Tag Archives: crochet insider

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!

 

 

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

 

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

 

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

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

 

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

 

new tunisian crochet

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

 

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

 

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

 

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

 

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

 

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

 

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.

 

DoraBookCover.low.res

 

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, publisher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

 

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

 

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

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

 

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!

Book Review and Giveaway: The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

new tunisian crochetIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Tunisian crochet, and I’m thrilled to see it regaining popularity.  Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, is one of several recent crochet publications that explore the versatility of Tunisian crochet.  I recently received a review copy from Interweave/F+W Media.  Though it pains me to part with such an awesome book, I will be giving away my review copy, so read on for details.

The New Tunisian Crochet opens just as anyone familiar with Dora’s writings at Crochet Insider and elsewhere would expect: with a history lesson.  The first chapter, What is Tunisian Crochet?, reviews the appearance Tunisian crochet stitches in needlecrafts publications in the 1850s and discusses the possible origins of the craft.  This section will delight your inner history nerd and will also appeal to your intelligence.  Dora’s writing style assumes her readers have brains and she doesn’t feel the need to talk down.  She sites her references and even includes a reading list.  Dora also mentions some of the contemporary Tunisian crochet designers, such as Carolyn Christmas and Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, who have helped to re-popularize and reinvigorate the craft.

In the next chapter, Tunisian Crochet Techniques, Dora writes in a conversational tone and provides tips and explanations that are useful even to an experienced Tunisian crocheter.  The book includes illustrations along with descriptions of the basic Tunisian crochet stitches.  In general, I don’t find Interweave’s illustrations helpful and it is hard for me to tell where the yarn and hook are placed.  I wish that these illustrations made use of multiple colors (as most of the Japanese stitch guides do) so that it would be easier for me to identify the difference between the previous rows and the current stitch.  In many ways, the illustrations are in keeping with the general tone of this book, which assumes a level of knowledge of the basics of crochet and Tunisian crochet.  More experienced crocheters will find this lack of review refreshing, but Tunisian newbies may need to consult other resources for more support.

Chapter 3, Tools for Tunisian Crochet, reviews the various available hooks and tools for blocking.  Dora includes a list of web resources.

The next chapter, Special Techniques and Effects, is where things start to get very interesting.  Dora covers a myriad of Tunisian techniques here, including basic double-ended crochet, short rows for circles, stranded colorwork, and entrelac.  Each technique includes a small project or pattern and you will want to pull your hooks out right away and get swatching.

For all you stitch guide junkies, Chapter 5, Stitch Dictionary, is for you.  This section includes 33 Tunisian stitch patterns organized into five sections: Basic, Intermediate, Lace, Textured, and Tunisian and Standard Crochet.  Each pattern includes US abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

The final chapter, Projects, includes 12 project patterns.  The project breakdown is

  • Women’s Accessories – 6 (a shawl, a hat, mittens, a scarf, a bag, and slippers)
  • Garments – 4 (a cardigan, a pullover, and a skirt for women, and a vest for men)
  • Home Decor – 2 (a sampler throw and a rug)

This section features patterns by many talented designers, including Dora herself.  My favorites from this section are actually the first four patterns: the Marisol Cardigan by Andrea Graciarena, the Mago Vest by Charles Voth (interviewed by me here), the Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha (interviewed by me here), and the Shantay Skirt by Doris Chan.  I also like the Sierra Bag by Margaret Hubert (interviewed by me here), which changes up the typical entrelac pattern by including different sizes.  I can also imagine myself trying out some of the stitch patterns from the Ariadne Sampler Throw by Lisa Daehlin.  (Ravelry members can see all of the book’s designs on its source page.)

The book closes with a reference section in the back, which includes a key to the stitch symbols used throughout the book and a glossary of US pattern abbreviations.  It also includes illustrated and written instructions for all of the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches.  Finally, a bio of each contributor is included.

Overall, this is a great book for a crocheter interested in going beyond the basics of Tunisian crochet.  In addition to the wonderful tips and tricks, stitch guide, and history lesson, the book includes many great projects – several of which highlight or teach a specific Tunisian crochet skill.  The stitch guide and the patterns use both US pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The downside to this book is that the illustrations assume prior knowledge and are really just there to trigger your memory of particular stitches.  Also, it is a softcover and it doesn’t stay open when flat.  If you are a true Tunisian crochet newbie, you may need to supplement this book with something else (I would recommend Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet).  I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars for any crocheter interested in learning more about Tunisian crochet.

 

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 31, 2013.  

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me about your experience with Tunisian crochet.  How did you learn, what are your favorite types of projects, and what would you like to learn to make with Tunisian crochet?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Charles Voth a.k.a. Stitch Stud

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

I’m really excited to interview Charles Voth, also known as Stitch Stud, today.  Charles is a crochet and knitting designer and tech editor.  (If you’re not sure what a tech editor is, you may want to check out this interview with Juanita Quinones.  And if you get really excited about tech editing, you may want to sign up for these upcoming tech editing classes Charles is teaching at online at Crochet Insider.)  Charles is an active participant in several online forums for crochet designers, and over the years I’ve seen him generously sharing his knowledge with more junior designers (including me!).  In the past year, I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to (virtually) meet Charles when he tech edited one of my patterns.

You can find Charles online at his website, Charles Voth Designs, on Ravelry (as StitchStud and on his designer page), and on Twitter.  All photos are used with permission.

Charles Voth.

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

Charles: When I was 5, a woman visiting my mother was crocheting a blue hat. I was fascinated with the movement of her hands and that a 3-d object was appearing from a piece of yarn. I asked her to teach me. She taught me to finger chain that day, and came back another time to teach me how to use a hook. What I made after with the basic stitches I learned, I can’t recall.

 

I remember making a doily in thread following a pattern when I was 8 or 9. I had no-one to help me crack the code of pattern text and abbreviations, but somehow with the photo and the index of stitches I figured it out. When I was 10 or 11, I saw some Guambiano tribesmen knitting and spinning with drop-spindles (in Popayan, Colombia) and I asked my dad what they were doing. He explained what it was and I asked him if I could learn to knit. Fortunately, my grade 5 teacher was a knitter and my dad asked her to teach me. He bought me my first yarn and needles.

 

I am a “thrower”, and faster at it than at “picking”, but when my Russian-born grandmother saw me throwing upon my visit with her in Canada, she was dismayed, and tried to get me to knit Russian-continental. Which I can now do fairly well, but at that age, I found it hopeless to change over.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Charles: The yarn store I frequented in Medellin, Colombia only had yarn, no pattern booklets. The women would sketch a schematic, do a swatch, and figure out the sweater. They taught me how to do that so I could make my mom a sweater and a vest. But I wanted to knit something for myself. Fortunately, another expat woman lent me an English pattern book with women’s patterns. I analysed the shaping, schematic, gauge, etc, and with the help of my math teacher I designed a men’s sweater based on the woman’s pattern, making it more masculine. I even got a home-ec credit for that. I just kept going from there and only stopped during the first 10 years of my kids’ lives. I was the full-time stay at home parent for half of those years and just didn’t have time.

 

Joni Kimono by Charles Voth, published in Inside Crochet, Issue 33. Photo (c) Inside Crochet 2012 via Ravelry.com.

UC: Many of your patterns are available in both English and Spanish.  Tell us about your decision to offer your patterns in both languages.  Are Spanish language patterns universally understand by Spanish speakers, or is there a great divide like we see between U.S. & U.K. terminology?  If so, how do you address that in your work.

Charles: I wish I could spend more time writing my patterns in both languages. I know that Spanish-speaking knitters and crocheters don’t cling to patterns the way English-speakers do…and seem to thrive on the “swatch, and follow a schematic” formula, but there are many learners and intermediate crocheters who perhaps haven’t benefited from a relative who could teach them the intricacies of shaping, etc, and they do look for patterns. The many Spanish groups of Ravelry who translate with designers’ permission are a testimony to this growing need.

 

While there are differences in the names of stitches, for knitting needles, the crochet hook, and even yarn, the labels do seem immaterial to Spanish-speaking crafters. Rather than stigmatizing one set of labels as incorrect or inferior, each geographic region is happy to use what they know and even to borrow from each other. It’s rather refreshing. The other mentality that I enjoy and return to often for a breath of fresh air, is that there is no knit-crochet dichotomy like in North America. In Colombia, as in many other countries, the word “tejer” is universal for “weaving, knitting, and crochet” and the tool that is used is given when the activity is being described.  So I would “weave with a loom,” “weave with 2 needles,” or “weave with a hook,” for example. I use the words that I was taught in Colombia and the terms and abbreviations I first found when I found other Hispanic  bloggers and stitchers online.

 

UC: In addition to your crochet life, you’re also an ESL teacher.  Does your teaching experience impact your design or pattern writing process, and if so, how?

Charles: Second language learners struggle constantly with accuracy and fluency, and the two aspects of language compete with each other. Either one can talk with native-like speed and tone yet have many embedded grammatical or micro-level pronunciation errors, or one can speak/write accurately, with near perfect grammar and spelling, but it takes forever and the speech is robotic and the writing painfully slow.

 

Crocheters and knitters, depending on their exposure to patterns and the time they’ve been stitching, and what kind of support they’ve had, and more importantly, what kind of learner they are (visual, aural, kinesthetic, text-biased) often struggle with the same fits and false starts when they encounter pattern instructions and charts until they are more experienced, but if a stitcher works faster than they are ready to, things get missed and frogging is more common.

 

I have written patterns that bore the experienced knitter/crocheter to tears because they are full of pedagogical text, and I’ve written patterns that are so sparse that a newbie takes up hours of my time on Ravelry giving pattern support. I’m a visual learner, so I’m fine with a chart, a schematic and minimal text, yet I know that if my patterns were only like that I’d loose 75% of stitchers out there, so I now try to find a happy medium.

 

Crantini Sophisticate by Charles Voth, published on the Annie's website. Photo (c) Annie's 2010.

UC: You were born and raised in Colombia.  What was the yarn crafts scene like there when you were growing up?

Charles: From what I recall, different tribes of pre-European Colombians have a vibrant craft movement and the lore is well documented and perpetuated. Colombia is the textile centre of Latin America, and Medellin, where I grew up, has many textile corporations. The tallest sky scraper in the city is actually a stylized sewing needle. When I was there, mostly grandmothers were the knitters and depending on the social class, younger women either learned out of necessity (to make blankets and clothes for themselves and/or for sale) or if they were middle or upper class, they just dabbled in it once in a while. I’m not at all in touch with the current knitting/crochet culture in Colombia. Colombians on Ravelry appear to come from all age groups.

 

When I lived there, the main yarn purveyors were the French company Pinguoin, and Cisne yarns (from Chile), and I believe Coats had and still has a line of yarn with Spanish labels. These yarns were in the store at the mall near my house. The yarns were mostly acrylic. My favourite store was a different one, 15 blocks from my house and it was frequented mostly by little grandmothers from working class families. The store consisted of a small room with walls made of cinderblock and red-clay brick; it was poorly lit, and had a very sparse non-yarn décor. But it had wall-to-wall cones of what now would be deemed lace-weight acrylic yarn in about 100 colours. I would go there, ask for 15, 23, 60, or any number of grams of yarn, and I could specify the number of strands they would hold together and wind off into cakes. 4 yarns together worked great on my 3.5mm or 4mm needles, so it must have been somewhere been a sport or DK weight.  I’d ask for 3 strands together to make baby booties and 6 strands together to work at a worsted weight gauge. It was VERY splitty, naturally, but I think my getting control of this was what really helped me develop a very even tension.  (UC comment: This sounds like a really fun store!)

 

Mock Cable Men's Pullover by Charles Voth.

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting?  If so, how?

Charles: The deepest influence my cultural heritage gives me is my sense of colour and of proportion. I know it’s nothing unusual now, but when I first arrived in Canada and made things with orange, fuschia, and red right beside each other, I sure got looks. Naturally, when I discovered Kaffe Fasset at 19 and saw that colours transcended culture, I feel liberated.

 

I don’t know whether I can say this here, but as a teenage boy interested in the local beauties, I was drawn to girls that had curves, naturally, but it was the relative proportion that mattered. The guys and I would comment on how North American models were twiggy and sickly and we were never surprised that Miss Universe was often won by a South American beauty queen. To be beautiful in our eyes, a girl had to have calves and thighs, but it was just as important to have narrow ankles and knees, and so on—proportion was key. This definitely has influenced my design aesthetic, when designing women’s garments, because I like to accentuate curves and relative differences in proportion rather than create the baggy box or the wraith-like sack-on-a-scare-crow look. You could say that my muse for women’s designs is “la belleza latina.”  Of course, for men’s designs, I now consult my 2 teenage sons and what they and their friends would wear.

 

UC: You’ve held a lot of roles in the yarn industry, including designer, podcaster, tech editor, and magazine editor.  What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Charles: I would say,

  • “Don’t ever think you’re too young to start, or too old to start.
  • Don’t give up, take small steps, be humble amongst the great talent that’s around you, but don’t hide your skills and art out of sight.
  • Embrace technology.
  • Don’t have a sense of entitlement, accept rejection without tears.  A rejected design only means your creation doesn’t fit in someone else’s big picture creative concept; it doesn’t mean it’s a terrible design.
  • Act professionally, and as much as you can, don’t let emotions cloud business matters, particularly in public.
  • Befriend many, but give to many in return.
  • Find one or two trustworthy and extremely honest (even painfully so, sometimes) mentors to guide you and to listen to your emotional venting privately.
  • Most of all, enjoy creating, have a knitting or crochet project that doesn’t have a deadline, and is just there to be savoured, touched, and to fill the senses.
  • If you have a life-partner, engage in, and support his/her passion without expecting the same in return.
  • Lastly, be a life-long learner.”
All in One Cardi by Charles Voth.

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

Charles:

 

UC: What are you working on right now?

Charles: I’m busy tech-editing mostly. A few designs in the works, but nothing I can talk about at the moment.  (UC comment: And if you’re interested in becoming a tech editor, don’t forget to sign up for Charles’s upcoming classes at Crochet Insider!)

 

Thank you, Charles, for sharing your thoughts with us, and for giving some great advice!

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

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Juanita Quinones

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

Today, I’m interviewing Juanita Quinones, also known as BoricuaCrochet, a crocheter I met on Ravelry who is also a crochet tech editor.  Originally from Puerto Rico, Juanita moved to the mainland U.S. about 20 years ago and now lives in Pennsylvania.  Her projects can be found on Ravelry here.  All pictures are used with her permission.

BoricuaCrochet's version of #15 Lace Pullover by Dora Ohrenstein. (Click for project page.)

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

Juanita: My journey began by watching a neighbor making doilies when I was about six years old. After that, I picked up a stitch dictionary, Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionary Stitches Patterns Knitting & Crochet, that my mother had and learned each of the stitches. It is my preferred stitch dictionary, and I do still keep that copy. I always wanted to make wearable projects. I remember and still have my first poncho done when I was 13 years old. (UC comment: Wow, that’s impressive!  As much as I love stitch dictionaries, I’ve never worked my way entirely through one.)


UC: Can you tell us about your involvement with the Home work project through the Cyber Crochet chapter of the Crochet Guild of America?

Juanita: This group has taken the task of creating samples of the patterns provided in the Home work publication that is available online.  (UC comment: I love the full title of this book – Home work: a choice collection of useful designs for the crochet and knitting needle, also, valuable recipes for the toilet.  It was published in 1891 and is now in the public domain.)

It is a collection of vintage patterns of stitches, motifs, edgings, insertions, and other patterns both in knit and crochet. We are making the crochet samples. I’ve taken the task of coordinating these efforts and adding the patterns to Ravelry with pictures from several volunteers. We hope to have the samples available for display at one of the future CGOA conferences. We hope they inspire crocheters and designers alike to incorporate in future projects.  It is always better when you have a picture of what these patterns look like. It is a big project and we have completed about a third of the samples.  (UC comment: Thanks for your work on this great project which has benefits for the entire crochet community!)

 

BoricuaCrochet's Mikado Lace, from Home work. (Click for project page.)

UC: You are a crochet tech editor. For my readers who don’t know, can you explain what a tech editor is and tell us how you got started tech editing?

Juanita: In a nutshell, a tech editor revises patterns from designers in an attempt to make them error-free before they are published. The tech editor makes sure the pattern is accurate and complete in how it uses the correct abbreviations, follows standards, and/or provides explanation for new or uncommon stitches used. We don’t need to make the item to know when something is missing, needs more clarification, or needs consistency.

 

I don’t know why – perhaps because of my mathematical background and/or experience writing technical documents – but it has always been easy to identify when a pattern has an error. Always, I’ve sent the comment(s) to the publisher and/or designer. It was after submitting several corrections that a well-known designer influenced me to pursue the career.

 

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Puerto Rico.

Juanita: There are a lot of artisans in Puerto Rico that work with thread, in what is called “Mundillo” (a bobbin lace). There are only a few yarn stores in Puerto Rico. There are classes offered by different groups for both knit and crochet, but they are scarce.  My passion for the craft increased when I moved to the States about 19 years ago as there were more yarns readily available.

I don’t think there is rivalry amongst crocheters and knitters in Puerto Rico. I think most learn to do both even when they prefer one or the other. Like I prefer crochet and my mother prefers knitting, but we know both.

 

BoricuaCrochet's Prim Wheel Lace from Home work. (Click for project page.)

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?

Juanita: I think my cultural background influenced the type of yarn that I prefer to work with. I prefer to crochet with cotton, bamboo, linen, or silk, but not wool (although at times I do use wool for felting). Since we don’t have changes in seasons, I do prefer colorful yarns all the time, and not according to seasons.

 

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?

Juanita: I prefer to read from the groups available in Ravelry. There are only a few blogs that I read, for example, Laughing Purple Goldfish Designs and Jimmy Beans Wool.  I also like the Talking Crochet newsletter and Crochet Insider.

 

Thank you so much for stopping by to share your experiences with us, BoricuaCrochet! 

Book review: Custom Crocheted Sweaters

I recently received a review copy of Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit by Dora Ohrenstein, of Crochet Insider fame, from the nice people at Lark Crafts.

Like most crocheters, I’ve been waiting a long time for a book like this.  Although I personally have little interest in actually making a sweater, I would love to have a greater understanding of how to make a crocheted sweater that fits and looks great.

Knitters have (seemingly) thousands of books about sweater designs (I’ve written about 7 in this post).  On the other hand, until January, crocheters seemed to have Modular Crochet: A Revolutionary New Method for Creating Custom-Design Pullovers (out-of-print and for sale on Amazon for $50-$260) and the first section of Couture Crochet Workshop (also selling for $100-$300 on Amazon).  (Yes, there are many crochet books of sweater patterns, and some even include tips on fitting and customization, but few seem to be primarily designed to teach the reader to design and customize her/his own sweaters.)

As soon as I heard that Dora Ohrenstein was working on Custom Crocheted Sweaters, I began eagerly anticipating its release.  Surprisingly, the book actually managed to live up to my high expectations.

Structure

The book opens with a 42 page overview of sweater design, divided into these sections:

  • The Art and Craft of Making Garments,
  • Overview of Sweater Construction,
  • Choosing Yarns,
  • Measuring Your Body,
  • Understanding Fit,
  • Demystifying Patterns,
  • Reading Schematics,
  • Shaping and Alteration 101, and
  • Finishing with Care.

In these pages, Dora covers the different types of sweaters (“Oh, so that’s what a raglan sleeve is!”); provides incredibly detailed instructions for taking your own measurements as well as measuring beloved/well fitting sweaters in your own collection; and shares tips such as the best approach to altering an existing pattern to create a sweater that fits your unique measurements and preferences.

The next section, called The Sweaters,  includes 10 sweater designs featuring a variety of construction types.  Each sweater has a detailed pattern and is followed by one to three “lessons.”  There are a total of 17 lessons, including 4 “Master Class” lessons:

  • Altering Body and Sleeve Lengths,
  • Fine-Shaping Necklines and Shoulder Straps,
  • Blocking to Your Measurements,
  • Altering Length,
  • Widening the Color,
  • Altering Length and Waist Placement,
  • Master Class in Fitted Armholes,
  • Adjusting Size by Changing Gauge,
  • Master Class on Armholes and Sleeve Caps,
  • Lengthening Sleeves in an Angled Pattern,
  • Internal Shaping with a Bust Dart,
  • Widening Sleeves with Internal Shaping,
  • Master Class in Sleeve Alteration,
  • Adding Neckline Depth,
  • Bust Alteration in Top-Down Design,
  • Length and Waist Alterations, and
  • Master Class in Bust Alteration.

In addition to the lessons, each sweater pattern includes a detailed overview of the benefits of that particular construction type, suggestions on what to consider when substituting yarns, and tips for choosing a size to fit you.

The sweater patterns are primarily written patterns in U.S. terminology, but the major stitch patterns or motifs for each design are also shown in international stitch symbols.  The book is cleanly organized and well written.

Sweater patterns

I didn’t expect to love all of the sweater patterns in this book, and I didn’t.  This book is really about the information contained in the opening section and the lessons.  The sweater patterns are almost an extra – if you like them, that’s great, and if not, you can apply the lessons to other patterns in your collection.   As far as I’m concerned, the information in this book is absolutely worth the price of admission, regardless of whether you actually plan to make any of the patterns in the book.  (You can check out pictures of each design on the book’s Ravelry page here.)

And now for the not so good news…

Now that I’ve told you how great the book is, it’s time to discuss the improvements I would suggest for the second edition :).

It would be wonderful if a book like this, which requires a fair amount of reading and detailed focus while crocheting, could be spiral bound.  The book is a paperback and doesn’t really lay flat, so you can’t crochet and read at the same time.

Most of the models have long hair and the pictures are lovely.  BUT, often times the model’s hair obscures the shoulder construction.  Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but in a book where there are literally pages dedicated to detailed discussion of drop shoulders versus fitted sleeve versus raglan construction, it would be nice to have a clear view of the shoulders and neckline.

I made a montage of the worst "hair offenders" from the photos provided by Lark Crafts. From left to right, Uptown, Floating Tee, and Double Trouble Shell.

The third issue relates to the discussion of math.  It is well known that, in general, math is not a strength of most Americans.  Dora attempts to rectify this (as it relates to crochet) by talking the reader through the math of making changes related to gauge, stitch pattern repeats, etc.  I think these sections would greatly benefit from a little formula box where you could “fill in the blanks” based on your situation, rather than long descriptions of what to do, using fake examples.  (I foresee many folks with math anxiety being confused about which number replaces which number in the example, and immediately giving up.  Or worse, making a mathematical error leading to a  poor fit, and then thinking the book wasn’t helpful.)

Summary

Run out and buy this book now, before it is selling for $300 on Amazon and you are kicking yourself for missing out.  It’s like having your very own sweater tutor that you can turn to at any moment for help with a project.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, even with its (few) flaws, because overall it teaches much more than I expected to learn from it, and certainly more than other books that are currently available.

(And, in case you are wondering, yes, I am keeping my review copy and not hosting a giveaway.  It’s just that good.)

Interview with Melissa Horozewski, author of Austentatious Crochet

My interview today is with crochet designer Melissa Horozewski.  Melissa was nominated for the Crochet Liberation Front Flamie for Best New Designer in 2009,  and her work has been published by Crochet!, Crochet World, Inside Crochet, Interweave Crochet, and Leisure Arts.

Melissa is also the author of Austentatious Crochet: 36 Contemporary Designs from the World of Jane Austen, which was released last week and is already the top seller in new releases on Amazon.com.

Congratulations Melissa!

You may have noticed a recent interest in knitting patterns that are somehow related to classic British literature.  For example,  What Would Madame Defarge Knit?, was published in May by Cooperative Press and Jane Austen Knits is available now for pre-order through Interweave.  Melissa has introduced the same concept into crochet with her new book.  Melissa’s motto is “I cannot live without books or hooks,” and she is a big fan of Jane Austen.  Her favorite Austen book is Persuasion, with Pride and Prejudice a close second!  Melissa can be found at her website, Stitch Scene or on her Ravelry designer page.  All photos in this interview are from her new book and are used with Melissa’s permission.

Melissa Horozewski

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

Melissa: My sister and I were raised by a single mother, and each day after school, we would walk to the hair salon where she worked and spend at least 2 hours waiting in a tiny breakroom for her to finish her shift.  One day, a woman who would come in each week to have her hair set took pity on my sister and me.  She invited us to take crochet lessons from her.  Once a week, we would walk to her house after school, and sit at her highly polished dining room table learning to work with a hook and thread.  My first project was a heart doily that I entered in our county fair that year. The doily received a large purple grand champion ribbon and though I haven’t made another doily since, it got me hooked on crochet.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Melissa: In the late 80’s, when I was in my early teens, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of crochet garment patterns that were what I was looking for.  This was before the internet was in most households, and as I lived in a very rural area, the closet big box store was almost 2 hours away and a yarn store wasn’t even on my radar.  That’s when I started creating garments for myself, designing on the hook so to speak.

UC: You’re an avid reader and crafter.  Many crafters (like me!) struggle to find time for reading.  How do you balance your love of both hooks and books?

Melissa: Great question!  Our family is rather outside of the norms in the approach we take to life. We have always started getting our kids ready for bed at 7pm.  When they were younger, this included reading to them; as a result, even though they are now 9 and almost 15, they don’t balk at getting ready for bed at 7pm because they are avid readers, too!  This allows all of us to be in our beds by 8 at the latest and we all read for an hour or so.  My husband was not a reader when we married, but he is now.   So during the day, I hook and at night, I book.  But [while writing] Austentatious Crochet, it was difficult to stay as balanced in my approach to life, and to find time to read books that were not related to Austen research.

UC: Austentatious Crochet features 36 projects inspired by the work of Jane Austen.  What was the design process like for this book?

Melissa: Usually a stitch pattern inspires me, or a skein of yarn, but the process of designing for this book was sketches, followed by my finding what stitch pattern and yarn would produce the look I was envisioning for that design.  I have no shortage of ideas, but time to put them all into reality is difficult for me to find.  There were over 50 sketches that I painstakingly whittled down to 40 designs.  4 were not included because the pictures were not up to the level I was looking for.  But I can be very indecisive.  It was difficult for me to choose which of my designs would make it into the book.

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

Melissa: I have a rather large collection, so it is very hard to say, but probably Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know, as I used it again this week to learn how to make a duplicate stitch.  Anything to make my life easier, I am all over.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Melissa: Everywhere!  I have a large office box filled with scraps of paper, sketch sheets, and photos of design possibilities that may not see the light of day if I don’t find the time.  For example, I’ll be at a restaurant and see a woman wearing a shirt that perhaps has an open back with some sort of motif across the opening that I would love to translate into crochet, so I’ll sketch it on whatever paper I can scrounge out of my purse.  My kids have bemoaned the fact that in our vacation pictures is often a stray picture of carpeting in the hotel hallway as either the colorway or the motif struck me visually. When I come up with a book idea, or a creative name for a design to made sometime in the future, it all goes in the box.

UC: Has teaching and designing crochet patterns impacted your personal crafting?  If so, how?

Melissa: Most definitely.  My daughter complains that I never make anything for her anymore and she is right. I make what is commissioned in the size asked for.  Squeezing in time to make gifts for others  is difficult as well.  But I am slowly getting back to that and creating time for what I love to do versus what I consider to be a chore.

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

Melissa: The Republic of Pemberley is a huge resource for Jane Austen fans.  I always enjoy reading Dora Ohrenstein’s Crochet Insider as she travels quite a bit and covers international crochet, as well as crochet history.  I don’t have a lot of time to spend online unfortunately, which is sad as it is huge resource and mostly untapped for me.

UC: What goals do you have for the next year?

Melissa: Well, I want this year to be more than just about survival. As I did all the designs for Austentatious Crochet, all the writing, and all the production (hiring the photographer, models, stylists, scouting locations, etc.), it took a huge chunk of my time away from my family, so I have been scaling back.  I want to cultivate more relationships.  I need to become a better networker and delegater.  But even so, I would like to get more designs out there as I have so many ideas just sitting in ‘the box’, but unless I can learn to delegate, that is unlikely to happen. It all seems to come back to there are simply not enough hours in the day.  Don’t all of us mothers feel that way?

UC comment: I can’t speak as a mother, but I know I feel the same way!  Thanks so much, Melissa, for taking time from your schedule to stop by for an interview!

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

Reminders:

  • You have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, October 19 to enter the giveaway for Val Pierce‘s Knitted Mug Hugs (Twenty to Make) by visiting this post.
  • If you want to learn to crochet or improve your skills, you can still join in on my Crochet 101 crochet-a-long.  For details, read this post.

Knitting design books, and week of giveaways, day 5

I’m sure my readers who primarily knit have been asking themselves, “When is our giveaway coming?”  So today’s post is dedicated to all you knitters out there!

One of the reasons I retaught myself to knit was to take advantage of the many great books available to knitters on clothing and sweater design.  For some reason, there are very few crochet books focused on sweater and clothing design.  Since Lily Chin released Couture Crochet Workshop in 2006, I have seen a few crochet books here and there which talk about fitting and sweater or clothing design, but most of these books still emphasize pattern alteration rather+ than design from scratch.  (I do hear that Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit by Dora Ohrenstein, due out in January, 2012, will be awesome.)  Since I started knitting again, I have slowly been collecting the various books that I’ve been hearing about from knitters about over the years.

I haven’t actually read these books, so I can’t give them a full review.  But I have perused through them and can provide some descriptions.  Eventually, I hope to read them all and apply my learnings to both knitting and crochet.

Aran Sweater Design by Janet Szabo

This book is organized into three sections.  The first, “Aran Background and Fundamentals,” is a primer on Aran sweaters, various types of cables, different layouts, and knitting tips.  The second, “Constructing an Aran,” reviews different construction and sleeve types including bottom up, top down, dropped shoulder, peasant sleeves, set-in s  sleeves, raglan sleeves, vests, t-sleeves, and wide saddle.  The last section, “Aran Sweater Projects,” includes patterns.

The book is mostly in black and white, with color photographs of the projects.  There are knitting charts, many illustrations, and “decision points” in the steps of each of the construction methods.  From the little that I’ve read, Szabo seems to write in a conversational tone, like a mentor explaining something to you.  The retail price is $24.95 and it is available from Szabo’s Blue Sky Knitting as well as the major book retailers.

Designing Knitwear by Deborah Newton

I have the 1992 edition.

This book has eight chapters.  “Learning to See” has some interesting photos of vintage knitwear.  “Designing with Yarn” reviews properties of different yarns and seasonality, and provides tips on swatching, estimating yarn needs, and charting a pattern.  “Fit & Silhouette” focuses on taking measurements, ease, and choosing structure, sleeves, and neckline.  There are small sections on designing for a full figure and for maternity wear.  “Designing with Knit & Purl” explores different patterned stitches, how to arrange repeats, and edgings and trims.  “Color & Graphics” reviews different types of colorwork.  “The Comfortable Classics” includes a gallery of classics (e.g., Chanel suit, Matador, etc.) and gives some sketching tips.  “Themes & Samplers” has tips on slip stitch and twisted stitch patterns, cables, bobbles, eyelets and lace, motifs, and beaded and embroidered embellishments.  “Dressmaker Details & Finishing” explores different silhouettes (e.g., trapeze, princess, etc.), shaping techniques, creating patterns, collars, lapels, pockets, cuffs, and finishing techniques.

This book looks like a textbook – my edition is hard cover and text heavy, with great historic photos and ample illustrations.  Each chapter after “Learning to See” includes a section called “Swatch Project and Designer Notebook” and at least one garment pattern with a “What If…?” exploring different options.  From looking through it, the book seems like a self-study/correspondence course with assignments that would turn you into a solid designer by the time you complete it.  The 1998 edition retails at $24.95.

Design Your Own Knits in 5 Easy Steps by Debbie Abrahams

This book is organized into steps (as the title suggests).  Step 1, “Inspiration, Stitches and Yarn,” emphasizes the personal nature of inspiration and includes photos of nature, a review of color and colorwork, different types of stitch textures, embellishments, and yarn. Step 2, “Ideas onto Paper,” focuses on using graph paper, gauge, scale, pattern repeats, converting measurements, and planning the design.  Step 3, “Knitting a Swatch,” is all about the importance of swatching, gauge, and making adjustments.  Step 4, “Mapping out the Design,” reviews body measurements, basic construction types, schematics, and measuring for accessories.  Step 5, “Getting Knitting,” discusses the calculating yarn amounts, writing up your patterns, and different shapes (for scarves, blankets, cushions, bags, hats, socks, slipovers, sweaters, jackets/cardigans, and straight skirts), necklines, and collars.  This section has instructions for each shape, neckline, and collar, written out in smaller font than the rest of the book, and sizing charts.  The book also includes 48 pages of knitting graph paper.

This book is relatively light on text and has many vibrant and colorful pictures.  It seems geared towards visual learners.  The retail price is $17.95.

Knitting from the Top by Barbara G. Walker

The book is organized around 12 basic designs: Classic Raglan Pullover, Classic Raglan Cardigan, Seamless Cape, Seamless Skirt, Reversible Pants, Sleeveless Sweater, Seamless Set-In Sleeve, Seamless Saddle Shoulder, Kimono Sleeve, Square-Set or Peasant Sleeve, Dropped-Shoulder Ski Sweater, and Classic Cap.

There are a handful of black and white photographs but illustrations and schematics of each design.  From the little I have read, the tone is very conversational.  It seems like having a great teacher sitting next to you while you are working on a project.  I especially like the “pause” and “continue” prompts at various points within each design.  The book retails at $20 and can be purchased directly from Schoolhouse Press, as well as major book retailers.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd

The subtitle of this book is “Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges.”  It’s basically a sweater recipe book.  The designs included are Drop-Shoulder Sweaters, Modified Drop-Shoulder Sweaters, Set-In Sleeve Sweaters, Saddle-Shoulder Sweaters, Raglan Sweaters, and Seamless Yoke Sweaters.  Each design includes guidelines for creating that style of sweater in child and adult sizes based on a stockinette gauge of 3-7 stitches/inch, and a cardigan variation.  There are also tips for several variations of ribbing, necklines, edgings, and waist shaping throughout the book.  There are some additional patterns (“copy cats”) in each chapter.

This book seems like the intermediary between following patterns and completely creating your own designs.  It talks you through the number of stitches to cast on, when to shape armholes, sleeves, etc.  But there is also design advice sprinkled throughout.  It also has a great book design.  It is a hardcover, spiral-bound book so it lays flat, and it includes an elastic marker to keep your place.  There’s also a pocket in the back where presumably you would keep notes.  There are many full color photos and each pattern sample is photographed on a model.  The retail price is $26.95 and you can purchase it directly from Interweave Press or through other book retailers.

Sweater Design in Plain English, Second Edition by Maggie Righetti with Terri Shaw

I have the first edition, from 1990.

This book is organized into two parts.  Part I, “Before You Begin,” covers yarn, body shapes, measurements (with very detailed and frequent illustrations), pattern stitches, color, estimating yarn, and gauge.  There is a fair amount of discussion about the way in which the yarn, the stitches, and the design combine to flatter the wearer.  For you math-phobic people out there, the book has a 14 page chapter called “Understanding the Arithmetic of Knitting.”  Part 2, “Doing It – The Actual Designs,” includes chapters on different designs – The “T” Topper; The “Da Vinci Man” Sweater; The Puff-Sleeved Boatnecked Beauty; A V-Neck Pullover Vest; A Cabled, Classic, Crew-Necked Long-Sleeved Pullover; A Cardigan Jacket; A Child’s Raglan Turtleneck; A Timeless Adult Raglan Cardigan; All-in-One-Piece-from-the-Neck-Down-Pullover; A Coat of Many Colors; The True Batwing Sweater; Icelandic Yoked Pullover; Traditional Aran Fisherman Sweaters; and Diagonal Sweaters.  There are additional chapters on sleeves, necklines and colors, and “interesting effects” like stripes, different colored cables, etc.

This book seems very informal (the sweater design names give a hint of that) and chatty, and there are some personal stories peppered throughout.  It seems to have more information on the math than other books, even going so far as to include “fill in” problems.  There are some black and white photographs and many illustrations.  I’m not sure what is different in the new edition because I haven’t checked it out yet, but it retails at $24.95.

The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee

I have the 1983 edition.

This book takes a different approach from the rest, by walking the reader through a sampler – basically a sleeve sized project that teaches many skills including different methods for casting on and binding off, stripes, short rows, button holes, increasing and decreasing, stripes, cables, pockets, and hems.  The first section focuses on the sampler with illustrations, photos, and detailed directions.  The next section, “Equip Yourself,” is all about yarn, needles, and other tools.  The third section, “Unravel Your Thinking,” briefly explores construction and gauge.  The fourth section, “The Basic Sweater,” walks through a sweater design adapted from Elizabeth Zimmerman.  This section includes a formula page (“the Gauge Page”), which can be adapted for different gauges and measurements.  The final section, “The Sweater Variations,” covers different necklines, cardigans, sleeves, and accessories.

The edition I have includes a small insert with color photos of completed projects and is spiral bound so it lays flat to allow reading and knitting.  I would describe the writing style as casual instructional (e.g., “You will now be working back and forth on the needle”).  I like the idea of the sampler since taking on a full sweater is a pretty large project if you don’t feel confident in the design and/or your skills.  There are several newer editions, and I’m not sure how similar or different they are from my version.  The second edition retails at $25.95 and can be purchased directly from Down East or through major book retailers.

What’s your favorite sweater/garment design book for knitting or crochet?

The Giveaway

Now that you are all fired up about designing that sweater you’ve always dreamed of…

Today’s giveaway is a knitting supply kit including:

All items in the kit are brand new in their original packages.

You will have 10 days to enter each giveaway.  To enter for a chance to win these knitting goodies,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, August 19, 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!

Crochet stitch guides

My recent freeform project – inspired by my Year of Projects goal to work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters and the Crochet Liberation Front’s July freeform CAL – has reminded me how much I love my stitch guides.  I use them for inspiration for my own projects, to come up with techniques or projects to teach my crochet students, and for designing patterns.  I have quite a few in my collection (over twenty!) so I thought I’d share my thoughts on each one (listed alphabetically).  Since this is such a long post, I thought I’d reward you for reading it by offering a giveaway at the end! Read on for details…

63 Cable Stitches to Crochet (Leisure Arts #3961)
by Darla Sims

Summary: 63 different cable patterns which can be made into a sampler afghan, with directions for edging, assembly, and border.

What I like:

  • The special stitches are described within the pattern so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the booklet.
  • The booklet lays flat, so you can easily read and crochet at the same time.
  • The booklet is more affordable and lightweight than a book.
  • There are more cable patterns included in this booklet than you would likely find in a thorough stitch guide.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • The sampler is made in an off white color, so it is hard to see some of the stitch detail in the photographs.
  • Since the booklet is really a sampler project, and not a stitch guide, you aren’t given stitch multiples but rather the number of chains to start with for a 7″ block.  (A little “reverse engineering” is required if you want to adapt the stitches for another project of a different width.)
  • The pattern difficulty rating is only listed for the sampler project (intermediate), rather than for each stitch.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

63 Easy-to-Crochet Pattern Stitches (Leisure Arts #555)
by Darla Sims

Summary: 63 stitch patterns (6 of which are squares worked in the round) to make into a sampler afghan, with instructions for edging, assembly, and border.  (Side note: I’d describe this as an “entry level” stitch guide designed for someone who isn’t quite ready to buy a stitch guide but who is tired of using the “same old” stitches.)

What I like:

  • The special stitches are described within the pattern so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the booklet.
  • The booklet lays flat, so you can easily read and crochet at the same time.
  • The booklet is more affordable and lightweight than a book.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Most of the stitches are pretty standard, so if you have any other stitch guides, there is likely to be a lot of overlap.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • The font is fairly small.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (if you already own a comprehensive stitch guide) or 4 (if this is your first stitch guide)

99 Crochet Post Stitches (Leisure Arts #4788)
by Darla Sims

Summary: Post stitches worked in 1, 2, or 3 color designs.

What I like:

  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch in vibrant, colored yarn.  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • A great range of stitch designs using post stitches.
  • The special stitches are described within the pattern so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the booklet.
  • The booklet lays flat, so you can easily read and crochet at the same time.
  • The booklet is more affordable and lightweight than a book.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Darla assumes you are always starting with a foundation chain, and it isn’t clear until reading through the pattern how many stitches are turning chains.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5

101 Double-Ended Hook Stitches: Crochet (Crochet on the Double)
from Annie’s Attic

Summary: A stitch guide featuring double-ended (also known as Crochet on the Double, Crochetnit, Croknit, or Cro-hooking) crochet stitches.

What I like:

  • Color photographs show the front and the back of each stitch.
  • Clear instructions (with photographs) on the basic double-ended crochet stitch are included for beginners.
  • There aren’t many stitch guides available for double-ended crochet, so it’s mere existence is something I enjoy.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Many different designers are included, and there’s a lack of consistency in instructions (e.g., purl stitch is also called pearl stitch).
  • The photographs are of variable quality.  Most are clear but there are quite a few which are fuzzy or very bright/low contrast.
  • Although this is a booklet, it doesn’t lay totally flat, so you do have to crack the spine to crochet and read at the same time.
  • There is no pattern difficulty listed.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

101 Easy Tunisian Stitches

by Carolyn Christmas and Dorris Brooks

Summary: A stitch guide featuring Tunisian (also known as afghan or tricot) crochet stitches.

What I like:

  • The introduction includes photographs to guide Tunisian crochet beginners through the basic stitches and the different methods of hook placement.
  • The booklet is organized into five sections (Puffs, Pebbles, & Popcorn; Shell Stitches; Openwork Patterns; Cable & Post Stitches; and Pattern Stitches), making it easier to find stitches.
  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch in vibrant, colored yarn.  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • The booklet is more affordable and lightweight than a book.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There aren’t many English language stitch guides available for Tunisian crochet, so it’s mere existence is something I enjoy.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Booklet or e-book (PDF)

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5

Harmony Guides: 101 Stitches to Crochet (The Harmony Guides)
Edited by Erika Knight

Summary: A stitch guide on cards.

What I like:

  • Each card features a large photograph of the stitch or motif.
  • Both pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols are used.
  • The card format allows you to take a few stitches with you when you’re crocheting on the go, and also let’s you see the card while crocheting.
  • A table of contents card lists all of the stitches and the card number (so if you can remember the name and keep your cards in order…).
  • The special stitches are described within the pattern so you don’t need to look at other cards.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Most of the stitches are pretty standard, so if you have any other stitch guides, there is likely to be a lot of overlap.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.

Type: Card box set

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (if you already own a comprehensive stitch guide) or 4 (if this is your first stitch guide)

108 Crochet Cluster Stitches (Leisure Arts #4747)
by Darla Sims

Summary: Cluster stitches worked in 1, 2, or 3 color designs.

What I like:

  • There is a large photograph of each stitch.
  • A great range of stitch designs using cluster stitches.
  • The special stitches are described within the pattern so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the booklet.
  • The booklet lays flat, so you can easily read and crochet at the same time.
  • The booklet is more affordable and lightweight than a book.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Darla assumes you are always starting with a foundation chain, and it isn’t clear until reading through the pattern how many stitches are turning chains.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.
  • It is difficult to see the detail on the stitches worked in the grey yarn.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5

Adventurous Stitch (Japanese)

from Nihon Vogue

Summary: 32 elaborate crochet stitch patterns, most of which use Tunisian crochet.

What I like:

  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch in vibrant, colored yarn.  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • Each stitch is shown in 3 versions, using different colorways and often different weights of yarn.
  • The stitches are quite unique and not likely to appear in other stitch guides you own.
  • Each pattern is shown using very large crochet stitch symbols.
  • The special stitches are shown with illustrations on the same page as the pattern so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the booklet.
  • The booklet lays flat, so you can easily read and crochet at the same time.
  • The booklet is lightweight.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no “glossary” of stitch symbols, so you will need to know the basics before picking up this book.
  • The text is all in Japanese, so if you have difficulty understanding an illustration for a special stitch, you are pretty much out of luck.
  • Because the booklet is imported, it costs more than you would normally pay for a booklet with only 32 stitch patterns.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (if you are new to stitch guides, this one is probably too difficult to use for the price), 4.5 (for a stitch guide fiend, this should be required reading)

Around the Corner Crochet Borders: 150 Colorful, Creative Edging Designs with Charts and Instructions for Turning the Corner Perfectly Every Time
by Edie Eckman

Summary: 150 stitches, with instructions for turning corners on edgings.

What I like:

  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch in vibrant, colored yarn(s).  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • A great range of stitch designs for borders, many of which you are unlikely to have in other stitch guides.
  • The special stitches are described within the pattern so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the book.
  • Each stitch includes both pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.
  • There is a glossary and guide to stitch symbols in the back.
  • Many of the patterns incorporate different stitches, so that a multiple row border will not just repeat the same pattern each row.
  • Many stitches can be adapted for using throughout the project, rather than solely as a border.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.

Type: Softcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5

Crochet Patterns Book 300 (Japanese)

from Nihon Vogue

Summary: A stitch guide organized into different types of crochet stitches.

What I like:

  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch.  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • The stitches are organized into several sections.  I don’t read Japanese, but the sections are defined enough (e.g., cluster stitches) that you can easily find specific stitches.
  • Each pattern is shown using very large stitch symbols.
  • There is an illustrated guide to special stitch symbols in the back.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There are many stitches you are unlikely to have in your other stitch guides, including several pineapples.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.
  • The text is all in Japanese, so if you have difficulty understanding an illustration for a special stitch, you are pretty much out of luck.
  • Because the booklet is imported, it can be costly to order and ship.
  • About 20 patterns are in the back, rather than on the page with the photo, due to space constraints.  The patterns are numbered, but not in numerical order, so you have to flip around a bit to find these stitches.

Type: Booklet

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

Crochet Techniques (Milner Craft Series)
by Renate Kirkpatrick

Summary: 5 stitch sampler rug projects, including “classic” stitches, hexagon motifs, Jacquard squares, Tunisian crochet stitches, and double-ended crochet stitches.

What I like:

  • The book includes UK/Australian abbreviations with US terms in parenthesis, as well as stitch symbols, for each pattern.
  • There are illustrated instructions for basic as well as special stitches throughout the book.
  • There are joining suggestions for each project.
  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch, as well as full project photos of each rug.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There aren’t many English language stitch guides available for Tunisian or double-ended crochet crochet, so it’s mere existence is something I enjoy.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • The “classic” sampler is made in an off white color, so it is hard to see some of the stitch detail in the photographs.
  • The pattern difficulty rating is only listed for each sampler project, rather than for each stitch, and is so vague (e.g., “average to advanced”) that it is almost meaningless.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.

Type: Softcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

Crochet the Complete Guide
by Jane Davis

Summary: A crochet reference guide including over 150 stitch patterns.

What I like:

  • The stitches are organized into 19 sections (Basic Stitches & Stitch Combinations; Shell Stitches & Shell Stitch Combinations; Chevrons, Ripples, & Waves; Stretched Stitches; Post Stitches; Clusters, Bobbles, & Popcorns; Ruffles & Cords; Leaves & Flowers; Blocks; Color Changing Rows; Colorwork; Bead Crochet; Edgings and Insertions; Lace Backgrounds; Filet; Irish Crochet; Snowflakes; Tunisian Crochet; CroKnit), making it easier to find stitches.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • This guide includes many types of crochet not generally included in English language stitch guides (e.g., Tunisian crochet, double-ended crochet or CroKnit, bead crochet).
  • There is a photograph of each stitch on the same page as the pattern.
  • Each stitch includes both pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.
  • The book has a spiral binding, allowing it to lay flat so you can read and crochet at the same time.
  • The book also includes other reference information and patterns.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Some of the stitches are made in an off white color, so it is hard to see stitch detail in the photographs.
  • Many of the stitches are pretty standard, so if you have any other stitch guides, there is likely to be a lot of overlap.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.

Type: Hardcover book with spiral binding

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (as a stitch guide), 4 (as an overall crochet reference book)

Crocheting for Pleasure
by Mildred Graves Ryan

Summary: A crochet reference guide with more than 50 stitch patterns plus sections on Tunisian crochet, hairpin lace, broomstick lace, Irish crochet, filet crochet, woven crochet, and medallions (motifs).  (Side note: This is a sentimental favorite for me, since I inherited it from my grandmother.  It is also the book that taught me how to do broomstick lace!)

What I like:

  • This book has the clearest illustrations I have ever seen.  Each stitch is illustrated and there are also many “how-to” illustrations.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • This guide includes many types of crochet not generally included in English language stitch guides (e.g., Tunisian crochet, hairpin lace, and broomstick lace).
  • The book includes a range of interesting information for crocheters at all levels on fit, materials, reading patterns, construction, and blocking.
  • There is a section at the beginning for left-handers.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There are only 13 color pictures in the book (of projects).
  • Most of the projects are stylistically very dated, since the book was published in 1983.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Hardcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (as a stitch guide), 5 (as an awesome crochet book with great information, if you can handle the dated patterns!)

Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet (Leisure Arts #15906) (Donna Kooler’s Series)

by Donna Kooler

Summary: A crochet reference guide with over 150 stitch patterns.  (You can read my full review of the book here.)

What I like:

  • The stitches are organized into 14 sections (Simple Combinations; Fans & Shells; Lace Patterns; Waves, Ripples, & Chevrons; Angled Patterns; Spiked & Crossed; Post Stitches; Bobbles, Popcorns, & Puffs; Tapestry, Jacquard, & Mosaic; Net, Mesh, & Trellis; Motifs; Filet Crochet; Edges, Edgings, & Insertions; and Tunisian Crochet), making it easier to find stitches.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • Variants are included for many stitch patterns.
  • There is a large, color photo of each stitch.
  • This guide includes many types of crochet not generally included in English language stitch guides (e.g., Tunisian crochet and Jacquard).
  • Each stitch includes both pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.
  • The book also includes other reference information and patterns.
  • There are illustrated instructions for left-handers at the beginning.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.

Type: Softcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5

Encyclopedia of Tunisian Crochet

by Angela “ARNie” Grabowski

Summary: A Tunisian crochet reference guide with, according to the back cover, over 400 stitches.

What I like:

  • There aren’t many English language stitch guides available for Tunisian crochet, so it’s mere existence is something I enjoy.
  • The stitches are organized into 16 sections (Basic Foundations; Double & Treble Stitches; Front Crossed Stitches; Back Crossed Stitches; Open Work & Lace; Shells, Fans, & Stars; Three Dimensional [Relief] Stitches; Cables, Ropes, & Braids; ‘Honeycomb’ Combos; 2 Stitch Honeycomb Combos; Basket Weave Patterns; True Checkerboard Patterns; Vertical Stripe Patterns; Horizontal Stripe Patterns; Diagonal Stripe Patterns; Zig Zag Stripe Patterns; and High-Low Honeycomb Combos), making it easier to find stitches.
  • The book is spiral bound, so you can read and crochet at the same time.
  • There are many tips that would help a beginner to Tunisian crochet.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Most of the photos are grayscale and it is difficult to see stitch detail.
  • While there are photos of over 400 stitches, most of them are more like “recipes” than patterns (e.g., there will be pictures of 10 vertical stripes variations, and then on another page you will be given instructions about how to make a vertical stripe).
  • There is no discussion of finishing the final row of a Tunisian crochet project (sometimes called “binding off”).
  • While the stitch pattern section is well organized, it can be difficult to find information in the rest of the book and some sections appear unedited.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Spiral-bound book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3

Good Housekeeping The Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts (Good Housekeeping Step-By-Step)
Edited by Cecelia K. Toth

Summary: A needlecrafts reference guide with over 50 crochet stitch patterns.

What I like:

  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There is a well lit photograph of each stitch in a colorful yarn on the same page as the pattern.
  • The book also includes other reference information and patterns about crochet and seven other needlecrafts.
  • The introduction includes photographs to guide crochet beginners through the basic stitches and the different methods of hook placement.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.
  • The stitches included are pretty standard, so if you own many stitch guides, there will be a lot of overlap.

Type: Paperback book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (as a stitch guide), 5 (as an awesome needlecrafts reference book)

“Harmony” Guide to 100′s More Crochet Stitches (Harmony guides) and 300 Crochet Stitches (The Harmony Guides, V. 6)

vs.

The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches


I had to list these three together, since there is so much overlap!  All three are fairly comprehensive stitch guides, but you can find virtually everything contained in the two Harmony guides in the Ultimate Sourcebook, down to the exact same (poorly lit) photographs!

  • The Harmony guides include both pattern abbreviations and stich symbols, while the Ultimate Sourcebook uses only pattern abbreviations.
  • The Ultimate Sourcebook lists a pattern difficulty level for each stitch, as well as a rating of the drape produced.  This feature makes it my ultimate favorite stitch guide for teaching and designing, since it gives is an objective opinion about whether a certain stitch is, for example, intermediate or beginner.
  • All three books include a photo of the stitch and the pattern instructions on the same page and have an illustrated introduction to basic stitches in the beginning.
  • All three books divide the stitches into sections, so it is easy to find stitches.
  • None of the books lays complete flat (for reading and crocheting), but The Ultimate Sourcebook comes closest since it is a hardcover book.
  • If you had both Harmony guides, or The Ultimate Sourcebook, you would probably be in possession of every “standard” crochet stitch and motif out there.
  • The Ultimate Sourcebook has the added benefit of including a knitting stitch guide.

Type: Harmony Guides are paperback booklets and the Ultimate Sourcebook is a hardcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5 each for 300 Crochet Stitches and The Ultimate Sourcebook; 4 for 100′s More Crochet Stitches

Interlocking Crochet: 80 Original Stitch Patterns Plus Techniques and Projects
by Tanis Galik


Summary: A reference guide to interlocking crochet (also known as intermeshing or interlock filet crochet) with 80 stitch patterns.

What I like:

  • I don’t know of any other stitch guide focused on interlocking crochet, so it’s mere existence is something I enjoy.
  • Color photographs show the front and the back of each stitch.  The pictures use high contrast yarns so the designs are really clear.
  • There are many really interesting geometric patterns.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is an error in the basic instructions which can make the process quite confusing.  (Corrections for the book can be found on the author’s web site.)
  • Most of the stitches are done in the same yarns, which can make looking through the book a bit dull.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.
  • The colors used in the finished project patterns didn’t much appeal to me.

Type: Paperback book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4

Complete Guide to Needlework
(1979 edition)

Summary: A needlecrafts reference guide with over 70 crochet stitch patterns.  (Side note: You can tell this one is a classic because I inherited it twice – once from my grandmother and once through MC’s mother.)

What I like:

  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There is a clear photograph of each stitch on the same page as the pattern.
  • The book also includes other reference information and patterns about crochet and nine other needlecrafts.
  • The introduction includes illustrations to guide crochet beginners through the basic stitches and the different methods of hook placement.
  • The book more or less lays flat so you can read while crocheting.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.
  • The stitches included are pretty standard, so if you own many stitch guides, there will be a lot of overlap.

Type: Hardcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 3 (as a stitch guide), 4.5 (as an awesome needlecrafts reference guide)

Textured Crochet More Than 70 Designs With Easy-to-follow Charts – 2007 publication.
by Helen Jordan

Summary: A stitch guide with more than 70 textured stitch patterns.

What I like:

  • There is a well lit photograph of each stitch in colorful yarn.  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • A great range of stitch designs using textured stitches.  (This is the only stitch guide I have which has a whole section on “three-fold fabrics” to use “the unique three-loop top of the half double crochet…”)
  • Each stitch includes both pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.
  • There is a stitch symbol key on each page with any special stitches used so you don’t have to do a lot of flipping to the back of the booklet.
  • The book is spiral bound and lays flat, so you can easily read and crochet at the same time.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • The book is small and portable.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty listed.
  • The stitches are so fun that I wish there were more!

Type: Spiral-bound hardcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 5

Tricot Crochet The Complete Book
by Rebecca Jones

Summary: A quirky Tunisian crochet (also known as tricot or Afghan crochet) reference guide with over 50 stitches.

What I like:

  • There aren’t many English language stitch guides available for Tunisian crochet, so it’s mere existence is something I enjoy.
  • The stitches are organized into 5 sections (Plain Tricot Patterns; Textured Patterns; Lace Patterns; Trebles & Cables; and Patterns Using Two or More Colors), making it easier to find stitches.  There are also several methods for Tunisian in the round.
  • The book is hardcover, and it lays flat so you can read and crochet at the same time.
  • There are many tips that would help a beginner to Tunisian crochet.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There are some great vintage yarn advertisements (late 1800s to early 1900s) in the “Coffee Break” section.
  • What the book lacks in production values, it makes up in character.  There are many cute drawings in the “stick figure” style throughout.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • Most of the photos are grayscale and it is difficult to see stitch detail.
  • There is no pattern difficulty rating.
  • There are no stitch symbols, only pattern abbreviations.

Type: Hardcover book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4 (4.5 if you are a Tunisian crochet “junkie”)

Tunisian Crochet Patterns 100 (Japanese)

from Nihon Vogue

Summary: Tunisian crochet stitch guide.

What I like:

  • There is a large, well lit photograph of each stitch.  (This booklet is fun to flip through!)
  • The stitches are organized into several sections.  I don’t read Japanese, but the sections are defined enough (e.g., dimensional stitches) that you can easily find specific stitches.
  • Each pattern is shown using large stitch symbols.
  • There is an illustrated guide to special stitch symbols in the back.
  • Stitch multiples are included so that you can easily adapt the stitches for a project of a different width.
  • There are many stitches you are unlikely to have in your other stitch guides.

What I don’t like (or what’s missing):

  • There is no pattern difficulty rating listed.
  • The binding doesn’t lay flat, so it is difficult to crochet and read the pattern at the same time.
  • The text is all in Japanese, so if you have difficulty understanding an illustration for a special stitch, you are pretty much out of luck.
  • Because the booklet is imported, it can be costly to order and ship.

Type: Paperback book

Overall rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5

If you’d like more reviews on stitch guides from the pros, check out this article about stitch dictionaries from Crochet Insider.

The Giveaway

I’m giving away my almost new copy of 101 Stitches to Crochet (reviewed above).  I bought it on sale at Home Goods and since it was sealed in plastic, I didn’t realize that I have most of the stitches in my stitch guide collection already :(.  I have unwrapped the plastic and looked through each stitch, but it looks brand new otherwise.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post with your favorite crochet stitch guide (or if you don’t have any stitch guides, how you might use one) by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, July 30.  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 awesome stitch guide (two prizes) if I get up to 100 fans on Facebook, so please spread the word!
  • I am willing to ship to the U.S., Mexico, or Canada, so please feel free to enter from any of these locations.  (Sorry folks, it is too heavy for long distance shipping.)

Good luck to everyone!

 

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