Today is the third in a series of weekly posts where I feature an artisanal crochet hook maker, share a review of the hooks, and offer up a giveaway where you can win your very own hand crafted crochet hook!
Today’s post features Swamp Hooks. Amy Surratt is the maker behind the shop. All of Amy’s hooks are hand carved from genuine Southern swamp wood, and her shop’s tagline is “Southern grown, American made.” Amy stopped by today for a guest post, followed by my review of two Swamp Hooks, and a giveaway for a custom, wood carved crochet hook (!), so read on for details!
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By Amy Surratt, Swamp Hooks
Carving crochet hooks was never something I had given much thought to. It was not on a bucket list or in some greater design for my life. It was something that just dropped in on me, unexpectedly and quite literally.
A branch from a cypress tree fell and landed just outside the door and it was pretty. It looked like it should be something and not just refuse left behind by a storm. After long consideration, my fiancé and I decided to try and see what we could do with it. Unfortunately the first few tries ended badly and didn’t really resemble crochet hooks all that much. As a matter of fact, many of the first hooks ended up being kindling in the fire place when the heads popped off or the entire thing just seemed to implode so I don’t really have a finished hook to hold up and say “This is it, the first hook from that first branch.”
It did start a curiosity in both of us, though, that eventually blossomed into a joy, especially when the heads stopped popping off quite as often. It started us both looking around at trees and branches and wondering, “What could I make from that?” and “I wonder what the wood looks like.”
That was the first lesson I learned from carving crochet hooks. . . Sometimes happiness is not a goal to be struggled towards. Sometimes it drops out of the sky and lands at your feet. You just have to recognize it and the possibilities it opens up for you. We have both found that carving the hooks is something we enjoy to do. The way this branch or that will look when oiled, the smoothness of the hook when it is fully polished, using the natural curves and bends in a design. It is fun to do and we really enjoy it and we would never have tried it if Cypress trees didn’t have a habit of dropping branches at startlingly regular intervals.
The second lesson I learned was that carving random knobs and bumps is anything but a random act. I thought it would be easy — what could be easier than doing something completely random? I was wrong. To make something look random requires more thought than making it look like a swirly-doo. Humans tend to look for patterns in things and when you are carving that natural instinct sneaks in and before you know it, you are carving a set of uniform random bumps, evenly spaced and sized. To create something random you have to stop trying to create something random. You have to carve a bunch of separate things and focus not on the whole but on each thing and just trust the whole will work itself out in the end. It is not nearly as easy as it looks but it is also fun too. Pushing yourself to be random makes you see the wood grains and the knots and bends and work with them to create something different and unique.
The third lesson is that it takes a whole lot of effort to make something look natural. This sounds paradoxical but as soon as you start carving something, the naturalness of it is harder to maintain because you’ve changed it. It’s the whole physics “observation changes things” paradox I think. Instead of trying to push your idea of the natural look, you have to work with the wood to see what it wants to be. The grain of the wood might want to flow one way even if you planned on it going another. The tightness of the grain pattern or shape of the grain swirls might make things you thought of doing not work as well. To make it look natural you have to stop being in control of the carving in a way and let go, see the wood and let all of those things show you how to make it natural looking. You have to surrender creative control to the wood so it can show you what it wants to be. Wow, that sounded amazingly hokey but it is true. Sometimes the wood has a personality to it and you have to work with that and allow it to guide you.
The fourth and last lesson is harder to put into words. When creating artwork, I find it easy to step back and know that what my finished product is, is what I wanted it to be. I can see the results and feel the pride of accomplishment. When we create a hook, we can see if it is neat looking and can feel if it is smooth but that final step is not ours. The creation of the hook is actually a two-step process. We love making the hooks but even when we are done and the hook is finished and it looks just like we wanted it to, that final validation doesn’t come until the person we gave it to or who bought it tells us, “I love the hook and it works great for me.”
The final product of our labors is the start, not the end. That final moment of stepping back and taking pride in what we have created happens when the hook finds a home and a hand that will use it. Hearing about people’s projects with our hooks is great. It is like we are part of a bigger series of events. What we love to do just flows into what other’s love and that is a very cool thing in my book.
So carving hooks is more than just a way to make money for us. It has been a very fun journey so far that has taught us things. We never thought it would or that we’d enjoy it so much but, the fact is, that stick on the ground started a passion in us. Today, I carved a butterfly on the end of a crochet hook made from an orange tree that has been giving us oranges for 20 years and finally got caught by a frost. It is beautiful and the tree, which by the way had the best oranges, becomes something new. That is a cool feeling to have.
The giveaway we are doing is for a hook of whatever size you want and whatever kind of handle design you like best. You can choose cypress, swamp mahogany, melaleuca, or orange wood as the material. We’ll work with you to make whatever kind of hook and size of hook that you want and it will be a one of a kind thing, just for you.
Swamp Hooks Crochet Hook Review
Amy sent me two hooks to try out: a Melaleuca “Love Hook” in US H-8 (5mm) and a Cypress hook in US K-10.5 (6.5 mm). You can see the hooks in action and watch my full review video below.
Swamp Hooks are tapered crochet hooks available in several different styles.
The “Love Hook” has the type of “random” knobs that Amy discusses in her guest posts along with a heart shaped end. The Cypress hook is in their signature “Original Swamp Hook” style with bark on it for a rustic look.
What I like about these hooks:
- Both hooks are incredibly smooth. I assume this is to the natural oils and beeswax Swamp Hooks uses to finish each hook. These are probably the smoothest wooden hooks I have ever worked with.
- Both styles are visually appealing.
- The Original Swamp Hook had a long handle to avoid the abrasion against the side of your hand that sometimes happens when you use the knife grip to hold your hook.
- Both hooks have a tapered throat, which I prefer to an inline hook.
- Both hooks have a wider circumference on the handle, allowing for a more relaxed grip while crocheting.
- These hooks are created in a sustainable, ecologically friendly manner. The wood is gathered from fallen trees on their property and after hand carving, each is finished with natural oils and beeswax.
What might take some getting used to about these hooks:
- Most crocheters would probably take several uses to find a comfortable grip on the hooks with “random” knobs.
- Crocheters who prefer hooks with inline throats to tapered hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with this hook.
- Both styles of hook have non-standard shapes, so they may not fit into your existing hook holders.
Swamp Hooks currently sell for $15 – $25, depending on the size, style, and wood used. You can find more of their hooks and their other products, including aprons and hair sticks, in the Etsy shop here.
Full disclosure: Two free review samples were provided by Swamp Hooks. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Amy from Swamp Hooks is offering up a special hook to one lucky U.S. reader! The winner can choose hook size, handle type, and material from options including Cypress, Melaleuca, Swamp Mahogany, and Orange Tree wood!
So stop by Swamp Hooks and let us know your favorite hook from the shop in the comments! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win by Friday, April 3, 2015. Only entries logged through the widget will be eligible to win. Good luck!