F.O. Friday and I Love Yarn Day!

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve been thinking for a while about how to celebrate I Love Yarn Day, since I first read about it on the Craft Yarn Council website.  The CYC has several suggestions about what to do to celebrate (and several projects from famous designers, too!).

My post for today is a celebration of my favorite yarns and also about yarncrafting for charity.  If you have been crocheting or knitting for any amount of time, you have probably found that we yarncrafters are a generous lot.  I even have some Finished Objects to share, in the form of charity crochet projects.

My Favorite Yarns

My current favorites are Cascade Eco Duo, Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love, Dream in Color Classy, Patons Classic Wool, and Spud and Chloe Sweater.

Top (from left to right): Eco Duo, Alpaca Love. Bottom (from left to right): Classy, Classic Wool (ombre) with Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool (solid), Sweater.

Cascade Eco Duo

Like most of the yarns on my list, I discovered this super soft yarn in my LYS, Knitty City.  As the name implies, Cascade Eco Duo is an eco-friendly yarn made of undyed baby alpaca (70%) and undyed Merino wool (30%).  Since it is undyed, it is offered in a relatively limited range of colors (mostly browns, blacks, whites – very gender neutral) and it is marled.  The softness is incredible and it is really nice to work with.  There is a kind of self-striping effect with most of the colors.  The one drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable, and since I hate handwashing, I only use this yarn for small accessories.

Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love

This is my favorite big box store yarn. Alpaca Love is also a wool (80%) and alpaca (20%) blend.  I love the feel of the yarn – a great combination of softness with firmness.  It comes in some very fun coordinated colors.  This yarn is very affordable (especially when purchased at Michaels using a coupon!).  The drawbacks for me are the handwashing issue again, and the limited color range.  I usually get around the handwashing issue by felting projects made with this yarn :).

Dream in Color Classy

Dream in Color Classy is another great yarn that I first tried out at Knitty City.  This yarn has recently made several appearances on the blog (in my crocodile stitch project and my yarn haul post).  Classy is a 100% superwash Merino wool yarn that is spun and hand dyed in the U.S.  The colors are variegated and are really fabulous.  The only drawback here for me is the cost, which means that I have to save it for slightly more special occasions.  At least there are 250 yards in each skein, which makes me feel a little less guilty when splurging!

Patons Classic Wool

Patons Classic Wool is another big box store yarn.  It is 100% wool and it is available in a great variety of colors, including both solids and ombres.  (A few colors are also available as tweeds.)  The  solids have 210 yards in each skein and are reasonably priced.  It isn’t the softest wool I’ve felt, but it isn’t scratchy, either.  It is a great, firm, workhorse yarn which doesn’t split.  The only real drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable.

Spud and Chloe Sweater

Sweater is probably the yarn in this group that I’ve worked with the most.  It is a blend of 55% superwash wool and 45% organic cotton.  I also found it at Knitty City 🙂 about a year ago.  I first picked up a skein of Turtle for a design submission which wasn’t accepted.  I loved the yarn so much that I submitted two more designs with it, which were both accepted.  The first was my Sunshine Blanket, published in the August, 2011 issue of Inside Crochet.  I am also in the middle of a top secret project using these colors for Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book, which should be published in 2012.  I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this yarn: the colors are great, it is machine washable, and it feels nice :).

You may have noticed that all of these yarns are worsted weight – yes, I am one of those American yarncrafters that prefers a heavier weight yarn!  You may have also noticed that all of these yarns are made with natural fibers.  I am by no means a “yarn snob” – I work with Red Heart Super Saver, too.  But recently, I have really tried to limit my purchasing of acrylic yarn.  I just don’t feel comfortable buying a yarn made from crude oil anymore.  This is my own personal choice as part of changes I’ve made in my life to be more environmentally conscious.  On the other hand, I can’t just let the existing acrylic yarn in my stash go to waste (that’s  not too eco-friendly either), and so that is where some of my charity crafting and experiments with freeform crochet come into play.

Charity Crafting

One great way to use up your stash while finding a home for some of your creations is through charity crafting.  I especially like to make items for infants and pets (because they are fast and cute, and because my very own special cat was adopted from the Humane Society).

I was inspired by the phrase “Think globally.  Act locally.” and decided to make up a list of local NYC charities that accept handmade donations.  I checked in with all of these organizations, and the list is current as of October, 2011.

Snuggles Project sites:

  • ASPCA, the first humane organization in the Western hemisphere, has a wishlist of donated items for their Manhattan adoption center which includes handmade bedding or toys.  Items can be dropped off during regular adoption hours.
  • Bideawee, the oldest no-kill animal humane organization in the U.S., welcomes Snuggles in any size for cats and dogs in its adoption center.  These can be delivered in person, or mailed to the attention of Lauren Bonanno at the Manhattan location.
  • S.A.V.E., a pet rescue organization in Queens, is looking for small or medium sized bedding.  Email the organization at savepetNY@aol.com to arrange pick up.

Knits for Infants is looking for hats, booties, sweaters, and blankets in soft, machine washable yarns for newborns and infants being treated at the North Central Bronx Hospital.  Having worked in the health care industry in the Bronx for years, I can say that families served by this hospital would really benefit from the donations.  They also accept yarn donations (no novelty yarns or “scratchy” yarns like Red Heart Super Saver, please).

For those of you who live in the U.S. outside of New York, some great organizations you might consider donating to are one of the organizations listed on the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website (Oglala Sioux Tribe families and elders), Knit Your Bit through the National WW II Museum (scarves for veterans) and  The Red Scarf Project through Foster Care to Success (scarves for foster care students in college).  Internationally, you can find a participating animal shelter/pet rescue organization that accepts handmade donations through the Snuggles Project.  Of course, this is just a small sampling of organizations, and there are many more out there!

Finished Objects


Today, I’m showing off some of the projects that I’m donating to charity for I Love Yarn Day.

Six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO).
Two scarves, a hat, and mittens for toddlers via Knits for Infants. I have two other hats in the works, too.
This is a close up of my snuggle for Bideawee. I plan to make a few more using scrap yarn (I doubt the doggies are too concerned about the colors).

My post yesterday was a reflection on my craft goals for the year, and I’m thinking that when I update them, I will add some charity crafting goals.  I used to donate a lot of projects to charity, and I would like to make more crocheted donations in the coming months.

For more finished objects, don’t forget to stop by Tami’s Amis!

A Final Word on Awesome Yarn

A few weeks ago, I won a giveaway from Danielle at A Stash Addicts Ramblings for my choice of sock yarn from her Jane & Michael Etsy shop.  This lovely skein arrived yesterday, just in time for I Love Yarn Day!

 

The colorway is called Emerald Forest.

 

(On a side note, I remember being totally confused by The Emerald Forest as a kid, since I was, of course, way too young to have any real sense of what the film was about!)

There’s a good chance that this may eventually transform itself into a gift for my mom.

Thanks, Danielle!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

Granny Square Love blog tour day 4 and giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m excited to be a stop on Sarah London’s blog tour for her new book, Granny Square Love: A New Twist on a Crochet Classic for Your Home.  Keep reading for an interview with Sarah, a review of her book, a promo code which allows you to save $10 off the retail price of the book, and a giveaway inspired by the book!

Interview

Sarah London is a crochet designer, teacher, and author living in Australia.  She has a large body of self-published work, and has also been published in Inside Crochet (UK) and Flow Vakantieboek (Dutch).  You can find Sarah on her blog, her Ravelry designer page, her Twitter page, or on Flickr.  (In particular, I love the vibrant pictures in her Granny Squares, Wool Eater Blanket, iCrochet, and A Granny a Day sets.)  All photos in this post used with the permission of Sarah and her publisher, North Lights Books/F+W Media.

Sarah London

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Sarah: My Grandmother taught me to crochet, I began with granny squares made from scraps of yarn and then progressed to crocheted roses.  (UC comment: It seems that Sarah’s grandmother encouraged more advanced projects than mine :).  I made nothing but scarves worked in rows for the first several years after my grandmother taught me to crochet!)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Sarah: I love color and I love yarn. Crochet was the perfect medium to combine the two and hence my design journey began.

Stool cover, from Granny Square Love.

UC: I’ve just read through Granny Square Love.  Your grandmother, like mine, inspired your love of the granny square.  What about this motif appeals to you as a designer/author?

Sarah: I love, love, love granny squares! I love the rhythmic construction of each square and the opportunity within each square to create a kaleidoscope of color.

UC: Crocheters and granny squares (and granny square home decor items) sometimes get a bad rap.  When you’re designing with granny squares, do you feel any additional pressure to break those stereotypes?

Sarah: Granny squares are trending at the moment, we are seeing them on international catwalks and as a result the trend is filtering into our homes. As with all trends it either appeals to you or it doesn’t. I don’t set out to break stereotypes, I would like to think though that perhaps someone may take a second glance and embrace the trend and be inspired through my dispersion of color when they would otherwise maybe not.  (UC comment: Like Sarah, I’ve been so excited to see one of my favorite crochet motifs reinterpreted on catwalks in recent years!  Sarah’s amazing eye for color really does show the granny square in a lovely light.)

Bold bedroom cushion, from Granny Square Love.

UC: What was the design process like for Granny Square Love?

Sarah: I basically flowed through each room of my home with a hook in my hand. Cascade Yarns generously donated all the yarn for my book. Once the huge shipment of yarn arrived on my doorstep, the hooking began. Abbreviated notes were scribbled down throughout the construction of each project. Once I completed each project then I would write up the pattern. Once that process was complete then it was time for the photography. I shot all of the photography for Granny Square Love with the help of my daughter Emma.  Bless her heart, she had the tedious task of holding the gray card for each of the shots and there were many! All in all it was an amazing process, especially considering that my publisher and I were on different continents!

UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides yours of course)?

Sarah: I don’t have an absolute favorite, but my most treasured are those that my Grandmother has generously passed on to me.

Stockings, from Granny Square Love.

UC: Do you have any favorite crochet/craft blogs or websites that you’d like to share?

Sarah: Cascade Yarns,  where you’ll find the most delectable yarns, and Crochet Poet’s Pattern Collection, the absolute best online resource for crochet lovers!

Thanks so much, Sarah, for stopping by for an interview, and for introducing me to the Crochet Poet’s Pattern Collection.  I’m amazed by the sheer quantity of patterns posted there!

Blog Tour Schedule

Don’t forget to stop by and check out the other stops on the Granny Square Love Blog Tour!

September 26 Sarah London’s Blog

September 27 Crochet Concupiscence

September 28 Knit Purl Gurl

September 29 Underground Crafter

September 30 Interlocking Crochet

October 1 Crochet Mama’s Blog

October 3 Crafty Pod

October 4 Lindamade

October 5 Cute Crochet Chat

October 6 Crochet Liberation Front

October 7 Create Loves

October 8 Whip Up

Book Review

I received a PDF review copy of Crochet Granny Squares from F+W Media as part of this blog tour.  I can’t address how the book is printed or bound, so my review will focus on the content and overall appearance of the book.

Granny Square Love includes many elements of Sarah’s signature style – vibrant colors, fun photography, and, of course, grannies!  The book is organized into six chapters.

Getting Started is a beginners introduction to crocheting and granny squares.  This section includes a brief overview of materials and multi-color illustrations of the basic crochet stitches.  I found these illustrations to be larger and clearer than most.  There are three pages of step-by-step photos of the process of making a granny square.  Finally, this section includes an overview of patterns and addresses both abbreviations and stitch symbols.  (The actual abbreviations and stitch symbols are explained in the reference section in the back of the book.)

The next five sections feature projects focused on different rooms in the house. Each pattern is presented using both U.S. abbreviations and stitch symbols.

The Living Room includes cushions in two sizes, an ottoman slipcover, a sofa blanket, the holiday stockings, and the lampshade cover, which is one of my favorite projects in the book.

Lampshade cover, from Granny Square Love.

The Kitchen includes patterns for the stool cover, the dishcloth, potholders, a grocer’s tote, and an apron pocket.

The Dining Room features a tablecloth trim, placemats, napkin holders, a circular garland, and a tea cozy.

The Bedroom includes a decorated headboard, bedsheet trim, a bedroom blanket, a hot water bottle cover, and the striking black and white bold bedroom cushion.

The Bathroom and Laundry includes patterns for coat hangers, a curtain, a bathmat, and towel trim.

The book closes with some reference information, including hook sizes, a yarn comparison chart, and a guide to pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.

What I like about this book:

  • Sarah includes “Color Commentary” throughout the book.  She is known for her use of vibrant colors, and shares some insight into her pairings of different colors.
  • The patterns includes both stitch symbols and abbreviations.
  • The photographs are great “eye candy” and Granny Square Love is a fun book to look through.  It will definitely get your creative juices flowing.
  • The book is very beginner friendly.  The illustrations are quite clear and the step-by-step photographs of the granny square in progress are very helpful.
  • The patterns are well organized, so it would be easy to find one you liked later.

What I don’t like about this book (or what’s missing):

  • The information on pattern reading is largely in the back in the reference section.  The book seems targeted to beginners, and they might prefer to see this information before the patterns start.
  • The patterns are limited to home decor projects featuring granny squares or similar motifs, so there isn’t a tremendous variety.

Overall, I think the book would be an excellent addition to the personal library of a crochet beginner.  It could also be great for someone who is a more experienced crocheter but is timid about using bold colors.  More experienced crocheters with a strong color sense are not the target audience of this book at all.  I give the book 4 out of 5 stars for beginners or crocheters who are afraid of colors.  Even if you don’t make all of the projects, it is presented in a lovely, visual fashion.

Full disclosure: A free electronic 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.

Promo Code

Get Granny Square Love now for just $12.99 ($10 off the retail price!)  Visit the Martha Pullen Online Store and use promo code GRANNYTOUR to get your exclusive price.  (Offer expires October 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST.  Special Price in US Dollars, for items that are “in stock” only.)

Granny Square Love Inspired Giveaway

To get you started on your next granny square project inspired by Granny Square Love, I’m giving away a granny square supply kit including three crochet hooks (G, H, and K sizes), a set of yarn needles, and a gauge ruler.