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.