Friday, December 26, 2008

The Secret is OUT

Well, it's not really a BIG secret. I did tell a few of my crochet designer friends. And the people at the workout club where I teach and workout know. At least some of them. But many of them call it knitting. What am I talking about? Well, read on and you'll find out. Or, if you have the Winter 2008 issue of Interweave Crochet click here, you can read all about it in Doris Chan's article, Gauge Crashers.
So this is the big secret. I am a crochet designer, teacher, and tech editor. I also am a group exercise instructor. (We used to be called Aerobics Instructors, but then we started teaching so much more than aerobics, that the "powers that be" changed the name to Group Exercise Instructor.) No, that's not the secret. But it does have a lot to do with it. I have been teaching aerobics and group exercise for years. And years. And years. I sometimes taught two, what we used to call "jump around" classes, a day. Then, I taught Step classes. And Spinning, or bicycle classes. And, I worked out in the weight room. I loved it, but my knees didn't. So, in the past 5 or 6 years, I've limited my Group Exercise teaching to Pilates/core classes, and Body Pump - a choreographed weight lifting class, done to music. While I love teaching these classes, I realized that they were not enough. I had to do some cardio exercise. So I tried the rowing machine. Nope, not for me. I tried the Stair Master. Nope, not for me. I tried an upright stationary bike. Nope, not for me. They all hurt my knees. The only thing that I could do, that wouldn't hurt my knees, was biking on a recumbent bike. So I started doing that. And I read a book, or watched tv. Until the day when I wanted to work out, but I had a crochet project that I had to work on. Well, I thought, why can't I do both? I put my yarn and hooks into a vinyl bag with handles, put some scissors in there also, and paper and a pen for note taking. And made my way to the club. I got on the bike, and started to crochet, and well, the rest is history! That's now what I do when I work out on the bike. I crochet. Oh - I can't crochet everything on the bike. If I have to concentrate, or measure something, or figure out a tricky part in a pattern, I don't do it on the bike. But, if it's easy, mindless, or repetitive, I can do it. Of course, not a big project. Mostly little ones, or the beginning of a bigger one. I usually am on the bike for an hour, and crochet for anywhere from a half hour to the entire hour. And - I get the strangest looks from some of the other members. And also, some interesting comments. While most men and women will ask me what I am knitting, one man knew I was crocheting. He was riding the bike next to me, and when I complemented him on knowing crocheting from knitting, he said he knew how to crochet! Men usually don't admit this.
I know what you're thinking. She must be nuts! How can she multi-task like that? Exercising and crocheting at the same time! Okay - I'll confess something else. I HAVE to exercise. It's what I do - and I have to stay in shape to teach. And it keeps me healthy. But, I LOVE to crochet. So, I combine the two when I can. Sometimes, it's the only time during the day when I do get to crochet. I crochet, or try to crochet, every day. Even if it's just a couple of rounds on a tote bag, while I'm riding in the car with my husband on the way to see a movie - as long as I can make a few stitches, I feel good. I used to think that this was crazy - me having to crochet all the time. But then, I read this book - The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

His theory is that the people who are good at something aren't good because they're born that way. They're good because they practice at it. In fact, he says, it takes about 10,000 hours, over approximately 10 years, to be successful at something. So - even though I have been crocheting and designing for way more than 10 years, I don't want to lose that. So I practice. And practice, and practice some more.

The same goes for teaching. I have taught on the high school level, at the college level (while I was studying for my Masters and my Ph.D.), continuing education classes for group exercise instructors, calligraphy, typography, and of course, crochet. I taught for many years on the local level before I thought I was ready to teach nationally. I still teach crcohet locally, and I am continually learning from my students. I am continually practicing. I never want to stop!

Now you know my secret! I crochet while riding a recumbent bike. I bet there are others like me out there. Where do you crochet?

So, read the article. It's really very good. Lots of info about why you may not be able to get the gauge that the designer got. And visit my other blog - TheCrochetDoctor -
to read what I have to say about gauge! (June 14, 2008, and August 18, 2008, are the two entries.) And if you want to know more about gauge, leave a comment or question here or there.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sham Wow WOW!

I reported before about my trip to Houston, and seeing the International Quilt Show. What I didn't tell you about the show was that they had a BIG market place - with lots of quilting equipment and material, there were some yarn stores, and then they also had some side booths selling other stuff. We stopped at one booth selling ShamWows. These are cloths that are supposed to wipe up spilled liquids, and soak up water and other liquids really quickly. So, my friends and I stopped to listen. At first, we laughed - the salesman's patter sounded just like the ads you see on TV. You know - But WAIT. If you buy it now, you can get another one free! Well, that meant we'd get 6 ShamWows (3 to a package). But it was still just a joke! However, I was designing some felted bags at the time, and started to think how this ShamWow would help me when the bags were drying. Maybe it would make the drying process quicker if I stuffed them in the bag, instead of the newspaper I usually used. So, as we were walking away, I asked one of my friends if she would be interested in splitting the cost with me - we'd each get 3 ShamWows for half price. She agreed, and so we told our other friends where we were going, and amidst much of their laughter, we headed back to the ShamWow booth.
Now, fast forward another week. I felted a bag, and stuffed it with the ShamWow and some newspaper to let it dry. It dried overnight! Really! Overnight! I never had that happen before.
Then, fast forward another couple of weeks, to last night - Saturday. I had two more bags ready to felt. When they came out of the washer, I just put a ShamWow on the bottom of each bag. I didn't use any newspaper (my husband had thrown all the papers out just that morning). I followed the directions - wetting the ShamWows first. Then I squeezed the excess water from them and put them in the base of the bags. After a couple of hours, I examined the drying progress. The ShamWows were soaking - the bags were nearly dry! So once again, I squeezed the excess water from the ShamWows, put them in the base of the bags, and set them out to finish drying. This morning, the ShamWows were soaking again, and the bags were dryer. I couldn't do anything with them then - so I once again squeezed the excess water from the ShamWows and put them in the base of the bags. This evening, when I checked on them, the bags were dry, and there was just a little excess water to squeeze from the ShamWows.
So - all of you who laughed at my purchase (and you know who you are!) I have one thing to say. SO THERE!
I have to wait for the handles to finish drying (I didn't ShamWow them on purpose - they were the control!) And when they do dry, and I put the bags together, I'll post a picture of them!
Moral of this story - well, I'm not sure there is a moral. But ShamWows are great!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Crocheted hat discovery!

I was taking a break today from writing patterns and working on projects, when I decided to visit the Coats & Clark web site. I came across a picture of a hat (the one pictured above) that had my name attached to it as the designer. "Wait a minute," I said to myself. "I don't remember working anything in that yarn! And the only hat I did for Coats was in ......." And then it came to me. The hat I designed was in a yarn that has been discontinued, and Coats is now publishing the pattern in Vision, one of the Moda Dea yarns. And yes - that is the pattern I designed! And good news - you can download it for free. Click here.
But best of all, I have been drooling over some new yarn that I spied in a couple of yarn shops. Self-striping wool! Colors to die for! Lots of yardage in one skein, so I think if I make this hat in the new yarn, I would only need one skein. I just may have to start renewing my stash, one skein at a time.

Added on November 12:
I found some yarn in my stash that I thought would look good as this hat, so I made it today. And, yes, it did take about 2 hours. However, I was following the pattern and found an error in it. At least, it didn't seem right to me at the time. But I was at our Wednesday night Sit and Stitch at our local B&N, and didn't have with me the copy of the pattern that I wrote. I just had the one that is available on the Coats web site. So I wasn't sure how to correct the error - add more row repeats, or just know that the rows were numbered wrong. And I hoped it wasn't MY mistake when I wrote the pattern. :-) When I got home, the first thing I did was turn on my computer, find the pattern file for the hat, and check it out. Whew! It wasn't my mistake. The pattern, as published, has an excess of rows. The row counts at the end don't make sense. So - here is the correction:

Rows 14 – 72: Repeat Rows 2 through 13 four more times. Then repeat Rows 2 through 12 one time.

After you do this, you will have 72 rows all together. Then, follow the directions for sewing the seam and gathering the top.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

That Crochet Dude does it again

I was in Houston last week for 3 events - the International Quilt Exposition, a workshop I was teaching at Yarntopia in Katy, Texas (more on that later), and ...... the launch of the Crochet Dude's new book, Designs for Guys. I've been waiting impatiently for the book to be published, because I wanted to make some of the sweaters in there for ME! But when I was visiting with the Dude, he started crocheting one of the hats that he designed. He told me that you can use any yarn, and any size hook that works with the yarn. And, because I had a single skein of some fabulous yarn that I purchased during one of our field trips to local Houston yarn shops, I thought I would also crochet that hat. I used bulky yarn (I don't have my info with me now - and I don't have a picture of the hat yet, but I'll add all the info and a picture when I get home from my teaching road trip), and I made the hat longer. It didn't take me long, even though I was influenced by some wine, and it may just become my favorite hat this winter. So just because the book says Designs for Men doesn't mean, ladies, that we can't make these designs for ourselves. There is a belt in there that I am going to make for me (and my husband may get one, too) and a hoodie that is just speaking my name. If you want to see a picture of the hats that the Dude has made so far, check out his blog:
The Crochet Dude, and then click on the above picture of the book to get more info and reviews of the book.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Houston - Yarntopia Crochet Workshop

I'm on my way to Houston! Well, not actually today - but soon. This Wednesday, to be exact. Early! Real early! I may not even go to sleep on Tuesday night. Because I have to get up EARLY! But it will be worth it. I'm going to the Quilt Festival in Houston, and then I'm going to teach a workshop at Yarntopia, in Katy, Texas, on Saturday morning. The Crochet Dude will be at Yarntopia that same afternoon - launching and signing his new book - The Crochet Dude's Designs for Guys. Check it out here.

The workshop I'm teaching on Saturday (from 10 - 1, and the Dude will be signing at 2) is Crochet in Bits and Pieces. (There is still room in the workshop. You can check it out here.) In the workshop, you will learn how to look at things you want to make, and then break down the pieces into basic shapes - circles, triangles, squares, and all of the variations. Then - you will learn how to make these shapes from bottom to top, top to bottom, outside in, inside out, side to side, etc. It's a lot of fun to teach - and I've been told it's a lot of fun to take. (Not bragging, but this workshop received all 10s - the highest recommendation - at the Portland, Oregon CGOA conference in September.) Now, I don't want to give anything away - but here is a picture of a circle, a square, and a triangle. This is where you'll start - and you'll go on from there.

If you are in the area - come to my workshop in the morning, have lunch, and then go to the Dude's signing in the afternoon. What a great way to spend a Saturday! Crocheting with the Doc and the Dude!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blueprint Crochet by Robyn Chachula

If you could write a book, any book, that would explain how you crochet, what book would it be? For me, it would be one already written, Blueprint Crochet by Robyn Chachula, designer extraordinaire.
Robyn has written a great instructional treatise on how to use stitch symbols when you crochet. This is something I try to teach my students, because more and more I hear "I just can't read patterns." Or "Why can't they just say what they mean?" So - I usually sketch the pattern out for my students - with stitch symbols and diagrams. And then, they get it! They can see what they're doing because the symbols look like the stitches they represent, and the diagrams look like the fabric they're making.
I also use symbols when I'm planning a design, before I actually crochet anything. I figure out multiples, row counts, increases and decreases, and anything and everything else I might need to do with or to my pattern. I also use stitch diagrams when I'm tech editing other designers' patterns. It's a quick and accurate way to check numbers, etc.
In her book, Robyn explains how to read the diagrams, whether the pattern is in rows or rounds. Once you know how to read them, then you can see from the diagrams how to put motifs together.
The patterns in Blueprint Crochet include sweaters and totes and jewelry, and Robyn tells you the plan for each pattern, what you need to know to make the basic stitch pattern, how to construct the piece, and all about finishing it to make it look it's best! Even if you don't want to make the patterns, the information about working with and using stitch diagrams is priceless, and shouldn't be missed!

Click on the link to find out more about Blueprint Crochet!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Crochet Today!

I got back from the Knit and Crochet Show in Portland, Oregon a couple of weeks ago, and it's taken me this long to catch up with everything I had to do at home. Well, I ALMOST caught up.........
In Portland, I had one and a half days free before I started teaching my 6 classes, so - I took a class - Myra Wood's Self Publishing class. It was fantastic! And - along with a couple of other designers (the Crochet Dude and the Yarn Adventurer) I went to a few yarn shops in Portland. And - bought some yarn. I'll take pictures of the yarn, and post them soon.
When I come back from the Crochet conferences, I am so excited. I can't wait to try new yarns, new ideas, new designs. I get home and I don't know where to start! But this year, I've been working on some sweater and vest designs, and when I got home I started going through my stash of yarns to find yarns I can use for them. And - I have found so many different yarns, my list of projects to start is getting longer and longer, and my time to crochet in the past few weeks has been less and less. (Of course, this doesn't mean that I've stopped buying yarns!)
I will take some pictures of the yarns I'm using, and how nicely they show the stitch patterns. Keep in contact, and the pictures will soon be posted.
But now, I want to tell you about my afghan pattern that just was published in the new Crochet Today magazine - Nov/Dec 08. I got the magazine this week, and was pleasantly surprised to see the afghan. I just designed and crocheted it this past summer - and wasn't sure when it would be published. It's called the All Angles Afghan, and all it is is Granny Squares and Granny Rectangles - all in different sizes. It was fun to work up, and great to see the picture in the magazine. Check it out:

And there are other great designers with patterns in this issue: Drew Emborsky (the Crochet Dude), Robyn Chachula (Crochet by Faye). Candi Jensen, Kristin Omdahl and Ellen Gormley, to name just a few. And you can look at all the patterns here: Crochet Today

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Strapped For Bags

When I am playing with yarn, one of my favorite projects is making bags - all sorts of bags - totes, shopping bags, purses, carry-alls, etc. I make them in all different shapes and sizes, using all different kinds of yarns and fibers. I felt them, or crochet them with a tight stitch, or make them lacy. It's fun to experiment, and it's fun to use other designers' patterns. And I know that I'm not the only one who does this. And, now, the good news is - the same designers who gave you Straight from the Hip are now giving you 3 volumes (Yes, 3 volumes!) of Strapped for Bags. It's our newest self-publishing venture. Our first volume, featuring 7 designs, is available NOW. We plan to publish one volume a month for the next 2 months. Check out the bags on the cover, and go to for more info!
Available for downloading now!

Monday, August 25, 2008

beyond the square Crochet Motifs

If you like stitch pattern books with lots of swatches to look at, if you like looking at lots of well-made swatches, if you like to follow stitch diagrams, if you like to follow well written directions, if you like hints for novice and not-so-novice crocheters, if you like "how-tos" that go beyond the usual, if you like to experiment and tailor stitches and motifs to suit yourself and your designs and welcome some advice about how to do that, if you like pictures and ideas of what to design with all the motifs, if you like help with solving problems, and information about how to solve other problems you might have, if you like a book that will lie flat, if you want a book with a lot of motifs that are not found in other stitch dictionaries, if you want motifs in all different shapes - what are you waiting for? You need to get Beyond the Square, Crochet Motifs, by Edie Eckman, who wrote another wonderful book that I recommend to all my students - The Crochet Answer Book.

If you just look at the cover of this book, you'll see many of the motifs that are presented. Open it up, and you get all of the information above, and more. The motifs are grouped into shapes, circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and unusual shapes, and each chapter has a color theme. There is much more in the book, though. The beginning is a mini-crochet motif workshop, and includes information on how to join the motifs, how to get them flat, how to make them uniquely your own, how to end the rounds so that you don't see where the ending is, and much more.

I got my copy almost 2 weeks ago, and I've been looking and drooling over all the patterns - wishing I had some time right now to swatch and play. But, alas, that will have to wait! Portland, Oregon, and the CGOA Regional conference is in less than 2 weeks. I'll be teaching 6 classes there - and I have all my stuff to pack and send - class handouts, swatches and samples, and all the other goodies I've collected for my classes. And I'm trying to finish some new garments for me to wear during the week in Portland. That's what's fun about these conferences - seeing what each designer has made for herself/himself to wear! Check out the classes at Knit and Crochet Show, and don't forget, even though on-line registration is over, you can still register for classes at the conference. And don't forget to check out the vendors who will be at the yarn market! Can't wait!

Click below to find out more about Beyond the Square!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

R & R and Classes I taught at Chain Link

I'm on a much needed R & R this week - spending a week at the beach/coast (depending on where you're from, it's called by different names - including "the shore". I call it the beach - does anyone know where I was raised?) But I'm not completely relaxing. I am working - on some projects that need to be finished for certain publications. And to wear at the CGOA/TKGA conference in Portland, in less than 4 weeks. And some tech editing jobs that I promised would be finished this week. The good news is that I'm getting the stuff done. And relaxing at the same time. Take a look at my view from the deck. This is what I am seeing while I'm crocheting!

This picture was taken at twilight -

and this one just a few minutes later - looking at the sunset over the neighboring roofs.

I do want to tell you about the great experience I had in New Hampshire, at the CGOA Chain Link Conference - teaching 7 classes! That's almost a full load. The one time I wasn't teaching, I was at the CGOA Board meeting. I took my camera to classes, but never remembered to take pictures! So I can't share with you any visuals, but I can sure share some memories!
My first class was Crochet by the Numbers, always the toughest class to teach - mainly because so many people are afraid of math. But, I hope, I showed the class that math can be your friend. If you see anyone at future conferences walking around with a "hyper-plane" flower on their name-tag, you'll know that they took my math class.
The next class was Design Your Own Stitch Pattern - always a fun class. I get to see the creativity come out in the students. I loved seeing them just staring into space, and when I asked if they had a problem, they always said "No, I'm just thinking of how to create this new pattern." It was exciting!
And then I taught Crochet in Bits and Pieces. Another fun class - how to make rectangles, circles, triangles, and other shapes, from all different directions - bottom up, top down, inside to outside, outside to inside, corner to corner, etc.
Crocheting on the Edge was great fun, too. I talked about making corners, and showed many variations of the crab stitch, and fringes that were crocheted, and shaped edgings, and lots more.
Foundation Stitches and Linked Stitches is one class that changes people's lives, at least their crocheting lives! Foundation stitches are great to know, to eliminate that dreaded foundation chain. The class learned the basic stitches, and then how to do some pattern foundation stitches. The second half of class was devoted to linked stitches - and then I challenged the class with a project that started out with linked foundation stitches!
Pattern Writing School was intense - we talked about a lot of ways to write patterns, and then I gave them a swatch to write a pattern from.
In my "Going Around in Circles" class (it was my last class, on Sunday afternoon, and you know I was feeling like I was going around in circles!) I taught the students the "rule of thumb" for making circles. And then they made circles with many different stitches, half circles, circles from the outside in, circles using short rows, and spiral circles with one and two colors of yarn. Before I knew it, the class was over. And so was the conference! And the yarn market was closed!
It was time to say goodbye to many of my old friends, and new friends, until the next conference.
If any of my classes interest you, I'll be teaching the same ones in Portland, Oregon, this September, at the TKGA/CGOA conference. Go to The Knit and Crochet Show to check out the schedule and learn how you can take part in this conference. If you have never been to a conference, you don't know what you're missing! If you have been to one, you know what a learning experience it is, as well as a fun time!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Catching up - CGOA Chain Link, Manchester, NH

I KNEW if I waited long enough, I wouldn't have to post much about the CGOA Chain Link conference - everyone else who was there would do it for me. :-) Check these out: Designing Vashti, The Crochet Dude, Everyday Crochet, and Crochet with Dee. The Crochet Dude was in charge of Professional Development Day, and did a bang-up job! Read about it on his blog. Vashti and Doris tell what it was like to be there. Dee gives a blow-by-blow description of the whole conference, including video of the great fashion show on Saturday night - which included kids, and a "runway strut" by Brian. (One lesson to remember - never follow kids or Brian on a runway!) I was there - but oh, so busy. Seven classes, board meeting, Market preview, Saturday night dinner and fashion show, meeting with the new Professional Development Chair, membership meeting, and many other meetings, including the "Musketeers and friends" meetings. We had one at least every day! Oh, I did get to go to the market, and I did get to purchase some yarn. Many times! But look at our official office sign, along with our official lamp - anybody remember lava lamps?

One thing I didn't do - I did miss out on a side trip to Maine - for the best lobsters, I understand, because I had to teach on Sunday! But - I did get to go to WEBS, twice! Once going to New Hampshire on the way to Chain Link, and once coming back. And, because we drove (well really, Jane drove, I crocheted) we got to visit 2 other yarn shops on the way home. And one even had a 20% off sale on everything in the store. Check out Jane's blog, Yarn Adventures, to find out more about those two shops.

Let me tell you about WEBS.
The outside - well, it was not too exciting. Looked like just another big store. Well, the store WAS BIG! Huge, as a matter of fact.

When I walked in, I was not prepared for what I saw. Rows and rows of yarns, yarns, and more yarns. And, I understand, needles, hooks, and buttons. (I was so mesmerized by the yarns, I didn't even look at the hooks!) This is a view of the store when you first enter it. Notice how the shelves of yarn just seem to stretch for miles!

This is a picture of just one part of one of the aisles in WEBS. Now you can see why I completely missed the hooks, needles, and buttons!

In the back of the store - which was a good distance from the front - there was a warehouse - and it was open to the public. More aisles and aisles of yarns. It was like a candy store! Only better! I discovered their Valley Yarns in the warehouse, and immediately fell in love with the various worsted weight cottons. I'm into cotton yarns right now (maybe because of the hot summer weather) and I was able to get some cones and skeins of Valley Yarns, and other cottons that looked intriguing. And that was just the first visit. On the second visit, on the way home, of course I had to get more. The only thing stopping me was that, between the two of us, there was limited room for more yarn!
This is just one aisle of many in the warehouse!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Grannys on the Go

Today when I came home, I found a wonderful surprise in my mailbox. No - not more yarn! This time it was a book. But not just any book. It was the pre-publication copy of the new Grannies On the Go, published by Vogue/Soho. It's a book of - yup - Granny Square designs. But not just afghans. No, there are shrugs, shawls, purses, hats, yes - some afghans, and a whole lot more. 19 designs by 16 crochet designers. (Three of the designs are mine!)
The book should be published on September 2, according to And if you can't wait, you can pre-order there. Here's a picture of the cover, to whet your appetite!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Crochet Motifs

It's finally available - the Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitch Motifs by Erika Knight. 250 motifs to crochet! I have been waiting, not patiently, for this book, haunting the bookstores, checking on Amazon - it seems like forever!. Finally - today - I got an email from B&N - it was here! I rushed to get it, and so far, just glancing through it briefly, I haven't been disappointed. The swatches are new, according to the introduction - redone for this book. And the stitch diagrams are really clear. When I have some time to breathe, and sit down and swatch, I'll work some of the motifs. One thing that I like about this guide, that I think is better than the old Harmony Guides, there is an index in the back of the book which lists each pattern. So it's much easier to find the one you want, if you remember it's name! :-)

Less than two weeks to the Crochet conference in New Hampshire! And I'm busy getting my handouts ready, and my swatches and designs for the classes all packed up and ready to go. And I can't forget the goodies and surprises for the students! And I have a lot of goodies and surprises. I just got another BIG box of them today. If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say "Crochet conference", check this out: Knit and Crochet Show

One of the fun things to do at the conference is to shop in the Yarn Market! Unfortunately, because of my heavy teaching schedule, (I'm teaching 7 classes) I may only be able to go to the Yarn Market for the Thursday night preview. Unless I skip lunches. (That may not be such a bad idea!) I'll be sure to take some pictures of the whole experience - the Saturday night Fashion Show, Professional Development Day, the Design Contest submissions, the classes I teach, and whatever else I can take, so I can share it with you here. And I'll try to post from the Conference. I promise! :-)

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Raw, Uncensored Designs Straight From Today’s Designer

STRAIGHT FROM TODAY’S DESIGNERS (SFTD), a designer-based self-publishing group, announces a new venture that heralds the future of crochet patterns: designers going direct to their public. With its first release entitled “Crochet Belts from the Hip: Raw, Uncensored Designs Straight From Today’s Designers,SFTD offers no less than eighteen original belts from top designers, a veritable treasure trove of wearable art and innovative stitching. The thirty-four-page booklet is available for instant download from for Fifteen Dollars.

The list of participants include some of the best-loved names in contemporary crochet, as well as talented up-and-coming designers. In alphabetical order, along with their projects, they are:

Angela Best Beaded Lacy Sash
Gwen Blakely Kinsler Yummy Licorice Belt
Vashti Braha Barbed Wire Belt
Robyn Chachula Bubble Sash
Doris Chan Hip Hemp Belt
Noreen Crone-Findlay Autumn Leaves Belt
Pam Gillette Waist Cincher Belt
Lisa Gentry Beaded Hip Cable Belt
Kim Guzman a-Maizing Ribbed Belt
Mary Jane Hall Feminine Lace Belt
Tammy Hildebrand Easy Beaded Belt
Margaret Hubert Freeform Belt
Christy McMahon Lilac Waves Belt
Marty Miller Spiderweb Sash
Dianne Moyer Circle on Circle Belt
Dora Ohrenstein Popcorn Medallion Belt
Carrie A. Sullivan Pretty Tunisian Knit Stitch Belt
Mary Beth Temple The Felt Belt

Belts were the project of choice for this launch, as they are a must-have accessory, quick projects with no complex shaping, and ideal for experimenting with new yarns and techniques. The beautiful designs in Crochet Belts from the Hip use a variety of techniques, including freeform crochet, felting, lace, beading, cables, Tunisian crochet, surface embellishment, motifs, and much more. Yarn choices range from perennial favorites to the adventurous, such as hemp, jelly yarn, ribbon and wire.

Each designer writes “straight from the hip,” creating instructions in her own voice, free of editorial agendas, imposed formats or word count restrictions. The personality of each designer shines through in these pages, providing a unique opportunity for crocheters to get to know their favorite designers better.

SFTD is a new model representing the wave of the future in crochet publishing: designers making their own assessment of what crocheters will enjoy making and wearing, eliminating middlemen, and cutting costs by distributing patterns via the web. This new business model also allows designers to realize sales income directly, a promising alternative to the depressed design fees paid within the industry. The savvy designers behind SFTD have combined their considerable expertise in technology, graphic design, marketing, and packaging to bring the project to fruition. Layout and graphic design of the booklet is by crochet designer Amie Hirtes.

Purchasers can buy Crochet Belts from Hip by credit card at for the price of $15. Ravelry members can purchase it at

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

TNNA Report Part 4

I haven't even begun to tell you about all the new books that were at TNNA. At least the covers! Most of the new ones that I wanted to see haven't been published yet, but I got to view the covers of some of them, and sneak a peak at some of the inside pictures. One book that I did get to see and coveted, but was not able to get a copy of, was Nicky Epstein's new book, Crocheting on the Edge. Nicky is a great designer, and fun to talk to. So when I got home, I checked out my local book store, and there the book was. Of course, I bought it. It's a great book with lots of good ideas for edgings.

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to work any of the patterns yet - I'm busy getting my classes in order for Chain Link, the Crochet Guild of America's (CGOA) national conference in Manchester, New Hampshire at the end of July. If you haven't yet, check out the web site
to see the entire list of crochet and knit classes, and all the other great events that are going on at the same time. Especially the Yarn Marketplace.

TNNA Report Part 3

If you've never been to a TNNA trade show before, just imagine you are in a HUGE needlework store, with aisles and aisles of yarn and needlework supplies. Such a huge store, it would take you days to walk up and down every aisle and look at all the goodies! Imagine you can touch and feel and pet the yarns to your heart's content. But you can't buy any to take home with you! So it's a bit frustrating, especially when you see a yarn that you simply fall in love with, you simply MUST have! That's how I felt when I visited the Plymouth Yarn Booth. JoAnne took me around, and showed me all their new yarns. She knows I love Fantasy Naturale, and she had a big surprise for me! A new yarn, Fantasy Linen. Yes, Fantasy Linen! It's 72% mercerized cotton, 11% linen, and 17% rayon. It's machine washable and dryable, and comes in skeins of 130 yards. And great, soft colors. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a sample to try at the show, but later that day I ran into the two women from my local yarn shop who were scoping out the new yarns and needlework supplies. I suggested (strongly) that they go to the Plymouth Booth and look at the Fantasy Linen so that they can recommend it to the owner! I wanted to have this wonderful yarn available locally. I know it's going to be a big hit!

Then, this past weekend, I went to the beach, and stopped in to Coastal Crafts in Atlantic Beach. They have all sorts of crafty things there, and yarn! And a lot of Plymouth yarns. And they had Fantasy Linen! So, of course, I had to buy a couple of skeins to try. This is what the yarn in the skein looks like:

And this is what it looks like when crocheted in a stitch pattern:

It has great stitch definition, it's soft, drapes well, and if you look at a close up (double click the picture) you can see a bit of linen threads sticking out. So it looks like linen, feels like cotton, and crochets like a dream!

Check out the Plymouth web site for more information about the yarn. (And ask your local yarn shop owner to stock it!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TNNA Report Part 2 continued

As I promised - here's the picture of the swatch I worked up, using the S hook that I got from BagSmith, and 5 strands of Plymouth Fantasy Naturale. I love the 5 multicolored strands together! If you double click on the picture, it will get bigger, and you can see the great stitch definition.

TNNA Report Part 2

I am a collector of hooks - my basic philosophy is that one can not have too many crochet hooks! So when I saw the Bagsmith booth, and the large (they call them "extreme") knitting needles, I stopped to talk. I wanted to know if they were making "extreme" hooks. The answer was Yes! I just HAD to have one or two. And at the end of the show, I got to buy 2 of them, an S (17mm) and a U (25mm). If you go to BagSmith you'll be able to see the "extreme" needles and the U hook.
In the booth, there were examples of knitted and crocheted pieces. The "extreme" tools are made to work with multiple strands of yarn. So - on the way home, I took multiple strands of Fantasy Naturale, and crocheted a little sample with them, using my new S hook. I'll take a picture, and post it tonight, and you'll see what a great fabric these hooks create!
Meanwhile, take a look at this picture:

From left to right: U hook, S hook, H hook for comparison.

And this picture:

Top to bottom: U hook, S hook, H hook for comparison.

And finally, look at the two hooks, in all their glory!

One thing about crocheting with these big hooks - if you hold your hook with a pencil grip, you probably will have to change to a knife grip to work with them. I found that it was easy to get used to that grip!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TNNA Report Part 1

I just got back from TNNA - The National Needlearts Association trade show - in Columbus, Ohio. Oh, my! What an experience! So many new yarns to swatch with. So many new gadgets to use! The trade show was three days of wandering around in the biggest yarn store ever! Except, I couldn't buy any - I just had to look, and drool, and think about all the great projects I can crochet with all the yarns.

I want to first mention the new yarn on the block - PolarKnit yarn. It's made of Polarfleece, and it is amazing! Find out more about it on the PolarKnit website. I had heard about this yarn, but had never seen it. It was debuting on the show floor, so Saturday, the first day, I went to check it out! I was in heaven! Soft, warm, gorgeous colors! What more could you ask for? I talked with Taren and Amy, and told them some of my ideas for the yarn. They gave me two balls of the orange - (great color, by the way!), and that evening, I sat in our "office", and crocheted a hat for them. With less than one ball of yarn. The next day, I brought it to them, and they got so excited. They will be offering it soon on their web site. (I have to get the pattern to them.) I also will be designing other patterns for them - keep checking their web site, and my posts, to find out more about that! And look at their Yarn Dots, and enter the contest to create your own Yarn Dot.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

5 Cottons, How Do They Fare?

I'm intrigued with all the new cotton yarns that are appearing in the stores. I love working with cotton to make garments and accessories (purses and totes, especially), and I use a lot of cotton yarns when I make swatches of techniques and stitches for my crochet classes. Cotton usually has great stitch definition, so it's easy to see what I did, and my students can learn how to "read" the stitches. Many of the yarn companies are developing "organic" cotton yarns, and I hope to do some swatching and comparisons with those, soon.

One of the "staples" in the cotton yarns is what I call the "kitchen cottons", and the "big three" - Sugar 'n Cream, Peaches & Creme, and Bernat Handicrafter Cotton have been strong in that field. Lately, they have been joined by two contenders - CoolSpun Cotton, and Creme de la Creme Cotton by Coats.
"Kitchen cottons" are what I think of when I want to make dishcloths and towel, baskets, and strong tote bags. I usually don't think of these cottons when I want to make a baby afghan or sweater. They always felt a little rough to me - too rough for a garment. But - one of my crocheting buddies made a lacy sweater that I designed with another, finer cotton, and used Sugar 'n Cream to make it. And I saw a picture on-line, posted by another crocheter who made the same sweater design in Sugar 'n Cream. Both sweaters looked great! I would have never even thought to try that yarn with this design. And recently, one of my students brought in a sweater that she's crocheting for her grandson, out of - you guessed it - Sugar 'n Cream. And it looks wonderful!

In the past, when people would ask me if they could use these yarns in garments, I would say "No. The yarn is rough, and it shrinks when washed. So it's not the best yarn to use for garments or afghans that need to be washed often. Also, some of the colors fade and may bleed in the wash." (The fading part I knew from some old dishcloths I made, and anyway, I heard EVERYONE say the yarn faded. Same with the shrinking.)

Recently, though, the companies that make these yarns have come out with some great colors. I especially like the stripes, but all the colors are wonderful! And the yarn is inexpensive. And lots of times, on sale. And crocheters love a bargain. More and more people were asking me about the yarns. So...... I decided to see for myself whether the yarns would shrink. And how they would "feel" after being washed.

I happen to have a little (okay, not so little - and growing all the time) stash of these yarns. I had a skein of each of them in white, and that's what I used. (I didn't want to do this experiment using different colors of the yarns. I wanted all variables, that I could control, to be the same.) I crocheted the swatches using the same hook (some hooks, even if they have the same size marked on them, are sometimes different.) I used the same pattern, and the same number of stitches and rows. I washed the swatches together, in a washing machine filled with cold water. I dried them together, also. So most of the variables were controlled. The one thing I couldn't control was my "mood" - whether I was relaxed or tense, or thinking about something else. And mood does tend to influence gauge. So even though the swatches were worked in the same pattern, and had the same number of rows and stitches in each row, the stitch gauges and swatch measurements were different.
This is a picture of the 5 swatches before I washed them. You can see how different their sizes are.
From left to right, top row first:
Row 1: CoolSpun Cotton, Bernat Handicrafter Cotton
Row 2: Sugar 'n Cream, Creme de la Creme
Row 3: Peaches & Creme

A couple of things that I thought were interesting about these yarns: Sugar 'n Cream, Peaches 'n Cream, and Bernat Handicrafter all felt like they were the same worsted weight yarn. CoolSpun felt softer, and Creme de la Creme felt as if it were a little less than worsted weight. You can see from the picture, though, the CoolSpun swatch was smaller, even though it felt like worsted weight yarn. The Creme de la Creme yarn was the largest swatch, even though it felt like dk or light worsted weight yarn.

Then, I washed the swatches. All together, in my washing machine, in cold water. First, though, I knotted the tails with 1 - 5 knots, so I could tell the swatches apart! The picture shows that the relative sizes stayed the same, but the measurements did change.
1. CoolSpun Cotton went from 6.5" x 6" to 6.25" x 5.75"
2.Bernat Handicrafter went from 6.75" x 6.25" to 6.5" x 5.75"
3. Sugar'n Cream went from 7" x 6.5" to 6.75" x 6"
4. Creme de la Creme went from 7.5" x 6.5" to 7" x 6"
5. Peaches & Creme went from 7" x 6.5" to 7" x 5.75"

You can see from the above measurements, that the Creme de la Creme swatch was the largest, and shrunk the most - 1/2" in both directions. Peaches & Creme only shrunk in length, not width. CoolSpun Cotton shrunk .25" in each direction, and the other two - Sugar'n Cream and Bernat Handicrafter shrunk .25" in width and .5" in length.

Next, I put the swatches in the dryer. On a regular cycle - one I would use for cotton. But whenI took them out I could feel that they were not completely dry - so I pulled on their edges a little, and measured them.
1. CoolSpun - dried - 6.25" x 5.75" - same measurements as before drying.
2. Bernat Handicrafter - dried - 6.25" x 6.25" - small in width, larger in length than when wet, (it went back to it's original length.) This yarn was very easy to stretch and block.
3. Sugar'n Cream - dried - 6.75" x 6.25". I was able to get another 1/4" in length when I pulled on the edges. It was also easy to stretch and block.
4. Creme de la Creme - dried - 7" x 6" - same measurements as before drying, and still 1/2" smaller in width and length.
5. Peaches & Creme - dried - 6.75" x 5.75" - same measurement in length, but shrunk a 1/4" in length when dried.

All these yarns will shrink a little when washed. CoolSpun Cotton, and Sugar'n Cream shrunk the least.
All of these yarns got noticeably softer when they were washed and dried, and I think would be soft enough for a baby blanket or a garment.
These yarns are interchangeable when the gauge is not really important to the design. However, each swatch was a different size, and even 1/4" difference in a 5" swatch, multiplied by 8 (for a 40" finished chest measurement) creates a 2" difference - which could make the garment too big or too small. So, be aware when switching yarns that not all "kitchen cottons" are alike!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Crochet Doctor is In

Many of my students, designer friends, and teacher friends, have asked me to do this for a loooooooong time. :-) I finally did it! I have a new blog (don't worry, I'll still keep up with this one!). The new blog is TheCrochetDoctor, and that's just what I'll try to do - answer your questions, give you some "how-to's", and help you fix what "hurts".
If you have any questions for The Crochet Doctor, you can email me at:, or post your questions at The Crochet Doctor blog.

(And, in case you wondered, the Doctor title is legit. I do have a Ph.D.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quick Stitch Crochet again

Remember the cover I posted for the book Quick Stitch Crochet on Feb. 23, 2008? I saw the cover on Amazon's listing for the book, and I was so thrilled that my patterns were featured on it. Today, however, Carol M. sent me a message that she got her copy of the book, and that wasn't the cover. But - what was on the cover was another of my designs - an afghan. Of course, I forgot what afghan I designed for this book, so I had to search the web to see it. I found it on Annie's Attic, and here is the new cover:

The book is available now at Annie's Attic or Amazon.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Knit and Crochet Show 2008

If you are thinking about attending the summer 2008 Knit and Crochet Show in Manchester, New Hampshire, and want to take some classes there, on-line registration begins March 24th! Classes start on July 24th, and continue through July 27th (Thursday through Sunday.) The shopping starts on July 25th, and goes through July 27th (Friday through Sunday.)
I am lucky that I have been chosen to be one the crochet teachers. I'll be teaching 7 classes! Yes, 7. There are 8 time slots. So, you may be asking yourself, why aren't you teaching 8 classes? Well, during that 8th time slot, I'll be at the CGOA Board Meeting! I'm going to have a busy week in Manchester!
If you've never been to one of these crochet and knit fests, you need to do yourself a favor and come. Not only are the teachers nationally and internationally known designers and teachers, there is also a marketplace,with yarn, yarn, yarn, and even more yarn. Did I say there was yarn? :-)
If you want a list of the classes, and see all the events that will be going on (fashion shows, auctions, kids' programs, Professional Development Day, banquets, 24 hour knit and crochet lounge, and much more), check out right now. (Classes fill up fast - reserve a space in the ones you want!)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

baskets, baskets, and more baskets

Sometimes in a designer's life, she/he is so busy meeting deadlines and completing projects, that there is no time to indulge in personal crocheting! Every minute is spent working or thinking about the next design to be finished, or the next proposal to submit, or the next pattern to write. When that all gets done, though, maybe there is a little time for us. What I find, though, is that often I am too tired to think of what to make for me. I want something quick, fun, easy. In the past, I've made scarves (I have a gazillion of them) and hats (ditto!), and North Carolina doesn't often get cold enough to wear hats and scarves for more than a couple of weeks. Maybe. So - what do I crochet? Baskets. Round, oval, square, short, tall, felted, cotton, floppy, sturdy. Lately, I have been able to use my current passion for baskets in my design proposals, and some have been published. Some will be published soon. One book that has just been published, with 2 felted baskets of mine (among other designs of mine), is Vogue Knitting on the Go, Felted Crochet. It's a portable book, with lots of great patterns in it! This is a picture of the cover:

Another book that won't be out until May 25th, is Quick Stitch Crochet, edited by Judy Crow and published by DRG. Here is a picture of that cover:

Now, look closely at the blue basket and the jute basket. And the table runner beneath them. Yes - those are my designs! It is really a thrill to see your patterns in print, but when you make the cover of a book - WOW!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wooden Crochet Hook

A friend of mine, who is a retired Oral Surgeon, is studying woodworking in school now. One night at dinner, I kiddingly suggested that he start making wooden crochet hooks. (I do that with everyone I know who works with wood. I'm trying to find my own personal supplier of wooden hooks!) I just happened to have one of my favorite sizes in my purse (you never know when you will need one), so when he said he would consider it because they needed small projects to work on for a certain class, I pulled out my Susan Bates N hook, and gave it to him. (I have many more at home!) A few weeks passed, and I kinda forgot about it. Then, recently, he "gifted" me with his finished project. I was flabbergasted! And thrilled! And even excited!

It is a great hook - smooth and lightweight. I love it - and the best part is, he's making more!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Winter in North Carolina

While other bloggers are speaking of Spring and Summer weather in their fair cities, this is what we woke up to this morning! 2 1/2 inches (yes, TWO AND ONE HALF INCHES!) of snow overnight! This is in North Carolina! Where it's supposed to be warm! :-)
At least I have a lot of work to do today, so it's a good day to stay inside and do it.
What am I doing? Some tech editing, some crocheting, some pattern writing. A little of everything! So I'll be busy. Until the temperature rises and the snow melts and I can get out!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Crocheting and Sailing in the BVIs

I recently got back from a week of sailing in the British Virgin Islands. One of the biggest problems I had preparing for this trip was what projects to take to crochet! I had two projects that I absolutely HAD to take - they were due the next week, but I knew that wouldn't be enough. And I had two long days of plane travel to fill, also. From past experience, I knew not to bring fluffy yarns or furry yarns. (One year I tried to crochet a sweater using an eyelash-type yarn mixture, and that was impossible to work with on deck! It kept flying in my face!) So - this is what I choose: Deco Ribbon by Crystal Palace (that's what I'm working on in the picture), Lily Sugar 'n Cream, (I had promised to teach my husband how to crochet, and thought that would be a good yarn to work with, and it wouldn't take up too much luggage space), and, of course, Plymouth Fantasy Naturale (I wanted to work on the Granny Square sweater from my previous post, for ME!)
So here's the report: I finished the two projects. Whew! Big sigh of relief! I taught my husband how to chain and single crochet. He's not ready to go beyond that, yet. We were both exhausted and stressed from a hard day sailing, and then dinghying (is that a word?) over lumpy seas (as the British guy who checked us out with our boat before we left the harbor said the ocean would be) about twenty five minutes to a restaurant, and twenty five minutes back. Don't ask! I played with the Sugar 'n Cream, making baskets, and I worked with the Deco Ribbon, making a tote.
The winds were 20 - 25 knots most of the days we were there, and it did rain every day, sometimes heavy. So the time I could spend crocheting on deck was limited. I had to be ready to do things with the sails, or steer, or whatever was needed. And I didn't want to get the yarn wet. So I worked at night most of the time, when we were anchored. The last two days, though, were sunny during the day, although still very windy, and I did get to crochet a little on deck.
On the plane, (really 3 planes each way!) I also did some tech editing.
And we do have some great sailing stories to share! (Note the "lumpy" water behind me!)

Spiderweb Hat and Finger Crochet Scarf

I already mentioned that I found one of my patterns, a granny square sweater "Decadent Denim Sweater" on I just realized there is another one of my patterns there - the "Denim Cloche". It's an easy hat pattern, worked in a spiderweb pattern.

If you haven't looked at e-patterns.central lately, you'll be pleased to know that you can now purchase and download older crochet and knit magazines. Specifically, if you want to know how to finger crochet, and make this scarf:

that was published in this issue of Crochet! and that I wrote about in my post on November 14, 2007,

you can now order the magazine and get the directions!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Two Sweaters Two Hats

I just got back from TNNA (The National Needlearts Association Conference) in Long Beach, CA! Aisles and aisles of new yarns! What a paradise for a yarn lover like me. And I got to see the two sweaters that I designed for Plymouth Yarn Company displayed in their booth. Here they are:

They are both worked in Fantasy Naturale.

If you got to the Plymouth Yarn web site:, you can check out all of their new spring fashions.

I have two more patterns there, for hats (made from Fantasy Naturale, of course!) The story behind those hats is interesting. Last winter, my husband and I, along with another couple, chartered a boat in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our luggage was delayed by a couple of days, so we were left with only what we had in our carry-ons. I, of course, had yarn! I had taken one skein of a multicolor Fantasy Naturale, and three skeins of the denim Fantasy Naturale. I wasn't sure what I would do with them when I put them in my bag, but I knew what to do with them once I felt the heat from the sun, and no sun hat available. I needed a hat quickly, so I designed and made the mesh hat to wear right away. Then, the second day, when I was wearing the mesh hat, I designed and made the denim hat! So both hats are quick! And great last-minute projects.