Thursday, November 20, 2014

Premiere Issue: DIY Holiday ~ The Crafting Life

Three lucky winners can enter for a chance to win a copy of the brand new, DIY Holiday. Add your email on my blog where it says “follow” and email me a note that you did so. US addresses only, please, by December 1 at midnight. Good luck!

I don’t usually expect to find consistent pattern quality in a magazine that is stretched in as many directions as this Premiere Issue published by Interweave/F + W. However, the editors, Amber Eden and Karin Strom, have proven me wrong! Included are 25+ hand-crafted projects for the holidays and you will find familiar names among the designers across many genres: crochet (4 projects); Knitting (4); Quilting (4); Modern Sewing (4); Needlework (2); Jewelry (4); Mixed Media (3); and Weaving (2).

Shisha Ornaments by Susan Haynes Opdahl
Designated “Cool Crafts on the Cheap,” several projects were also chosen in mind for cost conscience crafters. DIY Holiday has everything one needs to take on a new craft, including downloadable patterns, helpful PDFs, and a bonus tree skirt project. An array of sophisticated (but not necessarily difficult) projects encourages the reader to dabble in other creative avenues and to explore a new skill.

Pine Trees by Yumiko Alexander
Perfect for Holiday gift-giving, you will also find yourself referring to this issue over and over because the designs will carry you not only through the holidays but will inspire during the entire calendar year. Included among many are these two unique designs:  mittens made from a sweater and a pillow based on the mathematical constant “pi”  which you can finish in time to Celebrate Mathematics on March 14!

Envelope Clutch by Erin Harris & Pi Pillow Malka Dubrawsky
Colorful and creatively designed, this magazine has a wealth of information; and be sure to note the advertisements to be in the know about the latest and greatest in the world of creative arts!

Available from the good folks at Interweave/F+W, DIY Holiday 2014: The Crafting Life is available for $9.99.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cute Critter Crochet by Maki Oomachi

The only way to describe Maki’s new book is just plain “Cute!” There is a sweetness about each and every one of the 30 patterns she has created that keeps the crocheter moving through the book to make almost every one! I previously blogged  a positive review of Maki’s previous book, Simply Adorable Crochet. She has outdone herself with this 2nd installation for Craftside Publishing.

Maki is an extremely talented artist whose animal figures are realistic yet approachable due to the cheery colors she uses to add a splash of whimsy with  adorable accessories such as a miniature scarf, flowers and a water ring to tell us something about the animal’s personality.

The easy-to-follow patterns provide step-by-step instructions with diagrams and colorful photographs. Download  a free pattern and see for yourself! The binding on the book allows it to lay flat and stay open for the convenience of hands-free crocheting. These must-have projects to make for kids or for the animal-lover in your life will teach you so much about crochet construction through the 200+ color photos & 300+ diagrams.

Published in October 2014 this worthwhile publication is available for the retail price of $21.99.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Craftsy Class: See It, Crochet It, Reading Diagrams Presented by Charles Voth

November 4, 2014

Taught by Charles Voth
Who better to teach a class on Symbol Crochet than Charles Voth, aka StitchStud? Symbol crochet is an international language that is readable no matter which language you speak. By his own admission, Charles is “an international guy.” He grew up in Columbia, South America, speaks Spanish fluently, and currently lives in Canada.  A contributing editor for a London-based magazine and others, Charles translates patterns into Spanish and is a published designer. His skill and understanding is very apparent throughout this online class, See It, Crochet It, Reading Diagrams presented by Craftsy. Sign up by November 15 and you can enter to win the class for free. For a limited time (December 15), you can save 50% on the cost of the class.

Charles Voth aka Stitch Stud
A lifelong crocheter, Charles learned to crochet at the young age of 4; he is also a skilled knitter. In addition to his love of color and the feel of fiber in crochet, he says “symbol crochet is awesome because the crocheter can see the whole project right from the start!”

This class is a very thorough guide to symbol crochet with the benefit of Charles’ patient teaching skills included “live.” He speaks slowly and his demonstrations with the crochet hook and swatch are easy to view and they reinforce what he has just said.

Live Demos Help Clarify
There is also a “30-second repeat button” which the participant can use to review any tricky techniques. In-between the lessons,  informative tidbits like “Symbols were used as early as the 19th century; “symbol diagrams don’t give preference to right or left-handed crocheters;” and “Ami” is Japanese for knit and crochet" are offered on the screen.

This class is comprised of 7 lessons: Basic Symbols; Reading Row Diagrams; Advanced Row Diagrams; Textured Stitch Diagrams; Diagrams in the Round; 3-D Diagrams and Diagrams around the World.” Each lesson has several chapters; and at any point during Charles’ presentations, participants can write in questions and he will answer them. They are also available for future reference.

I highly recommend this method of learning about crochet in general, and See It, Crochet It, Reading Diagrams is no exception. There is a 100% money- back guarantee on all classes; classes can be watched where and when desired; and their access never expires.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: Soul Mate Dolls ~ Dollmaking as a Healing Art by Noreen Crone-Findlay

Soul Mate Dolls ~ Dollmaking as a Healing Art
Sparked by a recent trip to  American Girl Place (AG)  in Chicago with my granddaughter, Chloe, I’ve moved into “doll mode.”  My own AG doll has lived with me for at least ten years and I possess life-long love dolls!

The joy of crocheting fashions in miniature, made it necessary to have someone to wear the fruits of my labor. My granddaughter, Chloe, has enjoyed playing with my doll when she visits; and now, as she approaches the age of five influenced by an older friend, she has begun to want her own. Two years ago I put “dibs” on a plan to be the special one to buy her first A G doll since I am the one who loves dolls, unlike my daughters who were never very caught up in doll play.

On the calendar for two months, our special “Girls’ Day Out” finally arrived! I tried my best to contain my excitement to an acceptable level. It was a great outing for all of us, including high tea at the store with the newly purchased Sarah. What fun!

Matching Nightgowns I made for Chloe and Sarah
My love affair with dolls dates back to my childhood and I don’t know if it was more my love of my grandmother, Myrtle, who fashioned my first Ginny Doll clothes or the doll herself that held the allure for me. I’ve written about dolls and I’ve written about the healing properties of the needle arts.

Perusing my crochet book shelf this week, I came upon Noreen’s book, published in 2000. The subtitle, Doll Making as a Healing Art, and the cover endorsements by authors of books in similar genres, Christine Northrup  and Sherrill Miller caught my attention. Noreen’s words, “Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and open doors to creativity, healing and wholeness, by making dolls that express your feelings, desires and wholeness,” inspired me to revisit this treasured book, jump inside the pages to let Noreen “lead me on a mystical journey, filled with metaphors, magic and special friends that will reshape and restore my soul.”

Noreen oozes with creativity and it plays out in doll imagery. She is an artist, dollmaker and professional puppeteer. Her workshops help women to enrich their lives by inspiring an expanding their creativity. If this book is already on your crochet library shelves, I highly recommend you grab hold and seriously read the text. It is comforting and brings joy to the heart as Noreen addresses everyday concerns that we all have. If this book is new to you, run to buy it!

Grandmother Tree Soul Mate Doll
Not intended as medical advice, the goal of the book is to inspire us to pay attention to images and metaphors with feelings of wholeness as we observe how the procesess works on a deeper level. Noreen's generous instructions in topics such as crochet, emroidery, weaving on a square loom, sewing, knitting and lap loom work, makes it easy to launch from her basic "flat soulmate doll" templates onto creative paths that inspire the reader to personalize the doll as her/his own.

Now let’s launch back to present day and take a look at what the ever-creative Noreen Crone-Findlay is up to now. Stackpole books will be publishing her latest book, Peg and Stick Loom Weaving, in 2015.

Congratulations, Noreen, and I will look forward to reviewing the new book when it comes out!

Noreen Crone-Findlay

Noreen and I go way back. We became fast friends with so much in common when we both taught at Crochet Guild Conferences. We've shared ideas an traded treasures. Two of Noreen's hand-made crochet hooks shall be forever treasured as they are no longer avaialble.

Prin came along to a CGOA conference and met a friend, Woomie
Noreen gifted me this incredible "Queen Hook."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Make the World Better with a Sweater

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Make the World Better with a Sweater is a woolly wonderful way to do both. On National Sweater Day (Friday, December 12), ask your friends and family to wear their most festive holiday sweaters, donate $5 to Save the Children and spread the holiday joy! Together, with sweaters, we can make the world a better place – transforming children's lives and the future we all share."
For years after my husband and I served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Honduras we supported Save the Children with pennies-a-day donations to support a child in a third world country. We went through more than one child because when they turn 18, the support is suspended. It was gratifying to receive actual letters from the children we "adopted."

We crocheters share the ultimate enthusiasm for sweaters and this is a fun and easy way to make a difference. Find out how you can hold a sweater party, donate or spread the word through social media. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sewing Forgiveness

As if it was not exciting enough to be traversing along Ravenswood Avenue during the neighborhood Art Walk in the crisp air and warm sun of autumn last Sunday! Add to that the pleasure of running into the display of Cathi Schwalbe outside the Lill Street Art Center (Chicago)!

Cathi Schwalbe: Sewing Forgiveness
Named as one of the featured artists during Chicago Artists Month (October 2014), Cathi's performance piece, "Sewing Forgiveness: City of Chicago" will appear in a number of venues around the city. What a delight she is...taking in everything in her environment with her generous and child-like enthusiasm, offering to sew a button on anyone who passes by!

Sewing a button on  this gentleman
I was immediately taken by her ~ the title of her exhibit, the display of old suitcases filled with vintage buttons.

Button supply in vintage suitcases
It didn't hurt that she was super-complimentary about my unique purse from Mexico and admired my jewelry!

My Mexican leather purse-fall colors!
The button I chose for Cathi to sew on.
A native of semi-rural Wisconsin, Cathi is a long-time recreational therapist, she was first drawn to art by "the beauty in agricultural building-I liked barns and bins and cribs-and the sculptural landscape. Social practice and art making equal a response to commodity and object making; social engagement much like the other half of my life as a recreation therapist, aims to engage for engagement's sake." ...and engage she does with fun, sharing and caring!

Photography by Brian Eaves
On her blog, Cathi describes her art work: "My art explores aging, agriculture, nature and science, the concepts of plenty and want, reuse, food systems, and being human through a variety of media including high-fired clay, artist books, events, growing, installation, found objects, fiber and cast metal.

Potable:  Feilds Progject, Rock Springs, Wisconsin 2013

Teosenite, Zea, Maiz, Corn, 2006
Teosinte...was a Fields Project Art Residency in Oregon, IL over 12 acres!

"Why corn? It is solidly Midwestern, like I am. I have found through the deep exploration of corn, more than its history and imagery, but the fundamentals of humanity itself."

Harvest Dinner: Lill Street Art Center, 2010. Each diner received a plate after dining! Photo by Schwalbe.
I am well aware of the healing aspects of crochet; and Cathi is on the same path with her intereactive performance pieces. She offers tranquility as she sews her gift of buttons onto strangers!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Artist Pate Conaway is in a New Exhibit

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pate Conaway: Mixed Media Artist

Pate Conaway
Not only is Pate one of the talented artists featured in my book, The Fine Art of Crochet ~ Innovative Works by 20 Contemporary Artists, but he is a friend. Pate's gentle and endearing personality ensures that he makes friends wherever he goes.

Chapter 4: Pate Conaway

His method, installation and performance, draws Pate's viewers in as they try to comprehend what he is doing and how he is doing it. Using commonly found materials, he plays upon those looks of recognition as he cleverly transforms his mateials into their final state of artistic wonder!

Not much time is left, but I invite you to attend his interactive exhibit September  27, 1PM-5PM or September 28 (closing reception) from 12 PM-4PM at the Roman Susan Art Space, 1224 W. Loyola, Chicago, Illinois. You'll be glad you went!

Recently my chapter of the Crochet Guild of America invited Pate as a guest artist and special gift to the members during our celebration of the 20th anniversary of our chapter. If you would like to have a unique presentation and amazing glimpse at the possibilities of crochet, invite Pate to your next event.

Having spent the month of September at the gallery with this evolving installation, Pate was able to document his experience with photos and words on his blog. Do keep in mind that his chapter in The Fine Art of Crochet tells the story of his artistic inspiration and would make a lovely holiday gift for any artist or crocheter!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest Blogger: Sharon Hernes Silverman, author

September 23, 2014

Sharon Hernes Silverman is the consumate professional; she sets the bar high for all of us! She is efficient, does what she says she's going to do with deadlines she has agreed to. She is confident in her knowledge and expertise and precisely shares with others.

A designer, author, and instructor based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, she is a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America and a design member of The National NeedleArts Association. You can find her at website, RavelryFacebook and Pinterest. Read what she has to say about her love of Tunisian crochet here in tandem with my blog today in which I review her seventh book, Tunisian Crochet for Baby.

Sharon Hernes Silverman

Gwen: Share with us a bit of Tunisian crochet history.
SHS: “The craft known as “Tunisian crochet” has been around for centuries, although the exact time and location of its origin is unclear. It is also known as afghan stitch, shepherd’s knitting, and tricot knotting. I think of Tunisian crochet as a hybrid of knit and crochet.”

Gwen: How did you learn the technique and when?
SHS: “I first came across Tunisian crochet while browsing through a stitch dictionary about eight years ago. I started with a swatch of Tunisian simple stitch, and worked my way through every Tunisian stitch in the book. I couldn’t believe what was coming off my hook! That started my exploration of all things Tunisian, which is still going strong.”

Gwen: What about Tunisian crochet intrigues you?
SHS: “First, a confession… Although I love crochet in general, I am not a fan of the rivers of double crochet stitches with which too many garments are designed: too bulky, too loopy, poor shaping. When people say they “don’t like the look of crochet,” I think those are the kinds of patterns they are reacting to—and I’d have to agree. Garments like that give me flashbacks to those awful vests from the 1970s.

Tunisian crochet presents an opportunity to create a totally different kind of fabric. Loops are added to the hook in one direction, and worked off in the other direction, so the stitches are connected to each other horizontally as well as row to row. Because of this unique construction, the resulting fabrics are different than anything you can create in regular crochet. Some of them look knitted or woven. It’s perfect for cables and for intarsia/Fair isle, and for entrelac.”

Gwen: What are the pros and cons of using Tunisian crochet:
SHS: “Pros:
Versatility. Tunisian will add all sorts of new fabrics, stitch patterns, and techniques to a crocheter’s repertoire.
Flexibility. Tunisian crochet’s reputation as being thick and bulky, suitable only for afghans, is undeserved. With the right yarn and hook combination, and a well-chosen stitch pattern, you can make everything from fine openwork lace to warm garments. I think the craft should have a motto: “Tunisian crochet; it’s not just for afghans anymore!”
Speed. Tunisian crochet seems to go really fast.
The ability to create a fabric that looks knitted, for those of us who are rudimentary knitters.
Fun! It is impossible to keep the smile off my face when I am doing Tunisian crochet. Something about it is exceedingly enjoyable.

The first row tends to curl. To address this, mix in some Tunisian purl stitches (Tps) on that row, or do the entire row in Tps. (You can also do the first two rows in single crochet if that will work in your finished piece.) Steam blocking also helps relax the curl, as does using a slightly larger hook than you would ordinarily reach for.
Tunisian knit stitch has a knitted look on the right side, but a ridge on the wrong side. That makes the resulting fabric thicker than regular knit fabric.
Since all of the loops on a given row are on the hook at once, it can get quite heavy if you’re making a large piece. I find that a Tunisian hook with a flexible plastic extension, rather than a long solid hook, means that I’m not carrying all that weight on my forearms.”

Gwen: What is it about Tunisian crochet that makes you want to promote it in your books?
SHS: “Tunisian crochet isn’t a fad. It is as bona fide craft that is attracting the attention of top designers. That makes it an ideal time to learn—beautiful new patterns are being published all the time! For people like me who are more comfortable with a crochet hook than knitting needles, Tunisian crochet hugely expands the kind of fabrics we can make, and the projects that are accessible to us. I’d love to have others discover how exciting and fun Tunisian crochet is.

There are a lot of great resources available, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of them. The Tunisian crochet groups on Yahoo and Ravelry are good places to start. Check out the video tutorials on YouTube as well.”


Book Review: Tunisian Crochet for Baby by Sharon Hernes Silverman

September 23, 2014

Tunisian Crochet for Baby by Sharon Hernes Silverman

Tunisian Crochet for Baby
Ranging from quick and easy hats to cozy sweaters, Sharon’s projects in Tunisian Crochet for Baby allow your hook to create unique looking fabrics. If you have never used the Tunisian method before, no worries! Included in the book are excellent sections, Traditional Crochet Skills Refreshers, Tunisian Crochet Skills Refreshers along with a helpful Beyond the Basics section.

Also the author of Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting,  and Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets, Hernes Silverman is passionate about the technique and has spent years perfecting her skills and her designs. She shows us that not all baby items need to be done in pastels; and her patterns add excitement to gifts you will want to give to beautiful babies and deserving moms year after year!

Checkerboard Blanket & Hat
To learn more about Sharon and her mission to educate crocheters about Tunisian Crochet read her Guest Post also on my blog this week.

There is something for everyone in this book, especially those who have wanted to try their hand at a technique that has gained popularity in recent years. Even the simplest “Sunny Bow” headband is somehow more appealing and unique than similar because it is done in the Tunisian technique! Or is it the absolutely gorgeous model baby that makes you want to make it right now! Personally, I plan to make several to have on hand, ready to go when the next baby arrives!

Sunny Bow
Simple wash cloths requiring beginner and intermediate skills use the same colors that previously were used in other projects in the book. Together, in many vibrant colors, they are almost sculpture-like. On display in your bathroom, you will have a little trouble allowing your guests to use them because they are so pretty!

Washcloth Quartest in Nursery Box
The Christening gown, bonnet and booties set is an heirloom that will be treasured for generations to come. Worked in Jamie from Lion Brand the gown requires experienced skill level with intermediate skills necessary for the bonnet and booties.

Christening Gown

Christening Booties and Hat

Sharon has done a huge amount of work to showcase her vast knowledge of crochet. She has even included symbol charts for each pattern because these visual representations make specific sections of the patterns more understandable.

Tunisian Crochet for Baby, published by Stackpole Books, is available for $21.95.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert

September 18, 2014

The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert

Hookalicious Rating:  

Every crocheter's library should include guide book. I have found, also, that crocheters quickly become avid book collectors and may have more than one example of any given technique or crochet category. If this is the case with you, just know that your money will be well-invested in Margaret Hubert’s comprehensive reference book which covers all aspects of crochet.

You can also try your luck at winning your own free copy of Margaret's  book by adding your email to "follow" my blog AND sending me a direct email by midnight on Monday September 22 to let me know you did so. United States residents only, please, to enter to win.

This book provides a reference for all methods, including Tunisian, intermeshing, broomstick lace, hairpin lace, and freeform crochet and includes step-by-step instructions for all the basic stitches and swatches of 100s of stitch patterns with complete instructions. 

As the cover of this 2nd edition publication indicates, all the 15 patterns are new and 20 stitch patterns have been added. The main section, Stitch Patterns, is laid out ;like a stitch dictionary, but there are several bonus features as well. First off, the Crochet Basics section carefully guides the newbie with bountiful information and colorful large photographs to get even the least adept crafter off to a great start. The tutorial on Crochet Stitches is thorough and also includes an introduction to the use of symbol crochet. Because details in the large photos are so precise, anyone will learn a lot from reading the Details and Finishing Techniques section. Lots and lots of hours go into crocheting many projects and more than one has been ruined by poor finishing!

Throughout the pattern stitch section, Margaret has interspersed her original design projects using the examples and often combining more than one into a project. Using the first person in her opening words, makes the crocheter feel like Margaret is actually in the room with a guiding hand! 

Courtney's Cardigan
The 272 pages are chock-full of amazing stitch patterns and motifs and Margaret shows how to add a new twist to old time patterns that encourage creativity and make what is old new again. Margaret says, “Crochet has its own defined look and the variety of textures that can be created with a crochet hook is almost limitless, from a very lacy delicate shawl with fine yarns to a warm cozy afghan with a thicker wool and larger hook.” This book is the resource that will help any crocheter make that happen!

Market Bag

The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet, 2nd Edition (July 2014) was published by Creative Publishing, a division of QuartoUs and is available for purchase for $24.99.