Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Great Gifts for Yarncrafters

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Great Gifts for Yarncrafters

There are so many great gifts out there for yarncrafters that I hardly know where to begin.


Books are great gifts for yarncrafters, but with so many options out there, it can be hard to choose.


CRAFT magazine posted a Craft Kits gift guide for 2011.  Here are some of my favorites.

Double Drop Spindle Maple Wood Yarn Spinning Kit from Maine Woods Yarn & Fiber. (Image used with permission.)


Classes are so fun!  Not only can you learn new techniques and projects, but you get to meet more people who share your passion for knitting and crocheting.


Most yarncrafters are always on the look out for new (and more) yarn.  Buying yarn for someone else can be daunting though.

  • Look for tips for color and yarn weight in their Ravelry project pages.
  • Or pick up something unique, like a handspun or hand dyed yarn, or something that isn’t available in their community, like small batch yarn ordered online.
  • Check Ravelry’s Black Friday Yarn Sale thread in Needlework on the Net for weekend sales.
  • I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to some wonderful yarns from several small companies this year.  You may want to check out A Stash AddictBitsy Knits, or Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen.  Other yarns that I’ve admired from a distance but haven’t yet tried include Candy SkeinFunky Monkey, and Swoon Fibers.
Emerald Forest colorway from A Stash Addict.
  • A gift certificate to a LYS is another option, if you are worried about making the final decision yourself.
  • And, of course, I wrote about my favorite yarns here if you are still looking for ideas.

Hooks and Needles

Crochet hooks and/or knitting needles make great gifts, especially if you pick out something special.

Show Your Appreciation

Making things by hand is a labor of love.  Show your appreciation with a set of This Took Forever woven labels from Sublime Stitching and maybe you’ll get a homemade gift in return :).


Does your favorite yarncrafter have a wishlist?  I rely on the Add to Amazon Wishlist browser button to keep my wishlist organized in one spot.  (Hint: If you are a yarncrafter hoping people will get you awesome holiday gifts, maybe you should do that, too! You can even add patterns from Ravelry so that non-members can see them from the pattern purchase page.)

Enjoy the last gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite gifts for yarncrafters in the comments!

Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Handmade Gifts to Buy

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Handmade gifts to buy

If you’re more pressed for time than money this holiday season, you may want to buy a handmade gift.

CRAFT magazine has a series of Holiday Gift Guides for 2011 which include Gifts Under $20 and pet gifts.

Etsy is an online craft marketplace with many great holiday gifts.  If you are looking for sales, you can browse listings with Black Friday Etsy or Cyber Monday Etsy tags… but then you’d be wading through over 70,000 items.  You can try a curated approach by checking out treasuries posted by Etsy members with Black FridayCyber MondayWinter Gifts, Gifts for Her, or Gifts for Him tags.  Or, you can read the daily Etsy crochet treasuries by Kathryn at Crochet Concupiscence.  My local Etsy team, The {NewNew}, has even put together a series of holiday gift guides (for teachers, for teens, and for her).

Still overwhelmed?  Here’s my short list of holiday Etsy picks.

Perez Gillton Flounder Amigurumi from Cheezombie. (Image used with permission.)
Vintage Dad (any year) t-shirt from BRANDED. (Image used with permission.)
  • Unique and marvelous (more expensive) woodcrafts gifts for someone special can be found at rusticworker.
  • Bottlehood has great glassware and jewelry made from upcycled bottles.  They also offer gift certificates.  A variety of “eco-fabulous nifty gifties” for kids and adults are available from Ivy Lane Designs.
Recycled Dr. Pepper Juice Glasses from Bottlehood. (Image used with permission.)

Artfire is another online craft marketplace for handmade gifts, and you can view their Black Friday sales here.

Perhaps you prefer an in-person shopping experience.  CRAFT magazine’s list of events and the Sunshine Artist website are great resources for finding holiday craft fairs.  (My besties and I plan to wait until the last possible moment and then shop the Lyceum Holiday Market and Brooklyn Craft Central’s Holiday Market the Saturday before Christmas.)

Enjoy the second gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite handmade gifts to buy in the comments!

Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Handmade Gifts to Make

This post contains affiliate links.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Handmade gifts to make

This time of year, many crafters are using every spare moment to make holiday gifts for their loved ones.  Tracie Barrett‘s Gift Giving Guide on the Fibers by Tracie blog gives some great suggestions for quick-to-make holiday gifts and Fearless Leader recently posted a teaser for the Crochet Liberation Front‘s upcoming Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving.

My personal favorite last minute crochet gift projects are scarves made with bulky yarns (or multiple strands of yarn), hats, and cotton washcloths.

For scarves and washcloths, I turn to my stitch guides for inspiration.  Don’t have any stitch guides?

Not sure how many stitches to start with?  This post in my Crochet 101 CAL explains how to use your gauge to figure out how many stitches to start with if you want to make a project of a specific size.

Some of my holiday 2011 washcloths.

Hats make wonderful, quick holiday gifts.  Some of my favorite crochet hat patterns:

Stocking Caps. (Photo (c) House of White Birches.)

I just reviewed 60 More Quick Knits, which has some great knitted hat patterns, as well as patterns for mittens and scarfs.  My favorite crochet mitten pattern, amazingly available in 8 sizes from infant to XL adult, is Heart Strings by Cathy Pipinich.

Amigurumi can make a fun gift, too.

Filled with great gift ideas!

Speaking of books I haven’t had a chance to review yet, there are three great patterns in Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers by Linda Permann that would make speedy children’s gifts: Cozy Crawlers Leg Warmers (6 mo – 2 years, and available here as a free excerpt), Tiny Tee Appliques to add to store bought or hand sewn clothes, and Beanie and Bonnet (in baby, toddler, and child sizes).  (Beanie and Bonnet errata available here.)

handmade gift bag can be a wonderful addition to a handmade or store bought gift.  These bags can be also reused, unlike conventional wrapping paper, making them more eco-friendly.Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence has a great list of crochet patterns for bags in this blog post.  The Mel Stampz blog has a list of 50 templates and patterns for papercrafts gift bags.

Deborah Atkinson from Snowcatcher has excellent crochet patterns and tutorials in her Snowflake Monday posts.   (It would be great if you could contribute to her charity of choice, Bike MS, so that she can send you a PDF of her 20 most popular designs.)  These snowflakes would make great holiday decorations or embellishments for gifts.  Some of the patterns would also work well as a set of holiday coasters.

With all of this holiday crocheting and knitting, you may be running low on yarn.  So why not stop by your Local Yarn Shop to celebrate Small Business Saturday?  You can even register your American Express card in advance to get a $25 credit on your statement if you spend at least $25 at a small business on Saturday, November 26.  Your LYS employees are guaranteed to have some additional project ideas and maybe even a few new patterns or yarns for you try out.  (If you’ll be yarn shopping in NYC, check out my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops.)

If you aren’t in the mood for knitting, crocheting, or papercrafting, handmade food gifts are another option.  I like to make jar mixes:  I don’t exhaust myself with last minute baking, the mixes last longer and can be used after the holidays end, and the jars can be reused in the kitchen or for craft storage.  Nestle‘s Very Best Baking is a good site for finding classic gift recipes.  My favorite jar mixes to give are the classic Toll House cookies mix, the chewie brownie mix, and the hot cocoa mix.  For those who don’t like chocolate (and there are some of them out there), I like the pumpkin cranberry bread mix or the oatmeal chip cookie mix (substituting butterscotch chips, raisins, or craisins for the chocolate chips).  You can also check out the Best Cookie Mix in a Jar Recipes and Dry Soup Mix Recipes pages at Allrecipes.com for more ideas.  If you can’t find canning jars in your area, there are many online options for ordering these days.  Just remember that if you are shipping jar mixes, you need to be careful about packaging.

Enjoy the first gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite gifts to make in the comments!

Must-Have Beginner Crochet Books

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Just in time for the holidays, I decided to update my post on must-have beginner knitting resources with a crochet version.  I’ve been crocheting for 27 years and have been a Craft Yarn Council certified crochet instructor and teacher since 2008.  I’ve taught about 125 beginners to crochet since then, and my students often wonder which of the many books out there are actually worth owning.  Here’s my short list of beginner essentials.  (Tip: If you’re a beginner crocheter, you just might want to “accidentally” email this list to a loved one in time for holiday shopping.)

Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet is one of my favorites.  (I reviewed it here).  It has recently been revised and re-released with all new patterns. I can’t quite decide if it has been eclipsed by The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert, or not.  I think it is fair to say that either one of these books will be about as much crochet reference as you’ll need for quite a while.

Unlike the Encyclopedia, which relies primarily on illustrations to demonstrate techniques, the Complete Photo Guide, as the name suggests, uses step-by-step photos.  I think this gives it a slight edge over the Encyclopedia, as does its conventional size which allows it to fit on most bookshelves.  (The Encyclopedia is more of a “coffee table book.”)  However, if you are a lefty, you may give the edge to the Encyclopedia, which includes both right and left handed illustrations.

Once you have the basics down, I recommend that you pick up some project books to help you develop your skills and practice pattern reading.

Crochet Techniques by Renate Kirkpatrick features several great crocheted sampler “rugs” (a.k.a. blankets for the U.S readers).  (I reviewed it here.)  You will be able to learn new stitches and techniques while working towards a beautiful and useful project.  The format of the book allows for a lot of customization of the projects.

Hats are great crochet projects – portable, fast, useful, and easy to customize.  Get Your Crochet On! Hip Hats & Cool Caps by Afya Ibomu is my favorite hat book of all time.  The hats are well designed, the writing style is casual and fun, and you get to fantasize about having your hats worn by Erykah Badu and Common (two of the many great models in the book).  The best part is that the book is beginner friendly.  Another great thing about the book is that Afya isn’t a yarn snob and most of the samples are made with regular ole Red Heart Super Saver.  (The only difference of opinion I have with Afya is about the use of fabric glue for dealing with yarn ends.  I much prefer to weave them in.)

These days, you can’t talk about crochet without mentioning amigurumi.  I consider The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi by June Gilbank (a.k.a. Planet June) to be the definitive amigurumi guide.  It isn’t as attractive to look at as some of the full color books, but June clearly talks you through all of the techniques and details that make the difference between a great-looking project and, well, a not-so-great-looking project.  I generally avoid any book with Idiot or Dummy in the title, but this one is solid.  Although the book is mostly in black and white, the idea gallery includes color pictures of many projects.

I think granny squares are to crocheters what sweaters and socks are to knitters.  You can hardly be part of the “crochet culture” without at least giving motifs a try.  Beyond-the-Square Crochet Motifs: 144 circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and other unexpected shapes by Edie Eckman is just the book to indocrinate you, er, introduce you to motifs.  The introduction discusses all of the critical techniques for successful motifs including starting methods (sliding loop, slip knot, and chain ring), tips for joining and dealing with ends, gauge, increasing, and troubleshooting.  There is also a comprehensive overview of pattern reading using American abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The book features beautifully photographed motifs in several shapes (circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and “unusual shapes”).

What are your favorite beginner crochet books?

Book Review and Giveaway: 60 More Quick Knits

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Today I’m reviewing 60 More Quick Knits.  Sixth & Spring Books sent me a review copy and with all the stress around holiday crafting, it seemed very timely.  I’ll also be hosting a giveaway for my review copy, so read on for details!

Book Review

60 More Quick Knits: 20 Hats*20 Scarves*20 Mittens in Cascade 220 Sport is a sport-weight follow up to 60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats*20 Scarves*20 Mittens in Cascade 220.  As the name suggests, this is a “pattern only” book that emphasizes quick projects.  Overall, the layout and photographs are very attractive (just what I expect from Sixth & Spring’s books).   In keeping with the book’s “quick” theme, I’m providing a quick, snapshot review.


60 patterns using an inexpensive and easy to find (at least in the U.S.) yarn, Cascade 220 Sport.  Patterns are equally distributed between hats, scarves, and mittens.

Pattern difficulty

6 patterns (10%)
35 patterns (58%)
19 patterns (32%)

Conclusion: This book is geared towards an intermediate to experienced knitter.

(Main) Needle type

Circular needles: 16 projects total (27%) – 11 hats (55% of hats), 4 scarves (20% of scarves), 1 convertible cowl/hat

DPNs: 20 projects total (33%) – 17 mittens (85% of mittens), 1 scarf (5% of scarves), 2 hats (10% of hats)

Straight needles: 24 projects total (40%) – 15 scarves (75% of scarves), 5 hats (25% of hats), 3 mittens (15% of mittens), 1 hooded scarf

Conclusion: Comfort with DPNs is a must if you plan to make mittens from this book.  Other projects can be largely made with circs or straights (though many projects recommend DPNs after decreasing becomes difficult on circulars).

Favorite patterns

I was particularly taken with these patterns:

I-Cord Squiggle Scarf by Angela Juergens (photo copyright Angela Juergens, from Ravelry)


If you are an intermediate knitter looking for some quick holiday projects to make in sport weight yarn, this just might be the perfect book for you.  I enjoyed that all the projects are made with the same yarn – not only does it make the book visually consistent, but it also means that you can use stash remnants from larger projects to make smaller projects in the same book.

If you fear (or loathe) DPNs, you may want to look elsewhere for mitten patterns.  The book has no instructions and so isn’t suitable for a beginner.  There is a range of styles but obviously all of the projects are made with sport weight yarn, so if you prefer lighter or heavier weight yarn, this book may not be for you.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.


I’m too wrapped up in my own holiday crafting projects to take on anything new, so I’m passing along my review copy from Sixth & Spring Books to one lucky winner!  This giveaway is open to everyone.