Year of Projects, Year 2: Experiments and pineapples

YOP2 floral with dates

Yesterday, I took an amazing class, Double-Ended, Circular Tunisian Tapestry with Lily Chin.  I’d never taken a class with Lily before, but I’ve heard a lot of good things.  Well, believe the hype, people, because she is an awesome teacher!  It’s rare to find a talented designer who is also an excellent teacher, but Lily has the total package.  In addition to being very clear and organized, she was also a lot of fun!

Lily modeling her projects using this technique at the December, 2012 NYC Crochet Guild meeting.
Lily modeling her projects using this technique at the December, 2012 NYC Crochet Guild meeting.

The workshop was designed to teach us how to do Tunisian crochet in the round using a double-ended hook.  Once we had that technique down, we learned how to use the method for creating intarsia style projects along with several different ways to increase and decrease.  (Lily has used this colorwork technique in several patterns, including the Bitmap Cowl, Graphic Ornaments, and Argyle Hat from the 2012 Interweave Crochet Accessories issue.)

Here's my tiny circular project from class.
Here’s my tiny circular project from class.

Although my actual YOP goal was to learn a new (to me) knitting skill, this class taught me several new crocheting skills and my creative energies were totally inspired!

The start of a circular Tunisian project from class.
The start of a circular Tunisian project from class.

I’ll need to sit down with some different yarn and see what I can come up with.  Perhaps, like Lily, I’ll experiment by making hats for charity.  (She showed us a slideshow of over 100 hats she crocheted as chemo caps using this technique.)

In other news, I kicked off my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL on Friday.  So far, we have a pretty lively discussion going on in the Underground Crafter Ravelry group.  The CAL will run through March, and then I’ll just need to organize one more CAL or KAL in my group to be on track with my YOP goal.

My second version of the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl for the CAL, through Round 14.
My second version of the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl for the CAL, through Round 14.

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

Interview with Amy Shelton, CGOA President and Crochetville Co-Owner

This post contains affiliate links.

Today, I’m interviewing Amy Shelton, the co-owner of Crochetville and the current President of the Crochet Guild of America.  Amy is obviously a big supporter of the crochet community, both online and “in real life,” and she happens to be a pretty busy lady, too 😉 – so I’m really glad she had some time to share her thoughts.

You can find Amy online as AmyS on Crochetville and Ravelry, on her Ravelry designer page, and on Twitter.  You can find Crochetville online at the main site, the pattern store, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  All photos are copyright Amy Shelton/Crochetville and are used with permission.

Amy Shelton.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Amy: My third-grade teacher taught all the girls in the class how to crochet.  (The boys weren’t interested.) We sat on the back steps of the elementary school during recess and learned how to make the basic stitches. My mom and grandmother were both skilled crocheters, so they helped me further my skills and knowledge at home. By the time I was in 8th/9th grade, I was making all sorts of thread projects using my mother’s Magic Crochet and Decorative Crochet magazines.

 

UC: Many crocheters know you as one of the owners of Crochetville.  How did you go from being a member to a co-owner?

Amy: It’s sort of a long story. Are you sure you really want to know? Actually, I think it’s a pretty interesting story, and I’m happy to share.

In 2004, my aunt sent me a gorgeous purple scarf using four or five different novelty yarns that she had crocheted for me as my Christmas present. I hadn’t crocheted much for several years, but the scarf made me pull out my old hooks. I searched for online crochet message boards and came across Crochetville in January, 2005.

At the time, there were fewer than 800 members and the site used free message board software. In February of that year, Donna Hulka (co-owner of Crochetville with me) had to move Crochetville to a new site host and new message board software due to the number of members and site visitors. I didn’t post much at the time, as I was admin for a message board for a small indie business in another industry.

In 2006, I became involved in helping run the site when someone with extensive message board admin experience was needed to help Crochetville make the transition from being a small site where everyone knew each other intimately to a much larger site with new members joining on a regular basis. Within a month of my involvement, Donna made me a co-administrator of the site.

As 2006 progressed, Crochetville continued to grow exponentially. The number of concurrent members and guests on the site meant we had to move from a shared server to a dedicated server, because our site volume was crashing the entire server. Crashing the sites of those businesses that share the server with you doesn’t tend to make you a lot of friends!

Dedicated server hosting plans are quite expensive. Donna and I decided it was time to turn Crochetville into a business so it could pay its own bills. We could no longer justify paying Crochetville’s operating expenses out of our personal household budgets. In January of 2007, we took the plunge and formed the legal entity of Crochetville LLC. We’re pleased to say that Crochetville LLC has been profitable from the very beginning!

We now have over 63,000 registered members and an average of 123,000-170,000 unique site visitors each month. Our periods of heaviest traffic tend to be the months of October through February.

 

Amy’s version of the Collette Poncho by Jenny King Designs. (Click for pattern link.)

UC: Sometimes joining an online community can be a bit overwhelming.  What suggestions do you have for a newbie who wants to get her (or his) feet wet on Crochetville?

Amy: Crochetville is now so large (with over 2.4 million posts) that it can definitely be a bit overwhelming for people new to the site, especially if someone is also new to message boards in general. Crochetville is a very friendly community thanks to all of our wonderful members who spend time there every day. Here are my tips on how to make friends and begin to feel at home at Crochetville:

  1. If you’re new to message boards in general, take the time to read our FAQ document. It has lots of information on how to navigate the forum, respond to a discussion thread, start your own discussion thread, and more.
  2. If you’re just new to Crochetville, spend some time on the main page of our site. Make note of the different sections into which the site is organized. Read the folder descriptions so you’ll know where you’ll be able to find certain types of information. That will also help you know the best place to start a new discussion thread.
  3. Before making your first post, spend some time reading through current posts on the forum. Once you’ve got a feel for the atmosphere of the forum, jump right in and post a thread to introduce yourself. Jump into any other discussions of interest. Our forum members are some of the nicest crocheters I’ve found. They’re always happy to welcome new members, answer questions, help direct you to patterns.
  4. If you have a crochet business, take some time to read our general advertising policies. If you have an indie crochet business (pattern designer, hook maker, yarn dyer, etc.), read our free advertising policies. There are many different ways you can promote and advertise your business for free on Crochetville, getting your name out to hundreds of thousands of dedicated crocheters throughout the year. Indie businesses frequently have very limited advertising/marketing budgets, if they have one at all. We know it’s difficult to get the word out about your business, so we’re happy to provide an easy, free outlet to help you reach your target market of dedicated, enthusiastic crocheters.  (UC comment: Thanks for sharing this great resource for indie crochet entrepreneurs!)

 

Amy’s Dreamcatcher Crystal Earrings design.

UC: You’re currently the President of the Crochet Guild of America – thanks for your volunteer efforts on behalf of the crochet community!  How can crocheters become more involved with the CGOA or local chapters?

Amy: Serving on the board of the Crochet Guild of America has been an amazing experience. I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to help promote CGOA’s mission to preserve and advance the art of crochet. I encourage everyone to join the CGOA. The cost is only $35 per year and many benefits come along with membership.

For more information on CGOA, please visit the website.  You can check out the list of member benefits here. One of the best things about CGOA is Chain Link, our crochet conference. Held twice a year, the conference offers crochet classes to suit every level of crocheter. There is also a show floor with vendors selling yarn, patterns, hooks, tools.

For those aspiring to become a crochet professional, CGOA offers a free mentor program to members. You can be paired with a crochet professional who will provide information, assistance, and encouragement to you.  Members can also become involved at the national level by serving on various committees.

There are also many CGOA local chapters around the country. Most chapters offer monthly meetings where you can meet with others who share your love of crochet. Some meetings are informal sit-and-stitch events while other meetings may include classes, workshops, and other in-depth instruction.  Many chapters also contribute to various crochet charities on a regular
basis. To find a chapter near you, visit this page. If there’s not a chapter near you, consider starting one. You can find information on how to start a chapter here.  (UC comment: I also recently learned about the Cyber Crochet online/virtual chapter on Ravelry when I interviewed crochet tech editor, Juanita Quinones.)

 

Amy’s Midnight Relaxed Cardi. (Click for free Red Heart pattern.)

UC: I’m sure it is hard to find time to crochet for yourself with such a demanding schedule.  When you do have a few moments to crochet, what are your favorite types of projects to make?

Amy: It is sometimes difficult to find time to crochet, but I do my best to work crochet time into my schedule as often as possible, even if it’s only a short period each day. Garments and accessories are my absolute favorite things to crochet. I love to make tops, sweaters, jackets, shawls, scarves, and handbags.

 

Amy’s Business Card Case design.

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including community builder, designer, and teacher.  What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Amy: Don’t quit your day job right off the bat! Most crochet professionals are in the business because of their deep love of crochet, not because it’s a get-rich-quick industry. It takes a lot of effort and time to create a regular, sustainable crochet income.

If you want crochet to become your full-time job paying you a full-time living wage, be prepared for a lot of hard work. Most professionals find that in order to make a full-time income from crochet, they have to wear many different hats: selling designs to publishers, independently publishing patterns, teaching (locally and/or nationally), writing books and pattern leaflets, tech editing, and more. The more you can diversify with different income streams, the more financially successful you will be. The number of people who can make a full-time living from crochet is quite small indeed when compared to all those who consider themselves crochet professionals or aspiring professionals. I don’t want to discourage people or crush anyone’s dreams, but it’s important to recognize the current reality of the industry.

If all you want is some extra income as a supplement to your other income, then things will be much easier for you.

Social media is becoming more and more important as well. You need to have an outlet to reach customers and build a relationship with them. Having a presence on Crochetville, Ravelry, Facebook, and your own blog or website is imperative. Be careful with what you post. Customers want to feel a connection to you, but you don’t need to draw them into the minute details of your personal life.

The best piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of CGOA’s free mentor program. The professionals who volunteer their time to serve as mentors are doing so because they love this industry and they want to give back some of what was given to them on their way to professional status. I think it’s pretty amazing that they’re willing to train and instruct their future competition, all for free, don’t you?  (UC comment: I participated in the mentor program a few years ago, and learned so much from my mentor, Mary Nolfi.  I can’t speak highly enough of this opportunity!) 

Do a lot of research and network with other professionals. Attend Professional Development Day at CGOA’s Chain Link conferences. You’ll get to meet and talk with many other professionals in pretty much every crochet discipline. At Chain Link, designers can also participate in Meet-and-Greet sessions with crochet editors on Saturday. It’s an excellent opportunity to show your portfolio to editors face-to-face, a chance that you’ll only find at this conference.

 

Amy’s version of Doris Chan’s Lipstick on Your Collar.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

Amy: My crochet friends who know me well can tell you that I have a love for making garments designed by Doris Chan. The first conference I attended, I think 90% of my crochet wardrobe were pieces designed by Doris, and I hadn’t even realized it at the time! So I’d have to say my favorite crochet books include all of Doris’s books.

For reference books, I love Edie Eckman’s books, Margaret Hubert‘s The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet (which I have on my iPad), and Lily Chin‘s Crochet Tips & Tricks. Dora Ohrenstein’s books are also a valued part of my collection as well as several different Japanese stitch dictionary books.

 

Amy’s version of the Circle Vest by Kimberly K. McAlindin.

UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?

Amy: Crochetville will be unveiling our new blog in the near future. (If we haven’t done so by your time of publication.) The blog will provide us an ideal format to post our own articles about the crochet industry, crochet tutorials, book and product reviews and more. We have many exciting things planned for the new blog in 2013!

I really enjoy reading Vashti Braha‘s crochet newsletter. She includes wonderful insights into her design process and detailed information about stitches or techniques she’s currently working with. You can sign up for her newsletter here.  (UC comment: I’m also a huge fan of Vashti’s newsletter, and I interviewed her about it here.)

Doris Chan’s blog is another favorite full of crochet information.

 

Amy’s Ladybug set for the PJ party at STITCHES Midwest 2012.

UC: Besides the blog, what else is new at Crochetville?

Amy: Crochetville has undertaken a new partnership with Red Heart Yarns this past year. We have joined together for a vendor booth at the Chain Link conferences/Knit and Crochet Show events as well as STITCHES events across the country. We currently plan to have a booth at these six shows per year, and we’re looking to expand our travels.

You’ll find a variety of Red Heart’s yarns in the booth, especially Boutique yarns, Aunt Lydia’s bamboo threads, Luster Sheen, and other yarns that are sometimes difficult to find in your local stores. We also carry a good selection of Susan Bates crochet hooks and tools. If you live anywhere near one of these conferences, come by our booth for the perfect chance to see and touch the yarns in person.

Our booth also features exclusive crochet kits, crochet books (and author book signings), custom-made jewelry, shawl pins,and buttons in colors designed to perfectly match/coordinate with Red Heart yarns, Dreamz interchangeable flexible Tunisian crochet hook sets, and something new: access to our digital pattern store.

You can purchase digital patterns right in the booth, print them in the booth, then log in to your account later to download your pattern to your own computer or mobile device. This makes it so easy to buy and print a pattern, buy the yarn and other supplies you need, and take everything with you so you can start your project immediately.

We do our best to make our booth the most fun booth at these events. Drop by to play our game show called “Let’s Make You Squeal.” Drop by many times throughout the day to see what will be on sale for a 15- to 20-minute period during our special Flash Sales.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Amy, and sharing your advice with us!

 

 

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

Interview with Sharon Silverman, author of Crochet Scarves, with book review and giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

Today, I’m really excited to interview Sharon Silverman.  Sharon is a crochet designer, author, teacher, and now, TV crochet expert.  I was first introduced to her work through her book, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, and I’ve had the pleasure of taking a Tunisian crochet class with her at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.  I’ll also be reviewing Sharon’s new book, Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques, and hosting a giveaway of the book, courtesy of Stackpole Books, so read on for more details!

Sharon can be found online at her website, blog, and Facebook page.  She is also on Ravelry (as CrochetSharon and on her designer page).

 

The Interview

Sharon Silverman.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sharon: I always liked arts and crafts. When I was little, I used to make mosaics from kits, do paint-by-number, and make what we used to call “horse rein”–I think the device is called a “Knitting Nancy” or something like that. My mother taught me to knit, which I didn’t do very well, then she taught me to crochet when I was 7 or 8. I loved it from the beginning.

Cascading Beads Shawl, one of Sharon’s self-published patterns.

(Available for download here.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Sharon: I often made up my own patterns for home decor and accessories, but never considered myself a designer. For my first crochet title, Basic Crocheting, I needed a sweater pattern. I hired a designer to provide one, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I thought to myself, “Well, you’ve made so many sweaters over the years from other people’s patterns, how hard can it be to come up with one yourself?” I developed a chevron sweater pattern that was easy to scale up to various sizes. It had some simple shaping so it fit well. It was at that point that I started to think of myself as a designer.

Springtime Miters Pillow, from Crochet Pillows with Tunisian and Traditional Techniques.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sharon: Inspiration is everywhere! I get ideas from nature, architecture, artwork, furniture, fashion…and sometimes from what’s missing in my closet. You know the scene in The Sound of Music where Maria looks at the draperies and thinks, “Play clothes!”? Sometimes it’s like that for me. I see the colors in a flower or the shape of a cabinet pull, and I can picture a crocheted item based on that. I often feel like a crochet engineer.

My esthetic at home leans toward the Japanese style, with clean lines, a few carefully chosen embellishments, and a minimum of clutter. I appreciate subtlety in design, which I suppose is why in variegated yarns I prefer ones that change slowly around a strong central color rather than the more rainbow-y colorways.

Red Hot Heart Pillow, from Crochet Pillows with Tunisian and Traditional Techniques.

UC: Your newest book, Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques includes scarf patterns using crochet, Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, and filet crochet. You also work with some unusual yarns (such as a woven yarn). What was the design process like for this book?
Sharon: My overall goal was for crocheters to have an excellent experience with the book, and to find interesting patterns they could successfully complete and would be proud to wear or to give as gifts. I wanted to make sure that newer crocheters would find friendly patterns and would be comfortable enough to extend their skills, and that experienced crocheters would find fun and intriguing designs to hold their attention.

Within that framework, I had several design goals for the book. The scarves had to be variety of shapes, textures, colors, and techniques. There are skinny scarves, chunky scarves, a shaped collar, a turtleneck cowl, solid colors, variegated colors, stripes…some are for warmth while others are purely for fashion.

I wanted to introduce crocheters to some wonderful hand-dyed yarns, like those from Space Cadet Creations and from Kangaroo Dyer. I also use some high-quality mass-produced yarns. Price can be a consideration, even for something like a scarf that does not use a tremendous amount of yarn, and I kept that in mind when I was sourcing the yarns.

Woven yarn is one of those products that seems impossible to figure out at first glance. I kept looking at the knitted sample in the yarn store, and realized that if you can knit with it, you can crochet with it, too. The funny thing about that yarn is when non-yarn folks see your creations, they gasp, “You MADE that?” They think you made the yarn itself! It’s actually quite easy to work with, so I included a scarf that uses woven yarn to create a beautiful ruffle.

Marabou from Crochet Scarves, using woven yarn.

As for the variety of techniques, my Tunisian Crochet book got a lot of interest so there is definitely a need for more Tunisian patterns. Seven of the twenty-one scarves in the new book are Tunisian crochet. I’ve been intrigued with broomstick lace for a while, so I included one broomstick lace design. Filet crochet is another technique that I think everyone should try. The right filet crochet design makes a gorgeous garment–it’s not just for tablecloths and doilies.

Accordian Arrows, from Crochet Scarves.

UC: You have a lot of step-by-step photos and picture tutorials in the book. Tell use about your decision to include those.
Sharon: Ideally, I would be able to look over your shoulder while you crochet so I could answer questions and offer guidance. “Put the hook here, not there.” “Remember, in Tunisian crochet you don’t turn the work.” “Pull the fringe through from the right side.” Since I can’t be there in person, I want the written instructions, technique photos, and charts to be my surrogate. I try to anticipate where a crocheter might get tripped up, and insert a photo to clarify things.

It takes a lot of time and planning to think all of that through and to get the step-outs ready. Alan Wycheck, the book’s photographer, is terrific at capturing motion in still photos.

This is the first book in which I’ve included symbol charts. A lot of people are visual learners who appreciate charts to supplement written instructions. I responded to this need by developing the charts.

Classic Plaid, a Tunisian crochet pattern from Crochet Scarves.

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including writer, designer, writer, teacher, and TV star. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Sharon: Ha ha, TV star! I don’t think that three appearances on HGTV‘s Uncommon Threads qualifies me for that title, but maybe I’ll make your compliment come true one day!

My advice for aspiring professionals:

  1. Get organized. Find a way to keep track of your work, your proposals, your finances.
  2. Hone your crocheting and your pattern-writing skills. Take classes. Attend conferences. Study magazines and books to learn the proper format. It is ESSENTIAL to write your patterns as you go along, not to try to figure out what you did when the item is all finished. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to crochet something to completion and not take the time to write down the row-by-row instructions, but that is the path to pattern doom.
  3. Have your patterns edited and tested. You can start by asking friends do this for you. Remember that making something and writing the instructions for someone else to make it are two very different skill sets. Don’t assume that everyone using your pattern will know what you do–make the instructions complete.
  4. Take advantage of the resources available to you, including the Crochet Guild of America, Ravelry, books, and websites.  (UC comment: I have to second Sharon on this one.  I had a wonderful mentor, Mary Nolfi, through CGOA’s mentoring program.)
  5. Assess your skills and potential realistically. If you are fantastic at making things but hate writing patterns, maybe you are better off selling your finished items than doing design. Just because you love crocheting, doesn’t mean you can make a living at it. But that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: many designers have family responsibilities and/or other work to supplement their crochet business. There’s nothing wrong with having a hobby that earns you a few extra dollars now and then.
  6. Be professional and respectful. When approaching people in industry, be it designers, editors, or yarn company representatives, keep in mind that their time is their most precious resource. Don’t ask them to create your business plan. Don’t ask them how to get started–it’s your job to figure that out. Book and magazine publishers have guidelines that potential contributors must follow. Research those before you approach an editor with a submission, and make sure you follow their procedures. That said, most people in the industry are happy to help. Ask a specific question rather than an open-ended one, and you will most likely get a useful answer. Follow up with a thank-you when you get a response.
  7. ALWAYS respond calmly and constructively to a question or criticism, even if the person asking is completely off-base. Keep any indignation and sarcastic thoughts to yourself! I’ve had someone complain about a book because she was disappointed that it didn’t contain a design for a purse…when in fact there is a pattern for a clutch! (Maybe she didn’t realize that a “clutch” is a kind of purse…?) You can’t get too worked up about stuff like that. Be gracious if someone finds a mistake in your work, and correct the error immediately. Keep things professional, not personal.
  8. Keep track of your expenses as well as your income. It may feel exciting to be offered $300 for a pattern, but that has to be examined in the context of what you spent–including your time. If you paid $40 for yarn, $10 on shipping, 30 hours crocheting and writing up the pattern, and $25 to a friend to test it, $300 of income might not seem so great.

(UC comment: Wow, thanks, Sharon, for being so generous with your advice.  Many newbies have to find out these things the hard way!)

Diamond Loop, a pattern from Crochet Scarves.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Sharon: I have several stitch dictionaries I turn to often, including The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden, and some Japanese stitch guides. Shirley Paden‘s Knitwear Design Workshop is fabulous. I have two of Tine Solheim‘s books, which are in Norwegian but have such interesting designs that the language hardly matters. Tunisian crochet books and patterns by Kim Guzman are some of my favorites. I admire the work of my designer colleagues Doris Chan, Ellen Gormley, Kristin Omdahl, Annie Modesitt, Robyn Chachula, Dora Ohrenstein, Mary Beth Temple, Lily Chin, and Marlaina (Marly) Bird. I try to keep up with new books and magazines regularly.

Premium Cable pattern, from Crochet Scarves.

UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Sharon: StitchDiva has excellent patterns and online tutorials in several techniques including Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, and hairpin lace. NexStitch also has very helpful videos. Everyone should check out Craftsy. And your blog and others like it are wonderful resources for crocheters! (UC comment: Aww, thanks, Sharon!)

Honeycomb Skirt pattern, from Tunisian Crochet.

UC: What are you up to next?
Sharon: During the next few months I’ll be doing the blog book tour for Crochet Scarves. I’ll be at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC–in person!–on October 4 for a talk and book-signing. Anyone who is interested in the event should sign up on the Studio’s mailing list.

I’m currently evaluating my short- and long-term business plans. With so many free patterns available, it’s important to consider whether selling patterns is a viable long-term proposition. In the meantime, I have several book and leaflet ideas that I’m working on. Some of my patterns have been chosen by a yarn shop owner who is packaging them into kits–I hope that venture is successful. I’ll share more about that when her business is up and running.

I’m also in discussions with interior designers who are interested in high-end custom crochet pieces for their clients.

I love to teach (especially Tunisian crochet) and am open to invitations from any group or shop that wants to host!

Most of all, I want to express my appreciation to people who use my patterns. I enjoy hearing from them and hope they will share pictures of their work.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Sharon, and for sharing your advice with us!

The Book Review

Although I generally prefer “technique books” to “pattern books,” I was eager to check out my review copy of Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques from Stackpole Books.  On the surface, this seems like it would be a straightforward book of scarf patterns.  Instead, it is chock full of step-by-step tutorials and lessons for different crochet techniques.

The book includes 21 scarf patterns.  The patterns use Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, filet crochet, and “standard” crochet techniques like increasing and decreasing, bobbles, and post stitches.  The patterns includes a range of skill levels (4 easy, 11 intermediate, and 6 experienced). Each pattern is introduced briefly, shown in a photograph (usually on a mannequin), and then presented as a pattern.  Even the simpler patterns include several photographs of the stitches being worked, and the more complicated patterns include several pages of step-by-step photos.  The progress pictures are presented before the pattern instructions, which are shown using both U.S. crochet terminology and international stitch symbols.

Although all of the patterns are for scarves, Sharon manages to keep the styles diverse enough to hold your attention.  My favorite patterns are Accordian Arrows, Changing Tides, Diamond Loop, Grecian Ladders, Premium Cable (which includes a great tutorial on Tunisian cables), Monet’s Village, and Sea Splash.  This is a book that you can definitely grow with, as there are plenty of techniques and stitches to learn.  There is even a Techniques section in the back which includes step-by-step photos of all the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches, as well as tips on pattern reading.  At the end of the book, there is a small photo of each pattern with the corresponding page number, so it is easy to find your favorites.

There are a few things that could be improved.  The book is a paperback, and, like most paperbacks, doesn’t lay flat when open.  This makes it challenging to read along or look at the step-by-step photos while crocheting.  The projects are shown on mannequins and against neutral backgrounds, but it would be helpful (and more attractive) to see the scarves on people.  Finally, I don’t agree that the Cactus Lace broomstick lace pattern is at the experienced skill level.  I think that designation may scare off a relative newbie to crochet, when broomstick lace is actually quite simple (especially with Sharon’s step-by-step photos).

Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I recommend it for beginner and intermediate crocheters who want to make relatively simple projects while also learning new skills.  An adventurous newbie who learns well from photographs could use this book to learn to crochet.  And, of course, if you like making scarves, this is definitely the book for you.

Full disclosure: Two free review/giveaway copies of this book were 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.

The Giveaway

The nice folks at Stackpole Books have been generous enough to donate a second copy of Crochet Scarves for this giveaway, so I get to keep my review copy :).  This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

In between

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I am at that weird place in between projects and I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do next.  The temperature finally cooled down and I finished the Bruges lace scarf I was making for my friend (more details coming on Friday).

I’ve made some progress on my Pineapple Doily Shawl since my last update, but I think I’m going to hibernate it until the fall.

My Pineapple Doily Shawl so far.

I started making this along with my crochet class, and since we have the summer off, I will probably put it aside until the class starts again in September.  I have two students who didn’t finish their shawls and still want to work on it, so it seems like a fun CAL for us to do in class.

I’m really just starting the pineapples.

As for my cabled beanie project, I decided that I really didn’t like any of the stitches I swatched.

It’s back to the beginning with this project.

I’ve been thinking of trying a stitch pattern from my newest cable book, Power Cables by Lily Chin.

And I’m still trying out different motifs for the bedspread I’m planning to make for my mom’s milestone birthday in February.

This is motif 14 from one of my Japanese stitch guides, Lace Crochet Best Pattern 238.

So as you can see, I don’t have anything that I’m really working on right now.  I think the heat over the weekend and the humidity has also made me less interested in crocheting some big project.  Hopefully, I’ll have something more to share next week.

I did manage to do a lot of reading over the weekend, and I finished The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.  (I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, but didn’t write a review yet.  I’m excited to hear there will be a third installment in this series.)  MC and I saw an interesting show on H.G. Wells (part of the Prophets of Science Fiction series on the Science Channel), so I decided to pick up an H.G. Wells book next. I’ve already read The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man, so I borrowed The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories from the New York Public Library.  I’m looking forward to reading his short stories.

For more Works in Progress, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.

Interview with Melissa Horozewski, author of Austentatious Crochet

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My interview today is with crochet designer Melissa Horozewski.  Melissa was nominated for the Crochet Liberation Front Flamie for Best New Designer in 2009,  and her work has been published by Crochet!, Crochet World, Inside Crochet, Interweave Crochet, and Leisure Arts.

Melissa is also the author of Austentatious Crochet: 36 Contemporary Designs from the World of Jane Austen, which was released last week and is already the top seller in new releases on Amazon.com.

Congratulations Melissa!

You may have noticed a recent interest in knitting patterns that are somehow related to classic British literature.  For example,  What Would Madame Defarge Knit?, was published in May by Cooperative Press and Jane Austen Knits is available now for pre-order through Interweave.  Melissa has introduced the same concept into crochet with her new book.  Melissa’s motto is “I cannot live without books or hooks,” and she is a big fan of Jane Austen.  Her favorite Austen book is Persuasion, with Pride and Prejudice a close second!  Melissa can be found at her website, Stitch Scene or on her Ravelry designer page.  All photos in this interview are from her new book and are used with Melissa’s permission.

Melissa Horozewski

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)?

Melissa: I have a rather large collection, so it is very hard to say, but probably Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know, as I used it again this week to learn how to make a duplicate stitch.  Anything to make my life easier, I am all over.

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.