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Laurinda Reddig‘s ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan is a booklet containing tutorials and patterns for beginning crocheters. The subtitle of the booklet, “A Complete Class to Learn Crochet Including 4 Easy Baby Blankets & a Hat,” clarifies its purpose. Laurinda published this 74 page booklet in 2012 using CreateSpace, and it is available in both right-handed and left-handed editions. Although it is a paperback, you can probably press it flat without much effort (though I haven’t tried it) if you want to crochet and read at the same time.
The booklet opens with a two page introduction. If you are familiar with Laurinda’s blog, you may already know about her daughter Rowan, and this booklet is dedicated to her memory. The introduction shares some of Laurinda’s experiences and talks about how she used crochet to heal. The next section, How to Use This Book, explains the formatting.
Chapter One: Getting Started includes information about yarn and tools. Laurinda then moves on to tutorials for making a slip knot, holding your hook, yarning over, chaining, working into the chain and into stitches, finishing off, and gauge. Laurinda includes an explanatory paragraph along with process photos with brief notes for each new skill. The photos are clear and the print quality is good. The booklet uses a matte rather than glossy paper, but there aren’t any bleeds through from the other side of the page. One point of confusion is that Laurinda stresses the importance of using the thumb rest for a beginner, but also uses a hand carved hook with no thumb rest for all of the booklet’s photos.
The booklet then moves on to Chapter Two: Basic Stitches, which includes 4 square patterns and the Lovely Lilly Blanket pattern, alongside tutorials for the single, double, and half double crochet stitches, along with two versions of a double crochet shell stitch. Laurinda’s pattern formatting is very consistent, and whenever a new stitch is introduced throughout the booklet, it is first written out in italics (with the U.S. pattern abbreviation in parenthesis) along with a reference to the tutorial. In other books, I’ve seen the tutorials precede the projects, but since her formatting is so consistent and the tutorial is generally on the next page, this isn’t a major downside.
In Chapter Three: Combining Stitches, Laurinda includes 4 square patterns, 5 tutorials, and the Treya’s Treasure Blanket pattern. Chapter Four: Easy as XYZ also has 4 square patterns and 5 tutorials, along with the Rey of Sunshine Blanket pattern. Chapter Five: Textured Stitches, has 4 square patterns, 6 tutorials, and the Daring Dorian Blanket pattern.
Chapter Six: Putting It All Together goes through all of the steps needed for finishing a blanket made from squares, including blocking and joining, with tutorials for both single crochet and whip stitch joins. (You can see completed versions of the sampler blanket here on Ravelry.) Chapter Seven: Working in the Round explores the technique of crocheting in the round because, “A class in Learning to Crochet would not be complete without learning the basics of how to Crochet in the Round.” Rather than just show how to crochet the blanket edging in the round, Laurinda includes a full tutorial with an additional pattern, the Simple Newborn Hat with Flower. She shares tutorials on both working into a chain circle or ring, and the magic loop. Laurinda’s magic loop method is new to me, but she has been teaching it for over a decade. She also includes a final tutorial for decreasing.
The booklet ends with three appendices which include a glossary of U.S. and U.K. pattern abbreviations, online resources for crocheters, and an index of stitches and tutorials.
Laurinda’s booklet illustrates perfectly the advantages and challenges of reading self-published craft books. As a reader, you are wrapped in Laurinda’s “voice.” Her unique take on crochet is evident on every page, through her chatty, conversational tone; the information she shares about her personal life; her layout; and even in the photographs, where you can see that she enjoys using hand carved hooks. Unlike reading a typical mass market crochet book, you feel as though you are spending time with Laurinda (in a class or charity crochet group) while reading. On the other hand, a more conventional layout where tutorials preceded the patterns might have benefitted some readers. Although the book is both copy and tech edited, there are some unconventional uses of capitalizations and grammar. Additionally, while in general the photos are clear and the printing quality is surprisingly good, the process photos may have benefitted from a light colored or white background, and some of the project photos (taken by sample makers/testers) are not as clear or neatly styled as those you would normally see in a book.
As a crochet teacher myself, I’m a big fan of using samplers for teaching, and I think this booklet fills in the gaps for self- or internet-taught crocheters by sharing many tips and tricks along with the patterns and tutorials. Overall, I would recommend this booklet to newish crocheters looking to expand their skills (or, crocheters returning to pattern reading after a long absence). It would also be a good booklet for crochet teachers working with beginners, since there are alternative explanations and interesting beginner projects. A group that does charity crochet for babies might enjoy using this booklet also, as the patterns are designed with babies in mind and don’t have many holes that fingers can get caught in. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars for those audiences.