I decided to make her a baby blanket using some stash yarn. I started with the motif from Frankie Brown‘s Jelly Mould Blanket and some leftover Red Heart Super Saver in Candy Print, but I ran out of yarn after 14 squares. The stiffness of the yarn was the perfect pairing with this pattern.
Since I didn’t have another complementary color in my stash, I thought it would be the perfect time to use my 20% off coupon to the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. Once at the shop, I decided I wanted to go in a new direction, and instead of choosing more pink, I picked up three skeins of Vanna’s Choice in greens. (I was feeling a bit spring-like at the time.) Vanna’s Choice is much softer than the Red Heart, so it wasn’t as suited for the 3D shape of the Jelly Mould motif.
I used a stash skein of Caron One Pound in white for all the borders, and joined each of the motifs in rows of 7.
I had a bit of a tough time taking pictures (thank you Central Park, for serving as a backdrop!), but I really like how the blanket came out. It’s about 32 inches square, and I used about 990 yards of yarn (including about 530 yards of stash yarn!).
The whole project was much more improvised than my baby blankets usually are. I guess you could say that the motifs came about organically. And I used different techniques for joining the squares together to form rows, which helped to even out the slight differences in sizes. I also used two different methods for joining the rows together (the green join is a very decorative v-stitch join, and the white join is a chain join). These joins were inspired by ones I found in Robyn Chachula‘s Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia.
I think this means that my next blanket may be a bit more spontaneous!
Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters. Today’s interview is with Johnny Vasquez, a crochet teacher.
As a crochet and knitting teacher, I’m constantly looking for online resources to share with my students so they have additional supports when I’m not around. I can’t remember how I first came across New Stitch A Day, but I regularly refer my students (and my crocheting and knitting friends) to it. Today I’m excited to share an interview with Johnny Vasquez, the Founder of Craftory Media.
I should mention that Johnny offered to use his technological abilities to set up a Skype video interview, but I wasn’t able to figure out scheduling on my end, so he was gracious enough to do a regular interview via email.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Johnny: My great grandmother was big into the fiber arts. She was a weaver, a spinner, knitter, and hand dyer. She’s gone now, but my dad still has her spinning wheel and loom.
My grandmother, on the other side of the family, worked as a seamstress for years and has been knitting and crocheting most of her life. I often got crocheted afghans for Christmas. But they were exactly what you would think they would be like: Red Heart scratchy yarn in horrible color combinations. Basically whatever colors were on sale at the local craft store.
The funny thing is, even though yarn craft was all around me, I never had an interest. I thought knitting and crochet was for old people.
Then I heard about this Kickstarter project by Rebecca Burgess. She wanted to source all of her clothing for a year from within 150 miles of her home. The idea was to be more connected to the people who are involved in making these garments that are so intimate to our lives.
She documented going to an organic farm to plant the indigo dyes, buying waste wool from a sheep stock rancher, and working with an old mill to process that into yarn. She took that yarn to a local knitwear designer and had it turned into a hat. (UC comment: You can read more about Rebecca’s Fibershed Project on her website here.)
At that moment a light clicked in my head. Something about the story of how that hat was created really resonated with me. I decided I wanted to knit a sweater so I could be more connected to my clothing.
But first I needed to learn to knit. So I went Walmart, bought a teach yourself to knit kit, two balls (skeins I found out later) of Simply Soft, and the rest is history.
UC: What inspired you to start teaching?
Johnny: I’ve been teaching in different capacities most of my life.
I started teaching bible study in Jr. High.
In high school, I directed plays and was section leader in choir. I also started an alumni chapter for a leadership program that had all of LA county as its jurisdiction.
In my college years, I was a substitute teacher and taught an after school drama program.
So I’ve led and taught for a long time. When I learned to knit and crochet, the transition was pretty natural.
UC: Why did you launch New Stitch a Day?
Johnny: That’s a LOOOONG story.
I was in Chicago at a yarn store called Loopy, and I was chatting with this lady about knitting. I had only been knitting about 6 weeks. She was looking at one of those perpetual knitting calendars and mentioned that it would be cool to knit one swatch a day for a year from the calendar and then turn it into a sampler afghan. I thought . . . “that would be cool . . .”
A few months later at Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a couple of stitch dictionaries. At the same time I had been following another blog called New Dress a Day. The girl who ran that site gave herself $1 a day to make a new piece of clothing out of stuff she got from the bargain bin at a local thrift store.
I thought that was a great project and I was reminded of that lady in Chicago and her stitch a day calendar. I figured it would be cool to do my own blog to help me become a better knitter and I would call it New Stitch a Day.
That thought festered in my mind for a few days, until I was trying to knit a particular stitch out of one of the books and I couldn’t figure out the instructions. I tried going online to find a video to help and there was none for that specific stitch.
I’ve been doing stuff with video since I was a pre-teen. When I was a freshman in high school, I made a short film instead of writing a final project in English. I’ve worked on a reality TV pilot, some short films, and an indie music video.
I knew I could put together better videos than a lot of what I was seeing and I had an HD camera in my iPhone. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to put out a new video tutorial each day. But I’m also the kinda of person who thinks, sure, I can do a triathlon with three months of training. My ambition is often bigger than my ability.
UC: Tell us about how it’s grown since then.
Johnny: I started doing 1 video knitting tutorial every Monday through Friday.
The first video took me 8hrs to complete. I got that down to about 4 hours per stitch, but for the first year and a half I never did get a stitch a day out.
Eventually I added one crochet stitch video on Saturdays, but that was pretty sporadic.
One day in the spring of 2011, my wife and I were in New York for work and we tweeted to the Lion Brand people that we wanted to visit their store, which also happened to be their offices. They said to let them know when we dropped by.
When we got there we were greeted by Jessica, who handled their social media at the time. She let me know they loved what we were doing and wanted to know how they could help. A few months later, they were our first official sponsor. They provided yarn and paid a small advertising fee to have their product featured in our videos.
That’s the first time I thought this could be a real business. By June, my wife was graciously working a couple part time jobs and both our parents helped out from time to time so I could work full-time on the site.
By the next June, I was getting a bigger and bigger vision for what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t have the man power to do it. My wife, Lacie, was pretty tired of living in CO where it was actually cold during the winter. So I convinced my brothers to help out. We sold pretty much everything we couldn’t fit in a couple suitcases and moved back to Los Angeles.
Today we put out 1 knitting and 1 crochet tutorial every Monday through Friday and it takes us about 2.5 from start to finish for each. And they’re completely free to watch. In fact, all of the more than 500 videos we’ve made so far are Creative Commons, so people can use them on their sites and even sell them in their patterns for free.
One thing we started at the beginning of 2013 is our Yarn Craft Academy, which is our premium education classes. This is where we go in depth on topics like double knitting, Tunisian crochet, and making amiguriumi toys. The classes last between an hour to two hours and most come with two practice patterns to test out your new skills.
The coolest thing though, is we do a free version of every class about once a week. We do this through a live Ustream event and I actually get to interact with people all over the world in real time through the chat room. If they want to watch the class again, they can purchase a recording that has a bunch of bonus content. We also have an all you can eat option where people can pay per month to access all of our classes.
Another cool thing is everyone gets to vote on what classes we do next. Every couple of weeks we have a survey where we post 8 options for future classes. These come from suggestions from our audience in previous surveys. They pick their top 3 or 4 and we turn them into classes.
We’ve only been doing those for about 5 weeks, but we’ve had an average of 1,000 people register for each, often in as little as 36 hours. (UC comment: That’s great news, Johnny. It’s wonderful to see your site expanding.)
Side Note: Erika Knight edited the Harmony Guides, which we use all the time for New Stitch a Day. I met her a couple weeks ago at TNNA. (UC comment: The National NeedleArts Association trade show.) She’s super cool and very British. I love her sense of style, especially the neon pink tennis shoes she wore with her pant suits every day.
UC: What advice do you have for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Johnny: Well, first, don’t call your site “(Something Random) a Day”. It’s a huge commitment and for the most part unnecessary. If I were to start again I’d call it knitting stitch weekly, or crochet stitch a week. There are advantages to posting content on a daily basis, but it’s very taxing if you’re doing it by yourself. I’m lucky to have an uber supportive wife and a brother who gets the vision.
Two: Building an email list is incredibly important to communicating with your audience. If you visit our site, we call people who join our email list VIPs and they get special benefits that random visitors to our site do not get. Things like free patterns, invites to live classes, special discounts, and contests and giveaways.
Email is really important to interacting with our community, so we have lots of opportunities to sign up on our site. If you don’t have an email list, it’s free to start one through MailChimp. (Disclaimer: MailChimp did give me an awesome crocheted monkey hat to say that.)
Three: Don’t be afraid to put stuff out there for free. And by free I mean people don’t pay you money for it. We give out free patterns all the time, but you have to be on our email list or share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest in order to download it (see Sidewinder free for an example).
Four: Community is essential to success.
If you’re a designer, feature some of the projects people have posted on Ravelry of your stuff in a monthly newsletter.
If you own a yarn store, pick a customer of the week and put them on your Facebook page.
If you blog, ask your audience who they want you to interview or what questions they want you to answer. Better yet, interview someone from your audience!
When people feel involved in your process they will help you succeed. We have rarely done advertising for New Stitch a Day but we’ve grown to almost 17,000 email subscribers through word of mouth because we make people feel like family. (UC comment: Thanks for sharing these great suggestions, Johnny!)
UC: What is next for you and New Stitch a Day?
Johnny: For New Stitch a Day we’re working on a new year long Knit and Crochet a Long we call the New Stitch Afghan. We’re planning a monthly design contest where our subscribers have to use a stitch from our site to make a 12 x 12 inch afghan square. We’ll put three up for a vote on Facebook and the winner each month will win a prize of some sort from one of our sponsors. That should get started in late March.
But what I’m super excited about is our newest venture called Yarn Nation. This is going to be the heart of a new network of sites we’re developing for the yarn craft industry.
Want a sneak peak? Here’s some of the stuff we’ve got planned:
Fiberstory.TV – Interviews with People doing cool stuff with yarn
Yarn Tripper – A travel show for fiber enthusiasts
Knitting Helpline – A live Q&A show where you get your knitting and crochet questions answered by industry professionals (preview here)
Yarntreprenuer – Business advice for designers, yarn store owners, and fiber arts professionals of all kinds
Yarn Review Daily – Daily video product reviews
The Yarnist – a new kind of online magazine for yarn lovers.
Yarn Nation will be a community that connects these awesome sites together and will let you share your passion for yarn with people all over the world. You can sign up for a free invite by visiting YarnNation.
We’ve got some other cool stuff planned too, but I’ve already said too much!
If you want to become a New Stitch a Day VIP sign up for our email list and get free tutorials in your inbox every day plus a bunch of other cool stuff.
Thanks so much for having me! If you have any questions put them in the comments. I’d love to chat with you all!
Thank you for stopping by for an interview, Johnny, and for sharing such great resources online. (Hint: New Stitch A Day will be featured this Sunday as one of my favorite online crochet resources.)
Yesterday, Vogue Knitting Live 2013 opened in New York. If you’re in the New York area this weekend, you should stop by! Here’s a quick wrap up of some of what I’ve seen so far.
The gallery exhibits were being set up in the morning, and I had a chance to photograph most of them before it got too crowded. Here are some of the highlights. (And speaking of highlights, keep in mind that these photos were taken in dimly lit hotel corridors.)
Colorful Stitches had an awesome array of knit food displayed like a picnic table. This bowl of cereal with a strawberry was my favorite!
Alyssa Ettinger is a ceramic artist with a studio in my native Brooklyn. I love the soothing pastels of her work.
Adrian Kershaw is a crocheter and knitter working with upcycled VHS tapes as yarn. Because her work is black and the lighting was so dim, the pictures don’t really convey the projects. They’re pretty cool!
Carol MacDonald is a printmaker who makes prints, cards, and tags using her images from her knitting.
Edwina Sutherland is a fiber artist working primarily with needlefelting. She shared her secret for successfully transporting her projects for display with me – wrap them in quilt batting.
And last – but certainly not least – was the crochet artist, Jo Hamilton. I’ve seen her crochet portraits online and was really looking forward to seeing them in real life. They are much cooler in person because there is much more texture and subtle color variations than a photo can convey.
I met with Danielle Chalson from Makewise Designs for a quick interview after lunch. Until I publish it, I’ll just share this picture of Danielle’s enthusiastic smile.
With over 70 vendors, the Vogue Knitting Marketplace alone could take up many blog posts. So I’ll just concentrate on the colleagues I visited and my purchases.
I stopped by Kollabora‘s booth a few times to say hi and to see my samples on display. Here’s a sneak peak of two of my upcoming crochet designs that they are debuting at Vogue Knitting Live. (The patterns aren’t available yet.)
It was also cool to see two of my other designs featured in their ad in the program.
I also took a picture of their schedule so I can remember to stop by their events. With a program this packed, every reminder helps!
Then I got the chance to meet Shannon Okey (a.k.a. Knitgrrl) in person. I have a pattern in one of the upcoming Cooperative PressFresh Designs: Crochet books so we chatted about that briefly. I somehow forgot to take a picture of Shannon, but here is a picture of the Cooperative Press booth :).I had a chance to check out Dishcloth Diva by Deb Buckingham in person. It looked just as scrumptious as I thought it would! (And I love that I can feel glamorous about making dishcloths!)
And then I saw the North Light Fibers booth. I was drawn in because their tagline is “Block Island made,” and MC used to vacation in Block Island as a kid. In addition to great natural fiber yarns, they sell these cozy alpaca socks.
I had a great chat with the owner and her husband, and I was drawn to their natural care products.
So what did I end up buying?
I bought a pair of cozy alpaca socks for MC, a book for me, and some handmade soap and lip butter from a local company.
You’re probably saying, “What?? No yarn??” You know I’ve been working on stashbusting for the past 13 months. I’m not sure if I’ll buy yarn at Vogue Knitting Live, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t on the first day. I wanted the chance to look at everything and sleep on any potential yarn purchases… Let’s see how I hold up today!
In August, my very first knitting pattern was published in support of the 2013 Knotty Knitters for Autism calendar. You can read my interview with Marsha Cunningham, the organizer, here, and download the free pattern here. (And calendars are still available for sale here.)
I’m not sure why I crocheted an enormous bear (other than because I wanted to try out the pattern at the time), but I’m hopeful that he’s found a better home than squished into a plastic bin in my apartment.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up this much charity crafting next year (especially since a many of my donations were actually crocheted years ago), but I’m glad I was able to help out this much in 2012.
I had plans for more creative (read: flashy) hats, but then I remembered these guidelines on the Bridge and Beyond blog about donating handmade hats to homeless people:
Choose colors that don’t show the dirt, that are appropriate for the group you’re donating too. Wild colors, bold stripes aren’t a good choice for homeless people… Homeless [people] don’t like to call attention to themselves with wild colors. Dark colors work for everyone, kids, teens, women, and men. Light colors limit who can benefit from your warm hat.
With that in mind, I pulled out the charcoal yarns and went work. I made both hats very bulky and warm so they will provide a little extra protection in harsh weather. I’m also planning to make some scarves before the drop off deadline.
Yummy yarn stuff
When I wrote my post for I Love Yarn Day last year, I was already thinking about thinning out my stash. This year I’ve been participating in Surmount the Stash and I started my own Holiday Stashdown Challenge, and I’ve made a lot of progress towards reducing my stash and increasing the proportion of natural fibers in my collection. I’m not even going to enter the I Love Yarn Day contest where you can win 365 skeins of yarn. Last year, I wouldn’t have been able to pass it up. So what changed?
One of my best friends and I took part in the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge with Frugally Sustainable in January. As New York natives working in the public/non-profit sector and watching prices rise astronomically, we are always worried about our finances.
My final stop was The Yarn Company. I’ve done a fair amount of browsing in the shop since it came under new ownership and the vibe is much better than it was in the past. Other than a few skeins of sale yarn that I bought when ownership switched over, I had never found the “right” yarn for me when visiting. It is in my neighborhood and I appreciate the work the new owners have put into rebuilding the store’s reputation, so I decided to stop by during the Yarn Crawl. And I wasn’t disappointed when I found this lovely skein of Miss BabsYowza-Whatta Skein! in Violets in the Grass.
Don't be fooled. This skein is 560 yards.
I have ideas for these yarns, but honestly, I almost never make exactly what I planned when I’m buying the yarn! (Does this happen to anyone else?) By the time I get through the things I’m making now and the projects I have deadlines for, I’ll be interested in making other things. At least now that I started using Ravelry’s stash feature (thanks to this tutorial from FreshStitches), I can easily scan my stash before starting a new project.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been really trying to reduce my yarn stash this year. But, you also know that I find giveaways very hard to resist – and I’m kinda lucky.
So when I saw this giveaway on Robyn Chachula‘s blog, I had to enter. In my defense, it wasn’t clear exactly how much yarn would be in each of the five goodie bags Robyn was assembling. Even after winning, I was blissfully ignorant for the next few days.
And then, this arrived.
And when I opened it, this is what I saw.
I may have lost consciousness for a few seconds. But then I came to and took some more pictures. Here’s what I found inside the box:
A notions case - I’ve been using this to store all the goodies for the socks I’m making for the Ravellenic Games. It is the only one I have long enough to fit the size 1 double pointed needle I’ll be using as a cable needle.
A circular Susan Bates Velocity knitting needle – This looks like just the right size for subway knitting.
Thanks, Robyn, for sharing all of these wonderful goodies with me! It certainly didn’t help with my stashbusting efforts, but I’m thrilled nonetheless.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sharon: I always liked arts and crafts. When I was little, I used to make mosaics from kits, do paint-by-number, and make what we used to call “horse rein”–I think the device is called a “Knitting Nancy” or something like that. My mother taught me to knit, which I didn’t do very well, then she taught me to crochet when I was 7 or 8. I loved it from the beginning.
Sharon: I often made up my own patterns for home decor and accessories, but never considered myself a designer. For my first crochet title,Basic Crocheting, I needed a sweater pattern. I hired a designer to provide one, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I thought to myself, “Well, you’ve made so many sweaters over the years from other people’s patterns, how hard can it be to come up with one yourself?” I developed a chevron sweater pattern that was easy to scale up to various sizes. It had some simple shaping so it fit well. It was at that point that I started to think of myself as a designer.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sharon: Inspiration is everywhere! I get ideas from nature, architecture, artwork, furniture, fashion…and sometimes from what’s missing in my closet. You know the scene in The Sound of Music where Maria looks at the draperies and thinks, “Play clothes!”? Sometimes it’s like that for me. I see the colors in a flower or the shape of a cabinet pull, and I can picture a crocheted item based on that. I often feel like a crochet engineer.
My esthetic at home leans toward the Japanese style, with clean lines, a few carefully chosen embellishments, and a minimum of clutter. I appreciate subtlety in design, which I suppose is why in variegated yarns I prefer ones that change slowly around a strong central color rather than the more rainbow-y colorways.
UC: Your newest book, Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques includes scarf patterns using crochet, Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, and filet crochet. You also work with some unusual yarns (such as a woven yarn). What was the design process like for this book?
Sharon: My overall goal was for crocheters to have an excellent experience with the book, and to find interesting patterns they could successfully complete and would be proud to wear or to give as gifts. I wanted to make sure that newer crocheters would find friendly patterns and would be comfortable enough to extend their skills, and that experienced crocheters would find fun and intriguing designs to hold their attention.
Within that framework, I had several design goals for the book. The scarves had to be variety of shapes, textures, colors, and techniques. There are skinny scarves, chunky scarves, a shaped collar, a turtleneck cowl, solid colors, variegated colors, stripes…some are for warmth while others are purely for fashion.
I wanted to introduce crocheters to some wonderful hand-dyed yarns, like those from Space Cadet Creations and from Kangaroo Dyer. I also use some high-quality mass-produced yarns. Price can be a consideration, even for something like a scarf that does not use a tremendous amount of yarn, and I kept that in mind when I was sourcing the yarns.
Woven yarn is one of those products that seems impossible to figure out at first glance. I kept looking at the knitted sample in the yarn store, and realized that if you can knit with it, you can crochet with it, too. The funny thing about that yarn is when non-yarn folks see your creations, they gasp, “You MADE that?” They think you made the yarn itself! It’s actually quite easy to work with, so I included a scarf that uses woven yarn to create a beautiful ruffle.
As for the variety of techniques, my Tunisian Crochet book got a lot of interest so there is definitely a need for more Tunisian patterns. Seven of the twenty-one scarves in the new book are Tunisian crochet. I’ve been intrigued with broomstick lace for a while, so I included one broomstick lace design. Filet crochet is another technique that I think everyone should try. The right filet crochet design makes a gorgeous garment–it’s not just for tablecloths and doilies.
UC: You have a lot of step-by-step photos and picture tutorials in the book. Tell use about your decision to include those.
Sharon: Ideally, I would be able to look over your shoulder while you crochet so I could answer questions and offer guidance. “Put the hook here, not there.” “Remember, in Tunisian crochet you don’t turn the work.” “Pull the fringe through from the right side.” Since I can’t be there in person, I want the written instructions, technique photos, and charts to be my surrogate. I try to anticipate where a crocheter might get tripped up, and insert a photo to clarify things.
It takes a lot of time and planning to think all of that through and to get the step-outs ready. Alan Wycheck, the book’s photographer, is terrific at capturing motion in still photos.
This is the first book in which I’ve included symbol charts. A lot of people are visual learners who appreciate charts to supplement written instructions. I responded to this need by developing the charts.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including writer, designer, writer, teacher, and TV star. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Sharon: Ha ha, TV star! I don’t think that three appearances on HGTV‘s Uncommon Threadsqualifies me for that title, but maybe I’ll make your compliment come true one day!
My advice for aspiring professionals:
Get organized. Find a way to keep track of your work, your proposals, your finances.
Hone your crocheting and your pattern-writing skills. Take classes. Attend conferences. Study magazines and books to learn the proper format. It is ESSENTIAL to write your patterns as you go along, not to try to figure out what you did when the item is all finished. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to crochet something to completion and not take the time to write down the row-by-row instructions, but that is the path to pattern doom.
Have your patterns edited and tested. You can start by asking friends do this for you. Remember that making something and writing the instructions for someone else to make it are two very different skill sets. Don’t assume that everyone using your pattern will know what you do–make the instructions complete.
Take advantage of the resources available to you, including the Crochet Guild of America, Ravelry, books, and websites. (UC comment: I have to second Sharon on this one. I had a wonderful mentor, Mary Nolfi, through CGOA’s mentoring program.)
Assess your skills and potential realistically. If you are fantastic at making things but hate writing patterns, maybe you are better off selling your finished items than doing design. Just because you love crocheting, doesn’t mean you can make a living at it. But that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: many designers have family responsibilities and/or other work to supplement their crochet business. There’s nothing wrong with having a hobby that earns you a few extra dollars now and then.
Be professional and respectful. When approaching people in industry, be it designers, editors, or yarn company representatives, keep in mind that their time is their most precious resource. Don’t ask them to create your business plan. Don’t ask them how to get started–it’s your job to figure that out. Book and magazine publishers have guidelines that potential contributors must follow. Research those before you approach an editor with a submission, and make sure you follow their procedures. That said, most people in the industry are happy to help. Ask a specific question rather than an open-ended one, and you will most likely get a useful answer. Follow up with a thank-you when you get a response.
ALWAYS respond calmly and constructively to a question or criticism, even if the person asking is completely off-base. Keep any indignation and sarcastic thoughts to yourself! I’ve had someone complain about a book because she was disappointed that it didn’t contain a design for a purse…when in fact there is a pattern for a clutch! (Maybe she didn’t realize that a “clutch” is a kind of purse…?) You can’t get too worked up about stuff like that. Be gracious if someone finds a mistake in your work, and correct the error immediately. Keep things professional, not personal.
Keep track of your expenses as well as your income. It may feel exciting to be offered $300 for a pattern, but that has to be examined in the context of what you spent–including your time. If you paid $40 for yarn, $10 on shipping, 30 hours crocheting and writing up the pattern, and $25 to a friend to test it, $300 of income might not seem so great.
(UC comment: Wow, thanks, Sharon, for being so generous with your advice. Many newbies have to find out these things the hard way!)
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Sharon: StitchDiva has excellent patterns and online tutorials in several techniques including Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, and hairpin lace. NexStitch also has very helpful videos. Everyone should check out Craftsy. And your blog and others like it are wonderful resources for crocheters! (UC comment: Aww, thanks, Sharon!)
UC: What are you up to next?
Sharon: During the next few months I’ll be doing the blog book tour for Crochet Scarves. I’ll be at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC–in person!–on October 4 for a talk and book-signing. Anyone who is interested in the event should sign up on the Studio’s mailing list.
I’m currently evaluating my short- and long-term business plans. With so many free patterns available, it’s important to consider whether selling patterns is a viable long-term proposition. In the meantime, I have several book and leaflet ideas that I’m working on. Some of my patterns have been chosen by a yarn shop owner who is packaging them into kits–I hope that venture is successful. I’ll share more about that when her business is up and running.
I’m also in discussions with interior designers who are interested in high-end custom crochet pieces for their clients.
I love to teach (especially Tunisian crochet) and am open to invitations from any group or shop that wants to host!
Most of all, I want to express my appreciation to people who use my patterns. I enjoy hearing from them and hope they will share pictures of their work.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Sharon, and for sharing your advice with us!
The Book Review
Although I generally prefer “technique books” to “pattern books,” I was eager to check out my review copy of Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques from Stackpole Books. On the surface, this seems like it would be a straightforward book of scarf patterns. Instead, it is chock full of step-by-step tutorials and lessons for different crochet techniques.
The book includes 21 scarf patterns. The patterns use Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, filet crochet, and “standard” crochet techniques like increasing and decreasing, bobbles, and post stitches. The patterns includes a range of skill levels (4 easy, 11 intermediate, and 6 experienced). Each pattern is introduced briefly, shown in a photograph (usually on a mannequin), and then presented as a pattern. Even the simpler patterns include several photographs of the stitches being worked, and the more complicated patterns include several pages of step-by-step photos. The progress pictures are presented before the pattern instructions, which are shown using both U.S. crochet terminology and international stitch symbols.
Although all of the patterns are for scarves, Sharon manages to keep the styles diverse enough to hold your attention. My favorite patterns are Accordian Arrows, Changing Tides, Diamond Loop, Grecian Ladders, Premium Cable (which includes a great tutorial on Tunisian cables), Monet’s Village, and Sea Splash. This is a book that you can definitely grow with, as there are plenty of techniques and stitches to learn. There is even a Techniques section in the back which includes step-by-step photos of all the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches, as well as tips on pattern reading. At the end of the book, there is a small photo of each pattern with the corresponding page number, so it is easy to find your favorites.
There are a few things that could be improved. The book is a paperback, and, like most paperbacks, doesn’t lay flat when open. This makes it challenging to read along or look at the step-by-step photos while crocheting. The projects are shown on mannequins and against neutral backgrounds, but it would be helpful (and more attractive) to see the scarves on people. Finally, I don’t agree that the Cactus Lace broomstick lace pattern is at the experienced skill level. I think that designation may scare off a relative newbie to crochet, when broomstick lace is actually quite simple (especially with Sharon’s step-by-step photos).
Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for beginner and intermediate crocheters who want to make relatively simple projects while also learning new skills. An adventurous newbie who learns well from photographs could use this book to learn to crochet. And, of course, if you like making scarves, this is definitely the book for you.
The nice folks at Stackpole Books have been generous enough to donate a second copy of Crochet Scarvesfor this giveaway, so I get to keep my review copy :). This giveaway is open to all readers. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, July 19, 2012.
Leave a comment telling me about your crochet scarf experience. Do you like to make scarves for yourself or for gifts, or are you new to crocheting scarves?
Last year, I (briefly) met Tatyana at the Crochet Master Classbook signing at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. I had the choice of taking her Bruges crochet class or a woven crochet class with Jenny King, who was visiting from Australia. I knew that Tatyana also teaches at Knit-A-Way, the LYS around the corner from my Dad’s apartment, so I decided to take the class with Jenny. Recently, my work schedule seemed to match the Knit-A-Way class schedule, so I called the shop to sign up for the class. After several conversations about the time and dates with the owner (more about her in this post), I started what has turned out to be a series of private lessons with Tatyana (!) last week.
It’s been a great experience to interact with Tatyana as a student. I try to see take a class with another teacher at least once a year (more about why here), and Tatyana is truly a master teacher as well as a master designer. She brought so many amazing pieces of her Bruges crochet work with her, and I was incredibly inspired.
I assumed the shop required me to buy yarn there and I got a bit overwhelmed when I entered the shop five minutes before class. (I’ve been on a yarn diet for so much of this year that I now feel that every yarn purchase needs hours of contemplation!) I wanted to buy a natural fiber that didn’t require winding so I could start crocheting right away. I ended up getting a skein of Lamb’s Pride Worsted from the Brown Sheep Company. I’ve never used their yarns but I’ve heard a lot of positive things. On the shelf, it appeared to be more of a lilac color, but it magically transformed into pink once I sat down with Tatyana. (Ok, the colorway is called Victorian Pink. But I didn’t notice that on the label when I bought it!) The yarn itself is lovely, but I should have purchased a lighter weight yarn so the lacy aspect of Bruges crochet would be more evident.
I actually didn’t need much yarn for this first class anyway, as Tatyana brought several samples of partially completed “tape” that she showed me how to join. My homework is to make my own samples of the Bruges crochet curve, square, and oval, and then to create the “tape” for specific lengths that will transform into the circle and the wave pattern in the next class. I’m now on the lookout for something lighter weight to use for the samples and in the next class. Does this mean I get to go yarn shopping again??
(Side note: My dad’s family love the “Jankees,” but I excuse that because they arrived as baseball fans from Cuba after the Dodgers left Brooklyn but before the Mets were created.)
Flash forward to my high school years, which were spent as a scholarship student in an artsy private school. Talking about baseball was not going to make me any friends there, and soon enough I developed other interests anyway. As an adult, I never really got back into professional sports fandom, but I still have a cozy corner in my heart for the Mets, who I followed religiously throughout the 1986 championship season.
Last year, I wasn’t able to attend the game since it was on a weeknight and I had to work late. So I was really excited when I found out that this year’s game will be on Sunday. Apparently, it will even be nationally televised!
Yesterday, I picked up tickets for me and my two craft buddies from the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. Since we reserved the tickets early, we also got awesome freebies – Lion Brand tape measures on keychains. (Does this mean I can no longer avoid making a sweater by saying I can’t take accurate measurements??) I also found out that John Franco will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame before the game. Add that to the yarn marketplace, and it sounds like a great night will be had by all. Now all I need to do is figure out what project to bring with me!
I first became aware of egg-shaped, ergonomic crochet hook handles some time last year while visiting the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. If you knew me in real life, you would know that I’m somewhat… cheap. I saw this ergonomic crochet hook set and my first thought was, “$24! But I already have tons of crochet hooks at home!” The set had a bizarre effect on me though, and after going home my mind kept returning to the hook handles.
My two best friends were nice enough to hook me up (pun intended) with my very own Eleggant Hook set for my birthday, and I later purchased some additional hook sizes. (I should mention that it was cheaper to order the specific sizes and parts I wanted and to have it shipped to the U.S. than it was to buy the pre-packaged set with sizes I don’t really use. This is how I convinced my cheap inner self to order the additional hooks.)
So today I present to you my reviews of both ergonomic, egg shaped hook handles.
The Boye kit includes a hook handle of indeterminate material (my guess is rubber or plastic) which can twist off to open, as well as 8 “washers” to fit various sizes of crochet hooks. The retail prices is $7.99. Hooks are not included.
The Eleggant kit includes a wooden handle with metal adjustor, six modified crochet hooks (steel hooks in sizes 1.25 mm, 1.75 mm, and 2.25 mm, and aluminum hooks in sizes 3.5 mm/E, 5.0 mm/H, and 6.0 mm/J), and o-rings. The retail price is $24.99CAD. Alternatively, you can customize your own set by purchasing the handle ($15.00CAD), o-rings ($1.00CAD/10), and modified hooks in your favorite sizes ($1.50CAD – $1.75CAD each).
The verdict: The Boye kit seems less expensive, but it doesn’t include any hooks. If you add the cost of hooks, then the prices are actually quite similar.
How it works
With the Boye kit, you attach plastic washers to each crochet hook. The washers are a bit tough to get on because they are made to fit quite snug. The washers are color coded so you have to examine the little color chart to figure out which washer goes onto what size hook. After the washer is on the hook, you twist the hook handle open, insert the hook, and then twist the handle to close. It takes some practice to position the washer properly so that the hook isn’t jiggling around in the handle. A downside to this system was that once I put the washers on to my existing hooks, I didn’t have much interest in removing them. They were really tough to get off around the point of the hook. Since I was using my regular crochet hooks with this handle and there are certain types of stitches (e.g., the bullion stitch) that are difficult to work with the egg-shaped handle, the end result was that I have been using my Boye hooks less.
With the Eleggant hooks kit, you attach o-rings to the base of the modified crochet hooks. Then you use the metal adjustor to tighten the handle around the hook. I found these easier to use and since I have a dedicated set of modified hooks for the handle, I can pick it up whenever I feel like using an ergonomic egg-shaped hook without any impact on my other crochet tools.
The verdict: The Boye handle often leaves the hook jiggling around inside unless you place the washer very precisely. The Eleggant hook handle occasionally snags the yarn at the join between the o-rings and the adjustor. (This may be because I tend to move my stitches further down on the hook than other people when crocheting.) Overal, I found the Eleggant hook handle easier to use and it feels more sturdy and snug than the Boye hook handle.
Feel: The Eleggant hook handle is made of wood and feels much better on the hands. The Boye hook handle was almost instantly covered with cat fur and dust, and requires frequent washing. Also, it tends to get “sweaty” when it is warm.
Durability: Again, I’d have to go with the Eleggant kit. It looks and feels much more sturdy than the Boye handle and washers.
Ease of use: Honestly, crocheting with an egg-shaped handle takes a bit of getting used to. With both handles, you would need some practice to get comfortable.
Customer support: The folks at Magique Enterprises are nice enough to share a video explaining how to use the Eleggant hook on YouTube.
Hook selection: Both sets are made to work with the Boye style hooks. But what if you prefer the shape of point and throat of another brand of crochet hooks? According to reviews that I’ve read online, the Boye kit can be used with Susan Bates hooks even though they are not the same length as Boye hooks. If you want to use a different type of hook with the Eleggant handle, you will definitely need access to tools which can precisely cut metal. (I didn’t test this out myself because my only aluminum hooks at home are the Boye brand, which I prefer.)
Finding the right size hook: The Boye kit has color coded washers and if your Boye hooks are also color coded, that you can probably easily find the right size. The washer, when positioned correctly, will probably cover the size information on the hook handle though. As for the Eleggant kit, supposedly the hook size is etched into each hook. When looking through mine, however, I’ve found that two don’t have the size etched into the modified hook.
The verdict: Overall, I prefer the Eleggant hook handle. It feels sturdier, fits the hook more snug, and is smaller to hold in your palm. In fact, soon after the second time that I washed my Boye hook handle, I gave up on using it. Since I live with a cat, there is just no way that it can stay clean. However, if you really need more access to a broader range of hooks, you may want to consider the Boye handle.
Needlecrafts, handmade creativity, and other good stuff