A Challenge Accepted

YOP3 yarn

Life became rather too complex for me to do any work towards Year of Projects goals.  And, then, suddenly it was December.

Last year, I did a lot of advanced holiday crafting, and I even finished all of my gifts by mid-November.  This year, not so much.  When Thanksgiving rolled around last week, I realized I was in for some trouble and sat down to look at my handmade holiday list.

Amigurumi Nativity heads

I started this nativity set for my Mom at the end of May, using Carolyn Christmas‘s Amigurumi Nativity pattern.  Currently, I have six heads and I just bought fiber fill, pellets for the bases, and some safety eyes.

My mom also liked this hat I designed, and asked for one in black.  Luckily, I have just the yarn in my stash.

Mountain Colors Twizzle

A few weeks ago, I received this beautiful skein of Mountain Colors Twizzle in Swift Current from Mountain Colors to review.  I figured you can’t review a yarn without trying it out, and something about it said shawl to me.  On Friday, I picked up the delightful Shaping Shawls by Anna Dalvi (an awesome book, by the way) and decided to try my and at designing a simple knit crescent shawl for my younger sister.  It’s about two-thirds finished now.

Geaux SaintsAnd speaking of my sister, I started an earwarmer for her boyfriend.  They currently are in law school in New Orleans but he’s accepted a job in Houston after graduation in May.  This will be reversible: one side will be for the New Orleans Saints and the other for the Houston Texans.  I’ve finished the first side in Tunisian crochet and it will need some serious blocking before it is gift.

Bill hat notes

I have little more than these notes I took earlier this year about my Uncle Bill’s hat.  He has one of those factory made cashmere hats, and I was planning to make a handmade version with some scrumptious Galler Yarns Pashmina I have on hand.  So far, other than the finding the note (which took some time!), identifying the yarn, and picking out needles, I’ve done nothing.

Diagonal blanket both sides

Luckily, I have finished one project – from my original YOP list, no less – a baby blanket for my dear friend’s newborn.

And then there are the 7 or so more handmade gifts that I haven’t even started yet. Oh, and 4 design samples due in mid-December for a magazine (but I haven’t received the yarn support yet).

So here’s my challenge to myself: finish a project every 2 days between now and the end of December.  What do you think?  Can it be accomplished?

For more Year of Projects posts, visit this thread on Ravelry.

Nativity

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Growing up, I was fascinated with the Nativity scene my maternal grandmother would set up during the Christmas season, and I remember being eager to place the baby Jesus into the manger after midnight on Christmas Eve.  That Nativity set was the one physical object that I most associated with the holidays during childhood, and since I first saw crocheted Nativity scenes, I’ve thought about making one for my mother.  I bought Carolyn Christmas‘s Amigurumi Nativity pattern in paper form a while back, but never had the time (or the right yarn on hand) to make it.

At the beginning of the year, I started planning to make the set.  I definitely don’t have much in the way of “flesh tone” yarns in my stash, so I appealed to the folks in the Surmount the Stash group on Ravelry.  The generous mamajulia stepped forward to send me some yarn she had leftover from a project, thus helping me avoid a trip to Michael’s that might result in a stash explosion.

The last few weeks have been tough for me, so over the long weekend I wanted to pick up simple that I could make without too much thought.  The Amigurumi Nativity seemed like the perfect project, but of course, I couldn’t locate the pattern.  I searched high and low and finally gave up and was ready to order another copy.  And that’s when I learned that it’s now available as a Ravelry download.  I’m a longtime fan of Carolyn’s work, and I’m always happy to support another independent designer, so I bought the pattern on Rav, added it to my Kindle Fire, and set to work.

My first three heads (perhaps for Mary, Joseph, and the Angel).
The first three heads (perhaps for Mary, Joseph, and the Angel).

I plan to vary the skin tone for the three Wise Men, so my amigurumi version will be similar to my grandmother’s set.  This is officially my first holiday project for 2013.  (Last year at this time, I was just beginning my holiday crafting list, so I feel like I’m on pace for this year, too.)

I also made some progress on my temperature scarf.  I have one row for each day of 2013 through May 24th.

Temperature scarf through 2013-05-24.jpg

I’ve used all but one color now, and it is really interesting to watch the scarf unfold.

As for reading, I’m about a third of the way through American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  I was on the waiting list at the New York Public Library for a while.  I don’t really know what I expected, but I’m enjoying it so far.

And, back in March, MC and I watched The Bible miniseries, and that got us talking about the actual Bible.  I’ve never read it in its entirety, and since – regardless of your faith and religious beliefs – it’s such a significant work in the development of Western civilization, I decided that I should actually read it all the way through.  After a little bit of research, I bought The NRSV Daily Bible: Read, Meditate, and Pray Through the Entire Bible in 365 Days last week.  Although it is tempting to read more at each setting, I decided to follow the book’s pacing.  It has been interesting to read the Bible in these little snippets, and I think I’ll probably remember each section better since I’ll have more time between readings to reflect.

For more Work in Progress Wednesday posts, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.

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.

This post contains affiliate links.

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.

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway 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.

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.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Entrelac, Take 2

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Crochet Master Class series.  You can read my previous post on crochet entrelac here.

I’ll admit that the holiday crafting crunch time has arrived, and thus, I have not made any progress on my entrelac project.  I decided to share some entrelac inspiration though!

I looked on Ravelry and did a Google search, and it really does seem like most crochet entrelac patterns use Tunisian crochet.  I was able to find a few interesting patterns that are using standard crochet stitches and not Tunisian.

Joyce Wyatt may be the entrelac master featured in Crochet Master Class, but Carolyn Christmas is the designer I think of as the entrelac crochet master.  I mentioned last week that I learned Tunisian crochet entrelac from her booklet, How to Make Tunisian Crochet Entrelac.  I was pleased to see she has several single crochet entrelac offerings on her Gourmet Crochet website.

How to Make Single Crochet Entrelac by Carolyn Christmas

I fell in love with the Around the World Rectangle Baby Afghan from this booklet, but then I saw the Giant Dahlia Afghan.

From Entrelac Giant Dahia Afghan by Carolyn Crochet. The booklet includes both single crochet and Tunisian crochet versions.

Carolyn also has a great felted handbag.

Felted Entrelac Handbag by Carolyn Christmas.

The pattern booklet is available for sale here.  None of these patterns are available for digital download, but I think I may order one of the booklets since I have been so pleased with other booklets I purchased from Carolyn in the past.

There were three other patterns I found using single crochet entrelac.  These are all available online for free.

Entrelac sock by Jen Bianchi is available on her Knitters’ Row blog.  I’m pretty sure you can make two, even though the pattern title is singular ;).

Leslie Ann Bestor‘s Crocheted Felted Entrelac Handbag is available for download on the WEBS yarn store website.

The Enticing Baby Afghan is available to download from the Lion Brand Yarn website (registration required).  As a side note, it really disappoints me that Lion Brand still doesn’t list the designer’s name on their patterns.  As far as I can tell, all of their competitors (e.g., Red Heart, Caron) include the designer name.  (Stepping off the soapbox now.)

I found one lovely looking paid download entrelac pattern, the Felicity Shawl by Christie Pruitt.  You can buy the pattern on Ravelry or KnitPicks.

Felicity Shawl by Christie Pruitt.

This was the only crocheted entrelac pattern I found which didn’t seem to use only Tunisian crochet or only single crochet.  The stitch pattern looks really fun.

Do you have any other crochet entrelac patterns to recommend?