Monday, October 27, 2014

Reversible Color Crochet - A New Technique, by Laurinda Reddig

How do you learn new crochet techniques? Or any kind of new technique? There are a few different ways to learn – by seeing or watching, by listening, by reading, by doing. Of course, you can combine those methods – read and watch and do all at the same time, for instance. When I want to learn a new technique, whether it's a crochet technique, a knitting technique, a calligraphy technique, or what have you, I know that the easiest way for me to learn is to read, see or watch, and then do! So, I like word descriptions that are clear. I like pictures or videos that explain what the words say. And then, I have to do it. Sometimes, I have to do it a few times before I get it. But that's to be expected. It takes practice to learn a new technique, and to become better at it. Practice, practice, practice. You can't be an expert immediately when you just start to learn something. When you learned to walk, you didn't just get out of the stroller and start walking. You practiced before you let go of the hand that was leading you, or the rail that was holding you up. The same goes for new crochet techniques. You have to practice.

When I met Laurinda Reddig at one of the CGOA Chain Link Conferences, and saw her prize-winning entry in the crochet contest, I was intrigued with her new technique for Reversible Color Crochet. Usually, when you work color crochet, especially intarsia crochet (where you don't carry the different colors, you have little balls of different colors that you pick up when you need them), your work is not reversible. Especially if you use stitches larger than a single crochet. I like to do color work, and like to work in stitches larger than a sc, so of course I wanted to learn this technique that lets you do both. I was really happy when she came out with her new book – Reversible Color Crochet, a New Technique, because I figured I would be able to sit down, read it, look at pictures, and practice the technique. It would be a reference I could look at over and over, and not have to worry about forgetting how to accomplish this technique if I didn't use it often.

When I received Laurinda's book from Interweave/F+W to review, I looked through it to see just how she explained her technique.
There is the usual "how to get started section" which tells about the yarns and hooks that you can use, and where to find hints that tell you – among other things – how to use your yarn to avoid weaving in so many ends. (I especially liked that!) Then, comes the section on Special Stitches. This is the section with all the great pictures (drawings, not photographs, so they're clear!) that show how to make the Reversible Intarsia Special Stitches – like the basic Color Change (used with a hdc), the other basic Color Change (used with a dc), the Late Color Change, the Hdc-sc decrease Color Change, and more, including the Double Crochet Decrease and Double Crochet Increase Color Changes, the Half-Color Double Crochet, and the Reverse Half-Color Double Crochet. (It may sound confusing as you read this, but when you work the stitches, it's not confusing at all.) At the back of the book, there's a comprehensive section on Yarn Management and other Hints. And, then there are the 12 "learning squares" to practice all the techniques. The directions for these squares also include many tips, to help you learn these techniques. You can use these squares for practice, and then put them to use making a scarf, afghan, or even dishcloths, depending, of course, on the yarn you practice with. Here are three of the learning squares that I like:

The Four Square



Once you practice the 12 learning squares, you'll be ready to work the squares that are in the 10 afghans. The first section covers squares that look like quilt blocks. 

This is the Double Friendship Star.

Then there are the pictures squares – garden-themed squares: Daisy, 

and space-themed squares: the sun,

the moon,

a ringed planet,

a UFO,

and an alien.

There are also all the instructions on how to put the 28 squares together to form the afghans. 10 of them. 

In other words, just about everything you need to know to make the 10 great afghans, and more, using this new technique, is in this book. Laurinda also offers lots of information and hints on blocking the squares, so that they'll look their best!

One word of advice – make sure you practice the technique! Practice, practice, practice. When I finally had some time to sit down and practice the technique, with the book in front of me, I decided to make a smaller swatch than the first suggested square. I worked first with hdc for a few rows, and then, instead of starting another swatch, I worked with dc for a few rows. Here are pictures of my swatch with the two different techniques:

This is the half double crochet part of the swatch.

And here is the double crochet part of the swatch.

I enlarged the pictures to give you an idea of how the color changes work. It's not just your usual color change, where you work the last yarn over in the new color. You have to learn the "yarn flip"! That's thoroughly explained in the book! And it's fun to do! (I have to confess - I didn't take a picture of the beginning of the swatch, where I was just learning. I had to practice to get these color changes looking like they should.)

Now, I know I'm ready to start working the 12 practice squares. I know how to work the basic color-changing technique.
Also, Laurinda gives a great idea for starting the beginning chain with two colors, and I practiced that a couple of times before I was pleased enough to work into that chain for my first row.
I know, after working with Laurinda's technique, that I'll be using it in my Intarsia crochet work when I want the stitches to be reversible. And I'll be recommending the book to my crochet students at my local yarn shop, and other crocheters I know who use colorwork. It's not often that someone comes up with a new crochet techniue like this, so we should rejoice that we now have a great technique for making Reversible Color Crochet!
Thanks, Laurinda!

If you want to try this great new technique, here's more info about the book:

By Laurinda Reddig
Interweave/F+W; $24.99

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

IT GIRL CROCHET by Sharon Zientara

This past summer has been a busy one for me! I had to prepare for my classes at the Crochet Guild of America's 20th Anniversary Crochet Chain Link Conference in July. As a Past President of CGOA, I was also responsible for one aspect of the celebration – CGOA sponsored a "Make and Take" on the Marketplace floor during the conference, and it was my "job" to get crochet designers and teachers to teach an hour session or two of some crochet technique that would be interesting, but also able to learn in an hour. The teachers had to provide the yarn, the pattern, some hooks (just in case), and their time. I volunteered to tech edit the patterns that needed tech editing – and with my tech editing Mentee (thanks, Edith), we were able to do that, with no trouble.  And then, of course, I taught a Make and Take session on Finger Crochet – and really had fun with that – preparing for the session and teaching it! Here's a picture of the scarf that I taught how to make with Finger Crochet. 

And here's a picture of some of the crocheters who learned how to Finger Crochet, and the scarves they made.

I wish I had the time to teach more sessions on Finger Crochet during the conference, but I had 4 other classes to teach, and a book/pattern signing to do, so I had no more time to spare. My 4 classes that I taught were so much fun! There was a lot of prep work that I did – making samples, swatches, editing my handouts, etc. But it was all worth it! Especially when one of my students, who was thrilled that I was going to be her Tech Editing Mentor, sent me a bottle of an adult beverage, on my last night at the conference!
While I was preparing for this conference, in the spring, I was contacted by Craftsy, and asked to film a class on Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches. I love that topic, and love the techniques – the basic Foundation techniques, and the ones I've figured out for myself – so of course, I agreed! I had never filmed a video class before, so I didn't know just what was involved. I learned soon enough! Many, many conference calls and emails with my producer and the acquisition editor. Much crocheting of "step outs", swatches, projects, more projects, more "step outs", more swatches, etc. I probably made more than I would need, but I figured it would be better to have more than enough, than not enough. And still, when I got to the filming location, my producer asked me to crochet something else, for one of the title cards. Luckily, I had excess yarn with me, so I spent one evening crocheting. Not a bad way to fill my time!
Check out my class here: Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches.

After I got home from filming, I had to fly to the CGOA conference after just a few days for R&R at home. After a week, it was home again. And then, I still had a big project to work on – sorry, I can't tell you about it just yet! But I had just about 2 1/2 weeks to start and finish it. Whew! When I was finished with that, I thought I could rest a bit, and do some blogging, but, there was still work to be done on that big project, and follow-up work on my video class.
Finally, my class launched, my secret project was finished, and I could relax – but not for long. I had promised a friend of mine, Jane Schwartz, that I would help her at Stitches East this year, in Hartford, Connecticut. She had a booth where she sold her knitting book The Next Step Knitting book, and some of her separate knit and crochet patterns. (Check out the book and her patterns here - Emerald Isle Designs. She suggested that I could also sell some of my individual crochet patterns. So I had to get ready for that! That was a fun, fun conference, and we both were successful. But we came home exhausted!

So now, I'm home, and catching up with other promises. One thing I said I would do is review a few new crochet books that have been sent to me by Interweave/F+W.  So this is a long, long introduction to the first book that I'm going to review: It Girl Crochet by Sharon Zientara.

IT GIRL CROCHET is a compilation of 16 designers and their 23 "IT GIRL" visions. Hats, capelets, shawls, fingerless mitts, scarves, purses, and belts (I may have left out something) are shown in fashion pictures and close ups, so you can really see the stitches.

You should know I have some guidelines for whether or not I want a book in my vast book collection. Here are some of them:

1. Does the book have designs that I want to crochet?  Even if I don't actually crochet them, they often inspire me in my design work.
2. Are the patterns written in "regular" crochet language? By "regular", I mean language that is standard to crochet patterns.
3. Do the patterns include stitch diagrams?
4. Do the patterns have schematics? And is there comprehensive information on how to join pieces, if there are any pieces to join? And how to finish the project?
5. Is there a section that explains how to make each stitch – with pictures and words?
6. Does it have some interesting stitch patterns?

So, I looked through this book, with #1 in mind. Would I want to crochet any of these designs? Yes, indeed! 

                                      The Rocksteady Cowl, by Sharon Zientara,

                                                 the Sienna Top, by Mimi Alelis, 

      the Psychedelia Mitts on the cover, by Brenda K. B. Anderson,

   the Op Art Reversible Scarf, by Robyn Chachula, 

      and the Greenwich Village Tote, by Yoko Hatta,

are only some of the designs that caught my eye and made me say: mmmmmm!

As for #2 – when I get a book, I look at who did the tech editing. That helps me know if the book will be written in "regular" crochet language. This book passes the test with the tech editor, Karen Manthey.
#3 – Karen, the tech editor, also did the technical illustrations (stitch diagrams and schematics) so I know that they are good!
#4 – there are schematics when needed, and comprehensive info is given on how to join the pieces. And how to finish the projects.
#5 – there is a section on how to make each stitch – with clear pictures and words. And in the pattern pages there are guides and tips and hints for the patterns. Everything you need to be successful!
#6 – Yes – it has some very interesting stitch patterns (see my list of some designs I liked in #1). So, in other words, this book can be used as a stitch dictionary!

So do I recommend this book? Yes – definitely! I think it will be a great addition to your crochet book collection, as it is to mine!

Here's info about the book, and where you can purchase it on-line:

By Sharon Zientara
Interweave/F+W; $22.99