Tag Archives: embroidery

New in town: Stitched TriBeCa

Some of my longtime readers know that I teach crochet and knitting for DC37, New York City’s largest union of public employees, as part of their Saturday Activity program.  Today was our first class in 2014, and one of my students mentioned that she saw a new yarn shop on Warren Street.

Though it was probably only 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I walked a few blocks out of my way to check it out.  After all, can I really miss out on a New York City yarn shop?  (Check out my reviews of my favorites here.)

Stitched TriBeCa signage

While wandering about on Warren Street, I came across Stitched TriBeCa, a relative newcomer in the neighborhood.  While Stitched sells yarn, I wouldn’t really call it a yarn shop.  As the sign suggests, it’s a place where you can learn, make, shop, and connect.

I didn’t have much time to chat with the owner, Val, since there were two classes in session, but she was very welcoming and she did let me take a few pictures.  (You can read Val’s inspiration for opening the shop here, and I think quite a few of us can relate to her experience of finally being able to “go balls out & unabashedly explore” her love of crafts.)

Stitched TriBeCa buttons

I was immediately drawn to the button bowl (no surprise there).  I love that you can just dig in and make your own button discoveries!

Stitched TriBeCa sergers

The decor is simple, bright, and functional, and there is plenty of room for sewing and serging classes.

Stitched TriBeCa sewing machines

(The store is bigger than these pictures suggest, but I was avoiding certain areas so I wouldn’t snap a picture of any students.)

Stitched TriBeCa shopping

There’s a small shopping area.  Stitched sells Cascade Yarns (the January sponsor of the 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long) and basic knitting needles and hooks, along with fabric, embroidery supplies, and some cool upcycled crafts.

Stitched TriBeCa classes

Stitched has an interesting vision: combining classes for adults and children with shopping for essential supplies as well as crafts by local makers.  It has a clean and orderly look, but it’s also vibrant and the classes seemed to be going well.

Stitched TriBeCa fireplace

I really love the fireplace – especially since it was insanely cold outside.

Stitched TriBeCa yarn window display

And the window display is fun and welcoming.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you should check them out!  You can see a list of their current classes along with a schedule on the Stitched TriBeCa website.




Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework (1984)

VintageNPotW 400

This week’s pick: Complete Guide to Needlework (Reader’s Digest) by Reader’s Digest.

Source:  MC’s mother’s collection.*

Publication date: Eighth printing (1984) of 1979 edition.

Status: Out of print but available at reasonable prices online.

Condition: Very Good.

Crafts: Applique, Crochet, Embroidery, Knitting, Lacework, Macrame, Needlepoint, Patchwork, Quilting, and Rug-making.

Complete Guide to Needlework cover

You know a book is a classic when you find it in the collections of two amazing women.  I came across this book in my grandmother’s collection after she died, and I took it home with me when we cleaned up her apartment.  Two years later, when I moved in with MC, I found another copy in the books he kept to the side after his mother died.  (I ended up giving my grandmother’s copy to one of my best friends.)

This book is a great resource because it includes information on so many different needlecrafts, but also because it goes beyond the basics in a way that most contemporary books don’t.  There is definitely an assumption that the readers of this book will need these crafts to make garments and home decor items for their families, and as a result, the writers attempt to share the skills needed for designing and finishing great custom items.

From the section on crochet necklines.
From the section on shaping crochet necklines.
From the section on knitting necklines.
From the section on shaping knitting necklines.

The book starts off with a section on embroidery, a craft I love the look of but lack the patience for actually doing.


Complete Guide to Needlework 21 embroidery sampler

There are quite a few great embroidery samplers shown, followed by detailed illustrations for making loads of stitches.

Complete Guide to Needlework 46 running sts

I haven’t spent much time looking through the next two sections, Needlepoint and Applique.

The Patchwork section has a lot of beautiful and inspiring pictures, but I’ve mostly avoided it.  (As a fairly lazy quilter, I’m partial to newer books with detailed strip piecing instructions.)

Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern.
Grandmother’s Flower Garden pattern.

The Quilting chapter mostly focuses on hand quilting, but there are some tips for machine quilters, too.

The Knitting chapter is one of my favorites.  Some of the highlights include tips for getting neat selvages…

Complete Guide to Needlework 284 Selvages

illustrated and written instructions for different types of double increases and decreases…

Complete Guide to Needlework 291 decreases

Complete Guide to Needlework 293 decreases

and the above-mentioned tips for neckline shaping.

Complete Guide to Needlework knitting necklines 2

There are also some great patterns, like this one for a classic Aran sweater…

Complete Guide to Needlework 315 aran pullover

and this one for a lovely evening set.

Complete Guide to Needlework 354 evening set

And, naturally, I love the crochet section, too.  Like the knitting chapter, it includes a stitch guide…

Complete Guide to Needlework 377 motifs

and sections on quite a few specialized techniques including woven crochet…

Complete Guide to Needlework 383 woven crochet

Tunisian crochet…

Complete Guide to Needlework 387 Tunisian crochet

and broomstick lace.

Complete Guide to Needlework 389 broomstick lace

And also like the knitting section, there is plenty of information about shaping crochet garments.

Complete Guide to Needlework crochet sleeves

After the crochet section, I tend to lose interest since I don’t do any lacework, macrame, or rug-making.  But I do like that there are sections on all of these crafts, because you never know when I might pick one of them up!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Vanessa Laven

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


I’m thrilled to interview blogger Vanessa Laven today.  Vanessa was actually the first person I interviewed on my blog and I’m a regular read of her own wonderful blog, Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts.  Vanessa is also Cuban-American and from the NYC area, so I feel a strong connection to a lot of the stories that she shares about growing up and her family life.  In addition to her blog, you can find Vanessa online on Ravelry, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.

Vanessa Laven in one of her knit cowls. (Click for blog post.)

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

Vanessa: My mother had taught me how to knit but it never really stuck, ditto for crocheting. I picked up the Klutz book about crochet and suddenly it clicked with me. I fell in love and I joined a Stitch n Bitch group. I decided to give knitting another try and this time my mom’s advice stuck. My sister, Maritza, taught me how to embroider when I was in the fourth grade but again, it never really stuck. My mom kept nagging me to not embroider all the time because it would ruin my eye sight, so I dropped it. In college, I bought Jenny Hart’s book and kit and this time it stuck. I embroidered a bunch of doodles on to a pair of old jeans and while it looked super cool, I never wore them after that. Plus my hands were killing me. I didn’t know at the time that I should have used a better needle!


Vanessa's multi-crafty Frida Kahlo doll. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You are multi-craftual. What is your favorite “go to” craft these days?

Vanessa: I find my knitting to be the most portable project, so it’s the one I do the most often. While I do like to crochet, I find that sometimes my crochet stitches end up coming undone if I try to tote it around with me. Plus, I have to look where I’m crocheting. I knit so much that I can do it by feel now, which has become a “party trick” of mine. I once managed to play Texas Hold ‘em Poker and knit at the same time. It was less impressive than it sounds because I really don’t know how to play poker all that well. Embroidery has become a sort of “in between projects” project, mostly because I tend to make much smaller pieces. Plus, it satisfies that part of me that still likes to color in coloring books.


Vanessa's Lily Owl. (Click for blog post.)

UC: We both have parents who were born and raised in Cuba.  Tell us a bit about your background and the crafting scene at that time.

Vanessa: I grew up in Union City, NJ. At one point, Union City was called “Havana on the Hudson” because we had more Cubans living here than in Havana. (UC comment: Yes, this is where most of my Cuban extended family lives!) When I was growing up, I would say that 98% of my classmates were Hispanic. We had a few Indian and Egyptian students but they were the exception rather than the rule. I don’t remember many people outside of my family crafting, but there were a few businesses advertising hand painted signs. My niece Olivia took a bunch of photos of these signs.

Apparently, most of them have been taken down. I love the look of the lettering but I’ve never really seen them outside of the greater NYC area.  (UC comment: Olivia has a great website of her own here.) 

My town does have an interesting crafty history. Starting in the late 1880s up until the 1990s, there were tons of embroidery factories. My parents worked a few, actually, particularly during the Viet Nam war. The factory they worked at made military insignias like company badges and rank stripes. They would take the big sheets of these home to cut out and got paid for so many that they cut.

My mom also worked in clothing factories. It’s where and how she learned to sew. My father was part of the book binder’s union thanks to one of the places he worked at. He later stopped factory work and became the superintendent of the buildings we lived in. He wasn’t the best handyman but I think part of him really enjoyed it. He used to build and set up model trains and also enjoyed photography, though he was terrible at it.




Vanessa's Featherweight Cardigan. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Tell us about your blog. How did you get started blogging?

Vanessa: My husband bought a “Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts” t-shirt for me and thought the name would make a great blog for me. I had just finished up chemo two months before and I needed an outlet. He encouraged me to blog about the things I made during treatment. I was really shy about it at first but I quickly dove in. I had a Live Journal account for years so the idea of blogging wasn’t new to me. I’m glad that I listened to hubby because I love to blog like this! It’s given me both an outlet and a sense of purpose which is what I needed especially so soon after being so sick. (UC comment: I’m glad you listened to him, too, because your blog has a really unique perspective to offer!)


Vanessa's hexipuffs. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You share some of your personal life, including your experience as a cancer survivor and posts about your family, on your blog.  A lot of crafty bloggers struggle with how much is enough/too much to share of your personal life.  How do you find the balance between being part of a community and maintaining your privacy?

Vanessa: I try to keep my personal stories focused on either crafting or cancer. With my cancer experience, I felt best to share the good, the bad and the really ugly because I wasn’t prepared for most of what happened. And if I felt that way, chances are good that someone else does and hopefully I can better prepare them.

I do share a lot about my family’s history partly because I think it’s a unique story, particularly how my parents met. And it’s the easiest way to share with the rest of my family since we’re all around the world at this point. Thanks to Facebook, lots of cousins and uncles (my father’s half brothers) are coming out of the woodwork and finding us. Most of them are still in Cuba but a few are in Miami and Venezuela. My mother’s family are in Cuba but do have internet access so it’s been nice to share with them as well. I’ve often thought about turning some of their stories into a novel, so I try to write those entries as creatively as possible. I also feel like everyone has a great story. Hopefully, I can encourage other people to put the tales of the past down on paper to preserve them. I do regret that I didn’t get more memories out of my father before he passed away.


Vanessa's Wurm Hat for Olivia. (Click for blog post.)

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

Vanessa: I’m not sure if I can say that there is a direct influence, but it certainly is a passive influence. Whenever I pick up my needles (be it to knit or sew or crochet) I feel like I’m part of the past. My mother remembers that her mother, sister, and later, her step-mother, would spend time making bobbin lace when they weren’t busy making clothing for the family. Her friends tell me that they were all taught to knit socks before they were taught the alphabet!  My parents didn’t have a lot of schooling (my mother left school around the 4th grade and my father the 6th) but they both learned trades. My mother’s was more domestic (making clothing for the family and housewares and how to cook) but my father was a cobbler. I think about them when I’m working away and I laugh. What today is considered “hip” and “novel” and “crafty” was, once upon a time, part of a normal education. I remember trying to sign up for Home Ec in High School only to be told that they changed the class format. It was now a parenting class for the girls (and boys) who were expecting. I’m very sad to hear that this isn’t something that was unique to my public school system. If we bring back these skills, I’m sure we’ll see an overall increase in math and reading scores. (UC comment: I agree, Vanessa. We use math all the time in the needlecrafts!)



Some of Vanessa's embroidery. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You recently moved to Hermitage, Tennessee from the Northeast.  What’s the crafting scene like down there?  Do you have any favorite spots to share?

Vanessa: I’ve noticed that quilting tends to be a lot more popular in the South. I’ve been able to find more fabric shops than local yarn stores. Also, the big box stores like Joann’s tend to rule. Since I’m not really a quilter, it’s been difficult for me to find my niche.



Vanessa's childhood kung-fu ID card. (Click for blog post.)


UC: One of the things that’s unique about your blog is your combination of needlecrafts with martial arts and self-defense.  (One of my favorite guest posts on your blog is by Packing Pretty.  Thanks for introducing me to someone who so stylishly conceals weapons for personal protection!)  Tell us about your interest in martial arts.


Vanessa: I started martial arts when I was in the first grade. My parents put me in ballet and I hated it. Then they tried tap dancing and I hated that, too. The last thing on their list was the kung-fu studio that was near. My brother had taken lessons with Sifu Vizzio and suggested that they sign me up. They did and I loved it! I was finally in training to become a Ninja Turtle. Unfortunately, I had to stop thanks to homework overload but I always carried that regret. I tried some other styles as an adult but it wasn’t the same. I missed Sifu and I missed Fu Jow Pai.


For me, martial arts helps me relax and focus on my goals. The philosophical aspect of it has also spoken deeply to me. I’m not sure I’ve discovered the meaning of life but it’s helped me really think about what I’m doing here. I come out of class feeling like I’ve honed both my body and my mind and I’ve got them working together.

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?
Vanessa: In Spanish, I love Che Crochet. She’s an Argintine crocheter and makes some really nice stuff. Of course, I also have to mention FreshStitches as an English crochet counterpart. Stacey’s designs are fun and really modern. Mighty Distractable also makes me feel better for having a thousand interests and a short attention span.

I also read Craftzine to keep up to date on the latest crafting news. And I love to listen to CraftLit while I’m busy. Heather Ordover is a great hostess and knitwear designer in her own right. She’ll be starting Jane Eyre (my favorite book), which has wonderful knitting references, in October. I think I’ll work on something lacey and fancy while I listen.


UC: What’s next for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts?
Vanessa: I do have some pieces in the works of my own. I’m currently designing a cancer awareness hat that should be released in November. And I’ve got some more book reviews and tutorials in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks! I’m not quite sure what next year has in store for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts, but I’m always open to suggestions.


Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story, Vanessa!

3KCBWDAY7 – Crafting Balance

I know how to do most needlecrafts, but if you’ve been following my blog you will already know that crochet is my true love.  Not only is crochet versatile and fast, but, since it is the one craft that I’ve done pretty much continuously since I learned from my grandmother back when I was 9 years old, I’m much more skilled at it.  For that reason, I haven’t (yet) found a crochet project I really wanted to make that I couldn’t tackle.

In the six months, I’ve been trying to give a bit more of my crafting time to knitting.  Last year, I dabble briefly in embroidery and even tried to rekindle my quilting mojo.  For this year, though, I know I’m going to need to devote more time to photography.

My newest toy, er, I mean, tool: the Canon PowerShot ELPH300HS.

I really need to step up my photography skills.  Photography allows me to show off my creations to their best advantage, makes my blog more interesting to read, and is helpful in marketing my patterns and projects.  I have been taking out a few minutes everyday to take pictures since I got the camera.  I’ll admit, most of these pictures are pretty boring so far :).  But I’m learning a lot about composition this way!

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Painted Crochet

(This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.)

After a few weeks of taking detours from the lessons in Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters, I decided to dive back in with painted crochet.  Ferosa Harold, from Trinidad and Tobago, is the crochet master profiled in this chapter.  Her work is really stunning, and though I’m not much of a thread person, I’m contemplating buying 50 Fabulous Pineapple Motifs to Crochet, which Ferosa co-wrote with Jean Leinhauser.

This was a tough chapter to approach because you obviously need a rainbow of colors.  I don’t have a lot of reds, oranges, and yellows in my collection, and of course, I’m trying to bust stash.  I decided to open a pack of Loops & Threads Craft Cord.

This was purchased in a moment of weakness, before I was fully committed to stash busting.

Side story: Last year, I enrolled in an eight week embroidery class with my friend at the Ukranian Museum.  We decided it would be super fun since it was only $60 for 8 weeks (and 2-1/2 hours a week)!  Little did we know (though I suppose we could have guessed) that the class would be dominated by a few people who liked to debate loudly about politics within the Ukranian community.  Since neither of us are Ukranian (and both of us prefer quieter, less controversial crafting time), it wasn’t really a good fit.  Also, I realized after about two classes that my eyesight isn’t really good enough for embroidery any more, and I lack patience.  But before all of these realizations were had, I purchased this craft cord which has since been dormant in my bins.

I recently bought a new slow cooker with a ceramic insert, and I thought a rainbow trivet was in order.  I feel a bit nervous about using some of the harder trivets in the house on the ceramic.

My craft cord converted into "yarn balls."

My plan was to create the trivet following “ROY G BIV.”  I made a bit of a mistake when winding so I realized that I couldn’t work from red to violet because I didn’t have enough violet anymore.  And, there was nothing in the pack which could be considered indigo.  So instead, I worked from violet back to red.  At least, that was the plan…

Round 1 - Two strands of violet.


Round 2 - One strand each of violet and blue.


Round 3 - Two strands of blue.


Round 4 - One strand each of blue and green.


Round 5 - Two strands of green.


Round 6 - Oops.

I made it up until round 6 before the amount of thread I had would no longer complete a round.  So, I had to make some adjustments.

Round 6 - One strand each of green and yellow (in half double crochet).


Round 7 - Two strands of yellow (in single crochet).


Round 8 - One strand each of yellow and orange (in single crochet).


Round 9 - Two strands of orange (in single crochet).

And this is what I have left.

Definitely not enough red and orange for two more rounds.


I could pull it out and start again, all in single crochet; end it here without the rest of the rainbow; or venture into the rest of my embroidery floss stash.  I’m not sure if I’ll like the look of solids combined with variegated floss.  I’ll have to think through the next steps before picking my hook up again!

Blogiversary week of giveaways, Day 6: Manga Cross- Stitch

Today’s giveaway is for a book that I really enjoyed reading, Manga Cross-Stitch: Make Your Own Graphic Art Needlework by Helen McCarthy.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that I’m much too lazy for cross-stitch.  Every year or so, I try to pick up embroidery or cross-stitch and it never takes.  So if you have good eyesight and/or enjoy cross-stitch, I’m sure this book will find a better home with you than it did in my apartment!

This giveaway, for a like new copy of this book, is open to all readers with a mailing address in the U.S.   Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, April 6.

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me what you enjoy about cross-stitch or what types of cross-stitch projects you enjoy.
  • 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!)

The winner will be chosen at random.


Good luck!

Interview with Linda Wyszynski, book review, and giveaway

Today, I’m interviewing Linda Wyszynski about her new book, The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework.  I’ll also be reviewing the book and giving away my review copy, courtesy of Creative Publishing International.

The Interview

Linda Wyszynski has been a freelance needlework designer for over 20 years.  Her work has appeared in countless books and magazines, including Cross-Stitch and Needlework, Crafts ‘ n Things, and Cross Stitcher. Linda also taught needlepoint, silk ribbon and needlepoint canvas painting earlier in her career.  Linda can be found online at her website, Hearthside Creations.  Pictures are used with her permission.  (Project pictures are the property of the publishers.)

Linda Wyszynski

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

Linda: My paternal grandmother began teaching me needlework when I was 8 or 9. We didn’t have any iron on patterns and I wanted to learn to stitch.  Grandma would take a piece of fabric, lay it over the bottom of the cast iron frying pan, and place a piece of her finished embroidery work face down on the cloth that covered the frying pan. She would then run a wooden spoon over the back of the needlework. The design would magically appear on the fabric that was next to the black cast iron. In my early twenties, I rediscovered needlework, and realized how much I loved to stitch.


Beaded Guest Towels


UC: What originally inspired you to begin designing?

Linda: In the ‘80s, I fell in love with needlepoint, and wanted to stitch a painted canvas. As I was still a novice in needlepoint, I felt the pre-painted canvas cost was too high to justify purchasing one. Since I had taught Tole (decorative painting) and reverse painting, I decided to give canvas painting a try. To my surprise, it turned out great, and I took the painted canvas to a local shop to pick out threads. The owner liked my canvas painting and asked me to do custom canvas painting for her customers. I began Hearthside Creations LLC, and the next thing I knew, I was designing plastic canvas and needlepoint designs for magazines.


Beaded Lampshade

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Linda: Design ideas come from all around me: nature, floral gardening books, home décor magazines, catalogs, antique embroidery work, shopping, even watching TV or movies. I have always loved magazines and subscribe to many different types. Sitting and leafing through them, I’ll see a painting or floral fabric or rug – there is always something to give me an idea. One thing I do not do is look at craft magazines to see what others are doing. I don’t even visit websites or blogs often. Our mind is always storing things and it would be way to easy to create a design like someone else without even realizing it!  Observing the copyrights of other designers’ work is very important to me – just as I would like for others to observe my copyrights.


Grandma's Doily Pillow. I like the stark contrast between the white doilies and the black pillow.

UC: Your latest book, the The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, was just released.  How did you approach the challenge of writing such a comprehensive guide covering several needlecrafts, and what was the overall writing and development process for the book?

Linda: Actually, this is my first authored book. I have been published in twenty multi-authored needlework books and in magazines for many years. For this book, lists were made of things I would like to see in a technique book, along with list of the stitches for each chapter. The gathering of the “types of information” we wanted to discuss or show in the book took several weeks. Once the lists were complete, and a schedule was in place, the rest was much easier to accomplish.

This book needed to have an edge the other published technique books did not have. It needed to show the stitcher through the photographs how the piece looked completely stitched, how it looked as you stitched each step, and, most of all, to have clear, easy to follow graphs.  Dennis, my husband, who has created my graphs for years, worked hand in hand with me. He took the step-by-step photographs and created the graphics for each stitch. Having him to discuss the vision of the book and to help accomplish that was the greatest!

We wanted to show through photographs a close up of each strand of each type of thread, each tool, type of scissors etc., so when the stitcher is learning this craft, they are not in the dark about what to use and how to use the information given. Being a self-taught needle artist, this was important to me. The techniques chosen for this book are all related. Many of the same stitches are used for each technique. It was a hard decision to show the same stitch for several techniques. In the end I did do that so the stitcher would understand that once the rhythm of the stitch was learned it could be used in many forms of needlework. When using silk ribbon or embroidery floss or yarn or beads, a simple stem stitch will take on a very different look.


Maple Leaf Coasters

UC: You are obviously multi-craftual, but what is your favorite “go to” craft when working on projects for yourself?

Linda: I rarely have time to do something for myself, but I do enjoy hand quilting. I have only completed a small lap quilt. Currently, I’m working on creating quilted placemats from die cut pieces. It may be years before they are completed. I don’t worry about how long it takes to complete projects because it’s relaxing and fun to quilt by hand! My favorite color is black, so these will be black, white and red.


Redwork Pillow

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

Linda: I love antiques and old books, so I lean toward books from the early 1900s forward. I have so many books, it’s really hard to define favorites!  If you asked next week, my list could easily be different.

Some of the books are:


The one book I have used most in my library of over 800 books is A Pageant of Pattern for Needlepoint Canvas by Sherlee Lantz with diagrams by Maggie Lane. I love to just look at the graphics and envision what the stitch looks like when worked. This book is out of print. It was given away in grocery stores when you bought a certain item back in 1973. It took me years to find a copy – costing me $75, which was inexpensive at the time. It was selling for around $200. Now there are copies turning up in used book stores for far less. It was well worth the cost!


UC: Do you have any favorite craft or design blogs or websites to share?

Linda: There are so many wonderful bogs and websites it hard to decide which to share. I check out these designs once in a while.

Yo Yo Pillow Pizazz

UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Linda: Needlework is a love I’m sure I’ll have the rest of my life. Times in my life I have missed not having a needle in my hand. I usually have work with me even on vacation. The highlight of my career was being asked by Creative Publishing to write a book on something I love, that was the greatest. Having control over the development of the book was very exciting. Most of all, being able to share my love of needlework with my husband. He has a logical mind and understands how to work the stitches without ever picking up a needle. Let me tell you that has come in handy with some of the more difficult stitchs since I tend to transpose numbers!


Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Linda!


The Book Review

About once a year, I decide that I’m going to take up embroidery again.  This is usually triggered by seeing a super cute image on someone’s blog, or the discovery of a masterpiece in the closet by my grandmother or MC’s mother.  Then, I try embroidering for a few hours and realize that I don’t have the patience (or the eyesight) for needlework.  It was in this vein that I requested a review copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework from Creative Publishing International.

The book is organized into seven main sections:

  • ABCs of needlework,
  • Creative embroidery,
  • Crewel,
  • Silk ribbon embroidery,
  • Bead embroidery,
  • Cross-stitch (called “Cross-stitch basic” in the table of contents), and
  • Needlepoint.

There is also a resource section and a detailed stitch index in the back.

What I like about this book:

  • The ABCs of needlework section is extremely thorough.  Not only is there a picture of each different tool, but there is a clear explanation of the major equipment.  (Finally, I can understand why I might select a milliners needle!)
  • There are wonderful tips peppered throughout the book.  (My personal favorite is this reminder: “For safety’s sake, always rescue the (lost) needle.”  My family is notorious for losing needles, so Linda’s recommendation to keep a magnet on hand is much appreciated.)
  • Each technique section includes detailed information about appropriate fabrics and threads to use.
  • In addition to the detailed illustrations you would expect from a needlework book (indicating the numbered steps of each stitch), there are many pictures of the finished stitches.  While there aren’t complete step-by-step photos, there are usually 2-4 progress photos of each stitch showing how the needle is inserted into the fabric.  Most people I know seem to have an easier time learning techniques from photos than illustrations, so this combination will likely be helpful to new needleworkers.
  • The book is well organized.

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

  • I didn’t see projects that I was interested in making.  I think the book could have benefited from involving multiple designers creating the projects so that there would be a diverse range of styles.  (Two other CPI books, The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet and The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting by Margaret Hubert, include a range of designers for the projects.)
  • While Linda’s introduction is very informal and welcoming, later in the book there are times when the language seems overly formal and a bit clumsy.

Overall, I found the book to be an excellent resource which clearly explains the differences between the different types of needlework, identifies the appropriate tools for different tasks, describes different techniques for image transfer, and presents a detailed stitch guide with both illustrations and photos.  The projects are fairly classic/standard, and don’t display a range of styles.  I think this book would be quite helpful for a needlework newbie who is looking for a resource and technique book to grow with.  While at certain points, the text is not as graceful as I would like it to be, the pictures and the illustrations do most of the talking anyway.  I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Giveaway

I’m giving away my review copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, courtesy of Creative Publishing International.  Due to postage costs, this giveaway is only open to readers with a U.S. mailing address.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post, telling me about your experience with or interest in needlework, by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, January 13, 2012.  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, your comment will not appear immediately.)
  • For another 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, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another 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 another entry.

Good luck!

Book review and giveaway: Firefly’s Step-By-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft

I’m pleased to review Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft today.  I’ll also be hosting a giveaway of the review copy I received from Firefly Booksso read on for details!

Book review

As the name implies, Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft is a comprehensive needlecraft guide with tons of “over the shoulder” close-up pictures.  The book explores knitting, crochet, embroidery, patchwork and quilting, and sewing.  Each chapter highlights one of the crafts by identifying tools and equipment, explaining the basics with step-by-step photos and text, and then exploring additional techniques.  As soon as I picked up the book, I fell in love – or, I should say, I fell in love again.  You see, most of the content is reproduced almost entirely from one of my favorite books, the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts.

There are some notable differences between the two books.  Good Housekeeping includes chapters on rugmaking and needlepoint, which are absent from Firefly.  Firefly includes a sewing chapter, which is absent from Good Housekeeping. The layout of the Firefly guide is improved – it starts with preview pictures of all projects, rather than sprinkling the project pictures throughout each chapter as Good Housekeeping does.  At the end of the book, there is a 60 page pattern section which includes pictures of each project.  The projects have also been updated to reflect more modern styles.  (However, I did recognize a few of the projects too, from other books, so I would guess they are largely archived patterns and not new for this book.)

Firefly is also about 80 pages longer than Good Housekeeping.  Several chapters include additional information.

  • There are instructions for making hand dyed yarn in the crochet chapter.
  • The embroidery chapter includes alphabets in several styles and a detailed section on machines (including equipment, machine stitches, designing for machines, border motifs, machine embroidered fabrics, and freestyle machine embroidery).  The section on cleaning your embroidery has been edited out.
  • The additions to the Patchwork and Quilting chapter introduce lace and insertion applique, making quilting patterns, contour quilting, corded quilting, and trapunto.

It is important to note that this book is aimed at a U.K. audience, so all of the terminology is British.  This is most prominent in the crochet section, where there are substantial differences in terminology.

Overall, I give Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft 5 out of 5 stars.  The pictures are clear, the instructions are well edited, and the projects cover a range of skills.  If you are looking for a comprehensive needlecrafts guide, this one is very strong — unless, of course, you already own the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts :) .


I’m giving away my review copy of Firefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft, courtesy of Firefly Books.  Because the book is over 300 pages long, and therefore ridiculously heavy, this contest is only open to those with a mailing address in the U.S.

You will have 5 days to enter this giveaway.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, December 9, 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, your comment will not appear immediately.)
  • For another 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, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another 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 another entry.

Good luck!

Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops

After I posted about the awesome class I took with Jenny King at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, Evelyn from Project: Stash asked me what I thought of the Studio, since she hadn’t been there yet.  I decided that today’s post would feature my favorite NYC yarn shops.  I often see threads on Ravelry about folks planning to visit and wondering which yarn shops to see, so I also included general information about the wacky world of yarn shops in New York City.

So, what’s the deal with NYC yarn shops?

There are some things that visitors should know about yarn shop culture in NYC to avoid surprises.

Price: You should expect that the combination of luxury yarn prices and NYC prices will make it likely that you will spend at least $10 on a skein of yarn in most situations (exceptions are discussed below).

Schedule: Although NYC is the City That Never Sleeps, yarn shops generally operate on a schedule where they open at brunch (11 a.m. or later is the norm) and close at the end of the business day (6 p.m. is the norm).  Additionally, many shops are only open six days a week, with quite a few closed on Saturday for religious observances and others closed on a week day. Most shops do have at least one “late night” a week, but it is definitely important to check the hours before planning to visit a shop.

Customer Service: It is unfortunately true that many shops with lackluster or even horrific customer service have continued to thrive due to their convenient locations in shopping or business districts.

My favorites (in alphabetical order)

I’ve visited all the shops on this list several times and I’ve found the staff friendly and helpful.  These are shops that are crochet-friendly and have prices which are comparable with other shops in New York City.

Downtown Yarns

I stumbled upon this cute shop earlier this year when I was taking an embroidery class with a friend at the Ukranian Museum.  I’m rarely on the Lower East Side (Manhattan) these days, so I took the opportunity to check out Downtown Yarns.  The shop has a “small town” feel – hard to do, in New York City! – complete with a screen door entrance.  The yarn is stacked up to the ceilings and the store has those great, old-fashioned, wooden rolling ladders you might see in a library.  The shop is pretty small, so I was super impressed with their collection of knitting needles and notions,  which you can sift through on your own.  (I hate having to ask to see things behind the counter – I feel like I can’t really browse because I’ll be too annoying to the clerks.)  I’ve since made the trip back to the store twice and recommended it to my students who are on the look-out for wooden needles.  Their yarn selection is pretty diverse, too, considering their small size.

Knitty City

This is my official Local Yarn Shop.  Knitty City is in my neighborhood (Upper West Side, Manhattan), so I frequent it more regularly than other LYSs in New York City – but I love more about it than its proximity to my apartment!  I love the comfy corner with books and cozy chairs.  I love that the shop is extremely crochet-friendly, and even carries a range of crochet tools rather than just one type of hooks (as many of the knitting-focused yarn shops do).   I love the great selection of yarn at reasonable (for New York City) prices, with a different type of yarn on sale every month.  I love the large bookcase of knitting and crochet books, including Japanese imports, that you can browse freely.  The store also has quite a few events (though my schedule never seems to match up).  I have twice needed a hook or needle in a particular size, which the staff has happily special ordered for me.  If you can only visit one yarn shop in NYC, this is the one I recommend!

Lion Brand Yarn Studio

The Studio sells the full range of Lion Brand Yarn products, which is great if you are looking for a particular color, but not so great if you are looking for another brand of yarn :).  The Studio is located just a short walk from Union Square (Manhattan).  The shop takes a minimalist approach to decor and has a fair amount of open space.  There is a stitching wall where you can work up a swatch in any of their yarns – if only we could do that in every yarn shop, I’m sure many disastrous textures could be averted.  Another nice feature of the shop is that you can print out any pattern from the Lion Brand website in the store for free. If you have been itching to try the LB Collection, Lion Brand’s line of premium yarns, then the Studio is the place to do that.   The prices are lower than most NYC yarn shops, but higher than you would expect if you’ve been buying your Lion Brand yarn at a big box store.  Overall, to me, the Studio is more like a yarncrafter event space with a store in it than a yarn shop.  They offer over 100 classes each month and have many public events which are absolutely worth the trip.  Again, the staff is friendly and are equally competent in crochet and knitting.  I don’t generally shop at the Studio, unless I’m there for an event or a class, or am desperately searching for a specific color of Lion Brand Yarn, but I do like to frequent their events and classes.

Other interesting yarn shops

These shops may be worth a visit if you have a longer stay in New York.


I’ve been to Knit-A-Way a few times, since the shop is around the corner from my dad’s apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.  There is a large selection of yarns not generally seen in the fancy yarn shops.  The store has a mix of big box brands and higher end yarns, which is great if you are on a budget.  The store owner is an interesting character and is allergic to wool, so all the wool is located towards the back of the shop.  On occasion, she has been known to close early or go on vacation (with a little sign left on the door), so a phone call before visiting may be in order.  I recently learned that Tatyana Mirer teaches here, and I’d like to take her Bruges lace class.  (Updated to add: I took the class with Tatyana in June, 2012, and it was wonderful!)

La Casita Yarn Shop

La Casita is very small and is equal parts yarn shop and hang-out spot.  They have a tiny cafe which serves tasty treats and alcohol :).  You may not find the yarn you are looking for since they have a smallish inventory (and the prices are steep), but you will definitely make friends and have fun crocheting or knitting here.  They also have a nice collection of notions, needles, and hooks.  They are open late, too (until 10 p.m. on weeknights), so you would be able to squeeze in a visit after a long day.  Smith Street in Boerum Hill/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, has recently become a hipster haven with many nice eateries and other shopping options in the nearby area that you can check out before or after your visit.

P & S Fabrics (no website, 359 Broadway, Manhattan, 212-226-1534)

P & S is the type of old-school yarn and fabric shop I grew up with.  The yarn selection is pretty standard in a big box store type of way, but the staff are very knowledgeable and there is a good range of notions, as well as fabric and sewing supplies.  If you run out of yarn during your trip, this is an very inexpensive way to stock up while supporting a local business (instead of going to one of New York City’s Michaels locations).   Call ahead for the schedule.  (Tip: Lion Brand Yarns are much cheaper here than at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, but P & S doesn’t carry the LB Collection.)

Purl Soho

I haven’t been to Purl in ages, so  I’m not really qualified to review it thoroughly.  I did enjoy the overall vibe and that they combined a yarn shop with a quilting shop, but I remember suffering from major sticker shock.  The prices were high by NYC yarn shop standards, but in line with shopping in overpriced SoHo standards.

Smiley’s Yarn

Smiley’s is the ultimate discount yarn shopping location.  The store is located in Woodhaven, Queens.  Smiley’s primarily sells discontinued yarns/colors and their prices are incredible.  The decor is utilitarian.  This is a cash only business and the store is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, except during their famous yarn sales, when they are open Monday through Saturday.  Every year, they have a big yarn sale at the Holiday Inn in Midtown, Manhattan.  At the Manhattan yarn sale, you can only buy yarn by the bag, so it is best to bring a friend unless you need 10 balls of each color of yarn.  Visiting Smiley’s would be the yarn equivalent of stopping at Century 21 while you’re in New York City  – you’d get a great deal and likely come away with a good subway adventure story from your lengthy J train commute.

Yarn Company

After years of being notorious for snooty attitude and poor customer service, the Yarn Company is under new ownership.  While I previously avoided the shop because they were not crochet-friendly, I’ve been there a few times since the change in management, and the vibe is definitely much better.  The new Yarn Company is actively seeking a multi-craftual clientele and it offers classes in knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving, quilting, sewing, and embroidery.  While I haven’t yet fallen in love with their yarn selection and pricing, I do continue to stop in because it is a work in progress and seems to be moving in a positive direction.  (Updated to add: The Yarn Company now carries many exclusive, signature colorways, so it makes a great tourist destination.)

Skip the trip

In my opinion, there are a few shops that you can definitely miss, especially if you are on a tight schedule.

Seaport Yarn is conveniently located in lower Manhattan and has a large selection of yarn and notions, but the shop is messy, and the customer service is poor.  They also have a ridiculously high “credit card minimum” ($30, when I last checked).

String in Midtown East, Manhattan is attractively set up, but the prices are a bit steep.  The staff was helpful when I asked about ordering yarn in a particular color, but I didn’t feel as welcome once I asked about crochet hooks.  The vibe got a little chilly at that point.  Also, they only carry one type of crochet hooks (Susan Bates Silvalume).

Yarntopia on the Upper West Side/Columbia Heights, Manhattan has a nice selection of yarn, but seems to fluctuate in customer service/amiability.  (Updated to add: Yarntopia announced that it is closing as the owner is moving to Philadelphia.)

What about all the other yarn shops in New York City?

The New York City Crochet Guild has a list of yarn shops on its website.  Checking out the Yelp reviews might help you decide which shops to visit.

What’s your favorite NYC yarn shop?

WIP Wednesday and week of giveaways, day 6

So this week, I used my sewing machine for the first time in 3 years.  Yep, it has been lying dormant since before I moved in with MC and after the move, my sewing set-up was never finalized.  After my paper piecing adventure at my last Dear Jane class at the City Quilter, I decided that I really needed to dust off my sewing machine and make some more blocks.  I’ve been searching for my quilting mojo for a while, and since I am not fond of hand sewing, the only way it is going to return is with that sewing machine.  (Don’t be fooled – I love my sewing machine, the Baby Lock Quilter’s Choice.  I had many hours of fun with it and made some quilts.  I feel terrible that it has been hibernating for so long.  But I have yet to figure out the right set up for the sewing table in my current apartment.)

Since our last Dear Jane class meets on Friday, I thought it would be nice if I showed up with some blocks for once ;).  I checked out Bonnie Hunter’s suggestions and picked out a few blocks that seemed simple to start with for paper piecing.  My original goal was to make 7 blocks, thinking I could end up with a Dear Jane pillow.  But my cat had other ideas, and after repeatedly wrestling him off the back of the sewing table and away from the cord on the hot iron, I decided to stop at 3: D-13 (Field of Dreams), H-13 (Farm Fields), and J-4 (Adelaine’s Apron Strings).

It felt great to be back at my Baby Lock, but I definitely need to work on cat proofing my set up (especially where the iron is concerned).

C-1, Trooper Green's Badge, is the block I made during the July class.


D-13, Field of Dreams, was the first one I made at home.
H-13, Farm Fields, has my favorite color combination.
J-4, Adelaine's Apron Strings.


As for my crocheting adventures, I worked on the hexagon baby blanket yet again.  It is pretty nearly done now, which is good because another friend of MC’s is pregnant.  At the rate I’m going with these baby blankets, I’ll need to start in the first trimester to finish them before the babies are born.

Once again, the photo does no justice to the colors. It just demonstrates the layout!


Be sure to check out the other WIP Wednesday posts at Freshly Pieced (sewing and quilting) and Tami’s Amis (knitting, crocheting, and yarn crafts).

The Giveaway

Today’s giveaway is the sixth in my week of giveaways to celebrate my 100th blog post.  It’s name is a bit of a misnomer, so read on for the description as you might actually want it :).

The Ultimate Book of Quilting Cross Stitch & Needlecraft actually places no more emphasis on quilting than any of the other needlecrafts.  The book includes chapters on embroidery, needlepoint, knitting, crochet, cross stitch, quilting and patchwork, and something called “special techniques” (brief introductions to dyeing, fabric strip rugs, smocking, woven ribbons, tassels and pompoms, beads and sequins, and buttons with one project for each technique).  There are over 1,500 photographs and 200 projects.  This is the kind of reference book that uses photos rather than illustrations to explain techniques.  (Note that the book is published in the UK and uses UK rather than US terminology.)

You will have 10 days to enter each giveaway.  To enter for a chance to win The Ultimate Book of Quilting Cross Stitch & Needlepoint,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, August 20, 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, your comment 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.
  • Since the book is very heavy, I will only ship it to the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, so please feel free to enter from any of those locations.  (Tomorrow’s giveaway will go totally international, in case you are wondering!)

Good luck to everyone!