It’s that time of year where crocheters (and knitters) are starting to think about holiday gifts. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some reviews to help you find the right gifts for other crafters (or yourself!) for this holiday season.
Let me start by saying that I’ve seen the Furls hooks showing up on many blogs, so I was interested in seeing how they worked. I tried out the Purpleheart wood crochet hook in US Size E/3.5 mm.
What I like about this hook:
It’s packaged as a gift. This makes the hook feel like a wonderful indulgance when you buy one for yourself, and as though it’s “worth it” when you buy one for someone else.
It’s very smooth. The finish does’t “grip” the yarn and allows you to crochet quickly.
The large grip diameter allows a comfortable, relaxed grip.
It has a beautiful design and is a great conversation starter!
The website makes it easy to customize your own hook by choosing one of seven types of wood (each with a sample image), and one of 15 sizes from US Size D/3.25 mm through US Size Q/15 mm.
It comes with a note about care instructions, which would be helpful for a first time user of a wooden crochet hook.
The hook’s price remains the same across different sizes and types of wood.
What might take some getting used to about this hook:
Like many wooden hooks, it doesn’t have the company name or the hook size on the hook. If you have several sizes in the same wood finish, it might take you a moment to choose the right size.
The shorter shaft of the hook may make it challenging to quickly create stitches with multiple yarn overs, like bullions or puffs.
Crocheters who prefer hooks inline hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with the tapered throat of this hook.
The comfort shape of this hook may take a few uses to adjust to.
Wish list tip: While the site is very easy to navigate, the customization options may be too confusing if someone is trying to buy you a Furls hook as a gift (especially if they aren’t also crocheters). Not too worry – Furls also offers gift cards.
The Furls Heirloom Wood Crochet Hooks (Alpha Series) hooks currently sell for $79.99. You can find more Furls crochet hooks, yarn bowls, and other products on their website.
Full disclosure: A crochet hook was provided to me by Furls as a giveaway prize for the Picnic Basket Shawl Crochet-a-Long. 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.
Today is the last in a series of weekly (Inter)National Crochet Month posts where I feature an artisanal crochet hook maker, share a review of the hooks, and offer up a giveaway where you can win your very own hand crafted crochet hook necklace!
Craftwich likes to add a touch of mystery to the packaging.
Left: My custom Craftwich hook. Right: The giveaway prize!
All images in the interview are copyright Craftwich Creations and used with permission.
Underground Crafter (UC) How did you first get started working with wood?
Monica: I tried making my first hook a few years ago, and boy did it SUCK. HA! I used an oak dowel, which was so hard to hand carve with an Xacto blade. But I really got the hang of it after taking a class on hook carving with Jimbo (of Jimbo’s Front Porch) at Crochet@Cama four years ago. Once I started, I couldn’t seem to stop, and soon my husband was asking me WHAT was I going to do with all those hooks? Worked out how I liked to make my hooks, what worked best for me, and a business was born.
Craftwich Creations Studio.
UC: What initially inspired you to make handmade crochet hooks?
Monica: In my crafting, I always have enjoyed the process more than the finished piece. It’s always a bit disappointing when it’s finished, no mater how cool it is. SO, when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, and was able to stay home with the kids, it was a natural progression to first wanting to know how to make my own yarn, and then my own tools. I want to know my craft from the beginning to end.
Craftwich Creations shawl pins, crochet hook necklaces, and other and accessories
UC: Do you crochet yourself? If not, who tests out your new hook designs?
Monica: I crochet every night, on the couch, with my Ott light and my pillow, LOL! I’m a more advant-garde hooker, so I like unusual designs, and since I tend to have crafting Short Attention Span, I like to make shawls (asymmetrical are my faves) and other patterns with a variety of stitches. I do like to have anyone I see in person test my hooks – one can never have enough feedback.
Craftwich Creations knitting needles.
UC: Many crocheters have never owned a handmade hook before, and you prefer to make custom hooks. Talk us through the process of working with a customer to create a great hook.
Monica: Well, my goal with my business is to make a piece of art for everyone, that is a useful tool also. If I don’t make something with someone in mind, then I want to make something that the wood tells me it wants to be. If someone is interested in my hooks, but doesn’t see one that leaps out at them (don’t laugh, it has literally happened at a craft show!) then they can request a custom order, which is SO much fun.
First, I need to ask what kind of grip they have, small or larger hands, and whether they use a thumb, forefinger, etc. Any quirks they might have in their hook hold. For example, I have a knife hold in my left hand, and I use my fingers to throw off the yarn. (it was dubbed the “spider crawl” by Julia M. Chambers, who wrote an excellent series of articles in Interweave Crochet on hook holds). Since crochet hooks are held differently by literally each person, some of my natural hooks will NOT work for some people, and others will be PERFECT. I want to match people up with THEIR hook. Nothing makes me more pleased than hearing someone tell me, “it fits like it was made for my hand,” or “it caught my eye right away and I love it.” That means more to me than the money (although getting paid to make people happy is nice too).
I send pictures of the hook in progress as needed. It’s a small step to take, to make sure someone loves what they get.
Craftwich Creations kits and more.
UC: Do you have any crochet/crafty blogs or websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
Craftwich Creations crochet hooks and knitting needles.
UC: How are you celebrating NatCroMo this year?
Monica: I am actually going to keep doing what I am doing! I have sold most of last year’s hooks, so March will be a big carving month for me – more gorgeous crochet tools for all my fellow hookers!
UC: What’s coming up for Craftwich Creations?
Monica: I will be at a few craft shows this year around the Pacific Northwest, so watch my Facebook page for details.
I always like to explore fun new fiber crafting ideas that I can make for people…at the end of last year, I really got into the large Tunisian hooks, so I’m gong to be making more and trying to get more people to try it! What a blast.
Most exciting of all for me, I’m partnering up with Laurinda Reddig of Reversible Color Crochet book fame, to create an exciting new tri-monthly crochet kit. We’ll have top notch hand painted yarn, an exciting pattern, an accessory that goes with them that I make (AND an option to get a custom hook to go with!), and best of all – a story that ties everything together and adds excitement to the kit. We’re putting together the details now, and I can’t wait to introduce the kits to everyone! Watch for details on the Ficstitches Yarn website!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Monica, and sharing your love of creativity with us!
Craftwich Creations CrochetHook Review
My custom crochet hook from Craftwich Creations.
I had a great conversation with Monica via Etsy convo and email. The process was just as she describes in the interview above, where I shared my preferences (for a tapered hook), my grip (knife hold), my eccentricities (using my forefinger heavily), and my favorite hook sizes (I through K). After back and forth discussion, I even sent her a video of me crocheting, and ultimately, she created a custom US K-10.5 (6.5 mm) crochet hook for me to review. You can see the hook in action and hear my full review in the video below.
What I like about this hook:
It’s visually appealing.
It’s very smooth.
It’s extremely lightweight.
It has a long handle to avoid the abrasion against the side of your hand that sometimes happens when you use the knife grip to hold your hook.
The hook has a tapered throat, which I prefer to an inline hook.
It has a wider circumference on the handle, allowing for a more relaxed grip while crocheting.
It’s custom made and it actually feels custom made. It’s like Monica jumped into my mind and knew exactly what I wanted! What an awesome conversation starter.
What might take some getting used to about this hook:
Crocheters who prefer hooks with inline throats to tapered hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with this hook – but I’m sure Monica could make another one that suits inline hook lovers.
Neither the company name nor the hook size are indicated on the hook, so you may not remember where to order from again. Similarly, you will need a Susan Bates Knit-Chek (or something similar) to check the hook size if you have multiple Craftwich hooks.
The hooks has a non-standard shape, so it may not fit into your existing hook holders.
Craftwich Creations crochet hooks currently sell for $18 – $26, depending on the size, style, and wood used. You can find more of Monica’s hooks and her other products, including wood buttons and knitting needles, in the Etsy shop here.
Full disclosure: A free review sample was provided by Craftwich Creations. 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.
Monica from Craftwich Creation is offering up a portable crochet hook necklace for one lucky U.S. reader!
This could be yours! Perfect for crocheting on the go, or to pick up dropped stitches in knitting!
So stop by Craftwich Creations and let us know your favorite hook from the shop in the comments! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Only entries logged through the widget will be eligible to win. Good luck!
Today is the third in a series of weekly posts where I feature an artisanal crochet hook maker, share a review of the hooks, and offer up a giveaway where you can win your very own hand crafted crochet hook!
Today’s post features Swamp Hooks. Amy Surratt is the maker behind the shop. All of Amy’s hooks are hand carved from genuine Southern swamp wood, and her shop’s tagline is “Southern grown, American made.” Amy stopped by today for a guest post, followed by my review of two Swamp Hooks, and a giveaway for a custom, wood carved crochet hook (!), so read on for details! UPDATE: Amy is also offering a 20% discount on anything in the Swamp Hooks Etsy shop for my readers with coupon code UNDERGROUND through Friday, April 10, 2015.
Carving crochet hooks was never something I had given much thought to. It was not on a bucket list or in some greater design for my life. It was something that just dropped in on me, unexpectedly and quite literally.
A branch from a cypress tree fell and landed just outside the door and it was pretty. It looked like it should be something and not just refuse left behind by a storm. After long consideration, my fiancé and I decided to try and see what we could do with it. Unfortunately the first few tries ended badly and didn’t really resemble crochet hooks all that much. As a matter of fact, many of the first hooks ended up being kindling in the fire place when the heads popped off or the entire thing just seemed to implode so I don’t really have a finished hook to hold up and say “This is it, the first hook from that first branch.”
It did start a curiosity in both of us, though, that eventually blossomed into a joy, especially when the heads stopped popping off quite as often. It started us both looking around at trees and branches and wondering, “What could I make from that?” and “I wonder what the wood looks like.”
That was the first lesson I learned from carving crochet hooks. . . Sometimes happiness is not a goal to be struggled towards. Sometimes it drops out of the sky and lands at your feet. You just have to recognize it and the possibilities it opens up for you. We have both found that carving the hooks is something we enjoy to do. The way this branch or that will look when oiled, the smoothness of the hook when it is fully polished, using the natural curves and bends in a design. It is fun to do and we really enjoy it and we would never have tried it if Cypress trees didn’t have a habit of dropping branches at startlingly regular intervals.
The second lesson I learned was that carving random knobs and bumps is anything but a random act. I thought it would be easy — what could be easier than doing something completely random? I was wrong. To make something look random requires more thought than making it look like a swirly-doo. Humans tend to look for patterns in things and when you are carving that natural instinct sneaks in and before you know it, you are carving a set of uniform random bumps, evenly spaced and sized. To create something random you have to stop trying to create something random. You have to carve a bunch of separate things and focus not on the whole but on each thing and just trust the whole will work itself out in the end. It is not nearly as easy as it looks but it is also fun too. Pushing yourself to be random makes you see the wood grains and the knots and bends and work with them to create something different and unique.
The third lesson is that it takes a whole lot of effort to make something look natural. This sounds paradoxical but as soon as you start carving something, the naturalness of it is harder to maintain because you’ve changed it. It’s the whole physics “observation changes things” paradox I think. Instead of trying to push your idea of the natural look, you have to work with the wood to see what it wants to be. The grain of the wood might want to flow one way even if you planned on it going another. The tightness of the grain pattern or shape of the grain swirls might make things you thought of doing not work as well. To make it look natural you have to stop being in control of the carving in a way and let go, see the wood and let all of those things show you how to make it natural looking. You have to surrender creative control to the wood so it can show you what it wants to be. Wow, that sounded amazingly hokey but it is true. Sometimes the wood has a personality to it and you have to work with that and allow it to guide you.
The fourth and last lesson is harder to put into words. When creating artwork, I find it easy to step back and know that what my finished product is, is what I wanted it to be. I can see the results and feel the pride of accomplishment. When we create a hook, we can see if it is neat looking and can feel if it is smooth but that final step is not ours. The creation of the hook is actually a two-step process. We love making the hooks but even when we are done and the hook is finished and it looks just like we wanted it to, that final validation doesn’t come until the person we gave it to or who bought it tells us, “I love the hook and it works great for me.”
The final product of our labors is the start, not the end. That final moment of stepping back and taking pride in what we have created happens when the hook finds a home and a hand that will use it. Hearing about people’s projects with our hooks is great. It is like we are part of a bigger series of events. What we love to do just flows into what other’s love and that is a very cool thing in my book.
So carving hooks is more than just a way to make money for us. It has been a very fun journey so far that has taught us things. We never thought it would or that we’d enjoy it so much but, the fact is, that stick on the ground started a passion in us. Today, I carved a butterfly on the end of a crochet hook made from an orange tree that has been giving us oranges for 20 years and finally got caught by a frost. It is beautiful and the tree, which by the way had the best oranges, becomes something new. That is a cool feeling to have.
The giveaway we are doing is for a hook of whatever size you want and whatever kind of handle design you like best. You can choose cypress, swamp mahogany, melaleuca, or orange wood as the material. We’ll work with you to make whatever kind of hook and size of hook that you want and it will be a one of a kind thing, just for you.
Swamp Hooks. From left to right: Original Swamp Hook in Cypress and Love Hook in Melaleuca.
Swamp Hooks Crochet Hook Review
Amy sent me two hooks to try out: a Melaleuca “Love Hook” in US H-8 (5mm) and a Cypress hook in US K-10.5 (6.5 mm). You can see the hooks in action and watch my full review video below.
Swamp Hooks are tapered crochet hooks available in several different styles.
The “Love Hook” has the type of “random” knobs that Amy discusses in her guest posts along with a heart shaped end. The Cypress hook is in their signature “Original Swamp Hook” style with bark on it for a rustic look.
What I like about these hooks:
Both hooks are incredibly smooth. I assume this is to the natural oils and beeswax Swamp Hooks uses to finish each hook. These are probably the smoothest wooden hooks I have ever worked with.
Both styles are visually appealing.
The Original Swamp Hook had a long handle to avoid the abrasion against the side of your hand that sometimes happens when you use the knife grip to hold your hook.
Both hooks have a tapered throat, which I prefer to an inline hook.
Both hooks have a wider circumference on the handle, allowing for a more relaxed grip while crocheting.
These hooks are created in a sustainable, ecologically friendly manner. The wood is gathered from fallen trees on their property and after hand carving, each is finished with natural oils and beeswax.
What might take some getting used to about these hooks:
Most crocheters would probably take several uses to find a comfortable grip on the hooks with “random” knobs.
Crocheters who prefer hooks with inline throats to tapered hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with this hook.
Both styles of hook have non-standard shapes, so they may not fit into your existing hook holders.
Swamp Hooks currently sell for $15 – $25, depending on the size, style, and wood used. You can find more of their hooks and their other products, including aprons and hair sticks, in the Etsy shop here.
Full disclosure: Two free review samples were provided by Swamp Hooks. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Amy from Swamp Hooks is offering up a special hook to one lucky U.S. reader! The winner can choose hook size, handle type, and material from options including Cypress, Melaleuca, Swamp Mahogany, and Orange Tree wood! So stop by Swamp Hooks and let us know your favorite hook from the shop in the comments! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win by Friday, April 3, 2015. Only entries logged through the widget will be eligible to win. Good luck! UPDATE: Amy is also offering a 20% discount on anything in the Swamp Hooks Etsy shop for my readers with coupon code UNDERGROUND through Friday, April 10, 2015.a Rafflecopter giveaway