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 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. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seasons: The Gift of Crochet

September 10, 2014

As I watch the arc of the late afternoon sun gradually shift, my thoughts can't help but think about the next season that will be upon us: Autumn.

I  enjoy Autumn, almost as much as I do Spring. The colors are gorgeous and delight us as new shades appear almost daily tease us with waning sparkle as the sun hits the leaves. the smells, the foods and the holidays during this season are nothing but good.

The waning sunlight is only a tease only if we let our thoughts migrate to what is coming next: Winter!

I live in the Midwest so I have learned to adapt to four distinct seasons, each with their pros and cons. Those of you in other, more stable climates, might not be able to relate in quite the same way. There is a certain satisfaction to re-arranging the closet and preparing to wear clothes that almost seem like new again since they've been under wraps for months.

Our crochet habits are seasonal, as well. Many people do not work on afghans in the summer. They believe the weight of the fabric and the heat that is generated is too uncomfortable on thos sweltering hot days, even in air conditioning. There is no question that dragging along a huge project like an afghan is not convenient. As Summer becomes Fall, we may enter "panic mode" because we realized how far behind we already are to get many holiday gifts that we would like to give ready. As Winter becomes Spring our crochet projects reflect our thoughts of weddings and babies and so on and so on.

Are you in panic mode? Do you need the perfect gift for the artist or crochet friend in your midst? I have the solution for you; and you don't need to spend hours planning, shopping and making this gift. All you have to do is purchase copy or a few of my latest book, The Fine Art of Crochet ~ Innovative Works from Twenty Contemporary Artists, and you will delight any and all. Available in both digital and paperback versions, there are also now some used copies available at a good discount.

The Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blaklely Kinsler 
Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars, here's what one reviewer had to say:  "It's not only an essential addition to every crocheter's library, it's a must-read for the non-crocheting artists and art/craft critics who think they already know about crochet as a medium." Is the Fine Art of Crochet on your own wish list?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Blogger, Mary Rhodes: The Quiet Comfort of Crochet

August 28, 2014

Ed. Note: Mary Rhodes, has been a long-time member and supporter of CGOA. It was great to see her again at the Chain Link Crochet Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. Throughout the ups and downs that naturally occur in life, she has researched and experimented with crochet and at the same time has found comfort in many aspects along the way. I can certainly relate to her concept of "quiet comfort." Like Mary, I don't wear my crochet to be flashy or trendy. I wear it because it envelopes me in comfort as well as pride in the making. Mary "whispers" and yet shares so much!

Gwen & Mary at the Stitchwhisper booth at the 2014 Knit & Crochet Show
The Stichwhisper speaks out: "The range of crochet creativity on display at the Knit and Crochet Show in Manchester, NH, in July was awe-inspiring.  With CGOA, Gwen gave a gift to all of us by bringing together a focus on the creativity and nurturing that is so much a part of what crochet has to offer.  Lately, crochet has been in the spotlight for its therapeutic value – for people recovering from horrible accidents, grappling with PTSD, as well as bringing comfort in the form of throws, wraps, and toys to share with others in distress. Crochet has a long history of giving comfort.

At a quieter level, I find comfort in crochet to make things I use every day:  clothes I wear, accessories (bags, wallets, hats, scarves, wrist warmers, slippers – the list goes on), and household items like placemats, coasters, pillows and, yes, even dishcloths.  On the Stitchwhisper blog, I explore that quieter level.

As much as crochet is about texture – there are wonderful designers and artists exploring color and texture in crochet – I love exploring and using understated fabrics, making simple needful things that I would otherwise buy ready-made from stores.  Making needful things is satisfying on several levels:
I know what wear and tear the fabrics can take, and they last.  My purses are sturdy enough that I carry more stuff than I should.  Garments made with good quality yarn last and last – people are surprised to find out how many of my garments have been around for a decade or more.
There is a delicious pleasure in wearing and using things that are quietly designed, not made to be the focal point of my ‘look’ or of the room, but to go easily through my day and even to the grocery store without a fuss, with the added bonus that I made them.
When a project is designed to be understated and practical, techniques are easier to learn. Some ways of doing things are so simple and functional, once I know what the point is, how to get there becomes organic and intuitive.

Exploring how to keep it all simple, while ending up with a practical finished product, is a great de-stressor in my life.  Thinking on such a basic level, I focus on the basic elements that make up my pieces:  the construction, the materials, and the stitches.

Lately, I’ve been making a lot of pieces on the diagonal – this:
Makes variegated yarns visually more interesting,
Adds a comfortable bias drape,
Allows me to make the most of limited amounts of yarn, with designs that are basically squares or rectangles (lots of comforting, almost-brainless stitching, with shaping details added in the finishing to pull it all together), and
Puts some very traditional stitches in a whole new light.
All are good things!

Diagonal Crochet
Other directions of stitching work well, too:  having the rows go up and down on a top or vest is a great way to prevent color pooling in variegated yarns and confines most of the shaping to one side of the piece.

Up and Down Crochet
And the traditional top-down, one-piece construction for sweaters is perfect to crochet, allowing for visual details.

Top Down Construction
Choosing yarn for garments can be tricky:  Knitting makes a lightweight, elastic fabric compared to crochet; crochet makes a textured, sturdy fabric compared to knitting.  Often the focus in crochet is on the texture of the stitches.  A tight gauge with a smooth thread or yarn (perfect for doilies and lace) enhances the texture of the stitches.  When a garment yarn (designed to be knitted) brings its own personality to a project, there can be confusion and tension in the look of the fabric if the stitch is fancy, too.

The basic stitches in crochet, by themselves, can have their own drawbacks, so I often choose fairly simple pattern stitches.  With samplers of different stitches, using the same yarn and hook in one sampler so there is an apples-to-apples comparison to show how the stitches work, I have my own personal resource to help me choose the personality of my fabric.

Stitch Sampler
Getting the gauge right is another part of the process:  choosing the best hook for the pattern stitch can take a few tries.  My current project uses a DK weight yarn, where the label calls for a size 4 (3.5 mm) knitting needle.  I thought a 4 mm hook would work fine; but, no, the fabric was too heavy.  Bumping it up to a
5 mm hook gave me a fabric with a very nice drape and is surprisingly not too lacy – with the bonus that the project is zipping along very quickly.  I’m a happy camper because of that!

With all the parts of a stitch where tension matters, matching gauge with a pattern can be another tricky thing. Some people crochet tightly; some, loosely.  Some folks tighten their finished stitches but have a loose loop on their hook resulting in stitches that are a combination of tight and loose.  There are a lot more ways for fabrics to be different in crochet than in knitting, making the craft a more personal way to make fabric. Everyone is different.  Understanding the shape I want to make lets me focus on my relationship with the yarn rather than stressing about my relationship with the pattern.

And even a practical crocheter runs into "embellishment emergencies" from time to time, so I like to have a basic toolkit of embellishments:  edgings, surface embellishments, and flowers.   Many of these ideas are simple but so generous in their results, making it easy to be special.

Flower Embellishment
Crochet works at a human scale, in human time, in a three-dimensional way that helps me calm down to focus on the bigger picture.  In a world where lots of things don’t make sense, crochet is a wonderful tool to create a space in my life that makes perfect sense."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review: Bathtime Buddies by Megan Kreiner

August 29, 2014
Bathtime Buddies by Megan Kreiner

Bathtime Buddies by Megan Kreiner
Hookalicious Rating:  

My immediate impression of Bathtime Buddies is that Megan Kreiner has excellent skills when it comes to crochet and designing. Upon closer look, I found that she is an artist and animator for Dreamworks Animation SKG, so it is no surprise that the “buddies” within are so artfully crafted! The playful title of the book belies the fact that there are some excellent projects  that duplicate life in the sea with great accuracy!

Kids love bath time and parents will love having any of Megan’s 20 animals which will inspire imaginative play. Just a little playtime before saying “night-night” relaxes even the most fidgety of kids and allows them to go right to sleep.

Made with kid-friendly materials and baby-safe options, instruction to make the same toys for land use only is also included. The Tools & Materials section is excellent and makes it quite easy for the crocheter to find the appropriate hassle-free materials for successful completion of each toy. I, for one, will be making Octopus and Lobster for my 3-year-old grandson!

As we’ve come to expect from Martingale, the stitch illustrations are clear and very helpful and the projects follow skill-building progression so beginners can learn lots on their way to creating some impressive creatures! Some bonus skills are included also to enhance the look of each project such as crocheting on the surface, sewing, embroidery plus finish techniques.

Sea Turtle
From guppies to jellyfish and also an angler fish, the sea creatures Megan has created are not necessarily “adorable,” but they are definitely amazingly lifelike! To complete the ensemble the child’s real-life play, there is even a diver and a mermaid to make!

Bathtime Buddies was published by Martingale in August 2014 and is available in both print ($22.99) and electronic ($14.99) versions.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Reversible Color Crochet: We Have a Winner!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

We have a winner!! Congratulations, Belinda, you are the winner of Reversible Color Crochet which I reviewed last week. Thank you for entering the contest and your book is on its way. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reversible Color Crochet by Laurinda Reddig

August 21, 2014
Reversible Color Crochet ~ a new technique
by Laurinda Reddig

Win your own free copy of Laurinda Reddig’s new book by adding your email to "follow" my blog AND sending me a direct email to let me know you did so.

Reversible Color Crochet by Laurinda Reddig
Many years of experimentation with color work resulted in Laurinda Redding becoming an award-winning designer and author. (Crochet Guild of America Design Competition, 2011 and 2012). She has developed a “truly reversible method of color work that is not stiff and produces clean lines that allow for a wide variety of designs.” Laurinda’s adaptation of the age-old technique of tapestry crochet makes it easier and more fun to crochet with multiple colors.

This book includes 28 blocks and 10 afghans. Laurinda’s original design blocks not only provide the basics for learning all about reversible color crochet, but they also provide a myriad of design and color inspirations. Using this book will provide the crocheter with endless hours of creativity and satisfaction with the results!

"Nine Lives"

Organized as a tutorial, the book's first chapter uses twelve "Quilt Squares" to familiarize the reader with many useful tips and helpful insights to the technique; so don't be temped to skip it!

Snail's Trail
From there, Laurinda has created garden and space-themed squares that utilize the technique already learned to assemble unique afghans along with 8 other afghans that come alive by choosing from the many other squares.

Stem with Leaf
Grandpa Kit's Garden
Special stitches such as “reversible color change,” “hdc-sc decrease,” or “reverse half-double crochet stitch” are clearly illustrated and explained. Laurinda has gathered a fantastic team which includes Charles Voth as Tech Editor and Illustrator. She has also provided abundant guidance for anyone who is learning this technique. Ideal for the intermediate crocheter who loves the challenge of a new technique, Reversible Color Crochet is also suitable for beginners as it requires only double crochet and half couble crochet stitches throughout.

Reversible Color Crochet was published by Interweave/F+W (July 2014) and is available for $24.99

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: It Girl Crochet ~ 23 Must Have Accessories by Sharon Zientara

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It Girl Crochet by Sharon Zientara
 I am a product of the sixties and I love crochet that expresses the individuality of the wearer. It Girl Crochet is all this and more! It offers truly unique designs in delightful colors that will set you apart from the rest. The twenty-three accessories included in the book are truly “must have.”

Sharon Zientara knows how to assemble a collection of designers who design fashionable crochet and at the same time keep the patterns simple enough so that they are fun to make. That’s a difficult feat to achieve! Her custom collection of exciting accessories contributed by 15 top-name designers like Shelly Allaho, Brenda K B Anderson, Robyn Chachula and Kathy Merrick will inspire crocheters who want to make easy-to-finish pieces that add pizzazz to their ensembles.

In the Introduction, Zientara explains that she had a vision for a chic crochet collection. She wanted to reference some of her favorite eras of fashion and at the same time create a timeless collection of designs. She says that she is “grateful for the support she received from the folks at Interweave and for the yarn companies that provided all the amazing fibers that elevated each and every project.” She currently manages Makers Mercantile in Seattle for Skacel.

Sharon believes that when an element of fashion from the past comes back around again and again, it is because it can transcend time and trends. She has divided the book into 3 sections: Crochet Nouveau; It’s a Mod, Mod World; and A Brave New Boho. The designers have created something new, beautiful and exciting as they showcase the best from the pasts of both crochet and fashion.

Crochet Nouveau is the perfect marriage of the art nouveau period of art and design which consisted of rich colors lush fabrics and bold and intricate patterns and modern crochet techniques.

Chrysanthemum Cape by Kathy Merrick
In the chapter entitled It's a Mod, Mod World, Sharon says, "the outrageous fashions of the 'Swinging Sixtie' are translated to crochet accessories that can make even a plain t-shirt and jeans seem fabulous!"

Petula Purse by Robyn Chachula
A Brave New Boho, the final chapter, takes its inspiration from Bohemian sensibilities. For the “free spirits” among us, natural fibers in earthy colors make wearing clothes enjoyable without the feeling that your spirit is being weighed down.

Bon Vivant Stockings by Brenda K. B. Anderson
Whether you lived through or understand the fashion eras featured in this book, you will find much inspiration within. Let loose of your inhibitions and try at least one pattern. A daring dash of color or the daringly different styles will have you coming back for more. Be sure to read Sharon’s Pattern Inspiration Sidebars that explain the historical influence that led to the designs.

It Girl Crochet is published by Interweave, a division of F & W (2014) and retails for $22.99. You can win your own free copy of It Girl Crochet by adding your email to "follow" my blog AND by sending me an email to let me know you have done so.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Guest Blogger, Deborah Burger ~ Part 2: Teaching Crochet to Adults

August 7, 2014
Part 2: Teaching Adults by Deborah Burger

Deb is the author of Crochet 101, a book of crochet instruction for adults, and How to Make 100 Crochet Appliques, an intermediate to experienced level pattern collection.  Her newest book, The Creative Kids' Photo Guide to Crochet, will be released in the spring of 2015.  Like the previous two, it will be available at larger craftstores, in bookstores, and online at and You can find her in Ravelry, and on her website.

Teaching adults to crochet is different in some ways than teaching children as neurological and muscular maturity and function are not usually an issue. Adults tend to be more goal-oriented, with specific ideas of what type item want to learn to make. Adults have longer attention spans, and more ability to wait for the gratification of finishing a project. Adults are usually better at verbalizing their questions and frustrations, than children.  Most adults have an unrealistic expectation that because they are competent in many areas of life, learning a new skill should be seamless-- they tend to be very hard on themselves and their learning process. Here, then, are a few principles that apply to teaching adults:

Encourage Relaxation
Living in an adult world with deadlines, production quotas, competition, and pressures, most adult students almost automatically place pressure on themselves to learn quickly, progress without setbacks, and "have something to show for their time." In other words, they mean to have something perfect finished pretty quickly!

The first step for most adults is to verbally give themselves permission to "be a beginner," to make "rookie mistakes," to fumble and feel clumsy as their hands, so competent in so many other areas, learn a completely new set of motions and sequence patterns.  Most adult students benefit from being required to start each session with stretching and relaxing their fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders and neck.  As their lessons can be much longer than children's, a "stretch break" is very helpful at regular intervals.  Without regular breaks and guided stretching/relaxation, tension just mounts-- resulting in fatigue to these areas as well as eye strain and stress injuries to hands and wrists.

Without regular reminders that ALL beginners make mistakes and the goal is progress not perfection, many adults will frustrate themselves right out of any enjoyment and motivation to learn.  Permission to BE a beginner is SO important, and must be repeated often.

Let the Student Lead
Most adults who want to learn to crochet have something in mind that they want to make.  For even those who want to make lace doilies, starting with worsted yarn, a larger hook, and the knowledge that threadwork is the goal, will help both teacher and student to pace for the final outcome. "Working down to finer yarns" and the transition from the relative ease of tensioning yarn, to the more stringent tension requirements of thread will come with time and practice.

On the other hand, knowing that student really wants to make is afghans from square motifs will lead the lessons to focus on working in the round, rather than in rows, and learning some taller stitches before completing a whole project in single crochet!  Adults not only have a goals, but they also have a good idea of how much time they can put into developing a hobby in their usual day or week.  Some do well with weekly lessons or classes, others from a more intense experience that has lessons every day for just one week.

Finding a schedule that works for both student and teacher is essential.
During a lesson, after several demonstrations of a stitch or skill, and after the student has copied and repeated it several times, ask if he or she feels comfortable with going on, or needs to repeat that a few more times. Begin each lesson with asking what issues or questions the student has come up with since the last session together.

Use Specific Language
"It’s done like this," is much less helpful for adults than, "Control the loop on the hook with the tip of your index finger, Wrap the yarn from back to front, over the top and down over the front of the hook, or Make sure the hook comes under the yarn at the back of the work."

Try to avoid saying thingy, whatchamacallit, and other generalizations.  This requires more focus from you, and a slower pace of speech.... which are both as helpful to your student as the specific words are.  If you say, "Hold it tighter," your student doesn't know if you mean hold the yarn tighter, hold the hook tighter, or pull more tightly on the completed part of the work. "It" is too general.  "Pull down a little on the completed work, to open up that loop on the hook," tells the student exactly where the extra tightness is needed, and why.

Encourage the Use of Quality Materials 
Quality doesn't necessarily mean luxury, or the most expensive choice; but it rarely means the cheapest or handiest choice.  Encourage students to use a yarn that feels good in their hands and is tightly spun with smooth-textured so that it's not a struggle to stitch. Yarn should be somewhat stretchy, light colored, worsted or bulky weight, and not too slick and slippery.

Likewise, the fact that a crochet hook was in the bottom of mother's sewing basket doesn't mean that it's an appropriate size, shape, or quality for learning!  A new hook without barbs or worn finish will minimize frustration.  Hook shape is a closely related issue. There are two basic types-- inline and tapered.  Most crocheters will find that one or the other is consistently easier to work with, in their own hands.  This does NOT mean that what works best for the teacher is the best for all students!  I always encourage beginning adult students to try one of each hook shape in the same size for several rows of stitching; then they can decide which they prefer to purchase for themselves.  I provide hooks of both types at the first couple of lessons so that the students can try them out and then make informed purchase of hooks they will enjoy using.

Offer Alternative Resources 
Many adults are very motivated when they decide to learn something new, and are familiar with using YouTube and other internet sources.  A valuable service you can offer them is a list of videos you have watched and checked for quality and accuracy. The same is true of printed or downloaded resources. With modern technology, anyone can publish anything on the internet, with no guarantee of accuracy, standard language, or usability.  There are many wonderful and helpful websites, YouTube channels, and free patterns available; but beginners are not able to evaluate which ones are of high enough quality and accuracy to actually be helpful.  There are some real "doozies" of inaccuracy floating around in cyber-space, and your students will thank you for giving them a list of the resources you have actually looked at and found to be clear and accurate.

Adults, like children, will benefit from keeping fun at the forefront of their learning experience.  Whether I'm teaching college students, young mothers, senior citizens, or disabled adults, I find that my own sense of fun and adventure, the ability to laugh at myself and to focus on the moment at hand, frees my students to do their own best learning. They don't need me to be perfect, only to show them what I have learned, and point them toward their own next steps.

Whether you teach adults or children, or parents and children together, keep in mind that every student needs to have his or her human dignity protected-- from themselves most of all.  Insecurities and self-doubt tend to leap to the foreground when people of any age are taking artistic risks, moving out of their familiar and comfortable routines-- and any learning of a new skill involves those things.

Discourage your students from comparing themselves to other students, or to their memories of crocheting relatives!  Some will learn more quickly than others, but the story of the Hare and the Tortoise is as true today as it was in Aesop's. Some of your students will learn most from what you show or demonstrate to them; some from what you tell them as you demonstrate and they copy; some from experimenting with their own hands.  Some will catch on to the lesson quickly and then perhaps forget once they get home.  Others may seem to make no progress at all during the lesson, but find that in the privacy of their own time and space, what they’ve learned falls into place.

All of these are valid ways of learning, but your students will probably need you to remind them that their own pace and style are just fine for them.  All of them will benefit from slow-paced demonstrations and from learning only one new thing at a time.  All of them will benefit from patient cheerfulness on your part, and from honest praise when they do something right or remember something they've been commonly forgetting.

Affirmation of their progress is essential.  It's also important that you, the teacher, not allow your own ego or need for success, to color your interactions with students.  Whether you're teaching adults or children have fun and encourage your students to have fun.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guest Blogger, Deborah Burger ~ Part 1:Sharing the Love of Crochet ~ Thoughts on Teaching Crochet to Kids

July 31 , 2014 

As a crochet teacher with 34 years of experience in venues as diverse as park district classes and national crochet/needlework conferences, I feel qualified to say that Deborah Burger brings a vast knowledge of the important and general skills for teaching anything! Her degrees are in English and Theatre, but she spent 10 years teaching in private schools and 22 years homeschooling her own children. Deborah explains, “It's more the experience in teaching, than a formal degree, that has grown the teacher in me. I also think that the wide reading on education that I've done informs my writing. The very best of what's known about how humans actually learn new skills, informs the lessons I write and the projects I design to reinforce the lessons.”

Deb is the author of Crochet 101, a book of crochet instruction for adults, and How to Make 100
Crochet Appliques, an intermediate to experienced level pattern collection. Her newest book,
The Creative Kids' Photo Guide to Crochet, will be released in the spring of 2015. Like the previous
two, it will be available at larger craftstores, in bookstores, and online at and You can find her in Ravelry and on her website

If you have an urgent need to teach a child to crochet and just can’t wait until Deb’s book arrives
in 2015, check this book that I co-authored with Jackie Young in 2003!

Deborah Burger teaching Rhett; Photo courtesy PeterMontanti

Crochet is primarily a folk art, passed from mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild, friend to friend,
sister to sister. Few joys are more fulfilling than that of sharing the love for your craft with another --
watching the "interested outsider" become the confident crocheter. Each time we teach another person how to crochet, we gain a colleague with whom we can enjoy stitching and crafty conversation; and we empower them to express their own creative vision in a tangible and satisfying way.

A popular campaign for spreading crochet love, run by the Craft Yarn Council (CYC), is
called "Each One, Teach Two." The program emphasizes that one does not need to be an expert, nor a
"qualified" or certified teacher, in order to help another person learn the basics. However, we all know that
there is, for many people, a difference between being good at doing something, and being good at
communicating that skill to another.

There ARE some important things to keep in mind when teaching a child or an adult to crochet; and when
kept in mind, these principles will be vastly helpful in avoiding frustration for teacher and student, fostering
the fun and minimizing the struggles. Some of the following principles apply universally to teaching ANYONE anything; but some are specific to the way children or the way adults learn. So, let's examine the two sets of students separately.

Teaching Children

Olivia; photo courtesy Peter Montanti

The following 7 ideas have been developed over many years while I taught well over one hundred children,
ages 6-16, to crochet. The vast majority of them have continued to enjoy crochet long after their scout,
school, camp, or family "lessons."

Don't Start Too Soon
Most children who are interested in handcrafts will have the physical coordination necessary for crochet,
between the ages of 7 and 9. Some children can learn as young as 4 or 5, but usually if they have already
exhibited some talent in eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills such as being able to cut out "on the
lines" with scissors and print or write letters with some accuracy and control. Some children may develop
this kind of skill as late as 10 or 11; so attempting to teach crochet before the nervous and muscular systems are ready is an exercise in frustration. It's better to wait, and give an interested child some simpler handcraftssuch as leather lacing, finger weaving, and braiding to help develop the necessary coordination and to satisfy the itch to be making something with yarn.

Keep it Simple
Once a child who has shown both readiness and interest, it's best to teach one skill at a time, giving plenty of opportunity to practice that one before adding another. Learning to chain is a huge accomplishment for most children, and most of them will want to make lots of chains and use them in a variety of ways, before really
desiring to learn how to stitch into the chain. Enjoying and exploring all the possible ways that chains can be used (bracelets, anklets, lanyards, hair ties, belts, ribbons for presents, leashes for stuffed toys, jump ropes,
etc.), can be very satisfying.

When the CHILD, not the adult teacher, seems on the verge of becoming bored with chains, it's time to add another skill. Keep it Simple by using words with which the child is familiar. Answer the questions that are
asked, but don't offer more and more unnessary information. Usually children want a simple answer, and will ask another question when they feel the need for more information. When you are demonstrating, show one single motion at a time, in s-l-o-w motion. Show it that way several times, and then say the steps aloud as
the child attempts to copy your slow motions. Once the child is comfortable with the correct motions, show
him/her the normal speed for making that stitch which shows the flow and rhythm of crochet.

Many frustrations develop because demonstrations are done at the normal speed, and the child has
too many different things to watch at once (where is your left thumb, what's your right wrist doing, how is
that yarn moving, what's keeping tension on the yarn????) The series of motions that are second nature to the experienced crocheter must EACH be understood, in sequence, by the child who is learning.

Keep it Short
Teaching sessions need to be short, and should NEVER extend past the time the child becomes restless or
looses focus. After all, this is neither a chore nor schoolwork to be accomplished, and needs to stay fun.
Watch for signs of mental or physical fatigue, and end a session before the child feels it to have become
burdensome. For a young child (6-8) 15-30 minutes is plenty, and should be followed with activities that use the large muscles and focus the eyes at a greater distance. Short sessions on a frequent basis are much more effective than occasional marathons. This principle also applies to the size of the first project. While a long neck scarf does give ample room for practice of turning chains and counting the stitches in a row, it also postpones any sense of accomplishment too long for most children. The goal should be to find or create projects that can be completed in 1 to 4 hours of work, spread over a few days or a week. The younger the child, the faster the need for a sense of having completed something.

Use Appropriate Materials
The younger the child, the larger the hook and yarn should be. A 5 to 7 year old child will find it
easiest to manipulate super bulky (#6) yarn and a hook sized between 8 and 11 mm (L-P). Kids
between 8 and 10 will be more comfortable starting with a K or L hook (6.5- 7mm) and bulky (#5)
yarn. Older children, like adults, have the physical coordination to manipulate a J or K (6-6.5mm)
hook with worsted (#4) yarn. The yarn should be smooth in texture-- not too fuzzy, not loopy and certainly
not slick or shiny. Bright colors are engaging to children, and absent allergies, wool is more forgiving to the
hands than acrylic. The yarn, of any fiber, should feel soft, and should be spun tightly enough that it does not split too readily. Child sized scissors with blunt tips, and a very large yarn needle will also help the child to
reach independence as soon as possible.

Don't Over-Correct
While many adults suffer from paralyzing perfectionism, most children do not. They tend to allow themselves permission to be beginners, have no expectation of perfection, and are proud of their accomplishments even
if the accomplishment is not perfect. The very fastest and surest way to make a child hate learning anything,
is to be too picky in correction. Stitches made by immature hands WILL be uneven; there will be skipped
stitches and stitches worked twice or three times. None of these are a real problem, unless the child notices
and asks how to make it better.

While it is important to develop correct habits in starting with a slip knot, the direction of wrapping
the yarn over the hook, and inserting the hook under the wole top of each stitch.... the rest is non-
essential and will come along later, after the basics are well understood and comfortable. I find great success the first projects usisng single crochet worked in rows are felted. The process of felting the item has a
marvellous way of closing up holes where stitches were skipped, evening out too-loose and too-tight stitchesand taking care of hanging threads. (Remember that yarn must contain at least 50% wool in order to felt).

Make Projects Relevant
Do you know any children who love to wash dishes? Those are the only children who ought to make a dish
cloth! Beginning projects ought to be items for which the child has a fun and ready use for in life. After
chained bracelets, simple hats, simple stuffed critters (felt can be glued on for features-- a simple square with yarn legs and arms, and felt features makes a great early project), small bags for treasures, wristlets, and doll or pet blankets (any dishcloth pattern can be used to make a doll blanket) are items that children can use or give to their siblings and/or friends. Doilies, dishcloths, blanket squares..... not so much.

Encourage Creativity

Patterns are lovely tools that help us to make things we want. But many adults are obsessed with "doing it right", and find it difficult to take any sort of artistic risk, to make any changes in a pattern's directions. Part of the exploration of a child's learning process is the constant asking "what if I do it THIS other way?" That questioning and the experimentation that follow it are essential to full understanding. Even if the result is abject failure to replicate the pattern's photo, if the child likes the result, then it's a GREAT PROJECT! A hat that's too big can be turned upside down, have chains attached for handles and become a carry-all bag. The next hat can be made with more attention to gauge and measuring-- and the experience is invaluable! A pattern for a flower with 5 petals can just as easily become a flower with 6 or 7 petals. Children learn best, remember best, and have the most fun learning, when they are encouraged to add their own special touches to whatever they are doing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chain Link/Knit & Crochet Show 2014: Recap

July 24, 2013
As I drove up to the Radisson in Manchester, NH and saw that it had been yarn-bombed ~ outside in the plaza in front plus the dog statues that greet us and the bench right bythe door ~ I said to myself, "Why didn't we think of this before??" Many many thanks to Jennifer Ryan for conceiving the idea and for organizing all the wonderful volunteers who contributed motifs and helped put them ALL OVER. It was sensational!

Tree in Parkway
Dog Statue at Entrance
I bombed the same dog in 2010 with yarn from our goody bag by Lion Brand!
My bombing of the dog back in 2010 was gone by morning. It goes to show that asking permission has some benefits, but does take some of the excitement out of yarn bombing!

Entrance of Hotel

Parkbench at Entrance of Hotel

Reception Desk
Stairs to Parking Garage
Enhancement Around the Plantings of the Breakfast Cafe

Even the Ladies Room was Bombed!
These are my dear friends Sue and Claudette who came from Boston to have lunch with me!
It realy did make me smile to walk through the hotel and see all the crochet making a difference!

The first thing I did after checking in was go to the CGOA Registration to pick up my 20th Anniversary commemorative hook! So beautiful and what a treasure!

20th Anniversary Commemorative Hook
This beautiful wooden hook ade of dye-impregnated wood veneers features the anniversary color, emerald.and was made for us by Sharky's and it also includes a charm and emerald gem.

At the registration desk, I encountered this beauty that carries out the unofficial  theme of the weekend: yarn joy!

CGOA Registration Adorned!
Soon after I arrived, I made my way to the Market Place to judge the winner for my $100.00 Founder's Award. It was a pretty easy choice: "Backyard Visitors." This entry also won first prize in the art category. To me, it conveyed the spirit of CGOA:  friendly crocheters welcoming newbies and sharing all they know. Congratulations, Sachiko Adams! See photos of all the winners posted by Doris Chain, Chair of the Competition, soon.

Backyard Vistors by Shachiko Adams
I spent the rest of the afternoon connecting with old friends and meeting new ones in the Knit & Crochet Serenity Zone. Thank you, Red Heart, for your sponsorship! Since I was there such a short time and not taking classes, I wanted to talk to as many as possible to show my gratitude for their votes on my award and to encourage them to be active members of CGOA. I brought along a bunch of crochet gifts and handed them out along the way!

Kathy, winner of several thread crochet awards, & Betty

20th Anniversary Logo Cake!

Well-Wishers: Kate Steinke, CGOA Board member, and Lindsay
Pam, Susan and Me from the NI Chapter
HOF-14 Chair, Kimberly McAlindin Presenting My Award
Cake & Champagne Was Served to Everyone
Right after my induction, the Market Preview started and everyone rushed to shop. I spent some time greeting well-wishers in the CGOA booth.

Juanita, a dear Courtesan at Cro-Kween Designs

Pattie from my local chapter
Poster in the CGOA Booth
Thanks to Nicole Wawok for the photo that will go down in history marking my place in the Hall of Fame. It is kind of scary blown up that large!

An exhibit of my books and art was in the CGOA booth
CGOA Member, Carlotta, crocheted this gorgeous 4-tiered anniversary cake!
Pam Oddi (L) and Delma Myers
Pam. Past President of CGOA, and Delma are the only 2 left who have attended every conference for 20 years! Read more about their thoughts on CGOA membership. Thanks for your loyalty to CGOA, Pam & Delma!

Cari Clement (L) and Marty Miller
Cari and Marty are both Past Presidents of CGOA; and Cari is the brains behind the Jean Leinhauser CGOA Hall of Fame. Thank you for you contributions!

I don't always remember new friends names!

Joan Davis
Joan taught at the very first Chain Link Conference in 1994. Lookin' good, Joan!

Jack Blumenthal, CGOA Board Member, from Lion Brand
Irene & Ariel
"When Baby Sleeps, Mommy Plays with Yarn ~ While I Sleep, Mommy Plays with Yarn"

Mary Rhodes, an early CGOA member
Thank you to Kareen Gibson of Offinger Management for all the social media posts that she constantly added to the CGOA Facebook page during the conference to let the world know what a wonderful and unique experience is enjoyed by all who attend the Chain Link Conference/Knit & Crochet Show. I hope you were there; I hope you had fun; and I hope to see you in San Diego, July 22-26, 2015!!