Book Review: Customize Your Knitting

Customize Your KnittingAs you learn more about different fiber arts, whether it is crochet, knitting, or something else, you begin to develop favorite people, designs, and styles. One of my all-around favorites is Margaret Hubert.

I met Margaret in-person for the first time over a decade ago at a fiber arts convention. I met her virtually a few years before that on the International Freeform Crochet Guild discussion group. From the beginning, she has always been a great teacher, mentor, and friend. She is a wonderful woman and I am proud to know her.

Over the years she has published many articles, patterns and books. One of her most recent books is Customize Your Knitting: Adjust to fit; embellish to taste and as always, she hits it out of the park!

We all know how much time and effort it takes to create an article of clothing. There is nothing worse than finishing a project and it doesn’t fit. We wind up offering it to someone else who may, or may not, appreciate all the work you put into it. Margaret helps solve that problem.

Her new book takes you through all the different body types and the all-important taking measurements. She then moves on to specific pattern examples for each type. She provides suggestions on developing “good habits,” joining new yarn, and weaving in those pesky tails. She then gives you beautiful ideas to customize your piece so it has your own special personal touch!

Margaret HubertAll the directions are presented in easy-to-understand language. Even this very basic knitter could understand the concepts within the book. It ends with steps on how to create buttonholes, pockets, and the all-important seams. It even includes embellishments and motifs! They are just great!

I will say, as my usual complaint, it is a perfect-bound book. HOWEVER, it lays flat VERY well! It also has an extended flap so you can keep your place as well as keep the book fairly flat. This may seem minor, but it is great! We have all been there when you are trying to work out of a book that keeps closing on you and you lose your place.

As a basic knitter, I think this is a great book. If you are a more serious knitter, you will LOVE it!

And now as usual, you can win this book! Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on Thursday, August 18th. Make sure to check back on my Facebook page to see if you are the lucky winner! Good luck!

What do you do When you hit a Slump?

We’ve all had it – the slump. You can’t focus. You can’t take ideas you’ve had and act on them. Almost zero creative spark. You sit and watch television and can’t do anything else. Except sleep. You are a champion sleeper. And the migraine’s aren’t helping.

Source: Jones, G. (2002) What is this thing called mental toughness? An Investigation of Elite Sports Performers, Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, volume 14, issue 3.

That’s where I am at the moment. I keep saying “I should be blogging,” but it doesn’t happen. I look at the pile of books to review and giveaway and just can’t motivate myself to do any of them.

The slump. It’s rough.

Maybe it’s the heat. If you live in Jersey, you know how ridiculous the heat has been lately. It does make it hard to focus.

So I know I am WAY overdue to post. I just want you to all know I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ll be back…soon.

What do you do to help get out of a slump? I would love for you to share!

Rose’s New Sister – Wee Peggy

Recently, I headed to The Spinnery for a class about how to make slubs, think and thin singles, and coils. It was a great class.

Wee Peggy at The Spinnery
Wee Peggy at The Spinnery

While chatting with my fellow classmates, the discussion turned to different types of wheels. I mentioned how I would love one day own a Wee Peggy. Well, after the class was over and I was waiting for my turn to pay, I of course, wandered the shop to check out all the fibery goodness. And what do my eyes see before me? A Wee Peggy! I asked if I could give it a try and Betty said “of course.”

Well, the downside to my attempted spinning? I was so hungry I couldn’t focus. My head hurt and my hands were shaking. I put the wheel back and went to eat.

On the ride home, all I could think of was that beautiful wheel. When I signed on that night, I sent Betty an email and told her I was interested in talking to her about it. She helped me negotiate a price and I told her I would be in on the weekend to give it a try.

It looked like I went there in the nick of time! Someone was in her shop that morning asking about it. Betty let her know that someone was coming in to give it a try and that it didn’t work out she would let her know.

My first bit of spinning on the Wee Peggy,
My first bit of spinning on the Wee Peggy,

I arrive with my wonderful husband to give it a try. Betty had set up the wheel and a chair for me. First, she demonstrated how to spin on it as well as how it differs from my beautiful Rose. Wow is it different! Unlike my Rose that has a lot of metal, the Wee Peggy is all wood and a small piece of leather to help the treadle move. It took a little practice to get used to it. This is a single-treadle and focuses more and heel and the middle of the foot, while my Rose is a double-treadle and focuses on the toe.

The Wee Peggy has a long and fabled

Peggy in the back of the truck on the way home.
Peggy in the back of the truck on the way home.

history and is considered an incredibly collectible wheel. Designed by John Rappard in New Zealand, the Wee Peggy was made from Southern Beech, a lightweight but strong and easily worked wood. I rarely see them come up for sale. So I knew I had a unique opportunity in front of me.

So the end result? I love her! My husband carefully packed her into

the back seat of his pickup. She came home with us. She is now in our living room next to Rose. I gave her a spin yesterday morning using some Frenchtown-area Mohair. It was great.

I still need some practice on the treadling, but I know we will soon work together as well as I do with my Rose.

So Rose has a sister now – and her name is Peggy.

Now sisters - Peggy and Rose.
Now sisters – Peggy and Rose.


Book Review: The Knitting Answer Book, Second Edition

Years ago I picked up a copy of The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask (Answer Book (Storey)) by Edie Eckman. It was a great pickup for me. The title was correct – it answered plenty of crochet questions. I knew there was a knitting version, but I never picked it up because I don’t knit very much.

Since that purchase, there has been a second version of the crochet edition and the knitting edition.

The Knitting Answer Book, 2nd Edition: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask is an updated version to the another great book to help knitters with all of the troubles they encounter as they work to finish projects; as well as learn more.

This book is perfect for knitters, regardless of their ability level. It starts out with basic concepts like how to cast on, basic stitches, and how to bind off. It then moves on to how to read yarn labels and reading patterns. Finally, it moves on to more advanced topics like circular knitting, garment shaping and fitting, and how to make different embellishments. It is a very comprehensive guide!

As usual, it is subject to my complaint of a perfect-bound spine as opposed to a spiral bound book. I feel this is especially important for this type of book as knitters try to follow the guidance of the book. That criticism aside, this is a great book!

And now you can win this book! Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on Friday, July 8th. Make sure to check back on my Facebook page to see if you are the lucky winner! Good luck!

Thick, Thin, Slubs, and Coils: Yarn Spinning at The Spinnery

Today was a wonderful day. I had the opportunity to head to The Spinnery in Frenchtown, New Jersey for a class about how to spin thick/thin yarn (known as slubs) and coils. I wanted to take this class the last time it was offered, but I was still doing battle with my ankle after surgery. Well now my ankle was amicable and ready for class!

On the way to Frenchtown.

My day started with a lovely ride to Frenchtown. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it. Once you are off the highway, you are surrounded by historical homes, open fields, and preserved farmland. Today was the perfect day for this ride. Roof open, windows down, Billy Joel on the radio. Just wonderful.

Rebecca Dioda
Master Spinner, Rebecca Dioda and our class.

The class was taught by master spinning teacher Rebecca Dioda of Simpatico Fiber Collective. She made the day fun and informative by giving an explanation, then demonstrating, then helping each member of our intimate group get started. We started by unplying a base (yes, sounds uncounter-intuitive, stay with me). Then we started with our main fiber, making thick and thin “slubs.” She made it look so easy! Then we all started giving it a try. Well, lets just say the easy chatter became serious concentration. As we progressed, we all seemed to improve.

slubbed yarn
My attempt at thick and thin slubs.

What I really found funny as I was working to master this I thought back to when I first started to spin. Initially, I was very good at spinning…rope. Then I improved to thick and thin. Then I learned to spin more even yarn. Now that I need to spin thick and thin yarn like I did in the beginning, I found it very challenging. Go figure.

So it was time to start to ply our base and

Coiled yarn
Rebecca makes coils look so easy!

our slubbed yarn together. Plying has never come easy to me, so I was definitely thinking about multiple techniques simultaneously.

Of course I forgot my lazy kate. Luckily Betty, owner of The Spinnery, came to my rescue and had one I could use. Rebecca taught us the importance of “vrooom!” in our spinning when preparing for a coil. She made the entire process a lot of fun!

So I went to work. I quickly determined I needed at least one more hand. My lovely Majacraft Rose was not in the mood to ply without issue. She is currently in a time out so she can think about her cranky

coiled yarn
Starting to get the hang of coils.

behavior. Hold core in one direction. Hold yarn at a 90-degree angle. Spin in the opposite direction of the yarn. Pinch. Roll. Push. Pinch. Spin more. Vroom! Don’t let the yarn wind before they should connect. Oh my! Like I said. Lots to think about.

After some mumbling to myself, and encouragement from Rebecca, I started to get some decent-looking coils.

I still have a lot to do to become

coiled yarn
My finished coiled yarn.

more comfortable with my coils. But I definitely felt like I understood the process by the time I left. Of course I can never leave The Spinnery without picking up a few things. So what did I get? More fiber and core to practice!

After class I took a little time for a late lunch, pick up a few treats, and then the ride home. It was a wonderful day and I can’t wait to try again!

Book Review: Crochet One-Skein Wonders for Babies

My pattern is the hat and mittens on the sleeping baby.
My pattern is the hat and mittens on the sleeping baby.

Every so often I am lucky enough to have a pattern accepted for publication. Well, today, I am especially lucky to review a book that has two patterns in the same book! As an added bonus, one of them made it to the back cover. I had no idea until the book arrived at my home.

Today’s book review is Crochet One-Skein Wonders® for Babies: 101 Projects for Infants & Toddlers. This book is, obviously, all about adorable patterns for the wee little ones. There is a huge variety of patterns for every style preference and crochet ability.  The book is broken out into sections like “Hats and Caps” and “Socks and Booties” so you can find the exact type of project you would like to make. The printing of the book is very well done with clear (and absolutely adorable) photos. If you prefer charts over written instructions, you are covered as well.

The back of the book contains a glossary section with easy-to-understand explanations of different stitches and techniques. There are also diagrams when appropriate. Additionally, you read the biographies of the different designers…including me!

As usual, I have my standard complaint – no spiral-bound spine. I understand that it is probably much more expensive to use, but when you are following a pattern, I think it makes a huge difference when you don’t have to fight with keeping the book flat.

There are so many adorable patterns, it is hard to choose! The Pink Camouflage Cap, the Cuddly Snuggly Elephant (my family collects elephants), and the Pocket Dolly are definitely among my favorites.  The Zucchini Sack and Cap is just the best! Trust me when I tell you, there are plenty of great patterns in this book.

And now you can win this book! Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on Friday, June 3rd. Make sure to check back on my Facebook page to see if you are the lucky winner!

Be Not Afraid to Show Your Creativity

Growing up I often heard the hymn “Be Not Afraid.”

Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow Me,
and I shall give you rest.

be-not-afraidThen during the reign of “House” on television, there was a far more comical use of the phrase “be not afraid.”

The phrase “be not afraid” has been used in multiple situations; comical, inspirational, and religious. Today, however, I am talking about using it in your creative ventures.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the annual CGOA event in New Hampshire. While I was there, I attended an event led by the Stitch Diva herself – Jennifer Hansen.

At the time, she was taking the self-publishing front by storm. She was leading a round table about how to self-publish and how to get your designs in the public space. I listened to the discussion and absorbed everything she said. As the discussion was wrapping up, I quietly asked her about concerns of what people think when you are first getting started. Her answer? “Who cares? Just put your ideas out there.”

In other words – be not afraid.

This has always been hard for me. In all areas of my life. “What if I am not taken seriously?” “What if people laugh?” Those questions continue to plague me even at my age.

As a result, I have avoided many opportunities to design and publish my pattern ideas and express my creativity.

So recently I decided to start taking drawing classes; something I have wanted to do for years but have never acted. I attended a free seminar at Michael’s last week on basic sketching. I completed two items:

building ShadedSpheresObviously, I am far from a great master. But taking a class, and more importantly, sharing my results, are both big steps for me.

Unfortunately, the drawing and sketching classes at Michael’s are held mostly during standard working hours. So I am going to sign up for a class or two on Craftsy. I plan on starting with Patricia Watwood’s 10 Essential Techniques for Better Drawing. My goal is to use these classes as another way to spark my creativity and learn to “be not afraid.”

Book Review: Crocheted Abode à la Mode

crochet foodA number of years ago a friend and I crocheted a few different foodie-style items for the New Jersey State Fair Arts & Crafts competition. We won a third place ribbon. They were fun little patterns we made up together. Little did we know at the time foodie-crochet would become a “thing.”

Cue today’s book review.

Twinkie Chan’s Crocheted Abode a la Mode: 20 Yummy Crochet Projects for Your Home is all about turning everyone’s favorite foods into adorable crochet projects.  This book is perfect for someone with a child in their life that loves to play kitchen.  They are obviously nice and soft so there will be no hard corners that will cause scratches.  There are also some really cute house-and-home projects. I particularly like the cherry pie seat cushion. I can see it going well in an American-country-style home. I must admit the licorice all-sorts afghan made me smile. It made me think of when my Aunt Florence came to visit my Grandma because she had a dream that she needed to bring her all-sorts.  A great memory indeed. And I can easily see the giant donut floor pouf as a great accessory for a dorm room.

The directions are very well written and are easy to understand. The photography is nice and clear so you can really see what you are doing. If you are a crocheter who prefers to work from charts, I am sorry, but there are none in this book.

There are some patterns in the book that are just not my cup of tea. I didn’t care for the banana split throw pillow or the cheeseburger tissue box cozy. Not that there is anything wrong with them; they just aren’t as interesting to me as other patterns in the book.

As usual, this book fulfills my one pet peeve – no flat spine. It is a perfect-bound book. I wish all craft books (crochet and knitting especially) would have a spiral-bound spine so they can lay flat while you are working on your project.

Other than that, I can say if you are into foodie-crochet, you will definitely enjoy this book.

And now you can win this book! Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on Friday, April 8th. Make sure to check back on my Facebook page to see if you are the lucky winner!

National Crochet Month Blog Tour 2016

To everyone who is checking out my blog for the first time – welcome! I hope you enjoy my post and will come back again.

I want to thank Amy Shelton and Donna Hulka, the co-owners of Crochetville. They put in a tremendous amount of time putting the blog tour together and I am truly grateful for all their efforts. If you aren’t familiar with their site, I highly suggest you check it out.  It is a great resource for information and crochet friendship.

I am blessed to receive samples of many books. I enjoy reading through them, sharing my thoughts on them with my readership, and then I give them away! For my blog tour day, I have another great book review and give-away.

And now without further delay, my book review. This post – Crochet Bouquet: Easy Designs for Dozens of Flowers from Suzann Thompson.

I love small projects. Scarves, small household items, you name it. I especially love when I can add some type of embellishment to it. That’s where Crochet Bouquet comes in.

Crochet BouquetThis book has something for every crochet level and style. It begins with a introduction from Suzann. It talks about her love of flowers since childhood. After she discovered the use of flowers in Irish crochet, she learned how to combine her love of flowers and her love of crochet.

Something I especially love is that the book shows these beautiful flowers used on non-crochet and non-knit items, like jeans and backpacks.  Another reason I think these flowers are great is that they can be used in free form projects. If you aren’t familiar with free form, I highly suggest you check out four of my favorite free form fiber artists: Prudence Mapstone, Margaret Hubert, Myra Wood, and the original James Walters. These small pieces, mixed with some scrumbles here and there and poof! An awesome free form project!

I always try to pick a favorite project in each book I review, but I have to say it was really hard this time.  I really like the Mumsy and the Sunflower. The foliage at the end of the book also can add a nice finishing touch to the flower patterns. What I think is great is that Suzann provides the “basic” pattern, and then shows how to “embellish” the embellishment. Brilliant!

Ultimately, any crocheter would love this book. I plan on purchasing one for myself.

And now you can win this book! Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on Friday, March 25th. Make sure to check back on my Facebook page to see if you are the lucky winner!

2016 Crochet Wish List

So I love making wish lists related to my love of fiber arts. Since this is National Crochet Month, I figure this is the perfect time to share my wish list for 2016. This list is focused on just crochet as opposed to my greater love of fiber arts in general.

The Hay Farmer’s Wife: Of course my list will have to include a few crochet hooks. This hook artist is relatively new to Etsy. The Hay Farmer’s Wife makes crochet hooks from branches pruned from her apple orchard. I love the rustic look and that they come from a fourth generation apple orchard.

Celtic Swan: This hook as been on my list for awhile now and some Celtic Swan Forgeday I will break down and purchase one. The Celtic Swan makes hand-forged silver hooks that are simply stunning. Some day I will break down and purchase one.

Batsford Book of Crochet: This is a classic crochet book with a focus on free form. This book can be hard to find and occasionally quite expensive. I just found a copy and ordered it this morning, so while I “technically” own it, I felt like I should still include it on my list.

Hook Holder: So once you have all these wonderful crochet hooks, you need to have something to show them all off. Rparishwoodworks makes beautiful hook holders.

Walnut & Cherry Hook: Of course, I have another crochet hook want. QuinnHandMade offers a beautiful hook that shows off the beauty of natural wood.

Buffalo Wool CompanyBuffalo Wool: One of the most amazing fibers is bison. And the Buffalo Wool Company provides some of the best bison yarn available. I have felt it in person at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival and it truly lives up to expectations!

Qiviut Yarn: Another truly decadent yarn is made from Qiviut. What is qiviut yarn you might ask? It is the undercoat of the muskox and is eight times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere. Extremely rare, Qiviut is hypoallergenic and will not shrink. There are several different brands and I honestly can’t recommend one as my favorite brand has been discontinued. But it is definitely worth the hunt!

I hope this gets your create crochet juices flowing. What is on your crochet must-have list?

Coffee, Create, Sleep