Book Review: Christmas Crochet

Anyone who does any type of craft knows that Christmas arrives before you know it! I always wind up scrambling at the end trying to put the finishing touches on several gifts for family and friends. I am also always on the hunt for new and unique patterns. Well Edie Eckman has come out with a new book that helps provide great pattern ideas for Christmas gifts.

Christmas Crochet for Hearth, Home & Tree: Stockings, Ornaments, Garlands, and More offers innovative patterns for every ability level. The book is broken down into three sections: “For the Hearth,” “For the Home,” and “For the Tree.” In the “For the Hearth” section, there’s a multitude of different fun stocking patterns in great color combinations. In the “For the Tree” section, designers provide different garland patterns, ornaments, stuffed critters, and a tree skirt. Finally, the “For the Home” section is all about pretty bows, table top trees to adorn the table, and comfy pillows.

As I flipped through the book, I absolutely loved the little mittens for the Advent Garland. I could see making them individually to top off a nicely-wrapped gift instead of using a store-bought bow. I can easily see nestling the Bird Trio in the tree. And I absolutely couldn’t decide which I liked more – the Snow Storm Stocking or the Ripple Stitch Stocking!

As usual, my only complaint about this book – or any pattern book for that matter – is that it has a perfect-bound binding. I much prefer when a pattern book is spiral-bound so it can lay flat while following a pattern. But I am sure that is a very expensive process. The most important part – the patterns – are absolutely great! They provide detailed directions as well as stitch charts, so regardless of how you like to follow a pattern, they have you covered. Several patterns have close-up photos so you can really see stitch details easily. I can say with confidence any crocheter will have no problem finishing these patterns in time for Christmas!

And now, as usual, this book can be yours! This time I have not one, but TWO copies to give away! As usual, the rules to enter are simple:

1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick two winners!

I will pick the winners on Saturday, November 1, so you have an entire week to enter! Good luck!

Book Review: The Spinner’s Book of Fleece

Back in 2006 a discussion group I belonged to decided to do a fiber study. Each member picked a type of fiber, researched it, purchased raw fiber, cleaned it, spun it, and then plied it. We then sent everything to one person who had the dubious job of assembling all this information into binders and mailing them to each person. It was a great exercise and I know we all learned a lot.

2006-breed-study-open-binder
The Coopworth pages from our fiber study in 2006.

Fast forward to 2014.

There is now a great book available that covers what we did and a lot more. The Spinner’s Book of Fleece: A Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose
is an amazing book that I am enjoying reading. It is written in a conversational tone so it is an easy read. It goes beyond a straightforward explanation of the different breeds and talks about how to pick a fleece, how to protect your fiber, and different ways of spinning your fiber for projects. It also talks about different spinning equipment and even how to maintain your wheel.

Author Beth Smith breaks down the different fibers into four simple groups: fine, long, down, and multicoat. She also has a “miscellaneous” category. She then goes into all the approaches you can take when spinning your fiber into yarn. She talks about drafting, using a lazy Kate, how to clean your fiber, and carding, to name a few techniques.

What I think I like best about this book is how well Beth breaks everything down into easy-to-understand bits of info. Even if you don’t spin, you will find this book helpful with your weaving, crochet, and knitting projects as she covers fiber information for each art form! I definitely see myself reading this book cover-to-cover.

And as always, you can win this copy!
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 October 2nd. Trust me when I tell you, you definitely want to be in this giveaway. Good luck!

What to do with cotton yarn

I absolutely LOVE cotton yarn. There are more colors available than every before, it feels softer than ever before, and is a great value. I will admit, however, I do struggle from time to time with ideas for cotton.

There are plenty of bath scrubbies and dish cloth patterns available – regular favorites for this type of yarn – but beyond that, I really have a hard time finding something to use the yarn that I love. I’ll make scrunchies out of anything, including cotton; but what else?

CottonSlippers1Well, I’m starting to do a hard search for patterns that work well with cotton. Last week I made these really cute slippers!

My next cotton projects will be this really nice coffee cozy and this cute mug cozy. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a tad of a coffee problem. And because I am an angler, I have to make these adorable little puffer fish!

What do you make with cotton yarn? I would love to hear your thoughts?

 

Neuroscience Proves What We’ve Known All Along

I came across a study recently released by “knitting therapist” (really? who knew that even existed!) Betsan Corkhill that says there is a direct relationship between the frequency of knitting and respondents’ perceived mood and feelings. Frequent knitters (those who knitted more than 3 times a week) were calmer, happier, less sad, less anxious, and more confident.

Now, even though the study is based on the information from 3,545 knitters, the results can easily be applied to any type of textile craft. The study concluded, “Knitting has significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to well-being and quality of life.”

The study also found that people who knitted as part of a group were even happier than solo knitters. We used to have a stitch ‘n bitch at a company where I worked and we loved it!

According to her study, “the skills and feelings experienced whilst knitting and stitching can also be used to facilitate the learning of techniques, such as meditation, relaxation and pacing which are commonly taught on pain management courses, or in the treatment of depression.” Even Albert Einstein was known to have knitted between projects to “calm his mind and clear his thinking.”

So next time you get grief about buying too much yarn, just pick up your WIP and go to your happy place!

Book Review: The Fine Art of Crochet

Of all the types of crochet, I love when it is brought to the level of high art. That is probably why I love the Free Form Guild so much. I wish I had more time to spend on it. There are tons of ideas swirling around in my head and just not enough hours in the day.

The Fine Art of Crochet
So why am I telling you all this? Because I am VERY excited to share this week’s book review. Great artist Gwen Blakley Kinsler has a new book out, The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Artists and it is wonderful! It highlights different fiber artists, all with different approaches. It is certainly a feast for the eyes!

I think what blew me away the most is while I was reading through it, I discovered that I was mentioned! To be in a book highlighting such wonderful artists is an honor I could’ve only dreamed of. I was completely without words. She also mentions the Sticks, Hooks & Mobius at Lafayette College in 2012 and the annual challenge from the Free Form Guild.

In this book, Gwen highlights the art of 20 wonderful artists, but she also looks at the art crochet movement from 1915, to the Crochet Revolution of the 1960s, to today. Gwen is the founder of the Crochet Guild of America and a well-respected fiber artist in her own right.

Gwen refers to the works of these amazing artists as “awe-inspiring” and “cutting-edge” and I could not agree more. I have barely been able to put it down since I received it. It is a joy. I am not going to even attempt to pick a favorite. If you want artistic inspiration, this is definitely the book.

And as always, you can win this copy!
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 11th. Trust me when I tell you, you definitely want to be in this giveaway. Good luck!

National Crochet Month: Book Review and Class Giveaway

Hi Everyone! Happy National Crochet Month!

Today is my blog day to celebrate all things crochet in March. I have a something special for today – MULTIPLE GIVEAWAYS!

Book review and giveaway number one:
First, as my regularly readers know, I have been on a book review kick lately. I often get review copies of books from different publishers, so after I review it I give it away to my readership! I don’t have any crochet books to review right now, but I still wanted to do a giveaway. This week’s review is what I call an “oldie but a goodie.” Think Pink: Crochet for the Cure. There is good reason I go back to this book as it is a very special project to me for multiple reasons.


First, I have the distinct honor to have not just have a pattern in this book, but DRG decided to include my letter that went with my pattern submission. This was my first pattern every published.

“Celia’s Scarf” was named and designed in memory of my mother-in-law who ended her battle with cancer in 1992. She was far too young to lose her life to this terrible disease. Since then, there have been amazing advancements, but no cure…yet. But every donation gets closer to a cure and a portion of the proceeds from this book continue to support breast cancer research.

From hats, to scarves, to bookmarks and more, there are great patterns in this book for every level of ability. They are not your “typical” frilly pink patterns you often see, but a group of fun and exciting designs. I especially like the Free From Hat by breast cancer survivor, Margaret Hubert. It has wonderful bits of texture mixed with traditional stitches. I also absolutely love the Pineapple Scarf by Joyce Nordstrom. I must admit, I am quite terrible at pineapples, but this pattern uses larger yarn and I absolutely love the use of vertical lines to build the scarf!

At the end of the book, stitch directions and helpful hints are included so you have a point of reference, just in case you need it. Trust me, you will not be disappointed!

And now here’s the best part – you can win a copy of this book! All you need to do is “like” my Facebook page and “like” this post on Facebook and you’ll be entered. I’ll pick a winner at random on Friday, March 14th.

Tunisian crochet and class giveaway:

A close-up of the Tunisian Simple Stitch.

While Tunisian crochet has been around for ages, it has really taken off in popularity in recent years. What was originally known as “afghan stitch,” Tunisian crochet has developed into a beautiful way to create a variety of projects. Many think it has a “mixed” look of knit and crochet.

Unfortunately, many crocheters think Tunisian is difficult. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth! The way I look at this style is an “interrupted” series of stitches. You do the first part of a crochet stitch as you progress and collect stitches on the hook. Then on the return, you finish each stitch. That’s what gives your project a combination of the woven/knitted look.


And now for the giveaway…

You can learn Tunisian Crochet for free! Craftsy has allowed me to give away one enrollment in their Tunisian Crochet online class. Taught by Jennifer Hansen of Stitch Diva Studios, you will learn all the ins and outs of Tunisian. I truly admire Jennifer. she has turned her business that she has started on her own into a fiber arts powerhouse. Both her designs and her teaching style are top notch.

So how do you get to win enrollment? Just click here to complete an entry form to enter to win this Craftsy class! A winner will be picked at the end of the month.

Wait, I have one more giveaway!
Just as a bonus, the person that won the last book giveaway never contacted me, so I’ll be picking a second book winner for a copy of Fair Isle Style. Make sure you like the post on my Facebook page for this post to be entered!

So I hope you enjoyed my post today and continue to follow the blog tour. And make sure you keep stitching!

Save the Penguins!

Oiled penguin in a knitted wool jumper
(Phillip Island Nature Parks. – Supplied)

Anyone who knits, crochets, weaves, quilts, or does anything creative for that matter, is well aware how many worthwhile organizations need various handmade items to help their cause. Yesterday, thanks to many friends on Facebook, I learned of an important – and incredibly cute – project. Keeping penguins warm!

The Penguin Foundation of Australia has asked knitters to make pullovers for penguins in rehab. The penguins caught in oil spills need these little jumpers to keep warm and to stop them from trying to clean the toxic oil off with their beaks. As a result, they have an adorable jumper pattern to keep the little guys warm! They are asking knitters to make jumpers to help with their efforts.

The Penguin Foundation is based at Phillip Island, which is known for having a large penguin colony.

As many of you know, I am far from an accomplished knitter. So I did some searching and found a penguin jumper crochet pattern. I am definitely going to make some and send them down under!

They ask that jumpers are made from wool or other natural fiber.

The Penguin Foundation was established to protect and preserve one of Australia’s most important natural assets – the little penguin.

This organization aims to provide a dedicated source of funding to support little penguin conservation projects. These include little penguin rescue and rehabilitation in the event of a man-made disaster; building new little penguin nesting areas; monitoring little penguin health and behavior; protecting the little penguins’ natural environment; and contributing funding to the vital Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on Phillip Island. Since its establishment in 2006, the Penguin Foundation has raised over $1.5 million.

Little penguins are only found in southern Australia and New Zealand. In Australia little penguin colonies are scattered around the coastline from near Perth on the west coast, to Sydney on the east coast, and around Tasmania. Phillip Island has only one remaining little penguin colony. Phillip Island is home to an estimated 32,000 little penguins. Current estimates put the total little penguin population at one million.

Book Review: Fair Isle Style

Since most of the country has been in a deep freeze lately, I figured the next book review should be about making patterns that help keep you warm!


This book review is about Fair Isle Style: 20 Fresh Designs for a Classic Technique. This book is full of lovely sweaters, gloves, fingerless gloves, mittens, and socks, to name a few. The collection of twenty patterns assembled by Mary Jane Mucklestone is truly inspiration.

The concept of “Fair Isle” knitting has been produced continuously for more than two hundred years, originating in Fair Isle, a tiny island in the northernmost archipelago of the British Isles.

While I do not knit well enough to attempt any of these patterns, I can certainly appreciate what it takes to knit these wonderful creations. Many patterns come with both written instructions as well as detailed charts. The book starts with a lovely introduction to Fair Isle along with the history of the style. The photography is great and the pieces are just lovely. As I flipped through the book, I especially liked the Mushroom Kelliemuffs – I am a huge fan of fingerless mittens. And I absolutely LOVE the Valenzi Cardigan. I can definitely see myself wrapped up in it!

There is a “design notebook” at the back of the book that includes how to make good yarn choices and how to knit in the Fair Isle tradition. It also includes a little bit about color theory, which I always love to read about and learn more! Just like most books, it includes a glossary of terms and instructions of different stitches required to complete the different patterns.

Like I said, I am far from an expert knitter. But this is a great book I am sure any knitter would love to have it in their library!

And as usual, this book can be yours!

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, February 7th. Good luck!

Book Review: Felt It!

In recent years I have been doing a lot more felting and fulling. I am amazed at how strong the finished fabric can be while still offering a delicate look. There are a variety of great books that have come on the market in recent years that have brought felting and fulling to the masses. That’s where the book Felt It!: 20 Fun & Fabulous Projects to Knit & Felt
comes in.

I feel at this point it is important to make a distinction I learned when I first headed down this path. Felting and fulling are not the same. In technique, the concept of felting is taking fiber and either agitating it with hot water or using a barbed needle to create fabric. Fulling is taking a finished piece of cloth (knit, crochet, etc.) and exposing it to hot water and friction in order to make it shrink considerably. For example, if you have ever put a 100 percent wool sweater in the wash with hot water and it shrunk? You just fulled fabric!

Now, I’m not exactly sure how or why the term “felting” is now used when referring to both traditional felting as well as fulling, but if you start to do more of these projects, I wanted to make sure I used the right terms!

So the book Felt It! really has fulled projects, but they are still just great! You need some knitting skills, but there are projects for every skill level in this book. The directions are clearly written and it starts with a great introduction to this entire process, including troubleshooting tips. If this is the first time you are trying to do this process, I highly suggest reading it before you begin!

One project that immediately struck me as I flipped through the book was the Tri-Petal Flower Bracelet. The pearls as final touches it really finishes it off! The Folded Brim Crochet definitely has a touch of nostalgia to it and the Elegant Lily project is simply amazing! I honestly don’t think there was one project in this book I didn’t like. If you decide to pick it up, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Or, you could simply win this copy!

As usual, 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 Wednesday, January 15th. Good luck!

Upcoming Fiber Arts Exhibit: Coal – Not in Any Backyard

The following is a press release from a wonderfully gifted fiber artist Bonnie Meltzer. The exhibit will be at the Buckley Center Gallery, University of Portland and will run from January 13th until February 6th. A reception will be held Saturday, January 18th from 2:00 – 4:00 with a short gallery talk at 3:00. I hope you check it out!

Coal mined from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming would travel on barges and trains through our beloved Northwest (including the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area) and on to Asia by mega-ships. At the time of this writing, three out of the six coal terminals are still waiting for permits to be approved or denied.  Three of the original six proposals have withdrawn but the three left would have a destructive daily impact. Dozens of trains will stop traffic and spew toxins.  Meltzer not only makes art about the issue but testifies at hearings, organized an informational rally, and writes a Facebook page about coal.

Born in New Jersey, Meltzer came west to get her MFA in Design at the University of Washington — and she never left. She has exhibited throughout the Northwest and across the nation.  Her work is in many private and public collections including the the National Science Foundation, the City of Portland, the Community Music Center and the University of Washington School of Business. The sculpture, “Global Warming”, which will be shown at this University of Portland exhibition, is on the cover of the new book The Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler.

When Meltzer saw Thom Caccamo’s ceramic fish skeleton series and Kelly Neidig’s traffic and cloud paintings she invited them to exhibit with her. Their artworks fit right into the coal and environment theme.

Coffee, Create, Sleep