Tag Archives: afghans

Interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager. Though we’ve never met in real life, Julie and I share a love of crocheting squares and blankets, and of participating in crochet related swaps. (And, I learned from the interview that we also both grew up shopping for yarn at Woolworth’s in New York City!)

Julie can be found online on Ravelry (as JulieAnny, on her designer page, in the Julie Yeager Designs group), Facebook, and Etsy. Julie also founded and co-moderates the Vanna’s Choice Fan Club group on Ravelry, where you can exchange squares and share pictures of your Vanna’s Choice creations. All photos are copyright Julie Yeager and are used with permission.

Julie Yeager

Julie Yeager.

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

Julie: I’m honored to talk to the readers of Underground Crafter, Marie.  Thanks for having me. (UC comment: Thanks so much, Julie! It’s great to have you stop by.) I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was about 8; learned from my Irish mom. I would buy sparkly crochet thread at Woolworth’s in the Bronx, NY and crochet clothes for my Barbies. I also made my share of granny square tote bags. I didn’t do much crafting in my 20s, maybe an occasional baby blanket, but then when I became a stay at home mom I got back into knitting and machine knitting for my daughter. When I discovered Ravelry I got into crocheting afghan squares and blankets and I haven’t stopped.


Stained Glass Afghan Square

Stained Glass Afghan Square, available as a 12″ block pattern.


UC: What inspired you to start designing? 

Julie: I’ve always changed patterns to my taste and would put together the yoke from one sweater with the sleeves from another so I guess I’ve been “designing” a little for years.
I joined some afghan square swap groups on Ravelry and perfected my technique using the patterns of many great designers. Interweave Crochet magazine and the Crochet Me website sponsored a contest in which readers could submit afghan square patterns and the winners would become part of a published pattern called the Chain Reaction Afghan Project. I just picked up my hook and started playing around and submitted a few designs. Three of my designs were chosen and appeared in Interweave Crochet in 2010 – 2011. It was very exciting and the start of my designing career. With Ravelry, I had a great tool to share my work.



The Hexaghan, including 6 different hexagon designs joined together into one 61 hexagon blanket.

UC: You primarily design crocheted squares. What is it about square motifs that you enjoy designing? 

Julie: I love designing 12-inch squares in aran weight yarn and I have an obsession with Vanna’s Choice. I like the modern look of large scale stitching and I feel like a sculptor with my hook in hand. Fitting my idea into a 12-inch square and getting it to square is very satisfying. My squares are small enough to design and crochet quickly, and I enjoy writing a clear pattern that is easy to follow. I also like an unfussy and repetitive design; as a pattern-user I do not like to have to constantly refer to the instructions and I want my customers to enjoy themselves. Also, there are no fitting problems with blankets!


Catalina Afghan Square

Catalina Afghan Square, a free pattern available in both 9″ and 12″ sizes.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing? 

Julie: With Ravelry and Paypal and a head full of ideas, it is easy and stress-free to work this business around my life. I have a full-time job as a Registered Nurse and am raising a 16-year-old, so I can write and publish patterns around my schedule. Although I would love to have my patterns in magazines and books, for now I find this a great outlet for my creativity and am very happy with how it’s going. It is not for everyone; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and competent with designing, writing, proof-reading, and know your way around the internet. No editors or publicists on my staff, haha.


Tangled Web Afghan Block

Tangled Web Afghan Block, a 12″ square design.


UC: You’ve hosted several Mystery Crochet-a-Longs. What do you enjoy about using this format to release your patterns? Do you have any tips for designers who want to dip their toes into the MCAL waters? 

Julie: Mystery Crochet-a-Longs are a fun way to draw interest to my patterns. I am lucky to have a base of fans who trust me and are willing to blindly follow where I go! I can only do it about once a year because designing, crocheting, and writing and proofreading a pattern for a whole blanket is very time-consuming! I need a compelling idea to keep my interest through the work! My fans seem to enjoy it and it keeps them interested in my new work. It also brings new fans. I’ve kept the Mystery’ghan free for participants and then later I put the pattern up for sale. The finished projects become a marketing tool. I’m always a little nervous hoping that people will like it after they’ve invested their time and money into a “Mystery.” My only advice is that you have your pattern fully tested before you start.


Garden State Afghan

Garden State Afghan, which Julie originally offered in June, 2013 as a MCAL design, includes eight 4″ squares, four 8″ squares, and two 12″ square patterns.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

Julie: When I first started swapping afghan squares, Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans was my favorite. I also worked my way through a few other square reference books, like 101 Crochet Squares by Jean Leinhauser. I love Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders for finishing after I have a pile of squares to join! I sometimes use The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden for stitch inspiration. I try to invent my own stitches these days!


Sun Catcher Afghan Square


Sun Catcher Afghan Square, a 12″ block.


UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Julie: I am a Ravelry addict and check in there several times a day. I like to check the Hot Right Now pattern list and I also check in with my group to see if anyone has any questions or if anyone has posted an awesome photo. :)


In Treble Afghan Square

In Treble Afghan Square, a 12″ block.



UC: What projects do you have coming up this year?

Julie: I am currently working on the pattern for my next Mystery-Ghan and hope to have that ready for a June 2014 start. Stay tuned to my Ravelry board for information on that. Clues will be given out over a six-week period and you will have a complete afghan finished!


Thanks again for stopping by, Julie, and I wish you and your fans the best for a fun summer Mystery-Ghan!

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Better Homes and Gardens Crocheting & Knitting

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This week’s pick: Better Homes and Gardens Crocheting & Knitting

Source: Paperbackswap.com

Publication date: 1977

Status: Out of print but available online.

Condition: Smells like a basement, but in relatively good condition.

Crafts: Crochet and knitting.

BH&G C&K cover

I went on a hunt for this book after seeing Crochetbug’s version of the afghan on the cover.  (For those of you considering making your own, Crochetbug has set up a page with details about how she made hers.  You can also find more information on her Ravelry project pages for her original and reprised versions.)

BH&G C&K afghan
Jackie H. Curry’s Granny Square Sampler Afghan.

I even tried my hand at some of the blocks, which I eventually donated.

This book has a lot of fun home decor crochet and knitting projects.

Some of my favorites…

The Old Fashioned Windowpane Knitted Afghan by Winnie Juhl.

BH&G C&K scraps

Spiral Crocheted Table Toppers by Mary Walker Phillips.  (Side note: Mary Walker Phillips was a fascinating woman.  You can read more about her cultural impact in her obituary.)

BH&G C&K placemat


Crocheted Bed Throw.

BH&G C&K bedspreadFilet Crochet Chair Set.

BH&G C&K chair

Cozy Quilt Patterned Throw by Susan Toplitz.

BH&G C&K cozy quilt

This book is unusual for the time because it actually lists the names of the designers (in the back, but still).  Until recently, relatively few designers were actually able to include their names in their publications.  Most designs were unattributed, with the yarn company or magazine acting as the implied author.

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Quilts & Afghans from McCall’s Needlework & Crafts

This week’s pick: Quilts and Afghans From McCall’s Needlework & Crafts

Source: PaperBackSwap.com

Publication date: 1984

Status: Out of print, but widely available online

Condition: Acceptable

Craft(s): Crochet, knitting, and quilting

This is a collection of patterns that originally appeared in McCall’s Needlework & Crafts magazine.

The book includes 14 quilt patterns, 11 crochet patterns, and 5 knitting patterns.  The last chapter includes general instructions for patchwork, applique, quilting, tufting, embroidery, crochet, and knitting.

I was amused to see that the introduction talks about the “modern interpretations of old-fashioned patterns.”  I guess that phrase never gets old.  (Naturally, the book now appears dated.)

It opens with the quilting patterns.  Some of my favorites are the Fan Quilt and the Broken Star Quilt.

The patterns are pretty detailed, but mostly use templates.  I’m guessing that many of today’s quilters might prefer strip quilting (or is that just me because I’m lazy?).  Of course, you can always convert the projects or just use the quilts for inspiration.

One major difference from many modern quilting books is that there are actual instructions for how to quilt the tops, including templates for the stitch outlines.  There are even tips for enlarging the templates (without a scanner or copy machine).

The next section is the crochet patterns.  Most are also quilting inspired.  Some of my favorites are (clockwise, from top left) Color Wheels Afghan, Star Quilt Bedspread, Florentine Afghan, and Autumn Windows Afghan.

Another sign of the times: The Florentine Afghan is made with Tunisian crochet and then there is a chart to work needlepoint over it.  Today, it would probably be charted as a crocheted (or Tunisian crocheted) colorwork pattern.

The Star Quilt looks like an awesome scrap buster, but I don’t think I could handle making all 114 blocks (each of which is made up of 12 pieces!).

Most of the knitting patterns are not really to my taste, but I did like the Argyle Afghan.  The chart could also be used for Tunisian crochet or single crochet.

Overall, this book has some nice patterns and some good tips.  I like the fact that it is multi-craftual and that doesn’t seem to be a problem as it might be today.  It has great inspiration inside, but I think many of today’s crafters would probably take some shortcuts and make adjustments to the patterns.


Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Sara Palacios from Arrorró en Colores

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Argentinian crochet designer Sara Palacios, the mind behind Arrorro en Colores (known as Colorful Lullabies in English).  Sara can be found online on her website, Ravelry (as SaraBea and in the Colorful Lullabies store), Etsy, Facebook, and Flickr.  All pictures are used with her permission.

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

Sara: I’ve liked handicrafts since I was a child. My mother was a dressmaker and I grew up watching her as she created new things, being passionate about fabrics, textures, shapes, and colors. When I was 10, she taught me the basics of crochet, knitting and embroidery. I also learned a lot from my aunts, who where always crocheting doilies, and from the craft magazines that they used to give me: they were the best gift I could get!

UC: When did you first become passionate about afghans?

Sara: At age 15, I crocheted a multicolor granny square using yarn remains and made a pillow with it. It was then that I discovered the magic of harmonizing colors and I wanted to crochet a blanket for my bed. This time I made it with new brightly colored wool. Since then, I came up with several ideas that I kept as projects to do some day, such as the illusions of stacked cubes. During the following 27 years, I crocheted some simple blankets and other things, but I did not realize any of these early projects because there was always something missing: time or money.

In 2008, I could make the first of the blankets I had been planning to do for so long. After that I could never stop imagining new things.


Hexagon Spiral pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Sara: To copy other people’s models in an exact way – as beautiful as the model may have been – bored me. For example, I needed to combine the design of a pattern with a different stitch from another, and the colors of a flower in my garden. In other words, I needed to add something personal to it. And so, unexpected things started to come up. Any aspect of life that makes me feel passionate or that suggests beauty or excellence to me can be the source of inspiration for a crochet design: nature, art, dreams, maths, science or everyday experiences.


Flower Rug pattern.

UC: Tell us about crochet in Argentina.

Sara: In general, crochet is picked up within the family as grandmothers, mothers and aunts teach you. However, today it is also learned through the Internet. In some places, they teach courses to learn or perfect crochet techniques. Usually, we learn both knitting and crochet but, as time goes by, we tend to choose crochet.

I believe that in the last years we, crocheters, are becoming more and more well-known, and we have started meeting in groups mostly thanks to social networks. In addition, there are also more young people crocheting nowadays.

This increasing popularity in crochet has to do in part with initiatives for solidarity that consist in getting granny squares of a certain size so as to make blankets to donate to hospitals and retirement homes. In particular the group Tejiendo por un Sueño (Knitting/Crocheting for a Dream) on Facebook gets thousands of knitters and crocheters together, and it also provokes an infectious enthusiasm that is both enriching and motivating. In this way more people want to crochet again which, the way I see it, has to do with the ‘magic’ of the granny squares: The possibility of combining colors, of giving new life and use to the leftovers of other handicrafts, of getting unique products and also of working with and for the community.

UC: Most of your patterns are available in English (both US and UK terms) and in Spanish.  What made you decide to sell bilingual patterns?

Sara: I had always wanted to write patters, but I had never imagined myself doing it in English. I opened my shop on Etsy with the intention of selling blankets, but people started to ask me for the patterns, and so I decided to write them in both languages. I am happy to be able to share them with more people.

Joy: Hexagon and Triangle Blanket pattern.

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?

Sara: Crochet soñado by Claudia Daneu is an Argentine blog with many video crochet patterns that explain very nice stitches and interesting variations.  Tejido Crochet is another Argentine crochet blog with original designs and graphics.  Mi Sala de Costura is a Spanish patchwork and craft blog, which also includes beautiful crochet patterns.

In English, I like Fiddlesticks and the crochet techniques of Vashti Braha, among other blogs.  (UC comment: I’m a huge fan of Vashti’s blog and newsletter, and I also interviewed her back in January.)


Wonder, crochet flower blanket pattern.

UC: What’s next for Arroro en Colores?

Sara: I have a lot of projects. Most of my patterns are still in my head or in a draft. I crochet and write when I have free time to do it. I make my living working on computing with computers and crochet is just a hobby.  I would like to be able to spend more hours on it, although I don’t want to hurry: crocheting is precisely about going slowly step by step.


Thanks so much, Sara, for stopping by to share your thoughts with us!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.


Year of Projects 2: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Like U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (in an afghan motif).

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I’ve done a lot of swatching this week and I’m not that much closer to choosing a pattern for the bedspread I want to make my mom for her milestone birthday.

At first, I was thinking that a hexagon motif was the way to go.  This is motif 14 from Lace Crochet Best Pattern 238.  It was very hot, so I was crocheting with Parisian Cotton.

Then the weather broke (from 100s to 80s/90s) and I decided to combine my swatching for this blanket with my goal of making 52 granny squares using different patterns.  So I picked out a bunch of square patterns to try.

This is my version of Dream Catcher, by Sherry Welch in Caron Simply Soft scraps.  I don’t think it is quite right for my mom’s bedspread, but I enjoyed making it.

This is my version of Locutus by Penny Davidson.  I started with a really ancient ball of white yarn from my stash that used to belong to my grandmother.  When it ran out, I moved on to some Caron Simply Soft in Buff for the edges.  I had some trouble with the pattern for the fourth round but I actually think this motif (the center of it) is in the running for my mom’s bedspread.

My next square was Crown Jewels by Melinda Miller.  This one is made with two colors of Red Heart Super Saver.  This one is also in the running, but I’m not sure how much my mom likes bobbles.

Then a friendly crocheter on Crochetlist heard of my quest for the perfect motif and pointed me towards the Renaissance Beauty by Carol Alexander.  Although this is available as a free pattern, I actually have it in one of my favorite books in my collection in 100 Afghans to Knit & Crochet.  This motif is much more beautiful than the pictures (of the blanket draped over a person or a chair) would lead you to believe.  My version of this motif probably my top choice right now, especially since it looks so good in a Lion Brand Baby’s First.  The idea of using a bulky yarn for this bedspread is very appealing – not only will it work up much faster, but I think the heavier yarn adds a modern look to a classic motif.

One of the hardest things about this search is that many of the best granny patterns are made with multiple colors.  It is really hard to envision them in one solid color, which is what I have planned for this bedspread.  My version of the Waterlily from 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans by Jan Eaton is an example.  It looks sort of dull and lifeless without the color changes.

The Venetian Star from Margaret Hubert’s The Granny Square Book is another motif that I’m strongly considering.  My version is a few rounds shorter since I ran out of yarn, but I like the look anyway.

I tried two other Jan Eaton blocks, which I think are successful in one color, but not quite what I’m looking for in this bedspread.  This is my version of the Peach Rose

…and this is my version of the Gothic Square.  Both were made with an old skein of Lion Brand Cotton-Ease that has been in my stash since around 2007.

If nothing else, I’ve made progress in stash busting.  I finished off three partial skeins and one full skein of yarn.  And, I’ve finished 8 more squares towards my YOP goal of 52.

A few questions: Do you have any favorite motif patterns that work well in a solid color?  And what do you think of the bulky yarn idea?

For more YOP posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

Blanket retrospective

Barbara at Made in K-Town is hosting one of her awesome link parties, and this month the theme is crocheted blankets.  I was inspired to share some the blankets I made before I was blogging.

Way back in May, I posted about the project journal I used to use for my crochet projects before blogging.  Thanks to those lovely files, I have some great pictures of blankets from back in the day.  Be warned, these pictures were all taken indoors and I didn’t originally plan to share them with the world :).


… was the year of the throw (a.k.a. lapghan) for me.  I had finally learned how to make a granny square (courtesy of a this free pattern from the JPF Crochet Club by Julie A. Bolduc).

This was my first project made by joining granny squares together.

I made this for my dad’s birthday.  I had never joined granny squares before so I hadn’t really thought about all of the ends that would need to be woven in.  I finished it on time, but was totally overwhelmed by the ends (48 squares, each with two yarn tails, plus I whipstitched the squares together with yet more yarn tails).  I actually took it back from him (yep, I did wrap it, ends and all, so I would have something to give!) and then let it sit in my closet for two more years until I was brave enough to attack the ends.  Since then, I’ve learned to weave in my ends as I go :).

I found the Lapghans pattern by Marilyn Coleman on the Coats and Clark website shortly thereafter, and took to making one-piece granny blankets.

A lapghan for my god daughter. My cat Yang, a.k.a. Mr. Cranky (rest in peace), had a way of working himself into the picture.
This one ended up as a Christmas present.

My first bedspread sized blanket was Garden Stripes by Aline Suplinskas in the Afghan Collectors Series from The Needlecraft Shop.

This was an engagement present. (Now that they are no longer together, I wonder what happened to it?)

I also made my sister a lapghan when she went away to college.  I used the Campus Colors pattern by Carole Rutter Tippett from Quick and Cozy Afghans.

Go Lords!

Believe it or not, these are just a few of the crocheted blankets I made in 2005.

Monet Pineapple

This is one of the patterns I fell in love with after 2005.

Monet Pineapple, circa 2006.

Monet Pineapple by Janie Herrin is one of my favorite designs in my beloved copy of 100 Afghans to Knit & Crochet by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss. I made several versions, but the one in this picture was a wedding gift.  It’s unfortunate that you can’t see the detail of the beautiful pineapples in my picture.

And, for good measure…

I’ve thrown in a picture of my favorite quilt.  I call it Log Cabin by the Sea.  This is the first first quilt I started (in November 2005), which I finally finished quilting in February, 2008.  I love it!  We sleep under it every night and it is super cozy.

What are your handmade favorite blankets?

Interview with Renate Kirkpatrick, book review, and week of giveaways kick off!

The Interview

Today I’m pleased to feature an interview with Renate Kirkpatrick, the fiber artist, teacher, and author living in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, as my 100th blog post!  I first discovered Renate’s work through the Tunisian Crochet group on Ravelry.  The moderators posted the names of several Tunisian crochet books on the group page, and I saw Renate’s Crochet Techniques (Milner Craft Series) listed.  I decided to take a chance and order it on Amazon since the description sounded delightful.  (You can read my review of the book here, or read my comparative review of the 20+ crochet stitch guides in my collection here.)  Since then, I’ve seen more of Renate’s work on her blog, her Flickr photostream, her Facebook page, and her Ravelry designer page.  I particularly love her recent pictures of her crocheted metallic vest on Flickr.

Renate Kirkpatrick

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

Renate: To be honest, I really don’t remember… I do recall, as a child, sitting with a neighbour as she crocheted slippers and how thrilled I was when she gave me my very own pair… perhaps something subliminal going on there.  My grandmother and great grandmother were both wonderful crocheters/knitters, and I have a box filled with their beautiful works that I treasure, but I never knew them so perhaps there’s a bit of genetics going on too.  I think I made my first granny square in my mid-teens.  (UC comment: I also treasure my grandmother’s beautiful work, some of which you can see in this post.)

Renate made this felted, hand dyed, freeform hat with beads for the 2011 Alice Springs Beanie Festival.

(UC comment: For more info about the Beanie Festival, an event where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists share their work and culture together, visit the website here.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Renate: Family, friends, students… Family members and friends would ask me to make this or that and I’d write it down as I went so not to forget.  Students asking for more than just sampler squares.  The sheer challenge of coming up with a pattern idea and writing it down.

Renate's second book.

UC: I recently bought a copy of Bring Colour to Crochet: 64 Multi-Coloured Squares (Milner Craft Series).  What was the design process like for this book?  How did that compare to the process for your other two books?

Renate: My first two books, Freeform Crochet and Beyond: Bags, Cushions, Hats, Scarves and More (Milner Craft Series) and Crochet Techniques (Milner Craft Series), came about through tragedy.  The local craft shop where I was teaching was destroyed by fire, along with all my sampler rugs (afghans) and the many freeform examples I had on display.  Luckily, I still had all the patterns.  I put together book proposals and submitted them to a number of publishers.  About 6 months later, Sally Milner Publishers contacted me for 2 books and so it began.  I like to think that Bring Colour to Crochet sits somewhere between the first two.  My hope is that the traditionalists and freeformers alike will be challenged and inspired by the variety of colour incorporations and also the many novel stitches that make up this 64 pattern sampler.

Renate's Metamorphosis freeform cushion cover includes water soluble fabric, machine and wet felted patches, felted beads, crochet motifs, and glass bead embellishments.

UC: What first inspired you to teach crochet?

Renate: The desire to help and share.  I was teaching Papermaking and Hooked Rag Rugging at said local craft store when I was asked if I’d like to teach some basic crochet as well.  Not one to do things by halves, I decided that once the students had a grasp of the basics they might want to try their hand at something more challenging to continue on – and so, the first sampler rug was born (Classic in Crochet Techniques).  From there it was a matter of staying a step or two in front of these enthusiastic ladies and with each crochet technique explored (Tunisian, double-ended, in the round, Jacquard), a new sampler was created as a teaching tool and goal setter.  (UC comment: My students keep me on my toes too, and definitely inspire me to learn new techniques and advance my skills.)

As a teacher, there is nothing more satisfying than having a student come to class lacking confidence and leaving excited and believing they can do it.

UC: Has teaching crochet impacted your own personal crafting?

Renate: Absolutely… The very fact that I was asked to teach the basics propelled me forward to research and explore.  Without my students asking “What’s next?”, I would never have learnt what I know today or achieved half as much.  It was a student who first introduced me to freeform, which has become my passion and the creative joy of my life.

Renate's Scribbler purse.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Renate: It’s always so cliché but nevertheless true, the Natural World and all that that encompasses – colour, texture, and form.  What can I say?  I’m an Australian; our colours are over-the-top, vivid, bright; our textures tactile; and our forms bold.  It’s more than enough to keep me inspired for a very long time.  I blogged about this very theme some time ago.

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

Renate: I think I may have more craft books and magazines than the local library, but can’t say I refer to one more than another.  I do like to crawl the opportunity shops for old, old, patterns and books but so do others, or so it seems, because they’re very hard to come by now.

Renate's Sideshow Alley shawl.

UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites you’d like to share?

Renate: Ravelry is probably my most favorite site.  It brings together so many different people and ideas.  I’ve met so many interesting, passionate craftspeople that I feel quite at home and the mind boggles with all the exciting things happening in the yarn world.

A detail from Renate's Sideshow Alley shawl.


UC: (Insert question here: Feel free to share anything that I haven’t asked about that you would like to talk about related to creativity, crochet, designing, new projects, teaching, etc.)

Renate: As I look back over the years and remember how crochet/knitting, indeed many older crafts, were considered out-dated, redundant, and doddery, I’m delighted to see their revival and the enthusiasm in which they are being embraced all ’round the world.

Lastly, and at the risk of repeating myself because I say this so often, I’m an avid believer in “the doing.”  How often do you hear, “Oh, but I’m not the least bit creative…”  I still maintain that everyone harbours some creativity within them and it comes to life through “the doing.”  Talent is one thing but not nearly enough.  Without “the doing,” how will the talent ever awaken and come to fruition?  A good old Aussie saying, “You’ll never know unless you give it a go…”

Well said, Renate!  Thank you so much for stopping in for an interview today.  And now on to the book review…

Book Review


Since I enjoyed Crochet Techniques (Milner Craft Series) so much, I decided to pick up Renate’s Bring Colour to Crochet: 64 Multi-Coloured Squares (Milner Craft Series).  (You can check out a great picture of the completed sampler here.)

My version actually has a different cover, since I ordered it through the Crafter's Choice book club.

The book starts with an introduction that includes illustrated stitch instructions, a stitch symbol key, and some helpful tips for weaving in ends since the patterns require frequent color changes.  Renate also includes directions for edging and joining the squares in the beginning section.  As with Crochet Techniques, stitch abbreviations throughout the book use Australian/UK terms with US terms in parentheses.

I use stitch samplers as a teaching tool a lot, so I really appreciate the book’s concept.  Each sampler square is photographed individually and each square uses two to five colors.  The squares are organized into 13 groups (Basic Stripes; Spikes; Shells: Zigzags; Reliefs; Ripples; Chains; Mosaics; Clusters and Bobbles; Afghans; Variable Stripes; Novelty Squares; and Bricks and Boxes) which makes it easier to find them later. Since the entire sampler uses the same five colors, there is a very coordinated appearance to the book.  If you have several stitch guides, you may recognize some of the stitches in Renate’s squares, but often the colors are introduced to new effect.  My personal favorite stitches are Square 25, 31, 32, 34, and 43.

On the other hand, if you are not fond of Renate’s color palette, you can obviously substitute yarns, but that topic isn’t specifically addressed.  There isn’t any pattern difficulty rating listed, so it would be hard for someone new to crochet or pattern reading to have a sense of the comparative difficulty of the patterns.  You can tell from reading the book that Renate as a teacher is relatively laid back about gauge (tension) and she suggests that you use a hook and yarn that you are comfortable with.  However, I know from personal experience that when I was still relatively new to pattern reading, I had great difficulty getting my squares made from Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans: Crochet Squares to Mix and Match to be the same size.  I think some beginners might need more explanation of gauge, yarn substitution, and hook sizes if they were working up a full sampler from Renate’s book without having her physically present as a teacher :).

Overall, I really like the sampler format.  I found quite a few stitches that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, or which were reinvented through the use of color.  I enjoyed Renate’s relaxed style compared to some books which can make me feel like the Crochet Police are looking over my shoulder.  However, if you are the type of crocheter who likes to follow the pattern exactly in terms of gauge, color choices, etc., you may find that Renate is not “strict” enough for you.  I recommend the book to crocheters looking for some new stitches, who enjoy making afghans and rugs, and/or who are afraid of color and would like a friendly teacher to walk them through some explorations.  The book may be too challenging for most beginners to work their way through (though an adventurous beginner would have a lot of fun experimenting with the book).  In my Amazon review, I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Giveaway

Today’s giveaway kicks off my week of giveaways in celebration of my 100th blog post, which you have just read!  Yay!

Today’s prize is The Crochet Lite Crochet Hooks-Size I 5.5mm.

This hook is brand new in the package and includes batteries.  In addition to having a comfort grip, this hook lights up, so you can work on that stitch sampler afghan in the wee hours of the night :).  It has an on/off switch to protect battery life.  I have never used the Crochet Lite hooks but it seems like a cool idea :).

You will have 10 days to enter each giveaway.  To enter for a chance to win this Crochet Lite hook,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, August 15, 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 a second 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 a second entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, you can still post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For a third 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 a third entry.
  • I am willing to ship this internationally, so please feel free to enter from any location.

Good luck to everyone!

Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook: Interview with Ellen Gormley, book review, and giveaway

I’m thrilled to post an interview with designer and author Ellen Gormley.  I love crocheting afghans (in fact, at one point, I made nothing else for about 3 years straight!) and recently heard about her new book, Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook, on the Getting Loopy podcast.  I then read more about it through Ellen’s blog tour for the book.  Finally, I was convinced to part with my hard earned money and check it out.

This post is long, because I’m including my interview with Ellen, my review of the book, and (dramatic drumroll please) a giveaway!  Read along to learn more about Ellen, what I thought of the book, and of course for your chance to win a free copy of Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workshop!

The Interview

I’m having a hard time remembering the first pattern of Ellen’s which caught my eye, but I eventually began to notice that many patterns that I liked were written by her.  I love her afghan patterns, but Ellen designs many other things as well which you can see on her Ravelry designer page.   Ellen has been a designer for about seven years and, according to her blog, is also a mom and a lover of chocolate (who isn’t!) and Jazzercise (er, um…).

Ellen Gormley

UC: How did you get started designing?
Ellen: I had made 2 blankets for a friend’s wedding… his and hers mirror images, one was gray with white for him, and one was white with gray for her.  I had so much fun using the technique that I went ahead and practiced making the strip technique into rectangles.  It became the first pattern I ever sold, to Leisure Arts, in 2004. I never saw where the finished blanket ended up. When I sold the very first project I had ever designed, I knew I was on the right path and began truly researching how to make it a business.

UC: When I first became a CGOA Associate Professional member, you were the person who assigned me to my mentor, Mary Nolfi.  Tell me about how you became involved with the CGOA mentor program, and some of the benefits of having a mentor.

Ellen: I searched for crochet on the internet and found the Crochet Guild of America.  When I found out that there was a mentor program, I knew I needed the resource. Tammy Hildebrand was assigned to be my mentor. Soon after that, she became the Mentor Coordinator.  During our work, she had a personal crisis come up and asked if I would help her out temporarily with the Mentor Coordinator tasks.  Later, when it was time for her to move on from the position, she asked if I would take over, considering I had already learned the ropes when I had helped her.

Recently, I passed the torch to Renee Barnes, who is the current Mentor Coordinator.  The program is great because it gives a one-to-one contact for the burgeoning professional to get a ‘reality’ check and ask for guidance.  Still, no one can build your career for you, and the Mentor is there to support and encourage you along the way.

(UC comment: The CGOA mentoring program is really a wonderful opportunity for anyone attempting to enter the crochet industry.  Yes, there are other more informal resources such as the Ravelry Designers group or the Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design – which I recently reviewed – available.  But having a one-to-one relationship which is private and not on a public forum really can’t be beat in my opinion.  The best part is as the mentee, you are really expected to guide the process by asking questions, providing updates, etc., rather than sit passively while your mentor does all the work!)

UC: Crocheters and afghans (and crocheted afghans) sometimes get a bad rep.  When you’re designing afghans, do you feel additional pressure to break those stereotypes?

Ellen: In some ways designing afghans feels less ‘prestigious’ than designing garments; however, research shows that consumers make more afghans than any other type project.  Blankets fit without needing bust darts or specific measurements. They are awesome to give as gifts. You can take color risks with blankets that you might not want to take with a garment and blankets are easier to donate and are easier received than garments. Blankets are easier to hand down from generation to generation than garments. Blankets get used, which is the biggest compliment you can receive, to have your handmade item used.

UC: I recently bought a copy of your book, which I’m really enjoying.  What was the design process like for this book?

Ellen: Thank you!  I contacted the company with my resume and list of achievements and told them that I wanted to write the book.  I submitted the first several designs for them to consider. After the contract was signed, I started in earnest to design in batches of 8-10 motifs until all 50 were complete.  At the same time, I was noting which ones that I enjoyed the most that I would make into final projects.  Each motif had a hang tag and the editor would write comments about the color choice on the tag and return them to me.  On a few, we went back and forth with colors, sometimes even changing yarn brands until the right color combination was chosen.  Others we agreed on immediately. We wanted to have a bright, consistent color scheme, but at the same time knew we wanted a variety of styles to help every reader find something that appealed to them.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Ellen: Generally it’s the yarn. Generally, I just grab the yarn and start and see what happens. Sometimes I start with goals or an idea of what I want to create.  I rarely “see” the finished project in my mind before I start.  I often see color combinations and patterns in clothes, wrapping paper, flowers, that inspire me.

UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides yours, of course)?
Ellen: I love books!  I have many, many books.  I love my Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs by Linda P. Schapper.  I go back to all my Encyclopedia type books, 101 Easy Tunisian Stitches, and Encyclopedia of Crochet Techniques. There are too many good ones to list.

UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites you’d like to share?
Ellen: I love Vashti Braha’s blog.  Of course I love Doris Chan’s blog. For a variety of crafts, I enjoy Brett Bara‘s Manhattan Craft Room. I just came upon Craftsy.com and I think the classes on there could be really worth seeing.

UC: (Insert your own question here.)

Ellen: People frequently ask me how to make crochet their profession and I remind them that it is a career. It takes study, it takes research. It’s not easy to get a book deal. Many very successful crochet designers have never written a book or wanted to write a book.  Be professional always. Never miss a deadline. Always tell the truth. Do work you are proud of. Learn from your mistakes. Every colleague you meet today could be an editor or publisher tomorrow, so use good manners.

Thanks so much Ellen for sharing this great advice and for taking the time to join me for an interview.  And now, on to…

The Book Review

Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook is a really fun book.  It is a great introduction to personalizing your own crocheted afghans and also features 50 different motifs and 10 projects.

The book is organized into three sections:

  • Ready…Set…Go Crochet!,
  • Motifs to Go, and
  • Afghans to Go.

There is also an appendix which provides information on yarn weights, hooks, and crochet terms including comparisons between the US and UK terminology.

Ready…Set…Go Crochet! has a nice introduction to supplies including things like digital cameras and blocking boards which aren’t on the standard list of tools included in most crochet books.  It also reviews pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  There are a few pages explaining the stitches used in the book, complete with instructions and diagrams.  This includes the basic stitches (sc, dc, etc.) as well as clusters, popcorns, and several types of decreases.

My favorite part here is the six pages devoted to “Creating Your Own Designs,” where Ellen talks about pattern modification, color, layout, and assembly.

I love Ellen’s discussion of color and yarn selection.

As someone who teaches a lot of beginners, I really enjoy the conversational tone Ellen uses as well as the information she shares.  She anticipates a lot of the questions that beginners or those who are just becoming intermediates have about yarn, terms, etc.

Motifs to Go includes ten designs each in squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, and octagons.   Each motif includes a small introduction about the pattern or colors by Ellen.  The colors are vibrant and the pictures represent the blocks well.

I particularly like that each motif includes five potential "Mix and Match" partners - especially since the partners are not always the same shape!

Before the patterns for the motifs of a particular shape, Ellen has a page which discusses – and illustrates – different potential layouts for blankets using that shape.  This is one aspect of the book that I think really separates it from other similar books.  For example, in Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman, you would find more motifs and equally great information about color and various techniques.  However, if you were trying to piece together an afghan from the different shapes, you would suddenly be presented with watercolors, which might make it tough for you to visualize a final project if you are a relative beginner.

From Edie Eckman's Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs.

The final section has ten afghans using great color combos and different joining techniques to bring the patterns to life.

This isn’t a book where all the motifs will end up the same size or are easy to combine together – the All Call pattern, which includes every motif in the book, looks like it was a struggle to bring together!  If you are looking for a book like that, there are others on the market.  I definitely recommend Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook to anyone looking for another crochet motif book to add to their collection, to crocheters who want to branch out from following patterns completely to modifying patterns to personalize their finished projects, and to anyone who enjoys crocheting afghans.  In addition to all the content I’ve mentioned, the book is spiral-bound so you can lay it flat when working on a project, it includes a section on conversions from US to UK terms, there are both pattern abbreviations and stitch diagrams, and the motifs and blankets are beautifully photographed.  I gave the book 5 stars in my Amazon review.

The Giveaway

The grand prize!

By now, you must definitely want to win the Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook!  So here is what you can do to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, July 1.  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 a second 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, you can still post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • I will add another copy of the book (two prizes) if I get up to 100 fans on Facebook, so please spread the word!
  • I am willing to ship internationally, so please feel free to enter from any location.


Good luck to everyone and thanks again to Ellen for a wonderful interview!