Tag Archives: crochet liberation front

Interview with Lindsey Stephens of Poetry in Yarn

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

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

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

 

Lindsey Stephens.
Lindsey Stephens.

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

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

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

 

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Lindsey: *Looking down at my bookshelf*

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

International Crochet Day 2012, Part 5: Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving giveaway

I’ve been a reader of the Crochet Liberation Front blog and newsletter for quite a while, and last year I won my very own copy of The Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving: (Or how to survive to the holidays without going insane) by Laurie Wheeler (also known as the Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front).  Reading through it really inspired me to rethink who is on my list of crochet-worthy people, and to plan my holiday crafting in advance this year.  (And to pledge to avoid holiday-induced insanity.)

As part of my celebration of International Crochet Day, I’d like to pass along this book to someone else before the madness of the holiday season goes into full swing.  Hopefully, this book can help someone else make peace with their creative urges as well as the preferences and interests of those on their gift list.

 

Giveaway

I’ll be giving away gently used copy of The Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving: (Or how to survive to the holidays without going insane).  This giveaway is open to all readers on the planet Earth.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, September 19, 2012.

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me about your holiday crafting experience.  Do you make or buy most of your gifts?  If you make gifts, do you do this slowly throughout the year or in a mad rush the week before the holidays?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, 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, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!  This is my last International Crochet Day giveaway, but be sure to check out the other four giveaways :).

Holiday Stashdown Challenge – Week 1

Welcome to Week 1 of the Holiday Stashdown Challenge!  (For more details, read this post.)  This week is all about making “the list.”

Over time, my philosophy about handmade gifts has changed a lot.  I used to make gifts for everyone in my family and most of my female friends each year.  And then I heard about the concept of someone being “crochet-worthy” or “knit-worthy,” and now I’m looking at my gift making in a different way.

I’ll share a story that will help illustrate my point.  I usually make baby blankets for my friends when they are expecting.  I love handmade baby stuff from my own childhood and a blanket makes for a very personal and unique gift.  When MC’s friend was expecting his second child, I was all excited about making an awesome blanket for the baby-to-be.  But before I went yarn shopping, MC reminded me that I hadn’t really received a thank you for the blanket given to the first child, and that he hadn’t really seen it in use or on display.  He asked me why I wanted to spend all that time making something for someone who wouldn’t appreciate it.  I had to admit that even though I love making baby blankets, I would rather make them for people who want them, or even for charity, than for people who don’t appreciate my handiwork.  (Not to mention all the money I saved on buying yarn to coordinate with their decor!)

I also had the pleasure of winning a copy of The Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving: (Or how to survive to the holidays without going insane) by Laurie A. Wheeler (also known as the Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front) last winter, and it was definitely an eye-opener!  Laurie gives some great tips about how to identify the best handmade gift projects for those on your list, and also advises you to feel comfortable about taking people off your handmade list if they don’t appreciate your gifts.

And, finally, if you need some moral support for editing or shortening your list, don’t hesitate to stop by the Selfish Knitters & Crocheters group on Ravelry.  Their tagline is “No more knitting/crocheting for people who don’t vote for your sainthood as a result.”  ‘Nuff said.

Ok, so on to my list.  I don’t think I have any family or friends reading my blog today, but if this describes you, here is your last chance to avert your eyes!

The List (or, it’s official now and there are 21 people on it!)

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Dad’s partner
  • Sister
  • MC, my special guy
  • JP, my friend and former colleague
  • CG, my BFF from high school, who is an artist and very fashion-forward
  • OB and JS, two of my friends who are also my crafting buddies
  • JM, another BFF from high school, who is tougher to make something for since he’s more of a minimalist
  • RP and CA, my two colleagues and work buddies for the last four years
  • My great aunt and uncle
  • My cat, Mom’s dog, and Dad’s cat (that makes 21 people and 3 animals!)
  • My grandparents
  • My aunt and uncle (Dad’s brother and sister)
  • My two cousins (aunt’s sons)
  • My little cousin (my cousin’s son who will be 4 years old this fall)
  • My cousin’s wife (mom of little cousin)
  • My cousin (uncle’s daughter)

Now before you freak out, let it be known that the folks in my Dad’s family (the last six bullet points/nine people) will probably receive something really small, like a Christmas stocking or washcloth.  And, I’ve already finished a hat for my Dad and started a hat for JP.

A hat for my dad, finished back in March.
A hat for my friend, JP, started at the beginning of May.

But yeah, that’s still a lot of people…

I’m looking forward to seeing your lists!

(Note: I scheduled this post because I’m traveling, and since it is my first time using InLinkz, if it doesn’t work, just add your link in the comments section.  My comments are moderated so if this is your first time commenting, I will be checking in throughout the day to approve comments.)

Prompt for the next post on Tuesday, May 22 (If you need some inspiration): Let’s take a stroll through our yarn stash, to see if there are any suitable yarns in there for gift-giving.  Don’t worry about matching these up to projects or people yet.  Are there yarns you like enough to work with but are willing to part with as gift projects?  If you don’t have a large (or suitable) stash, where do you think you will be doing your yarn shopping?  Tell us all about the glorious yarns!

Interview with crochet designer, Vashti Braha

I am so excited to share an interview with Vashti Braha today.  I first learned about Vashti’s work because, as you know, I love Tunisian crochet, and she has designed some amazing Tunisian crochet patterns.  I’m a devoted subscriber to her Crochet Inspirations newsletter.  If you love to crochet, you should sign up, too. Vashti’s newsletter somehow simultaneously looks at crochet with the fresh and inspired eyes of a precocious newbie and the wisdom of an ancient master.  Every time I read it, I am inspired to pick up my hook!

Vashti has been designing professionally since 2004, and is also a writer, a teacher, and publisher of her own designs (and of DJC Designs, Doris Chan‘s pattern line).  Her Designing Vashti blog won the Crochet Liberation Front‘s Flamie for Best Crochet Blog in 2010.  Vashti can be found online at her Designing Vashti website, her Ravelry designer page, her Designing Vashti: Crochet Inspirations Facebook page, and as Vashtirama on Twitter.  She also blogs at Vashti’s Crochet Pattern Companion and Toy Designing Vashti, and with several other crochet designers at The New Crochet Cowl Scarves.

All pictures in this interview are used with Vashti’s permission.

Vashti Braha.

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

Vashti: My earliest memories are of my Mom crocheting, knitting, and embroidering. I would sit with her for hours and try to untangle the yarn in her yarn basket while she crocheted on the couch. It felt very natural to learn how to crochet from her one day when I was nine. This was 1973. I remember thinking “Aha! Now I have the power to make anything I need to survive.” I was thinking of Tarzan, Gilligan’s Island, and Hodge Podge Lodge at the time–I imagined crocheting myself a hammock, tether, sack, or other survival item.
The first things I made were clothes and accessories for my younger sister’s dolls. (Her passion at the time.)
Although Vashti is primarily known for her fashion pieces, she also has fun, children's patterns like the Teacher's Gallon Friend classroom toy pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Vashti: Until I was 30-something, somehow I never noticed that real people wrote patterns for crochet designs! I changed as a crocheter when my son was born in 1999. I set new challenges for myself, took on ambitious projects, and read new kinds of crochet books and patterns. I started noticing how each designer had a different style. That’s when I imagined what I might design some day.
Thanks to the new online crochet world that was developing at the time, I learned about the CGOA Chain Link conferences. At a conference in 2004, I unexpectedly sold my first designs and was on my way.
Vashti is one of the designers that contributed to the Pam's Comfort Cables benefit pattern, available through KnitPicks. Here is her Brighid's Willow block.

UC: You originally started your crochet career selling your designs to other publishers.  Now, you are almost entirely self-published.  Can you talk about that shift – what inspired it and what are some of the challenges and rewards you see as your own publisher?

Vashti: I became an independent designer and publisher due to a combination of factors. Freelancing (selling designs to other publishers) was not a perfect fit for me. Then, as the industry changed, I reached a breaking point with it. I’m glad to see that more recently it has been improving in some ways for freelancers.
I’m going to rant a bit now, and I’m only speaking for myself. Every designer is unique, so I don’t pass judgment how any other designer goes about their business. Also, a few of the issues I list below have improved since I started publishing independently, and I do still freelance here and there.
For years, the print publishing industry in general has been battling rising print costs, a rigid and bloated hierarchy of middlemen, and new forms of digital competition. Crochet publishing has also been promoting outdated assumptions about crochet and about intellectual property rights. Until very recently, I think every new crochet designer started out freelancing. As far as I know, being published (in a print magazine or book, or by a yarn company) was the only game in town.
Unfortunately, some time after I began designing, the publishers’ rising costs were being passed along to the designers: in other words, pay rates for designs started stagnating. I’d like to know if the amount paid to the production staff, the printing presses, the postal services, etc., was also flattening and drifting downwards!
Not only that, we designers were also supposed to work harder for the same or lower pay: write the pattern for 4 to 6 sizes instead of 1 to 3; provide schematics and stitch diagrams; add special tips and swatches in alternate colors; etc. All this, and still keep the pattern short!
Do you know what kinds of designs meet these requirements the best? The ones made of a few big squares. For a designer, that’s a rudimentary way to design a fashion item! It also limits the development of crochet’s potential. For the rest of the industry, however, this kind of crochet pattern seems to be the favored way to sell yarn. Well, I don’t go to the trouble to design something, and write up the pattern for it as clearly and accurately as possible (in 5 sizes, with diagrams, etc.) so that I can sell someone else’s yarn and lose all rights to my intellectual property as a bonus LOL!
I’m hearing from designers that with a few exceptions, companies have been slow to take the edge off for a pretty essential part of the industry, the designers! Instead, to add insult to injury:
  • Sometimes contracts have not been provided even when requested; if so, nothing is negotiable;
  • It’s breezily mentioned that your projects were stolen or given away;
  • Big and obvious project photography notes from the designer are disregarded so that the project is photographed inside out or upside down;
  • The pattern is redesigned without permission from the designer, usually by the tech editor (who can be quite surly!).
Yarn companies need designs to sell yarn. What are pattern magazines, leaflets, and books without patterns? But not just any patterns! New ones, distinctive ones; yet some publishers recycle the same design with no additional compensation to the designer. What crocheter wants to pay for a design twice? Even if the publisher changes the yarn, crocheters still know it — this means that good design matters to crocheters.
There reached a point when it stopped making sense to me to pursue freelancing. More crochet was appearing on fashion runways, and I was teaching trendy crochet design. I couldn’t see submitting trendy design proposals, then waiting 6 months to find out if they would be published 6-12 months after that, when I could publish them myself online in as little as a few hours. Almost every day a new way to publish and go directly to fellow crocheters presented itself. I remember when Etsy happened, and free blogging, and then…Ravelry!
I keep the proposal deadlines in mind of some of the larger publishers. So far, I’ve been preoccupied with my own learning curve -learning how to produce my newsletter, use SEO and analytics, understand Facebook’s latest changes, etc. Before I know it, a freelance deadline has passed me by, so I look to the next ones. A design of mine is in a new book, Simply Crochet: 22 Stylish Designs for Everyday. Another one is in a forthcoming Tunisian crochet book by Dora Ohrenstein.
Vashti's Slip Tectonics Cowl pattern.

UC: I love the Designing Vashti newsletter, especially how you share your inspirations and explorations of different techniques.  How did you decide upon using that format to share your adventures in crochet?


Vashti: Thanks so much! I feel honored when a crocheter is interested enough to say, “You may email me every two weeks.” It makes each issue a special occasion and I want to make the most of it. I have a sense of intimacy with my subscribers and this causes me to write about crochet in a contemplative way.

I chose the newsletter format for two main reasons:
  1. It’s the easiest and best type of “headquarters” I could create for people who want to know when I come out with new designs, offer classes, and other news.
  2. I made a commitment to my inner crocheter to do for crochet, and for fellow crocheters, what I wish were already being done. I like thinking about crochet. I get plenty of newsletters in my inbox about yarn, crochet, or knitting, and I always hope they’ll give me something to think about. My subscriber list has grown constantly since the first issue in October, 2010, so I’m not the only one out there who likes to think about crochet!
A great fringe benefit of the newsletter is that it disciplines me as a writer. I like finding out what newsletter topic inspires me every two weeks.
Vashti's Rimply Tunisian Neckscarf.

UC: In the last few months, you have talked a lot about slip stitch crochet.  What do you enjoy about this stitch?

Vashti: It gives me a fresh new experience of crochet. I’m discovering a whole microcosm in the seemingly simple and limited slip stitch, sort of like the Horton Hears A Who! story, or like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. My inner crocheter is startled and fascinated — and amused that crochet books are still being published that state authoritatively, “The slip stitch is not for making fabric”! The slip stitch results in some amazing fabrics, but aside from that, scratch its surface and it reveals a lot about crochet itself.
Thirsty Twists Bathmat.

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

Vashti: I have a gazillion and couldn’t part with any of them! I love all of my stitch dictionaries, especially: the Harmony Guides Volume 6 & Volume 7, several published in Japan, and Robyn Chachula‘s new Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia.

Undaria Flutter Scarf pattern.

UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?

Vashti: I almost always like a z-twisted yarn (the plies of the yarn are twisted to the left) instead of s-twisted (twisted to the right). I crochet right handed, and my yarn overs don’t unwind a z-twisted yarn, so it doesn’t get “splitty” on me. I like how my really tall stitches look in smooth z-twisted yarns because the multiple yarn overs don’t make them look stringy. (UC comment: Doris Chan recently wrote a detailed blog post explaining the difference between z- and s- twisted yarns, if you’d like to know more.)

Lately I’ve been fascinated by alpaca. It’s hard for me to resist sparkly yarns, like silk and mohair spun with metallics and little sequins or beads. Handspun angora is a special kind of magical.
Tunisian Shakti Scarfythings.

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry – designer, teacher, writer, and now publisher.  What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Vashti: Each of us is designing our business and crochet lifestyle, as well as designing crochet patterns. Thanks to the digital revolution and to the multifaceted nature of crochet, we have more choices than it first appeared back when I started designing. I continue to be inspired by how each designer makes her or his own path with it.
The three things I’d most like aspiring professionals to know are:
1) Join up with others and compare notes. It’s easy to miss opportunities, or to be taken advantage of, or to lose perspective, because this is a solitary job for most of us in this industry. Find a fellow professional you can call periodically, just to chat about the biz. In addition, meet up as a group online. Crochet designers need to meet up with each other, separately from tech editors who also need meet up with each other for example, or teachers. Ravelry groups help make this possible, but they are public. It’s better if you meet privately (I speak from experience).
2) The designer creates new intellectual property. The designer and only the designer starts out with all rights to the property, unless she or he chooses to let others have some. No one protects this property better than the originator of it.
It’s easy to lose sight of this simple fact.
I wish someone had made it clear and simple for me years ago. I still would have sold some or all rights to some freelanced designs, but with eyes open.
I’ve learned that a huge amount of people seem to prefer to profit from other people’s intellectual property instead of create their own, whether they can pay enough for it or not. I’ve wondered, why is it so many people, when they could create their own stuff and then do anything they want with it? After having designed a lot, I’ve concluded that it’s because it’s actually really hard work to create something out of nothing all the time. It’s much easier if someone else does it!
So, I’d say to aspiring professionals: don’t underestimate how eager people are to legally take your property off of your hands, even while discounting its value. I’ve heard this from several publishers: “It’s just one design. What’s the big deal? Why hold onto it forever? You’ll have plenty more.” If it’s such a burden, why do they want it so much LOL?

3) Rather than feel flattered or important when given yarn to design with, I wish designers would expect it. Designers are already paid too little for a living wage. Yarn companies need designers much more than designers need any particular yarn. It should be the other way around: a yarn company is lucky when a designer chooses their yarn to design with, to blog about, or to recommend!

Sparkle Love Knot Lariats pattern.

 

UC: What are you planning for 2012 and beyond?

Vashti: I’m looking forward to teaching several crochet classes both nationally and locally in 2012. I love teaching and getting to know students, and am very patient. Some crocheters who have had trouble learning in the past just need to find a calm and patient teacher.

I post updates in my newsletters as classes are scheduled. I can announce the classes I’ll be teaching at national conferences as soon as the schedule is posted for the summer and fall.
My first local class this year is Introduction to Slip Stitch Crochet on February 4 in Sarasota, Florida. I teach Advanced Slip Stitch Crochet on February 11. In March, I’ll be teaching Tunisian lace and crochet jewelry.  I’ll teach more topics in April. These classes all take place at my favorite yarn shop, A Good Yarn in Sarasota, Florida (941-487-7914).

I want to try online classes too, though that might have to wait until 2013 or late 2012.

 

Eva Shrug Slip Stitch Rib pattern.
The Crochet Inspirations Newsletter has its own Facebook page that has been coming in handy. I originally set it up as an experiment with Facebook pages, but I go to it to scroll through the archived issues, to post follow-up info to an issue, and to answer questions.
For example, in the newest issue I talked a lot about my mannequin, Lindsay. Several readers emailed me to ask where I bought it, so I posted the link at the FB page. One week I forgot to include an important photo in the newsletter before I sent it out, so I posted it on the Facebook page for that issue. Come to think of it, I think I should remind my subscribers about the Facebook page.
Wow, Vashti, thank you for being so generous with your time, so detailed in your responses, and for offering some great advice for aspiring/emerging designers.

Thursday craft goals update: 2011 recap

I love welcoming the New Year.  It isn’t a religious holiday, so I don’t have to worry about offending (or excluding) someone when I say “Happy New Year!” It’s also a great time to reflect on the past and think about the future!

About a month after I started my blog in March, I set myself some craft goals to complete by May 1, 2012.  At the halfway mark, I looked back and made some changes to those goals.  My original inspiration for doing this was Cheryl Marie Knits, since she was in the middle of blogging her way through 365 days of craft goals.

Today, I’m tracking my progress to date.

Personal crafting goals

1) Work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters.  Instead of using the patterns, I’d like to create my own project (for myself and/or for teaching) for each technique/skill in the book.

This has been, by far, my favorite project to work on.  I delayed the start of this project until July 1 so I could join in on the Year of Projects blog meme.  (If you’re not familiar with the Year of Projects, Kathryn at Crochet Concupiscence did a great roundup of everyone’s who is participating here.  It’s never too late to join – the Come Blog-a-long group on Ravelry has more information.)  You can read my original inspiration for choosing this book here and about my meeting with the masters here.

Freeform crochet

My first project was freeform crochet (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4), inspired by the Prudence Mapstone chapter. I made an awesome freeform cat blanket while (loosely) following the Freeform CAL on the Crochet Liberation Front blog.

I also took a great freeform class with Margaret Hubert, the book’s fashion crochet master.

Tunisian crochet

I had a lot of fun with the Tunisian crochet chapter, and even had the opportunity to interview Julia Bryant, the featured master.  For this chapter, I developed a workshop, handout, and ebook with 6 scarf patterns (available for sale on Etsy and Ravelry).  I taught the class at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival in September.  My other Tunisian crochet posts can be found here and here.  My favorite  scarf is the Tunisian Moss Stitch Scarf Recipe, modeled by my mom’s neck (for privacy and such).  Hard to tell – but trust me, the color complements her eyes.

Woven crochet

My next big project was woven crochet (plaid), and I started with a class with the featured master, Jenny King and continued working on my small tartan project here and here.

Tastes of other chapters

I have flirted with a few other techniques from the book as well…

I dabbled briefly with filet crochet (here, here, and here), but have no finished pictures to share. I swatched up some Bruges crochet.  I might actually make a design using this at some point (but not today!).  I had fun with post stitches but never really tackled Aran crochet.  I’m currently making a single crochet entrelac cat blanket.

I started out posting my updates on Mondays, but I shifted my Year of Projects updates to Sundays since that is when most of the other bloggers participating are posting.

 

 

2) Make something handmade for my mom and sister for the holidays (or their birthdays).  Possible sources of inspiration include Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks or something from my growing collection of vintage crochet books.

My magnum opus for the past six weeks or so has been the double Irish chain granny square blanket I’m making for my sister in New Orleans Saints colors.

My charted progress as of last night. (Gray areas are completed.)

 

I expect to complete it by mid-January, in time for it to get to her for Super Bowl Sunday.

3) Read Knitting from the Top and 4) Create a contemporary interpretation of one of the vintage patterns I have in my collection.

Other than skimming the book to provide a description in my knitting design book roundup, I’ve made no progress on either of these.

 


5) Limit new yarn purchases, increase the ratio of natural to synthetic fibers in my stash, and continue to destash any yarn or notions that I won’t be using in the near future. and 6) Make and donate more charity crochet projects in 2012 than in 2011.

I’m so excited about these two goals.  I’ve joined in on the Surmount the Stash 2012 challenge with Revelations of a Delusional Knitter.  On Monday night, I started making my own grab and go project bags from my stash.  Here’s my bag for the Xavier Beanie by Evelyn at Project: Stash.  I figure this can be a great unisex gift to have on hand, for any occasion.

I knew I saved those Knitty City plastic bags for a reason. (A reason other than an addiction to saving bags, that is.) I have two skeins of the long departed Lion Brand Wool Ease Sport, a printout of the pattern, Size 7 circular needles, and my recently purchased copy of "The Magic Loop: Sarah Hauschka's Magical Unvention" by Bev Galeskas. I took the picture outside to illustrate the "grab and go" concept in all of its glory!

In 2011, I donated six hats, a pair of mittens, and two scarves to Hats 4 the Homeless via the Lion Brand Yarn Studio; several toddler hats, scarves, and mittens along with some soft, acrylic yarn to Knits for Infants; and six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO), a charity I learned about through the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation.

7) Participate (however briefly) in a Ravelry CAL.

While I did look around Ravelry at the various CALs for 2012, I haven’t made a commitment to any yet.

 

 

Professional crafting goals

1) Read Producing Video Podcasts.

I consider this one completed.  I read most of the book, and decided podcasting wasn’t for me.

 

 

2) Create and post at least three videos (tutorials or projects/patterns) on my blog or website.

I made four videos as part of my Crochet 101 CAL.  I need to update my video “studio,” but I will definitely make a few more in 2012.

 

 

3) Publish at least five patterns.

I’m happy to say I exceeded this goal.

A self-portrait in Central Park, wearing the Twisted Crocodile Stitch Keyhole Scarf.

 

 

4) Blog at least twice a week. and 8 ) Figure out how to do super cool stuff on WordPress.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job here, too.  I learned how to embed videos (a bit harder to do on a self-hosted WordPress site) and I’ve been getting better with trackbacks.

I blogged every day in October for Blogtoberfest, and have (so far) posted every day in December.  I even won the 2011 Awesome Crochet Blog Award for Best Interviews from Crochet Concupiscence.

 

 

5) Teach in at least two conferences/festivals.

I met this goal in September, when I taught at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival.

 

 

6) Read The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design.

I finished this book back in May and wrote the review here.

 

 

7) Write the book proposal that I’ve been thinking about – and send it out.

I’ve actually been working on this all along, but haven’t sent anything out yet.

 


9) Take better photographs, along with all that entails.

This is still a thorn in my side.  I have really relied on public spaces in New York City for outdoor photos.  I haven’t established a permanent indoor photography set up yet.

 

10) Become a CYC Certified Knitting Instructor (Level I-Instructor).

I am officially signed up to attend the Knitting Certification program in February at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  I just received the email with all of the homework on Tuesday, so I have to get started swatching.

 

Did you meet any of your craft goals for 2011?

Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Handmade Gifts to Make

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Handmade gifts to make

This time of year, many crafters are using every spare moment to make holiday gifts for their loved ones.  Tracie Barrett‘s Gift Giving Guide on the Fibers by Tracie blog gives some great suggestions for quick-to-make holiday gifts and Fearless Leader recently posted a teaser for the Crochet Liberation Front‘s upcoming Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving.

My personal favorite last minute crochet gift projects are scarves made with bulky yarns (or multiple strands of yarn), hats, and cotton washcloths.

For scarves and washcloths, I turn to my stitch guides for inspiration.  Don’t have any stitch guides?

Not sure how many stitches to start with?  This post in my Crochet 101 CAL explains how to use your gauge to figure out how many stitches to start with if you want to make a project of a specific size.

Some of my holiday 2011 washcloths.

Hats make wonderful, quick holiday gifts.  Some of my favorite crochet hat patterns:

Stocking Caps. (Photo (c) House of White Birches.)

I just reviewed 60 More Quick Knits, which has some great knitted hat patterns, as well as patterns for mittens and scarfs.  My favorite crochet mitten pattern, amazingly available in 8 sizes from infant to XL adult, is Heart Strings by Cathy Pipinich.

Amigurumi can make a fun gift, too.

Filled with great gift ideas!

Speaking of books I haven’t had a chance to review yet, there are three great patterns in Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers by Linda Permann that would make speedy children’s gifts: Cozy Crawlers Leg Warmers (6 mo – 2 years, and available here as a free excerpt), Tiny Tee Appliques to add to store bought or hand sewn clothes, and Beanie and Bonnet (in baby, toddler, and child sizes).  (Beanie and Bonnet errata available here.)

handmade gift bag can be a wonderful addition to a handmade or store bought gift.  These bags can be also reused, unlike conventional wrapping paper, making them more eco-friendly.Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence has a great list of crochet patterns for bags in this blog post.  The Mel Stampz blog has a list of 50 templates and patterns for papercrafts gift bags.

Deborah Atkinson from Snowcatcher has excellent crochet patterns and tutorials in her Snowflake Monday posts.   (It would be great if you could contribute to her charity of choice, Bike MS, so that she can send you a PDF of her 20 most popular designs.)  These snowflakes would make great holiday decorations or embellishments for gifts.  Some of the patterns would also work well as a set of holiday coasters.

With all of this holiday crocheting and knitting, you may be running low on yarn.  So why not stop by your Local Yarn Shop to celebrate Small Business Saturday?  You can even register your American Express card in advance to get a $25 credit on your statement if you spend at least $25 at a small business on Saturday, November 26.  Your LYS employees are guaranteed to have some additional project ideas and maybe even a few new patterns or yarns for you try out.  (If you’ll be yarn shopping in NYC, check out my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops.)

If you aren’t in the mood for knitting, crocheting, or papercrafting, handmade food gifts are another option.  I like to make jar mixes:  I don’t exhaust myself with last minute baking, the mixes last longer and can be used after the holidays end, and the jars can be reused in the kitchen or for craft storage.  Nestle‘s Very Best Baking is a good site for finding classic gift recipes.  My favorite jar mixes to give are the classic Toll House cookies mix, the chewie brownie mix, and the hot cocoa mix.  For those who don’t like chocolate (and there are some of them out there), I like the pumpkin cranberry bread mix or the oatmeal chip cookie mix (substituting butterscotch chips, raisins, or craisins for the chocolate chips).  You can also check out the Best Cookie Mix in a Jar Recipes and Dry Soup Mix Recipes pages at Allrecipes.com for more ideas.  If you can’t find canning jars in your area, there are many online options for ordering these days.  Just remember that if you are shipping jar mixes, you need to be careful about packaging.

Enjoy the first gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite gifts to make in the comments!

WIP Wednesday: The Saints adventure continues

Thanks to everyone who gave their opinions on the design options for the Saints themed blanket I’m planning for my sister.  The Double Irish Chain was the clear favorite.

Last week, I knew the blanket would be expensive but hadn’t actually priced it out.  I soon discovered that I would have to spend about $270 in supplies if I followed my original plan and made it with Cascade 220 Superwash.  I love my sister, but yikes!  I needed to economize.

You may already be familiar with Smiley’s Yarns, the discount yarn heaven of Queens (reviewed by me in my Visitor’s Guide to NYC Yarn Shops).  By some miracle, Smiley’s was having one of its famous store yarn sales last week, so I took the 75 minute subway ride to the store, hoping to find a real bargain.

I was able to pick up about 40 skeins of this washable wool, Pure Washable Merino from Filatura Lanarota, in Natural and Black.  Though each skein is about 1/2 the yardage of the Cascade 220 Superwash, I still saved significantly after calculating the total yardage.

Of course, Smiley’s didn’t have a “Saints gold” color available, so I had to do some re-design on my Double Irish Chain so that the gold would be the least used color.

The new plan.

I’m hoping that KnitPicks Swish in Gold is a close match to the Saints gold.  Otherwise, I’ll end up buying the Cascade 200 Superwash in 877.

With most of the yarn in hand, the blanket became real to me and then the inevitable panic set in.  How could I possibly make a double bed sized blanket in time for the holidays given all the other things going on in my life in November and December?   In response to this question, two crochet celebrities paid my inbox a visit.  Laurie Wheeler, the Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front, included some holiday crafting tips in the CLF newsletter.  She reminded us that as the holidays approach, we shouldn’t make promises (we can’t keep), nor should we injure ourselves crocheting like fiends (as I have occasionally done in years gone by).  Doris Chan wrote about Crochet Marathoning this week, reminding us to know our limits and pace ourselves.

I decided that a more reasonable self-imposed deadline for this blanket would Super Bowl Sunday.  If I approach this blanket like a quilt (since I’m using a classic quilt pattern) instead of like a granny blanket, I have to make 15 blocks for a double bed size.  (Sounds less horrific than 375 granny squares, doesn’t it?)  If I make 1-1/2 blocks each week, I should be able to finish the blanket in time.  I’m working each block as 25 join-as-you-go granny squares (3 rounds each).

First block finished!
Second block 3/5 done! I'm on track for week 1.
A close up of a granny in Natural.
A close up of a granny in Black.

Now that I had a more reasonable timeline, I decided a comfort hook (allowing me to complete this project without cramped hands) was in order.  So I stopped by Knitty City (also reviewed by me in my Visitor’s Guide to NYC Yarn Shops), and picked up a Tulip Etimo just for this project.

I love these hooks!

And speaking of all the other things going on in my life in November and December, I got an awesome  yarn delivery yesterday.  I mentioned last week that I was going to be collaborating with a yarn company.  I will be working with Galler Yarns to publish some free patterns through their Facebook page and blog.  I didn’t get a chance to take pictures since I got home pretty late, but I’m loving the colors.  I’ll be starting my first project with Heather Prime Alpaca in 207 which is a purple heather.  I got a laugh out of MC by rubbing the skein on my face (hey, it’s super soft!) before winding it.  I’m looking forward to sharing the patterns with you as soon as they are written up and tested.

For more Works in Progress, visit Tami’s Amis.

Reminder:

There’s still time to enter my giveaway for a classic edition of Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book. Check out my knitting stitch guide review post for details.

International Crochet Day: Introducing Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter!

(Update: Visit this post for a complete overview of the Crochet 101 CAL and links to each lesson.)

Today is International Crochet Day, 2011.  If you haven’t previously celebrated this holiday, you should know that it was instituted by Jimbo’s Front Porch several years ago.  (By the way, Jimbo is having a giveaway here for one of his famous wooden hook crochet hook handles.)

There are many ways that one could celebrate International Crochet Day – and, if you need some suggestions, check out this post on the Crochet Liberation Front‘s blog.

I have been thinking about a proper celebration for a while, and I have decided that I would use today to announce Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter!

I was very inspired by Quilt Class 101 with Chasing Cottons, and have been thinking for a few months about how best to start my free online class/CAL.

I will kick off Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter with Crochet 101.  This six week class will start next Saturday, September 24.  Through this course, you will learn the six basic crochet stitches, how to crochet in rows, some basic techniques for changing colors and finishing, and be introduced to pattern reading (using both U.S. pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols).

Here is the course outline:

Week 1 (9/24): Materials and Project Planning

  • Different types of yarn, hooks, and notions
  • Choosing a beginner project

 

Week 2 (10/1): First Stitches

  • Forming the slip knot
  • Chain, single crochet, and slip stitches
  • Working into the front loop

 

Week 3 (10/8): More Stitches, Gauge, and Pattern Reading

  • Half double crochet stitch
  • Working into the back loop and the “third loop”
  • Introduction to gauge
  • Basic pattern reading using a two stitch pattern

 

Week 4 (10/15): More Stitches, and Changing Colors

  • Double crochet stitch
  • Creating simple stripes
  • Basic pattern reading using a three stitch pattern

 

Week 5 (10/22): The Last Stitch and Alternative Techniques

  • A new way to start the foundation chain
  • Triple (treble) crochet stitch
  • Basic pattern reading continued

 

Week 6 (10/29) (11/5): Basic Finishing Techniques

  • Weaving in ends
  • Joining
  • Blocking
  • Taking care of your crocheted items

 

Crochet 101 is designed as a beginner class, but would also be a good refresher if you are feeling rusty :).  My plan is to follow it up with Tunisian Crochet 101 and then take a short break until January.  At that point, we can move on to more advanced stitches and techniques.  If you are a more advanced crocheter, please share this post with your newbie friends, family, and co-workers!

Feel free to post any questions or comments about Crochet 101 here.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, your post will not appear right away.)

Happy International Crochet Day!

For more links to International Crochet Day posts, check out this post on Crochet Concupiscence.

In case you are wondering…

I chose the name Lyceum because Crochet College, Crochet School, and Crochet University were already taken.

CAL means Crochet A Long :).

I made my Crochet Lyceum logo using a great public domain illustration of an ionic column from the Karen’s Whimsy website.

 

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!

 

Underground Crafter is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  (In other words, if you plan to buy one of these awesome stitch guides on Amazon.com, click through from my site!)

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Freeform finale

(This post is part of my Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class series.  You can find my first three posts on freeform crochet herehere, and here.)

This is my first Sunday post for Year of Projects.  I have been posting my updates on Monday, but since I have finished (!) my first project, I thought I’d post early.

In last week’s Year of Projects update, I was debating how long I would continue to participate in the Crochet Liberation Front’s freeform CAL.  I continued along in the CAL for a few more days this week, until my cat blanket seemed to be telling me it was finished :).

Day 18 (instructions)

Mmmm, cables.

I picked up another stitch guide to find something appropriate for my Day 18 crocheting.

I settled on stitch #2 (Baby Cables) and chose my Days 4, 5, 9, 12, & 15 piece.  I decided to use the same yarn (Red Heart 9522 Leaf) that I had used to border my previous day’s piece.

Here's a detail of my Day 18 work.

Day 19 (instructions) and Day 20 (instructions)

I read the instructions for Day 19 and Day 20 and looked at my pieces.  They were nearing the size I needed for my cat blanket.  I finally decided I wanted to start joining the blanket pieces, and ignored the instructions.

I picked up the smallest piece and another stitch guide.

I decided to use #82 Outline to add some length to the small piece.

There were four yarns which I had already used in two of the pieces.  I decided that I would finish my cat blanket with these four colors, to tie the various colors in the three pieces together.  I used the Loops and Threads Impeccable 01243 Forest and 01013 Chocolate for the Outline stitch, which added some width to the piece.

Detail of my Outline stitch, added to my Days 1-3, 6, 13, & 15 piece.

I increased the length of the piece using some Red Heart Super Saver 0971 Camouflage.  I went back to the Leaf yarn, and joined all three pieces together using single crochet.  I then added a simple double crochet border all around in Loops and Threads Impeccable 108920 Soft Taupe.

Now that the pieces were joined, the blanket was the width I was looking for, but lacked the length.  So I picked up the stitch guide and tried #99 Wavelets… but soon realized that this was actually the same stitch I used last week (called the Interlocking Shell Stitch in the The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches).  Rather than rip it out, I switched to another stitch in Forest.

The stitch I used is called Hourglass II.

Once the piece was close to the size I wanted, I stopped and switched to the Chocolate yarn.  I straightened out the piece with a row of crossed double crochet.

My completed cat blanket.

Thoughts on freeform

I’m glad that I finally experimented with freeform, inspired by my Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters project.  I love my new cat blanket and it is definitely more interesting than anything I would have designed if I sat down and planned it.  I especially like these details…

Day 3
Day 8

I’m not sure when I will pick up freeform again, but I know I would like to try a motif project next.  A few times during the CAL, I considered adding some motifs but I wanted my cat blanket to be very thick, durable, and sturdy without a lot of seams that my cat would try to eat or openwork that he would destroy.  I love Prudence Mapstone‘s motif project in Crochet Master Class, and definitely think there is a freeform clothing project in my future…

Another satisfied customer.
Resting on his new freeform blanket after a long day of mischief.