Saturday, March 10, 2018

Crochet Kaleidoscope
Shifting Shapes and Shades Across 100 Motifs

By Sandra Eng
Published by Interweave, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.
Copyright 2018

When I was asked to review this new book by Sandra Eng – Crochet Kaleidoscope - and found out that it had 100 motifs, all I could think about was PERFECT! I had been reading about other crocheters who had lost what they are calling their "cro-jo" – in other words, their desire to crochet. I had somewhat lost it, too. I was having some muscle aches and pains, some swelling, and just couldn’t get up the energy I needed to crochet a big project. Which I needed to do. But I thought that I could crochet some motifs – and finish each of them quickly. So I said yes, I would love to review the book of motifs. And I'm happy I did!
Sandra Eng has put a lot into this book. Not only does she show the motifs, (and includes the written patterns and the stitch diagrams), she also shows how to vary the colors of each motif – make them only one color, or use different colors and change the colors on different rounds of the motifs. All intended to make each motif your own. In other words, she gives you permission to change things up.
She has a chapter on choosing colors, too, whether it's using your favorite colors, or contrasting colors, or gradient colors.

She gives some good ideas on how to pick colors. And once you pick the colors, you have to decide how many colors you want in each motif, and which order you're going to use them in. 
So if you're not sure about colors, she helps you with that step in making the motifs. (She also says that working a motif in a solid color is good!)

Next, she divides the book into chapters for different shaped motifs – 



and Triangles and Other Shapes. 

Each motif has the written pattern, a stitch diagram (just in case you run into trouble reading the written pattern), and most have alternate colorways you can use. Then, there are directions for 5 different patterns, and how to put the motifs together to make the patterns: a rug, a shawl, a pillow, a blanket, and a table runner. (The Pillow is my favorite – here is a picture of it.)

If you have trouble reading the stitch diagrams, there is a stitch key, and there is a glossary of stitches if you're not sure how to make a certain stitch. There are also two pages of 50 basic square motifs, one in each of the 50 colors that were used in the 100 motif patterns in the book.
So everything you need to know is taken care of. 

I wanted to try some of the motifs, but I wanted to use one yarn for each motif. (Weaving in ends is not my favorite thing to do!) So I picked some yarn from my stash that was either self-striping, or had large areas of one color. I made one swatch 3 times, with 3 different types of yarn. This was swatch #46, the Circle in a Square. Here are the two swatches that are in the book:

And here are the 3 swatches that I crocheted. I used different weights of yarn, too.

I used a "self-striping" yarn (on top), a yarn with different blocks of color (on the bottom left), and another self-striping yarn (bottom right).

Then, I wanted to try a triangle swatch – so I picked Swatch #94. Here are the two swatches that are in the book:

And here is my swatch:

This was a yarn that had large blocks of color, but here it almost looks like I used a solid color yarn.

Last, I wanted to do a smaller swatch that could be used in between two larger ones, or could be used by itself. I picked Swatch #63. Here is the swatch in the book:

And here is my swatch:

This was a self-striping yarn.

After I worked my swatches, I decided that this would be a good book to have – you can use yarn leftover from different projects (we all have that, don't we?), and just about any weight of yarn to make various swatches. Or the same swatch with different yarns of the same weight. If you have yarns of different weights (like I had with the swatches for the Circle in the Square), you can always make individual swatches into coasters, or hanging decorations. Or you can be organized with your swatches and make one (or more) of the patterns in the book. One nice thing about the motifs, they don't take a long time to crochet. So if you have lost your desire to crochet a big project, but still want to crochet, you can pick one of these motifs, work it with various yarns, either one or more colors, and you'll be crocheting again. 

You can order the book from Interweave  here:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

STEP INTO CROCHET – Crocheted Sock Techniques from Basic to Beyond!
By Rohn Strong
Published by Interweave Books/F+W Media, Inc.

I have been crocheting for decades, and I have to admit, I have never crocheted a sock, much less two, to wear. (I did crochet a "sock" for a Christmas Stocking pattern for a book, but it was a sock with no heel - a straight sock, from the toes to the cuff.) So I never did learn the various parts of a sock or how and why to measure the parts – parts like the foot, the gusset, the ankle and the leg circumference, or the foot length, or the toe length, or the heel diagonal. I didn't even know there were such things when I made that Christmas Stocking. So when I was asked by Interweave Books/F+W Media Inc. to review the book STEP INTO CROCHET - Crocheted Sock Techniques from Basic to Beyond!, by Rohn Strong, I didn't think twice. Maybe NOW I could learn to crochet real socks.

When I received the book, and started looking it over, I saw some great information on the methods to crochet all the different parts of a sock. And the good news was, you could mix and match the parts and the methods. So if a sock pattern you liked showed one method to crochet a part of the sock, but you liked another method, you could substitute the method you liked. Or if you liked another cuff pattern, you could substitute the one you liked for the  one that was given. That means that each sock you crochet (or pair of socks, hopefully) could be unique to you. And you could start each sock from the toe and work up, or from the cuff and work down. Each way that you could choose to construct the parts – well, the reason why you should pick that method is explained. So if you don't know what to do, or why you should chose one method over another, it's all in the book, all explained.

I was ready to get started on my first sock! But first, I had to pick the yarn. I usually crochet with DK weight (#3), WW weight (#4), or thicker yarn. But the patterns in the book called for sock weight (#1 Super Fine). The book explains all about sock weight yarn, what fibers to look for, how many plies, and why you should look for elasticity, strength, and absorbency in your yarn. Also, how to care for your socks. But I have always told my students in my classes that when they want to learn a new technique that uses yarn they are not used to, they should first work a sample of that technique using yarn that they ARE used to. I decided to take my own advice, and work with WW (worsted weight) yarn. Cotton - because usually you can see the stitches better with cotton than with acrylic or wool. So that's what I picked. (Whew!)

Then I had to pick the pattern. The patterns start with the Simple Socks (that's the title of the first chapter of projects), then go to the next chapters, Textured and Cabled Socks, (below is pictured a sample – North Hills Socks),  

Colorwork Socks, (below is a sample – Lake Lynn Socks), 

and Lace Socks, (below is a sample – Little Rose Garden Socks). 

Okay – I picked a sock in the first chapter, Simple Socks, for my first try at crocheting socks. The Simple Socks in this chapter are described as "basic" socks – the "foundation" of all crocheted sock patterns. There are 4 different patterns in the chapter - two toe-up socks, and two cuff-down socks. (Each of the toe-up socks has a "twin", a cuff-down sock.) I decided to start with a toe-up sock – and the first of the two pairs in the first chapter. I thought it  would be the easiest for a beginner in crocheting socks, like me!
The sock I picked is called the Gorman Street Toe-Up Sock. First, below is a picture of the Gorman Street Cuff-Down sock, the first sock pattern in the first chapter, Simple Socks.

And below is a picture of the Gorman Street Toe-Up Sock, the second sock pattern in the first chapter, and the one that I tried -

And finally, here's the picture of the sock that I crocheted - my version of the Gorman Street Toe-Up sock!

The crochet hook below the sock is there to show you how large my sock turned out. Also, the cuff, worked in the WW cotton, just like the rest of the sock, did not fit the top of the sock – it's too long, and started to ruffle. But I finished it anyway, just to see what it would do. I think it ruffled because the yarn that I used was thicker, heavier, etc., than the yarn that was called for. (I could have easily modified the directions to get the cuff flat. But I wanted you to see how it turned out without any modifications!) 

The directions for all the patterns give you the yarn that was used, including the weight, so you can substitute if you need to. Also, how many yards, and meters, and grams are in each skein. How many skeins you'll need. What size hook to use - and also how to adjust hook size if necessary to obtain gauge. What the gauge should be. What notions you'll need. What the measurements are for the sock that's pictured, and also, what you need to do to make it smaller or larger. Special stitches that you'll use are also included in the description. Then, each pattern has sub-titles like Gusset, Heel Turn, Heel Flap, Cuff, Leg, Foot, and Toe, to let you know what part of the sock you are working on. Some of these you may know what they are, but some may be like reading or speaking a foreign language. So all these terms are explained in a section called The Anatomy of a Sock, in the chapter Basic Sock Construction, and further in a chapter called Heels, Toes, and Cuffs. The beginning chapters also tell you how to measure each part of your foot, so you can pick the right size to crochet. Another chapter tells you how to pick the right yarn for your sock. And how to take care of the socks – how to wash and block them.
The sock patterns are written in clear language – with special stitches and techniques you might need in the back of the book – all with pictures and written instructions. Stitch guides are included with the instructions. And there are stitch diagrams also, where needed.  As I was crocheting my sock, I found it easy to figure out the pattern, easy to decipher all the terms I did not know, and easy to follow the pattern.

So if you want to learn how to crochet socks, starting from the basics to beyond the basics, this is the book for you. All the information you need as a beginner is here, along with how to advance to beyond the beginner. If you have already been crocheting socks, this book helps you put together your own socks – using the information that tells you how to switch parts of the sock patterns given. And how to work socks from the toe up, or the cuff down. Your choice.

If you're interested in this book, it's available here:

It's available as both a paperback and an ebook. 

And if you crochet a sock (or, hopefully, a pair of socks) from this book, please post a picture with a comment. I would love to see what you made!

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Crochetville Blog Tour - March 2017
Blog post March 16, 2017

Welcome to the 5th annual Crochetville Blog Tour! I am pleased to be one of the bloggers featured again this year, and for my blog post I thought I would tell you about some of my happiest times as a crochet professional.

During my crochet career, I have been a teacher, a designer, a tech editor, and an editor. I love doing all of these – but I especially love teaching. (That's probably why I have taught just about everything that I've been involved with – that I've really liked – math, ballet, group exercise, calligraphy, graphic arts and design, education, crochet - not listed in any special order.) Teaching gives me such pleasure, especially when I see my students do something with what they've learned – whether it's solving a math problem, using calligraphy to write an invitation, using graphic arts to design the layout for a written pattern or brochure, or using their crochet skills (and math skills) to design and crochet something. Or to alter something that someone else has designed. And that's what I want to write about today – to celebrate National Crochet Month and the Crochetville Blog Tour -  a blog about my Crochet Philosophy and teaching Crochet.
My crochet "philosophy" is to make things simple, but make them look, not necessarily complicated, but not as easy or simple as they are. This is what I do with most of my patterns, and this is how I teach crochet. And I think my students appreciate this – because some have continued with me for many years. (I've been teaching at my LYS for over 16years!) My crochet class is a "crochet what you want" class. But, I use this to teach them things. And I often suggest that they crochet something that they don't usually chose to crochet. Last year, I realized that I had a lot of good crocheters in class, but they were just working on comfort shawls, or scarves, or blankets. All rectangles. All of them just "pick a stitch pattern and go" type of pattern. Nothing is wrong with that, but I thought they could do more. So I challenged them. I suggested that they try to crochet a sweater. They could choose one of my designs, or someone else's design. It didn't matter. But they should try it. And a few of them did. They picked some of my designs because most of my sweaters, whether they are self-published sweaters, or published in a book or magazine or by a yarn company, are simple shapes – squares or rectangles. And when they worked on the sweaters, they learned some important things. Like checking the gauge before you begin the actual pattern – something you don't necessarily have to do with a scarf, shawl or afghan.
Here are some pictures of my students' sweaters – and ponchos.

Some of my students like to take a pattern and change it a little. They may add something – like fringe, or they may make it wider, or more narrow, or longer, or shorter. They make it uniquely their own. I like that – when crocheters take one of my basic patterns (say, a shawl, or a tote) and do something with it that wasn't in the pattern and make it their own. My students do that and so do my "fans" on Ravelry. I constantly read about how they change something – adding fringe, making something wider, or longer. Or using a different yarn. As a designer and a teacher, I'm pleased that my patterns are used this way.

Here are some totes I designed, crocheted by one of my students - with her "take"on them. Notice, the last two totes are the same pattern - but she added some variations.

Here is another tote she crocheted - based on a simple pattern of mine for a Goody Bag. Her tote is the large one on the left. My various Goody Bags are the smaller ones. 

Same pattern - different sizes, different yarns. 

Here are some pictures of variations of one of my most popular shawls on Ravelry – the One Skein Summer Wrap – all crocheted by priscijo. .

These are only two of the many shawls priscijo crocheted. Notice the fringe on one, and the fancy edging on the other. Those are her additions.

Here is the link for the free pattern for my shawl – feel free to add on an edging of your choice.

All of this makes me happy - what my students do with my patterns, and with other patterns. That shows me that they have learned some things from my classes and patterns. One of my favorite sayings, that my students have started using for other purposes, is "We don't make mistakes. We make Design Decisions!" Remember that, in your crochet or crafty life! We make DESIGN DECISIONS!

One more thing – here is a coupon for 50% off my Craftsy class – 
Coupon Details: Cannot be combined with any other coupons. Expires April 8, 2017.

When you learn Foundation Stitches, you'll be able to make a lot of smart design decisions!
Happy Crocheting!

Here's a list of all the designers taking part in this tour. 
Designers on tour

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

CROCHET COWLS by Sharon Hernes Silverman

When I look at a book, and think about adding it to my Crochet books library, I have certain criteria that I look for in the book, and it should meet most of these if I am going to add it. So when I was asked to review this book, Crochet Cowls by Sharon Silverman, I thought I would look to see if it met my criteria.

Here is what I look for:
1. Do I know the author? Or have I heard of the author?
In this case, yes, to both. I have heard of the author. And I know the author, Sharon Silverman. I have several of her books, some I have reviewed. I know how thorough she is with her instructions. I know how knowledgeable she is, also. Years ago, when she was just starting out, she took one of my classes at the Crochet Guild of America's Chain Link conference. It's difficult to remember everyone you meet at a conference, but I know that we've been corresponding lately, and I feel that I know her. Disclaimer: whether I know the author or not, that doesn't influence me when I review their work.
2. Who tech edited the book? Who did the charts? Do I know or have I heard of them?
I am a tech editor, and I know how difficult it is to tech edit a book. In this case, I couldn't find a name for the tech editor (it might have been listed as "assistant editor"). But I did find a name for the person who did the charts – Lindsey Stephens. I know her, and know that she does excellent work. So I know the charts and stitch diagrams will be correct.
3.What about the skill levels? Are the designs for just one skill level, or many different skill levels?
There are 15 designs in this book, and the skill levels are divided between them – 4 Easy, 8 Intermediate, and 3 Experienced. So there is something for everyone!

4. What about the yarn? What type of yarn is used?

Once again, Sharon thought of everyone's preferences for yarn. The yarn weights range from Lace weight (0), to Jumbo weight (7). In other words, the yarn weights are: lace, super fine, fine, light, medium (also known as worsted), bulky, super bulky, and jumbo. So whether you like working with Jumbo yarn, or  Lace weight, or anything in between, you'll find at least one cowl you can crochet. And perhaps you'll also try a yarn weight that you don't usually use! It's a great opportunity to expand your skills!
5. What about special stitches and techniques? Are there any? Do you have to look in the back of the book for them, or are they included in the pattern directions?
If a cowl uses special techniques or stitches, the instructions, along with great pictures, are included with the directions. You don’t' have to search for them!
6. Stitch diagrams? Are they included with each pattern?
Each of the 15 patterns has at least one stitch diagram that shows a section of the pattern. That is my favorite part of any book. When I see a pattern I like, I want to crochet a section of it first – to see if I can follow the pattern, and to see if I like the way the stitches look in the yarn that I want to use. So I always look for stitch diagrams, to help me with my swatching. I use them to make gauge swatches, and to test new stitch patterns. Sometimes (and this is why I love stitch diagrams) I just use the stitch pattern, and crochet myself something else, not the original pattern that it came from! But however I use them, I know that reading stitch diagrams is usually a lot easier than reading patterns – long ones or short ones.
7. Anything else?

Yes!. In the back of the book, there is a section of the basic crochet stitches – with directions, and pictures. Just in case! Also, just in case, there is section on Tunisian Crochet (used in some of the patterns), and, some helpful hints for Tunisian Crochet. Then, there is information on how to read a pattern, and how to read a stitch chart or diagram - including Tunisian stitch diagrams. Then the usual stuff is included – abbreviations, hook sizes, what the crochet skill levels mean, and what the yarn categories mean. 

8. What else is included? 

There are all sorts of different techniques you will learn if you crochet these cowls. 
You can learn how to work beaded crochet, in Art Deco Skyline

Or learn Mosaic Crochet, in Magenta Mosaic.

 Pearly Grapes will teach you how to work Tunisian Knit and Purl stitches. 

Intarsia Arrows will teach you how to work Tunisian Colorwork. 

And there's so much more: Tunisian Double hook techniques, crochet through the back loop, Tunisian Full stitch, Loop stitch, etc. 
So, all in all, Crochet Cowls is a very thorough book.

When I looked through the book, I saw 5 or 6 cowls that I immediately wanted to make. Or at least try out their stitch patterns, because they intrigued me. I found some yarn to work with and I got started.
The first one that intrigued me was the Maritime Chevrons

I love to crochet chevrons, and I like to use different techniques to make them. I have two favorite techniques, to make the chevrons, but I never thought to put these techniques together. Sharon did, and I really like the way that looked. So I tried it, and this is what my swatch looks like:

I like the way the peaks are sharp, and the trough (Sharon's term) is not overcrowded. I'm going to remember this technique.

Another cowl that I liked was the Loopy Boa.

 I love to make the loop stitch, and wanted to see how Sharon did it, because there are a couple of ways to catch the strand or strands that make the loop. Sharon explained her technique, and showed pictures of how she made them, and she does it just like I do – which I think is the best way and the strongest way to crochet them! (Of course!)
But what Sharon changed, and this was very clever, was the row of stitches that goes between the rows of loop stitches. I found that what she did made the rows of loops seem a lot lighter and fluffier. And the crocheting went much faster.  So this is another technique I will have to remember!
Here's my swatch:

The Zigzag Pip Stitch Cowl stitch pattern was another one that caught my eye. 

First, I loved the way the colors changed in the cowl. And two, the stitch pattern diagram was interesting, not too complicated, and I thought it would be easy to remember. So, I tried the stitch pattern and I liked the swatch. Also, it was an easy stitch pattern to remember. I didn't have to look back and forth between my work and the directions. And the stitch diagram was very easy to follow and understand.
Here's my swatch:

Then I swatched the neck part of the Firelight Tunic. Here's a picture of the tunic:

And here's a picture of my swatch:

I love the look of the ribbing, and how it was created.

The Double Strand Delight was next, but I used only one strand to work my swatch. You'll learn how to work a large cluster with this pattern.
Here's the cowl:

And here's my swatch:

Finally, I was intrigued by Atlantic Ice, the cowl on the cover of the book. The stitch diagram helped a lot, and I took Sharon's advice to crocheters who have not worked with mohair before. (I have, but didn't have any handy.) She said to use one strand of worsted weight yarn (the pattern uses two strands of lace weight mohair) to practice to become famliar with the pattern before starting with the mohair. So I used one strand of cotton yarn, and I was able to follow the stitch diagram very easily. I discovered that the pattern is not that complicated. Try it, you'll like it!
Here's the cowl:

And here's my swatch:

So once again, Sharon's book meets my criteria for a great crochet book that I want to have for my Crochet Book library. I know that there are many great stitch patterns in there, and even if I don't want to make a cowl, I can still use the stitch patterns. Plus, there are a lot of different techniques included. If you also want the book, you can order it from Amazon here:
Crochet Cowls

Or, you can write a comment below. Tell me which cowl you would like to crochet first, or which stitch pattern you would like to try, and leave your email address so I can get in touch with you (I won't publish that), and in one week, Wednesday, October 5, I will pick one winner to receive a free copy of Crochet Cowls - your choice - print or ebook.

Good luck!

Shanken Photography took the professional pictures. I took pictures of my swatches.