Monday, December 30, 2013

Awesome Blogger Award: Best Newsletter! I'm bowled over!

Monday, December 30, 2013

I wasn't going to blog today, thinking many people would be otherwise occupied and too busy to check in. I'm too excited not to now! I just received word that I've been awarded my second Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for "Best Newsletter" from Crochet Concupiscence! I proudly share this award with my co-editor of Talking Crochet eNewsletter, Dora Ohrenstein.

Best Newsletter
Many, many thanks to the amazing Kathryn Vercillo for awarding me this and my first award this month for "Best Guest Posts"! I'm excited about bringing you most exciting guest posts in the New Year.

Talk about "going out in style"! I have just retired from editing the eNewsletter after 3 years on the job! You can read my last e-letter tomorrow. My sincere thanks go out Sara Meyer, Carol Alexander and Libby Butler-Gluck for their attentive assistance to me throughout my tenure as the editor. With confidence, I am turning over the reins to the new co-editor, Brenda Bourg. I wish her the best as she brings her perspective to Talking Crochet!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Crocheting Christmas

Monday, December 23, 2013
There is nothing like a holiday party filled with crocheters and their stash of creations that become gifts to their fellow stitchers! This year I belong to two chapters: my go-to Northern IL Chapter and my new neighborhood chapter: Chicago Crochet Connections, so it was twice the fun!

On December 8th in Chicago: 4 of us "connected" at the CCC chapter. It was a horrible Sunday afternoon, snowing and slushy so the group was small. Crocheters are not ones to let a little weather keep them away; so maybe it was the ticking of time and fewer shopping days this year!
Chicago Crochet Connection

On December 14 in Rolling Meadows: We always have a beautiful spread of each member's best treats. Whoever wants to bring a crocheted gift joins in on our very exuberant "exchange a gift and steal" tradition. This year I got a lovely cup and saucer with "hot chocolate on a stick." It was from Anthropologie, which I love, and was embossed with a crochet-like design. Real pretty!

Northern IL Chapter Holiday Buffet
 We have three unique members, Jeanne, Janel and Juliana. They are mother and daughter crocheters. Their uniqueness comes from the fact that Jeanne's daughters have been coming to our chapter meetings since before they were sixteen. Our bylaws stipulate that members must be 16 to join. They came and learned and as soon as they were 16 became official members.

Now, Janel is in college and Juliana is almost finished with her advanced schooling to become a pharmacist! Throughout their high school studies and activities, both girls faithfully came to our meetings  as often as they could. Now they are both very accomplished crocheters having learned not only from Jeanne but from all of our members. Juliana loves filet crochet and Janel is the Queen of Cowls! (She wears one everyday! She is also becoming quite the expert knitter. I am proud to have all three as members of our chapter!

From left: Janel, Jeanne, Juliana
Another Mother/Daughter Crochet Team: Lester Vaughn and Nancy Brown:
Lester Vaughn (1926-2013), the mother of Nancy Brown, former President of cGOA, died on December 21, 2013.

Here is an article I wrote about Lester in 2001 for the Chain Link Newsletter of CGO (Dec/Jan 2002). She was the sweetest person ever, a dear friend to all crocheters who met her at CGOA conferences and a crocheter extraordinaire! She  will be sorely missed! My heartfelt condolences go out to my friend, Nancy and her husband Marco.

Lester Vaughn article, 2001

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review: If Hooks Could Kill by Betty Hechtman

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

If Hooks Could Kill by Betty Hechtman

If Hooks Could Kill
I'll admit that I've only read one other crochet mystery book, and I’m not used to crochet having such a prominent position in the spotlight in books I read. For twenty long years that have gone by swiftly, I have been promoting crochet and convincing anyone who would listen that crochet does, indeed, deserve a place in the spotlight. It is a huge honor to now have an entire series of books based on crochet themes. Many thanks and kudos to Betty Hechtman who wrote If Hooks Could Kill, the latest in her Crochet Mystery Series.

Molly Pink and her pals from the Tarzana Hookers must stitch together the clues after one of their own group is murdered! The story is set in the delightful and cozy bookstore where Molly works, Shedd and Royal Books & More. The “& More” in the store's name alludes to the fact that the crochet group meets there weekly and would probably sleep there if allowed, according to the owner.

It’s a familiar scene for all of us crocheters: a comfy bookstore where we can crochet together and have access to the latest crochet materials. If Hooks Could Kill is a fun read with many, many scenes familiar to crocheters’ everyday life. Author, Betty Hechtman, is a passionate crocheter who is in love with granny squares. Her love and knowledge of crochet shines throughout the book: Molly makes a wedding hankie for her boyfriend’s daughter; two members of the group bring their crochet to Kelly’s funeral; the crocheters  make sure that that the yarn bins in the bookstore include both crochet and knit swatches. Can you relate?
Read my profile of Betty here on the blog.

A second backdrop with a television crew filming nearby furthers the plot along.  Their activities only add to the chaos brought on by a murder in this once peaceful neighborhood.

Published by The Berkley Publishing Group (A Penguin/Random House Company) in2012, If Hooks Could Kill is a charming read that can be found Barnes and Noble and is available for Nook. Read about all of the books in Betty’s Crochet Mystery Series.

Profile: Betty Hechtman, Author Crochet Mystery Series

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Betty Hechtman is not only a talented writer of crochet mysteries but a lovely person as well. How do I know that; when I’ve only briefly met her recently at a needle work show?  Recently we had a phone conversation that lasted for over an hour; it was like having a crochet friend over for coffee. I was so excited about our interesting conversation that I sat down immediately to capture my impressions about her fascinating career!

A native Chicagoan, Betty has lived in LA since 1970, but she still has strong ties to the South Side of Chicago and returns here about every 6 weeks. She has a degree in Fine Arts from Roosevelt University in Chicago (also my daughter’ alma mater) where she wrote for the school newspaper. Betty told me that she wanted to write since she was a child. Before writing her first book in 2006, Blue Swartz and Nephritides’ Necklace, a kids’ mystery, she had experience writing for newspapers, magazine, short stories and scripts. In her first career, she worked for the family business.

Betty came by her writing skills honestly;her father was a writer, as well. “My father taught me how to submit my ideas,” Betty recalls. “He also taught me to accept ‘rejection!’”  Betty now has 8 books in her Crochet Mystery series and 1 in her Yarn Retreat Mystery series with contracts for 3 more books!  I love the sense of humor that she brings to the titles, i. e. “If Hooks Could Kill,” “Behind the Seams,” and “Dead Men Don’t Crochet”! Stay turned to my blog to read my review of her newest crochet mystery, If Hooks Could Kill. 

When I asked Betty what it was about the topic of crochet that motivated her to include it so prominently in her mysteries, she replied, “I’ve had a life-long fascination with crochet and as a child I loved granny squares. I sewed all my life and my mother was an excellent seamstress. Once I bought a vintage granny store afghan in a resale shop and I was so intrigued to figure out how it could have all those spaces without collapsing!

At that point, I taught myself how to do single crochet. The ‘ah-ha’ moment came, though, in 2005 when I was in Las Vegas. As I walked through the shopping mall of one of the large hotels, I went into FAO Schwartz store because I love toys. As I passed through the aisle, the ‘Golden Door of Crochet’ opened for me. Right there at eye level was a kit, Learn to Make Granny Squares. There was no hesitation; I had to buy it and learn to make my beloved granny squares!”

Soon after, Betty took a crochet class at Michael’s and her crochet journey began. “At that time,” Betty recalls, “my agent had a client who was having great success with a knitting series. She suggested I mix my interest in crochet with my mystery writing. I figured it would be a great way to learn more about crochet, and the rest is history!”

Betty explained to me where she conjures up her characters, “They come from real life. I may have a vision in my head from my imagination, but then I’ll see someone on the street and recognize that this is the character I was imagining. I also conceive a lot of my characters from my gym. It is for women only and my exercise class has mirrors on the wall.  I can watch many in the class and they have no clue that I am scoping out their attributes which may turn into one of my characters. I can also watch people working out on the machines through the glass wall and they contribute some great material!"

It is, indeed, an honor to have such a celebrated author dedicate her writing talents to the exclusive topic of crochet; and she does so in a friendly bi-stitchural manner touching on knitting along the way. Not only do readers receive a great story when they buy one of her crochet mysteries, but Betty also includes old family recipes and a free crochet pattern or two at the conclusion of her books. She says that as a child she sewed doll clothes and those skills translated to her abilities to design crochet patterns. I am proud to count Betty Hechtman among the members of the Crochet Guild of America.

Find out about all the books in Betty’s crochet series and keep up on the news of her latest books at her blog or on her website

Monday, December 16, 2013

Last Minute Gift Idea!

Monday, December 16, 2010
It's not too late to gift my book, The Fine Art of Crochet, to a crochet friend. The Kindle edition  only costs $3.03!

Merry Christmas to ALL my crochet friends near and far!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guest Blogger Part 2: Karen Ballard - World War II Crocheting with Attitude

Thursday, December 12, 2013


As promised, Karen Ballard is back as my guest to inform and educate us about attitudes about crochet during the World War II era. If you missed her first article which focused on World War I, you can access it here.

Karen Ballard
World War II Crocheting with Attitude by Karen Ballard
After about 25 years of collecting World War Workbasket Campaign items associated with doing needlework for service personnel, wounded, refugees and patriotic home-front, I have amassed a very large WWII collection. Included are books, magazines, individual patterns, posters, sheet music, postcards, knitting bags; and yes, even a small number of patriotic crocheted items. While knitting patterns abound, there are extremely few crochet patterns, even fewer than those found for WWI and  I have found no explanation for this.

Out of 21 U.S. knitting books containing patterns for service men, only W. Newbold Ely, Pointers for Crocheting and Knitting has a single crocheted helmet (like a ski mask) for service men. 

Ely Crocheted Helmet
 Out of 44 individual patterns published by American Red Cross (ARC), Bundles for Britain (organized in New York before the U.S. entered the war), Bundles for Bluejackets (this organization changed its name to Bundles for America, early in the war, retaining a Bundles for Bluejackets Naval Division), and Citizens’s Committee for Army and Navy, only one pattern is crocheted: a Woman’s circular shawl for refugees. (similar to the shawl pattern for WWI “devastated France”.

No WWII British crochet patterns were found, and out of 6 Canadian Red Cross booklets only the one for babies and children has a couple crochet patterns.  One French-Canadian knitting magazine contains a crocheted serviceman’s sweater pattern.

Serviceman's Sweater Pattern
 One French magazine has a crocheted helmet.

French Crocheted Helmet
An Australian Red Cross Society Knitting Book includes a crocheted Bed Socks pattern and an Aussie knitting book has a crocheted scarf pattern. 

Scarf Pattern
While the above may sound like a lot of crochet patterns, please note that this is all of the crochet patterns found among hundreds of knitting and sewing patterns for service personnel, wounded and refugees.
No posters, postcards, sheet music, etc. depict or refer to crochet.  The only photos of WWII crochet I have seen are two photos of Women’s Army Corps volunteers having a crochet party. 

Women's Army Corps crochet party
Although their crochet is not patriotic, it shows that some people were still crocheting, despite the war.

Evidence of WWII patriotic home-front crocheting is a little more easily found than for functional crocheted military/wounded/refugee garments at least for the USA. There are women’s and children’s clothing patterns with designs influenced by military uniforms and the pictured lady’s stylized tricorne hat, reminiscent of the American Revolution. 

Dolly & Me Matching Crocheted Dresses
Tri-Corne Hat
There are patriotic doll clothes in Mary Hoyer’s Mary’s Dollies Vols 6 & 9, and patriotic toys in Spool Cotton Company’s Crochet Your Victory Barnyard on my blog. There are patterns for crocheted gob’s (slang for an ordinary enlisted Navy seaman) and officer’s hat-shaped lapel pins embellished with tiny Susan Bates knitting needles.

in Winter 1941-42 McCall's Needlework magazine and the Winter 1943-44 issue has an ad for crocheted pot holders with patriotic emblems, 

Patriotic Pot Holders
as well as an article and another ad exhorting readers to “conserve with crochet.” 

Other crocheted home-front items include: a cotton single-star service flag, a cotton “V for Victory” doily, a rayon Eagle & Shield doily

Home Front Items
and a red/white/blue rayon “gimp” homemade brooch pincushion-hat with hanging thimble-pouch (pictured in the center); perfect for wearing to an ARC sewing bee!

Perhaps exemplifying attitudes toward wartime crochet is this United States Rubber Company advertisement, stating “Once you used it [crochet thread] for bedspreads, now it makes the machine gun belts our fighter pilots use,”  clearly implying that during war we no longer crocheted.

1941 War Effort
On January 8, 1945, Life magazine ran a cover story on “Fancy Crochets Jaunty, Stylish Clothes” designed by Greta Plattry, a 1937 emigre from Germany who “reintroduced” American women to crocheted fashions. 

Life magazine -January 8, 1945
Although this was not part of the Workbasket Campaign, it indicates that when drawing near the end of the long war, American women were ready to put down their khaki, olive-green, and navy blue yarn to crochet (and knit) pretty and colorful fashions.

---. MarieClaire. No. 154, February 9, 1940, Canada (includes Un Beau Chandail au crochet).
---. McCall Needlework Winter 1941-42 (includes crocheted patriotic lapel pins pattern).
---. McCall Needlework Winter 1943-44 (includes ad for crocheted tricorne hat and patriotic pot holders).
---. Tricot  Roman 1 Dec 1939 “Pour nos Soldats”, France (includes a Passe – Montagne au crochet helmet).
American Red Cross, pattern ARC 400-15, June 1940 Woman’s Black Circular Shawl, Washington, DC, USA.
Australian Red Cross Society, Australian Red Cross Society Knitting Book (includes crocheted Bed-Socks), Australia.
Canadian Red Cross, Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work No. 3, Knitted Comforts for Babies & Children, March 1941, Toronto, Canada
Ely. W. Newbold. Pointers for Crocheting and Knitting 1st edition, 1943, USA.
Hoyer, Mary. Mary’s Dollies Vol. No. 6, USA (including Wavette & RC Nurse).
Hoyer, Mary. Mary’s Dollies Vol. No. 9, USA (including “Miss Victory”).
Patons & Baldwins’ Specialty Book No. 122 (n.d.) Melbourne & Sydney, Australia (includes crocheted scarf pattern).
Spool Cotton Company. Crochet your Victory Barnyard No. 204, 1943, USA.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Paper Yarn

Monday, December 9, 2013

Paper Yarn by Uta Donath, Eva Hauch, Petra Hoffman, and Claudia Huboi

In recent years it has become a common practice for crochet designers to “hook up” with a yarn company to design with their latest yarns. The designer’s expertise in addition to lots of swatching brings out the best in the yarn, provides upscale designs that crocheters hunger for and brings notice to the versatility of crochet.

Recently, I unintentionally came upon an exciting book while passing by the “Hobbies” cart at my local library. Paper Yarn is a unique and exciting book which brings a wealth of knowledge about style and technique to the niche of using paper yarn. The five authors bring an impressive resume of experience in the fiber field to their presentation of this book: textile and fashion design, creative design at magazines and publishers to name a few!

They have teamed up with Habu Textiles, BJ’s Craft Supplies and Papershed who provided the materials which are used in the basic yet interesting patterns for projects in 6 techniques: crochet, knitting, weaving, sewing, braiding and layering & wrapping. Since I am a die-hard crocheter, I will not comment on the quality of the patterns in any of the techniques except crochet. I will say, however, that each chapter provides an excellent tutorial on the use of paper yarn in that specific technique in addition to a wonderful overall  review of the characteristics of paper yarn in the introduction, “Material Facts.”

Beautiful color photography and styling of the projects makes me want to make each and every crochet project in the book: bowl, basket, container, hat and sculpture. The book contains 24 decorative and functional projects to make from paper yarn, paper ribbon, paper twine and paper cord. Excellent illustrated step-by-step instructions ensure you can complete every project successfully.

I can't wait to get started on the basket and as luck would have it, I have a stash of Habu paper yarn!

Habu Shosheni Viscose
This book was first published in Switzerland in 2008 by Haupt Bern and translated and published by St. Martin’s Griffine  in 2009. It is available on Amazon for an incredibly low price. If, like me, you just concentrate on only one of the needle arts, this book is still well worth having on your fiber arts bookshelf. The sheer joy of its bountiful color and style has plenty to make you smile. Oh, and by the way, I went to the stacks and got a crochet book which I surreptitiously placed on the hobbies cart as I noticed it was the one hobby that had not been selected. Holding my hook high ...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guest Blogger: Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter - Get Social!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My guest blogger this week, Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, has graciously offered to share her expertise on the growing use of social media whether for fun or as a professional endeavor. I know you'll take away something useful from this great tutorial!

Crafters are using social media to share ideas and find new inspiration more than ever before. With the number of options available - Facebook, Ravelry, Pinterest, and Instagram, just to name a very few, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the never-ending reach of the social media universe, but it’s a crucial component to expanding your audience. Whether you are blogging to make a living by promoting your designs or hand-made wares, or simply want to share your inspiration and connect with fellow fiber fanatics, it’s important to carve out some time to maintain a consistent online presence.

If you don’t already have a blog, that’s a great place to start since it allows you to generate unique content which can then be easily shared via the social media sites I’ll be discussing today. There are plenty of free hosting services such as Blogger, Tumblr or Wordpress. It’s also a good idea to invest in a decent camera so that you can take clear, professional-looking photos (note: this doesn’t mean you need to buy a professional camera; click here to read my blog post about taking better photos for more details). To help you get started, check out some blogs from designers and other crafty folks to see what you like in terms of layout, content and writing style. Doing a little research will help you get rolling, and once you have a few blogs under your belt, it’s time to get other people to take notice.

Most of you are probably already familiar with Ravelry, which is a free membership site that keeps track of your projects, manages your yarn, needle and hook stash, and connects you with fellow crafters on user-moderated forums, so I won’t spend too much time on the basics. Ravelry is one of my main referrals for traffic to my blog; if you take a quick look at my profile, you may see why: 

I have a direct link listed under “website or blog” and also have an RSS feed pulling in each new post as they are live (you can easily create an RSS feed URL by entering your blog URL at This allows me to link my projects to a specific blog post (as you can see in the above image), which I then share with groups I’m a member of so that it shows up in the “blog posts from member projects” section of that particular group. Note: it’s important to be conscientious of how and where you link your blogs - if the post has nothing to do with the group, chances are you’ll just annoy its members and not gain any new fans, so be sure to be choosy with this feature.

Keeping track of posts on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter can certainly be a full-time job; you may decide to focus on just one of these sites to maintain your sanity, but I’ve found there is very little overlap between the three in terms of the audience you’ll reach. That’s not to say that you won’t have the opposite experience, of course, so I think it’s important to give all three a chance so you can make an informed decision.

Using a social media managing app such as Hootsuite to pre-schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter and Google plus allows you to have a constant flow of regular posts. This will keep your feed lively and give people a reason to follow you! At the beginning of each week (or month), you can sit down and plan out your posts: new products or designs, upcoming events, helpful tutorials, or funny, shareable photos are all good ideas to try.

Personally, I tend to tweet using the app on my smartphone rather than logging in on my home computer. For one thing, the app notifies me if someone mentions me or re-tweets a post, making it easy for me to respond in a timely fashion. It also makes it easy to steal a few moments here and there - in the line at the post office, waiting for a meal to cook, or during a commercial break.

Speaking of smartphone apps, Instagram is by far one of the fastest-growing apps to take note of. With millions of users on the iPhone and Android platforms, it’s a fun, simple way to share your projects and inspiration. By employing hashtags (for example, #knittersofinstagram, #yarn or #WIP) on your post, users are able to easily find your photos to comment on and favorite. Many designers and yarn companies use instagram as a way to share more “candid” shots of their work; it’s a great way to give your fans a peek behind the curtain. I’ve also discovered some really interesting crafters just by doing a hashtag search, many of whom I’ve started to follow their blog and vice versa.

Last but not least, Pinterest is a mecca for finding and sharing crafty inspiration (among other things!). For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a tool which visually collects and organizes images from the web. It’s a great way to save information you’d like to remember further down the road, such as a photo tutorial, a new knitting pattern, or an interesting yarn or fiber you’ve just discovered. Of course, you can also pin images from your own website or blog, which is certainly a good idea since Pinterest has been consistently named as a top referral site (i.e., driving traffic to your website) along with Facebook and Twitter for quite some time. If you are planning to pin from your own site, just be careful not to be spammy - that is, don’t unleash a deluge of pins which are essentially the same image or text repeated again and again. For one thing, the Pinterest site terms frown upon this type of pinning, but for another thing, it’s a real turn-off for your followers. Pin from your own site with care, and be sure to take a break every now and then to pin from other sites you enjoy, too!

Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter is a team member of Stitchcraft Marketing, a consultancy firm to the craft industry. She knits, designs, and shares other crafty pursuits at