Category Archives: Inspiration

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!

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!

My 2014 Fiber Plans

So as the calendar turns, we all look to make resolutions and plans for the upcoming year. Many have the usual plans – get in shape, lose weight, and spend more time with family to name a few. Well, I make a fiber resolution list as well. Here are my plans…

First, I really want to spend more time learning to weave. I started taking a great class on Craftsy, but as usual, other issues got in the way. I hope to spend time learning and improving my weaving skills. If you haven’t checked out Craftsy, it is definitely worth it. And they have plenty of free classes! I would also love to pick up a Zoom Loom and give that a try!

Next, I want to make another pair of socks. I made a pair awhile ago and I am not going to lie, it was tough. But I am determined to give it another try. There are so many great patterns out there, I am truly inspired!

A year or so ago I did an interpretation of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass windows. I would like to do more interpretations of other works of art. I think that will require some visits to some of the great museums in NYC. I know – it will be a tough assignment, but I will take it on.

I want to create more patterns. I have been sketching out some great ideas, but need to put hook to yarn and get them going and sent to publishers for consideration. I plan also to self publish a few! Along similar lines, I really want to write more articles. I felt very lucky to have a few pieces published in the magazine Inside Crochet in 2013. I am hoping for continued success in 2014.

Following along with artistic crochet, I would love to try to do some artistic felting. There is a great book I have been drooling over The Art of Felt: Inspirational Designs, Textures, and Surfaces
for awhile and I would love to give the techniques in the book a try.

I would like to give knitting another try. Years ago (and I mean years) I made a hat and scarf and that was it. I would like to see if I can get a little better at it. Another skill I would like to work on improving is hairpin lace. Jennifer Hansen of Stitch Diva Studios offers great instruction both on her site and Craftsy.

Finally, I want to work on my spinning skills. Just like my weaving, my spinning fell to the wayside in 2013. I really want to get started again. The classes offered by both Craftsy and the Journey to the Golden Fleece can certainly provide some great inspiration!

Well, that’s it. It is an ambitious list, but I hope to achieve all of it. What about you? I would love to hear about your fiber resolutions for 2014!

Book Review: Knits at Home

My favorite projects to make are accessories and items for the home. I have a few blankets made by my Grandmother and I truly cherish them. The new book Knits at Home: Rustic Designs for the Modern Nest is full of patterns that will give you the opportunity to create your own heirloom items.

Knits at Home
The photography in this book is absolutely top notch. They are nice and close up so you can really see the stitches and how the pattern comes together. There are patterns for every ability level that will flatter any home.

Before each pattern, there is some interesting information related to a feature of the pattern, such as “creating texture” before the ribbed fruit bowl cover. Each section provides great information!

I think my favorite pattern in the book is the patchwork pillow cover. It has a free-form feel to it and there is nothing better than a comfy pillow when hanging out on the couch. I also really like the seascape wall hanging. To top it all off, they talk about another favorite subject of mine – vintage buttons!

This is a great book from Interweave by Ruth Bridgeman. You will certainly not be disappointed!

And now, fo0r the usual fun part, 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 the lucky winner on November 6th. Good luck!

Book Review: Knitting Architecture

Knitting ArchitectureKnitting ArchitectureI have always felt that when you are creating garments, the finishing and assembly might be the most important step. It is often easy to identify homemade garments when they don’t seem to drape well. Finishing and assembly is often the most frustrating part of the process for fiber fanatics. This is where Knitting Architecture: 20 Patterns Exploring Form, Function, and Detail comes to the rescue.

This book not only provides patterns, but how stitches and style come together to create lovely garments. It draws an interesting correlation between creating a great garment and creating a great building. Along with each pattern, there is a “Get Inspired” sidebar and that is truly what it does. It is a good reminder to all of us that inspiration for our fiber arts is all around us – whether in a hand-made yarn or the design of a historic building.

I have to tell you that I had a really hard time picking a favorite pattern! I love the style of the Bird’s Nest Shrug. It certainly has a great pattern and of course the “Get Inspired” sidebar was all about the Beijing National Stadium, commonly referred to as the “Bird’s Nest.” It is definitely architectural amazement!

So here comes the fun part, you can win this book! 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 the lucky winner on September 25th. Good luck!

Book Review: Vintage Design Workshop

This week’s book review is on Vintage Design Workshop: Knitting Techniques for Modern Style by Geraldine Warner and I will tell you this is a great book!

Personally, I have always loved a variety of different vintage styles. To me, there is nothing classier than the look and style of the 1940s. The classic lines, the dramatic makeup and the hats. Anyone who knows me knows that I love when a hat can be added to any outfit. As a child I rarely left the house without something on my head. When it comes to the style of the 40s, a hat was just about a requirement! Many of the designs in this book are reminiscent of that era.

The book is split in two sections. The first section talks about vintage patterns and how to update them for use today, such as finding yarn that will work for a specific pattern or how to make sizing adjustments. The second section helps the knitter take a current pattern and give it a vintage flair. The designs and suggestions in both sections are very well executed.

What I think I love most about this book is the wide variety of original photos and advertisements from a bygone era. The first two times I went through the book my attention kept being drawn into all the great original artwork!

The writing is great. It has the relaxed conversational tone I like while still providing specific instructions when needed. My only “negative” for this book, as with most books, is that it doesn’t have a spine that lays flat. However, I don’t think it really takes away from this book as you aren’t attempting to follow a specific pattern. I consider this to be more of a master class book, or just as the name implies, a workshop.

Overall, if you love vintage styles, I highly recommend this book!

Now just like the last review, I am going to give my copy away to a reader! All you need to do is make sure you “like” my Facebook page and “like” the Facebook post for this review. I will pick a person at random to win the book. And since there wasn’t a winner in the last book review drawing, I will be giving away my copy of Knit Your Socks on Straight as well, so make sure you enter!

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.

Best of the Web – March 2013

So in the spirit of sites like Facebook and Pinterest, I thought I would start my own “best of” list for all things fiber art.

Lily Chin’s Latest Release is The Crocheter’s Toolbox. This is definitely on my “want” list. Lily Chin’s books are always great, so I certainly look forward to picking this up!

We all love Malabrigo yarn. Well, I came across this awesome looking scarf  using their Merino Worsted yarn. I think it is just great! I keep looking at it to see if there is a way to make this into a crochet pattern.

You may not know this, but I love owls. I came across this little owl magnet on Etsy. The colors are just great and it just looks perfect to me!

The last link and photo I want to share for March’s “best of” is of a yarn bombing by the Ladies Fancywork Society. Now for those of you who are new to the concept, yarn bombing is an artsy form of graffiti using crocheted and knitted pieces as opposed to using paint. In recent years, yarn bombing has really taken off. This project -The Flower Garden Fence – is a fence in the Downtown Denver Union Station neighborhood. Just awesome!

I hope you liked this first list. Do you have a link you would like me to include? Email it to me at:
andrea@alvbfiberart.com.
I would love to hear from you!

All Aboard for the Crochet Tour!

March is National Crochet Month and a real treat has been planned thanks to Amy Shelton of Crochetville. She has organized A Tour through Crochet Country during the entire month! Each day one (or on some days two) crochet bloggers will have a special post just for National Crochet Month.

List of Stops Along the Tour

Click on any designer’s name to go directly to their blog.

March 1 Jenny King Shelby Allaho
March 2 Ellen Gormley Nancy Nehring
March 3
Phyllis Serbes Mona Muhammad
March 4
Amy O’Neill Houck Akua Hope
March 5
Mary Jane Hall Lindsey Stephens
March 6
Edie Eckman Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby
March 7
Jennifer Cirka Annette Stewart
March 8
Andrea Graciarena LeAnna Lyons
March 9
Dawn Cogger Angela Whisnant
March 10
Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten Renee Rodgers
March 11 Joy Prescott Donna Childs
March 12 Pam Daley Deb Burger
March 13 Tammy Hildebrand Marty Miller
March 14 Jocelyn Sass
March 15 Andee Graves
March 16 Laurinda Reddig
March 17 Brenda Bourg
March 18 Rhonda Davis
March 19 Julie Oparka
March 20
April Garwood
March 21
Alaina Klug
March 22
Erin Boland
March 23
Margaret Hubert
March 24
Bonnie Barker
March 25
Kim Guzman Susan Huxley
March 26
Susan Lowman
March 27
Marie Segares
March 28
Kathy White
March 29
Amy Shelton Donna Hulka
March 30
Linda Dean
March 31
Karen C K Ballard Gwen Blakley-Kinsler

A special way to participate

Those of us who are participating have also decided to support a charity during this special month. Project Night Night is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides over 25,000 Night Night Packages each year to homeless children. Each package consists of a new sturdy tote bag with a new security blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal. These comfort objects help to reduce the trauma of homelessness for the children served by Project Night Night. Both the handmade blankets and stuffed animals provide the children with objects of love and security.

You can help Project Night Night by making and sending in a new crocheted blankets (50” x 60” or smaller) and/or making a financial donations. I hope you will consider supporting this organization as part of our celebration of crochet.

So I hope you will hop on the train for the tour and enjoy all these wonderful artists, designers, and bloggers have to say! And if you would like, please spread the word to other crocheters. All aboard!

Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool 2012

There are very few words someone can say to a group of individuals that immediately stir emotions. For fiber fanatics, one of those words is Rhinebeck.

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held at the Dutchess County fairgrounds, better known as “Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool,” was last weekend. For the last several years, I go to the show by way of a wonderful bus trip run by Jill Deal Yarn in Milford, PA, however, this year I had a very important event on Sunday that kept me from participating – my niece’s Confirmation. I thought I would have to miss this year’s event completely, but thanks to my wonderful husband, I was able to go on Saturday by hopping a ride on the Amtrack. It was quite the adventure!

I hopped the NJ Transit train in Dover, NJ into New York City. Then it was the Amtrak to Rhinecliff, NY, and finally a short taxi ride to the fairgrounds. A total of four hours door-to-door. I made arrangements to meet the taxi a few hours later and off I went!

At first, I was a bit frantic. I only had four hours to get to everything. My usual plan when going to Rhinebeck is to make one or two rounds and make mental notes of what I plan to purchase and then on the last round, pick everything up. Well, this year I had to purchase when I saw it. I still made mental notes for items that I would not be able to purchase at the event, but hope to plan to at some point in the future.

The purchase I made was was one of my favorite vendors – Golding Fiber Tools. I picked up a set of Knitters Pride Dreamz crochet hooks. They were quite reasonable, VERY light, comfortable, and just lovely! I own a Golding spindle and I can say with great confidence, their work is some of the best out there and they offer their tools at a wide variety of price points so you can find something to fit your budget. Purchasing a spindle is a great and inexpensive way to get started in spinning and there is nothing like spinning on a quality spindle.

I found a great spinning seat that I plan on buying in the future. They were all hand-turned and cost between $120 and $150, depending on the type of wood used. The best part is that he does ship! As I was on the train, it didn’t make much sense to try to bring this home so I plan on picking one up.

I also had a chance to try out a spinning wheel called “Hopper” from Spinolution. This is a portable-style wheel and it spins like a dream! The woman at the booth let me spin for a long as I wanted and answered all my questions. The wheel retails for a little more than $800. Definitely a well made wheel!

I had a chance to say a quick hello to Susan from Susan’s Fiber Shop. This is the only time of year I get to see her and I always make sure to say hello. Her booth was full of fibery goodness as always! For those of you who don’t know Susan, she is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

As always, there were many different finished pieces available for sale from a wide variety of different artisans. One vendor had these beautifully made hand-felted scarves. Felting is something I keep saying I want to learn more about, but that never seems to happen. It is definitely on my list.

I also checked out the Schacht Cricket Loom. There is now a 10 inch model available, which is just the right size for condo living. That will be on my list to Santa this year for sure!

The leaves were in all their glory and the weather was just perfect! There was only a slight chill in the air, making it perfect for some leaf peeping and hot cider. The colors on the trees were just lovely.

In what seemed like no time, I had to meet the taxi to head back to the train station to catch the Amtrack back to NYC and then the NJ Transit train back to Dover.

Overall it was a great day and it always goes by too quickly. The train was a nice ride – although a long one. I hope to take Jill’s bus trip next year. Once I was back on the the train in New Jersey, I was able to snap a shot of the Freedom Tower being built in lower Manhattan. It was certainly a beautiful sight!