Book Review: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sample Afghan by Laurinda Reddig

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Rowan Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan

Laurinda Reddig‘s ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan is a booklet containing tutorials and patterns for beginning crocheters.  The subtitle of the booklet, “A Complete Class to Learn Crochet Including 4 Easy Baby Blankets & a Hat,” clarifies its purpose.  Laurinda published this 74 page booklet in 2012 using CreateSpace, and it is available in both right-handed and left-handed editions.  Although it is a paperback, you can probably press it flat without much effort (though I haven’t tried it) if you want to crochet and read at the same time.

The booklet opens with a two page introduction.  If you are familiar with Laurinda’s blog, you may already know about her daughter Rowan, and this booklet is dedicated to her memory.  The introduction shares some of Laurinda’s experiences and talks about how she used crochet to heal.  The next section, How to Use This Book, explains the formatting.

Chapter One: Getting Started includes information about yarn and tools.  Laurinda then moves on to tutorials for making a slip knot, holding your hook, yarning over, chaining, working into the chain and into stitches, finishing off, and gauge.  Laurinda includes an explanatory paragraph along with process photos with brief notes for each new skill.  The photos are clear and the print quality is good.  The booklet uses a matte rather than glossy paper, but there aren’t any bleeds through from the other side of the page.  One point of confusion is that Laurinda stresses the importance of using the thumb rest for a beginner, but also uses a hand carved hook with no thumb rest for all of the booklet’s photos.

The booklet then moves on to Chapter Two: Basic Stitches, which includes 4 square patterns and the Lovely Lilly Blanket pattern, alongside tutorials for the single, double, and half double crochet stitches, along with two versions of a double crochet shell stitch.  Laurinda’s pattern formatting is very consistent, and whenever a new stitch is introduced throughout the booklet, it is first written out in italics (with the U.S. pattern abbreviation in parenthesis) along with a reference to the tutorial.  In other books, I’ve seen the tutorials precede the projects, but since her formatting is so consistent and the tutorial is generally on the next page, this isn’t a major downside.

In Chapter Three: Combining Stitches, Laurinda includes 4 square patterns, 5 tutorials, and the Treya’s Treasure Blanket pattern.  Chapter Four: Easy as XYZ also has 4 square patterns and 5 tutorials, along with the Rey of Sunshine Blanket pattern.  Chapter Five: Textured Stitches, has 4 square patterns, 6 tutorials, and the Daring Dorian Blanket pattern.

Chapter Six: Putting It All Together goes through all of the steps needed for finishing a blanket made from squares, including blocking and joining, with tutorials for both single crochet and whip stitch joins.  (You can see completed versions of the sampler blanket here on Ravelry.)  Chapter Seven: Working in the Round explores the technique of crocheting in the round because, “A class in Learning to Crochet would not be complete without learning the basics of how to Crochet in the Round.”  Rather than just show how to crochet the blanket edging in the round, Laurinda includes a full tutorial with an additional pattern, the Simple Newborn Hat with Flower. She shares tutorials on both working into a chain circle or ring, and the magic loop.  Laurinda’s magic loop method is new to me, but she has been teaching it for over a decade.  She also includes a final tutorial for decreasing.

The booklet ends with three appendices which include a glossary of U.S. and U.K. pattern abbreviations, online resources for crocheters, and an index of stitches and tutorials.

Laurinda’s booklet illustrates perfectly the advantages and challenges of reading self-published craft books.  As a reader, you are wrapped in Laurinda’s “voice.”  Her unique take on crochet is evident on every page, through her chatty, conversational tone; the information she shares about her personal life; her layout; and even in the photographs, where you can see that she enjoys using hand carved hooks.  Unlike reading a typical mass market crochet book, you feel as though you are spending time with Laurinda (in a class or charity crochet group) while reading.  On the other hand, a more conventional layout where tutorials preceded the patterns might have benefitted some readers.  Although the book is both copy and tech edited, there are some unconventional uses of capitalizations and grammar.  Additionally, while in general the photos are clear and the printing quality is surprisingly good, the process photos may have benefitted from a light colored or white background, and some of the project photos (taken by sample makers/testers) are not as clear or neatly styled as those you would normally see in a book.  

As a crochet teacher myself, I’m a big fan of using samplers for teaching, and I think this booklet fills in the gaps for self- or internet-taught crocheters by sharing many tips and tricks along with the patterns and tutorials.  Overall, I would recommend this booklet to newish crocheters looking to expand their skills (or, crocheters returning to pattern reading after a long absence).  It would also be a good booklet for crochet teachers working with beginners, since there are alternative explanations and interesting beginner projects.  A group that does charity crochet for babies might enjoy using this booklet also, as the patterns are designed with babies in mind and don’t have many holes that fingers can get caught in.  I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars for those audiences.

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.

Blogiversary and A Tour Through Crochet Country!

Today marks my two year blogiversary, and I’m one of the stops on A Tour Through Crochet Country!  If you haven’t been following along, this is a wonderful blog tour organized by Crochetville.  The tour features over 50 Associate Professional or Professional members of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA).

Click here for the free pattern for the Recantgular Sampler Blanket.

If you’re new here, welcome!  I’m a crochet (and knitting) teacher, designer, and blogger.  In addition to sharing my own projects and news on my blog, I also do a lot of interviews (I’ve even won a few awards) and book reviews.  I’m really honored to be part of A Tour Through Crochet Country.  To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’ll be sharing a free pattern below.  But first I’d like to talk about how important the CGOA has been to me.

As many of my regular readers know, my grandmother taught me to crochet.  After she passed away in 2007, I didn’t have any important people in my real life to talk with about crochet.  Through my membership in CGOA and my involvement in the CGOA Professionals listerv, I’ve had the chance to virtually meet many wonderful crocheters who share the same passion for the hook as I do.

Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.
Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.

Back in 2009, I had the honor of being introduced to a wonderful mentor, Mary E. Nolfi, through the CGOA mentoring program.  When I was first exploring design, Mary guided and encouraged me.  Her primer is a great intro for aspiring crochet designers.  I still remember my excitement at emailing her when my first designs were selected for publication.   I’m also grateful to Michelle Maks, yesterday’s stop on the the tour, for taking a chance on me when she was the editor of Crochet World.  I’m thrilled to have another mentor, Marty Miller (March 13’s stop on the tour), who is helping me explore tech editing.

Now I’m paying it forward by volunteering to write book reviews for the CGOA newsletter and blog, and by serving as a mentor to another designer.

My first designs, published in Crochet World in 2010.

And, of course, CGOA membership has other benefits, even if you aren’t a professional (or aspiring professional) in the industry.  You get a subscription to Crochet! magazine and discounts at national retailers as well as on CGOA educational offerings.  You can also participate in your local chapter.  (I’ve been a member of the NYC Crochet Guild for years and in addition to great monthly meetings where I can hang out with fellow crocheters, they also offer classes and local discounts.)

I’d like give a shout out to a some other CGOA members I’ve met (in real life or virtually) who have been very helpful to me in the past few years.

Vashti Braha (interview) has taught me so much through her Crochet Inspirations newsletter, which has also inspired me to keep experimenting! Kim Guzman (interview) is so generous with her knowledge online and is a great teaching author.  Juanita Quinones (interview) is a wonderful tech editor that is volunteering on the Home work project on Ravelry, which is giving a second life to vintage designs.  Mary Beth Temple (interview) is a very strong advocate for crochet and has been a professional inspiration.  Charles Voth (a.k.a. Stitch Stud) (interview) is a talented – and nice! – designer and tech editor who always shares so much of his knowledge with his fellow hookers online.

If you’ve made it this far, your probably asking yourself, “Didn’t she promise a freebie?”

Charity Crochet for Project Night Night – The Rectangular Sampler Blanket

Early in my career, I worked for an organization that provided temporary housing for hundreds of homeless families, so the tour’s featured charity, Project Night Night, is really close to my heart.  I wanted to create a project that was beautiful to look at but also fun to make.

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

The Rectangular Sampler is a variation on the traditional granny square that incorporates a stitch sampler to keep things interesting.  There’s a granny rectangle, an alternating v-stitch, staggered puff stitches, and a fun edging.

blog Rectangular Sampler flat

Click here for the Rectangular Sampler Blanket pattern!

This makes a great stroller blanket or play mat, or even a baby or comfort blanket.  I plan to donate my sample to Project Night Night, and I hope you’ll consider making one to donate to Project Night Night or a local children’s charity.
Rectangular Sampler V st detail

I crocheted the sample with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Pacific, Cordovan, and Alaska Sky.  None of these pictures really do justice to the Alaska Sky, which is a pale, sky blue.  I like using non-traditional colors for children’s blankets because I think it gives them a longer life cycle when they can be displayed in more settings.

blog Rectangular Sampler on chair

And now back to a A Tour Through Crochet Country

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour.  I’ve actually had the pleasure of interviewing several of the CGOA pros on this list, so I’ve also included the links to those interviews below.  I hope you will stop by and check out all the posts (and tutorials, giveaways, and discounts) the other participants have to offer.  Enjoy the rest of National Crochet Month!

March 1 Shelby Allaho

March 2 Ellen Gormley (interview) and Nancy Nehring

March 3 Phyllis Serbes and Mona Muhammad

March 4 Amy O’Neill Houck and Akua Hope

March 5 Mary Jane Hall and Lindsey Stephens (interview)

March 6 Edie Eckman and Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby

March 7 Jennifer Cirka and Annette Stewart

March 8 Andrea Graciarena and LeAnna Lyons

March 9 Dawn Cogger and Angela Whisnant

March 10 Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten and Renee Rodgers

March 11 Joy Prescott and Donna Childs

March 12 Pam Daley and Deb Burger

March 13 Tammy Hildebrand and Marty Miller

March 14 Jocelyn Sass and Jennifer E Ryan

March 15 Andee Graves and Kimberly McAlindin

March 16 Laurinda Reddig

March 17 Brenda Bourg and Susan Lowman for CGOA

March 18 Rhonda Davis and Tammy Hildebrand for CGOA

March 19 Julie Oparka and Cari Clement for CGOA

March 20 April Garwood and Mary Colucci for CGOA

March 21 Alaina Klug

March 22 Erin Boland and Jenny King

March 23 Margaret Hubert (interview) and Jane Rimmer for CGOA

March 24 Bonnie Barker and Marcy Smith for CGOA

March 25 Kim Guzman (interview) and Susan Huxley (interview)

March 26 Susan Lowman and Michele Maks

March 27 me! and Brenda Stratton

March 28 Kathy White and Lori Carlson

March 29 Amy Shelton (interview) and Donna Hulka

March 30 Linda Dean and Kristin Dragos

March 31 Karen CK Ballard and Gwen Blakley-Kinser (interview)