It’s amazing how a little challenge can make your fingers fly.
This is a nice, boring hat for my special guy that I just finished. I used the same yarn to make a slightly fancier hat a few weeks ago, but in using my secret knit testing tactic (asking him to “try on a hat” to see if it would fit someone else), I discovered it was too fancy for his tastes. I knew the yarn, Studio Donegal Soft Donegal in Charcoal, would be perfect for him, though.
I’ve been wearing “the fancy hat” though it’s a bit big on me, but I may give it to my uncle for Christmas. After all, I’m less than 20 days away and with many unfinished gifts.
Since I set a challenge to myself last Sunday of finishing a holiday project every two days, I haven’t exactly met my goal. But I have finished three projects. (You can see the others here and here.) I feel like I’m on track, and, like most crocheters/knitters, I have a stash of finished items hanging around that can be gifted if necessary.
Some amazing yarn arrived in the mail on Friday for two upcoming designs that will be published in a magazine next year.
I’m loving the feel of this Imperial Yarn Columbia 2-Ply. I’ll be knitting up a secret project with it next. One of the great joys of being a designer is having the opportunity to use all kinds of wonderful yarns that I wouldn’t usually have access to. I’ve been wanting to try Imperial Yarn for a while and it isn’t disappointing.
I’ve also been eager to try Valley Yarns out. Some of the students in one of my knitting classes took a field trip to WEBS in the summer, and I didn’t go because I’m trying to bust my stash. Luckily, I get to sample the Valley Superwash now, so I don’t have to be too jealous!
I’m having some problems reading comments on my blog right now, but I’m hoping they are still coming through. If I don’t respond to your comment, it hasn’t been fixed yet.
You can find links to more Year of Projects posts on Ravelry here.
This is the second project I finished since I challenged myself to finish a project every two days in December.
I crocheted this hat last night. It’s for a friend of mine who bought one of my crocheted hats at a craft fair a few years ago. We went to Smiley’s to shop for this yarn a few weeks ago. She wanted a remake of the hat using black and grey yarn, and I held three strands of Patons Shetland Chunky together to make it. It’s super cozy and made with a small brim, just as she requested. I didn’t weave in the ends, though, because I’m not sure about the size and since she commissioned it, I want it to fit exactly as she wants. (She lost the original before she could measure the circumference, and described the fit ans not too snug and not too loose.) The next step is to schedule a fitting.
For more Finished Objects, visit Tami’s Amis.
Today, I’m really excited to share an interview with Beth Graham, a fellow crochet designer and teacher. Like me, Beth is also participating in the Indie Design Gift-a-Long. In addition to her self-published works, her designs have appeared in Crochet One-Skein Wonders: 101 Projects from Crocheters around the World, Crochet World, and Quick & Simple Crochet for the Home.
By the way, if you want to join in on the Gift-a-Long (GAL) fun, there are two live Twitter Parties this week.
- One is today, Wednesday, December 4 at noon EST (convert to your time zone here) – follow @bezencilla (interviewed here) and use #giftalong to join in for your chance to win some great prizes!
- The next is Friday, December 6 at 7:00 p.m. EST (convert to your time zone here) – follow @ukeeknits and use #giftalong for great conversation and fun prizes.
Now, back to the interview . Beth can be found online on Ravelry (as zagraham and on her designer page) and on her design and teaching Facebook page. If you’re in the Ontario area, you may also find her at her local yarn shop, Shall We Knit?
All photos are (c) Beth Graham (except where noted) and are used with Beth’s permission. Click on the pictures to link to the pattern page.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?
Beth: I grew up believing myself to be completely incapable of anything the least bit crafty. I am left-handed, after all. My mom half-heartedly tried to teach me how to knit at one point by demonstrating the movements facing me (mirror image), but I just couldn’t get it, so we both gave up.
Later, as I started working as a librarian, I borrowed a book on left-handed knitting from the library. It was so complicated, and I had no one to help me, so, again, I quickly gave it up. There it was: confirmation that I couldn’t do crafty things!
Years later, my family moved from the United States to Canada, and I was in work limbo for a bit while I was waiting to get permanent residence status. I remembered that I’d always admired a baby blanket that my sister-in-law had made for my son and thought that maybe I’d give crochet a shot. So that first cold, dark winter, not really believing I could do it, I bought Mary Thomas’s First Steps In Crochet and was finally on my way!
You see, this somewhat dated booklet included a “Note for Left Handers” that started, “We strongly recommend that left handers learn the right-handed way. It may seem awkward at first, but this is true for all beginning crocheters.”
Something clicked. Crochet is really a two-handed activity! It’s going to be awkward starting out no matter what! I could do this!
This is one of the first things I tell my beginning crochet students: I could do it! And they can, too.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Beth: Karen Crouch, the owner of Shall We Knit? in Waterloo, Ontario, where I work part-time, inspired me to start designing. As the resident “crochet guru,” I teach beginner crochet classes, and Karen persuaded me to try my hand at a few designs for those courses.
Things kind of exploded from there. I discovered, for example, that designs I thought of as “too easy” actually found an audience, and that even my knitter friends were interested in them! That sort of encouragement has been enough to keep me working toward finding my design voice.
I love teaching and I love learning. For me, design work has been all about learning: about good writing, about how to design, and about how to teach most effectively.
UC: Most of your patterns are for neckwear and dishcloths. What do you enjoy about designing these types of projects?
Beth: My crochet design is informed by my teaching, mostly. I want to offer students – along with knitters dipping their toe for the first time in the crochet waters! – easily managed, quickly accomplished projects. My goal, always, is to write simply and clearly, while offering the crafter enough interesting tidbits along the way to keep them hooked.
As well, I really enjoy making one-skein projects and utilitarian objects. Dishcloths are a fabulous way of exploring new techniques without having to commit to a lengthy project. And, even if your cloth ends up a little wonky, who cares? It’ll still get used – and may even give you a bit of a lift as you tackle those dreaded chores!
UC: You work a lot in Tunisian crochet (one of my favorite techniques!). How did you get started with Tunisian?
Beth: My crochet mentor, Judith Butterworth, introduced me to Tunisian crochet. Its “bicraftual” nature really appeals to me. It’s a little bit like knitting, with its two-part method of picking up stitches and then, essentially, binding them off on each return pass. It’s more than a little like crochet, though, too, in the manner in which yarn and hook are managed.
And, if you get the gauge just right? It produces a fantastically tailored-looking fabric. (See, for example, my Practice Makes Perfect Scarf – one skein of Smooshy wonderfulness!) UC comment: Smooshy is one of my favorite yarns!
UC: What’s your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides the ones you’re featured in, of course)?
That’s really a toughie. I love books and value having lots of information at my fingertips. The book I’ve been recommending the most lately, though, has got to be Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask.
UC: Tell me about another crochet designer you discovered through participation in the GAL. What attracted you that designer’s work?
Beth: I’ve organized a wee CAL with some friends locally using Yuliya Tkacheva’s Metro Kerchief that is coinciding with the Ravelry GAL. I’m a big fan of classically tailored patterns (ones that are, dare I say, “knitterly” in their design?), and Yuliya’s scarf is just right!
UC: Do you have any favorite crochet related websites or blogs that you read regularly?
Sad to say, I really don’t. I’m on Ravelry all the time, though.
UC: What’s next for you?
Beth: I’ve got two pieces in slip stitch crochet coming out on December 30 in the Knit Picks Under 100 Crochet Collection that I’m pretty excited about. As well, look for some Tunisian crochet dishcloth patterns in Cooperative Press’s Fresh Designs Crochet series and in the Knit Picks IDP in the new year.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Beth!
I declared my intent to finish a project every 2 days during December on Sunday, and here is my first finish.
I knit up a simple crescent shaped shawl for my sister using a skein of Twizzle that Mountain Colors sent me for review. (Review spoiler alert: I love it so far!) I could have finished the shawl with just one skein, but I was so engrossed in the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead that I didn’t realize how close I was to the end of the skein until I was on the last row. I didn’t want to rip back, so I just cast off with the other skein. Lucky for me, the colors coordinate beautifully.
This took 4 days to make, but I hadn’t started my challenge yet so I’m feeling super accomplished right now. Oh, and I never said that finishing a project would include the blocking – hence my sneaky picture of the center. (The edges are not ready for prime time currently.)
Now which project should I take up today?
Lovers of granny squares can probably never have too many books, but what about 100 Colorful Granny Squares to Crochet: Dozens of Mix and Match Combos and Fabulous Projects makes it stand out in a sea of books about granny squares?
Leonie Morgan‘s debut book has the joyful and inviting colors that readers of her blog, Wool n Hook, have come to expect. From the cover until the appendix, you will be seeing nothing but bright and beautiful eye candy. This book is truly a celebration of granny squares.
100 Colorful Granny Squares to Crochet opens with a welcoming forward from Leonie, following by a graphic “About This Book” that visually highlights features you can find within each design and in the Tools and Techniques chapter.
The Tools and Techniques chapter opens with an overview of materials and notions and then moves on to written and illustrated instructions for forming the basic crochet stitches. The illustrations are in color (rather than outline drawings), and include directional arrows to help you understand the motions. This section also includes additional stitches and techniques such as clusters, puffs, post stitches, popcorns, spike stitches, decreasing, working in rounds, and the magic loop. There is also a fair amount of information about putting your project together, including joins, dealing with ends, and embellishments with surface crochet. Next, there is a brief explanation of reading patterns and charts and gauge.
And for those of us who aren’t as gifted with color combinations as Leonie, she includes a section on working with colors. In addition to a color wheel (which you’d expect to find in a the color section in a book about granny squares), Leonie also shares combinations – with yarn, rather than with with illustrations – that work well together, like cools, warms, pastels, brights, statement colors, and what she describes as a personal palette (built around your favorite color). This section, while only 2 pages long, provides a great explanation with visuals for the color timid crocheters out there.
Leonie also provides some explanation of how to plan a project, including estimating yarn quantities, and finishing, including blocking, seaming, and patterns for 8 edgings (7 beginner level and 1 intermediate level). The finishing section includes a combination of illustrations and process photos along with explanatory text. Leonie briefly reviews additional embellishments, such as cross stitch, embroidery, applique, beads, ribbons, and surface crochet. The Tools and Techniques chapter ends with a page on caring for your projects, including an explanation of those international care symbols that always confuse me.
The rest of the book is made up of the patterns. The first thing I’d like to report is that there are actually 100 designs. (How many of us have bought books saying there are a large number of motif patterns, only to discover that half or more are mere color variations?) Most patterns are shown in at least 2 color variations. Each pattern includes a skill difficulty level, an explanation of any special stitches, and both US pattern abbreviations and an international stitch symbol chart. My favorite feature of Leonie’s patterns in this section is that she includes the yardage/meterage for each color in a given motif, and a chart which estimates yardage/meterage in each color for baby, lap, and bed sized throws made with the motif within each pattern. Yarn requirements are estimated using a H (5 mm) crochet hook and medium weight yarn and assumes a baby blanket is 36 in (91 cm) square, a lap throw is 52 in (137 cm) x 42 in (107 cm), and a bedspread is 85 in (216 cm) x 66 in (168 cm).
Overall, the motif patterns break down this way:
- 52 beginner patterns,
- 35 intermediate patterns, and
- 13 experienced patterns (called advanced in the book).
- 65 in the round,
- 25 in rows, and
- 10 combining in the round and rows.
The book also includes details for 5 completed projects made with motifs (2 blankets, 2 pillow covers, and 1 bag). It ends with a thorough index, including one that lists the colors of Cascade 220 used for each sample motif.
Now back to my original question: What makes 100 Colorful Granny Squares to Crochet stand out from the other granny square books? The best features of this book are the sections on color, project planning, finishing, and embellishments in the Tools and Techniques chapter, the large quantity of motif patterns, the fact that patterns are written with both abbreviations and stitch symbols, and the estimation of yardage requirements. These are really the elements that make this book stand out from the crowd. And, of course, a true granny lover can probably never have enough motif patterns to experiment with!
What’s missing from this book? As a paperback, it doesn’t really lay flat, so it will be hard to read and crochet at the same time. A true beginner may find the illustrations aren’t enough to teach them to crochet. And someone with a large granny square pattern collection will find some familiar classics included. I believe the advantages to this book far outweigh the missing pieces, and I would recommend it to advanced beginner through intermediate crocheters, granny square lovers, and those who need help estimating yarn for their projects.
Full disclosure: A free review copy of 100 Color Granny Squares to Crochet by Leonie Morgan was provided by St. Martin’s Griffin. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
Last year, I did a lot of advanced holiday crafting, and I even finished all of my gifts by mid-November. This year, not so much. When Thanksgiving rolled around last week, I realized I was in for some trouble and sat down to look at my handmade holiday list.
I started this nativity set for my Mom at the end of May, using Carolyn Christmas‘s Amigurumi Nativity pattern. Currently, I have six heads and I just bought fiber fill, pellets for the bases, and some safety eyes.
A few weeks ago, I received this beautiful skein of Mountain Colors Twizzle in Swift Current from Mountain Colors to review. I figured you can’t review a yarn without trying it out, and something about it said shawl to me. On Friday, I picked up the delightful Shaping Shawls by Anna Dalvi (an awesome book, by the way) and decided to try my and at designing a simple knit crescent shawl for my younger sister. It’s about two-thirds finished now.
And speaking of my sister, I started an earwarmer for her boyfriend. They currently are in law school in New Orleans but he’s accepted a job in Houston after graduation in May. This will be reversible: one side will be for the New Orleans Saints and the other for the Houston Texans. I’ve finished the first side in Tunisian crochet and it will need some serious blocking before it is gift.
I have little more than these notes I took earlier this year about my Uncle Bill’s hat. He has one of those factory made cashmere hats, and I was planning to make a handmade version with some scrumptious Galler Yarns Pashmina I have on hand. So far, other than the finding the note (which took some time!), identifying the yarn, and picking out needles, I’ve done nothing.
Luckily, I have finished one project - from my original YOP list, no less - a baby blanket for my dear friend’s newborn.
And then there are the 7 or so more handmade gifts that I haven’t even started yet. Oh, and 4 design samples due in mid-December for a magazine (but I haven’t received the yarn support yet).
So here’s my challenge to myself: finish a project every 2 days between now and the end of December. What do you think? Can it be accomplished?
For more Year of Projects posts, visit this thread on Ravelry.
In the U.S., tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day of reflection and gratitude. The holiday is supposed to be about being thankful for what you have and spending time with loved ones (and let’s not forget eating favorite foods), but it has also become the official start of the winter holiday shopping season. I dislike crowds and rampant consumerism, so Black Friday sales and doorbusters are pretty much the total opposite of my idea of a good time.
Especially during this time of year, it’s important for me to support small businesses. Here’s my version of a Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday shopping guide highlighting some great small businesses I’ve encountered with over the past year. (Oh yeah, and there are some discounts, too.)
In my Ravelry shop, you’ll can purchase any of my self-published patterns for instant download. All of these patterns are included in the Indie Design Gift-a-long on Ravelry, where you can win great prizes from indie designers and yarn companies.
You’ll find the same patterns in my Etsy shop, along with bamboo Tunisian crochet, crochet, and “knooking” (knitting with a crochet hook) hooks. If you’re looking for a fun crafty gift, I sell a Tunisian crochet gift set with 5 Tunisian crochet hooks and my Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet all wrapped up nicely with a gift card.
Other Gift Ideas for Crocheters and Knitters
- Even the crocheter who has it all would be delighted to own a handmade tapered crochet hook by Sistermaide on Etsy. I ordered these two with an Etsy gift card I got for my birthday, and they have made crocheting bullion stitches much more fun! You can find more unique hooks on my Pinterest board for yarn bowls, hooks, needles, and notions.
- One of my favorite new-to-me yarns is Molly Girl Chart Topper, a machine washable, hand dyed Merino wool yarn. (You can buy Molly Girls yarns here on Etsy.) I particularly love these two skeins I bought at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival last year. They are featured prominently in my 2013 Temperature Scarf. You can find links to other cool indie yarn companies on my Pinterest boards for indie yarn companies or yarn CSAs and fiber clubs.
- Earlier this year, I spent the day at the farm of the Long Island Livestock Company, which was amazing. (I’m still working on writing up a blog post to do my visit justice!) If you’re in the Long Island area this Sunday, you should absolutely check out the open house at the farm, where you can buy her gorgeous llama yarns, rovings, and skin care products. (And don’t forget the cat toys, which my cat gave 5 stars.) You can find more details on her Facebook page. Click on the flier to enlarge it.
- I recently finished reading Sweater 101, an amazing book by Cheryl Brunette that is produced by an indie/small publisher. If you have a friend who wants to try out knitting (or even crocheting, because there is a lot of general information) their own sweater, this would be a fabulous gift. You can find more knitting and crochet books that I’ve reviewed here.
- And if you’re looking for other ideas for the knitters and crocheters in your life, check out Marly Bird‘s frequently updated compilation of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales on her blog here. You can find links to discounts on patterns, yarn, needles/hooks, bags, and all sorts of other goodies there.
Big Ticket Items
And in case you’re in the position to splurge (as a gift, or for yourself)…
Last year, I injured my back and spent most of 2013 in constant discomfort. A few months ago, I was referred to Jenny Hall, a Licensed Massage Therapist. I always thought massage was a frivolous luxury, but Jenny’s approach to massage isn’t about spending a day at the spa to pamper yourself, but being aware of your body and working on it as part of a long term plan for your health. Visiting her office has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and is truly money well spent. For those of you in the New York City area, Jenny offers competitive rates, including discount packages.
My long time readers already know Carlota Zimmerman, the Creativity Yenta (interviewed here). Carlota is a creativity coach, and was instrumental in helping me make a career transition this year. With the New Year around the corner, booking a series of appointments with Carlota for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one, may be the inspiration needed to kick off a career or other creative transition. And Carlota’s offering a special discount for my readers!
Get. Started. Now.
Ready to make 2014 the year you achieve your goals? Ready to start creating a life you love? This package is for people who are looking to change their lives, but are not exactly sure how to get started, given how overwhelming the process can be. Many people have very manageable goals, but they find that the actual mechanics of starting something new are, frankly, terrifying.
Terrifying… unless you hire a coach with a Type-A personality who loves to create detailed, step-by-step plans to get people started, and is comfortable holding clients accountable. (Oh, you lucky people.) Over these six weeks, we’ll organize your goals, and craft a realistic strategy based on your personality and experience, allowing you to start creating the life you’ve always wanted.
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This package is specifically for friends of Underground Crafter. It will expire on December 31, 2013. To take advantage of this package, please email me at carlotazee AT gmail DOT com, and become a fan of my business Facebook page.
Please remember to shop small throughout the holiday season, and to think about buying (or making) creative gifts that inspire the recipients!