Category Archives: Books

Stitching Through the Sadness

First, I must apologize for not posting recently. I have had a bit of a tough time the last week or so. After close to 11 years at my job, I have become one of the most recent statistics of the economic downturn and was laid off. I was very sad that this happened, but often in life, you don’t get to choose your fate.

I have been busy sending out resumes, going on interviews and reading What Color is Your Parachute, but I am also using my crochet to help get me through. The calmness of crochet helps the most when I get angry or sad about what happened.

So, crochet can be a lot of things to a lot of different people depending on the situation.

NEWS ALERT: Kate Jacobs visits New Jersey!

Kate Jacobs will be hosting a book signing at Mendham Books in Mendham, NJ Wednesday, April 8th at 7 pm and at Books & Greetings in Northvale, NJ on Friday April 10th at 7 pm.

Jacobs’ first book, The Friday Night Knitting Club has over 1,000,000 copies in print and has been on The New York Times bestseller list for over a year. It is no wonder Kate is a household name among fiber enthusiasts!

The Fiber Forum will be hosting a blog interview shortly, so stay tuned!

Her latest book is Comfort Food and will be released on April 7, 2009. If you can head to Mendham or Northvale, I am sure it will be a great time! Be sure to bring your WIPs!

Where Does the Time Go?

Did you ever have one of those weeks that you felt like you were on a treadmill? Well, this has definitely been one of those weeks for me. There hasn’t been much crocheting going on, which I must admit makes me feel like I am missing a big part of my life. I am SO CLOSE to finishing my major winter project it is unreal! But there it sits on my couch waiting for me. I am hoping to finish it this weekend and post photos soon.

One thing I was able to do this week was start to read through a book I purchased quite some time ago. The book is Uncommon Crochet by Julie Armstrong Holetz and it is just wonderful! As I read through it I find myself nodding because this is exactly the way I work. It talks about taking a highly creative approach to your project by using alternative fibers and developing your own ideas. I am working on reaching out to Ms. Holetz for an interview, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I would love to hear how your winter projects have gone and how you feel when you can’t sneak in a little “project time.” What are some of the most creative ways you have worked to make time for your projects.

Special Guest: The Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Life-long knitter and writer Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (better know as “The Yarn Harlot”) has entertained knitters all over the world with her own brand of writing combining the obsession of knitting and humor. Only those in the fiber arts truly understand how knitting, crochet, spinning and the like can take over your life. Stephanie took time out of her busy schedule recently to answer a few questions for The Fiber Forum, including talking about her latest upcoming book, Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again, which is due out the end of September.

ALVB: Your books and blog on knitting are widely popular. Which do you consider yourself first: a writer or a knitter? 
SPMP: it’s really hard to say.  If we’re talking about passion, I think the two would come in about equal, I need to write as much as I need to knit (mostly for the safety of others.)  In my professional life, still after 6 books, I still feel a little bit like a fraud when I say that I’m a writer, so I think I’d rather say knitter, since that’s what drives the writing a lot of the time,  and it’s still what I’m usually doing.

ALVB: Tell us about your latest book, Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again
SPMP: It’s another book of essays, in the same vein as Yarn Harlot: The secret life of a knitter – and I love it.  The essay is one of my favourite forms of writing,  and I feel like what’s inside is really personal, more so than with shorter pieces.  I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

ALVB: Where did the idea for Tricoteuses Sans Frontières (Knitters Without Borders). How can people get involved? 
SPMP: The idea came when Medecins sans Frontiers (MSF) – or Doctors without Borders, needed contributions to the general fund after the Tsunami.  There was such an overwhelming response to that, and it was time to remind people that there were other things that humans were struggling with. Malaria, HIV, Darfur… more people were dying as a result of other human tragedy than the tsunami, but they had less press. I encouraged knitters to give to MSF and report their donation to me, and I keep a bit tally. We’re up to almost a half million dollars now.  If a knitter wanted to be a part of it, they just have to let me know and I’ll record their donation. (Editor’s Note: you can learn more by clicking here.)

ALVB: What advice do you have for the new knitter? 
SPMP: You’re going to make mistakes, and you always will.  The only difference between an experienced knitter and new knitter is that the experienced knitter makes bigger mistakes faster.  Be bold, there are no terrible consequences in knitting.

ALVB: What do you see for the future of knitting and fiber arts? 
SPMP: Wow.  Big question. Im not sure.  I think that it’s an interesting time in the fibre arts right now, as what I think of as “the baby boom” of knitters has moved past simple projects and is asking for really interesting patterns and fibres…I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to be interesting.  I do know that there isn’t ever going to be a time when there aren’t any knitters.  We’re as perennial as the grass.

Thank you Stephanie for sharing some of your thoughts! Her blog is just great and you all check it out by going to: http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/. I also commend her for her dedication to supporting Doctors without Borders. I can’t wait for the book to come out and get reading!

Guest Blogger: Edie Eckman

I love making crochet Motifs! I think it is a really great way to use up scrap yarn to develop a wonderful and unique project. Author and designer Edie Eckman has come out with a great new book on the subject, Beyond The Square: Crochet Motifs.

I am very excited to have Edie as my guest blogger tonight and hope this entry provides some insight into how this book came about.

ALVB: This is such a unique topic for a book. How did you come up with the ideas? What was your inspiration?
EE: Two or three years ago I was in California and discovered the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya, which has amazing needlework books. I was particularly enamored of the clear photography and excellent stitch diagrams, which make it possible for non-Japanese-reading stitchers to follow the patterns. It’s amazingly easy and intuitive. Why don’t American publishers use symbol charts? It’s past time we started seeing –and using—charts. I think there would be a lot more crocheters if we presented the information both visually and in words.

So many people like granny squares, but I don’t like the term granny square when what’s really meant is “really cool interesting modular units of crochet”. There are so many variations of motifs! Coming up with ideas for me was just a matter of taking hook and yarn in hand and starting to play. There are some traditional favorites in the book,  made in lovely colorways meant to show you what you can do when you apply fun colorwork to a classic design. There are also original designs, many of which I designed on the fly—and then had to make myself slow down long enough to take notes!

ALVB: As a crochet teacher, what would you recommend to new crocheters who might want to try the shapes in your book?
EE: There are only a few stitches in crochet, with infinite permutations. (Yikes! That sounds like math. Don’t worry—there’s really no math in the book.)

If you can wrap the yarn around the hook and pull it though the loop on the hook, you can stitch anything. Don’t be afraid!

Beyond the Square Crochet Motfs includes both text and symbol charts, so you can use one or the other, or whatever combination of the two works best for you. I’ve set up a Beyond the Square group on Ravelry, so anybody working on any of the motifs can join in to talk to others. If you have questions, just ask!

ALVB: Where does your inspiration come from?
EE: I’m a kinestheic learner, so I do my best work when my hands are busy. These motifs were so much fun because they didn’t take long to make, but offered so many opportunities to experiment with shapes and colors. It was really hard to stop stitching long enough to organize the motifs and write the patterns. There’s probably another two or three books’ worth of motifs in me just waiting to be written. Someone said the cover of Beyond the Square is like eye candy. I think that’s a really good description, because I found that crocheting the motifs was like eating chocolate. It was hard to stop once I started. Or maybe it’s better than chocolate, because crocheting doesn’t add fat or calories.  I’ve also made “whole” projects from motifs lately, but I do get bored easily. I don’t want to make the same motif more than once, so I change the colors or the stitch arrangements to hold my interest.

ALVB: One of my favorite books my crochet library is The Crochet Answer Book. You have written so many books, which book of yours is your favorite or are you most proud of?
EE: Isn’t that supposed to be like asking which child is my favorite? Of course, I’m thrilled with Beyond the Square because it is just so pretty and fun. Much of that is thanks to my amazing editor Gwen, and the art department at Storey Publishing, who really make me look good. I’m proud of The Crochet Answer Book, because I hear it has helped a lot of people understand and enjoy crochet more. Another book that many knitters have found helpful is Learn to Knit Socks, which was my first pattern booklet, and continues to appeal to beginning sock knitters.

ALVB: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
EE: In the next few months I’ll be traveling all over the country, teaching and doing book signings. I love to teach, because it’s so rewarding to be there when someone says “OH! I’ve been trying to do this for months (or years) and NOW I get it!!!” My teaching and appearance schedule is available at www.edieeckman.com.

I love to hear from knitters and crocheters, especially when there are things they want to know. I have questions for them. What kinds of books do you want to buy? What kind of information do you think is missing from the current sources of information? I have my own ideas, but I wonder if I’m on track. I’d love to hear your thoughts—on my blog, or at a teaching venue, or through email.

Thank you Edie for sharing your thoughts with my readers. I have to tell you I love this book. The explanations are great and I love the conversational tone of the writing. The layout of clear and easy to follow and I love the type styles used. I also love how the colors of the motifs match the book sections. It provides a great overall continuity!

I am very excited to really jump into all the wonderful motifs in this book and I hope if any of you pick it up you share your thoughts and the motifs you create!

Guest Bloggers: Faina Goberstein and Dawn Leeseman

Faina Goberstein and Dawn Leeseman just published Casual, Elegant Knits. The book contains 24 projects that include hats, skirts, bags and lots more. The classic designs will be a great addition to your wardrobe!

Faina and Dawn were gracious enough to do a guest blog about their book and the inspiration behind it…

FG: Thank you very much for having us here with you today. We are very excited about our book and love to share our passion with others.

How/where did you get your inspiration for the designs in the book?

FG: During the two years we knew each other before this project, we always admired each other’s work. Every time we got together, we had a million ideas for different designs that were inspired by a similar taste in colors, yarns, and style of clothes. After such informal collaboration, the next natural step for us was to design together. Very soon we have realized that we have enough ideas for a book. It was not a difficult decision to make. Most of our thoughts were directed towards people with very busy lives. Our designs are stylish, casual enough for work, but also elegant enough to go to a nice restaurant, or on a date elsewhere. Our Funnel-Neck Sleeveless Top, for example, is made with a fine-gauge yarn and can be dressed up with a nice necklace for an evening affair. The same can be said about the Golden Duet Tank and the Watercolor Shawl.

DL: Working in a yarn shop gives me exposure to all aspects of the knitting world. I try to pay attention to what our knitters are looking for, sometimes I will see something knit up and say, “what if we use this silhouette with this yarn”. Faina and I are also able to look at each other’s designs and think up something that would go with the others design. Our Triple Pocket Bag in the “Elegant Afternoon” collection was a true collaboration. Faina wanted a bag to accompany the Driver’s Cap, she had a basic idea. We knew the stitch pattern needed to be similar to the Driver’ Cap, so we sketched it out, and I worked up a swatch, we met periodically as this bag was being knit up to make certain that the end result was exactly what we envisioned.

How long did you work to develop the designs?

FG: It took us a year to develop all the designs including all the writing, knitting, photography, and so on. After that it took another year to polish everything working with many wonderful people from Martingale & Co.

DL: We worked over two years from start to finish on the book. It was amazing how each collection came together. We had a few designs completed before we started getting our idea for a book. Faina has amazingly good taste and knows what to add to make those items a complete collection. We quickly realized how well we could work off of each other’s creations. We had several of our designs completed and the other design ideas were sketched before we contacted our publisher with the book idea.

What is your favorite pattern in the book?

FG: Oh no! This is a very difficult question for me. I love them all. They were part of my life for two years, you know.

I think Dawn’s felted bags are incredible. I love both of her men’s sweaters. I already made the Tweed Polo for my husband. The Watercolor Shawl and the Sheer Gauntlets are beautiful as well. I am a big fan of Dawn’s work anyway.

The most fun projects for me, out of my designs, in terms of construction were the Little Flirt Skirt, the Vintage Hat, the Driver’s Cap and the Elongated-Neck Tunic. Also the Triple-Pocket Bag was so interesting to work on. It is the only project in the book, on which we worked together to design and to implement.

DL: Oh that is a very hard question, I really love them all. I think it would be easier for me to say what would I like to make, since I did not knit up the designs that Faina created, there are several that I would like to make up for myself. I think I would like to start with the Little Flirt Skirt. It is easy and so flattering.

What do you draw on for inspiration?

FG: I think it is a combination of factors for me. On the one hand, I am drawn to color and the texture of the yarn. I like deep and vibrant or gentle and soothing colors. In other words, there are not many colors that I do not like. On the other hand, since the time I was a little girl ,who played with paper dolls, I am fascinated by clothes construction. I always notice little details like buckles, pockets, buttons, pleats, etc. It excites me when I see a well-made garment with the unusual details.

DL: I look at what is going on in the knitting world of fashion, staying up on the current trends, however I also like the classics. I have a large collection of vintage patterns and books so there are days when I get out a stack of these patterns and spend time looking through them.

Faina and I inspire each other, when one of us gets an idea for a project the other one thinks of another garment or accessory that would complement that idea.

When you are knitting for fun, what do you like to create?

FG: I love to knit for my family mostly for my daughter and myself. Sometimes my husband and my son get lucky too. I still make my own patterns, but I do not have the responsibility of writing and explaining to someone what and how I did this. After the initial sketches and gauge calculations, I just create the garment as I go. It is very relaxing for me.

DL: I love to work on sweaters from other designers, maybe something in Vogue or IK. I love to use the exact yarn called for in the pattern, and perhaps choose a different color. I feel like it gives me a vacation from thinking too hard. I love tapping into someone else’s creativity.

FG: Andrea, thank you for the interest in our book. We hope very much that we offer an inspiration for people who are looking for some fun and stylish projects to knit.

And thank YOU Faina and Dawn for sharing your insights and thoughts on your new book. You can also check out Faina’s blog by going to: http://fainasknittingmode.blogspot.com/ and Dawn’s blog by going to: http://www.knittingwithdawn.blogspot.com/.

I certainly wish you both all the best of luck!

Myra Wood: Creative Crochet Lace


Fiber Artist Myra Wood recently published a book on freeform lace. While freeform can be intimidating at first, Myra provides great photos and clear information on how to get started with this unique art form! Myra agreed to sit down for an “e-interview” to talk about her new book and give some suggestions on how to freeform!

ALVB: When did you first get the idea for the book?
MW: I love books on needlearts and have every book I can find on creative crochet and freeform as well as tons of conventional stitch guides, pattern books and books on lace crochet.

I realized a few years ago that none of them really focused on freeform crochet lace. There are incredible books on creative crochet dating back to the 70s that I love but they didn’t addressed the openwork, lacy crochet I love so much. I figured someone had to write it!
 
ALVB: How long did you work on the designs shown in the book?
MW: I really wanted to present a wide range of projects using different sized hooks and yarns so I spent years developing different techniques that incorporated various traditional styles of crochet lace. The ideas for the 5 different styles of Creative Crochet Lace in the book germinated over a few years as I’d do new pieces and finally came together over a 2 year period. The nice thing about self publishing is that you can make your own deadlines and not rush the work. I also wanted to offer a good variety of styles and projects to show people the wide range of possibilities using these techniques.
 
ALVB: What is your favorite piece?
MW: Kinda like asking which is your favorite child! I have different favorites for different reasons but my favorite thing about each one is remembering the journey and the discovery that went along with making it. The wonderful thing about freeform is watching it evolve and discovering the fabric as you make it. It’s always an adventure!
 
ALVB: Why free form?
MW: I think, as fiber artists, we are very lucky to be able to express ourselves in so many incredibly different and unique ways. Just look at the range of artistry from the International Freeform Guild: http://www.intff.org. I actually love patterns and traditional crochet and knitting too but they’re very different from immersing yourself in discovering the fabric as you go along. Nothing speaks to me or allows me to express myself like freeform!

ALVB: What would you recommend for stitchers new to free form? How should they get started?
MW: First, join our list! The most amazing freeformers from all over the world including the top teachers and artists are all on the list and are willing to help anyone interested in getting started. We have an enormous amount of resources listed in our files and archives: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FFCrochet/. There are also wonderful books by Prudence Mapstone, Margaret Hubert and Jenny Dowde available on their websites and through Amazon along with some of the great out of print books from the 70s for inspiration. There’s a list in the files of all of the great ff books you can imagine. For inspiration you have to visit: James Walter’s site: http://www.crochet.nu/ and http://freeformcrochet.com. Prudence has a wealth of information on her site as well: http://www.knotjustknitting.com/. Click on What is Freeform to see an amazingly clear demo on scrumbling. She also has long list of links for all things freeform and beyond!! Bonnie Pierce also offers a wonderful tutorial on her site: http://www.elegantcrochet.com. Scroll down to Free Form and follow the links to the tutorial for making a follow along scrumble. I’ve added a tutorial to my site at: http://www.myrawood.com/pages/demo.html. That is an alternative method. The most important thing is to experiment, use lots of different wonderful yarns and have fun scrumbling!!

Thank you Myra for taking the time to tell us about your book and your perspective on freeform! If you would like to order Myra’s book, you can click on the widget above.

The Knit So Fine Blog Tour!

Carol Sulcoski, Lisa Myers and Laura Grutzeck have recently published a great book called Knit So Fine. The book has plenty of great designs using lightweight yarns, which tend to get a bad reputation from both knitters and crocheters that they are slow to progress in your projects.

Well, Carol has agreed to be my “guest blogger” today and I am happy to have her! The following is a discussion we had about her book and her thoughts behind using “skinny yarns.” So, take it away Carol!!!

First of all, a big thank you to Andrea Lyn for hosting me today, on the very first day of the Knit So Fine Skinny Yarns Blog Tour!

Today we’re going to look at Trekking XXL, a wool/nylon sock yarn that is made in Germany by Zitron (and distributed in the USA by the Skacel company). I’ve always loved Trekking for socks, but after I got a spinning wheel and began to experiment with plying yarns, I came to love Trekking even more. There are particular colorways of Trekking that create wonderful shaded color effects via the plies: each ply changes color in long lengths, at different rates and using different hues. You end up watching colors morph into each other and back again. I’m fascinated by these colorways.

After I started spinning, I came to better understand the color effects when I was plying together yarns that I had spun. I began to wonder what would happen if I knit two strands of Trekking together. I picked about five or six different colorways that all used this shaded effect and started knitting striped swatches with them. It was addictive (much in the way that self-stripers like Noro Kureyon are addictive – you can’t wait to see what color comes next).

Since layering pieces are in fashion, I decided to go with a very simple, classic v-neck vest.

I had so much fun making stripes (you had to change both strands at once at the end of the row, and start the next row with two different strands to get really distinct stripes) that I designed the vest with a striped front. But I also loved the way the yarn looked when you switched one strand randomly. So I designed a back panel that allows the knitter to randomly drop one strand and pick up another for an impressionistic blur of colors.

CS: Andrea Lyn, you did some crocheting with Trekking – what did you think?

ALVB: I have to tell you, I am always a little worried about using skinny yarns for exactly the same reasons as most stitchers, but I think I am becoming a convert! I especially liked Trekking XXL. The feel is incredibly soft and the colors are wonderfully vibrant! I especially liked that is is 75% wool, as I prefer to use natural-occuring fibers.

You told us how the yarn’s color effects inspired the vest in your book. Where else do you get for inspiration for designs from?

CS: All over! For example, my oldest son is ten, and he wears a lot of skateboarder-style shirts, like this one:

I thought how fun it would be to translate that idea – a T-shirt style top with faux layers – into an adult style. And that’s how the Skater T came about!

Sometimes a particular yarn gives me an idea, while other times I just play around with a style I like – like a yoke sweater or a raglan – and try to come up with a little twist to make it seem fresh.

ALVB: How do you/what is your process for selecting the specific yarn for a specific design?

CS: Sometimes the yarn will inspire the design – like the Drapey Silk Vest, which was a way to show off the gorgeous drape of a pure silk yarn. Sometimes I have a design in mind but not a particular yarn, so I look for a yarn that will fit in with my mind’s eye view of the design, paying attention to things like elasticity, warmth or coolness, colors available, gauge and so on. Every once in a while, I start to swatch or knit with a yarn and discover it doesn’t behave the way I need it to, so then I have to find an alternate. There’s a lot of trial and error involved.

ALVB: How long did you work on the project?

CS: We first proposed the book idea in mid-2006, and spent several months working on swatches, sketches and an outline. We began ordering yarn, designing and knitting in the fall of 2006, and that process continued until the summer of 2007. It seemed like so little time! But luckily we finished it up and we were pleasantly surprised when the finished book starting showing up on bookshelves a few weeks earlier than our projected publication date (which was June).

Thanks again, Andrea Lyn, for hosting the first leg of the Knit So Fine Blog Tour!
Tomorrow we’ll be visiting RosieBlogs (http://www.rosieblogs.blogspot.com), the blog of Rosie’s Yarn Cellar (http://www.rosiesyarncellar.com). My co-author Lisa R. Myers – who founded and owns Rosie’s – will be chatting with Courtney Kelley about another delectable fine yarn . . .


It was my pleasure hosting you Carol! You can order Carol’s book from Amazon by clicking on the widget above!