Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources. Today’s featured site is FreshStitches, my favorite source of tips and tricks for crochet and small (crafty) business.
Stacey’s blog is filled with wonderful pictures. For amigurumi fans, there is a lot to enjoy as Stacey shares projects from her own patterns as well as tips and customer projects from CALs that she hosts. And Stacey also shares her own projects, which include a range of crocheted and knit garments and accessories.
But the main reason I’m highlighting her blog today is because of the regular tips and tricks that Stacey shares with her readers. Here are a few of my favorites for yarn crafts in general:
Stacey: Oh, I don’t know if I could really pick a favorite, but I’ll pick a nice one…
From the time I was 12 years old, I entered my crochet in the county fair every summer. It was a lot of fun, and I really liked getting ribbons.
Then, when I was 17, I was waiting in line to submit my crochet pieces for the year. A supervisor came up to me and said that my work was so lovely… and asked if I wanted to do a demonstration!
I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited! So, I got booked in for a timeslot, and I spent a few hours crocheting at the fair.
I think it was the first time that I viewed my crocheting as something exciting and interesting. Before then, I just thought of it as something my mom and I did… it never occurred to me that other people didn’t!
UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to make?
Stacey: I love making stuffed animals. They’re cute, they’re quick, and they make use of the best properties of crochet fabric. They benefit from the density that a crochet stitch can provide.
UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community?
I’m in love with Ravelry. I spend a lot of time chatting in the forums, there! I also love Kathryn Vercillo’s blog. It’s full of really great crochet content & trends. (UC comment: I guess great minds think alike because I highlighted Crochet Concupiscence last week as my favorite source of crochet news!)
Thanks Stacey, for stopping by, and for providing such wonderful content on your blog!
Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources. Today’s featured site is Crochet Concupiscence, my favorite source of crochet-related news.
It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing.
It’s because of that combination – Kathryn’s tireless efforts at gathering crochet news along with the quality of her writing – that I find myself returning to her blog again and again. I always discover new blogs through Kathryn’s weekly Crochet Link Love on Saturdays, and I also love her vintage crochet discoveries (which can be found in her new 50 Years of Crochet feature and her series on Edgy 1970s Crochet Designers).
Underground Crafter (UC): What’s your favorite crochet memory?
Kathryn: My sister and I sometimes crochet together when she is here. I remember one time that she came here and we had a fire going in the fireplace and I was working on my crochet work while she was reading out loud to me by the light of the fire. It felt like I was part of an amazing 19th century novel.
UC: What are your favorite types of projects to crochet?
Kathryn: This varies so much depending on my mood. Crochet can serve so many different emotional needs! Lately I’ve been in a complicated emotional space in both my personal and professional lives and as a result I’ve been drawn to really simple, instant gratification projects that offer the opportunity to focus and go inwards. For example, I’ve been crocheting a lot of post stitch and cable stitch crochet hat patterns because I can follow the pattern, focus on the work at hand and kind of let everything else slip away but the project is never so complicated that it feels draining or trying. (UC comment: I love to make granny squares when I’m stressed out, for the same reason!)
UC: What are your favorite crochet websites?
Kathryn: It’s so hard to choose just a few websites. That’s why I do crochet link love every week, to link to all of the best crochet content from around the web because there is so much of it and the sources change from week to week! I like Pinterest for finding crochet inspiration, Ravelry for finding patterns and I’m learning to like the Facebook crochet community although the Facebook platform has taken me some getting used to. (UC comment: Kathryn frequently shares a crochet question of the day on her Facebook page and it’s very fun to play along!) I’m increasingly interested in Twitter chats and hangouts where you can connect with a smaller group of people in real time but there are only a handful of those; I’d like to get more involved in that.
UC: You’re a very organized blogger. Can you share your current blog schedule with us?
Kathryn: My current posting schedule varies depending on what’s in the news but you can usually count on these things:
Designer crochet or crochet fashion posts on Thursdays
Something about crochet health or crocheting for creativity on Fridays
Then throughout the week some of the other things that I feature include crochet news, roundups of crochet pattern links, and info on crochet designers. Occasionally I’ll do crochet book reviews or giveaways. I’ve also just started accepting crochet sponsors on this blog so there are posts introducing the amazing things that they offer and usually featuring a giveaway at some point during the month.
Thanks, Kathryn, for stopping by, and for regularly scouring the web to share such amazing crochet content with your readers!
What’s your favorite online resource for crochet-related news?
I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today. As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, tunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years. (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)
Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business. Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.
UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?
Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.
Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.
For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out. (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies! You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here. Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide. (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.) When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.
Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps. 😉
Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
UC: You’ve been teaching online for years. Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher.
Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.
I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.
Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Karia (also known as KoutureCrochet on Ravelry). As a Brooklyn native, I’m always excited to meet crocheters in my home borough online – somehow, it often seems easier than meeting them in real life! Karia is organizing an interesting Kickstarter project and also co-owns an Etsy shop. You can also find Kouture Crochet online on Facebook.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Kouture Crochet (KC): I started crocheting as a teen. My sister was in high school taking an art class where she was learning to crochet. As any self respecting younger sister, I wanted to do what my big sister was doing. So with the help of my mother, my sister taught me how to crochet. I crocheted all through high school, college and beyond. I learned to knit years later after graduating college. These two art forms quickly become a big part of who I am and how i relax, how I watch tv and why I love audio books.
UC: What inspired you to start selling your creations on Etsy?
KC: I started selling on Etsy because I was going broke making scarves and gifts for friends and family! Selling on Etsy was a way to continue to craft without losing money. I quickly realized I wanted to make this into a career. I’ve been selling on Etsy since March 2011, and I hope to be selling my crafts for a long time to come.
UC: Tell us about your Handspun Single Sheep Breeds Yarn Kickstarter project and your inspiration for developing it.
KC: For my shop on Etsy and for my personal projects, I used only natural fibers. One thing I found is that the selection of high quality 100% natural yarns is limited and often extremely expensive. I was able to find easy accessible camel and alpaca yarns through some luck and research. Wool yarns was more difficult. It felt like I had one option: merino. I love working with merino but I wanted to try something different.
When I started trying to find wool from other sheep breeds I was completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of breeds and countless varieties. Purchasing finished yarns from more than one or two breeds was just not in my budget. In the end, I taught myself to spin yarn on a drop spindle in order to be able to try different breeds and varieties. I was lucky enough to be able to make my own yarns and learn to spin on a drop spindle, but most people don’t have the time or patience to learn to make their own yarns. There is a such a need for single breed yarns and it seemed to me like the market was not filling that need.
The best way to know “what is what” is to feel the yarn and work with it. However, there are hundreds of breeds and thousands of varieties. One skein of single breed yarn can be anywhere from $15 – $70. I had been a backer of many Kickstarter projects, and Kickstarter was a perfect format for this kind of idea. The project took months to research and price even though the goal was simple: affordable, an easy to understand way to try different single breed yarns. I have narrowed down the list to just 26 breeds. They vary wildly in softness, crimp, coarseness, strength and even the natural colors the fibers come in. I don’t cut corners in quality, but by offering samples of one ounce mini skeins its possible to offer many breeds for an affordable price.
Few, if any, local yarn shops will have more than 5 breeds of yarn to try, let alone 26! As a lover of natural fibers, it is great to be able to feel and sample a yarn in your hand. My hope is there are just a few people like me who wanted to try these fibers and yarns. Crafters who love natural yarns will be able to do so at a very reasonable price. I also hope that people who think wool is that “itchy, expensive stuff” will also give it a try. (UC comment: This is really a great project! If you’d like to contribute, check out Kouture Crochet’s Kickstarter page here.)
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?
KC: I’m new to Ravelry, but I love having such a large and active community of crafters.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Karia!
I have just a small finished object today, my very first pair of knit booties. But they come with a long story! (And, to thank you for reading the whole story, I’m also including a book review and giveaway at the end of this post.)
I have a friend that I haven’t seen in ages. She used to date (and then was engaged to) a friend of mine from college. There were about 3 or 4 years when the three of us would get together very frequently and have a great time. They lived in a nearby neighborhood for a few years and then they moved to the Boston area, but I actually kept in touch and visited regularly for some time. Then there was a lot of upheaval in my life in 2007-08 and, at the same time, they broke up and this friend moved to California. I haven’t seen her since then and now we are “Facebook friends.” (You know what I mean – I think about her, occasionally see a status update, but haven’t actually called or written in ages.) Via Facebook, I learned that she got married and eventually that she was pregnant. She actually kept a rather entertaining weekly blog during her pregnancy which I only discovered in about the eighth month. The humor in her posts reminded me why I enjoy her friendship so much, so I decided to make her newborn baby girl some gifts.
Since we haven’t seen each other in about 5 years and I am completely pressed for time, I decided that my standard baby gift (a blanket) was out of the question. I also didn’t want to buy any yarn, so I started looking for a group of smaller projects that I could make with stash. And that’s where these cuties come in.
I recently received a review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less?by Carol Meldrum from Barron’s Educational Series. The book positions itself as “a collection of knitting projects that you can really fit into your spare time…creating fun and imaginative pieces in a half-hour or less.” The concept appealed to me totally, especially since I knit extremely slowly, but I’ll admit that I was dubious that anything can be knit (by me) in thirty minutes or less. The book comes with a few disclaimers that put me more at ease. Finishing is not included in the 30 minutes, and when the project is for multiple pieces (e.g., a set of mittens), only one piece can be made in 30 minutes. Ok, perhaps there is such a project out there.
The book includes 60 projects, most of which are small and can be made with stash yarn, or which are made with bulky yarn or two strands of yarn held together. You can tell that Carol is primarily a teacher, because the book is organized by skill level (40 Easy projects and 20 Intermediate projects), and then sub-divided by technique. At the beginning of the book, there is a gallery of project photos along with the page where you can find the pattern. Some of the patterns include a technique marker (e.g., Cable Knitting) on the side of the page. These techniques are explained in a 14 page illustrated section at the end of the book.
I made the Broad Strap Booties (pictured on the cover) to test out the 30 minute theory. I gave myself 90 minutes per bootie since I know that I knit extremely slowly. (As a reference point, it took me 25 minutes to make half a gauge swatch for the pattern – 22 stitches by 15 rows.) I was able to complete both booties (not including swatching but including knitting and assembly/finishing), in just under 2 hours and 15 minutes. I consider that a resounding success.
What I liked about this book:
Each project is photographed several times from different angles. The projects appear against a white background in the gallery, then again in “group photos” every few pages (with each item numbered for reference to the pattern), and then again on the pattern page. This gives you a really clear idea of how the finished project will look and is also visually interesting.
Even though I personally don’t see myself knitting some of these projects (e.g., a Dali mustache), everything inside is actually very cute. None of the projects “look” like they were thrown together in 30 minutes or less.
Most of the projects are great stashbusters.
There is an opportunity to try out techniques like shaping, cables, beading, or colorwork on a small and low-risk project. The technique section in the back includes a “Practice This” box which directs you to the appropriate patterns using the technique.
If you tend to procrastinate on gift knits, this could be a great “go to” resource for inspiration.
What I don’t like about the book, or what’s missing:
Like other paperback books, it doesn’t lay flat so it is difficult to knit and read at the same time. There are front and back cover flaps that you can use to hold your place, though.
When a pattern includes charts or a template, those are in the back rather than next to the pattern page, so you will need to flip back and forth a bit.
Though most projects are clearly made with just a small amount of yarn, the patterns list the full size of the skein used for the project. For example, the booties that I made used about 34 yards in the main color and about 9 yards in the other color, but the pattern just mentions that I need two balls of Rowan Handknit Cotton DK (93 yards each). I think the book could get more mileage as a stashbusting book if Carol included the approximate yardage for each project. Instead, the knitter needs to guess whether they have enough yarn in their stash for any given project.
On a related note, it would help if the weight of the yarn was listed for each project. If it isn’t part of the brand name (e.g., Rowan Handknit Cotton DK), then there aren’t many clues about the yarn weight. I’m guessing the Rowan and Coats yarns that Carol used for the book are ubiquitous in the UK, but it would be great if it was easier to make yarn substitutions.
While arranging the book in order of difficulty is a great idea, it is hard to find projects by type (e.g., women’s accessories) with this system. It is difficult to determine the scale of a project from the gallery, so it would be helpful if the index listed projects by type. (The baby projects are listed as a category in the index, though.)
Unfortunately, the patterns are not posted on Ravelry yet and you can’t “search inside the book” on Amazon, so it is hard to get an idea of what is included if you don’t see the book in person. I would recommend this book for a beginner, advanced beginner, or newly intermediate knitter who likes to make small, portable projects. If you are trying to bust some stash and enjoy gift knitting, this could also be the right book for you. The book includes 60 projects, which is more than you would generally find in a book at this price point, but many of the projects are primarily decorative. I think this would be a fun book to use when knitting with children or teens since the projects are cute and fast to make, and the accessories are on trend. If you are a more experienced knitter or like more detailed/involved projects, then this is probably not the book for you.
Full disclosure: A free 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.