I’m excited to share a review of a crochet pattern book and reference guide by Tracey Lord, along with a giveaway for readers in the United States and Canada, so read on for details!
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. A free review copy of The Big Book of Granny Squares: 365 Crochet Motifs was provided to me by Interweave. 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.
The Big Book of Granny Squares: 365 Crochet Motifs by Tracey Lord is pretty much a granny square lover’s dream. (Spoiler alert: I really liked this book!) It describes itself as “The biggest collection of crochet motifs. Ever.” And, it may be true (or, at least it feels like it’s true when you’re reading it).
The book is a spiral-bound hardcover, so it’s perfect for reading while you’re crocheting. It opens with an Introduction which includes suggestions for using the squares. Choosing a Hook, Choosing & Buying Yarns, and Getting Started provide helpful background information and are written conversationally. Choosing Colors has many great hints for expanding your color comfort zone. Crochet Basics, Starting Out, Basic Stitches, Making a Square, and Decorative Stitches include written and illustrated instructions for holding the hook and yarn; making a slip knot, foundation chain, foundation chain ring, and magic ring; nine basic stitches (slip stitch, half double crochet, double crochet, half treble crochet, treble crochet, double treble crochet, triple treble crochet, and quadruple treble crochet); tips for crocheting in rows and rounds, joining yarn, working into front or back loops, and reading charts; and 11 special stitches (clusters, bobbles, popcorns, puffs, bullions, crocodile stitch, front and back post stitches, spike stitch, crab stitch, and surface crochet). Finishing Off is a 3-page section that covers blocking, weaving in ends, and joining squares with three sewing methods and join-as-you-go, as well as including a list of U.S. pattern abbreviations.
The book then moves into 365 square patterns. Each pattern includes a brief introduction, a list of special stitches, a medium or large flat lay picture of the square on a white background, and written instructions in U.S. crochet abbreviations. The difficulty level for the pattern is graphically indicated by one (beginner), two (easy), three (intermediate) or four (experienced) stars. There is a range of skill levels used, with 108 beginner, 134 easy, 93 intermediate, and 29 experienced patterns included. There is also a key to the colors used in each square. The book ends with a detailed index and biographies of the authors.
If you love granny squares, you will find plenty to enjoy in this book. You will find lacy, dense, textured, simple, and intricate patterns in this book. (You can see a few of the patterns on the book’s Ravelry source page here.) As I already mentioned, there’s a range of skill levels, and there are more than just the standard grannies you see in most stitch guides. The Big Book of Granny Squares: 365 Crochet Motifs can definitely be used as the basis for a 365/granny-a-day challenge, or just to refer to from time to time for some color or pattern inspiration. There are a few things that could be improved. It would have been helpful to clarify which sections or patterns were written by Tracey or the six listed co-authors. The font, in the opinion of my aging eyes, is far too small, especially in the reference sections. I understand it was necessary to keep the book under 300 pages so it could remain affordable, but in a perfect world, the font would be a few points larger. Overall, though, I would recommend this book for any crocheter who likes to make motifs.
This giveaway is open to readers with mailing addresses in the United States and Canada, except where prohibited by law. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. One winner will be chosen at random from the entries submitted via the Rafflecopter widget. The winner will receive 1 copy of The Big Book of Granny Squares: 365 Crochet Motifs, courtesy of Interweave. Good luck!
I’m excited to share a crochet book review with a giveaway, so read on for details!
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. A free review copy of Quick Crochet for the Home was provided to me by Interweave. 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. Photos are used with permission.
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(And, um, no, I’m not giving away my signed copy. But, you still might win a copy!)
As the title suggests, the book features home decor projects. It opens with an introduction from Tamara that reminds us that “crochet is the touch that makes a house a home.” (I can say from personal experience that it also makes an apartment a home!) The book is then organized by room, with patterns for the living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedroom, and the kids’ room(s).
Each pattern opens with a full-page photograph, finished measurements, yarn requirements, hook size, notions, gauge, and notes. The yarn requirements include the standard size (e.g., Worsted weight/#4 Medium) as well as the brand name and color of the yarn used with detailed yardage/meterage, weight, and fiber content, making it easy for crocheters to find the same yarn or substitute it. The pattern instructions are written in U.S. abbreviations and also include international stitch symbols. Many of the patterns include helpful tips as well. There are also multiple pictures of each pattern from different angles and in a home setting so you can really see how the projects might look in a room (if your place was as neat as the house used in the photo shoot, of course).
The book ends with an abbreviation key and a 6-page illustrated glossary of stitches and techniques. There is also a page of yarn resources and an acknowledgements section. The patterns are clearly written. The book is bright and clean, with lots of well lit pictures and white space to make it easy to focus on the patterns while also getting some styling suggestions.
Because I think most crocheters can’t learn from illustrations and because the patterns don’t indicate a difficulty level, this book is best for crocheters who have already mastered the basic stitches, or who are adventurous enough to seek out tutorials for help with stitches. Advanced beginner and intermediate crocheters who can read patterns or stitch symbols should have no trouble making these patterns. If you are looking for ways to transform your home with a touch of crochet (or have a supply of housewarming gifts at the ready), then you’ll enjoy Quick Crochet for the Home!
This giveaway is open to readers with mailing addresses in the United States and Canada, except where prohibited by law. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. One winner will be chosen at random from the entries submitted via the Rafflecopter widget. The winner will receive 1 copy of Quick Crochet for the Home, courtesy of Interweave. Good luck!
(As a side note, this interview has taken so long to write up that I can no longer say that both Danielle and I live in New York City – since our interview, she has relocated to Long Island. On the other hand, now I can share that her Mackinac Tank pattern made the cover of the summer issue of Knitscene!)
Danielle has generously shared a coupon code for any of her self-published patterns with my readers! (Read on for more details.) All pictures of Makewise Designs patterns are used with Danielle’s permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): Can you tell me first how you got started knitting?
Danielle: Growing up, my mom always knew how to knit and crochet, and I started doing it all the time, but I wasn’t really all that interested.
When I went to college, I lived in a dorm that had a community setting, and one of the people in my dorm wanted to do the Warm Up America program where you knit blanket blocks and then they’re sewn together for charity and donated. For some reason, at 20, all of the sudden I wanted to learn how to make these blanket blocks, whereas I’d never wanted to do it before. So, she taught me garter, stockinette, whatever. I don’t know why, but the fabric started growing off the needles and it was like magic. I thought to myself, “All of these wasted years!”
UC: Well, you have the (knitting) genes, obviously.
Danielle: Exactly. It just started from there, so it’s been going on 15 years at this point.
UC: Did your mom get mad that she wasn’t the one who taught you, or was she like, “Finally, you’ve taken it on!”
Danielle: No, just the opposite. She was thrilled. She still does quite a bit of knitting and crochet. Since then, she’s taught me how to crochet. She’s totally embraced it and we love to share tips, share things we’ve learned, and have a conversations with each other in that language that only two knitters are going to understand, like “I moved that ssk…” and people are just like, “What are they talking about?”
UC: That’s awesome, now you guys have a secret language. How did you get started designing?
Danielle: I love to follow other people’s patterns. I love to see other people’s creative processes. At some point a switch just flipped and I thought, I’m looking for this thing, I didn’t find it anywhere, I didn’t find it on Ravelry (which is probably a representative sample of the knitting universe, at this point). I just thought, “Well, I’ve taken a lot of math, I know how stockinette behaves and garter.” There’s certainly still a lot of trial and error involved, but I thought why don’t I just try it?
I’m definitely kind of a Type A person, kind of I’ll do it myself, self-starter kind of person so I gave it a whirl. I gave it a shot and tried it and it was that same rush that I felt the first time [knitting]. Oh my gosh, the fabric, it’s growing off these needles, and now there’s that extra element of, and, it’s working out the way I expected in my head.”
UC: And that doesn’t always happen. You left out the part where you have to tear out the thing…
Danielle: Well, I’m trying to glaze over those parts! I actually just was working on a design where the downside of being a Type A rears its head. Take it out, take it out, to the point where I think one of the most important things that any really successful designer has captured is not only knowing themselves, but knowing their style and knowing when to stop designing a piece. Don’t keep designing, and don’t over design it. You don’t need to add that one more textural element, it doesn’t need that second lace pattern. What you’ve done is what should stay. It’s the editing process – that’s what I call it in my head.
UC: Where you keep out those extra pieces that are overkill.
Danielle: RIght. So when you look at something by Debbie Bliss or Jared Flood or Hannah Fettig (who’s one of my big favorites), lots of times you can look at their pieces and know that’s one of their designs because their internal editing is so strong. So for me, this internal editing is what I find the most challenging obstacle. When is it exactly what I have pictured in my head? Have I tried to overdesign it? Does it need to be that complicated? That type of thing is tough. That’s the learning curve for me.
UC: Related to that, I’ve noticed that your designs are primarily self-published or though some branch of Interweave. I’m wondering if that’s a conscious decision or did it just work out that way based on where you’ve submitted?
Danielle: I think it’s a blend. Self-publishing, a lot of designers will tell you, has a liberating aspect at the end. You miss that deadline, something comes up – personal nature or professional (your day job) nature – then you bump your publishing deadline a week, that’s life.
For me, I am a good deadline person, I’m a good time manager, I always have been, so I wanted to reach out for that third-party publication recognition and also wanted to challenge myself in that way to be working with a reputable publication, work with the yarn that they’ve chosen on their timeline. Working with Interweave, I’m just really familiar with their publications. I’ve long loved Knit Scene, one of my very favorite magazines, so I think I was specifically targeting them. I really wanted to part of that family because I love their style, their ethos, their way of expressing themselves.
UC: You could see yourself fitting into their publications.
UC: So what was that like the first time you have your printed pattern in one of their publications? Did you frame it on the wall?
Danielle: When you get something published in their magazines, they send you a copy of the magazine, but then they also send you copies of pages that were not inserted in the magazine – printed copies – so I put those in plastic sleeves because… Type A.
UC: That’s really nice of them. A lot of publishers don’t do that.
Danielle: So you get the bound copy and then you get the flat copy as well. But it wasn’t so much seeing it in print as it was getting that email from the editor saying that they would love to take the design and put it in.
The first time that happened to me, I think I looked at the email and thought, “This is a hoax!” Or, “Wait a minute, they didn’t mean to send this to me.” There’s that moment of self-doubt, and then your second thought is “Oooh, that is so cool!” My very first design for Interweave was for Interweave Knits and it was pillows. They were wool, bulky gauge, and I had to do it in July. It was a little bit of a steamy process, but it worked out.
UC: Do you have knitting books, for your own collection, or do you do everything online?
Danielle: When I need technical resources from the technical planning/pattern writing side of things, I much prefer written resources. I like to have them out in front of me. Obviously, stitch dictionaries. Interweave has a lot of publications that include charts for sweater sizing in different yarn gauges.
When I have the time to knit anything, other than what I’m hopefully designing for myself, I love online PDFs because I can keep them all in one place. The wealth of choices is overwhelming so I try to balance between the two, but I find that if I need a technical resource, I need it printed out.
Danielle and I bonded over our love of the Kinokinuya bookstore booth at VK Live.
UC: I know people think it is weird when you publish your patterns online that you don’t personally do everything online, but I feel the same way. For patterns, it’s one thing, but I want a tangible thing I can flip back and forth. Do you have any favorite stitch guides or books in your collection that you always go back to?
Danielle: You probably hear this a lot, but I love Kinokinuya, the Japanese bookstore that’s exhibiting here at VK Live. I love Japanese stitch dictionaries. I find that they include a lot of complex patterns, and sometimes I think my designing tends more towards simplicity, so sometimes I use those stitch patterns as a jumping off point and then I think, “Could I take out an element? Can I thin that idea out?” Because their patterns have cables, lace, and bobbles all in one stitch pattern, but maybe I just want the lace.
Lots of times, nothing ever comes of that brainstorming, but at the same time, I think it’s instructive. If I do want to edit that stitch pattern, how am I going to do it? If I take that cable out, what’s going to happen to the gauge and what’s going to happen to the texture? I think you can never get enough of that. I think it’s just like an established designer saying if you want to learn about designing and learn about the business, the best thing you can do is read patterns. Read other people’s patterns. Some people are going to shape that shoulder with a bind off and then seam that edge. Some designers are going to shape that shoulder with short rows and then do a three needle bind off. Why do you choose between them? Does it depend on the fabric, does it depend on the shape, does it depend on the style?
UC: Speaking of the Japanese stitch guides, do you have a preference for written patterns or charted patterns? Some people seem very committed to one or the other.
Danielle: I think that goes to my inherent way of learning, which is to write things down. I retain things better if I write it down myself. For me, written instructions make more sense to me than charts lots of times.
UC: So if you see it in the Japanese stitch guide, you’re writing it down for yourself.
Danielle: Often. And even, look at the chart, decipher what I think is happening in the chart, knit, and write it down at the same time – because even if I successfully translate it from the chart into actual knitting, a week later, I’ll forget half of what I did. I’m looking at it saying, “How did I manage this?”
UC: While you’re here at Vogue Knitting Live, what exciting things are you planning to do?
Danielle: I took a seaming class with John Brinegar – I think a refresher course is always valuable. I’m taking a steeking class this afternoon with Ragga Eiríksdóttir. I’ve never done it, and she’s teaching it in the round. Usually for me, knitting in the round is greater than or equal to knitting flat, so I’m going to try that. Tomorrow, I’m going to work for the String Yarns booth all day because I used to work for them.
UC: Do you have any exciting yarn store employee stories to share, or can you talk about how that influenced you as a designer?
Danielle: I think the influence is huge because you’re looking at different yarns from different manufacturers. On your feet, you need to know the gauge; the construction of the yarn – is it plied, is it a chainette, is it a single ply; you need to know how it blocks; how to treat it after it’s been knitted; what the construction of the ply is – 2 ply, 4 ply, 6 ply. It just exposes you to the entire world of options. So if you are comfortable working with a smooth Merino superwash, you don’t always spring to a Shetland wool option. You think it’s scratchy or something like that. But the upside of Shetland is it’s incredibly hard wearing and durable with really reliable gauge.
I think it broadens your horizons, it shows you what the options are, and it is really a good education into what you need to know as a designer. If you get into a third-party publication, they’re going to send you the yarn that they’d like you to work with it, and it might not be something you’re familiar with. You need to be able to look at it and say, “Oh, I see it has this construction, these many plies, these care instructions…”
UC: And even on proposals, you can say, I’m looking for an x type of yarn because you have that background knowledge.
Danielle: Yes, I think it isn’t just what comes in so you’re prepared to work with it, but exactly like you said, it also informs your choices of when you even make a submission, to a magazine or something you want to produce yourself. You make that educated decision about this design really isn’t good for a single ply yarn. I really need a plied yarn for this.
UC: That’s great. A lot of people just learn that through arduous trial and error, and you got paid to get that experience!
Danielle: And I got to touch a lot of really nice yarn, too.
UC: String has a fancy collection!
Danielle: Yes, the beautiful cashmere that comes in from Italy is amazing.
Danielle: I have some publications coming up this year for different outlets, and that’s really exciting. I always try to blog about anything that I’ve done that’s new. I try to expose a little bit of the thought process behind it – the inspiration, or a spot where I struggled – because I think that designing, even for somebody who is really experienced, is so much of a journey. I mean, sure, there’s a lightening strike of inspiration from time to time, but it’s also a very measured, thoughtful, mechanical process of needle selection, yarn selection, seamed, or unseamed, lace, texture, and that type of thing, and that’s what keeps me so excited about it still.
There is so much to learn and I frankly think I’ll never learn it all. Somebody will always know more than you about a specific thing, but it’s that excitement of learning it and trying to make myself better, while at the same time producing something with my own two hands that at the end of the day, I can actually hold it and touch it. That’s what’s most gratifying.
Danielle has offered a 20% discount on her self-published designs for my readers through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, July 20, 2013. Just use the code MAKEWISE in her Ravelry shop or on her website.
Thanks, Danielle, for taking the time for the interview, and for sharing the coupon code!
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.
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)
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.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Melissa: My sister and I were raised by a single mother, and each day after school, we would walk to the hair salon where she worked and spend at least 2 hours waiting in a tiny breakroom for her to finish her shift. One day, a woman who would come in each week to have her hair set took pity on my sister and me. She invited us to take crochet lessons from her. Once a week, we would walk to her house after school, and sit at her highly polished dining room table learning to work with a hook and thread. My first project was a heart doily that I entered in our county fair that year. The doily received a large purple grand champion ribbon and though I haven’t made another doily since, it got me hooked on crochet.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Melissa: In the late 80’s, when I was in my early teens, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of crochet garment patterns that were what I was looking for. This was before the internet was in most households, and as I lived in a very rural area, the closet big box store was almost 2 hours away and a yarn store wasn’t even on my radar. That’s when I started creating garments for myself, designing on the hook so to speak.
UC: You’re an avid reader and crafter. Many crafters (like me!) struggle to find time for reading. How do you balance your love of both hooks and books?
Melissa: Great question! Our family is rather outside of the norms in the approach we take to life. We have always started getting our kids ready for bed at 7pm. When they were younger, this included reading to them; as a result, even though they are now 9 and almost 15, they don’t balk at getting ready for bed at 7pm because they are avid readers, too! This allows all of us to be in our beds by 8 at the latest and we all read for an hour or so. My husband was not a reader when we married, but he is now. So during the day, I hook and at night, I book. But [while writing] Austentatious Crochet, it was difficult to stay as balanced in my approach to life, and to find time to read books that were not related to Austen research.
UC: Austentatious Crochet features 36 projects inspired by the work of Jane Austen. What was the design process like for this book?
Melissa: Usually a stitch pattern inspires me, or a skein of yarn, but the process of designing for this book was sketches, followed by my finding what stitch pattern and yarn would produce the look I was envisioning for that design. I have no shortage of ideas, but time to put them all into reality is difficult for me to find. There were over 50 sketches that I painstakingly whittled down to 40 designs. 4 were not included because the pictures were not up to the level I was looking for. But I can be very indecisive. It was difficult for me to choose which of my designs would make it into the book.
UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Melissa: Everywhere! I have a large office box filled with scraps of paper, sketch sheets, and photos of design possibilities that may not see the light of day if I don’t find the time. For example, I’ll be at a restaurant and see a woman wearing a shirt that perhaps has an open back with some sort of motif across the opening that I would love to translate into crochet, so I’ll sketch it on whatever paper I can scrounge out of my purse. My kids have bemoaned the fact that in our vacation pictures is often a stray picture of carpeting in the hotel hallway as either the colorway or the motif struck me visually. When I come up with a book idea, or a creative name for a design to made sometime in the future, it all goes in the box.
UC: Has teaching and designing crochet patterns impacted your personal crafting? If so, how?
Melissa: Most definitely. My daughter complains that I never make anything for her anymore and she is right. I make what is commissioned in the size asked for. Squeezing in time to make gifts for others is difficult as well. But I am slowly getting back to that and creating time for what I love to do versus what I consider to be a chore.
UC: Do you have any favorite crafts or book blogs/websites you’d like to share?
Melissa: The Republic of Pemberley is a huge resource for Jane Austen fans. I always enjoy reading Dora Ohrenstein’s Crochet Insider as she travels quite a bit and covers international crochet, as well as crochet history. I don’t have a lot of time to spend online unfortunately, which is sad as it is huge resource and mostly untapped for me.
UC: What goals do you have for the next year?
Melissa: Well, I want this year to be more than just about survival. As I did all the designs for Austentatious Crochet, all the writing, and all the production (hiring the photographer, models, stylists, scouting locations, etc.), it took a huge chunk of my time away from my family, so I have been scaling back. I want to cultivate more relationships. I need to become a better networker and delegater. But even so, I would like to get more designs out there as I have so many ideas just sitting in ‘the box’, but unless I can learn to delegate, that is unlikely to happen. It all seems to come back to there are simply not enough hours in the day. Don’t all of us mothers feel that way?
UC comment: I can’t speak as a mother, but I know I feel the same way! Thanks so much, Melissa, for taking time from your schedule to stop by for an interview!
To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl. For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.