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.

Giveaway

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.

Interview with Mary Beth Temple

Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters.  Today’s interview is with Mary Beth Temple, crochet designer, author, podcaster, teacher, editor, and publisher.

I’m thrilled today to present my interview with Mary Beth Temple.  Like many crocheters, I first became aware of Mary Beth through her Getting Loopy podcast.  This interview has been a long time in the making.  Mary Beth was kind enough to sit down with me – twice – during Vogue Knitting Live back in January.  We spoke at length about some of her current projects, trends in the crochet industry, and our mutual buddy, Charles Voth.  (Charles is my cyber friend, and he is Mary Beth’s friend in real life.)

Much of the interview was informal and chatty, so I’ve edited it down for the blog today.  Mary Beth is often known online as Hooked for Life (her publishing company) and she can be found on its website, Facebook, PatternfishTwitter, and on Ravelry (as MBTemple, on her designer page, and in the Hooked for Life Publishing group).  Archived episodes of her podcast, Getty Loopy, can be found on Blog Talk Radio.  I somehow forgot to take a picture with Mary Beth at Vogue Knitting Live (chalk it up to being starstruck), but she has granted me permission to use pictures from her designs and website in this interview.  Unless noted, pictures are copyright Hooked for Life, and will link to the pattern page on Ravelry.

This post contains affiliate links.

Mary Beth Temple.
Mary Beth Temple.

Underground Crafter (UC): You’re pretty outspoken about including crochet at knitting events, and the extent to which people sign up for crochet classes (versus their level of complaining about the lack of crochet at an event). Can you talk about how you first got into that role as the crochet advocate at knitting events?

Mary Beth Temple (MBT): Part of it was because I had the Getting Loopy podcast. I don’t produce new episodes anymore but there are over a hundred episodes still available at Blog Talk Radio. I wound up speaking to a lot of people in the industry, not just in my role as a designer and an editor, but also in my role as podcast host. Getting Loopy won three awards, we had thousands and thousands of listeners – not as big as some of the knitting podcasts, but at the time, Getting Loopy was really the only ballgame for crochet only. There were other podcasts that addressed crochet, that were crochet inclusive, but we were it for crochet only.

I found myself really advocating as the leader of the Loopy Groupies. It was something that was a problem. I would sit at The National NeedleArts Association (which is our trade association), and we would go to the Yarn Group meetings and they would go, “The knitters…” and I would yell, “And crocheters!” People got sick of that so now they say knitters and crocheters.

V-neck Pullover from Crochet Noro.  Picture (c) Sixth & Spring.
V-neck Pullover from Crochet Noro. Picture (c) Sixth & Spring.

There is no one right answer to this. On the one hand, I would like the knitting shows to be more supportive of crochet.  On the other hand, the crocheters have to step up.  On the other hand, there are crocheters that say, “Well, I can’t afford to go these big conferences.”  Sometimes I feel like, particularly near the end of Getting Loopy, I was preaching to the choir.  I mean, the people that were listening to Getting Loopy were advocating, they were the people taking classes and buying patterns and whatnot. So I couldn’t very well go on the show and rant that crocheters were not supporting the shows, because, of course, my listeners were, by and large.

So I get it – not everybody has unlimited funds. I get that there’s a swath of the market that does not want to be preached to about having to support the shows when they don’t want to. I’m not here to put a gun to anybody’s head. And I think that’s different for me. I think I was a “gun to the head” person five years ago and then the recession happened. If you can’t afford a $90 class – or, it’s not even an affordability issue, if you choose not to spend your money that way – it is not up to me to tell you how to spend your money.

I do think if it is not an affordability issue, and somebody is coming into your town or to your show, and you’re going to be there anyway, and it’s something you’re interested in, you should make a little extra effort to support that person. I’ve taken classes from teachers I admire that I didn’t even particularly care about the class subject, but I wanted to support the event.

Garniture, published by Hooked for Life.
Garniture, published by Hooked for Life.

So here at Vogue Crochet (laughs)… Vogue Crochet – Trisha [UC comment: Malcom, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Knitting] will kill me! Here at Vogue Knitting Live, in New York City, because I am local, there is somewhat less pressure on me to sell out because I don’t require an airline ticket and all that other stuff.

I will say, without pandering, Trisha Malcolm has been trying every year. This is never going to be a 50/50 crochet and knitting show, but that’s not what it’s meant to be. So let’s just say that in the same way that a girl doesn’t have to join the Boy Scouts, not everything is for everybody, and I do understand that. But we’ve tried different crochet classes every year, and we’re getting the hang of it. We’re starting to find out what works in this venue, and once we figure it out, we’ll get to do more.

Last year, for example, I was on the schedule and Jennifer Hansen was on the schedule. Jennifer Hansen, who I think is a gifted teacher and has a huge following – she teaches online and she has Stitch Diva Studios – her classes did not hit the budget.

Crocheted Mitered Square Throw/Shawl, published in Koigu Magazine #3.  Image (c) Koigu.
Crocheted Mitered Square Throw/Shawl, published in Koigu Magazine #3. Image (c) Koigu.

UC: I know, I actually registered for her class last year and they contacted me and said it was cancelled.

MBT: And that had nothing to do with Jennifer. I had someone come up to me yesterday and say that Jennifer Hansen cancelled. Jen Hansen didn’t cancel – she would have been here! But at that point, it’s dollars and cents.

Again, I have a little more latitude because I’m not as expensive at this event for them. We’re trying new things. I’m teaching Bead Crochet tonight, we’ve never taught that here, so I don’t know. I’m teaching Tunisian Crochet Basics – that is a guaranteed sell out every time I teach it. I’m teaching Crochet Entrelac for the second time – that was very successful last year.

The other thing that I’m sort of interested in is using the numbers from this show. For example, last year, Crochet Entrelac was on the schedule and when we went into the final week, we had 11 students signed up which is not wonderful, but it’s ok – nobody’s unhappy with 11. 23 showed up.

Unisono Crochet Vest, published by and image (c) Skacel Collection, Inc.
Unisono Crochet Vest, published by and image (c) Skacel Collection, Inc.

UC: Hmm, so a lot of people registered on the day of the class or that weekend.

MBT: Right. To the point where we had to go find another room, because the room I was in would not accomodate 23 people, even with additional chairs. We did a little Girl Scout field trip through the hotel, looking for a ballroom, which again, Vogue Knitting was right there. They got us a bigger room, they helped us move everybody, I offered to stay late, so that nobody missed any material, and we did it.

That is a very small study. Extrapolating that data, I wonder if crocheters are not necessarily cheap so much as slower to sign up.

Afghan Makeover, published by and image (c) Coats & Clark.
Afghan Makeover, published by and image (c) Coats & Clark.

UC: Are you finding that most of the people in your classes identify themselves as crocheters, as bicraftual, or as knitters looking to learn crochet? Who do you usually attract at these more knitting focused events?

MBT: Tunisian, believe it or not, is mostly knitters.

UC: I do believe that, actually.

MBT: The other classes are, by and large, knitters who crochet. Now, again, shout out to the local guilds, because they do put their money where their mouth is. If I’m going to be anywhere within a 5 hour drive – God Bless the New York City guild, the Long Island guild, and the Connecticut guild. Now are they all coming to Crochet Entrelac tomorrow? No, because they took it last year. But that class is selling very nicely. So I’ll find out tomorrow if they’re knitters or crocheters or people that identify as bicrafty. It’ll be interesting.

I’m teaching Bead Crochet, tonight, and that’s new, and I happen to know that has a lot of guild members in it. That’s something new that they can take from me that they haven’t taken before. Tonight, we’re experimenting with shorter classes, sort of entry level, that are two hours, they’re less expensive, it’s not as big of a time commitment, they don’t have homework, and they only accomodate 20 people. It would be an easier sell out. As of yesterday, the class was not sold out, but as of tonight – you never know what you’re going to get when you walk in the room.

The Essential Cardigan from Curvy Girl Crochet.  Image (c) Susan Pittard.
The Essential Cardigan from Curvy Girl Crochet. Image (c) Susan Pittard.

UC: I’m wondering about your new book, Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter. Again, I feel that you’re the torchbearer. There are so few books about garment design – not just patterns – for crocheters.  Can you tell me a little about the process behind this book and how it came to be?

MBT: Curvy Girl was an absolute labor of love. When I agreed to write… You know, there’s a whole process for getting books to market. The publisher has a vote, the sales department has a vote, the author has a vote, you know, everybody’s got what they want. A successful book is one where everybody goes in, if not happy, then at least content with how things worked out.

When we were negotiating to do Curvy Girl, [there were] two things that I felt very strongly about:

  • That we did not have size 8 models and call them plus sized. I wanted actual size 22 models in the book. And I felt strongly enough that I might lose that battle that I made sure we talked about it going in. This was not an adversarial thing, but I wanted to make sure that everybody was on the same page, that when I said plus sized, I don’t mean the size 6 girl that won America’s Next Top Model. I wanted actual adult women who wear larger sizes.
  • The other one, and I was fairly insistent, [was] that I be given the real estate to get that modification in there. I’ve said this 18 times, but I’ll probably say it 100 more: If you put five size 0 women in a room, they’re built very similarly. If you put five 2X women in a room, they’re not built very similarly. Beautiful plus sized patterns are one thing, but for the vast majority of that audience – including myself – it’s not going to fit right without modifications.
The Essential Pullover from Curvy Girl Crochet.  Image (c) Susan Pittard.
The Essential Pullover from Curvy Girl Crochet. Image (c) Susan Pittard.

The thing I’m leading the torch on now [is] I think there are hundreds of thousands of competent crocheters who stick to scarves and blankets and hats because they’re afraid that they are going to spend a lot of time, or a lot of money, or a lot of both, and come out the other end with a garment that does not suit them. And that’s not just plus sized women, that’s everybody.

If you want to know what torch I’m carrying around now, it’s to try and convince some of these rectangle and square crocheters that they can dip their toe in the garment water and it’s not so scary as they think. It’s not scary because they don’t have the skills; it’s scary because they didn’t have the information. And now they do.

Progressive Tunic from Curvy Girl Crochet.  Image (c) Susan Pittard.
Progressive Tunic from Curvy Girl Crochet. Image (c) Susan Pittard.

UC: They tried that pattern that didn’t have enough information, and they couldn’t resize where they needed to.

MBT: Or, it was boxy, or it was bulky, or both. So here [in Curvy Girl Crochet, you have]: lightweight yarns, elastic stitch patterns, waist shaping – or take it out if you don’t need it. Here’s how you measure you arm and find out how your sleeve needs to be.

You don’t want to measure yourself because that makes you uncomfortable, for whatever reason? Go to the store, buy a sweater that fits nice on you, take it home and measure it. Take it back, if you need to. I’m trying to put every trick in there that I have to take the stress level off garment crochet.

Opera Cardigan from Inside Crochet issue 36.  Image (c) Tailor Made Publishing.
Opera Cardigan from Inside Crochet issue 36. Image (c) Tailor Made Publishing.

UC: Can you talk about what motivated you to start the Getting Loopy podcast, and your reasons for deciding to finish it?

MBT: This sounds kind of silly, but I had seen an advertisement for Blog Talk Radio (it was new at the time), and I thought, well that looks like fun, I want to play with it! Our first couple of shows were on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., because when you’re new to Blog Talk Radio, before you’ve developed a following, you can’t get the prime time hours. And I thought, I’m going to talk about crochet, because that’s what I’m interested in.

Our first guest was Amy O’Neill Houck, who is now in Alaska, who is a designer friend of mine. I called up and said, I want to do this thing, and she said, “I’ll do it!” So the first six or eight episodes were mostly my friends. Somebody said later, why do you have so many designers on the show?  Well, who else am I going to torture but my friends? (laughs) That’s how it got started and the first episode had like 37 listens that week, and it went on from there.

We moved to the prime time spot on Monday night. The fun thing about Getting Loopy was the chat room. There’s a group of people that still talk to each other because of the Getting Loopy chat room. They call themselves the Loopy Groupies. They’re all over. It’s really cool to go out into the world five years later and they’re like, “We’re Loopy Groupies!” and they’re there and they’re waiting for you.

Crochet Lace Pullover, published by and image (c) Willow Yarns.
Crochet Lace Pullover, published by and image (c) Willow Yarns.

The downside to that is it committed me to Monday night at 9 p.m. I did Getting Loopy for three years, I did over 100 episodes, and it got to the point as my design career started to take off, that… I hate to put everything down to money, but it’s a lot of time to run Getting Loopy. So then Blog Talk Radio said the only way that I could keep my time slot now that I had made it valuable was to pay for it. So a year before I was ready to end the show, some of the Loopy Groupies got together and did a pledge drive, and raised the $500 I would have needed to keep the time slot. So I ran it one more year, and [the fee] was going to roll around a second time, and they offered to do it again, but… I’m gonna offend some people here.

It’s much like public television, in which the same 50 people would have contributed again, and the other 23,000 that had listened to the show were not going to chip in a dime. Again, I didn’t want to charge for it, and I know some podcasters have gotten sponsors. I never wanted to go that route. The only way that I could manage Getting Loopy on my schedule was to do whatever the heck I wanted. I just didn’t want to take to take money from a yarn company or a magazine or a publisher, because no matter that they said you can keep control of your show, I would have felt in the back of my head that it might have changed my outlook on things and I never wanted to do it. That is not to say that people who take sponsorship are bad – I don’t mean that.

Fleuron Shawl, published by Hooked for Life.
Fleuron Shawl, published by Hooked for Life.

UC: Right, it’s just not your personal approach.

MBT: It just wasn’t for me, and in addition, it would have had to be managed. Somebody would have had to deal with the artwork and putting up ads and collecting the money, and really this is the stuff I have no time for.

So we ended when we did because the money that they had fundraised the year before had run out. And even so, that money only paid for the Blog Talk Radio fees, but it didn’t pay the website hosting, or the graphic design, or all that other stuff. I had a totebag sale and that raised some money. But it got to the point where I’d rather be designing new projects than running fundraisers for Getting Loopy.

In addition, I also felt toward the end like I had said everything I had to say. I found myself repeating a little bit. And then it suddenly turned into we were plugging whatever the new book was, which doesn’t interest me. As a platform, I felt I was getting ranty, and nobody listens to you when you rant. I just felt like we were done.

Lubina Wrap.  Image (c) Fairmount Fibers.
Lubina Wrap. Image (c) Fairmount Fibers.

I have had many, many requests to bring the show back. I would consider doing it monthly, and I would more than likely tape in the afternoons to avoid the fees. So is it dead forever? Absolutely not. And there’s 115 episodes that people can still listen to. It amazes me that I still get emails from shows that I taped four years ago. People will say, “When you taped that episode, I was not interested in that topic, but as I’ve grown as a stitcher, I’ve gotten interested. And I can go to Blog Talk Radio and I can listen to the show you did on that topic, and now it’s really relevant for me.”

Some of the shows have tens of thousands of listens because people just get interested in them. We had the wacky phase – I had the lady that specializes in equine crochet, she made things for horses. We had some wild stuff go on there!

And, we used to host the Flamie Awards, so we would do a huge 2 hour extravaganza with people calling in from all over the world. So it was fun, but as my business has grown, I don’t have the time to give it the attention it needs, and it doesn’t earn enough money for me to hire somebody to do the scut work.

Fanciful Gauntlets, published by Hooked for Life.
Fanciful Gauntlets, published by Hooked for Life.

UC: Considering that you’ve worked in so many aspects of the industry – as a designer, podcaster, self-publisher, author, tech editor, etc. – do you have any tips you would give someone that is considering coming into the yarn industry as a professional?

MBT: The reason I do so much, and the reason I do what I do, is multiple income streams. And that makes me sound like a Amway salesman, but there’s going to be an ebb and flow in the natural dynamic of any small business. You’re going to have a hit pattern that sells 1,000 copies in two weeks, and the next four patterns are not going to sell at all, or they’re going to sell slowly, or they’ll sell a year later, and you cannot predict that.

So my theory is if there’s magazine money coming in, and there’s indie pub money coming in, and there’s book publishing money coming in, and then there’s royalty checks coming in, and then there’s a kickback from KnitPicks coming in from their IDP program, and then I get a teaching fee, it all balances out.

Damask Crochet Shawl, published through the KnitPicks IDP.
Damask Crochet Shawl, published through the KnitPicks IDP.

UC: So you would basically recommend that people diversify their income.

MBT: Yes. That said, I don’t want people to feel like they have to start doing everything at once. I mean, I started out doing magazine work, and then said, well that’s not enough money so I started Hooked for Life. Hooked for Life is very well established right now, so then I added the teaching.

UC: So you staged your growth.

MBT: Yes, but not on purpose. That’s just how it worked out.

UC: What’s next for you?

MBT: My next booklet that’s coming out the first of a series I’m writing for SoHo Publishing. It’s called Easy Cowls to Crochet.  It will be out January 27 and it will be exclusively available at Jo-Ann Fabric for six months.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see patterns from the booklet here.)

There’s some new Hooked for Life stuff coming out. The Hooked for Life website has been upgraded and there’s a store coming with crochet kits.

I have a series of beaded jewelry designs that are being released over the next few weeks, some of which made their debut here at Vogue Knitting Live.

I’ll be at the Knit and Crochet Show in October. That’s a biannual event, but I’m not going to [the summer show in] Indianapolis. I’ll be teaching four classes in October.

I haven’t sold my next book yet, but I’m doing three more booklets for SoHo Publishing that will come out in 2013. I’m also a contributing pattern editor for the next Vogue Crochet issue with Charles Voth. We come as a team. And Robyn Chachula is also a contributing editor.  We’re helping put the issue together. We don’t pick what goes in, but once they’ve made the selections, Charles and Robyn and I help them make the magazine, and that’s actually a lot of fun.

Tunisian Lace Tunic, published in Vogue Knitting's 2012 crochet special issue.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.
Tunisian Lace Tunic, published in Vogue Knitting’s 2012 crochet special issue. Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

UC: Did you work on the last issue of Vogue Crochet?

MBT: Yes, I did. I had one design in the last one, and I’ll have two in the next one.

UC: That’s great. I heard the last issue sold out.

MBT: In about a minute and a half.  (UC comment: Issues are still available for the iPad here.)

UC: People say that those special issues won’t sell, but I think people are starved for fashion crochet.

MBT: Well, here we’ve been saying for all these years that crochet doesn’t have to look crappy. So let’s get some crochet stuff and give it to a Vogue stylist! The stuff looked awesome. Even if it wasn’t your personal style, looking through that issue was like candy.

UC: That’s definitely Vogue’s strength in terms of how they present their look. It looks great, and you might want to make it. Sometimes the pattern can be great, but it looks frumpy the way it has been styled.

MBT: It also looked fashion forward. We’ve been saying for years that crochet can be fashion forward – because it can be! I mean, look at the runways! But if you style it on someone with too much hairspray, in a turtleneck under a corduroy blazer, then it looks old, like it’s old fashioned. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. That’s the ballgame, so far as far as I’m concerned – to make this stuff look as good in the craft magazines as it does on the runway.

Thanks so much for spending time talking to me at such a busy show, Mary Beth!  And for your patience in waiting for me to publish this interview :).

 

Crochet Hook Review and Giveaway: Laurel Hill Exotic Wood Hooks

Every Sunday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet hooks.  Today’s post features exotic wood crochet hooks, along with a giveaway for two hooks, courtesy of Laurel Hill.

This post contains affiliate links.

After I (finally) learned to knit a few years back, my two best knitting pals bought me some really cool knitting needles for my birthday — two pairs of Laurel Hill square knitting needles, which I love to use for small projects.  These are some of my favorite needles, and I usually pack them when I’m teaching knitting.

At the same time, they bought me a Laurel Hill Nam Oc wood crochet hook.  Not too long after that, I won a Laurel Hill Tunisian crochet hook from a giveaway on Karen Ratto-Whooley’s blog.

My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.
My own personal Laurel Hill hook collection.

I immediately loved the smooth and polished surface of the Laurel Hill Tunisian hook.  I’ve mentioned before that I find metal hooks quite uncomfortable for Tunisian crochet.  Like other wood hooks, these don’t experience the dramatic temperature changes of aluminum or steel crochet hooks, and they feel much gentler against the hands.  Both the standard and Tunisian crochet hooks from Laurel Hill are very smooth and don’t snag on your yarn.

But… I confess that when I first received the Nam Oc hook as a gift, I wasn’t really feeling it.  The neck is extremely tapered and, since I tend to hold my stitches quite low on the hook (closer to the thumb rest), I was having trouble getting an even tension.

A closer look at the shape of the Laurel Hill hooks.
A closer look at the shapes of the Laurel Hill giveaway hooks.

But then, when crocheting my way through the book Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters, I rediscovered the bullion stitch.  And that’s when I began to love tapered hooks.  If you’ve been struggling to get your hook through the many yarn overs in a bullion stitch, you will be thrilled to discover the exotic wood crochet hooks by Laurel Hill.  The rapidly tapered neck and the wide thumb rest allow you to keep those yarn overs loose so you can easily draw your hook through them to finish your bullion stitch.  By the way, if you’re looking for a good bullion stitch photo tutorial, I recommend Donna Kay Lacey‘s, available as a free Ravelry download.  (You can also check out my interview with her here.)

The Laurel Hill hooks are made from exotic woods that are sustainably produced.  The standard hooks are available in Nam Oc, Ebony, and Trai woods, while the Tunisian hooks are made from Forest Palm.  I’m no wood expert, and the feel across the types is very similar to me, though the Tunisian hooks seem to have a bit more glide (perhaps due to the finishing).  The different wood types each have a different color, which you might choose based on preference or for contrast with the yarn in your project.

I really love the Laurel Hill Tunisian hooks.  The distinctive color, smooth feel, and sharp point are perfect for medium sized, flat Tunisian crochet projects.  I also highly recommended the Laurel Hill exotic wood hooks for crocheters who love stitches where many loops are held on the hook, like bullions, puffs, or bobbles.

Both sets of hooks are affordable priced for wood hooks.  The Nam Oc and Trai hooks retail at $9, while the Ebony hooks retail at $10.  All three types are available in US sizes D through M (including the elusive size 7).  Laurel Hill also offers complete sets of each type of hook, as well as a “variety” set with a mix of Nam Oc, Trai, and Ebony hooks, which retails for $110.

The Tunisian Hooks are priced slightly higher, at $13 retail.  The Tunisian hooks are 10″ long and are available in US sizes D through N.

Full disclosure: Two free review samples of this product was provided by Laurel Hill. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the distributor/manufacturer, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This review post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

When I contacted the friendly people at Laurel Hill to tell them about my plans for reviewing their hooks during NatCroMo13, they were generous enough to send along two hooks – a Trai wood hook and a Tunisian crochet hook, both in US size I-9/5.5 mm – for a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Laurel Hill prize packThis giveaway is open internationally.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 30, 2013.  

Favorite Online Crochet Resources: Link Party at Crochet Boulevard

Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources. Today’s featured site is Crochet Boulevard, my favorite crochet link party.

I was first introduced to Barbara from made in k-town shortly after I began blogging in 2011.  I honestly can’t remember how I found her, but I fell in love with her striking photography, great projects, and clear writing.  Soon after I found made in k-town, Barbara started hosting crochet link parties which eventually needed a home of their own — the Crochet Boulevard.

crochetboulevard

There are just so many reasons I love this link party, but I’ll start with the reality.  I’m only aware of less than a handful of others that are only for crochet and not a mix of crochet and knitting.  But even if there were hundreds of crochet link parties, I’m sure Crochet Boulevard would still be at the top of my list.  Barbara’s readers get to be involved with choosing a theme by voting, so people tend to pick topics where they have great projects to share!  Crochet Boulevard is also very international and multicultural.  I’m always introduced to new blogs (many of of which are in languages other than English) and I get to “meet” bloggers from all over the world.  Even amidst these differences, our commonality – the love of crochet – clearly brings everyone together.

Make sure you stop by Crochet Boulevard this week to share your projects in the latest Free Topic Friday link party!  Barbara can also be found online at the made in k-town Facebook page.  Although Barbara is a busy lady including being in the midst of wedding planning, she did have some time to stop by for a NatCroMo interview.  (As a side note, to keep her blog active during this busy time, Barbara has invited some great guest bloggers to made in k-town.)

Barbara Langer
Barbara Langer.

 

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

Barbara: It’s been so long, I actually can’t remember it very clearly. My earliest memory is sitting on the couch on my parents’ balcony (yes, there was a time when we had a couch out there), learning my first chain stitches. I must have been six or seven years old. My first “projects” were potholders and bed socks. Crochet has always been a part of my creative life, so it always felt easy and natural, like painting with watercolors or crafting with paper – the “normal” stuff that every child grows up with.

Barbara still makes coasters.  Click the photo to link to her beautiful Spiral Coaster/Potholder Pattern.
Barbara still makes potholders. Click the photo to link to her beautiful Spiral Coaster/Potholder Pattern from made in k-town.

UC: What inspired you to start blogging? And then how did you decide to host a link party?

Barbara: There was a time in my early twenties when I lost interest in crochet because I somehow felt like there was nothing new to discover (oh, how wrong I was… *gg*). Then, ten years later, I was sick at home for weeks and somehow discovered the colorful and inspiring world of crochet on the internet. I decided two things: first, I just HAD to grab my hook again and try all the new things I had seen on various blogs, and second: I wanted to be a part of the the online crochet community and share my work, too.

icrochet was one of the sites I visited regularly before I even started blogging myself: it was great to look at the pictures, then follow the links and discover even more crochet goodies. I could spend hours browsing icrochet and all the blogs that were connected there! When I started my blog, made in k-town, I wanted to host my own link-party, too – but somehow I wanted it to be different from the others, and so I had the idea of hosting monthly theme-parties, with topics like “granny squares,” “flowers,” “Christmas crochet” and many more. After a few months I decided to outsource the parties to another blog, because I thought it was a pity that those awesome galleries were somehow lost in the archives with all the other stuff I was posting – and so I started The Crochet Boulevard!

A screenshot of the voting section on Crochet Boulevard.  You still have time to choose the next theme!
A screenshot of the voting section on Crochet Boulevard. You still have time to vote for the next theme!

UC: Since it is NatCroMo… Can you share a favorite crochet memory with us?

Barbara: It’s funny, I can still remember the night when I first picked up a hook again after my decade-long abstinence. I had discovered the internet crochet world just before I went to bed, but then I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. So I got up again, sneaked downstairs to my parents’ apartment and searched for my old hooks and some yarn. Back in my own living room, I made myself comfortable on the coach, put on the Country station on satellite radio and started hooking – “just a few stitches” to see if I still knew how to do it. Next thing I remember is my boyfriend getting up the next morning, asking me what I’m doing up so early ;). Luckily, it was a Saturday morning, so I could get some sleep later. That night I had tried all the different granny squares I could find on the internet – they never made it to a bigger project, but I’ll never forget how I got my crochet-mojo back.

Barbara's African Flower Square from made in k-town.  Click the picture to link through to the tutorial.
Barbara’s African Flower Square from made in k-town. Click the picture to link through to the tutorial.

UC: What was your favorite crochet theme party on Crochet Boulevard?

Barbara: Ah, that’s a tough one! I generally think that the parties are getting better with each month, because there are more and more girls who join us and share their work. So our last party, Colorful, is really a pleasure to look at in its whole! And instead of looking back, I’m really looking forward to the parties that are still to come. I’m dreaming of a huge freeform or yarn-bombing link party, but since both topics are rather specific crochet niches, I’m afraid that only very few of us could actually share their work (although we’d all love to see a little freeform or yarn bombing, right?). Maybe one day…

UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to make?

Barbara: Oh my, I’m already bored with my answer: blankets and potholders :). On the other hand: who could ever be bored with blankets and potholders?  (UC comment: So true!  Check out the beauties in the Crochet Boulevard Blanket link party here.)

Barbara's double-ended crochet, reversible Magic Blanket is one of my favorite projects from made in k-town.  Click the picture to see all of her Magic Blanket posts.
Barbara’s double-ended crochet, reversible Magic Blanket is one of my favorite projects from made in k-town. Click the picture to see all of her Magic Blanket posts.

UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community?

Barbara: Although there are lots of crochet websites I’ve bookmarked for further investigation, it always comes down to two: Pinterest and Ravelry. Pinterest is my daily crochet inspiration and my favorite resource for general browsing. I’m following lots of crochet boards there, and everytime I visit Pinterest, there’s always something new to discover and re-pin. When I’m looking for something specific, I rely on Ravelry. They’ve got a huge database, and so far I was always lucky to find exactly what I was looking for.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Barbara, and for creating and maintaining my favorite crochet link party!

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL: Finishing Off

Pineapples with Underground Crafter CAL

Welcome to the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL!  If you’re just joining in, you can find the free pattern here.  Ravelry members can join our CAL chat here.  Our tag is 2013PFEcal.

As I mentioned last week, I finished my shawl but it was in need of some blocking.  Confession time: I hate blocking.

It may be the fact that I live in an apartment with a cat, or perhaps it is the delayed gratification aspect.  It might also be that I’m not so great at it.

I’ve arrived at a comfortable halfway point with my crocheted and knit projects.  I agree that blocking is a necessary evil.  I will block them, if necessary, but only if I can figure out a way for spray blocking, my favorite method, to work with my project.

Blocking Pineapples for Everyone Shawl

I’ve mentioned before that I use children’s play mats, rather than “blocking boards,” for blocking.  I found these on sale and it has worked for me so far.  Above, you can see my shawl pinned out on my mom’s bedroom floor (thanks Mom!), waiting to be sprayed.  I decided to accentuate the points a bit more by pinning those in place.

The amazing thing about blocking is that my shawl already looks better, and I haven’t even blocked it yet.  Otherwise, it has a rumpled appearance.

If you’re new to blocking, here are some of my favorite online resources to help you get on your way:

I hope everyone has had fun with the CAL so far.  I’ve been seeing some amazing projects on Ravelry.  Remember that if you’d like to be entered to win prizes, you’ll need to share a picture of your finished shawl by next Friday, March 29.  You can follow the links below (The big reveal) to show off your shawl.  Good luck!

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL Schedule

Friday, February 15: Start your chains: Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL kick off!  

Friday, February 22: Laying down the foundation: Rows 1-8

Friday, March 1: The first repeat: Rows 9-14

Friday, March 8: The second repeat: Rows 15-20

Friday, March 15: The third repeat: Rows 21-26

Friday, March 22: Finishing off: Edging and blocking

Friday, March 29: The big reveal: Flash your shawls on RavelryFacebook,Twitter, and/or your blog for a chance to win prizes from Galler Yarns!