Tag Archives: cgoa

Blog tour book review: Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler

Today, I’m excited to participate in the blog tour for The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Artists by Gwen Blakley Kinsler. I had the pleasure of meeting Gwen online in 2011 when I interviewed her as part of my blog series, Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, and have since learned more about her many contributions to the crochet community (including founding the Crochet Guild of America). Gwen’s latest book is another way of sharing her love and support of the crochet community.

Fine Art of Crochet

The Fine Art of Crochet is an exploration of crochet’s role in contemporary fiber art. Gwen opens the book with an introduction exploring the development of art crochet since the 1960s. The book then continues with profiles of twenty contemporary artists:

The profiles, typically 3-5 pages long, generally include a brief biography, large pictures of several representative works featuring crochet, and quotes from the artist. Quotes from the artists may discuss the creative process, the significance or interpretation of particular pieces, inspiration, and/or crochet as a medium.

The book ends with a reference list of articles, books, and websites on crochet art, freeform crochet, and crochet history, as well as a note about Gwen and some pictures of her art crochet.

In The Fine Art of Crochet, Gwen does a great job of sharing her excitement about crochet in all forms along with insights about some of today’s most innovative crochet artists. The background information and quotes from the artists are delightful.

On the other hand, the formatting is a bit challenging. Sometimes, due to the relative font size, it’s difficult to distinguish clearly between caption and narrative text. Additionally, some of the text could have used another round of editing to help smooth out the transitions between the artists’ quotes, historical information, and Gwen’s analysis. While it’s great to have a more affordable book, a hardcover option would have been wonderful for those of us who are looking for the ultimate crochet art coffee table book.

Overall, I would highly recommend Gwen’s book. It’s the only book of it’s kind currently on the market, and the enthusiasm Gwen and the artists share for crochet is infectious. It’s wonderful to see all the possibilities of crochet that many of us who typically create functional pieces may want to explore, too.

 

 

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of The Fine Art of Crochet was provided by AuthorHouse.  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.

Interview with Pauline Turner

I’m excited to share an interview with Pauline Turner today as part of National Crochet Month.  Pauline is a multi-craftual artisan, designer, author, and teacher.  I was first introduced to Pauline’s work in the early 2000s when I read How to Crochet as I was learning how to (finally) read crochet patterns.  Since then, I’ve learned more about her incredible work.

You can find Pauline online via her websites, Crochet Design and the International School of Awareness.  She is also on LinkedIn and has a Ravelry designer page.

All photos are copyright Pauline Turner and used with permission.

 

Pauline Turner

Pauline Turner, wearing a design composed entirely of triangles.

 

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

Pauline: I reluctantly learnt to crochet almost 40 years ago. I was teaching 41 other crafts and did not wish to learn something else.  (UC comment: You can read more about Pauline’s introduction to crochet in this feature in her own words from Crochet Insider.)

 

Polish Star Stitch

The Polish Star stitch.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing and writing about crochet?

Pauline: The reason for learning was because my Principle and Head of Department at the Lancaster and Morecambe College of Further Education, where I was a full-time lecturer of crafts and allied subjects, insisted I taught crochet at the end of that year.

 

Zip insertion

A close of up the zip insertion on the cable hooded jacket from Finishing Techniques for Crochet: Give Your Crochet That Professional Look.

 

UC: Does your experience as a crochet teacher influence your designing or writing?

Pauline: Absolutely – in every way. To my surprise, I discovered I could incorporate crochet into all 41 of the other crafts I was tutoring. This in turn led me to produce innovatory mixed media designs and also to write about crochet from a traditional/historical point of view in order to fill in the gaps that were missing in those early days. Then eventually this led me to start my own business, Crochet Design.

 

pauline crocheting ice cream

A younger Pauline, crocheting with ice cream.

 

UC: What was the development process like for Finishing Techniques for Crochet?

Pauline: The Beginner’s Guide to Crochet, published by Search Press, which I wrote some eight years ago, has been extraordinarily popular and is in the process of being re-printed again in a different, very useable, format. There was a need for a publication that showed all the little tips and tricks that would help potential crochet designers to produce professional finishes. Anova Books suggested I produced the material for such a book in the form of Finishing Techniques for Crochet: Give Your Crochet That Professional Look. Anova is part of a group that includes the publishers Collins and Brown and also Batsford, two publishers I had previously written for with my Crocheted Lace and How to Crochet books.

The contract for this book was signed, the lead time was doable, yarn was sponsored by Rowan, and the rest was ‘eyes down, fingers flying on keyboard and with hooks’. To complete the deadline time, two outside crochet workers were asked to crochet and check the patterns of two projects. I went to London to be there as a consultant during the shoot.

 

Surface crochet collage

An early example of Pauline’s surface crochet collages.

 

UC: Tell us about the International Diploma in Crochet.

Pauline: Originally a distance learning course in three parts for crochet was devised during a brief spell when crochet was popular. I worked with Lancashire County Education Authority in course planning for adult education and they liked the format of this course but were dubious as to whether it was viable.

In 1983, the Diploma in Crochet was born for teaching crochet (Part I), designing and writing patterns for crochet (Part II), and for original creative crochet in the shape of art and sculptures as well as haute couture (Part III).  As the diploma course became more widely spread, recognised, and accepted, it attracted people from around the world and became the International Diploma in Crochet.

I did try to get my Diploma in Crochet course validated by an examining body but they all wanted me to lower the standard. The pass mark is 80% (a credit or distinction level in other courses).

There is no time limit as the course as been devised for people living in a real world with a real life. The bi-monthly newsletter keeps student interest – a necessity when learning alone. There is no starting time, and no time for the conclusion. Crochet Design needs to know if student has left the course. (We tend to prompt every 9-12 months to clear files.)

The take up of the course was slow because it was never advertised. It became known only by word of mouth. However, as more people realised its incredible content and high standard, the take-up began to gain momentum. Existing students were asked to work commercially in different fields and they in turn were subliminally advertising the course. Once I had qualified teachers who could assess Part I students, it was possible for Crochet Design to advertise the course overtly. Therefore, in the last three years, Crochet Design has enrolled an exponential number of students

 

mandalaA crocheted mandala in a ring, using textured yarns.

 

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

Pauline: This is an impossible question as different books become my favourites for different reasons.

Whatever I am working with will link me to favourite skilled authors, many whom I have met and therefore know that particular area of expertise I can rely on to confirm, deny, or consolidate what it is I am producing. Ironically, I only look at my books if I get a question about something one of them contains.

 

freeform crochet

A freeform crochet piece.

 

UC: Do you regularly visit any crochet blogs/websites for inspiration or community?

Pauline: Not as regularly as I would like. When the office is relatively in order and I have finished a project, I will browse the net for a couple of hours usually to catch up with magazines, CGOA, and student blogs. The difficulty with the net and myself is the time it can eat away when I know I have other deadlines looming. I do not visit these for inspiration, as I take my inspiration from nature and the people I meet even at airports and on trains. I cannot say I have never been inspired by something on the web but writing this, I am hard pressed to know when or what.

 

plant pot crochet

A crocheted plant pot with flowers.

UC: How did you become involved with the International School of Awareness?

Pauline: Ah, now isn’t that a pearl of a question? It happened without any personal intention, but just followed a series of events. During my crochet workshops, people commented they felt better by just being there. Others commented I had an incredible heat in my hands when I assisted them with their crochet and they were not feeling too well. Another frequently unsolicited comment was how I brought the best out in people. Apparently, I was able to succinctly encapsulate the reason or source of what was happening to them and with that awareness they could resolve the situation – this was not only with their craft but with their life.

My ability to use the seventh sense enabled be more aware of what was happening globally, in the atmosphere and environment. Without my knowledge, this ability was becoming known to the point where I was invited by businessmen and therapists abroad, to teach them how to develop their seventh sense. This happened before the turn of the century and the tools I shared with them were ones that had been designed for what would happen after 2012. Through these stages, the International School of Awareness came into being.

 

machine knit with crochet yoke

A machine knit design with a crocheted yoke.

 

UC: Do you have any upcoming classes or projects you’d like to share? (Dear readers, please note that I was quite delayed in posting this interview and these events have already passed.)

Pauline: On 20th October 2013, there is a celebration of the 30 years existence of the International Diploma in Crochet. I felt it was an achievement that deserved to be celebrated for all the sake of all students, past and present, who exist all around the world. It is also an acknowledgement to the supporters throughout the years who believed in its value.

This is an historic event which began in Morecambe, Lancashire UK, and is the reason the chosen venue is the Platform, Morecambe in recognition of Morecambe’s role in Crochet Design. Crochet Design has always resided in Morecambe and is the home base of the Diploma. Just some of what will be happening will be a 30 year ‘story board’. The Mayor of Lancaster will be present to close the event and also present the prizes to the competition winners. The editor of Inside Crochet magazine will open the even and hand the well-earned awards to a full graduate from Northern Ireland, plus certificates to students who have recently completed Part I and Part II. There will be ‘to- die-for’ displays of students work, along with trading tables. In the morning, children will add their stitches to a ‘Playtime on the spot’ collage. Everyone is welcome. The crochet competition will be judged on the previous day and there is more time to take in entries.  (UC comment: You can download a PDF report of the celebration, including winners of the competition, here: International Diploma in Crochet Report.)

Higham Hall near Cockermouth, Cumbria, UK features a residential 4-day course twice a year which I am tutor of, and the next one in January is on textured crochet. In February I will be giving a talk and taking a workshop with the Berkshire Spinners, Weavers & Dyers.

 

Readers, Pauline has shared this revised list of upcoming events, since I was so delayed in posting the initial interview.

  • 21 to 23 March: H&H Trade Exhibition in Cologne where I have been invited to demonstrate the beautiful hooks and knitting needles made by Tulip in Japan.
  • 26 & 27 April: Wonderwool Wales where I will be exhibiting. I will also be taking a woolschool on buttons and one on Tunisian pouches for mobiles etc. Also Helen Jordan (Thread of Life) will have a stand selling a large variety of tools for crochet.
  • 23 to 26 June: At Higham Hall, I will be tutoring a residential course on the ‘Creative Appeal of Crochet” focusing on colour, texture and combining both techniques and mixed media.
  • 27 & 28 June: Woolfest Cumbria, where once again you can come and talk to me on my stand.
  • “Teaching Methods” workshops 2014. The whole course is in 4 parts.  The four parts are being combined over two days on 23rd and 24th August 2014 to allow those from further afield to attend, even to combine it with a summer break with family and friends. The weekend costs £150 but excludes lunch.

 

Thanks so much for sharing this interview with us, Pauline, and for your patience.  We appreciate all you have done to advance the art and craft of crochet!

 

 

Guest Post: Sharon Silverman on Tunisian Crochet

Today, I’m sharing a guest post with Sharon Silverman as part of her blog tour for her latest book, Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets.  I previously interviewed Sharon here as part of her blog tour for Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques.  I was all ready to write an introduction to Sharon, but she’s been kind enough to introduce herself in the guest post!  You can also find links to where to find her online at the end of her post.  All photos are copyright Sharon Silverman and used with permission.

I’ve inserted a few comments in purple.  Enjoy the post!

Tunisian Crochet Hits Its Stride

by Sharon Silverman

Tunisian Honeycomb Stitch.
Tunisian Honeycomb Stitch.

Thank you to Underground Crafter for the invitation to write a guest blog. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on Tunisian crochet.

First, a little bit about me. I became a crochet designer in a roundabout way. After writing several travel guides for Stackpole Books, editor Kyle Weaver asked me to do another guide to an area about ninety minutes away from my home. It just wasn’t the right project for me. My children were little, it would have involved a lot of commuting, and I didn’t have the essential insider knowledge that the book deserved. However, we really liked working together, and Kyle mentioned that Stackpole had just started a craft line. His exact question to me was, “Can you do anything?”

Why, yes! I crochet. The timing was perfect, since Stackpole had just released Basic Knitting. They hired me to write Basic Crocheting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started. I rediscovered my love of the craft, was introduced to the fabulous yarn produced today, met a lot of fantastic designers, developed a great working relationship with photographer Alan Wycheck and editors Mark Allison and Kathryn Fulton at Stackpole, and have never looked back. After that first volume, I wrote Beyond Basic Crocheting, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, Crochet Pillows, Crochet Scarves, and Tunisian Crochet for Baby (coming September 2014), all for Stackpole; and Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets for Leisure Arts. My designs have appeared in the 2006 Crochet Pattern-a-Day Calendar and in Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health (reviewed by Marie here).  I am a design member of The National NeedleArts Association and a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America. I have taught at venues large and small, and was featured on three episodes of HGTV’s “Uncommon Threads.”

When I was browsing through a stitch dictionary while designing for Beyond Basic Crocheting, I came across something I hadn’t seen before: Tunisian crochet. I didn’t have a long Tunisian hook, but I tried a few stitches on a regular crochet hook. Wow! I had never seen fabric like that created with a crochet hook. It immediately hit me that Tunisian crochet was the perfect solution to the problem I refer to as “rivers of double crochet.” That look does not have much to commend it, in my opinion, and I am always disappointed when I see it in today’s designs. (I think when people disparage crochet, that’s the style they’re reacting to. Can’t blame ‘em.)

Anyway, Tunisian had none of that “loopy” look. I started with a swatch of Tunisian simple stitch. It went so fast! I remember laughing out loud because it was simply so much fun to do. Soon I grabbed some scrap variegated yarn to see how that would look. The way the colors on the return pass appeared between the vertical bars of the forward pass…it was stunning. In short order I tried every single Tunisian stitch pattern in that book. Wait a minute: you mean I can make fabric that looks knitted and purled? Lace? Cables? Relief stitches without having to work around a post? And I can do all of that with a crochet hook? I’m in!

Tunisian Checkerboard Stitch (Medium)
Tunisian Checkerboard Stitch.

After putting one Tunisian pattern in Beyond Basic Crocheting, I started thinking about a book with all Tunisian patterns. With the right size hook and the right weight of yarn, Tunisian didn’t have to be bulky or just for blankets. It was perfect for garments and accessories as well. I wanted to call the book Tunisian Crochet: Not Just for Afghans Anymore! but Stackpole preferred the more sedate Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting.

At that time is wasn’t unusual for crocheters to say, “Huh?” when I mentioned Tunisian crochet. But everyone I taught it to was crazy about it. This was near the beginning of what I happily think of as the Tunisian crochet renaissance. Other designers were discovering or re-discovering Tunisian and doing fantastic things with it.

Fast forward to today. The Tunisian crochet group on Ravelry has almost 5,000 members—we’re waiting for you! Major magazines now feature Tunisian patterns as a matter of course. And the books! Scads of books either exclusively Tunisian crochet, or with a substantial number of patterns. The Tunisian Crochet Group on Yahoo is an excellent resource and a place to get questions answered. And, of course, you can check YouTube for tutorials.

One indefatigable proponent of Tunisian crochet is Kim Guzman (interviewed by Marie here). I think I have all of her Tunisian crochet books. Kim wrote a wonderful post encouraging all of us to be Tunisian crochet cheerleaders. You can read it here.

Along with Kim, many other designers are hard at work creating fantastic Tunisian patterns. I hesitate to name them because I know I’ll forget somebody—whoever you are, please forgive me, and post your name in the comments!—but some people whose work you might be interested in are Doris Chan, Dora Ohrenstein (interviewed here, book reviews here and here), Kristin Omdahl, Robyn Chachula (book review here), Vashti Braha (interviewed by Marie here), Marty Miller, Lily Chin, Karen Whooley, Sheryl Thies (book review by Marie here), Tammy Hildebrand (interviewed by Marie here), Darla Fanton, Jennifer Hansen, and others. A quick search for “Tunisian crochet” on Amazon gives a long list of titles.

As for my own work, my most recent Tunisian publication is Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets from Leisure Arts, available here.  (Ravelry members can see the book’s patterns on its source page here.)

TCBB cover (Medium)

The book gave me the opportunity to try some interesting Tunisian techniques, including stranded colorwork. I used that for the Bright Strands blanket.

Bright Strands (Medium)

Tunisian Crochet for Baby is currently going through the editing process. Here is a sneak peek at some of the projects.

Sharon Silverman Sneak Peak Collage

I hope you are inspired to do some projects in Tunisian crochet! Please share them with me on my Facebook page and my website. You are welcome to visit my Pinterest page also. Happy crocheting!

 

Thanks for stopping by, Sharon! 

Book Reviews on CGOA Now!

Two of my crochet booklet reviews were posted on the Crochet Guild of America blog last week.  Both booklets are published by Leisure Arts.

 

Add-on Crochet Cables
Add-On Crochet Cables by Frances Burks teaches an interesting new method for crocheting cables.  (Reviewed here.)

 

Make in a Weekend Shawls

 

Make in a Weekend Shawls is a collection of 12 shawls crocheted in medium and bulky weight yarns.  (Reviewed here.)

 

Check out the reviews if you’re considering either title.

Blog tour interview: Tammy Hildebrand, author of Crochet Wraps Every Which Way

Today, I’m thrilled to share an interview with Tammy Hildebrand as part of the blog tour for her latest book, Crochet Wraps Every Which Way: 18 Original Patterns in 6 Techniques, published by Stackpole Books.  The nice folks at Stackpole have also shared a giveaway copy of the book with me, so read on for more details on how to enter for your chance to win a copy.

Tammy is a crochet designer, author, and teacher, as well as the current Vice President of the Crochet Guild of America.  Her three previous booklets, Wheelchair Afghans & BagsEasy Bead As You Go, and Easy Side-to-Side Jackets & Shrugs, were published by Annie’s.  Her patterns have appeared in numerous collections including Unexpected Afghans and 50 Sensational Crochet Afghans & Throws, and magazines such as Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Crochet!

Tammy is sometimes known as Hot Lava Crochet – hmm, I wonder why? ;) – and you can find her online on her Facebook pageblog, on Ravelry (as Tammystreasures or on her designer page), on Pinterest, on Twitter, and on Craftsy.  You can also learn more from this recent interview with her on the Red Heart blog.  Updated to add: You can find my review of Tammy’s new book on the CGOA blog here.

Tammy Hildebrand

All project pictures are from Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, are copyright of Stackpole Books, and are used with permission.  You can find pictures of all 18 patterns here in the Stackpole lookbook.

Interview

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

Tammy: My second grade teacher offered to teach crochet to anyone in our class that wished to stay after school. I was the only one that stayed! My first project was a floppy, purple hat that we worked on together sitting at her big wooden desk.

 

cascading rivers

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Tammy: We moved to North Carolina from Niagara Falls when my kids were babies. I saw an ad in the newspaper for crocheters and thought it would be a great way to make a little money while I stayed home with my girls. After a couple weeks a light bulb went off and I thought “Wow! I could do this!” and so I started designing myself.

 

chica mala

 

UC: You’ve held a variety of positions in the Crochet Guild of America. Can you talk about why you become involved with CGOA, and share any advice for professional crocheters who are interested in becoming more involved?

Tammy: I have served as the mentor coordinator, the professional development chairperson and I currently serve as the vice president. Initially I became involved because I wanted to give back to CGOA after how beneficial the organization had been for me but with each new opportunity, I find myself learning and receiving even more. To anyone that wishes to be involved, contact me or anyone of our board of directors and let us know. Each person has wonderful talents and strengths which are such a huge asset when we all work together as a team.

 

you are my sunshine

 

UC: Tell me about the development process for Crochet Wraps Every Which Way. How was it similar or different from the process of developing your previous booklets?

Tammy: I’m not much of a planner so in typical fashion, I learn as I go and tackle obstacles as they present themselves. The photography was done by a local photographer so it was my first time participating in the styling and photo shoots. That was a lot of fun!

 

perfect pineapples

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides yours, of course)?

Tammy: My Harmony Guides as well as a Japanese stitch dictionary are always on my desk and I refer to them all the time.

 

UC: What’s next for you?

Tammy: I am scheduled to teach my first two classes at Crochetville‘s 10th anniversary retreat in February. The details are here.  (UC comment: If you can get to Huntsville, Alabama in February, this looks like a great event!)

 

Tammy, thanks so much for stopping by for the interview.  We wish you the best for the rest of the blog tour!

 

Giveaway

crochet wraps every which way

Are you ready to win your copy of Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, courtesy of Stackpole Books? This giveaway is open to all readers with an email address.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, January 26, 2014.

To enter:

  • Check out Stackpole’s lookbook and leave a comment telling me which pattern you’d crochet first and why.
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter or Pinterest, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • Let me know if you want to use additional entry for different prizes.
  • One winner of will be chosen at random on or about Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

Good luck!

Blog tour book review: Kristi Simpson’s Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet

I’m pleased to share a review of Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet: 35 Adorable Designs for Newborns to 12 Months by Kristi Simpson as part of the book’s blog tour today.  As my regular readers know, I also review crochet books on the Crochet Guild of America‘s blog, and Stackpole Books asked CGOA to share a review for the tour, which I’m hosting here.

For the past several years, Kristi Simpson has been specializing in quick and simple crochet designs for newborns and toddlers using contemporary styling and colors.  You may know her as the designer behind RAKJ Patterns.  You can also find Kristi/RAKJ patterns on Facebook, Etsy, and Ravelry.

Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet: 35 Adorable Designs for Newborns to 12 Months is Kristi’s first book.  (Her next book, Mommy & Me Crochet Hats: Silly, Sweet & Fun Hats for Kids of All Ages, is already available for pre-order.) Kristi is also the founding publisher of Inspired Crochet digital magazine, now known as Entwined.  (Full disclosure: My Wide Ripple Scarf pattern will be on the cover of the November issue.  This didn’t impact my review, but I thought I’d mention it!)

If you’d like to check out the other stops on the blog tour, you can find a full listing here.  I’ve shared some pictures of my favorite patterns in the book with the publisher’s permission.  You can check out the look book, with images of every design in the book, here.

 

Book Review

Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet

What is it about babies that cause people to pick up their crochet hooks?  I suppose it’s some combination of memories of those special handmade items gifted to us as babies, the way a wonderful gift can come together in a relatively short time with not too much yarn, and the fact that babies look just so cute in handmade items.

Love Me Lots Toy.
Love Me Lots Toy.

 

In the introduction of Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet, Kristi notes that as the mother of five children, she understands “that buying cute clothes and hats that your baby will outgrow in a just few months is an indulgence not everyone can afford.”  (That’s the other reason we turn to those hooks for babies: many of us can crochet something for less money than we can spend on a store bought gift – not including labor, of course.)

Moose Hat.
Moose Hat.

The book then launches into the patterns.  There are actually 46 designs included because several patterns are sets – like matching hats and diaper covers – with two pieces.  Each design includes a beautiful, full page, color photo on a child model or realistic doll by Lindsay Kubica Photography, followed by a description, notes, and the pattern.  Each design includes multiple pictures of the project (typically, at least one laid flat, and often pictures on different models).

Old-School Jacob Vest.
Old-School Jacob Vest.

 

The book ends with three helpful appendices.  Like many designers who started their careers self-publishing, Kristi’s patterns are written in a style that is different than what you mind find in a traditional print crochet magazine.  Nonetheless, her patterns are very clear and consistently written, and she provides tips for her shorthand in both the intro and How to Read My Patterns.  In Stitch Guide, Kristi includes step-by-step photographs and instructions for forming basic crochet stitches, changing colors, and carrying yarn.  The book concludes with Finishing Touches, which includes photos and descriptions of the finishing touches that make projects look even more striking (and which safely secure ends away from tiny fingers.)

Vivianne Slippers.
Vivianne Slippers.

 

The book includes a range of pattern types:

  • 24 hats,
  • 4 tops (including a sweater and a shrug),
  • 4 pods/cocoons,
  • 3 blankets,
  • 2 diaper covers, and
  • a pair of socks, a skirt, leg warmers, a toy, a head band, a bib, a pair of pants, a poncho, and a pair of slippers.

 

Most patterns include multiple sizes (either newborn, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 6-12 months, or 9-12 months) but some patterns are only available in one size.  Kristi does include tips for upsizing many of the patterns, as well as the actual measurements for each project.  My favorite designs are the Old-School Jacob Vest, Love Me Lots Toy, Moose Hat, Puppy Hat, Vivianne Slippers, and the Giraffe Hat and Button Diaper Cover.

Giraffe Hat and Button Diaper Cover.
Giraffe Hat and Button Diaper Cover.

 

Kristi’s writing style is very conversational, and her designs are on trend.  The photography is great, and the pictures of the cute projects on cute kids can only inspire you to get crocheting.

 

And to keep the review balanced, I’d like to mention a few things that are missing from the book.  In spite of the title, there are quite a few intermediate level patterns, so some may challenge a beginning crocheter.  (Most projects with unusual stitches or techniques include photo tutorials and/or extensive notes, so with a little patience and persistence, even a newbie should be able to create most of the patterns, though.)  There aren’t any international stitch symbols, so this book is more suited towards crocheters who prefer reading patterns with U.S. pattern abbreviations.  There are a few adorable projects for boys and some unisex projects, but there are more projects for girls in this book.  If you are specifically crocheting for little boys, this may not be the book for you.  As a softcover book, it doesn’t lay flat easily so it is difficult to crochet and read at the same time.  Some of the patterns have already been published online, so if you are a big fan of Kristi, you may have a few of the designs in your collection already.  Finally, I personally find some of the realistic dolls used as photography props a little creepy.  I fully understand that is difficult (and probably not desirable) to take pictures with newborns, but it’s worth mentioning :).  (Updated: Kristi responded in the comments to me that all of the pictures are of models and no dolls were used in this book.  Then I guess the part that is creeping me out is the type of lighting used with the newborns that makes them look artificial!  In any case, it’s a minor point, and definitely not enough to turn you off from the book.)

Puppy Hat.
Puppy Hat.

 

If you enjoy crocheting for babies and toddlers, this book would be a great addition to your collection. This would be a wonderful book for a new crocheter, and Kristi specifically recommends three of the patterns – Cream Puff Hat, Football Cocoon and Hat Set, and Cotton Candy Hat – for novice crocheters.  Advanced beginners and experienced crocheters looking for quick and easy projects would enjoy this book also, particularly if they enjoy crocheting hats.  And, of course, if you’re already a fan of RAKJ Patterns, you can get 46 of Kristi’s patterns for a retail price of $19.95, far less than you would pay when buying individual patterns online.

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet was provided by Stackpole Books. 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.

Recent Crochet Book Reviews on CGOA Blog

You may know that I volunteer to review crochet books on the Crochet Guild of America‘s blog, CGOA Now!  In 2013, most of my book reviews have been published there.  Here are the links in case you missed the reviews.

crochet-saved-my-life1

Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet by Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence

CGOA blog review * interview 1 * interview 2 * mini interview

 

 

Crocheting with Lucy Loop

Crocheting with Lucy Loop by Karen D. Thompson of Hooksations

CGOA blog review

 

 

Learn to Crochet Socks for the Family

Learn to Crochet Socks for the Family by Darla Sims

CGOA blog review

 

 

tunisian cables to crochet

Tunisian Cables to Crochet by Kim Guzman

CGOA blog review * interview

 

 

Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide

Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide by Kim Guzman

CGOA blog review

 

 

Ultimate guide to thread crochet

Ultimate Guide to Thread Crochet by Leisure Arts

CGOA blog review

 

Enjoy!

Keeping busy

Recently, I’ve been hard at work designing all sorts of secret projects.  It’s been hard to blog when I can’t really talk about what I’m working on, and of course, there’s also that pesky thing about only having so many hours in the day.

Last week, I had two designs accepted for upcoming publications.  These two are extra exciting because I’m allowed to talk about them a little bit!

I’ll have a knitting design in a collection of patterns Knit Picks will be publishing next February for their Chroma line.

Knit Picks Chroma Worsted in Parakeet (left) and Galapagos (right).  Picture (c) Knit Picks.
Knit Picks Chroma Worsted in Parakeet (left) and Galapagos (right). Picture (c) Knit Picks.

This pattern has a really quick turn around time, so Knit Picks actually knits up the sample.  They will still send me yarn but I’ll be able to work on my own sample at my own pace.  Since I’m a very slow knitter, that is very good news indeed.

And, I’ll have a crochet design published in the winter issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, a relatively new, multi-craftual magazine based in London.  (I love their story, which you can read here.)  This design will be in Quince & Co. Puffin.

One of the great things about designing patterns for publication is that I get to try out so many new-to-me yarns.  I’ve heard really great things about Quince & Co, so I’m looking forward to playing around with the Puffin.  And I had my first foray into Knit Picks yarn earlier this year, when I made this secret project in Swish and Swish Tonal.  I loved both yarns, so I’m very excited about getting my hands on that Chroma…

In other news, I won’t be able to attend the Knit & Crochet Show this summer.  This seems to be the annual story of my life, but I had actually thought this would be the year.  I had to cancel my trip at the last minute.

I won’t be sitting at home sulking next week, though.  Instead, I’m scheduled to take an online Pattern Grading class with Kim Guzman (interviewed here) on Crochetville (interview with co-owner, Amy Shelton, here).  And for those of you who are attending the show and the CGOA Fun Night, look out for some Underground Crafter goodies from me in the bags!

Blogiversary and A Tour Through Crochet Country!

Today marks my two year blogiversary, and I’m one of the stops on A Tour Through Crochet Country!  If you haven’t been following along, this is a wonderful blog tour organized by Crochetville.  The tour features over 50 Associate Professional or Professional members of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA).

If you’re new here, welcome!  I’m a crochet (and knitting) teacher, designer, and blogger.  In addition to sharing my own projects and news on my blog, I also do a lot of interviews (I’ve even won a few awards) and book reviews.  I’m really honored to be part of A Tour Through Crochet Country.  To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’ll be sharing a free pattern and a coupon code today.  But first I’d like to talk about how important the CGOA has been to me.

As many of my regular readers know, my grandmother taught me to crochet.  After she passed away in 2007, I didn’t have any important people in my real life to talk with about crochet.  Through my membership in CGOA and my involvement in the CGOA Professionals listerv, I’ve had the chance to virtually meet many wonderful crocheters who share the same passion for the hook as I do.

Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.
Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.

Back in 2009, I had the honor of being introduced to a wonderful mentor, Mary E. Nolfi, through the CGOA mentoring program.  When I was first exploring design, Mary guided and encouraged me.  Her primer is a great intro for aspiring crochet designers.  I still remember my excitement at emailing her when my first designs were selected for publication.   I’m also grateful to Michelle Maks, yesterday’s stop on the the tour, for taking a chance on me when she was the editor of Crochet World.  I’m thrilled to have another mentor, Marty Miller (March 13′s stop on the tour), who is helping me explore tech editing.

Now I’m paying it forward by volunteering to write book reviews for the CGOA newsletter and blog, and by serving as a mentor to another designer.

My first designs, published in Crochet World in 2010.

And, of course, CGOA membership has other benefits, even if you aren’t a professional (or aspiring professional) in the industry.  You get a subscription to Crochet! magazine and discounts at national retailers as well as on CGOA educational offerings.  You can also participate in your local chapter.  (I’ve been a member of the NYC Crochet Guild for years and in addition to great monthly meetings where I can hang out with fellow crocheters, they also offer classes and local discounts.)

I’d like give a shout out to a some other CGOA members I’ve met (in real life or virtually) who have been very helpful to me in the past few years.

Vashti Braha (interview) has taught me so much through her Crochet Inspirations newsletter, which has also inspired me to keep experimenting! Kim Guzman (interview) is so generous with her knowledge online and is a great teaching author.  Juanita Quinones (interview) is a wonderful tech editor that is volunteering on the Home work project on Ravelry, which is giving a second life to vintage designs.  Mary Beth Temple (interview) is a very strong advocate for crochet and has been a professional inspiration.  Charles Voth (a.k.a. Stitch Stud) (interview) is a talented – and nice! – designer and tech editor who always shares so much of his knowledge with his fellow hookers online.

If you’ve made it this far, your probably asking yourself, “Didn’t she promise a freebie?  And a coupon code?”

Charity Crochet for Project Night Night – The Rectangular Sampler Blanket

Early in my career, I worked for an organization that provided temporary housing for hundreds of homeless families, so the tour’s featured charity, Project Night Night, is really close to my heart.  I wanted to create a project that was beautiful to look at but also fun to make.

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

The Rectangular Sampler is a variation on the traditional granny square that incorporates a stitch sampler to keep things interesting.  There’s a granny rectangle, an alternating v-stitch, staggered puff stitches, and a fun edging.

blog Rectangular Sampler flat

Download the Rectangular Sampler Blanket PDF Pattern

(You can also find the pattern on Ravelry or Craftsy.)  This makes a great stroller blanket or play mat, or even a baby or comfort blanket.  I plan to donate my sample to Project Night Night, and I hope you’ll consider making one to donate to Project Night Night or a local children’s charity.
Rectangular Sampler V st detail

I crocheted the sample with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Pacific, Cordovan, and Alaska Sky.  None of these pictures really do justice to the Alaska Sky, which is a pale, sky blue.  I like using non-traditional colors for children’s blankets because I think it gives them a longer life cycle when they can be displayed in more settings.

blog Rectangular Sampler on chair

Coupon Code

To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’d like to spread the love by sharing a coupon code for my Ravelry shop.  Use coupon code NatCroMo13 for a 25% discount on any pattern through April 1, 2013.  Thanks for your support of independent designers!

Besides here on my blog and on Ravelry, you can also find me on Etsy, Facebook, Goodreads, Kollabora, Pinterest, and Twitter.

And now back to a A Tour Through Crochet Country

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour.  I’ve actually had the pleasure of interviewing several of the CGOA pros on this list, so I’ve also included the links to those interviews below.  I hope you will stop by and check out all the posts (and tutorials, giveaways, and discounts) the other participants have to offer.  Enjoy the rest of National Crochet Month, and don’t forget to enter my current blog giveaways here and here.

March 1 Shelby Allaho

March 2 Ellen Gormley (interview) and Nancy Nehring

March 3 Phyllis Serbes and Mona Muhammad

March 4 Amy O’Neill Houck and Akua Hope

March 5 Mary Jane Hall and Lindsey Stephens (interview)

March 6 Edie Eckman and Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby

March 7 Jennifer Cirka and Annette Stewart

March 8 Andrea Graciarena and LeAnna Lyons

March 9 Dawn Cogger and Angela Whisnant

March 10 Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten and Renee Rodgers

March 11 Joy Prescott and Donna Childs

March 12 Pam Daley and Deb Burger

March 13 Tammy Hildebrand and Marty Miller

March 14 Jocelyn Sass and Jennifer E Ryan

March 15 Andee Graves and Kimberly McAlindin

March 16 Laurinda Reddig

March 17 Brenda Bourg and Susan Lowman for CGOA

March 18 Rhonda Davis and Tammy Hildebrand for CGOA

March 19 Julie Oparka and Cari Clement for CGOA

March 20 April Garwood and Mary Colucci for CGOA

March 21 Alaina Klug

March 22 Erin Boland and Jenny King

March 23 Margaret Hubert (interview) and Jane Rimmer for CGOA

March 24 Bonnie Barker and Marcy Smith for CGOA

March 25 Kim Guzman (interview) and Susan Huxley (interview)

March 26 Susan Lowman and Michele Maks

March 27 me! and Brenda Stratton

March 28 Kathy White and Lori Carlson

March 29 Amy Shelton (interview) and Donna Hulka

March 30 Linda Dean and Kristin Dragos

March 31 Karen CK Ballard and Gwen Blakley-Kinser (interview)

 

Interview with Lindsey Stephens of Poetry in Yarn

Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters.  Today’s interview is with Lindsey Stephens, a crochet designer and blogger.

I can’t remember how exactly I first came across Lindsey Stephens’ Poetry in Yarn blog, but I do know it’s been a staple in my Google Reader for quite a while.  Lindsey’s blog, unlike many crochet blogs that I follow, is primarily text based.  Lindsey is still able to capture my (relatively short) attention with her posts, and I hope you’ll check her out if she’s a new-to-you blogger.  Lindsey is also a crochet designer and can be found online on her website, on Ravelry (as Leebah and on her designer page), on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

All pictures in this post are used with Lindsey’s permission and link back to the pattern page on Ravelry.

 

Lindsey Stephens.
Lindsey Stephens.

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

Lindsey: I had tried to teach myself to knit, and it was a huge failure. I couldn’t handle all those loops (although really it had more to do with trying to learn with a fuzzy boucle).  Anyway, my step-niece was visiting me and she was crocheting- she never had more than 3 loops on the hook at a time. I was like “I gotta try this!”

Though Lindsey is primarily a crochet designer, she does have some knit patterns like the Learn It, Love It, Knit It Lace Scarf.
Though Lindsey is primarily a crochet designer, she does have some knit patterns like the Learn It, Love It, Knit It Lace Scarf.

 

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Lindsey: You know, I don’t think any one thing inspired me. I just like to mess around with stuff and see what I can do. Just kind of “I wonder what would happen if I try this…” And then I discovered that other people were interested in what I was making.

 

UC: You have a mix of self-published designs and designs published by yarn companies, magazines, and book publishers.  Do you have a preference for self-publishing or traditional publishing?  What motivates you to seek one form of publishing over another?

Lindsey: Each method of publishing has its own merits. I like self-publishing because I get to work with so many other facets of the production process like layout and editing.  Getting to work one on one with a technical editor is a great learning experience for anyone interested in designing. It’s also great to be able to have an idea and run with it- no approval or submissions needed.

“Traditional” publishing is a trade off. You can’t always keep rights to your designs, but you may get slightly more publicity depending on the company, as well as more money up front. (Up front is a relative term. I just received a check in the mail for a design I did for a publisher 17 months ago.) A self-published pattern might make me more money in the long run, but the funds only come in one purchase at a time.

 

One of Lindsey's designs from Crochet 1-2-3, the Chanukah Candle Pillow.  (c) Valu-Publishing.
One of Lindsey’s designs from Crochet 1-2-3, the Chanukah Candle Pillow. (c) Valu-Publishing.

UC: Your Poetry in Yarn blog is one of the few crafty blogs I read regularly that doesn’t rely heavily on visuals, and yet you have such interesting content all the time!  How did you get started blogging and how do you keep it fresh?  Why did you decide to primarily use text-based, rather than photo-heavy, blogging? 

Lindsey: I’ve been involved in public speaking through debate, acting, and my work as a teacher for years. I am a talker. It just seemed natural to me to “talk” to people by posting on a blog. And also, I’m lazy. I can easily type out a post while lying in bed. For photos I would actually have to get up.  (UC comment: You make excellent points, Lindsey.  I will try to remember them on the mornings when I’m leaving my apartment early to take pictures of projects for my blog before work!)

 

Blackberry Blanket, from Lindsey's self-published e-book, At the Bakery.
Blackberry Blanket, from Lindsey’s self-published e-book, At the Bakery.

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

Lindsey: *Looking down at my bookshelf*

The The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman was HUGE for me when I was first learning to crochet. Couture Crochet Workshop by Lily Chin opened my eyes for looking at how to increase and decrease in more complex pattern stitches. Cool Stuff : Teach Me to Crochet is the book that I used when I was learning how to crochet. 

 

Aureate Vest, (c) Susan Pittard, published in Curvy Girl Crochet.
Aureate Vest, (c) Susan Pittard, published in Curvy Girl Crochet.

UC: You’re both a Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) member.  What do you see as benefits of membership for aspiring crochet designers?

Lindsey: A CGOA membership can be beneficial regardless of whether or not you aspire to designing. You get a magazine as part of your membership as well as discounts with various companies. You also get discounts at the Knit and Crochet Shows. If you are interested in designing, CGOA has a mentoring program that can help.  

On the other hand, TNNA is purely a professional organization. That’s not to say we don’t have fun at trade shows, but we really go there to work. At a typical trade show I’m meeting with yarn companies, publishers, and other designers to discuss possible business opportunities.

 

Baby Bobbles Blanket from Leisure Arts #5267, Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection, Book 3.  (c) Universal Yarn.
Baby Bobbles Blanket from Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection, Book 3. (c) Universal Yarn.

UC: Since it is NatCroMo, can you share a favorite crochet memory with us?

Lindsey: My grandmother made lots and lots of crochet flower bookmarks that she would give away. She tried to show me how to make them once. First she showed me how to chain stitch, and I got the hang of that fairly quckly. Then she said, “watch this.” Well, the yarn moved and the hooked moved and all the sudden there was a flower on the end. She didn’t use terms like “double crochet” or anything like that. She just did it.  

 

UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community? 

Lindsey: Hmm… I really enjoy Ravelry, but I find it slightly more knitting centered. Crochetville was the first crochet website I got hooked on. It’s great for crochet-centric information and groups. And I love the Crochet Liberation Front.

 

Thanks, Lindsey, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!  Just a reminder that Lindsey’s blog, Poetry in Yarn, is one of tomorrow’s stops on Crochetville’s mega blog tour, A Tour Through Crochet Country.