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. 

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."