Like to Crochet? This is a book for YOU!

I really like Sharon Silverman’s crochet books, I find them clear with great instructions, but also with patterns complex enough to keep me interested.

Often the complexity on one of Sharon’s projects is a combination of simple techniques, each of which can be isolated and easily mistressed*, which makes the whole experience satisfying on MANY levels!

Sharon’s new book, Crochet Scarves, Fabulous Fashions, Various Techniques is a perfect addition to her growing collection of “go-to” books for a crocheter of any skill level.

ANYONE can learn something from Crochet Scarves ending up with a lovely scarf in the bargain!

The thing about scarves is that they’re FUN to work up.  I like to think of them as a huge swatch, and often use a scarf as an excuse to try a new stitch pattern or yarn.  I also live in Minnesota and have two teenage children, so we can run through a LOT of scarves in a year.

I have a simple 4-point criteria when considering making a project:

  1. The finished product should be beautiful or visually compelling
  2. The techniques involved in the project must be interesting.
  3. I want to learn something from the creation of the project.
  4. The project must be FUN!

Accordion Arrows

The scarves in this book fit all my criteria, with the added bonus that the charts are large and clear (and written in text, too) the technique images are plentiful and the patterns are well written.

One of my favorite projects is the simple mitered scarf which opens the book, Accordion Arrows.

This would be a HUGELY fun project to work up, one of those that would be as satisfying every step of the way, and garner as many compliments while it’s being worked as when it’s finished!

Excellent Charts!

I really like how this pattern is explained in the book, and although the skill level is set at 3, I feel this would be an excellent project for a newer crocheter to move into a higher skill set – a project that would ‘grow’ a stitcher!

Great Technique Images!

It would also be a GREAT project to use up stash!  Imagine this worked in many different yarns, with one color used throughout as an accent to bring all the yarns together?  THAT is a way to bust up that bag of yarns you’re hiding in the spare bedroom!

AND – here’s the good part – YOU can win a copy of this book!

MORE Technique Images!

Simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite crochet technique is.  If you’re not a crocheter, make one up.  If you’d like to link to a video or explanation of the technique, that would be great – that way we can ALL learn from your comment!

I’ll select one comment at random on Monday, July 30, and will notify the winner by email.

SO let’s hear what YOUR favorite crochet technique is – chop, chop!

*yes, I’m aware ‘mistressed’ not a real word, but I like to use it.  Seriously, what is the percentage of women vs. men who are reading this right now? 

I like to think in terms of ‘mistressing’ a technique, it’s one of my idiosyncrasies that make me so – what? – loveable?  Irascible?  Lovably irascible?

Crochet Like You Knit It

When Robyn Chachula asked me to be part of her book, Unexpected Afghans, I jumped at the chance.

For the record, WHENEVER Robyn asks me to do anything I jump
– I love her that much!

I love working both with Interweave AND with Robyn, so this project was a no-brainer for me!

My own contribution to the book is called “Croises” – a nod to the fact that the design element I chose was cables that resembled the knit version, but are worked using long post stitches in crochet.

It’s a much easier technique than one would think, and simply involves leaping down several rows with your hook to grab onto an existing stitch and working from there.  Think of it as rappelling with yarn.

Anyway, I loved working up this project, I loved making the cables and even more I LOVED working with the lovely, simple greenish-grey Brown Sheep yarn (Lamb’s Pride Superwash) that showed the texture so beautifully!

The design is both charted and written out (but try the charts, you’ll surprise yourself at how simple they actually are!) and here’s what I wrote in the pattern for a good tip to consider while working up the piece:

It may not be popular, but the best tip I can give is to create a SWATCH and practice the front post stitch. If you’re not used to it, it can be a hard technique to handle over a large number of stitches. By chaining 20–30 stitches and playing with the technique, it will make sense much more quickly.

My idea of photographing it with folks’ feet sticking out, as if the afghan was in use in someone’s house, was nixed.  Dang.

The photo below was one I took in my own house before sending the piece off to be photographed by Interweave.  That USPS Priority Mail box in the background is placed there to lend authenticity.

Divisions are Sexy (book giveaway – read on…)

…but they’re not helpful.

It seems that entities are always trying to divide folks – Red vs. Blue, Stay-at-home-Moms vs. Work-out-of-the-home-Moms, Mac vs PC, Pepsi vs Coke, Farmer vs. Cowman – the list is endless.

I believe the reason is division sells newspapers.  It’s sexy.

False division compels folks to fight with each other, and when people take sides, they become engaged and they’ll buy papers or watch TV shows that support their position.

I’m sick of it.

In the crafting world we’ve seen one of these divisions – the idiotic, trumped up gap between Knitting and Crochet – slowly, beautifully bridged as more and more designers are working in both.

These two ways of creating fabric with yarn work so beautifully together, it only makes sense that folks who consider themselves well rounded would learn at least the rudiments of either craft.

To my mind, knit and crochet are very similar.  I explain to my knit students that crochet is just like knitting except each stitch is bound off as it’s worked.  In knitting the stitches are left ‘live’ on the needle. 

In Tunisian Crochet, which is essentially a of blend of the two, the stitches are alternatively live for a row, then bound off in every other row.

Yes, that’s a rather simplistic way of explaining it, but it gets the idea across.  Sometimes a simple explanation is best – too many words get in the way when trying to convince someone to just jump in and use their hands!

This is my long-winded way of getting to a new collection of patterns by Kristin Omdahl that spans knit AND crochet, and they’re beautiful!

The patterns are all accessories, small and portable and ranging in difficulty levels.  It’s an exciting and beautiful collection, but the thing I love the MOST about it is that it may be instrumental in convincing a knit-only person to attempt some crochet, and vice-versa!

I’m giving a copy of this e-book/collection away!

If you’d like to receive this great collection, simply leave a comment below and I’ll select someone at random (using my highly scientific method) and email you the book!

And if you DON’T win the book, but would still like to have a copy, it’s available for $9.95 here!

Crochet By Way of Faye*!

I learned to crochet YEARS before I learned to knit, and in many ways it remains my go-to hand craft (especially when traveling, crochet travels so well!)

There are a lot of great crochet guides out there, many stitch dictionaries and ‘designer favorite’ patterns and motifs.

I’ve got the best one in my hot little hands, though!

To me, Robyn Chachula is the Alexander Borodin of crochet design.  Allow me to explain…

Crochet is Robyn’s love, her passion, but it wasn’t what she was trained to do.  Robyn didn’t imagine herself as a crochet designer as she was growing up (who does?)

Never Known to Crochet

Robyn was trained and worked as an architect and sort of backed into crochet design, and I am very glad that she did!

Like Borodin (a chemist and composer), Robyn (an architect and designer) is occupied with math, numbers and patterns found in nature.

Unlike Borodin, Robyn doesn’t need to ‘play sick’ to find time to crochet.  Right now it seems her problem may be finding time to do anything else!

Robyn’s Visual Encyclopedia is so much more than a compilation of stitch motifs.  Yes, there are the basic color work, lace work and texture stitches, presented very clearly in photography AND in FABulous charts.

But this stitch dictionary has SOUL!  You can feel the gears turning in Robyn’s mind as she crafts some of these lovely motifs – her thinking process is non-linear and very exciting.

I’m well known as a kind of a chart enthusiast, and I LOVE the charts in this book!  They’re clear, they’re easy to read, and they’re intelligently drawn.  I’d like to stress that I DID read this book for the articles, too! 

Actually, there aren’t articles per se, but there ARE written instructions for every motif, so folks who aren’t entirely comfortable with charts aren’t forgotten!

I have a few go-to motif dictionaries that I return to over and over.  Often this is a habit, I fall into using a book because I have become familiar with the layout, or I’ve practically memorized the table of contents.

I have a feeling that THIS wonderful compendium will be taking the place of several of my current stitch dictionaries!

I’ve written and rewritten this next sentence to make it more poetic, but there’s no need; everything I want to say about Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia is contained in the following 8 words…

If you like to crochet, get this book

*for those who may not know, Faye is Robyn’s wonderful German Shepherd!

Baby Blueprint Crochet

I’ve been quiet for more than a week, my reason is not-great health and maybe a touch of laziness.  And, ironically, being very busy with submissions and figuring out patterns for a few upcoming designs.

I’d write in detail about the designs, but they’re for various publications that frown on my disclosing salient details before they do, so I’ll keep mum.  I hate this, I love to write about my process, but I also know it’s important to play by the rules sometimes.

What I CAN write about is the most wonderful baby book for crochet that I’ve read.  Ever.  I know that’s saying a lot, and I don’t mean to disparage any other great kids/baby crochet books out there, but this book knocked my socks off.

I was prepared for that – Robyn Chacula is, to my mind at least, one of the most inventive and creative designers out there.  I love her work, and I adore her as a person (in full disclosure Robyn is a good friend of mine, but even if I didn’t know her from Adam I’d recognize this as a book that anyone serious about crocheting for kids should own!)

And at $15 from Amazon, Baby Blueprint Crochet: Irresistible Projects for Little Ones would make a wonderful AND well-priced gift for anyone you know who crochets.

Excellent Illustrations

Symbol Key

As usual with Robyn (and Interweave Press), the how-to section and illustrations are magnificent.  Even a new crocheter could make many of these great designs, and they’d grow into a more experienced and adventurous crocheter.

The explanations of stitches are great, and even better is the use of the crochet symbol chart on the inside flap of the front cover.  How clever to know that everyone uses that flap to mark their page, and to use that knowledge to make the chart reading a bit easier.  Bravo, Robyn!

Long-time crocheters will see things here that will make them grab their hooks before finishing the chapter.

Fair Isle Crochet

For example, the use of crochet to create what has been until now a traditionally KNITTED motif is pure genius.  It’s presented in a very concise way, and there’s just enough of the colorwork to make the piece interesting without forcing the crocheter into a daunting proposition.

Robyn assumes that her readers WANT to make intelligent garments, and that they WANT to learn to become better crocheters.  Anyone I know who crochets falls into both of these categories, and that’s one thing that makes this book so refreshing and exceptional.

Robot Love

One of Robyn’s goals is to make her garments ‘parent proof’ – meaning the garments are as easy to care for and put on the child as they are beautiful.  As a mom, I really appreciate the extra thought that has gone into the details like explaining how to secure snaps into the crocheted fabric.

Sculptural crochet is delightfully represented using charts, and even though I don’t have a baby in my life I think I’m going to have to make one of the tiny flying elephants.  The robot is pretty darned cool, too!

1st Down

The kids are, as most kids in craft books, adorable and charming.  I was especially struck with the form of this fellow and I’m wondering how long until the Vikings sign him up.

All in all I highly recommend Baby Blueprint Crochet ( and you still have time to get one for a friend – or yourself – for Christmas!)

Crochet for Bears to Wear

bear crochet

I intruige you, no?

A good friend (Amy O’Neill Houck) sent me her new book, and although I don’t have any teddy bears (I have a stuffed poodle), I thought it was an adorable little volume of patterns that can be crocheted for any size teddy bear.

But the REAL power of the book escaped me at first, it took a special kid to help me see the true value of this collection of adorable patterns.

Last year I taught a young friend to knit.  It was one of the most fulfilling teaching episodes of my life, as this boy is very energetic, has difficulty focusing, but I could immediately see what a calming effect knitting had on his mind and soul.

Ben Knits

Ben Knits

And on his mother, who was pregnant at the time with her 3rd child and could use the respite of her son’s knitting!

So this year, just before the bear book arrived in the mail, my young friend dropped by (we watch the Amazing Race together each week) and noticed me crocheting like a madwoman (remember that doll I worked up 3 times?)

“What are you doing?”
“It looks like knitting…”

Which was a perfect segue into explaining that knitting and crochet are like cousins, with a lot of similarities.  The main difference is that with knitting each stitch is left live after it’s worked, but in crochet each stitch is bound off as you work it, making for a thicker fabric which can be more sculptural.

My brilliant explanation totally flew over my young friend Ben’s head, he just wanted to get to the YARN.  I showed him how to make a chain, and we made a passable start at learning an actual single crochet, but I could tell the spark wasn’t there.

Then Crochet For Bears To Wear arrived in the mail.

When Ben arrived the following Sunday for our regularly scheduled TV appointment, the book was sitting on the table and he gravitated to it like the moon to a planet.  He devoured it, he looked at every picture, commented on the designs, the possible difficulty of some of the pieces, and – of course – how cute  it all was.

As I said, this is a very special kid with huge amounts of creativity AND sensitivity that can hide themselves in an energetic exterior.  But he’s smart with his hands, and he was itching to try some of these projects.

CFBTW Interior

Just one peek...

Crochet For Bears To Wear is NOT a child’s book, although anyone who can crochet would enjoy working up the patterns.  It does, however, have such a wide ribbon of whimsy running through it that it would engage anyone.

Passion, fun, joy – these are thereasons we knit and crochet.  Any book that can bring so much of all three to a new – or established – crocheter is well worth owning!

In full disclosure I should say that I’d intended to offer my review copy as a giveaway to a worthy reader, but I’m afraid it’s spoken for – it will go to Ben!

[UPDATE: I WILL give a copy of the book away, just not THIS copy!  Leave a message saying that you’d like the book, and I’ll pick one worthy winner.  I’ll need to contact you (I can see your email address when you log in, no one else can) and you’ll receive the book from Amy’s publisher as soon as they can get it out to you!]

A Place of Love; Moving Beyond Logic

On March 21, my Twitterscope By Rick Levine said:

You have had your share of responsibilities over the past couple of years, and today could be an instant replay of the hardest moments. But it will probably be much easier to reminisce than to have to go through all the tests again. The key to standing up to those who might give you a hard time is keeping an open mind and knowing that you are coming from a place of love.

Then today it’s this:

Your key planet Mercury is pushing you into places you might rather avoid today. You may not be able to turn off the barrage of words that are coming at you from others or from within your own head, but you can lighten your load by moving beyond logic. Analysis can be a trap now; you must shift from language into imaginative symbols to find the solution to your current dilemma.

True dat.

When I teach, I try to get both concepts across to my students: 1) Passion / Love will teach you more about knitting than anything else, and 2) Sometimes our hands (intuition) is smarter than our brains (logic)

Let me break this down.

When you fall in love with someone – REALLY fall in love – you commit yourself (formally or informally) to making it work.  That is what love is, making some kind of commitment that you will invest something of yourself, see the object of your love in the best possible light whenever possible, but also not shy away from the “warts.”

In fact, sometimes the warts – the baldness, the extra weight, the annoying habits – can, with love, become quite dear to us.  Sometimes.

Sometimes love just allows you to put them in perspective and weigh them realistically against all that is good in your object of love.

I translate this into knitting in the sense that we are often drawn to a project.  We see a certain shawl, sweater, bag or hat and we know that we MUST make it.  Even if it seems beyond our current skill set, and although we can see where there may be pitfalls ahead, our passion compels us to engage in the project.  Usually the passion pulls us through, but sometimes it, alone, isn’t enough.

Does this mean when you fail at a knitting project you didn’t love it?  No, not necessarily.  It means – to my mind – that grace is always possible with enough love.  If you have a project that you’ve set aside as impossible, but you still love it, it may be good to enlist the help of your local yarn shop.

They can act as a sort of couples therapist, help you see where you may have fallen short, and where the pattern may have let you down.  (If they’re REALLY good, they’ll be able to help you bridge these gaps so you can walk away with the project happily progressing on your needles!)

We are a society of people with strong minds.  We strive to find jobs that engage our intelligence, and if we’re fortunate enough to do well financially, we tend to hire folks to do the manual labor in our lives.  As our mental intelligence grows, our physical intelligence can weaken.

Our lives are so much easier, physically, than at any time in the past.  We have hot and cold running water (no pumping, no boiling water for a bath.) We have vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators, stoves & ovens, cars and mass transit systems.  Even our bicycles are relatively modern in terms of the history of humankind, only being a common mode of transportation for a little over 100 years.

What do we miss by this?  We miss a chance to fully develop the intelligence of our bodies.  We also miss years of back-breaking labor, so I think it’s probably a good trade off.

Our brains make all the decisions, they tell our bodies what to do, and we slowly lose the ability to hear the physical brilliance we each posses.

For instance, there’s a theory that a daily walk is a good way to keep depression at bay, that perhaps a good deal of our societal sadness is a lack of rhythmic exercise.  I agree with this (although I also feel some folks also have chemical imbalances) and whenever possible I try to walk or bike a bit each day.

This desire for a rhythmic, physical activity is why I feel many folks develop a love of knitting and crochet so quickly – it allows us a chance to regain our personal rhythm, and allows us to begin listening to our hands.

Each of us can sometimes allow our brains to over-think things, we put the cart before the horse, we borrow trouble, we count our chickens – all of those pithy aphorisms we grew up with.

I see this happening in in my knitting classes.  A person will mentally work through a technique before they’ll allow their hands to investigate it – and in the process convince themselves that the technique is not possible because they can’t envision it.  In a case like this, sometimes folks become SO invested in what their brains KNOW must be right that they actively fight against what their hands try to teach them.

I try to get across to my students that nothing takes the place of practice (a neat phrase I got from Jennie The Potter.) You can think and think all day long, but until you put needle to yarn, it probably won’t entirely click.

I’ll often just sit with my knitting and fiddle around, playing, not working toward any finished product.  Non knitting folks will ask, “What are you making?” and when I answer, “Just a swatch, I’m just playing…” they look at me like I’m a little nuts.

Why on earth would anyone knit unless they’re making something?

“I am making something,” I tell them, “I’m making myself happy.”