FO Friday: Grannies on parade

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I finished up nine granny squares this week to donate to the Crochetlist April charity challenge, the Binky Patrol in Arizona.  These were all made with acrylic stash yarns.  Since the squares need to be 6 inches, I’ve made minor modifications to each pattern to adjust the size.

The first two grannies are from The Granny Square Book by Margaret Hubert (reviewed by me here).

This is The Jeannine Square.  I added another round of single crochet.

This is the Blooming Granny.  Both of these patterns also appear in The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.  I made a few modifications to the final row of the pattern and then added three extra rounds.

You may recognize the next square I finished.

I shared this one in my post on Sunday.

This was one of the bullion squares I was working on as part of my Year of Projects goal.  I used the first four rounds of the Hybrid Peas pattern by Margaret MacInnis and then added a half double crochet border.

My next block is from Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook by Ellen Gormley (reviewed by me here).

I used the Star Power block and added three more rounds.  I think this pattern is super cute, and since it doesn’t have a photo in Ravelry yet, I will probably need to make another one.  You know, just to do my part :).

The next three blocks have been sitting around in my stash since 2007 and originated from patterns in 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans by Jan Eaton.  I kind of forgot about these blocks after I moved, and they were just rescued from their hibernation in plastic sleeves over the weekend!

The first two blocks were originally intended to be part of a gift for my aunt.  I later decided she wasn’t crochet worthy :).

This was actually a finished Willow block, but I unraveled a few rounds and then used two single crochet rounds to square it off at 6 inches.

This block started as the Tricolor Square, but it was also too large.  I unraveled a few rounds and then finished it with a round of single crochet.

I originally made the next block after I finished the CYC Certified Instructor Program in Crochet to keep in my teaching portfolio.  This one started out as the Coffee and Cream pattern.

Once I started going through my teaching materials, I found this partially completed granny square I made during a granny square class last year.  I added a few rounds to finish it off.

And, finally, since I tried to make a project from as many of the books in my granny square collection as possible this week :), I made this version of Motif 100 from Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs (reviewed by me here) by Edie Eckman yesterday morning on the way to work.

Overall, these grannies have been nice diversions in a stressful week, where I worked until past 8 p.m. every night (usually 10-11 hours a day).  I don’t think tomorrow or Saturday will be any better.  But it is comforting to know that I’m slowly dwindling my stash while making something fun for a good cause.  Since I’m not making a blanket, I don’t have to stress about coordinating colors.  My guess is that these blocks will ultimately make their way into several different Binky Patrol blankets.

Also, thanks to everyone who shared their opinion about where to host a 365 project.  The general consensus is that Flickr is the best option since I plan to use a camera and not my phone (Instagram was a close second).  Once things slow down, I’ll set up on Flickr.  (And yes, I have been taking my daily photos.)

Knit and Crochet Design Week with Stacey Trock

Stacey Trock from FreshStitches is one of my favorite bloggers and designers to follow.  She shares some really great projects, tips, and photos on her blog, and she is hosting Knit and Crochet Design Week from March 12 – 17.  I’m really excited to participate and to share my introductory post!

Who am I?

Welcome to everyone visiting for the first time!  My name is Marie Segares and I’m a crochet and knitting teacher, blogger, and designer from New York City known as Underground Crafter.  I learned to crochet from my maternal grandmother when I was about 9 years old, and have been hooked ever since.  She tried to teach me to knit, but let’s just say that it never “stuck” – everything I tried to make ended up looking like a really oddly shaped trapezoid.   Since I was in college, I have always turned to crochet as a way to express my creativity, relax, and make gifts that I could afford (but which were worth much more than what I paid in supplies).

In 2008, I became a Craft Yarn Council Certified Crochet Instructor and Teacher, and I’ve been teaching crochet lessons on weekends and evenings around New York City.  About 18 months ago, I picked up knitting again with the help of an awesome video (reviewed here).  I started teaching knitting to beginners about a year ago.

My Goal for Design Week

I’m currently teaching a knitting class at my local union, and my students wanted to learn to use circular needles and design their own hats.  Although I generally teach crochet or knitting about 4-6 hours a week, I usually don’t make anything during class.  I often end up with little swatches that I rip out afterwards because it is pretty difficult to make a project while teaching!

I plan to use Design Week to get started on my own hat project using the steps for designing a beanie that I shared with my students.  (I make no guarantees that my actual beanie will be finished by the end of Design Week!)  If I like my hat, I’d like to write it up as my first knitting pattern.

Although Stacey has an outline for the week on her blog, my posting schedule will actually be based on the hat design process I’ve shared with my students.

 

Monday, March 12: Choose a stitch pattern and yarn.

Tuesday, March 13: Make a gauge swatch.

Wednesday, March 14: Take measurements.

Thursday, March 15: Design the hat by writing out a preliminary pattern.

Friday, March 16: Cast on and follow your pattern.

Saturday, March 17: Finish off the project and update your pattern.

 

Each day during Design Week, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts about each stage of the process.  I’m looking forward to reading more about everyone else’s design process!

 

Interview with Sandie Petit, founder of Crochet Cabana

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In the early 2000s, when I first learned to read crochet patterns, there weren’t many good crochet websites.  One that I would visit time and again for help understanding a new technique was Crochet Cabana.  Even now, as a crochet teacher I often refer beginners to this wonderful site.  So I’m really excited to interview Sandie Petit today, the founder of Crochet Cabana.

Besides the Crochet Cabana website, you can find Sandie online on her blog, her Facebook page, her YouTube channel, her Etsy and Ravelry shops, and on Twitter.  She is less frequently seen on Crafty Corral, her first crochet blog, and Tumblr.  You can also buy Crochet Cabana items at Cafe Press.  All pictures and logos are used with her permission.

Sandie Petit.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sandie: In the summer of 1980, I went on vacation with some girlfriends in Mississippi. They pulled out their hooks and started crocheting and offered to teach me. That got the ball rolling. When I returned home the local TG&Y became my primary source for patterns, yarn, and hooks. The yarn was Sayelle at the time. For many years I thought Boye was the only kind of hook manufactured! With the advent of the Internet a whole new world opened up to me and I now have quite a nice hook collection! My house is often overrun by yarn and I have more patterns than I could complete in several lifetimes!

First Crochet Cabana banner.

UC: What was the original inspiration behind Crochet Cabana?
Sandie: Crochet Cabana began in 1997 as a couple of pages on my personal website, Sandra’s Backyard. The original purpose was to have an area where I could jot down what I knew about crochet for my own reference. I also wanted to provide information for those just learning to crochet. I wanted to write it all down, with pictures, in a way that I hoped could be easily understood. All of my first tutorials were written with the new crocheter in mind. As I learned more myself – both in the field of crochet and also in web design – more was added.

In my wildest dreams I never imagined the site would get so large. As I got requests for information on this or that topic, I would add those topics also to the site. In 2001, my husband purchased a domain name for Crochet Cabana as a gift for me. Then in December 2004, we decided to purchase hosting space so I wouldn’t have to keep moving the site as it grew too large for the present host.

 

Current Crochet Cabana banner.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sandie: For designing, inspiration is everywhere. The world around you. Television. The Internet. Sitting in a doctor’s office or in traffic I might notice a particular color or pattern that is intriguing. Quite often it is a matter of need. I need a gift and I have xx amount of time (usually a very short window). It’s actually quite difficult to come up with something new and I always wonder if someone else has already done it. There are so many wonderful designers out there! I don’t feel that I do that much designing really, but when I post a picture of something I’ve worked up I know someone will ask for the pattern as soon as it’s posted.

As to inspiration for tutorials and videos, that generally comes from visitors to the site who inquire if I can show them how to do this or that. If enough people seem to be having the same problem or are interested in a particular technique, I consider adding it to the site. I do fairly often get requests for me to do a video or tutorial on how to work a particular pattern. That is something I cannot do because of copyright issues.

(One of Sandie’s videos.  We start our foundation chain the same way!)

UC: You are a true pioneer of the DIY/craft scene on the internet. What were the benefits of establishing yourself online early, and what are some of the changes you’ve had to deal with in recent years?
Sandie: How nice of you to say! When I first began, I had no clue how to put up a website. My husband created the original site and showed me how to update it. Since then, I’ve done most of the work myself though my family, who are much more computer literate than I, have been a great help over the years. My daughter created the logo presently on the Cabana.

One of the benefits of being established so many years ago is that I can appreciate the technological advances available today. I clearly remember having to move the site over a dialup connection! What took many hours then would take mere minutes now. I am still using the same program to update the site (Microsoft Front Page). It is no longer supported so I will eventually have to find a new program to use – which is something I dread.

In those beginning days, way back when, one didn’t have to worry about Internet theft. In recent years, there has been a problem with people taking the work of others and claiming it as their own. Just a few months ago I found photos lifted from one of my tutorials on which the person had placed her own name right on the photos and put them on her site as her own. It was a foreign site and though I requested she remove them, that didn’t happen. You really have no recourse in these situations and it is quite discouraging since it is a lot of work to take photos, edit them, and add all the text to a tutorial, as well as making videos. Sadly, this has also happened to other designers. Sometimes you will even find people selling your patterns on Ebay, particularly if they are free patterns. They just copy them and sell them. It’s really terrible. In fact, I removed all the patterns I had on the site after one such incident. Since then, I’ve put a few back and opened Etsy and Ravelry shops. There are still quite a number I haven’t put up anywhere again. I am really torn about what to do as I love sharing my work with others. (UC comment: What a shame!)

Another change is that people are more and more moving to video teaching. I LOVE video teaching. It is amazing to me that I can create a video demonstrating how to do something, giving the tips I’ve learned through the years, and have someone in another country watch it and learn the technique. I guess I am showing my age here, but it just fascinates me. I often wish I had my own video studio and staff! I still have much to learn. I hope the industry doesn’t change too much while I’m learning!

Yet another change I have seen is the availability of e-books and e-patterns, both free and for sale. Being able to get a pattern you want immediately certainly has its up side. One thing I like about this is if I sell a pattern this way, I know exactly who purchased it and if I update it or find a significant error, I can let them know quite easily. Along with this is the self-publishing industry, such as Lulu, which has grown tremendously in the past few years.

The problem with all this availability is that much of it is free. This hurts the designers for whom crochet sales are a significant part of their earning power. I think this may be why we are seeing more complex designs as magazine publishers have to find a way to entice people to spend their discretionary income. It’s a dilemma I’m sure we will be addressing for some time to come as the industry works to find a balance between paper publishing and e-publishing.

One of Sandie’s charity scarves, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: You do a lot of charity crochet. Can you tell us about some of your favorite charity projects, causes, and organizations?
Sandie: There are so many worthy organizations out there. I find that people generally gravitate toward a cause that is in some way meaningful to them. For example, I have lost many loved ones to cancer so if an opportunity arises I might donate to that cause. I had two preemies so I will occasionally donate preemie hats and afghans.

I also like to help out organizations that are based in my own state when I can. I also love to make scarves and squares. Those things came together for me in Scarves for Special Olympics where I could donate to the Louisiana branch of their organization. I was even able to deliver the scarves and meet the people there. That was rather exciting. They do require you to use particular brand and colors of yarn and there are size specifications, but I find that a challenge. I like to try and find different ways to make the scarves unique within those boundaries. This is an annual project so if you haven’t participated in the past you can always pick up and join in the next go round.

Then there is the National WWII Museum’s Knit Your Bit which is also located nearby and accepts scarves. I have had many family members in the military, including my son, and I am happy to be able to do something for the soldiers who put their lives on the line for us. Knit Your Bit gives a bit of a thank you to those soldiers. They accept any pattern, any color so it’s very easy to participate. Most of the vets are men so colors tend to lean in that direction.

I also like to be sure my work makes its way to the people for whom it was intended. With that in mind, I am cautious about sending to people I don’t know. I have known Sandy Holladay for many years and have no qualms about sending items to her for The Bridge and Beyond Project, which helps the homeless. She accepts many different items including scarves, mittens, and socks. She does amazing things with donated squares, putting together afghans which are then given to one of several local missions. Each day I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, clean clothes, and food to eat. It’s a shame there are so many who don’t have these basic needs met.

Heartmade Blessings has been around quite a number of years. They accept 12” squares which are put together into comfortghans. Several people I know personally have benefited from this effort.  (UC comment: I’m actually working on several squares right now to donate to Heartmade Blessings as part of the Crochetlist March charity challenge.)

Crafting for a Cause is a wonderful group that supports our Native Americans. Most of the items made are sent directly to the reservation so you can be sure they are getting where they are needed.

In addition to official organizations, I like to donate where I can locally. As time goes on, postage costs for mailing packages has gone up so anything I can deliver is a plus.

That said, I occasionally like to send to SIBOL, way across the pond from me. I just love to go to Sue’s blog and Flickr page and see all the beautiful things. Everything is so artfully shown. She accepts 6” squares which are joined into lapghans for nursing homes in her area. Her challenges are fun too!

One of Sandie’s charity scarves, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: You are a CGOA Master of Advanced Crochet Stitches and Techniques and a CYC Certified Crochet Teacher. Tell us why you decided to pursue these certifications and how/if they’ve been helpful to you.
Sandie: I am going to share with you my REAL reason for taking these courses. Shhhh. I never think my work is good enough and I thought that if I took these courses someone else could tell me if I was doing things correctly and, if not, I could learn the proper way. Having the certificates does not mean that I am a wonderful crocheter, but it does mean, to me, that I’ve run the course and persevered to complete it successfully. I may have a tiny bit more confidence than I had before since I did pass the courses.

I also thought that having the certificate would give a bit more weight to my qualifications as an instructor if I decided to teach community education classes or even paid classes through a craft store.  (UC comment: I am also a CYC Certified Crochet Instructor and Teacher, and will actually be attending classes this weekend to become a CYC Certified Knitting Instructor and Teacher.  For more discussion on the pros and cons of certification, see this post.)

The two courses are very different. I did learn some new techniques through my work on both courses, particularly the CGOA course because it covered more of a variety – like hairpin lace, which I’d not done a lot of before.

I find that every step you take is one step closer to your goal. You mentioned knitting. I’ve been trying to learn to knit for many years. I can cast on and I actually can knit, but if I drop a stitch, that is it for me. However, every time I try I get a little bit further in my understanding. It is the same with crochet. When I did the CGOA course, I did not work much with thread and I had to complete a filet thread project with thread, which I did successfully. I did not pick it up again until recently, but those things I learned at that point have come back to me and I find I just love filet!

I don’t know if the certificates mean anything to those who look at my work. I think your work really has to speak for itself. When I pick up a magazine or look online at a pattern I may purchase, I don’t know if that person has a certificate or not. I just like the pattern, the colors, and the way it was photographed, perhaps the stitches used or the yarn. I think taking the course was for me more than anything.

I would dearly love to take Pauline Turner’s course. I understand it is difficult and I think if I passed that one I would really feel like a crochet master.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Sandie: There are so many! Those that jump right to mind are Quick and Cozy Afghans which I use quite a bit; the Vanna books, particularly Vanna’s Afghans A to ZDonna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet; and Margaret Hubert’s The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet. I have dozens of pattern and reference books and leaflets though. That just scratches the surface. One of my recent purchases was Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters by Betty Barnden. Her Filet Crochet book is great also.

One of Sandie’s charity scarves, using the “V for Victory” pattern by Rachel Vives, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: Do you have any favorite crochet websites/blogs to share?
Sandie: I don’t get around to the blogs as much as I used to, but here are a few that I visit often:

Generally, I look at my blogroll to see who has updated and I will visit the top five or ten of them and sometimes the sites they recommend in their blogroll.

After reading other interviews on your blog, I also started following Vashti.   (UC comment: Thanks Sandie!  I am honored to have you as a reader.)

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Sandie!

Book Review: Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet

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A few weeks ago, I taught my first crochet class for a group of kids (as part of a series of classes) through the Queens Library.  I’ve taught crochet classes with kids and adults combined before, and I’ve also taught one-on-one lessons for kids.  In preparation for the class, I decided to check out Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet by Kay Meadors.

There are several nice things about the book.  It is filled with great color pictures of multicultural girls and boys having fun while learning to crochet and wearing samples of simple crocheted projects.  The book includes many close up, step-by-step hand photos of all of the basic stitches for both righties and lefties.  The back cover has ruler marks on three edges so it doubles as a gauge ruler.  And there are 15 projects that kids would definitely like to wear and use in vibrant (or camouflage, for the boys) colors.

But…

I must say I was disappointed.  This disappointment has little to do with Kay Meadors, or with Leisure Arts, and mostly stems from my own assumptions about what the book would include.  (You know what they say about making assumptions!)  Since I haven’t found many reviews of the book online, I thought I would write up something very detailed so that you will know what you are in for if you buy this book.

I was under the impression that Leisure Arts allowed teachers to make copies from any page this book.  I thought that by purchasing it, I would save myself hours of recreating handouts I’ve made for adults to be more kid friendly.  In reality, you are only authorized to make copies of 2 pages from the book.  These 2 pages are a stitch guide including a single photo (one each for right- and left-handers) of each basic crochet stitch.  I did attempt to copy these 2 pages, but the combination of the hand (a fair skinned flesh tone) and the font color (light blue) made it nearly impossible to make a legible black and white copy.  I tried color copies, too, using my home four-in-one printer, but I wasn’t able to get much that was readable.  (I ended up using my standard handouts for adults in the class.  That worked out, since only the teenagers were interested in handouts anyway.)

Inside of the book, Kay says, “It would be helpful if each student purchased a copy of this book so that they have the written projects available outside of class.  Projects may not be copied for students to take home.”  At the same time, she suggests that prospective teachers approach schools, and children’s groups that are organized through churches, Scouting, and 4-H organizations. I may be biased since I live in New York City, and school and library programs here can’t charge students for materials, and many local Scouting groups frown upon additional costs being charged to families.  Perhaps if you are teaching in a wealthier community, asking each student to purchase a $14.95 book would be a viable option.

On the other hand, asking students to buy this book would be akin to telling students to buy the instructor’s version of a textbook.  The first 15 pages of introduction, FAQ, and tips are targeted at the teacher, and there are “Teacher’s Notes” on just about every other page thereafter.  Without this teacher information, the book could be significantly shorter (and therefore, cheaper) for the student.

Now that we’ve established that unless you plan to have commercial color copies of the 2 page stitch guide made, or instruct each student to buy the book, Teach a Group of Kids to Crochet doesn’t have much value as a classroom teaching aid, let’s look at how it works as a stand alone teacher’s guide.

Kay does give some tips for first time teachers (such as reminders to start with hands-on demonstrations so the kids won’t get bored) but she doesn’t really address specifically the unique issues related to teaching children.  I was hoping to find suggestions for dealing with the variable levels of motor skill development and reading skills at different ages, working with a mixed age group, and incorporating parents and helpers into the class.   There wasn’t any such information, but I did get some of the general information on teaching that I previously learned when becoming a Craft Yarn Council certified crochet teacher and instructor.

The patterns section gave me some good ideas for simple projects for children.  Kay has written the patterns in full words rather than using pattern abbreviations, which I think is appropriate for children.  However, I think several of the patterns are too long and detailed for most children (e.g., a 3 page pattern for pillow covers).

Overall, the book suffers from a kind of identity crisis.  It is written to look like a book for kids, with big pictures, vibrant colors, and wacky fonts.  But about half of the content is intended for the teacher.  It might have been better to write two shorter companion books – one for the teacher and one for students.

I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.  If you are a new teacher and will be working with kids, it has some helpful, general crochet teaching tips.  The book has many simple and fun project ideas.  The book is attractive looking and might be helpful to have in class.  If you are teaching in a community where asking students to buy a book would be appropriate, you might find it a useful student workbook.  (I would actually recommend having the students buy a book written for kids instead.)  If you’ve been teaching for a while, you won’t find much new information here, and might be better off buying a book written for kids to share in class.

If you are shaky on your own crochet skills and plan to teach one or two younger relatives to crochet, I think this would be a 5 star book.  It could remind you of all the basics (with plenty of full color photos) and give you both plenty of patterns to work on together.

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?