Sunday, September 23, 2012

There is No Such Thing as Too Many Crocheted Totes

There is no such thing as too many totes. And, no such thing as too many crocheted totes. That's why my first book for Leisure Arts was all about (Crocheted) Totes for All Reasons. Check it out here - it's even available as a download. Totes for All Reasons - download, and Totes for All Reasons, book. This is the image on the cover:

But those are not the only totes I've ever designed. No, not at all. I have been designing totes for years. Whenever I come across some nice cotton yarn, or wool yarn that I can felt, or another sturdy fiber, I think "Tote!" Sometimes I challenge myself - what can I make with just one skein of the yarn? The "One Skein" tote, in my above mentioned book, came from that challenge. I had one skein of the yarn, and about 1 1/2 hours to ride in the car. I made the prototype of that tote. Here's a picture of it: 
One Skein Tote

Sometimes I challenge myself - I hate to weave in ends, so how can I incorporate the ends into the tote so that it doesn't look like I hate to weave in ends? I have a tote for that (you'll have to wait to see a picture). 
Another challenge - use a stitch that I'm going to teach at a workshop or class. This Tunisian Tote has been a big hit!
Tunisian Tote

Here's another tote, with Linked stitches:
At the Beach Bag

Another challenge - how can I use Granny Squares in a unique way?
Not Your Granny's Tote #3

Sometimes, I just want to name the tote after the place where I designed it. 
Salty Sheep Tote (a great yarn shop in Swansboro, NC)

Or, I just want to play with some easy stitches - and see what happens. This tote is great for carrying yarn, patterns, even groceries. It expands, because of the chains, but it is still solid, and won't stretch out of shape, because of the single crochets.
Market Tote

And now the good news! All these patterns are available for instant download from Crochetville. Here's the link to my patterns, and more:
Marty Miller's patterns at Crochetville

So if you agree with me - there is no such thing as too many crocheted totes - go to my page at Crochetville, and get started.
Keep checking that page, because I'll be putting up more patterns (including more totes) in the near future.

And when you make one of my totes, please post pictures. I would love to see what you crochet!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chain Link Conference in Reno, Sept.2012

I can't believe it's almost September. And that means that the Crochet Guild of America's Knit and Crochet Show (held in conjunction with The Knitting Guild - TKGA) is almost here. (We call it Chain Link for short.)  I am so excited! I have never been to Reno - and I'm looking forward to that. Plus, I'm looking forward to teaching my classes, meeting my students (if they're new to my classes), presenting at Professional Development Day, seeing all my friends that I don't get to see unless we're at a conference like this, and everything else that goes on at these conferences. (What happens in Reno stays in Reno!) 
I've been busy this summer, tech editing some books and patterns, designing patterns for some books and magazines, and it seems like time has just slipped away from me. But - I am finally finished with the other stuff, and I can concentrate now on getting things ready for my classes. The handouts are done, the samples are done. Now I just have to finish some sweaters and vests for me to wear to my classes and during the whole conference. The sweaters  and vests I am working on will be wearable samples for my classes. They will show off the stitch patterns, or the various concepts that I'm teaching. I was working on one today, and left it piled up on my table, with my crochet hook in the yarn so I'll remember what hook I used. Here's a picture of it:

Notice the color of the crochet hook matches the color of the yarn! (I planned it that way!) Does this picture intrigue you? Do you want to know what those funny looking stitches are? All you have to do is take my Linked Stitches/Extended Stitches class at Chain Link. 
And if you want to learn how to never have to work into a Foundation Chain again, you should take my class Foundation Stitches 101 - the Basics. You'll learn how to work the chain AND the first row of stitches AT THE SAME TIME! Never again will you have to chain a gazillion, and then work back into it, finding out at the end that you don't have enough chains. Some of my past students said that this class changed their lives! It could happen to you, too. 
You can also take my class on Post Stitches - Everything You Should Know About Post Stitches - in one 3 hour class. Or learn how to write a crochet pattern so that others can work from your pattern without any problem, in my Crochet Pattern Writing Class.  Or learn how to figure out how much yarn you need, or what size to make that afghan so that it looks good, or how to make pleasing stripes without being boring. In other words, how to use some math (don't worry, I'll keep it simple) in your crochet. That class is called Crochet by the Numbers.  There is still room in all my classes, but they fill up fast, so if you're going to Chain Link, sign up for them before August 27 - don't wait until the conference. And if you're NOT going to Chain LInk, why aren't you?
Hope to see you there!!!!

To see all the classes offered, and register on-line, go to:
Chain Link Conference

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Winner of Unexpected Afghans
The Random Number Generator I used picked a winner for a copy of the ebook of Unexpected Afghans - and it's Craftylady953. Thank you to all who entered - and I hope that you check out the other blogs from the designers in this book, and then, look for the book at the Interweave on-line store, or at your local bookstore or yarn shop. It's a book you don't want to miss!!!

In case you forgot - here's my afghan from the book:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Unexpected Afghans

If you read my previous post, you will know that my mother was the "official" baby afghan crocheter for our family and friends. Well, she's no longer around, and it seems like I have inherited the position. My family has had a population explosion in the past few years. I have new nieces and nephews, and their older brothers and sisters, and their even older cousins, and, of course, my grandchildren. And I'm not even mentioning our good friends who are becoming grandparents right and left. That adds up to a lot of afghans - baby size and larger.  When I make an afghan for a present, I like to make one of my patterns, whether it's been published or not. The first one I made for my great-niece, the one I wrote about in the previous post, was one of my original designs. I had made one for me years before, and just changed the colors to pink and white. When I started designing for publications, I proposed the pattern to an editor, and it was published in a book. Then, I started working smaller baby-sized afghans, using another pattern, and when I submitted the proposal, it also was published. And ditto for a third afghan. I knew these patterns were good - they were easy for me to work quickly, and the new mothers loved them. Eventually, though, I ran out of previous designs, and now, anytime I'm asked to design an afghan for a publication, I have to put on my thinking cap, and do some work. I have some basic criteria for afghans that I crochet for presents. I like them to be quick (I don't have much time to spend on each afghan - see "population explosion" above.) I like to be able to remember the stitch pattern and not have to look at the directions many times in each row or round to see what to do next.  I like to be able to make the pattern in all sorts of yarns. And, I like to be able to make the afghan larger or smaller, depending on the recipient. A small one for a baby. A larger one for a child. An even larger one for a grown-up. With all these criteria in place, I made umpteen afghans this past year for my family and friends. (When you make one for a new baby, you have to make another one for the older sibling.) I also made some for publications - one for a book that was just published: Unexpected Afghans by Robyn Chachula. 

Unexpected Afghans is a book of 24 afghans, and  pillows to match, all innovative crochet designs with traditional techniques. Each afghan is designed by a different designer, and there are hints and tips throughout the book, to make your crocheting experience easier. There are 5 different styles of afghans - cables, granny motifs, color, lace, and tunisian. It's a great way to learn how to work these different techniques if you're not familiar with them. And it's a great way to practice them if you are familiar with them. My afghan (the first in the book) is called Eloise Baby Blanket. It has easy cables and lacy shells. So if you're not used to working cables, or have never worked cables, or just find cables impossible to do, this would be an excellent blanket to crochet. Did I say the cables are easy? Very easy! And remember my basic criteria for making afghans for presents? Quick, easy-to-remember stitch pattern, able to be crocheted in all sorts of yarns, and easy to change the size. This blanket meets all these criteria - so I'm going to make this one for the next baby that shows up. Or the next wedding. Or just because!

If you are interested in the book, here's where you can find more info:
Unexpected Afghans

And, if you want to read the blogs of the other designers in the book, here is that info:

Meet the Author: Robyn Chachula - Crochet By Faye

Meet the Designers (in alphabetical order):
Annette Petavy - Annette Petavy Design
Annie Modesitt - Modeknit
Carol Ventura – Tapestry Crochet
Diane Halpern -Three Rivers Crochet
Dora Ohrenstein - Crochet Insider Newsletter
Doris Chan - Everyday Crochet
Drew Emborsky - The Crochet Dude
Edie Eckman – Edie Eckman   
Ellen Gormley - Go Crochet        
Jill Wright – Wool Crafting   
Kim Guzman - Wips N Chains
Kristin Omdahl - Styled By Kristin
Linda Permann - Lindamade         
Mary Beth Temple - Addicted to Alpaca 
Megan Granholm - Loop de doo
Simona Merchant-Dest - Stylish Knits
Tracie Barrett – Tracie Barrett

Finally, I am giving away one free e-book copy. All you have to do is leave a comment - what kind of afghans do you like to make? Or what are your "go to" afghans? And please be sure to leave your email address, so I can get in touch with you when you win! I'll be picking the number by a random number generator, this coming Sunday, July 8. All comments made before midnight, eastern time, on Saturday, July 7, will be eligible. Good luck!!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Granny Squares and Me

My Grandma Tillie taught me how to crochet and knit when I was 5 years old.  She lived with us, and took care of me while my mother was at work. When my mom got home from work, she and my Grandma Tillie made dinner, and then sat down in the living room with their crocheting or knitting, and watched tv on our black and white television. I sat on the floor, using the coffee table that my dad had cut down from a round dining room table, as a desk to do my homework (when I was old enough to have homework). When I finished my homework, I picked up my hooks or needles, and joined my grandma and my mom – crocheting or knitting blankets for my dolls. My grandma couldn't read English. When she came to the US from Ukraine, she was only 12 or 13, and at that time (in the late 1800's) young Jewish girls didn't go to school – they went to work. So Tillie worked in a sewing factory in New York.  I don't know if she knew how to sew before she started working there, but she certainly perfected her skills there. When she was living with us, she had an old Singer treadle machine (which is still in the family), and was able to look at garments in the store windows, and come home to her machine and sew them for my sister and me.  That was the same way she crocheted and knit. No patterns, just looking and studying the construction of the pieces. I think that was how my mother crocheted and knit, also. Every time I asked her to crochet or knit something for me from a pattern – something that I didn't have time to make for myself, or just didn't want to do, she struggled with the pattern and kept complaining. I never even realized that she didn't read patterns, because she was such a prolific needleworker, just like her mother, my Grandma Tillie.

Fast forward a few years. When I was in 8th grade, my teacher taught the class, boys and girls alike, how to crochet Granny Squares. After we got done with our work, she wanted us to make granny squares, and then we would put them together in afghans which we would give to veterans. The class was "accelerated" – we all finished our work quickly, and crocheting granny squares was supposed to keep us out of trouble. I sat next to a boy in class, I think his name was Harold, who always finished his work ahead of me. And bragged about it.  That just bugged me, and all I wanted to do was finish something before he did. With this crocheting, I finally did! I was able to crochet much faster than he did, and finished a bunch of granny squares while he was still on his first one. Or at least it seemed that way to me! When I got home from school that day, and my mother came home from work, she sat down on the couch for a while, and I was telling her about my day. I told her that I learned how to make Granny Squares, and I remember that she said I should sit down beside her and teach her. Which flabbergasted me. I thought EVERYONE knew how to make Granny Squares. Well, I taught her, and she learned quickly. And soon she was making Granny Square afghans for everyone in our family. All our aunts and uncles, cousins, cousins' kids, everyone she could think of got a Granny Square afghan. It became a tradition in the family. You got married, you got a Granny Square afghan from my mom. You had a baby, you got a Granny Square afghan from my mom. You graduated, you got a Granny Square afghan from my mom. She was the queen of the Granny Squares. She was able to finish a 10 x 14 afghan (that's 140 four-round squares) in 2 weeks, working mostly at night after she worked at her office job all day. My dad helped her with colors and placement, but she did all the crocheting. And putting together. And weaving in ends. And loved it. She also made Granny Square sweaters for my sister and me. And lots of other styles of afghans.  Here is a picture of a few squares of one of the modified Granny Square afghans my mom made for me after I got married.

Fast-forward a few more years – I went back to school for my Masters and PhD, and had to put aside my crocheting for awhile. But then my niece had a baby girl. Her mother, who crocheted, was no longer living. My mom was no longer living. So I was the one who had to carry on the tradition of the Granny Square afghan. I told my niece that I would make the baby an afghan just as soon as I finished my dissertation – in about 4 months. So the day I turned in my dissertation, I went yarn shopping. I knew what kind of Granny Square afghan I wanted to make – it was a design that I had made for my family years ago. I just didn't know if I would remember how to make a Granny Square. When I got home from the yarn store, I got out my crochet hook and the yarn I just bought, made a slip knot on the hook the way my grandma Tillie taught me, and started crocheting. And guess what – I remembered how to make a Granny Square.  And since then, I've been making Granny Square afghans for everyone, just like my mom did.

Now, fast-forward a few more years. I knew that there were a lot of ways to make Granny Squares – you can chain 1 between the groups of 3 double crochets, or chain 2, or 3. Or just chain 3 in the corners, and 1 along the sides. Or none along the sides, and 1, 2, or 3 in the corners. And you can start the rounds differently and join them differently. I like to make things as simple as possible, so I chain 1 between each of the groups of 3 double crochets, on the sides and in the corners. I end each round at the beginning of the first group of 3 double crochets of a corner. I also start each round in the ch-1 space of a corner, so if I'm not changing yarns, I have to slip stitch to the corner ch-1 space. I wanted to know if that was the way I always made Granny Squares – if that’s what my 8th grade teacher taught me. So I looked at some of my mother's Granny Square afghans, and yes, that's what she did. That's what I must have taught her, and what my teacher taught me. And what I always did. It's nice to know I'm carrying on the tradition.

There is one thing, though. I do not especially like to weave in ends. They are the bane of the Granny Square. In fact, here is a picture of part of a baby Granny Square afghan I made probably 20 years ago, for a friend's baby. 

If you look closely, I took the picture of the afghan on the wrong side (WS), so you could see all the ends. Three rounds per square. Each round a different color. One hundred squares. (I don't know what I was thinking of when I designed this!) Do the math – how many ends to weave in? 600. I never finished weaving in the ends. (You can see the little black strands hanging down.) I never gave the afghan to the friend. Every once in a while, I may weave in an end or two, but there are still a lot to do. But I keep the afghan in the family room, and use it as a lapghan when needed. It also makes for a good story. And I say that the ends are a design decision! One thing I did notice. Even 20 years ago, I was joining the squares the same way as I prefer to do it today. As they are crocheted, I join the last rounds together. Now I design a lot of afghans and garments using Granny Squares. Many of these designs are published in various magazines and books, and when I have to weave in a multitude of ends, I like to figure out how many ends there are. For bragging rights!  But sometimes, I do all sorts of things to get around weaving in ends. I make Granny Squares in one color. I join the Granny Squares as I make them. And I just discovered a book by Kristin Omdahl, Seamless Crochet, that explains how to make Granny Squares and other motifs without ending one and starting another. In other words, you can make a multi-square Granny Square afghan in ONE PIECE. Do you know what that means? Only 2 ends to weave in – one at the beginning, one at the end. (If your skein is long enough!) My kind of project!

I will be  blogging about the book on Friday, February 10, 2012, in my other blog: TheCrochetDoctor ( Check it out, and see my first attempts at one-piece motifs!