Category Archives: Free Form

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!

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!

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!

Give Yourself Permission

Anyone who knows me for more than 10 minutes knows I have just a slight obsession with Billy Joel. OK, a giant obsession. I have been a fan of his since I was a child. I have every album, every box set, and have spent tons of money to see him in concert. I played those albums over and over and over as my cousins will attest. I still have a t-shirt from the River of Dreams tour. So I was in heaven last night when there were two separate television shows on that included my favorite piano man. First, he was on the celebration of Carole King’s receiving the Gershin Prize. Second, he was on American Restoration to have Rick Dale work on a motorcycle for him. Talk about television watching perfection!

While Rick was walking Billy around, he shows him an old Steinway spinet in the boneyard. What does he do? He starts to play like it’s nothing. Amazing!

Like many, I took piano lessons when I was younger. I liked it, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. I didn’t mind learning classical, but I wanted to learn how to improv. I wanted to learn the concepts of sight reading. It never happened.

Most of my time in high school was spent in the music department. Band, chorus, orchestra, marching band – you name it, I was involved in it. My schedule was developed around those classes. Even though I loved spending time in the music department, I knew early on that I just didn’t have what it would take to go to the next level.Still, it gave me wonderful experiences and most of all, it led me to my wonderful husband – a band director.

So why am I telling you all this you might wonder? Watching Billy Joel just play a tune on the Steinway like it was nothing made me think of the first time I attempted to do free form crochet and my experience playing piano.

Um, what? I’m sure you are wondering where this is going. Welcome to my thought process…

Growing up, we are all taught to follow the directions. Color inside the lines. For me, I learned how to read notes on a page of music, but I never learned how to interpret music. I never learned how to lift the notes off the page. My crochet experience was similar. I learned how to follow directions in a pattern, but that was it. I wanted to play. I wanted to sing!

Easier said than done.

Well, luckily, I had some wonderful guidance from four specific free form artists: Prudence Mapstone, Myra Wood, Margaret Hubert, and Melanie Gill. They taught me an important lesson which was the basis for all my creativity. Give yourself permission.

What might that mean you ask?

That means to give yourself permission to NOT color inside the lines. Lift the music off the page! Don’t think about what you are doing, just do! And most of all, don’t worry about how your work will be judged.

While these may sound like straightforward concepts, they have been very hard lessons for me to learn – in my fiber arts as well as in life.

It may take time to unlearn the early lessons of childhood in order to unlock your creativity, but don’t give up.  I haven’t.

Meeting Other Artisans

Today I participated in a unique craft and lecture event at Saint Clare’s in Denville. While the attendance was light – and on such a beautiful fall day, who wants to be inside – I did have a great time and was able to meet three incredibly talented artisans.

Next to me was Miriam Seiden. She had some of the most lovely jewelry I have seen in quite a while. Her work was of high quality, incredibly creative, and certainly unique. She used a lot of big stones and silver in her work she had available. Each piece made a statement.

Ameenah Designs designs capes, shawls, vests, coats, and hats. Each piece is made by her and has great style and quality. It is easy to see the care and creativity in her work.

My favorite, I think, was Peach Fuzz Fiber Art. She had great bags, fiber bowls, jackets, shawls, and other incredibly creative items. Her free form-style work had just the right touch of whimsy!

Overall, it was a fun day, even though we didn’t have many customers.

A Creative Project and a Wonderful Cause

Since 2006, the International Freeform Crochet Guild has conducted an annual project focused on fiber arts creativity. Over the years subjects have included fairy tales, mythology, the four seasons, earth – air – fire – water, and more. This year, the challenge was to interpret a work of art or music.

Inspired” includes artwork from fiber artists from around the world. The pieces inside are just beautiful and show the creativity of all the different participants.

The best part of the project Inspired is that the book highlighting all the artists is supporting  Doctors Without Borders and Souls of Somanya. All profits from “Inspired” will help these two worthwhile organizations. Doctors Without Borders works in nearly 70 countries providing medical aid to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation. Soul of Somanya, Inc. is a small organization staffed mostly by volunteers, headquartered in Mobile, Alabama in the U.S. Soul of Somanya, Inc. is working hard to develop sustainable employment opportunities there (currently in the field of jewelry-making and other bead work) for disadvantaged youth whose job prospects are very limited by their lack of family support and/or limited levels of education.

I hope you check out these amazing works of art!

What are Your Fiber Art Goals for 2011?

As 2010 draws to a close, many of us start to make goals for the next year. Along with the usual wants like “lose weight” or “exercise more,” I think about what fiber arts goals I would like for 2011.

So what are my goals? I want to find more time to spin as well as improve my spinning skills. This year I haven’t had anywhere near enough time to spin, so that is right at the top of my list.

Next, I want to actually crochet (and finish!) a pair of socks. Yes, I know this sounds a tad silly, but I can’t tell you how many socks that start out, well, as socks and end up as wrist warmers!

I want to spend more time being creative. That means developing more patterns, focusing on my free form and felting and writing more fiber-focused articles.

So, I would say those are my three main fiber goals for 2011. What are your 2011 fiber goals?

My Ultimate Fiber Christmas List

It is the time of year when everyone makes their lists. So, here is my ultimate fiber Christmas list.

pocket spinning wheelWhile at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival this year, I saw the original Pocket Wheel. This wheel has a great feel and spins like a dream. This is on the top of my ultimate fiber list!

To go with the pocket wheel, I’ll need to get some fiber. That  means getting fiber from Laurie’s Lambs! Additionally, Susan’s Fiber Shop and The Woolery have great fiber options.

To go with my new wheel and fiber, I of course need to add a new spindle to the list. This is easy. I have always wanted a Moosie spindle from Journey Wheel. These amazing spindles are made from Moose antler sheds. While we are talking about spindles, Golding spindles are always just beautiful and spin like a dream! I have always wanted the Golding Spindle“Midnight Sky” spindle.” Team Golding is incredibly talented and should be seriously considered when looking for that special spindle.

At the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year, I treated myself to a mini glass crochet hook from Michael and Shelia Ernst . Well, on my ultimate fiber Christmas list, I want the full one! They are just gorgeous. The Turquesa model, please. Also while at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past May, I won a Weavette in an auction. These are incredibly tough to find. I would love to get a few more in different sizes.

Fiber arts and books always go hand-in-hand. That means, I have lots of books on my list! First and foremost, Creative Crochet Lace: A Freeform Look at Classic Crochet by Myra Wood is at the top! Myra is a wonderfully talented artist and an even better friend.

During the past year, I have been fascinated by hyperbolic crochet. That  means I have to add Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes to my list. If you have seen hyperbolic crochet, I highly recommend you check it out!

Along with crochet and spinning, I also love to felt and enjoy reading the history of fiber arts. That means I have to add Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, The Art of Felt: Inspirational Designs, Textures, and Surfaces and In Sheep’s Clothing: A Handspinner’s Guide to Wool to my list.

Last, but  certainly not least, I have to add a felting machine. I currently do needle felting, but would love to try it on a machine. Janome makes some great machines, but I hear the Singer felting machine is just as good and less expensive. I also saw a mini felting machine somewhere once; that would be perfect!

So there you have it. My ultimate fiber Christmas list. What’s yours?

Getting Started in Free Form

Since the recent (and wonderful) classes with Prudence Mapstone on the east coast of the U.S., there have been many discussions on several of the online groups I belong to about how to get started with free form. While I am far from an expert, I thought I would try to help those who are looking to take their first free form steps.

First off, give yourself permission to break all the rules you have been taught! We all spend our lives in school learning to “stay inside the lines” that when you are told to go free, it is hard to color outside the lines. That was (and sometimes still is) the hardest step for me. Combine yarns, colors, textures and stitches to create something wonderful and all your own!

Next, I suggest you check out the International Freeform Crochet Guild website. There are great resources, links and examples of free form to help get you started. There is also a link to the official discussion group of the Guild. The members of this group are wonderfully supportive and love to help each other get started and as they progress through their free form projects.

There are some great resources available for helping to get started. A great book by James Walters and Sylvia Cosh called The Crochet Workbook. Sylvia and James are considered one of the first noticed in the free form movement. While this book can be hard to find, if you are able to get it, I highly recommend it! Another great book by (none other than) Prudence Mapstone is Freeform: Serendipitous Design Techniques for Knitting & Crochet. This book shows stitches you can use to create the motifs known as “scrumbles” and how to connect them to build your masterpiece! She also has another book to help with the dreaded bullion stitch. Bullions & Beyond: Tips and Techniques for the Crochet Bullion Stitch is a great primer for mastering this stitch, which is often a mainstay (but obviously not required) in free form. The wonderfully creative Margaret Hubert has a wide variety of books available on both more “traditional” crochet, as well as free form. One book of hers I own is Fun with Free-Form Crochet. This book not only shows how to do different stitch and how to combine them, but she also has several complete projects, which is a great way to learn how to take those scrumbles and apply them directly to a project!

Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful (and my mentor) Myra Wood. Her first book, Creative Crochet Lace: A Freeform Look at Classic Crochet, takes traditional lace and gives is  free form flair! Her latest book, Crazy Lace:an artistic approach to Creative Lace Knitting, focuses on free form knitting. Both are wonderful books and should be a part of every free form library! I did an interview with Myra about her first book, which I was very excited to do!

There are also great web resources such as Margo’s Crochet Corner, Jenny Dowde and of course, James Walters, Prudence Mapstone, Myra Wood and Margaret Hubert.

I hope this is a good primer for getting started in free form. Please be sure to share as you begin your journey!

Learning Free Form Crochet From the Master – Prudence Mapstone

Even Ghandi was cold today!

Today I had the pleasure of finally having the opportunity to take a free form class with one of the masters of the art — Prudence Mapstone! I have had the opportunity to get to know Prudence over the last few years and couldn’t wait to hear about her process directly from her. It was quite cold when I left the house (10 degrees Fahrenheit) this morning at 5:45 a.m. to meet up with a fellow free form buddy to catch the bus to New York City.

Within the hour we were a few blocks from the Lion Brand Yarn Studio enjoying a wonderful breakfast! Afterward we headed out into the wind and cold to walk the last few blocks to the Studio. We arrived at 9:25 a.m. for our class. To our disappointment, the woman working refused to let us in saying we were there too early. We tried to explain that we were told by arrive by 9:30 a.m., but she was adamant and wouldn’t let us in and said to come back at class time. Annoyed and cold, we walked another block to a coffee shop and sat another little bit to sit and warm up. We let 15 minutes pass and decided to walk back and tell her that if class is supposed to start at 10:00 a.m., they would have to let us in ahead of time to be ready. Well, to our surprise, the shop was already bustling! I was quite miffed! When I asked why it was now OK, she said (and I quote), “well, you got here at 9:25 and I wasn’t opening the doors until 9:30.” Um, really? She knew I was less than pleased and ignored her and headed over to see the person I wanted to see and visit with most of all…Prudence!

We all immediately started chatting at once like school girls! It was wonderful! After a quick catch-up, we settled down, ready to begin.

Prudence’s amazing wall hanging!

She already had some of her wonderful scrumbles out, her wraps, beautiful coats and an amazing new wall hanging!

I cannot describe how helpful her guidance for free form projects was today! She shared how she develops her scrumbles, assembles her garments and connect scrumbles to each other. At one point I became somewhat stuck with the piece I was working on when I asked her for assistance. She simply said “it has finished telling you what to do with that piece right now–put it aside and start another one.” She also advised to never pull apart a scrumble because you don’t like it at the moment. Set it aside and start a new piece. It has finished “speaking to you” at the moment. Give it some time…a few days to even when you are ready to do something with all your pieces. You never know how they will all work together!

 

One of Prudence’s amazing scrumbles!

The hours passed by quicker than you could imagine. After a few quick purchases, the ladies of the International Free Form Crochet Guild posed for a few photos. We said our goodbyes so Prudence could prepare for her afternoon class and headed into the cold again (now a balmy 30 degrees) to catch the bus back to New Jersey.

I cannot thank Prudence enough for her time, her encouragement and her creative thought process. I plan to send her photos as my scrumbles progress and turn into whatever they tell me they should be!

If you would like to see more photos of today’s class, please join my Facebook page.