here by October 31.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Plaid progress

(This post is part of my Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class series.  You can find my other posts about woven crochet here and here.)

I don’t have much to report on for my Year of Projects goals this week.  As much as it has been fun to be more active on my blog this month, I am very much looking forward to the end of Blogtoberfest, 2011!  I plan to take a few days off away from the blog, even though I have a few books to review.

Between all of the blogging, a busy season at work, and the secret swatching I’ve been doing for design submissions, I have only made a wee bit of progress on my plaid pillow project, started during my Tartans & Plaids class with Jenny King at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.

One panel is finished, but I still have to weave in the ends.
Thanks to my class with Jenny King, my plaid is woven evenly!

I’m still debating whether I should felt the finished project.  Opinions?

For more Year of Projects posts, visit When Did I Become a Knitter.

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

Reminders:

 

Crochet Lyceum: Crochet 101: Student Showcase Giveaway!

This post is part 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.

I was planning to post Class 6: Basic Finishing Techniques today, but frankly, I’m too tired to do the post justice, so I will be delaying it for a few days.  I did want to give people who have been participating in the CAL a chance to win some giveaways that I’ve saved up just for you!

Next Saturday, November 5, I’d like to have a student showcase post with pictures of the swatches and projects that those of you following along for all or part of the CAL have made.

To enter the giveaway:

  • Email one or more pictures of your swatch(es) or project(s) to marie@undergroundcrafter.com OR post or link the pictures to my Ravelry group.
  • Grant me permission to share the pictures, and let me know how you’d like to be credited (e.g., by your real name, your Ravelry name, etc.).
  • For each different project or swatch you share pictures of, you will get 1 entry.  You can enter as many pictures as you’d like, but pictures of the same project will only be counted once.
  • You must email or post the pictures with your permission by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, November 3.

So, what are the prizes?

Yarn (3 prizes):

Notions Kit:

  • 3 sizes of crochet hooks, 1 set of yarn needles, and a gauge ruler.

Good luck!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

    Interview with Kathryn Vercillo from Crochet Concupiscence

    Today, I’m pleased to present an interview with Kathryn Vercillo from Crochet Concupiscence, one of my favorite crochet blogs.  It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing.  Kathryn is working on a new project Swaddle, which she will share with us.

    Kathryn is a professional writer and blogger, and she lives in San Francisco, where I used to live as a toddler (yes, it is true, I haven’t lived in NYC for my entire life – I did spend three years elsewhere).  You can find Kathryn on her blog, on her Twitter page, or on Ravelry as CrochetBlogger.

    Kathryn Vercillo, in one of her crocheted dresses.

    Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

    Kathryn: Like many other people, I learned a basic crochet chain from my mom when I was a kid but then didn’t really do anything else with crochet until I was an adult. A few years ago, I was struggling with a very serious bout of depression and I kept trying to force myself to explore different interests in order to escape from the clutches of such sadness. I can’t even tell you how many things I tried (hula hoop dancing, drawing, computer gaming) and somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to try crochet. It immediately resonated with me when nothing else had.

    I started re-learning crochet at that time by trying to read vintage crochet patterns from my mom’s old magazines but those proved too difficult to understand (although I can read them now). I ended up getting some “how to crochet” books for kids from my library and learning from them, using YouTube videos as a supplement when certain stitches confused me. It started out as a possible hobby and became a true passion. Now I crochet daily and research the craft all of the time.

    UC: What was your original inspiration for starting Crochet Concupiscence?

    Kathryn: I am a freelance writer for a living and had been working as a professional blogger for other people for about five years. Every time that I had a new interest, I started a blog of my own to explore it further and share it with others. However, I never really devoted a lot of time to any of those previous blogs because I was busy blogging for others. Last year I started cutting back on my professional blogging work in order to focus on some other writing projects. That opened up a space for me to launch a blog of my own that I could really devote myself to. Crochet had become the love of my life by then and I wanted to spend as much time as I could researching it so it was a natural step to launch the blog. My favorite part of every day is the writing I do for Crochet Concupiscence.

    Kathryn wearing one of her cowl projects.

    UC: You’re a very active blogger with an established audience, but seem to have a life, too (or perhaps that is all a scam, and you are chained to your computer all day?).  What tips do you have for emerging bloggers?

    Kathryn: I do try to have a life although I admit that I probably spend more time crocheting and blogging than the average person would :). Based on my experiences both with Crochet Concupiscence and with the blogs I’ve done professionally for others, here are my blogging tips:

    • Take the time to ask yourself what you want from your blog. The thing about the blog world is that there are many, many different tools for bloggers (Twitter, SEO stuff, WordPress plugins, etc. etc.) and you can easily get lost as you learn about each of these new things. If you know exactly what you want from your blog, it will be much easier to sift through all of this and choose only those things that make sense to you and keep you enjoying your blog. Your goal might be to keep track of your projects in one place, or to connect with other like-minded people around a topic like crochet, or to have hundreds of thousands of followers and be a big influencer in your niche. Whatever goal you have is fine but it’s important to know what it is.
    • Establish a posting schedule. I write about the same things each day of the week so that I don’t have to think “what should I write today?” For example, I always do crochet artist profiles on Mondays and crochet book reviews on Tuesdays. It’s a time saver. I also recommend setting aside specific times of day or days of the week to do your blogging. This keeps you on track.
    • Read other blogs that interest you. This will keep you inspired, give you ideas for what you want to do with your own blog, and help you connect to a larger community, which is a key thing that makes blogging fun.

    UC: You are working on a new project, Swaddle, which explores the way women nurture the men in their lives.  Tell me about your inspiration for this project and what type of support you are looking for from the crochet community.

    Kathryn: Yes! Swaddle is a crochet art project that uses the traits inherent in crochet to explore the ways in which women communicate with the men in their lives and how this affects their relationships. I believe that women are generally taught to be the caregivers and problem-solvers in their relationships, and they often use words to do this.  Sometimes the ways we communicate as women do a great job of nurturing the relationships we have and sometimes they go awry and really stifle those relationships.  Swaddle explores both sides of this through crochet art.

    Historically, mothers swaddled babies to keep them safe but it sometimes went wrong and ended up killing the child, and that’s where the imagery comes from for the project.

    This crochet project will ultimately have 12 – 24 pieces in it for display in a gallery. The title piece is Swaddled. This is a collection of crocheted swaddling blankets wrapped around representations of male figures. Some are cozy and comfortable, as we expect crochet blankets to be. Some are strangling and suffocating. Some are too loose and the male is exposed. This represents the core idea behind the title project.

    Communication, relationships, and women’s roles have long been themes I’ve explored in my writing and artwork. When I started getting into crochet, I knew that I wanted to do some type of art project with it. Crochet is stereotypically a female craft and can be constructed in both a delicate “feminine” way and a structural “masculine” form so it lends itself well to art that explores gender issues. I also think that the repetition in crochet with its constant loops and knots easily represents communication, so it works well for this project.

    I would love to see the crochet community support this project and that’s why I’ve chosen to use Kickstarter to crowdsource funding to make it a reality. People can donate as little as one dollar to support the development of the project. People who donate $20 or more will be allowed to select a set of stitches in the color of their choosing which will go in to one large-scale art piece in Swaddle to represent the participation of those who have helped the project along.

    I’d like to note that I’m using yarns from indie female yarn dyers and spinners so the funding through Kickstarter will also help the fiber community in that way.

    UC: I usually ask about favorite blogs, but I think your Hooked Together project gives us all a great view into your blog reading habits.  Instead I’ll skip right to asking about your favorite crochet books in your collection.  Do you have some that you always return to, or new favorites, to share?

    Kathryn: Yes, Hooked Together is a compilation of all of the crochet and fiber blogs you read. I’d also like to note that each Saturday I do a “link love” post with links to my favorite crochet posts from the week so that’s another great way to see what I enjoy reading.  (UC comment: I love Link Love – I don’t read as many blogs as Kathryn, so that’s how I find out about posts I haven’t seen yet.)

    As for books, I’m currently obsessing over Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders. It features 150 crochet edging options, so it’s a great way to learn lots of different stitch combinations in a manner that is easy to follow.

    I recently reviewed Sarah London’s Granny Square Love, and I adore many of the projects in that book because I’m kind of in love with grannies lately. (UC comment: Me, too!  I had great fun reviewing Sarah’s new book, and have been on a granny kick lately.)

    And I’m a huge fan of Crochet Master Class, which you actually turned me on to because of your great posts working through that book!  (UC comment: Thanks, Kathryn! You can read my Crochet Master Class posts here.)

    Finally, I am working my way through a great vintage crochet book called Crochet and Creative Design by Annette Feldman that is more about the theory behind crochet construction.  (UC comment: Thanks for introducing me to this book, Kathryn.  Of course, you know I had to rush out and buy a used copy for my vintage crochet book collection!)

    Kathryn's lover's knot scarf.

    UC: Has blogging about crochet influenced your personal crocheting?  If so, how?

    Kathryn: Great question! Blogging about crochet gives me an excuse and motivation to constantly research crochet, so it has exposed me to many different things in crochet that I might not have found otherwise.

    It was through reading crochet blogs that I came to understand both the importance and the how-to of blocking crochet. And it was through crochet blogs that I learned about tapestry crochet, which is a type of crochet that I really want to delve into in the near future.

    I think crochet blogging also helps to keep me productive because I always want to have new work to show off on my blog. I’m participating in Year of Projects through Ravelry and I always try to chip away at my list to present something for those weekly posts on my blog.

    Kathryn makes friends with an alpaca at the Tucson Wool Festival.

    UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?

    Kathryn: I’ve never met a yarn I didn’t like! No seriously, in terms of fiber, I’m currently loving bamboo/ silk blends. They are soft, shiny, somewhat eco-friendly (bamboo is, silk isn’t always) and work up easily. I also just recently bought some crazy soft baby alpaca and that may be my brand new love.

    I prefer to buy hand-dyed and / or hand-spun yarns from indie dyers and small stores. Six Skeins and Candy Skein are two examples of online stores I like. (UC comment: Candy Skein’s proprietress is Tami from Tami’s Amis, the host of WIP Wednesday and FO Friday.) I also like Yarns of Italy, which isn’t an indie dyer but offers a select set of yarns direct from Italy at affordable prices. I prefer variegated yarns and like to stick to a blue/grey spectrum with some infusion of bright colors (greens and purples, mostly) and neutrals (creams, black and white).

    If I had to pick a name brand yarn type that most people know, though, I’d definitely go with Malabrigo. I can never pass up a Malabrigo that comes into my path. And I also like Lorna’s Laces. I have a ridiculous yarn stash, which is organized loosely by color and put on display in vintage metal containers throughout my home.  (UC comment: I’ve been planning to check out Candy Skein and haven’t tried Six Skeins or Lorna’s Laces yet, either – so thanks for the positive reviews!)

    Kathryn's large granny square project.

    UC: What are your favorite types of projects to pick up for your own personal crocheting?

    Kathryn: I make a ton of capelets, cowls and scarves. I often buy just one or two skeins of yarn and these items are small enough that I can use just that small yarn amount. I also like those small projects because they allow me to see how various stitch combinations work out without a huge commitment. Plus one great crochet accessory like that can really pull together an outfit!  (UC comment: So true!)

    I do typically have one larger project on the hooks – lately it’s been a large granny square blanket but I’ve also done a lot of dresses – that I can go to when I want to crochet but don’t want to think about what I want to make! In general I like to work on seamless crochet projects with very few color changes.

    UC: (Insert question here: If there is anything I haven’t asked about related to crocheting, blogging, yarn, etc., that you would like to talk about, please include it here.)

    Kathryn: I would just like to add that one of my main goals in terms of what I can contribute to the crochet community is to strengthen the connections that crocheters have online. This is reflected in my Hooked Together project, of course. But I also try to do it steadily with my blog by reviewing books and yarn, interviewing crocheters, sharing links, highlighting daily Etsy selections, etc. I believe that the crochet community is a terrific community and think it’s wonderful that we can connect online in the twenty first century so I try to do my part to establish and strengthen such connections.

    UC: Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and I think you are meeting your goal of strengthening the online connection between crocheters!  Please stop by the Swaddled Kickstarter page and contribute to this exciting art project.

    To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

    Reminders:


    Thursday craft goals update – Week 26 (a.k.a. the halfway point)

    Last week, after much internal debate in the previous weeks, I updated my craft goals.  I’m now back into my weekly update mode, satisfied that I have the right goals for the next half of the year (through May 1, 2012).

    Personal crafting goals

    1) Work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters.  Instead of using the patterns, I’d like to create my own project (for myself and/or for teaching) for each technique/skill in the book.

    5) Limit new yarn purchases, increase the ratio of natural to synthetic fibers in my stash, and continue to destash any yarn or notions that I won’t be using in the near future.

    This week, I sold some yarn from my stash sale on Etsy, and I’ve started some charity projects using stash yarn.

    6) Make and donate more charity crochet projects in 2012 than in 2011.

    • I started a crochet granny charity project, which will eventually turn into a child’s blanket.
    • I mailed my crocheted scarves to LOWO at the Pine Ridge Reservation.
    • I’m still finishing up some baby items for Knits for Infants and scrap Snuggles for Bideawee, which I hope to hand-deliver to save on postage costs.
    Six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO).

    Professional crafting goals

    4) Blog at least twice a week.

    So far, I’ve blogged every day in October and am participating in Blogtoberfest.  I may need a small break in November!

    9) Take better photographs, along with all that entails.

    This continues to be a struggle, but MC has figured out a way to capture still shots from videos that I’ve made.  This is great because it will make it much easier to get photos for step-by-step tutorials this way.

    How are your craft goals coming along?

    To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

    Reminders:

     

    WIP Wednesday – Grannies and the Dirty Little Secret

    Grannies…

    I have been going granny square crazy since last week.  I got inspired when working on my post for I Love Yarn Day to go through my scrap stash and get started on some charity projects.  And, I’ve been eyeing the amazing work of three of my favorite bloggers…

    …so I decided to work with some grannies.  They are so portable and fun!  I decided to use join-as-you-go for each row, and I wanted each row to have squares of the same size, so I had to make some adjustments to each pattern as I went along.

    Here are the pictures of my first row of blocks.  I should say here that I took these after work on my commute, trying to find a relatively clean surface in New York City (hah!) and ended up holding my phone (camera) so high above to take pictures that I couldn’t actually see what I was doing.  Hence some un-photo-styled flowers :).

    Block 1: Square 42 by Maria Nagy from Cafe Au Lait Beaded Poncho from 101 Granny Squares by Carol Alexander.

    Block 2: Jeannine Square by Margaret Hubert from The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.

    Block 3: #48 by Tammy Kreimeyer from 99 Granny Squares to Crochet.

    Block 4 – 6: From the Sampler Pillows in 101 Granny Squares.  African Violet by Betty Jones, Impatiens & Emeralds by Diana Sippel, and Yellow Petals by Roberta Maier.

    I did another row with 4 larger squares using a variation of the Star motif from the Granny Squares Sampler Afghan in Better Homes and Gardens Crocheting and Knitting, but I don’t have pictures to share today.

    Since the motifs I’ve picked aren’t particularly infant friendly (there are overlay stitches, for example), I will need to make this project large enough for an older child.  This is definitely one of those projects that I will pick up for a week at a time over the course of a year or so, and then will have it ready when I next package up my crafty donations to mail out.

    …and a dirty little secret

    If you’ve been buying luxury yarns, or yarns from independent dyers, you have probably found that the yarn is in hanks and hasn’t been wound.  This creates quite a conundrum, because you may buy yarn but it isn’t immediately available for use.  How many of us have stacks of yarn hanks that we haven’t yet wound?  This is the dirty little secret of yarn lovers, I think.

    One of my other works in progress this week is to wind up all the hanks I’ve accumulated in the last few months that have been waiting patiently to be used.  This includes yarn I picked up at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival, at the NYC Yarn Crawl, the lovely skein of yarn I won, and all of the yarn for my design to be published in Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids).  No pictures, but all of this winding is almost more of an undertaking than actually making something!

    For more WIP Wednesday posts, check out Tami’s Amis.

    To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

    Book review and giveaway: Mini Christmas Crochet

    Search Press was nice enough to send me several of Val Pierce‘s books to review when I interviewed her several weeks ago.  I’m reviewing another of Val’s books in the Twenty to Make series, Mini Christmas Crochet (Twenty to Make) and I’m also hosting a giveaway for my review copy of the book, so read on for more details!

    Book Review

    Mini Christmas Crochet (Twenty to Make) is part of Search Press’s Twenty to Make series.  I am not really in the target audience of this book, since I grew up in a multi-faith family and never inherited the tradition of creating Christmas decorations from my grandmothers.  (I’m am not much for seasonal decorations, in general.)

    The book includes twenty patterns for crocheted Christmas decorations.  All of the patterns are made using crochet cotton thread and a 2 mm (US size B) crochet hook.  The book aims to be bilingual (U.S. and U.K. terms) and includes a key at the beginning, as well as parenthetical translations.  The ornament patterns are Pine Cones, Festive Wreath, Dove of Peace, Glimmering Snowflake, Christmas Stocking, Wishing Star, Christmas Bell, Christmas Pudding, and Christmas Bear.  The character projects are Rudolf the Reindeer, Good Fairy, Baby Penguin, Cool Snowman, and Little Angel.  The table top decorations are Christmas Cracker, Tabletop Tree, Yuletide Coaster, and Festive Napkin Ring.  The other projects are the Snowy Fridge Magnet and the Poinsetta Gift Topper.

    In general, the projects remind me of the types of decorations my maternal grandmother used to make for the holidays – very traditional crocheted items made primarily using reds, golds, and whites with some greens and other winter colors added in.  Most of the projects include additional embellishments, such as buttons, ribbon for the ornaments, or holly berry embellishments, and quite a few projects are stuffed.

    The target audience is advanced beginner to intermediate crocheters comfortable working with thread (or willing to make larger projects by substituting yarn) who decorate for Christmas and/or give away decorative gifts.  This could be a fun book if you are participating in a yarn related Christmas swap or “secret Santa” exchange.  The book itself, like the others in the Twenty to Make series, is a slender, short paperback which is very portable, but it doesn’t lay flat for you to read while crocheting.  The projects are quite small (as the title suggests) so they can be made with a minimal amount of crochet cotton.

    If you like making relatively traditional Christmas decorations (or have people on your gift list who like to receive them), it would definitely be a good book to have in your hand this time of year.  If not, you will probably not have much use for these patterns.

    Giveaway

    I’m giving away my review copy of Mini Christmas Crochet (Twenty to Make), courtesy of Search Press.

    You will have 7 days to enter this giveaway.

    To enter,

    • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, October 31, 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, your comment 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!

    To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

    Interview with Tanis Gray, review of Knit Local, and giveaway

    Today, I’m interviewing Tanis Gray about her new book, Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns.  Her publisher, Sixth & Spring Books, sent me a copy to review, and I’ll also be hosting a giveaway for my review copy.

    Tanis is an accomplished knitwear designer.  She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and was the former Yarn Editor at Soho Publishing.  Like many yarn crafters, she shares her love of the craft through her volunteerism, and teaches knitting at a women’s shelter and also donates Snuggles to pet shelters.  She can be found at her website or her Ravelry designer page.  All photographs are used with Tanis’s permission, and credited appropriately below.

    The Interview

    Tanis Gray

     

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

    Tanis: My mother taught me when I was 8 years old with the help of a family friend. Both my grandmothers were knitters and crocheters. I can’t wait to get knitting needles in my son’s hands! I think everyone should knit and am a big believer in knitting being taught in schools. I’d love to see it taught in every single school in America. It teaches concentration, basic math, self confidence, a sense of accomplishment, color skills, and the simple act of being able to provide for yourself. If you’re cold, make yourself a hat! (UC comment: This is so true!  I’m always impressed when people tell me they learned knitting and crocheting at school “back home” before coming to the U.S. – and they all seem to have a better understanding of math than our students here!) People are too plugged in nowadays. We need to break that cycle with the new generation and knitting could be instrumental in that.

    Knitted Gift Box, published in Vogue Knitting on the Go: Quick Gifts.
    UC: What inspired you to start designing?
    Tanis: I had always designed my own mittens, hats, and scarves. I was in a serious mitten phase for many years and pretty much anyone I knew got a pair at some point. I started looking for certain things in stores and could never find exactly what I wanted. That led me to start designing, but I didn’t get serious about it or have the confidence until I worked at Vogue Knitting to try designing beyond accessories. Seeing my first sweater design published was a thrill. I still get a tingle of excitement when I open a magazine or book and see something I designed and knit on the page.
    Atelier Gloves, published by Lion Brand Yarn. The pattern is available as a free download on their website.
    UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
    Tanis: Everywhere! There are so many museums where we live in Washington, D.C., and my mom and I spent so many weekends at the art museum growing up. Looking in magazines, reading books, seeing something on the street, in a dream… Inspiration is all over, you just have to keep your eyes open.
    Cabled Belt, published in Vogue Knitting.
    UC: Your new book, Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns, has just been published.  What was the design process like for this book?
    Tanis: I had worked on so many books for other people while working at Soho Publishing. Being in charge and working on every single aspect where it was all on me was interesting. I wrote the entire thing on my kitchen table and at a few local coffee shops and it was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and last thing before I went to sleep. It was so much writing, talking on the phone with the yarn companies, emailing, fact checking, photo gathering, and patience.
    My husband is a green mechanical engineer and he was a big inspiration. When we first started dating he changed all of my lightbulbs to energy efficient (long before it was trendy), investigated my recycling, and opened my eyes to living a more enviormentally-friendly lifestyle. Getting a bunch of designers together to design for this book who understood what it was I was trying to convey was a tough process, and I think the end result speaks for itself. The designs are beautiful and I am so proud of everyone who contributed.

    My soul is in this book and I hope people love it as much as I enjoyed making it.

    Caprica, published by Be Sweet Yarn.
    UC: You have held many roles in the yarn industry, including working as a designer, editor, and now author.  What advice do you have for aspiring needlearts professionals?
    Tanis: Never give up. Designs get rejected all the time but it’s not necessarily because the design was bad. It may not have fit into the issue or been what they were looking for that time around. Keep trying and keep designing. Don’t be married to a certain idea. I’ve seen people submit the same design over and over again because they loved it so much but it wasn’t what the magazine was looking for. Self publish it on Ravelry, get it out of your system and start again. Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before being published! Where would we be without Harry Potter? That’s a fantastic example of determination and not giving up.
    Hat and Scarf Set, published by Knit Simple.
    UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
    Tanis: I have so many knitting books. When another one comes in the mail, my husband always asks “do you really need another knitting book?” The answer is YES! I especially love older knitting books that are very straightforward. There are no bells and whistles, just the knitting. But on the other hand, I love glossy, full-color, beautiful books also. It’s interesting to have books from the Victorian era that are falling apart next to the most popular of today sitting side by side on my shelf. I’m a big fan of historical knitting books because I think it’s so important to know the history of a craft if you love it, especially if you do it as a career.
    Over and Out Scarf, published by ArtYarns.
    UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?
    Tanis: I’m an equal opportunity fiber lover. I love cotton, which many people don’t like knitting with, but a nice springy wool, a soft alpaca, a beautiful hand dye… I love it all! I think you should try every fiber at least once. Sometimes I’m surprised at how much I’ll love a yarn that I may have been unsure about.
    Thanks, Tanis, for taking time out for the interview!

    Book Review


    I was very excited about reviewing Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns, and for the most part, my high expectations were met.

    The concept of Tanis’s book is great.  The target audience is confident knitters in the United States who are environmentally conscious and/or interested in knowing more about how the yarns they love are produced.  Tanis encourages you to learn about where your yarn comes from, and introduces the reader to U.S. based companies who produce yarn in an eco-friendly manner.  By promoting these companies, Tanis aims to encourage us to be more environmentally conscious consumers, who buy products locally to reduce the carbon impact from transportation.  To this end, the book is arranged regionally, and includes a profile of twenty-eight yarn companies.  Each company’s profile is followed by a pattern using one or more of its yarns.

    What I like about this book:

    • As someone who has always live in an inner-city, and who occasionally fantasizes about living on farm, producing my own super awesome yarn, I was thrilled to read about people who’ve actually lived this dream.
    • The stories of the different companies are really interesting. (Full disclosure: I find entrepreneurs and their stories interesting – if you don’t, this could bore you to tears.)
    • It was helpful to read the business philosophies of the different companies and to know more about their products.  I learned a lot about the philosophy behind some of my favorite yearns.
    • I enjoyed learning about new yarns, and especially about those produced by small, independent yarn companies.  The profiles feel more intimate than reading about the yarn company on a website – almost like being introduced by a friend.
    • The resources section in the back includes information about knitting notions made in the U.S., as well as information about the yarn companies profiles in the book.
    • The book is graphically attractive and has excellent photographs.  It definitely qualifies as “eye candy.”
    • Unlike many books, which have no defined target audience and include beginner tutorials along with advanced patterns, this book aims squarely at the experienced knitter.  Two patterns are done in crochet, and the rest are in knit.  About half of the projects are advanced difficulty, with the rest being mostly intermediate.  There is one easy pattern.
    • There is a broad range of projects by many different designers.

    (Side note: My favorite knitting patterns were the Big Man on Campus Hoodie in Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance by Josh Bennett, the Cabled Car Coat in Farmhouse Yarns Andy’s Merino by Sauniell Connally, the Maritime Hat and Mittens in Swan Island Yarns Worsted by Jil Eaton, the McEnroe Diamonds Scarf in Juniper Moon Farm Fire Wool Worsted Weight by Ben Walker, Farmhouse Gloves in Solitude Romney by Kristin Nicholas, and the Winterthur Beret and Cowl Set in Hazel Knits Artisan Lively by Elspeth Kursh.  It might be my crochet bias, but I really liked both crochet patterns too, the Wildflowers Scarf in Buffalo Gold Lux by Linda Permann and the Random Harvest Afghan, photo-styled like a shawl, in Brown Sheep Company‘s Lamb’s Pride Worsted by Randy Caveliere.)

    On the other hand…

    Like some works of conceptual art, the book doesn’t come together exactly as you would imagine based on hearing about the concept.  For example:

    • After Tanis convinces us in the opening pages about all of the benefits of buying local to reduce environmental impact, the back cover flap proudly declares that the book was manufactured in China.  It is hard to believe that Sixth & Spring couldn’t find a location in the Western hemisphere to publish this book, especially given the subject matter.
    • It is wonderful to see a book with so many different designers represented.  However, I’m not sure that any one knitter would actually be interested in making this diversity of patterns.  There are baby/child garments, men’s and women’s clothing, all manner of accessories, a pair of socks, and a sprinkling of home decor – in quite a few different styles and using a range of techniques.  The book doesn’t look as cohesive as most books with a limited range of designers or a project theme.  I think many people look for themes in their books – either a project type (e.g., socks) or emphasis on a certain technique (e.g., cables), so this aspect of the book may limit its appeal.
    • While the back cover declares “30+ Gorgeous Knits!,” I keep counting and only get 30 projects.  I actually think 30 projects is plenty for a book of this price – but since the back cover has me thinking there are more projects, it seems like something is missing.
    • I can’t help but wonder why the companies with only 1 yarn produced in the U.S. are included (though their stories are just as interesting as the rest).

    The verdict

    I don’t knit nearly as much as I crochet, and if you read the blog regularly, you know that I don’t tend to follow patterns, so I’m not in the target audience of this book. However, it does stand on its own as an introduction to some of the small, independent yarn companies in the U.S.  I think an environmentally conscious knitter who likes at least five of these patterns would be quite happy with the book.  (And it would be easy to find 5 patterns you like, since the patterns on the whole are really great and represent a variety of techniques and styles.)  If you are not persuaded by Tanis’s case for buying local, eco-friendly yarns, you may still be swayed by the 30ish designs included in the book.  I do think you are likely to rate the book higher if you are interested in the environmental issues Tanis presents, or prefer to shop local for other reasons.  I would rate the book as a 4 out of 5 stars for the experienced, eco-conscious knitter.  It is an attractive exploration of diverse projects with interesting, well written tales of independent yarn companies.  This is not a book for a beginner knitter, and will probably have limited appeal to eco-friendly knitters outside of the U.S., or knitters who aren’t particularly concerned with how their yarn is produced or its impact on the environment.

    The Giveaway

    I’m giving away my review copy of Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns, courtesy of Sixth & Spring.  In the spirit of the book, this giveaway is only available to those with U.S. mailing addresses.  (Don’t worry, my international peeps – I have another giveaway coming up for you soon!)

    You will have 7 days to enter this giveaway.

    To enter,

    • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, October 30, 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, your comment 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!

    To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

    Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Freeform Knitting and Crochet with Margaret Hubert

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

    Two weeks ago, I spent my Sunday at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio as part of their Crochet Masters weekend.  After taking the wonderful Tartans & Plaids class with Jenny King, I had some time to browse the store.

    Samples of fall-themed Lion Brand Yarn projects on display.
    A glimpse of the Mochi Mochi Mochi Mochi Mochi installation by Anna Hrachovec.

    (You can see more of Anna’s designs here, learn more about the display here, or visit the Mochimochi Land website here.)

    My afternoon class was Freeform Knitting & Crochet with Margaret Hubert.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Margaret back in June, and have been a big fan of her many books and patterns for a while.  Margaret is the fashion crochet master in Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters.

    I recently had an exploration into freeform crochet as part of my Crochet Master Class project and wanted to see how Margaret would teach the subject.  I’ll admit that I only did a bit of the homework.  (Yes, I was a bad student!)  I was having trouble imagining how all of these pieces would come together.  I’m a bit on the fence about freeform crochet – sometimes I think it looks like junk, while other times it looks phenomenal.  Margaret’s freeform work seems quite inspired, so I was anxious to take the class with her.

    Margaret's a very generous teacher. She gave each of us an extensive handout...
    ... and our choice of awesome button.
    (My button from the back.)

    It turns out that Margaret does some planning to give her freeform a more orderly appearance.  She shared three techniques she uses for making freeform clothing and other projects.

    I ended up doing quite a bit of work in class – and not just because I hadn’t done all of the homework!

    Margaret advised us to have a "focal point" for our freeform pieces, and I made this flower to serve that purpose during class.

    I changed my idea about what I wanted to make and decided to work on a small case for my digital camera.  Silly as it seems, since I lost the case a while back, I have been alternately putting it inside of a fingerless cuff or a stray sock on the occasions where I’ve taken it out of the apartment.  (Like many crocheters and knitters, most of my projects are for other people and the items for me seem to fall lower and lower on the to do list.)

    Here's the start of my camera bag.

    Margaret’s teaching style is very hands on, and she spent quite a bit of time with each of us.  She also demonstrated different stitches and, because she brought so much of her own work, she could show examples of many of the techniques she was teaching.  Margaret’s lovely samples included some sneak peek projects from her upcoming The Granny Square Book: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Crocheting Square by Square.  (The projects were awesome, by the way!)

    I ended up buying a copy of her Learn to Free-Form Crochet in the Lion Brand Yarn Studio with the student discount.

    I confess, I'm addicted to DRG technique booklets!

    I used Donegal Tweed by Tahki Stacy Charles (stash yarns) for the class, so I felt I should purchase something in the shop.   I was glad that I could see the book in person because I had been looking at it online.  I’m pretty happy with it so far!  I haven’t made much progress on my camera bag since the class, though – too many higher priority WIPs in the queue.

    For more Year of Projects posts, visit When Did I Become a Knitter.

    To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.