Tag Archives: ultimate beginner’s guide to tunisian crochet

Book Review: Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet by Sheryl Thies

My regular readers know that I’m a lover of Tunisian crochet.  I recently finished reading an ebook copy of Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet: Learn How with 13 Projects by Sheryl Thies from Martingale, and I’m sharing the review today.  (Sheryl’s second Tunisian crochet book with Martingale, Tunisian Crochet Encore, was published this spring.)

Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet

In Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet, Sheryl Thies takes an interesting approach to the craft.  The other beginner Tunisian crochet books I’ve recently read (Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, reviewed here, and Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet, reviewed here) are written by (primarily) crochet designers.  When Sheryl wrote the book, she was primarily a knitting designer and it’s interesting to see how that lens impacted her writing.

Get Hooked opens with a brief history of the craft (which, like most crochet histories, has gaps) and then moves onto an overview of different hooks.  Then there is a written and illustrated tutorial of Tunisian crochet basics.  As someone who learns best through reading, I found Sheryl’s detailed explanations of each stitch very helpful.  My regular readers know that I personally find line illustrations useless for learning crochet techniques – my brain just doesn’t work that way.  I can imagine that the lack of photo tutorials might make this book challenging for a true newbie who learns best through images.

Sheryl includes a troubleshooting chart right in this section, with causes and fixes to common beginner Tunisian crochet issues, and I applaud her for not burying that critical information in the appendices.  Similarly, Sheryl includes information on increasing and decreasing and color changes right up front, rather than hiding it in the appendices.  This formatting decision makes the book very beginner friendly, as you can see immediately what instructions are available to you while reading through the book.

Sheryl then dedicates a few pages to a discussion of gauge and blocking.  I think her background as a knitting designer influenced her to emphasize blocking, which is generally discussed minimally in crochet books.  For Tunisian crochet, which tends to curl, blocking can truly transform a project so it is great to see it discussed right up front.  (Actually blocking instructions are in an appendix, however.)

Button Down pattern.
Sheryl’s Button Down pillow cover pattern.

 

The book then dives into the patterns.  I count 17, while the book subtitle lists 13.  There are a few patterns with multiple components (i.e., a pullover with matching handwarmers) that could be completed separately, which accounts for the difference.

Pattern difficulty:

  • 1 beginner pattern,
  • 10 easy patterns, and
  • 6 intermediate patterns.

Project types:

  • 8 home decor projects, including 3 pillow covers, 2 bags, a blanket, placemats, and coasters,
  • 6 accessories projects, including 4 shawls/wraps, a scarf, and a pair of handwarmers, and
  • 3 women’s garments, including a cardigan, pullover, and jacket.
Sheryl's Rogue Ribs unisex scarf pattern.
Sheryl’s Rogue Ribs unisex scarf pattern.

All of the home decor patterns use medium weight yarns, and the accessories and garment designs feature several weights (mostly lighter than medium weight).  There is a diverse mix of yarns including some large brands and smaller, independent companies.  Again, I think Sheryl’s background as a knitting designer made her (and her publisher, and the yarn companies) more open to including lighter weight yarns.

My favorite patterns are the Button Down pillow cover, the Motivated Heretic entrelac shawl, and the Rogue Ribs scarf.  While Sheryl includes a range of pattern difficulty levels, the projects are beginner friendly.  Most have minimal shaping, and for the entrelac project, she uses one, multi-color yarn rather than have beginners using many different skeins.  Even the garments use simple construction techniques.

The book ends with appendices which discuss finishing (seaming, blocking, and adding “regular” crochet edges); charts for yarn and hook sizes, metric conversions, and pattern skill levels; and a list of materials resources.

Sheryl's Motivated Heretic entrelac shawl pattern.
Sheryl’s Motivated Heretic entrelac shawl pattern.

Like many books which include techniques and patterns, your enjoyment of the book will be improved if you like the patterns and are enthusiastic about learning the techniques by crocheting them.  (Ravelry members can see all of the patterns from the book here.)  While the book does include technical information about Tunisian crochet which would be helpful to a newbie, it may not be enough to let the book stand alone if you don’t find some patterns that you enjoy.  I recommend this book to new Tunisian crocheters, particularly those who enjoy working with lighter weight yarns, who enjoy learning the background details (the “whys”) of different techniques, and who learn from reading rather than primarily visually.  If you are an experienced Tunisian crocheter, you should take a look through the patterns to decide whether this book may be right for your style.

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet by Sheryl Thies was provided by Martingale. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Giveaway

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

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

To enter:

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

Good luck!

Interview with Kim Guzman, a.k.a. CrochetKim

I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today.  As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowskitunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years.  (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)

Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business.  Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.

You can find Kim online through her main website (which links to her Crochet Kim/free pattern website and her Kimane Designs/self-published pattern website) and her blog, WIPs ‘n Chains.  Kim’s free videos can be found on her YouTube page and on the website of the new crochet magazine, Crochet 1-2-3 here.  She also teaches online classes at Annie’s and Crochetville.  Kim is also on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Ravelry (as crochetkim, in her group, and on her designer page).  All pictures are used with Kim’s permission and, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Kim Guzman.

 

Kim Guzman.

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

Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.

 

Sunday Best Sweater, one of Kim's self-published designs.

UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?

Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.

 

 

Kansas City Cowl. Photo (c) Caron.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.

 

Lacy Bobbles Scarf and Wristlets. Photo (c) DRG Publishing (Annie's).

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.

 

 

Cabled Mitts from the Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Tunisian Crochet. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

UC: Your four latest books, the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, Tunisian Cables to CrochetShort Row Tunisian Fashion, and the forthcoming Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide, all focus on Tunisian crochet. What was the design process like for these books?

Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.

For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out.  (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies!  You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here.  Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Dublin Owl Hat and Mitts from Tunisian Cables to Crochet. Photo (c) Annie's.

For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide.  (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.)  When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Sapphire Wrap from Short Row Tunisian Fashion. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.

 

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

Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.

 

 

Luna Sweater. Photo (c) Interweave.

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

Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?

Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.

  • Yahoo Mail. Yep, always there.
  • Yahoo Groups. I’m a moderator of the Tunisian Crochet group, so I always have that up.
  • Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps. ;-)
  • Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
  • Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
  • Pinterest. Oh, the crochet pretties!
  • Tweetdeck: I like to stalk my friends. :-)

 

Laced Cables, a pattern from Kim's online Tunisian Cables and Lace class at Annie's. Photo (c) Annie's.

 

UC: You’ve been teaching online for years.  Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher. 

Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.

I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.

 

Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!

2012 Year in Review: Book Reviews

One of my favorite bloggy things to do is review craft books.  With so many books out there, it can be tough to pick out new ones for your collection.  Today I’m sharing a roundup of my 2012 crafty book reviews, just in case you are expecting to go book shopping with any extra holiday money :).

 

Crochet Books

100 Snowflakes to Crochet, reviewed on the CGOA blog here with author interview here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

101 Crochet Stitch Patterns & Edgings, reviewed here.

 

Bead Crochet Jewelry, reviewed here.

 

Crochet 101, reviewed here.

 

Crochet Boutique, reviewed here.

 

Crochet Scarves, reviewed here.

 

Crocheted Granny Squares, reviewed here.

 

Custom Crocheted Sweaters, reviewed here.

 

Granny Square Crochet, reviewed on the CGOA blog here with author interview here.

 

Happy Cute, reviewed here.

 

Heart’s Delight Baby Layettes, reviewed on the Stitch and Unwind blog here.

 

Long-Legged Friends, reviewed here.

 

Simple Crocheting, reviewed here.

 

Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, reviewed on the CGOA blog here.

 

Voodoo Maggie’s Adorable Amigurumi, reviewed here.

Knitting Books

30 Min-Knits, reviewed here.

All You Knit is Love, reviewed here.

Cast On, Bind Off, reviewed here.

Fearless Fair Isle Knitting, reviewed here.

Gothic Knits, reviewed here.

Knitting: Colour, Structure and Design, reviewed here.

Knitting Brioche-Stitch Socks, reviewed here.

Knitting Never Felt Better, reviewed here.

Knitting with The Color Guys, reviewed here.

Knits for Nerds, reviewed here.

Modular Mix: 12 Knitted Mitered Squares to Mix & Match, reviewed here.

Quick-Knit Flower Frenzy, reviewed here.

Scarves, reviewed here.

Sweet Shawlettes, reviewed here.

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Color Knitting, reviewed here.

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume One: Knit & Purl, reviewed here.

Other Needlecrafts Books

Accessories: Autumne 2012, reviewed here.

The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, reviewed here.

Meet Me At Mike’s Crafty Journal, reviewed here.