Read Across America Giveaway 2: My First Crochet Book

Celebrate Dr Seuss Day with Kids Crochet Books Giveaway on Underground Crafter

Did you know that March 2 is Dr. Seuss Day (also known as Read Across America Day)?

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It’s a great way to encourage kids to read more while honoring the legacy of one of the most beloved children’s book authors, Theodor Seuss Geisel (also known as Dr. Seuss). 

I am a huge Dr. Seuss fan (two more of my childhood favorites are My Book About Me and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!), and I thought the best way to celebrate children and reading during (Inter)National Crochet Month would be by hosting a giveaway for a children’s crochet book! This is my second giveaway (you can find the first one here), and this one is for My First Crochet Book, courtesy of CICO Books.

Giveaway for My First Crochet Book on Underground Crafter

My First Crochet Book is a comprehensive crochet book geared towards children. The book opens with a 1-page Tools and Materials overview, followed by an 8-page Crochet Techniques section that includes written and illustrated instructions for basic crochet stitches, increasing, decreasing, and more. The book uses bright colors and includes cute illustrations of animals playing with yarn or hooks throughout.

The book then moves onto the patterns, which are organized by project type. The first section, Clothes and Accessories, includes 11 patterns. Jewelry includes 7 patterns, Bedroom Essentials includes 7 patterns, and Perfect Gifts includes 10 patterns. Each pattern is written out in U.S. pattern abbreviations and includes multiple illustrations. Some are informative (e.g., to show how to finish a project) and others are entertaining (e.g., an elephant holding a pair of scissors). There are also multiple full color photos of each project. The book ends with a list of suppliers with links to websites and a written index.

Although the subtitle on My First Crochet Book by CICO KIdz is “35 fun and easy projects for children aged 7 years +,” I would actually recommend it for older children in their tweens and teens for several reasons. It is fairly text-heavy, relies on illustrations rather than progress photos to provide instruction, and uses pattern abbreviations in the patterns. I think younger children would struggle with the translation from English to crochet pattern abbreviations (I know many adults do!), so I recommend this book for an older audience that has stronger reading skills and a longer attention span. Also, because the patterns are arranged by type rather than by skill level, I think a younger child might get frustrated if s/he unknowingly chooses a project that is too difficult. However, for an older child, or with parental guidance, I think this book has some really fun projects for kids. The cute illustrations and varied color palette make it visually appealing as well.

So, are you ready to enter the giveaway for My First Crochet Book, courtesy of CICO Books? Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget to enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, March 8. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway copy of My First Crochet Book was provided by CICO Books. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Two book reviews on the Crochet Guild of America blog!

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I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve started reviewing books for the Crochet Guild of America.  Their blog was updated today, and you can find two of my book reviews there.

Review of 100 Snowflakes to Crochet: Make Your Own Snowdrift—to Give or to Keep by Caitlin Sainio.  (You can read my interview with Caitlin here.)

Review of Granny Square Crochet: 35 Contemporary Projects Using Traditional Techniques by Catherine Hirst.  (You can read my interview with Catherine here.)

Interview with Nicki Trench, Author of Geek Chic Crochet

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Today I’m interviewing Nicki Trench, a multi-craftual author and needlecrafts teacher working in East SussexLauren Walsh at CICO Books was able to give me a sneak peak of Nicki’s latest book, Geek Chic Crochet: 35 Retro-inspired Projects That Are Off the Hook, and you can expect plenty of garments and accessories, as well as a few home decor items. Nicki can be found online at her website, her blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and Ravelry.  Geek Chic Crochet is published by CICO Books at £12.99 ($21.95 US) paperback and is available from all good bookshops (and online booksellers).

Nicki Trench. (Photo by Zara Poole.)

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

Nicki: I was about 12. My mother and grandmother always crocheted, but I learnt when my sister was living in Paris and her boss wanted a crocheted poncho – they were very chic at the time! I got commissioned to make 3 or 4 in the end!!

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Nicki: I’ve always enjoyed working with colour and I’ve always been involved with design in some form or the other. I started making my own knitwear designs in my early twenties. I used to design quite unusual jumpers for my boyfriends! Then I discovered Fairisle and started designing cushions and throws. When I got more into crochet I started playing with squares and combining some great colours.

UC: You are quite obviously multi-craftual.  What is your favorite “go to” craft these days?

Nicki: My favourite craft is patchwork. I love fabrics, but I also love crocheting, so I jump between the two. UC: Tell us what Geek Chic means to you.

Nicki: I wanted to aim at younger women. I have a mix of easy and more challenging patterns in the book and I’ve tried my hardest to design garments that young people will wear. I want people to think that crochet is achievable at all levels and it’s not just for grannies.

UC: There seem to be more adult sized garments in Geek Chic Crochet than in your previous crochet books.  What was the design process like for this book?

Nicki: I did a lot of research to see what was fashionable in crochet. I took a few trips to Shoreditch in East London, where there are loads of vintage shops and I also looked around the high street to see what is fashionable in crochet. I was pleasantly surprised to find there is a lot of crochet out there, so it was easy to get inspired.

UC: You teach a variety of crafts, including crochet.  Does your experience as a teacher influence your design process, and if so, how?

Nicki: Yes, definitely. I know what works and what doesn’t. I try out my patterns on my students and this is the best way to test if something works. I also have a good understanding of how people read and understand patterns and what they want to make.

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

Nicki: I only really use reference books, so anything that has lots of different stitches and samples. Other than those I love the Japanese crochet books, they are very simple and beautiful.  (UC comment: I love the Japanese crochet books, too.  And, if you don’t read Japanese, they are a great way to learn to read stitch symbols.)

UC: Do you visit any crochet or craft blogs or websites regularly?

Nicki: I don’t tend to visit craft or crochet blogs as regularly as I’d like. I do lots of research before I write a book, to see what’s popular and in trend and that’s the time when I’ll browse the internet to see what people are talking about. There are always new crochet blogs popping up and it’s good to see what’s new and what people are making – especially when it’s something from my books!

Thanks for stopping by, Nicki, and we wish you success with you latest book!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Year of Projects, Year 2: North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival 2012

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I scheduled today’s post because I’m teaching at the fourth annual North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival.   I had a great time last year, so I decided to return this year.  I taught a class on Friday and I’ll be teaching another one today.

The festival is in Ridgewood, New Jersey and I can get there pretty easily with New Jersey Transit and a short walk.  I took off from work on Friday and headed to the festival with plans to arrive a little after noon.  I started a new project during the ride, using a motif pattern from Granny Square Crochet: 35 Contemporary Projects Using Traditional Techniques.  (If you haven’t already, you can read my interview with author Catherine Hirst here.)

I got a wee bit lost during the walk from the train (thank goodness for smartphones and Google Maps), so I only had a few minutes to set up before my first class.  My new project was immediately pressed into service as a coaster – after all, I didn’t want to destroy the table!

After the class, I took a trip around the first floor to check out all the vendors.  I’ve been fairly good about decreasing my stash as part of my efforts to Surmount the Stash this year, but I brought cash to the festival and a plan to purchase as many as 5 skeins of yarn.

Yep, I met the quota.

My first stop was Mimi’s Needlebasket.  I’ve been dreaming about the Chiaogoo Twist RED Lace interchangeables since I learned of their existence and my eyes were drawn instantly to the sets on the table.  Unfortunately, she only had the mini kits in stock, and I’d like to buy the whole set, so I went on to the next table, Leilani Arts.  While I was really intrigued by the recycled sari yarn, I’m a sucker for tweeds and there was some very soft Donegal tweed on the table.  I couldn’t decide on colors, so I vowed to return later.

My next stop was WendyClay Pottery.  There were some AMAZING buttons, but I couldn’t think of a project I would make so I decided not to buy anything.  (Perhaps today will be my day?)  And then I found Yarn Monkey Productions.  Angela and her friend were just about the friendliest people I’ve ever met vending at a festival.  I had a great chat with Angela and fell in love with many of her colorways.  She was very tolerant of my complete indecisiveness and offered some tips.  I eventually settled on these two lovely skeins of superwash wool.

Two skeins of Yarn Monkey Productions SuperSaki, in colorways Anastasia (top) and Aella (bottom).

The colors don’t appear accurately on my monitor, but you can get the general idea.  I’m thinking that the Aella will end up as an accessory for me and the Anastasia is a possible gift or blanket motif.  (I’ve been dreaming of a superwash wool blanket for myself – that will definitely be a 2013 or later project!)

I then had a little moment of amazement at the Hearthwise booth.  There were all kinds of stunning drop spindles, which immediately brought to mind my YOP goal of learning to use a drop spindle.  I had a chance to chat with Jessica Suiter, the instructor teaching Basic Dropspindling at the festival, and it seems like she might have an extra spot for me in the class on Sunday (fingers crossed!).

Finally, I returned to Leilani Arts.  I decided to go with a charcoal and dark red combination.  I imagine this eventually turning into a shawl or wrap for me.

Imported Studio Donegal Soft (Merino) Donegal in Charcoal and Dark Red.

Even though I bought 5 skeins of yarn, I didn’t use my whole budget.  I still have $19 to spend, so perhaps there are some buttons in my future…

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Interview with Catherine Hirst, author of Granny Square Crochet and giveaway

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Today I’m interviewing Catherine Hirst, the author of Granny Square Crochet: 35 Contemporary Projects Using Traditional Techniques I’m also hosting a giveaway for my review copy of the book, courtesy of CICO Books.  (I’m actually going to be sharing the review at another time, but here’s a spoiler: There are a lot of really cute granny chic patterns!  My personal favorites are the White and Bright Bedcover and the Granny Square Gloves.  I also liked the motif designs in the Sweet Posies Pram Blanket and the Dot in a Square Cot Blanket.)

Catherine describes herself as a contemporary crafts instructor, and she teaches and writes about crochet, knitting, and embroidery.  She can be found online at her website, her blog, Ravelry, Twitter, and Facebook.  Several of her instructional videos in knitting and crochet are available on Videojug.

Catherine Hirst. (Self-portrait, used with permission.)


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

Catherine: My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 7 years old. I liked it right away and haven’t stopped since!

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Catherine: Designing is, in the end, a practical consideration, because I can make finished products that fit perfectly or look exactly as I want them to look. For me, designing from scratch happened gradually; I started modifying patterns first, finally losing my fear of changing the original pattern, and then as I grew more confident, the modifications became more and more elaborate until it didn’t seem like a big deal to take the step of just starting to crochet a piece without a pattern at all.

UC: What about the granny square, and motifs in general, appeals to you as a designer?

Catherine: I love the geometric regularity of a granny square – if done properly, it always looks neat and clean. I prefer not to have too much frill and fluff in my designs. Motifs are brilliant because they can be joined together in novel ways to make different shapes and items – and of course you can incorporate a lot of colour as well.

My take on the Dot in a Square motif from Catherine’s Dot in a Square Cot Blanket.

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?

Catherine: I definitely wanted a modern approach when designing for Granny Square Crochet. I used techniques like the granny stripe, granny hexes, and granny triangles to make items that were designed to appeal to the modern eye and look clean. I also didn’t use the traditional black or very dark outside round colour that is so prevalent with old-fashioned granny square items.

UC: There are many techniques for joining grannies, and in your book you advocate a join as-you-go method.  What do you like about JAYG motifs?

Catherine: Excellent question! When joining after the fact with a crochet hook or needle, you always end up with a solid ridge line between the squares, which I think detracts from the open, airy appeal of the granny square. Join as you go joins only in the open spaces of the outside round of a granny, mimicking the construction of the granny itself. It makes the join invisible, the squares lay flatter, and the entire piece looks less heavy to the eye.

UC: You teach a variety of crafts, including crochet.  Does your experience as a teacher influence your design process, and if so, how?

Catherine: Definitely! I always eliminate extraneous steps that seem unnecessary to me. I’ll rarely use two sizes of hook in one design, for example. I try to make colour changes, increases and decreases, and finishing/seaming as straightforward as possible. I try to use nice round numbers of stitches as often as is practical, and I try to make my patterns as easy to follow and understandable as I can. As both a teacher and a crafter myself, I know well the horror of a poorly-written pattern!

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

Catherine: The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman. It’s small and easy to carry around, and answers nearly any question that a beginner crocheter might have – and many more advanced crocheters, too!

UC: Do you visit any crochet or craft blogs or websites regularly?

Catherine: In my feed reader, I have The Purl Bee, which is Purl Soho‘s blog and features knitting, crochet, and stitching/embroidery; The Yarn Harlot for knitting; Posie Gets Cosy for embroidery;  Crochet with Raymond and Attic 24 for crochet; Knitty Blog for all sorts of yarn-y goodness; and many, many more.  (UC comment: This interview was written before Alice announced that she was discontinuing the Crochet with Raymond blog.)  I also have a Twitter feed (@craftyexpat) which is filled with wonderful crafty people and it’s a tool that really helps me keep up with craft events, etc here in London. On my website, I have all the up-to-date information about what I’m up to. Please visit and say hi!

 Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Catherine!


I’ll be giving away my review copy of Granny Square Crochet by Catherine Hirst, courtesy of CICO Books.  This giveaway is open to all readers on the planet Earth.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, October 12, 2012.

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.