Monday, December 14, 2015

Crochet Home: 20 Crochet Projects for your Handmade Life, by Emma Lamb

If you are a crocheter, (or knitter), I know you're most likely busy at this time of year, crocheting (or knitting) presents for your family and friends. That's what I'm doing. But there is one problem with this – I have lots of little balls of yarn left over from each project – not enough to do any big project with, but too much to just throw away! So I save my little skeins and leftovers, thinking someday I'll do something with them. I've been putting them in a basket, but now, the leftovers are taking up more than one basket. And those baskets are BIG! Here's a picture of my latest basket holding some of my leftover yarns.

That's why I was happy to be asked to review the book Crochet Home: 20 Crochet Projects for your Handmade Life, by Emma Lamb

Many of the projects in this book use small amounts of different colored yarns. And if they call for a large amount of one color, you can most likely substitute your small amounts of many colors. And while some of the projects call for light-weight yarns, you can also substitute worsted or bulky yarns. You just have to realize that the drape of the project will most likely be different with the heavier yarns.
My leftover yarns are mostly worsted weight, so I tried some of the small, individual patterns to see what would happen. I was really happy with the results.

The above is a picture of the Geometry Garland. You can see the circles, stars, triangles,  squares, and hexagons.
And here are my crocheted pieces for the garland, all made with little bits of worsted weight yarn.

In the directions for the geometry garland, Emma Lamb gives an interesting technique to make sure the points on the figures are sharp! (Notice my hexagon above!) 

Here's another garland - a Flower Garland:

I made the leaves for this garland, and here they are. Cute!

Here is another garland I really liked - the Polka Dot Streamer:

And here is a picture of my Polka Dot:

There are a lot more patterns in the book - patterns that don't necessarily use scrap yarn (although some parts of them might). But they all will make your home look cozy! And creative!

Here are some of them.
The Granny Chic Pinwheel Blanket:

The Log Cabin Cushion:

The Oversized Wallflower Hanging:

The Scarborough Rock Floor Throw:

The Simple Folk Circle Pot Holder:

The Filet Daisy Potholder:

I hope your mouth is watering like mine is! I love the ideas in the book, and I love the floor throw and the pot holders!

These patterns are great if you have some empty space on your walls (the garlands and the Wallflower hanging), on the floors (the rug), in the kitchen (the potholders) or just about anywhere in your home. You'll find a pattern in this book that is perfect!

Another plus – the patterns are easy to follow, and are written in easy-to-understand crochet language, with stitch diagrams provided for each one, just in case you like to follow diagrams rather than try to figure out where you are when you're reading a pattern.
One thing I did notice, though, and you should be aware of – the crochet language that's used is British, so the stitches are called something different than what they’re called in American crochet language. That's one reason it's handy to have the stitch diagrams, because the diagram for the stitch is the same, no matter if it's called one thing in one language and another thing in another language. But, in case you're new to this situation, the translation of each stitch and term is listed in the back. Essentially, a double crochet stitch in British terms is a single crochet stitch in American terms. A half treble stitch in British terms is a half double crochet stitch in American terms. A treble stitch in British terms is a double crochet stitch in American terms. It's not too hard to remember. And again, all you have to do is look at the stitch diagrams, and you can figure out what the stitch is. Or refer to the translation of terms in the back.
Here's the info on the book:

David & Charles/F+W; $24.99

I would love to see any projects that you crochet from this book. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Crochet Refresher by Sharon Silverman

Many years ago, when I was back in school working on my PhD., I had no time to crochet. I was taking classes, writing my dissertation, teaching classes at the University as part of my teaching Fellowship, and teaching group exercise classes at the local health club. I could only multi-task so much! So I had to stop crocheting for a few years. But during my last year, just before I was going to graduate, while I was still writing my dissertation, my niece had a baby. Now, in my family, whenever there was a new baby arriving, my mother crocheted at least one baby afghan for the new arrival. Of course, it was a granny square afghan. Well, my mother was no longer living, and no one else in the family crocheted, except me. (At least that's what I thought!) So it was up to me, I figured, to make the traditional granny square baby afghan. At least my version of it. I told my niece that as soon as I handed in my dissertation, I would make her baby the family baby afghan. And indeed, I remember that day when I finally turned in the final version of my dissertation. After school, I went to the local yarn store to buy yarn. I didn't know what brand of yarn was available then – it had been about 5 years since I went in that store. But the owner suggested some yarn, and I bought enough skeins (I hoped) to make the afghan, and I probably bought a hook or two (you can never have enough hooks), and I went home and hoped that I still remembered how to crochet, and especially how to crochet a granny square.
When I got home, I sat down with my hook and yarn, and started crocheting. And I remembered! I was able to crochet a granny square, and, I could figure out what I did so I could crochet the same blanket that I had made for myself, many years before. It wasn't my mother's traditional granny square blanket, but it was mine. When I finished it, I wanted to crochet more, but I was having a hard time following written patterns, and working other stitch patterns. I had forgotten a lot about crocheting. So I went looking for a book for people who needed a refresher course in crochet. I wanted easy-to-follow patterns that would review basic stitches and techniques. And I wanted them all in the same book. I didn't want beginner patterns. I wanted easy or a little more difficult patterns. What they call "intermediate". What I needed, what I was looking for, was a book like this new book by Sharon H. Silverman – Crochet Refresher, published by Leisure Arts. (Unfortunately for me, it wasn't available 16 years ago!)

Sharon's book has it all – it's a great refresher for beginning stitches and basic stitches. And it has projects all for baby! (So they're not long projects!) It starts with a washcloth worked with beginning stitches (sc and ch), shown on the cover and in this picture from the book -

and then gives you 4 easy patterns for baby afghans. It then has 2 intermediate patterns for afghans, and 2 intermediate patterns for a baby hat and mittens. And they are all adorable. Each would be a great gift for a baby.
Here are my 2 favorite afghans:

Circle of Love Blanket

And Waves Blanket

I also love the hat shown on the cover!

9 patterns all together, and by the time you have crocheted them, you will have become "reacquainted with your long-abandoned crochet skills!"
(I keep thinking of all the time this would have saved me! Time to crochet!)

This book is available through Leisure Arts, in a paperback version or digital copy. Here's the link:

I know you'll like this book. Just recently, I had a student in my crochet class at my local yarn store (the same one I went to when I was looking for yarn to make the granny square baby afghan 16 years ago - I'm now teaching there!), who hadn't been crocheting for over 6 months. She wanted to just practice her stitches, and didn't know what references she should use. I suggested this book, and she thought it was a good idea. So I know you'll like it too!

Monday, June 29, 2015

CROCHET SO LOVELY - 21 carefree lace designs by Kristin Omdahl

Recently, I was asked by Interweave/F+W to review Kristin Omdahl's newest book - "CROCHET SO LOVELY - 21 carefree lace designs". I'm always interested in new books, especially from designers whom I know and whose work I admire. So, I said "Yes, of course!" When I received the book, and looked through it, I brought it to my Crochet class to show my students. Some of these students have been with me since I started teaching at this local yarn shop - just about 15 years ago. The class is a "do what project you want to do" class, where they can work on whatever they want to work on. Many times I will suggest something that they could do to bring their skills forward a notch or two, (otherwise, some will just do the same thing over and over), and I like to suggest books that have projects that they may think they're not ready for, but I think they could do. That's where Kristin's book comes in. I noticed that the projects in her book used yarn weights that many of my students hadn't used before - #1, #2, and #3, but wanted to try. So my students and I thought of a question I could ask her about how to go about trying different weights of yarns.  Then, I guess, I was curious about her design process – and so were my students –  so we thought of another question. The last 2 questions – just some more things that we were all curious about. In the past, I have told my students about my design process, and how hard it was for me to pick and choose patterns that would go in to my books and proposals, and self-published pattern line. And also, how my most popular pattern in my self-published pattern line is the one pattern that was rejected whenever I proposed it to a book or magazine or yarn company! And we were all curious about Kristin's design process.

So, here are the questions, and Kristin's answers.
1. In your book Crochet So Lovely, you have 21 designs: 8 are worked with super fine/fingering #1 lace weight yarn, 8 are worked with sport weight #2 fine yarn, 1 is worked with DK weight #3 light, 3 are worked with worsted weight #4 medium, and 1 is worked in chunky weight #5 bulky.
Hook sizes vary from a C2/2.75mm to an M13/8mm.

What would you suggest to a crocheter who wants to make the designs in your book, but really doesn't like working (or know how to work) with any yarn less than DK weight, and any hook that's smaller than a G/6 4mm? Which project should she/he do first?

And this is Kristin's answer:

The concept of lace for me is to use an extraordinarily larger hook than the yarn calls for so the overly loose stitchwork blossoms into a beautiful marriage between the geometric stitch patterning its corresponding negative space. The easiest way to learn to do this is to practice the stitches first on appropriately sized hooks. Then the exaggerated hook size will be the only concept you are learning when you do the lace. I think it is best learned as a two-step process. Not that an adventurous crocheter couldn't do it all at once ;)
My comment: I think this is a great idea! Practice the stitches and stitch patterns first with your usual weight yarn and usual hook. And then go to the yarn and hook size designated in the pattern. You won't have to worry about the stitch pattern, because you practiced it. All you'll have to get used to is using a larger hook with lighter weight yarn.

2. When you were writing this book, which came first? The specific pattern, or the yarn? In other words, when you design, do you think of the pattern, then go looking for the yarn that would work with the pattern and stitches? Or do you have the yarn, and let it "tell" you what it wants to become?
Here's what Kristin said:
Yes to both, but not for this particular book. My main focus was to make figure flattering crochet garments and accessories that would lay beautifully on the skin, layer without bulk, and make you feel beautiful. So it was the concept that came first for Crochet So Lovely. I told my editor every piece should be something you would want to wear on an important date or event, even if money were no object and you could buy it at the store. I wanted to feel luxuruious, beautiful and confident in this collection. As a conceptual designer it is very difficult to ride the thin line of “Wow thats an awesome technique/concept/project” and wanting to wear it too. I can go CRAZY with a design and it can be fascinating to make, but if it is bulky and not figure flattering, who really wants to wear it?

3. Did you have any patterns that just didn't "make the cut?" For one reason or another. Why? 
And Kristin replied:
Yes! The corset tied gauntlets were originally thigh high leg warmers that were corset tied. Imagine the same exact tube but big enough for your legs. They are GORGEOUS. And the next winter show I attend where I can wear them over skinny jeans or tights and a dress, I will! But my editors thought they were a tad too sexy for the book.
(Here's a picture of the gauntlets.)

4. I know it's difficult to pick a favorite pattern, but if you had to choose one pattern, from the 21 in the book, that you think most crocheters will choose to make, which one would it be, and why?
Here's Kristin's reply:

Oh that is a tough question! As a designer and author, I WISH I knew what people wanted to make! All I can tell you is which projects I loved making the most. The felted flower bag is one of my favorite projects of my entire career. They are not appliquéd onto the bag. They are a seamless component to the motifs! And the mesh crochet motif was my attempt at replicating the laser cut leather bags I admire at department stores. So from an experimental standpoint, to try something crazy AND have it work AND love the beauty of the finished project, this is a total success to me. I love that leaving it unlined, you can use it as a project bag and see your beautiful yarn from inside. Or, as a purse you could line it with a beautiful contrasting yarn to create pops of color through the little holes. And finishing a felted bag with leather handles makes it look so rich, polished and professional.

The Deep Sea Tunic is another favorite of mine. I used lace weight yarn and a C/2 hook to create the lightest, thinnest fabric I could muster. From the pictures you’d never tell it is a box cut pullover (NO SHAPING) because I added elements of illusion to suggest shaping! The body has a gorgeous lace design that tapers into a V to suggest waist shaping, the arms have cut outs in them (I think exposed bits of shoulders and arms are so sexy without being overtly sexy), and the side vents offer hip ease (with lace trim of course) to further accentuate an hourglass shape.

This sweater is on a very tiny hook with a very fine yarn. It is going to take you longer to make this sweater than a traditional worsted weight yarn and H hook. But guess what? This will be a treasured wardrobe staple that looks good on, feels good on, and you will wear it over and over again with confidence. And the construction style makes it interesting and relatively quick. I didn’t find myself dying over the process. The design elements kept me interested the entire time. This one was a lot of fun to make.

Honestly, though, I could go on and on about all of the designs. I love each and every one BECAUSE I love to wear them. They are all so light and drapey, don’t add bulk to my figure, and make me feel good.
The Trapeze Tank? That barely made it into the book. Why? Because it belongs in my closet! I wear this one a lot over white cropped jeans and a tank top.

The Rosetta wrap sweater is my go-to layer over a maxi-dress. 

Lapis Wesek Tunic is PERFECT over leggings and a tank top with chunky bracelets.

And I could go on and on and on… LOL

Finally, Kristin asked you - my readers this:

"What are your favorite pieces? Tell me which you are making first? And second? And third?
I’d love to hear from YOU!"
I would love to hear from you, too. Are you used to crocheting with yarns that are lighter than worsted weight (#4)? Will you try Kristin's suggestions about practicing the stitch first on yarn you are used to working with, and appropriately sized hooks, before tackling the patterns? Or are you an adventurous crocheter who will  go directly to the exaggerated sized hook with the lace yarn? Which items in Kristin's book are your favorites? Which ones will you crochet first? 

I do want to thank Kristin for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. And if you're interested in following Kristin on her blog - this is it:
If you want to order the book from Interweave - here is the page:
Interweave Crochet So Fine

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weaving Made Easy by Liz Gipson

A long time ago, in a country far, far away, I used to have a table-top loom, and I used to weave with it. (It really wasn't that long ago – it just feels like it. And it wasn't in a country far, far away. It was right here in the town I live in.) I also had an Inkle loom. I used to do a lot of different crafts – knitting, needlepoint, cross-stitch, weaving, and of course, crocheting. I also did a lot of the arts, too – drawing, painting, calligraphy, cartooning, layout and designing, and photography. I made silver jewelry and I made beaded jewelry. I even sewed on an old treadle sewing machine. I also combined some of them. I painted on photos, I did scratch-off art (you covered the painted canvas or paper with ink, and then scratched the ink off to draw a "reverse" picture.) I crocheted with beads. I wove panels and embroidered on them. So I love to look at websites/books/blogs/exhibitions/etc., which show, tell about, or explain the how-tos of these arts and crafts.  When I was asked, by Interweave/F+W, to review the book Weaving Made Easy by Liz Gipson, I was eager to do it, because I had been reading on many knit and crochet designers' blogs that they were taking up weaving. I thought that was very interesting, and maybe, perhaps, if I had the time, I could do some weaving again, too. If I could remember how to do it!

The book said it had 17 projects using a rigid-heddle loom. I didn't know what a rigid-heddle loom was – I thought it was one of those big models that stand on the floor. I used a loom that I called a "table-top" loom, because that's where I put it – on the table top. So I googled "rigid-heddle loom", and lo and behold – there was the loom that I thought was called a table-top loom. It was the loom I had. So I thought this could be a good way to refresh my weaving knowledge and skills, and start weaving again.

Once I received a copy of the book, I eagerly looked through the projects, and I noticed that many of the yarns that were used were yarns from companies I am familiar with – yarns that I crochet with, or could crochet or knit with. So this would be a great way to use up some of my stash. Yarns were from companies like Brown Sheep, Cascade, Crystal Palace, Louet North America, Manos del Uruguay, Westminster Fibers/Nashua/Rowan, Universal and more. I noticed that one of the yarns that they used for a tote was Peaches & Crème. This kind of yarn, what I call "kitchen cotton", is what a lot of us crocheters and knitters use for totes. In the back of the book, there is a chart with scans of all the yarns used, so if you want to substitute a yarn that you have in your stash, you can compare it to the scan of the yarn for the project you want to make. And, as with crochet and knit patterns, according to Liz it's a "good idea to use similar fiber types with the same yarn characteristics".  

This book is great for every one - beginners, and those with weaving experience. It starts out with the basics – the vocabulary you need to learn – like warp, weft, rigid heddle, beater, and more. Then it talks about yarn, and how to choose your yarn, by learning about yarn construction. It describes how to plan your project, and determine how much of each yarn you'll need. After this, you get lessons in setting up the loom, warping it, (and there are lots of ways), threading the rigid heddle, and securing everything. Along the way, it warns you about playing with the yarn, like combing the warp with your fingers. You'll learn how to weave so you have a light, a firm, or a balanced weave. You'll learn finishing techniques, and some problem-solving techniques, too. There are tips and hints, and great photos that show everything in fine detail. Then, there are the projects – seventeen of them, ranging from scarves, totes, table mats, slippers, rugs, belts, napkins and shawls! In the back of the book, for reference, is a list of all those terms that you need to know, along with what they mean, and a warping checklist, so that you can be sure you go through all the steps at the beginning of your projects. That is such a great idea! I wish I had that when I was learning how to weave! There is also a list of accessories that will come in handy with your weaving. I could go on and on forever about the usefulness of this book to new weavers and experienced weavers alike, but you should see it for yourself. Check it out at:
to see some of the pictures of the projects you can make, and how to order the book.

Here's one of the projects - the Grab It and Go bag:

I can just see myself carrying that bag - full of my current crochet projects. 

I haven't found my loom yet - it could be anywhere - so I'll have to wait a bit before I start weaving that bog.  But I have found 2 of my early woven projects that I would like to share with you.

The first one is a simple woven panel, with embroidery added. 

The next one is a panel that I have hanging up - it's a sampler of many, many stitches and patterns. I look at it often, and can't believe I wove that!

Remember, if you want the book Weaving Made Easy, by Liz Gupson, you can find it here: It's well worth it!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tunisian Shawls by Sharon H. Silverman

One of my favorite crochet techniques is Tunisian Crochet. It's so much more than just "Afghan Crochet", which is what it was called years ago when I first learned how to do it. At that time, there was just one, maybe two stitches to learn, in order to do a project: Afghan Stitch (or what it's called now – Tunisian Simple Stitch), and Tunisian Knit Stitch (I don't know if it had another name or not - maybe Afghan Knit Stitch). Once you worked the fabric, then if you were making an afghan, (and that was about all there was to crochet then, using Afghan Stitch) you usually did some cross-stitch design on the top. Well, I do (did) know how to cross-stitch, but even then, when I was through crocheting, I wanted to be through with the project. So these cross-stitch afghans were not for me. Then, I found a pattern for a stuffed animal, worked in "Afghan Stitch". And I made one, and had a great time making it. I don't know what happened to it but if I discover it somewhere in my storage areas, I'll take a picture of it and post it here.
This stuffed animal made me realize that you can do and make so much with "Afghan Crochet". And after a while, when it was re-named Tunisian Crochet, I discovered and figured out so many more stitches that you could do! And I think the interesting thing is that there are so many stitches and stitch patterns still to be created, because this technique has come out of hiding in the past few years. All of a sudden, Tunisian Crochet is something to learn, to do, to experiment with. And Sharon Silverman is sure doing all that!

Her new book, Tunisian Shawls, is a great example. There are eight different shawls in the book, all using different stitches and different techniques. She has a FairIsle Winter Capelet that uses stranded colorwork in Tunisian Crochet. 

She shows how to combine different Tunisian stitches in a pattern, like in the Autumn Embrace, where she combines the Tunisian Full Stitch and the Tunisian Double Stitch. 

In perhaps my favorite shawl, the Popover Wedges, she uses the Tunisian Simple Stitch, short rows, and Chain Cast On. 

In the other patterns, she shows how to do a Tunisian Simple Stitch 2 Together (Tss2Tog), Tunisian Knit Stitch, Make One, Tunisian Purl Stitch, Tunisian Reverse Stitch, Back Cable, and if that's not enough, she shows you how to change colors at the end of a row. One added bonus that I think is great: online video technique tutorials for those of you who like to see instructions rather than read instructions.

These are the 5 other shawl patterns Sharon includes:

Cables and Heart

Hot Pink Lace

Red Heart Wrap

Expanding Vees

and Silver Shimmer

One more thing - The Crochet Awards have nominated Sharon's Fair Isle Winter Capelet in the Ponchos and Capelets category, and you can vote for it here:

And if you want a copy of this great book, you can order it from Leisure Arts:

Or Amazon:Amazon - Tunisian Shawls

Once you get the book, you won't know which one to make first. So why not make them all!