Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Crocheting for Pleasure by Mildred Graves Ryan

VintageNPotW 400

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This week’s pick: Crocheting for Pleasure by Mildred Graves Ryan.

Source: Inherited from my grandmother’s collection.

Publication date: 1983 Book Club Edition.

Status: Out of print and widely available online.

Condition: The inside is in great shape but the dust jacket has seen better days.

Craft: Crochet.

Crocheting for Pleasure cover

This is one of my favorites in my vintage collection.  (I’ve previously reviewed it here.)  I was predisposed to love it because it belonged to my grandmother, but it also has incredibly clear illustrations, an extensive stitch guide, and a positive, creative attitude about crochet!

Crocheting for Pleasure author

The author, Mildred Graves Ryan, is clearly a pioneer (see bio above).  I couldn’t find anything recent about her online, but I did find this racy article about her testimony against using metric measurements.  And Marta Cone is obviously a master illustrator because normally, I can’t learn anything from crochet illustrations (unless they are in multiple colors).

Roll (bullion) stitch illustration by Marta Cone.
Roll (bullion) stitch illustration by Marta Cone.

The book starts with A Beginning for the Right-Handed, which goes through all of the basics, and is followed with Tips for the Left-Handed, which teaches the same information for lefties.  The next chapters, Materials to Choose, Tools to Use, and How to Interpret the Directions, help you prepare to crochet on your own.  After that, there’s advice on Choosing the Right Project, which includes a lot of information about fitting and finding a style that works for your body.  The next chapter, Vary the Basic Techniques, explores different ways to insert your hook as well as dimensional stitches like puffs and bobbles.  There is then a sizable stitch guide, Experiment with Stitch Patterns.

The book next explores specialty techniques in Styles and Types of Crochet.  Reading this section is what taught me broomstick lace.  (It was only later, after I had the basics down, that I checked out the StitchDiva videos.)

Illustrations by Marta Cone to accompany the broomstick lace instructions.
Illustrations by Marta Cone to accompany the broomstick lace instructions.

This book really covers all aspects of crochet, including most of the specialty techniques that are now coming back into fashion.

Hairpin lace illustrations by Marta Cone.
Hairpin lace illustrations by Marta Cone.

There’s even a section on Tunisian crochet which includes 11 stitch patterns.

The next chapters, Importance of Fit and Decorative Details, dive into all of the elements that really make your finished projects look fabulous, like checking gauge, blocking, construction techniques, finishing, and edges.  The final chapter, Crocheting for Everyone, is filled with project patterns, and is naturally the chapter that looks the most dated.

A cute baby set.
A cute baby set.

Sometimes, even when the projects seem classic, like this men’s cardigan, the photo styling shows the age quite a bit.

Crocheting for Pleasure man cardiganThe book is primarily illustrated with some black and white photos.  There is a color insert highlighting some of the project patterns.

Crocheting for Pleasure color fashions

As I mentioned, Ms. Graves Ryan has a refreshing attitude about crochet and its capabilities that is very contemporary.

But my favorite part of the book is the handwritten index card from my grandmother.

Crocheting for Pleasure Nan note

Apparently, leaving handwritten patterns in books is something passed down through generations in my family.  Now that I can knit, I should really try to find out what this index card makes!

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Laurel Hill Exotic Wood Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features exotic wood crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for two hooks, courtesy of Laurel Hill.

This post contains affiliate links.

After I (finally) learned to knit a few years back, my two best knitting pals bought me some really cool knitting needles for my birthday — two pairs of Laurel Hill square knitting needles, which I love to use for small projects.  These are some of my favorite needles, and I usually pack them when I’m teaching knitting.

At the same time, they bought me a Laurel Hill Nam Oc wood crochet hook.  Not too long after that, I won a Laurel Hill Tunisian crochet hook from a giveaway on Karen Ratto-Whooley’s blog.

My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.
My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.

I immediately loved the smooth and polished surface of the Laurel Hill Tunisian hook.  I’ve mentioned before that I find metal hooks quite uncomfortable for Tunisian crochet.  Like other wood hooks, these don’t experience the dramatic temperature changes of aluminum or steel crochet hooks, and they feel much gentler against the hands.  Both the standard and Tunisian crochet hooks from Laurel Hill are very smooth and don’t snag on your yarn.

But… I confess that when I first received the Nam Oc hook as a gift, I wasn’t really feeling it.  The neck is extremely tapered and, since I tend to hold my stitches quite low on the hook (closer to the thumb rest), I was having trouble getting an even tension.

A closer look at the shape of the Laurel Hill hooks.
A closer look at the shapes of the Laurel Hill giveaway hooks.

But then, when crocheting my way through the book Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters, I rediscovered the bullion stitch.  And that’s when I began to love tapered hooks.  If you’ve been struggling to get your hook through the many yarn overs in a bullion stitch, you will be thrilled to discover the exotic wood crochet hooks by Laurel Hill.  The rapidly tapered neck and the wide thumb rest allow you to keep those yarn overs loose so you can easily draw your hook through them to finish your bullion stitch.  By the way, if you’re looking for a good bullion stitch photo tutorial, I recommend Donna Kay Lacey‘s, available as a free Ravelry download.  (You can also check out my interview with her here.)

The Laurel Hill hooks are made from exotic woods that are sustainably produced.  The standard hooks are available in Nam Oc, Ebony, and Trai woods, while the Tunisian hooks are made from Forest Palm.  I’m no wood expert, and the feel across the types is very similar to me, though the Tunisian hooks seem to have a bit more glide (perhaps due to the finishing).  The different wood types each have a different color, which you might choose based on preference or for contrast with the yarn in your project.

I really love the Laurel Hill Tunisian hooks.  The distinctive color, smooth feel, and sharp point are perfect for medium sized, flat Tunisian crochet projects.  I also highly recommended the Laurel Hill exotic wood hooks for crocheters who love stitches where many loops are held on the hook, like bullions, puffs, or bobbles.

Both sets of hooks are affordable priced for wood hooks.  The Nam Oc and Trai hooks retail at $9, while the Ebony hooks retail at $10.  All three types are available in US sizes D through M (including the elusive size 7).  Laurel Hill also offers complete sets of each type of hook, as well as a “variety” set with a mix of Nam Oc, Trai, and Ebony hooks, which retails for $110.

The Tunisian Hooks are priced slightly higher, at $13 retail.  The Tunisian hooks are 10″ long and are available in US sizes D through N.

Full disclosure: Two free review samples of this product was provided by Laurel Hill. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This review post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

When I contacted the friendly people at Laurel Hill to tell them about my plans for reviewing their hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along two hooks – a Trai wood hook and a Tunisian crochet hook, both in US size I-9/5.5 mm – for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Laurel Hill prize packThis giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 30, 2013.  

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Year one finale in Bruges lace

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This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

I am having great fun with Bruges lace, which I’m learning from the master herself, Tatyana Mirer, in a three-week class at Knit-A-Way.  I’m the only person in the class at the moment, and it is a fabulous experience to spend the time with such an amazing teacher and designer.  Last week, I mentioned that I had bought a skein of Lamb’s Pride Worsted at the shop for the class, and it was more or less a disaster.  The yarn is actually quite nice, but it is really just not a good fit with Bruges lace swatches!

My Bruges lace square in Victorian Pink (which looked lavender to me when I bought it).

After the first class, I decided to use some Galler Yarns Parisian Cotton that I have on hand from some designs I have done for them.  I don’t use crochet cotton thread that often, but it is absolutely perfect for Bruges lace.  It was also just about the only yarn I cared to touch during the two days last week which were well over 95 degrees and extremely humid!

I should mention that I haven’t blocked any of these swatches.

A Bruges lace circle.

 

A Bruges lace curve.
A Bruges lace oval. I had a lot of fun with this one.
The first part of a Bruges lace wave.
A Bruges lace square in progress. I lost my trusty 00 crochet hook on the subway shortly thereafter :(.

My favorite technique was adding an insert to the Bruges lace square.  I see a lot of interesting possibilities for granny squares.

Bruges lace motifs are join-as-you-go, so I could avoid at least some of the yarn ends…

On Thursday, I’ll have the last class.  Tatyana will be showing me some tubular techniques, and I’ll also be starting the Sparkling Wave Scarf from The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.  I plan to make it as a holiday gift for my friend, OB, as part of my Holiday Stashdown Challenge.

I’m surprised that it has been almost a year since I joined in on the Year of Projects through the Come Blog-A-long group on Ravelry.  Even though I had been planning to work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters anyway, I had a wonderful time joining in with other crafty bloggers along the way!  Next Sunday, I’ll share my plans for year 2 of the Year of Projects (which I’m still formulating in my head).  You might want to join in, too!

This year, I had a chance to try out many techniques from Crochet Master Class that I had never used before, like hairpin lacesingle crochet entrelacpainted crochetfreeform, and Bruges lace.  I experimented a lot more with techniques I had used before, like woven crochetTunisian crochetfilet crochetdouble-ended crochetIrish crochet, and the bullion stitch.  I so wanted to be like Minding My Own Stitches, a YOP blogger who faithfully completed every project in one book.  Alas, I found that I wasn’t inspired to work with some of the techniques from the book.  And there are other techniques that I didn’t cover that I definitely want to return to, like overlay crochet and tapestry crochet.

I’m very grateful to harleagh from When Did I Become a Knitter for hatching up the idea of blogging through a book, and, of course, to Rita Weiss and the late Jean Leinhauser for compiling a collection that really inspired me to push myself creatively and to further develop my crochet techniques.  I look forward to more exploration in the next year!

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Interview with Donna Kay Lacey

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This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

I’m really excited to share an interview today with Donna Kay Lacey.  No, she isn’t featured in Crochet Master Class, but she is the designer I discovered while I was working on the bullion chapter in this book.  (You can find my experiments with her designs here.)

Donna Kay Lacey is an up-and-coming designer who has really embraced the bullion stitch in her work.  You can find her online at her website and blog, on Flickr, and on Ravelry (as donkyl06, on her designer page, and in her group, A New Twist: Creative Crochet Designs by Donna Kay Lacey).   The pictures in this post are used with her permission.

 

Donna Kay Lacey on Spring Break. (March, 2012 in the Smoky Mountains.)

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

Donna Kay Lacey (DKL): As a child, my love of crochet was sparked by the many hours I spent watching my Dear Aunt Joyce crochet baby blankets and booties for all of the babies born in our family, as well as all those born in the church. I was amazed at how one continuous length of yarn could be worked into something so beautiful. When I turned 16 and started working, I took my first paycheck and went to the craft store where a purchased yarn, a crochet hook and a how to book. I have been hooked ever since.

 

Donna Kay Lacey’s Valentine Hearts 10″ block pattern.

UC: When were you first introduced to the bullion stitch, and how did you come to work with it so often?
DKL: I have always been drawn to intricate stitches. My first glimpse of the bullion stitch was in an old crochet pattern book (circa 1940’s). At that time I did not have the courage to try it. Upon joining Ravelry, I found a few free-form groups where I again saw the bullion stitch. This sparked my interest and in my quest for something unique and interesting, I began experimenting with it.

 

Donna Kay Lacey’s Bloomin’ Bullions 9″ crochet block.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?
DKL: I join Ravery in Aug of 2011. The first group I joined was Vanna’s Choice Fan Club where I met Margaret MacInnis. This group participates in many swaps where afghan blocks are exchanged. After seeing some of my work, Margaret encouraged me to write out my designs. The first design I wrote out was Bloomin’ Bullions. The design process was really exciting, but there were times when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the testing/editing phase. All the hard work paid off and the thrill I got when I started seeing the blocks that others had made from my pattern was awesome! I love to see the joy and pride others have upon completing my patterns. Thanks to Ravelry, I can have direct communication with those working my patterns. I am not only available to help them if there are questions, but I get to hear stories and see photos of what their blocks are being used for. This is truly what inspires me to continue designing.

 

Donna Kay Lacey’s Bullion Tile crochet block pattern.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
DKL: My book collection is quite large and contains a large number of vintage pattern books. I love browsing through them. No matter how many times I look through them, there is always something new that catches my eye. Two of my favorite current books are Crochet Master Class by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss and Basic Crochet Stitches by Erika Knight. I am very fond of stitch dictionaries.  (UC comment: It looks like Donna Kay Lacey and I have similar taste in books!)

UC: Do you have any favorite crafty blogs or websites to share?
DKL: Most of my internet time is spent on Ravelry.

 

Donna Kay Lacey’s Spring Rolls crochet block, part of her Whimsical Wonderland Block-A-Month crochet-a-long.

UC: You host CALs in your Ravelry group, A New Twist. What suggestions do you have for emerging designers for actively engaging crocheters with their patterns?
DKL: Be unique. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box or to bend the ‘rules’ when designing. Always be available for questions or help along the way. I love inspiring people to try new things with their crochet. It is so much fun to see the excitement in them when they accomplish something new. Watching their crochet skills grow along with their enthusiasm of crochet is priceless.

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
DKL: I am inspired by everything around me. I truly see the world in yarn. I am currently working on a project involving vegetable inspired blocks. The first block I designed for this project was the Kale block. One day I stumbled upon a seed catalog and happened to see a sketch of a beautiful Kale plant and instantly wondered if I could duplicate its beauty in yarn.

Donna Kay Lacey’s Kale crochet block pattern, along with her inspiration.

It received such great acceptance that I started on the Artichoke Block.

Donna Kay Lacey’s Artichoke block, along with her inspiration.

 

UC: Do you have any news you’d like to share?
DKL: My first published design, Bullion Beach Blanket, will be in the Summer 2012 issue of Interweave Crochet. It is due to hit the newsstands June 12, 2012, but the preview can be found here. I was very excited because this was my first time to even submit a design to a magazine. I was thrilled when they accepted my submission!

Donna Kay Lacey’s Bullion Beach Blanket pattern. Photo (c) Harper Point/Interweave Crochet.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Donna!  It was a pleasure to interview you.  

If these patterns are inspiring you to learn the bullion stitch, check out Donna Kay Lacey’s bullion stitch photo tutorial or video tutorial.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Bullion stitch blocks finale

This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

I missed my YOP post last week (only the second time I’ve done that), and that was a real bummer.  But today I’m back with some more bullion stitch blocks!  These will be going to the Binky Patrol in Arizona by way of the Crochetlist April charity challenge.

This one was really fun.  I used the Granny’s Gone Bull-istic pattern by Donna Kay Lacey.  As you can probably tell, it’s a variation on the standard granny square patterns using bullions instead of double crochets.  She is a really inventive designer, and if you are at all interested in the bullion stitch, you should check out her tutorial, which is available as a free Ravelry download.  I think my bullions have become much more even as a result.

And, I decided this exploration of the bullion chapter wouldn’t be complete until I made a few squares by the featured crochet master, Bonnie Pierce.

This is her Amazing Grace pattern.

And this is her Katie’s Bliss pattern.

I had a lot of fun with these and I’m definitely going to be playing around more with the bullion stitch.  I can see why the freeform folks love it so much.

I’m up to 38 (!) six inch squares to donate, so I’m rushing off to make two more.  I figure since I’m this close to 40, I should just make two more before I mail out the box tomorrow.