Book Review and Giveaway: The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This post contains affiliate links.

new tunisian crochetIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Tunisian crochet, and I’m thrilled to see it regaining popularity.  Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, is one of several recent crochet publications that explore the versatility of Tunisian crochet.  I recently received a review copy from Interweave/F+W Media.  Though it pains me to part with such an awesome book, I will be giving away my review copy, so read on for details.

The New Tunisian Crochet opens just as anyone familiar with Dora’s writings at Crochet Insider and elsewhere would expect: with a history lesson.  The first chapter, What is Tunisian Crochet?, reviews the appearance Tunisian crochet stitches in needlecrafts publications in the 1850s and discusses the possible origins of the craft.  This section will delight your inner history nerd and will also appeal to your intelligence.  Dora’s writing style assumes her readers have brains and she doesn’t feel the need to talk down.  She sites her references and even includes a reading list.  Dora also mentions some of the contemporary Tunisian crochet designers, such as Carolyn Christmas and Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, who have helped to re-popularize and reinvigorate the craft.

In the next chapter, Tunisian Crochet Techniques, Dora writes in a conversational tone and provides tips and explanations that are useful even to an experienced Tunisian crocheter.  The book includes illustrations along with descriptions of the basic Tunisian crochet stitches.  In general, I don’t find Interweave’s illustrations helpful and it is hard for me to tell where the yarn and hook are placed.  I wish that these illustrations made use of multiple colors (as most of the Japanese stitch guides do) so that it would be easier for me to identify the difference between the previous rows and the current stitch.  In many ways, the illustrations are in keeping with the general tone of this book, which assumes a level of knowledge of the basics of crochet and Tunisian crochet.  More experienced crocheters will find this lack of review refreshing, but Tunisian newbies may need to consult other resources for more support.

Chapter 3, Tools for Tunisian Crochet, reviews the various available hooks and tools for blocking.  Dora includes a list of web resources.

The next chapter, Special Techniques and Effects, is where things start to get very interesting.  Dora covers a myriad of Tunisian techniques here, including basic double-ended crochet, short rows for circles, stranded colorwork, and entrelac.  Each technique includes a small project or pattern and you will want to pull your hooks out right away and get swatching.

For all you stitch guide junkies, Chapter 5, Stitch Dictionary, is for you.  This section includes 33 Tunisian stitch patterns organized into five sections: Basic, Intermediate, Lace, Textured, and Tunisian and Standard Crochet.  Each pattern includes US abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

The final chapter, Projects, includes 12 project patterns.  The project breakdown is

  • Women’s Accessories – 6 (a shawl, a hat, mittens, a scarf, a bag, and slippers)
  • Garments – 4 (a cardigan, a pullover, and a skirt for women, and a vest for men)
  • Home Decor – 2 (a sampler throw and a rug)

This section features patterns by many talented designers, including Dora herself.  My favorites from this section are actually the first four patterns: the Marisol Cardigan by Andrea Graciarena, the Mago Vest by Charles Voth (interviewed by me here), the Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha (interviewed by me here), and the Shantay Skirt by Doris Chan.  I also like the Sierra Bag by Margaret Hubert (interviewed by me here), which changes up the typical entrelac pattern by including different sizes.  I can also imagine myself trying out some of the stitch patterns from the Ariadne Sampler Throw by Lisa Daehlin.  (Ravelry members can see all of the book’s designs on its source page.)

The book closes with a reference section in the back, which includes a key to the stitch symbols used throughout the book and a glossary of US pattern abbreviations.  It also includes illustrated and written instructions for all of the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches.  Finally, a bio of each contributor is included.

Overall, this is a great book for a crocheter interested in going beyond the basics of Tunisian crochet.  In addition to the wonderful tips and tricks, stitch guide, and history lesson, the book includes many great projects – several of which highlight or teach a specific Tunisian crochet skill.  The stitch guide and the patterns use both US pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The downside to this book is that the illustrations assume prior knowledge and are really just there to trigger your memory of particular stitches.  Also, it is a softcover and it doesn’t stay open when flat.  If you are a true Tunisian crochet newbie, you may need to supplement this book with something else (I would recommend Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet).  I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars for any crocheter interested in learning more about Tunisian crochet.

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.


As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 31, 2013.

FO Friday: Mother’s Day Shawl and other fun stuff

A few weeks ago, I shared a picture of a pineapple shawl I decided to design and make for my Mom seven days before Mother’s Day.  (Cue up the “What were you thinking??” comments from the peanut gallery.)

This is how it looked on May 8 (4 days before Mother’s Day).

I wasn’t sure if I would finish it on time, and I didn’t even know if my mom would like the bright color.  The Saturday before Mother’s Day, I went out to my mom’s and had a secret late night consult with my sister, who assured me it would look great on my mom.  (I had previously been informed by a co-worker who is my mom’s age and has met my mom a few times that it would be loved because “chartreuse is the new black.”)

So, I powered through and was able to finish the shawl a few minutes after midnight, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Here’s a secret picture I took of the shawl in the morning on my Mom’s couch before giving it to her.

Here’s the stitch detail.

I’m happy to say that my mom loved the shawl!  Even though it was pretty hot out that day, she found a way to wear it with style.

I’m glad I went with my gut on this one, and thanks to everyone who encouraged me to keep going with the color.  This is definitely way better than whatever weird last minute gift I would have had to buy.

This project was my first time I’ve used a madelinetosh yarn (tosh merino light).  The color is really lovely and my mom didn’t believe it was wool because it was so soft.  On the other hand, there were a few spots with little felted bits of yarn that I had to cut out.  Also, there was a lot of twist that made it not always fun to work with, but that may be due to the way it was wound in the shop.  There are more pictures and notes on my Ravelry project page.

I also finished the sample of my Wide Ripple Scarf pattern in Periwinkle last week.

My tall friend was kind enough to pose for this finished object picture.

This is a sample for a pattern booklet that will be published by F+W Media and distributed at Joann Fabric and Craft Stores.  I used Bamboo Ewe in Periwinkle.  My Rav project page is here.

And, I finished two small projects for myself which I shared on Sunday for my Year of Projects update.  But just in case you missed the pictures, I’ll share them again.

This is a small trivet made with embroidery floss using the “painted crochet” technique of changing colors.

This project definitely encouraged me to use up more embroidery floss for crochet.

This is a coaster/trivet made using hairpin lace.

Since this round of the Year of Projects ends on June 30, I have quite a few more techniques from Crochet Master Class that I’m trying to learn and work on before then.

My Ravelry project page for the painted crochet trivet is here and you can find the page for the hairpin lace coaster/trivet here.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

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!


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.