Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tunisian Crochet for Baby - by Sharon Hernes Silverman

 I have been crocheting since I was 5 years old. Many of you have heard this before from me. I don't know when I discovered Tunisian crochet (called Afghan Crochet when I discovered it) but I do know that when my son was a baby, I made a Tunisian/Afghan stitch stuffed animal for him. I just used Tunisian Simple Stitch (Afghan Stitch) then. And that was a long time ago. I also know that I loved the technique of Afghan Stitch Crochet, but didn't want to do the cross-stitch embroidery on it to make an afghan, which is what the pattern booklets and magazines were showing for this technique. So I didn't do much with Afghan Stitch Crochet, even though I loved to do it. Then, years later when I started teaching in the local yarn shop (about 14 years ago), one of my students had an old Afghan Stitch pattern, for an afghan that she wanted to try. I remembered how to do this technique, so I taught her the stitch. But by then, I knew a lot more. And I started playing with the stitch, and working with larger hooks than we used to work with, and I found that Afghan Stitch Crochet could be drapey, and didn't necessarily have to stand up by itself. And it could also be used for garments. By then, it was beginning to be called Tunisian Crochet. And there were other basic stitches to learn – the Tunisian Knit Stitch, and the Tunisian Purl Stitch were two. Also, the Afghan stitch itself was now called Tunisian Simple Stitch. When I started going to conferences, I took some classes in Tunisian Crochet, and fell in love with it all over again. And, as designers often do, I started playing with the technique – what could I do with it? I tried various stitches, stitch patterns, yarns, and hooks, and decided that Tunisian Crochet was so much fun! I was finding that when I was between projects, I would pick up a Tunisian hook, find some yarn, and crochet something in Tunisian.
And now, I have a new book that I can use to make more things! Tunisian Crochet for Baby, by Sharon Hernes Silverman.

Now you may be saying to yourself "Why does Marty need another book?" Those who know me know that I'm a book junkie! I love books. I collect books. And I have a lot of them. But when I look through a book that I'm thinking about adding to my collection, and talking about  and recommending to my class at the local yarn shop, I do have some criteria that I look for:
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: If the book is centered around a technique, such as Tunisian Crochet, does the book have beginning patterns, intermediate patterns, and experienced patterns? 
4: Are the stitch patterns that are used in the designs Easy, Intermediate and Advanced? And, whatever level they are, are they easy to follow?
5: Do the patterns include stitch diagrams?
6: 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?
7: Is there a section that explains how to make each stitch – with pictures and words?
8: Does it have some interesting stitch patterns?

Well, guess what? Tunisian Crochet for Baby has all of that! And more! It has really cute patterns; lots of varied stitches and stitch patterns; good directions for the stitches and the patterns. And it's written in "regular" crochet language. And, there are many levels of patterns that are included.
One thing I really like about this book – the patterns are varied. They are different! I would have never thought to crochet a basket and some washcloths for a baby present, (my usual present is an afghan), but when you are short of time, the washcloths and basket are a great idea! They don't take as long as an afghan would, and they are definitely portable! And the basket is worked in Tunisian Simple Stitch, but teaches you a new technique, the Crochet Cast-On. You can use this technique when you want to add stitches at the end of the forward pass.
Here's a picture of the basket:

And here's a picture of the basket with the washcloths:

So, I decided to see how it would be if I were new to Tunisian Crochet, trying to learn it from this book. Sharon has included 4 different patterns for washcloths. One uses the basic Tunisian Simple Stitch. Another one uses the Tunisian Knit Stitch. These are recommended as Easy patterns, great for Tunisian Crochet newbies. I have many skeins of Sugar 'n Cream yarn in my stash, and I picked a self striping one to try. This is what I did with the Tunisian Simple Stitch. I really liked it!

Then, I worked another washcloth with a variegated Sugar 'n Cream yarn. It looks completely different. I then did a Tunisian Knit Stitch version with another variegated yarn. I like that one too! I looked at other patterns, and found a stitch that I wanted to try by itself – the Tunisian Full Stitch – so I made 2 washcloths using that the Full Stitch. Here they all are:

Tunisian Simple Stitch - variegated yarn:

Tunisian Knit Stitch - variegated yarn:

Tunisian Full Stitch with self-striping yarn:

And another Tunisian Full Stitch, this one with variegated yarn:

Sharon even included some baby afghans in this book – and she made one with Tunisian Post Stitches – a stitch that I was intrigued by. This is an Intermediate Pattern. She used two colors of yarn, and explained how to work the stitch around the post of the stitch below! This is my swatch I made to practice this before I do an afghan with this stitch. I really like the way it looks! 

Here's a picture of the afghan and matching hat that use Tunisian Post stitches - The Checkerboard Blanket and Hat Set:

Oh, Sharon even has an afghan made with the Tunisian Simple Stitch, so if you want an easy project, but want to make an afghan for the baby, you can follow this pattern, learn how to change colors, and get a terrific baby afghan for your Baby Presents Closet. (You do have a Baby Presents closet, don't you?)
This is the afghan - The Sherbet Stripes Blanket:

Sharon has a few more cute patterns in the book – ones that just use the Tunisian Simple Stitch – the basket I mentioned before, and easy care pants with suspenders. So you can do a stitch that you're comfortable with, make these patterns, and still learn some new techniques. And when you're ready to tackle some more stitches, other than the Tunisian Simple, you can crochet the hat that goes with the Sherbet Stripes Blanket (see above) – that uses the Tunisian Knit Stitch, and Tunisian Purl Stitch. You can learn how to start a project with regular crochet stitches, and add Tunisian stitches to it. You can learn how to do Tunisian versions of regular crochet stitches, like the Full stitch, the Marguerite Stitch, and the Post stitch. One of my favorite patterns in the book is the Harlequin Blanket, rated Intermediate because of the Entrelac technique. The stitches are all Tunisian Simple Stitch, though. Here's a picture of the Harlequin Blanket:

 Sharon even shows you how to increase and decrease with Tunisian stitches. There is a traditional crochet refresher section, with pictures and directions. There also is a refresher for basic Tunisian Crochet skills. And then a Beyond the Basics section, where she shows pictures of the techniques used to make the "more than basic" Tunisian stitches. And all through the book, Sharon includes hints and tips, apropos for the piece you are working on.

In other words, there's something for everyone to crochet – all levels of crocheters. And you can build your skills with this book. And there are lots of stitches you can use, so you can use this book as a stitch dictionary! It's the best of both – a pattern book and a stitch dictionary! And, also, don't forget, a "Crochet Tips" book!

You can see all the patterns in the "Look Book"  at this site:

And then you can order the book from Stackpole Books (stackpolebooks.com), or Amazon.com.
I know you'll enjoy it!

Oh, one more thing – if you were to ask me what pattern I liked best in this book, I would have to say the Sunny Bow Headband! It is really adorable. And, best of all, Sharon used a stitch that I haven't seen before – you pull yarn over your stitches, and it makes a great effect! Here is a picture of my sample swatches:

And here is a picture of the Sunny Bow Headband! It's even rated Easy!

I think I have a new "go to" baby present!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches

In case you don't read my other blog: TheCrochetDoctor.blogspot.com, I'm copying my latest post from there - because it offers a chance to win a free class from Craftsy - Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches. Read on! 

This past July, I had the pleasure/honor of video taping a class for Craftsy. Craftsy is a wonderful platform for teachers of various crafts (crocheting, knitting, cooking, photography, etc.), and I have always wanted to be one of their instructors. Well, now I can say it: I am a Craftsy instructor!

I teach a lot of crochet classes at various venues - the Crochet Guild of America's Chain Link conferences, the National NeedleArts Association trade shows, some Stitches conferences, my local yarn shop, and various other yarn shops in other states - just to name a few. I had never taught an on-line class before, though, so it was quite an experience. An extremely great experience! I taught one of my favorite classes, and one of my most favorite techniques to use - Foundation Stitches! How to work a foundation chain, and the stitch that goes into it, at the same time! Some people call it a "chainless foundation". But it isn't "chainless". There is a chain for each stitch, you just don't work all the chains at once, and then crochet the stitches that go into the chains. You chain one, then you work the stitch that goes into that chain. Then you chain another, then you work the stitch that goes into that chain. Etc., etc., etc. It's an amazing technique. And then, after you learn the basic technique, there are  ways you can work Foundation Stitches to start stitch patterns. And color work. And how to add stitches on to a row or round with Foundation Stitches. Lots of information in this class!
Now, I know you probably hate to crochet a long foundation chain, then work your first row of stitches into that chain, only to come up short at the end - you don't have enough chains. Or you have too many chains. Everyone hates that! Well, if you learn how to do Foundation Stitches, you'll never have to worry about that again! You won't waste precious time or energy ripping out that chain and starting all over again. No, no, no! My class is called "Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches", and by the end of the 7 lessons, you will indeed have mastered this technique! But not only will you have mastered the technique. You will have a pattern for a tote bag, a basket, and a dishcloth (that you can easily crochet longer to make a scarf). Plus other stitch patterns that you can use in your crochet!

My class is launching on September 23, 2014. And, Craftsy and I are having a give-away. Yes, that's right! All you have to do is click this link:
and you might win a free class! Yes, I said it right. Click the clink and register at Craftsy (if you're already registered, that's okay - you'll still be entered in the drawing - just click on the link above!) and do it before Midnight, Eastern Time Zone on Monday, September 22, 2014.
I'll let you know on Tuesday, September 23, if you have won!
Good luck to all of you!!!

(Added after September 23, 2014.)
The Give-away class has been given away. But you can still check out the class, and order it from Craftsy. And it even might be on sale! Click this link:
to check  it out!

By the way, if you've never taken a Craftsy class, you might like to know that once you're enrolled in the class, you can access it at any time! You can ask the instructor questions (and they will be answered!), you can show your projects that you crochet for the class, you can enter in discussions, etc., etc., etc. It's a great platform for teaching AND for taking classes. You can even press a 30 second replay button while you're watching a section, if you want to see that part again. 

Hope to see you soon in my Craftsy class - Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches!