Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Crocheting for Pleasure by Mildred Graves Ryan

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This week’s pick: Crocheting for Pleasure by Mildred Graves Ryan.

Source: Inherited from my grandmother’s collection.

Publication date: 1983 Book Club Edition.

Status: Out of print and widely available online.

Condition: The inside is in great shape but the dust jacket has seen better days.

Craft: Crochet.

Crocheting for Pleasure cover

This is one of my favorites in my vintage collection.  (I’ve previously reviewed it here.)  I was predisposed to love it because it belonged to my grandmother, but it also has incredibly clear illustrations, an extensive stitch guide, and a positive, creative attitude about crochet!

Crocheting for Pleasure author

The author, Mildred Graves Ryan, is clearly a pioneer (see bio above).  I couldn’t find anything recent about her online, but I did find this racy article about her testimony against using metric measurements.  And Marta Cone is obviously a master illustrator because normally, I can’t learn anything from crochet illustrations (unless they are in multiple colors).

Roll (bullion) stitch illustration by Marta Cone.
Roll (bullion) stitch illustration by Marta Cone.

The book starts with A Beginning for the Right-Handed, which goes through all of the basics, and is followed with Tips for the Left-Handed, which teaches the same information for lefties.  The next chapters, Materials to Choose, Tools to Use, and How to Interpret the Directions, help you prepare to crochet on your own.  After that, there’s advice on Choosing the Right Project, which includes a lot of information about fitting and finding a style that works for your body.  The next chapter, Vary the Basic Techniques, explores different ways to insert your hook as well as dimensional stitches like puffs and bobbles.  There is then a sizable stitch guide, Experiment with Stitch Patterns.

The book next explores specialty techniques in Styles and Types of Crochet.  Reading this section is what taught me broomstick lace.  (It was only later, after I had the basics down, that I checked out the StitchDiva videos.)

Illustrations by Marta Cone to accompany the broomstick lace instructions.
Illustrations by Marta Cone to accompany the broomstick lace instructions.

This book really covers all aspects of crochet, including most of the specialty techniques that are now coming back into fashion.

Hairpin lace illustrations by Marta Cone.
Hairpin lace illustrations by Marta Cone.

There’s even a section on Tunisian crochet which includes 11 stitch patterns.

The next chapters, Importance of Fit and Decorative Details, dive into all of the elements that really make your finished projects look fabulous, like checking gauge, blocking, construction techniques, finishing, and edges.  The final chapter, Crocheting for Everyone, is filled with project patterns, and is naturally the chapter that looks the most dated.

A cute baby set.
A cute baby set.

Sometimes, even when the projects seem classic, like this men’s cardigan, the photo styling shows the age quite a bit.

Crocheting for Pleasure man cardiganThe book is primarily illustrated with some black and white photos.  There is a color insert highlighting some of the project patterns.

Crocheting for Pleasure color fashions

As I mentioned, Ms. Graves Ryan has a refreshing attitude about crochet and its capabilities that is very contemporary.

But my favorite part of the book is the handwritten index card from my grandmother.

Crocheting for Pleasure Nan note

Apparently, leaving handwritten patterns in books is something passed down through generations in my family.  Now that I can knit, I should really try to find out what this index card makes!