Doris Chan is well known for her flirty crochet garments and her focus on lace. Crochet Lace Innovations, first published in 2010, is a pattern book that explores three specialized crochet techniques (broomstick lace, hairpin lace, and Tunisian crochet) along with what Doris calls “exploded lace” (crocheting lace patterns similar to what you would see in thread in yarns with a larger hook for a better drape).
The book opens with an introduction where Doris shares her passion for crochet. This is followed by a How to Use This Book page.
The next 3 sections, Broomstick Lace, Hairpin Lace, and Tunisian Lace, include an overview of the crochet lace technique along with a written and illustrated tutorial and a list of tips for success. The next 3 sections focus on variations of exploded lace: Exploded Motifs, Exploded Doily Lace, and Exploded Lace Trim. The book closes with a section called Garment 101, where Doris shares detailed annotated patterns for Jacket 101 and Skirt 101. Finally, there is a resources section which includes a guide to crochet stitch symbols and abbreviations, and links to yarns, tools, and crochet websites.
Skill level: This book is geared towards an intermediate to advanced crocheter. There are 8 easy patterns, 6 intermediate patterns, and 7 experienced patterns.
Techniques: There are 3 broomstick lace patterns, 3 hairpin lace patterns, 4 Tunisian crochet patterns, and 11 exploded lace patterns.
Project types: There are 8 top patterns (including jackets, vests, sleeved tops, and a poncho), 4 skirt patterns, 4 wraps/stoles/scarves, 2 belts, 1 dress, and 1 collar.
What I like about this book:
Doris has a conversational style but isn’t too chatty.
The designs are striking and the photos make you want to pick up your hook and start crocheting!
There are schematics including for the garments and there are stitch symbols for most patterns in addition to US pattern abbreviations.
This book allows you to explore several different crochet techniques while making women’s garments and accessories.
Some challenges about this book:
A true beginner to some of the special techniques may find the illustrations difficult to use as a primary learning resource. Luckily, there are many online tutorials for broomstick lace (you can find a roundup here), hairpin lace (a beginner’s roundup here), and Tunisian crochet.
There isn’t much discussion about under layering. It would be great if Doris would have shared more ideas about how to layer to wear these designs in real life.
Like all mostly pattern books, your enjoyment will be based on how many of the patterns you want to make. Check out the Ravelry source page for the book here to see thumbnails of all designs included in the book.
Overall, I would recommend this book to an intermediate to advanced crocheter (or an adventurous, confident, and patient beginner!) who enjoys crocheted women’s garments and accessories. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
So, has this review left you itching for your own copy of Crochet Lace Innovations? To enter, visit the Ravelry source page here and leave a comment letting me know which pattern you would crochet first. This giveaway is open to U.S. readers only. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, June 2, 2015! Please note that only entries in the Rafflecopter widget will be counted, so be sure to log your entries there.
Full disclosure: A review copy and giveaway copy of Crochet Lace Innovations were provided by Potter Craft/The Crown Publishing Group. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Clover Hair Pin Lace Tool in the package. Image (c) Clover.
I reached out to the nice folks at Clover because I really love their Hair Pin Lace Tool (also known as a hairpin lace loom).
The tool comes with 3 pins, though I’ve only ever used 2. I love the sturdy construction of the clips, and the clip holes, which allow you to anchor the tail of your yarn.
The top and bottom clips are very stable and keep your loops on the tool when you’re doing hairpin lace on the go. The clip hole anchors your yarn.
Although the Tool is a bit pricier than other looms (it retails at $17), it is definitely worth the price.
The top and bottom clips are sturdy and can help keep your loops from sliding off when you put down your project.
The clip hole is a great anchor for the yarn tail so that when you start your hairpin lace project, you don’t have to worry about about it moving around as much.
Another great feature is the eyelet at the bottom of the pins. You can thread another color of yarn through that eyelet, and when you are crocheting a long hairpin lace strip, the other color of yarn can serve as a stitch holder. This will help to prevent your strips from twisting when it’s off the loom.
There is also a small guide included in the package, which provides basic illustrated instructions for using the loom to create hairpin lace with 2 or 3 pins, as well as how to combine strips. The guide is available in English, French, Spanish, and German.
If you’re new to hairpin lace, why not pick up a Clover Hair Pin Lace Tool and check out my roundup of free tutorials here? It’s actually pretty fun once you get started, and you can create some stunning projects!
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win one of two Clover Hair Pin Lace Tools, courtesy of Clover USA. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, May 26, 2015! Please note that only entries in the Rafflecopter widget will be counted, so be sure to log your entries there.
Today is the last in a series of weekly (Inter)National Crochet Month posts where I feature an artisanal crochet hook maker, share a review of the hooks, and offer up a giveaway where you can win your very own hand crafted crochet hook necklace!
Craftwich likes to add a touch of mystery to the packaging.
Left: My custom Craftwich hook. Right: The giveaway prize!
All images in the interview are copyright Craftwich Creations and used with permission.
Underground Crafter (UC) How did you first get started working with wood?
Monica: I tried making my first hook a few years ago, and boy did it SUCK. HA! I used an oak dowel, which was so hard to hand carve with an Xacto blade. But I really got the hang of it after taking a class on hook carving with Jimbo (of Jimbo’s Front Porch) at Crochet@Cama four years ago. Once I started, I couldn’t seem to stop, and soon my husband was asking me WHAT was I going to do with all those hooks? Worked out how I liked to make my hooks, what worked best for me, and a business was born.
Craftwich Creations Studio.
UC: What initially inspired you to make handmade crochet hooks?
Monica: In my crafting, I always have enjoyed the process more than the finished piece. It’s always a bit disappointing when it’s finished, no mater how cool it is. SO, when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, and was able to stay home with the kids, it was a natural progression to first wanting to know how to make my own yarn, and then my own tools. I want to know my craft from the beginning to end.
Craftwich Creations shawl pins, crochet hook necklaces, and other and accessories
UC: Do you crochet yourself? If not, who tests out your new hook designs?
Monica: I crochet every night, on the couch, with my Ott light and my pillow, LOL! I’m a more advant-garde hooker, so I like unusual designs, and since I tend to have crafting Short Attention Span, I like to make shawls (asymmetrical are my faves) and other patterns with a variety of stitches. I do like to have anyone I see in person test my hooks – one can never have enough feedback.
Craftwich Creations knitting needles.
UC: Many crocheters have never owned a handmade hook before, and you prefer to make custom hooks. Talk us through the process of working with a customer to create a great hook.
Monica: Well, my goal with my business is to make a piece of art for everyone, that is a useful tool also. If I don’t make something with someone in mind, then I want to make something that the wood tells me it wants to be. If someone is interested in my hooks, but doesn’t see one that leaps out at them (don’t laugh, it has literally happened at a craft show!) then they can request a custom order, which is SO much fun.
First, I need to ask what kind of grip they have, small or larger hands, and whether they use a thumb, forefinger, etc. Any quirks they might have in their hook hold. For example, I have a knife hold in my left hand, and I use my fingers to throw off the yarn. (it was dubbed the “spider crawl” by Julia M. Chambers, who wrote an excellent series of articles in Interweave Crochet on hook holds). Since crochet hooks are held differently by literally each person, some of my natural hooks will NOT work for some people, and others will be PERFECT. I want to match people up with THEIR hook. Nothing makes me more pleased than hearing someone tell me, “it fits like it was made for my hand,” or “it caught my eye right away and I love it.” That means more to me than the money (although getting paid to make people happy is nice too).
I send pictures of the hook in progress as needed. It’s a small step to take, to make sure someone loves what they get.
Craftwich Creations kits and more.
UC: Do you have any crochet/crafty blogs or websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
Craftwich Creations crochet hooks and knitting needles.
UC: How are you celebrating NatCroMo this year?
Monica: I am actually going to keep doing what I am doing! I have sold most of last year’s hooks, so March will be a big carving month for me – more gorgeous crochet tools for all my fellow hookers!
UC: What’s coming up for Craftwich Creations?
Monica: I will be at a few craft shows this year around the Pacific Northwest, so watch my Facebook page for details.
I always like to explore fun new fiber crafting ideas that I can make for people…at the end of last year, I really got into the large Tunisian hooks, so I’m gong to be making more and trying to get more people to try it! What a blast.
Most exciting of all for me, I’m partnering up with Laurinda Reddig of Reversible Color Crochet book fame, to create an exciting new tri-monthly crochet kit. We’ll have top notch hand painted yarn, an exciting pattern, an accessory that goes with them that I make (AND an option to get a custom hook to go with!), and best of all – a story that ties everything together and adds excitement to the kit. We’re putting together the details now, and I can’t wait to introduce the kits to everyone! Watch for details on the Ficstitches Yarn website!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Monica, and sharing your love of creativity with us!
Craftwich Creations CrochetHook Review
My custom crochet hook from Craftwich Creations.
I had a great conversation with Monica via Etsy convo and email. The process was just as she describes in the interview above, where I shared my preferences (for a tapered hook), my grip (knife hold), my eccentricities (using my forefinger heavily), and my favorite hook sizes (I through K). After back and forth discussion, I even sent her a video of me crocheting, and ultimately, she created a custom US K-10.5 (6.5 mm) crochet hook for me to review. You can see the hook in action and hear my full review in the video below.
What I like about this hook:
It’s visually appealing.
It’s very smooth.
It’s extremely lightweight.
It has a long handle to avoid the abrasion against the side of your hand that sometimes happens when you use the knife grip to hold your hook.
The hook has a tapered throat, which I prefer to an inline hook.
It has a wider circumference on the handle, allowing for a more relaxed grip while crocheting.
It’s custom made and it actually feels custom made. It’s like Monica jumped into my mind and knew exactly what I wanted! What an awesome conversation starter.
What might take some getting used to about this hook:
Crocheters who prefer hooks with inline throats to tapered hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with this hook – but I’m sure Monica could make another one that suits inline hook lovers.
Neither the company name nor the hook size are indicated on the hook, so you may not remember where to order from again. Similarly, you will need a Susan Bates Knit-Chek (or something similar) to check the hook size if you have multiple Craftwich hooks.
The hooks has a non-standard shape, so it may not fit into your existing hook holders.
Craftwich Creations crochet hooks currently sell for $18 – $26, depending on the size, style, and wood used. You can find more of Monica’s hooks and her other products, including wood buttons and knitting needles, in the Etsy shop here.
Full disclosure: A free review sample was provided by Craftwich Creations. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Monica from Craftwich Creation is offering up a portable crochet hook necklace for one lucky U.S. reader!
This could be yours! Perfect for crocheting on the go, or to pick up dropped stitches in knitting!
So stop by Craftwich Creations and let us know your favorite hook from the shop in the comments! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Only entries logged through the widget will be eligible to win. Good luck!
Today is the third in a series of weekly posts where I feature an artisanal crochet hook maker, share a review of the hooks, and offer up a giveaway where you can win your very own hand crafted crochet hook!
Today’s post features Swamp Hooks. Amy Surratt is the maker behind the shop. All of Amy’s hooks are hand carved from genuine Southern swamp wood, and her shop’s tagline is “Southern grown, American made.” Amy stopped by today for a guest post, followed by my review of two Swamp Hooks, and a giveaway for a custom, wood carved crochet hook (!), so read on for details! UPDATE: Amy is also offering a 20% discount on anything in the Swamp Hooks Etsy shop for my readers with coupon code UNDERGROUND through Friday, April 10, 2015.
Carving crochet hooks was never something I had given much thought to. It was not on a bucket list or in some greater design for my life. It was something that just dropped in on me, unexpectedly and quite literally.
A branch from a cypress tree fell and landed just outside the door and it was pretty. It looked like it should be something and not just refuse left behind by a storm. After long consideration, my fiancé and I decided to try and see what we could do with it. Unfortunately the first few tries ended badly and didn’t really resemble crochet hooks all that much. As a matter of fact, many of the first hooks ended up being kindling in the fire place when the heads popped off or the entire thing just seemed to implode so I don’t really have a finished hook to hold up and say “This is it, the first hook from that first branch.”
It did start a curiosity in both of us, though, that eventually blossomed into a joy, especially when the heads stopped popping off quite as often. It started us both looking around at trees and branches and wondering, “What could I make from that?” and “I wonder what the wood looks like.”
That was the first lesson I learned from carving crochet hooks. . . Sometimes happiness is not a goal to be struggled towards. Sometimes it drops out of the sky and lands at your feet. You just have to recognize it and the possibilities it opens up for you. We have both found that carving the hooks is something we enjoy to do. The way this branch or that will look when oiled, the smoothness of the hook when it is fully polished, using the natural curves and bends in a design. It is fun to do and we really enjoy it and we would never have tried it if Cypress trees didn’t have a habit of dropping branches at startlingly regular intervals.
The second lesson I learned was that carving random knobs and bumps is anything but a random act. I thought it would be easy — what could be easier than doing something completely random? I was wrong. To make something look random requires more thought than making it look like a swirly-doo. Humans tend to look for patterns in things and when you are carving that natural instinct sneaks in and before you know it, you are carving a set of uniform random bumps, evenly spaced and sized. To create something random you have to stop trying to create something random. You have to carve a bunch of separate things and focus not on the whole but on each thing and just trust the whole will work itself out in the end. It is not nearly as easy as it looks but it is also fun too. Pushing yourself to be random makes you see the wood grains and the knots and bends and work with them to create something different and unique.
The third lesson is that it takes a whole lot of effort to make something look natural. This sounds paradoxical but as soon as you start carving something, the naturalness of it is harder to maintain because you’ve changed it. It’s the whole physics “observation changes things” paradox I think. Instead of trying to push your idea of the natural look, you have to work with the wood to see what it wants to be. The grain of the wood might want to flow one way even if you planned on it going another. The tightness of the grain pattern or shape of the grain swirls might make things you thought of doing not work as well. To make it look natural you have to stop being in control of the carving in a way and let go, see the wood and let all of those things show you how to make it natural looking. You have to surrender creative control to the wood so it can show you what it wants to be. Wow, that sounded amazingly hokey but it is true. Sometimes the wood has a personality to it and you have to work with that and allow it to guide you.
The fourth and last lesson is harder to put into words. When creating artwork, I find it easy to step back and know that what my finished product is, is what I wanted it to be. I can see the results and feel the pride of accomplishment. When we create a hook, we can see if it is neat looking and can feel if it is smooth but that final step is not ours. The creation of the hook is actually a two-step process. We love making the hooks but even when we are done and the hook is finished and it looks just like we wanted it to, that final validation doesn’t come until the person we gave it to or who bought it tells us, “I love the hook and it works great for me.”
The final product of our labors is the start, not the end. That final moment of stepping back and taking pride in what we have created happens when the hook finds a home and a hand that will use it. Hearing about people’s projects with our hooks is great. It is like we are part of a bigger series of events. What we love to do just flows into what other’s love and that is a very cool thing in my book.
So carving hooks is more than just a way to make money for us. It has been a very fun journey so far that has taught us things. We never thought it would or that we’d enjoy it so much but, the fact is, that stick on the ground started a passion in us. Today, I carved a butterfly on the end of a crochet hook made from an orange tree that has been giving us oranges for 20 years and finally got caught by a frost. It is beautiful and the tree, which by the way had the best oranges, becomes something new. That is a cool feeling to have.
The giveaway we are doing is for a hook of whatever size you want and whatever kind of handle design you like best. You can choose cypress, swamp mahogany, melaleuca, or orange wood as the material. We’ll work with you to make whatever kind of hook and size of hook that you want and it will be a one of a kind thing, just for you.
Swamp Hooks. From left to right: Original Swamp Hook in Cypress and Love Hook in Melaleuca.
Swamp Hooks Crochet Hook Review
Amy sent me two hooks to try out: a Melaleuca “Love Hook” in US H-8 (5mm) and a Cypress hook in US K-10.5 (6.5 mm). You can see the hooks in action and watch my full review video below.
Swamp Hooks are tapered crochet hooks available in several different styles.
The “Love Hook” has the type of “random” knobs that Amy discusses in her guest posts along with a heart shaped end. The Cypress hook is in their signature “Original Swamp Hook” style with bark on it for a rustic look.
What I like about these hooks:
Both hooks are incredibly smooth. I assume this is to the natural oils and beeswax Swamp Hooks uses to finish each hook. These are probably the smoothest wooden hooks I have ever worked with.
Both styles are visually appealing.
The Original Swamp Hook had a long handle to avoid the abrasion against the side of your hand that sometimes happens when you use the knife grip to hold your hook.
Both hooks have a tapered throat, which I prefer to an inline hook.
Both hooks have a wider circumference on the handle, allowing for a more relaxed grip while crocheting.
These hooks are created in a sustainable, ecologically friendly manner. The wood is gathered from fallen trees on their property and after hand carving, each is finished with natural oils and beeswax.
What might take some getting used to about these hooks:
Most crocheters would probably take several uses to find a comfortable grip on the hooks with “random” knobs.
Crocheters who prefer hooks with inline throats to tapered hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with this hook.
Both styles of hook have non-standard shapes, so they may not fit into your existing hook holders.
Swamp Hooks currently sell for $15 – $25, depending on the size, style, and wood used. You can find more of their hooks and their other products, including aprons and hair sticks, in the Etsy shop here.
Full disclosure: Two free review samples were provided by Swamp Hooks. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Amy from Swamp Hooks is offering up a special hook to one lucky U.S. reader! The winner can choose hook size, handle type, and material from options including Cypress, Melaleuca, Swamp Mahogany, and Orange Tree wood!
So stop by Swamp Hooks and let us know your favorite hook from the shop in the comments! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win by Friday, April 3, 2015. Only entries logged through the widget will be eligible to win. Good luck! UPDATE: Amy is also offering a 20% discount on anything in the Swamp Hooks Etsy shop for my readers with coupon code UNDERGROUND through Friday, April 10, 2015.
This is the second in a series of weekly posts during (Inter)National Crochet Month where I will feature an artisanal crochet hook maker, share a review of their hooks, and offer up a giveaway where you can win your very own hand crafted crochet hook!
Bryan’s niece is a crocheter, and he started wood turning crochet hooks because “she just had to have a hook!” Bryan’s hooks are truly one of a kind and he doesn’t try to replicate the exact diameter of the handles or the exact length. He does make an effort to keep the grip handle of the hook between 5/8″ (1.5 cm) and 7/8″ (2 cm), unless the crocheter requests a larger custom diameter. This uniqueness is what keeps his customers coming back. He says, differences in grip diameter “hasn’t been an issue thus far and I’ve turned and sold hundreds and a lot of customer order multiple hooks.”
NELSONWOOD crochet hooks, wood turned by Bryan Nelson.
Bryan sent me two US H-8/5 mm crochet hook to sample for a review. You can see the hooks in action and watch my full review in the video below.
NELSONWOOD hooks are inline crochet hooks where the point, throat, and shaft of the hook have the same circumference. The hook then has a lovely shaped grip handle that is composed of a variety of curves.
What I like about this hook:
It’s very smooth. The finish does’t “grip” the yarn and allows you to crochet quickly.
The wood includes beautiful and detailed grain.
The large grip diameter allows a comfortable, relaxed grip.
The handles come in multiple lengths so you could choose the option that works best for you to avoid any abrasion against the side of your hand that sometimes happens when you use the knife grip to hold your hook.
It has a beautiful design and is a great conversation starter!
What might take some getting used to about this hook:
Neither the company name nor the hook size are indicated on the hook, so you may not remember where to order from again. Similarly, you will need a Susan Bates Knit-Chek (or something similar) to check the hook size if you have multiple NELSONWOOD hooks.
The shorter shaft of the hook may make it challenging to quickly create stitches with multiple yarn overs, like bullions or puffs.
Crocheters who prefer hooks with tapered throats to inline hooks may find it harder to pull the yarn through their loops with this hook. (Though I generally prefer tapered hooks, I found this one easy to use.)
NELSONWOOD hooks currently sell for $37.50 – $125, depending on the size and wood used. You can find more of Bryan’s wood turned hooks and his other products, including yarn bowls, bowls, birdhouses, pepper mills, and more in the Etsy shop here.
Full disclosure: Free review and giveaway samples were provided by NELSONWOOD. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Bryan has been kind enough to offer a great giveaway to one lucky reader! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win one of these two delightful NELSONWOOD crochet hooks by Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Leave a comment letting me know which crochet hook currently on sale in the NELSONWOOD Etsy shop is your favorite. Only entries logged through the Rafflecopter widget will be eligible to win. Good luck!