Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beautiful Hands, Helpful Hands!

These beautiful hands with hooks ‘aflying  tell a story. They tell of cancer survivors who have risen above the trauma of their experiences to give love and support through their talented hands to others. Preemie babies receive hats crocheted at the hospital where we meet twice a month as the Cancer & Crochet Support Group.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kathryn Vercillo: An Update on Her Crochet Life

Kathryn Vercillo
Even though I have previously blogged book  reviews of two of Kathryn Vercillo's books, Crochet Saved My Life 

Crochet Saved My Life
and When Grandma Isn’t Crocheting, She’s Hunting Big Game ;

By Kathryn Vercillo
promoted her Hook to Heal project and invited her to be a Guest Blogger here. It seems that I just can’t get enough of her!  She has a presence on the internet and her website, Crochet Concupiscence radiates energy and joy from the community of crocheters that she covers. Recently, Kathryn has embarked upon a new assignment to bring crochet content to crocheters, so I thought it would be fun to touch base with this interesting and generous person again to bring you up to date on her exciting crochet-life.

There are a few key areas of crochet that interest Kathryn: health benefits; organizations that offer people in third world countries the opportunity to use it to support themselves; all aspects of crochet art; and gender-specific aspects. She explains, “The many intellectual and social aspects of crochet really fascinate me and that’s partly why I blog about it. In the end, of course, the pleasure of sitting down with a smooth hook and a luxurious skein of yarn and feeling the tactile joy of the act while creating something new out of my own mind is what I love most about crochet.”

Crochetqueen: What motivated you to take on yet another blogging job at About.com? How can you possibly fit one more thing into your already loaded schedule? Is there a particular focus on what you include at About.com?
Kathryn: I have recently joined the About.com Team <<crochet.about.com >> as their crochet expert where I’m writing ~3-5 articles per week about crochet. I have always wanted to be part of the About.com team and was excited to see that they recently made some changes and the Crochet Expert position opened up. I apllied and got the job, and it always seemed like a good fit.

Although it does mean that I’ve added a bit of writing time to my schedule, it’s not as time consuming as you would think. I already spend A LOT of time reading about and researching crochet. I follow hundreds of crochet blog feeds online and am immersed in social networking around the topic. Plus, of course, I crochet every day so I learn the hands-on skills that way.
Because I’m already doing all of that work, there really isn’t any additional research time to the new job. There is ample information out there that I’m already absorbing, curating and seeking to share. About.com just gives me a new platform in which to do that. It’s a place where I can share some of the things that I don’t often share on Crochet Concupiscence, such as stitch tutorials.

I’m still exploring what mixture of article types will work best for the audience there. I want to give the readers what they want! Right now it’s looking like my posts will be a mixture of crochet tutorials, my original patterns, themed crochet pattern roundups, book reviews and informative articles about the history of crochet as well as contemporary trends in the craft.

Additionally, Crochet Concupiscence is about to undergo some changes and some of the types of content that I’ll no longer be sharing as much there are things that I’ll be able to continue to showcase for interested readers over on About.com. For example, in 2015 I plan to de-emphasize crochet pattern roundups on Crochet Concupiscence but they will have a place over on About.com.

Crochetqueen: Psychology and Crochet mesh very well as you have proven by your book, Crochet Saved My Life.  In what will your new degree be and when will you finish?

Kathryn: Yes! I am in the second year of a Masters Degree program in Integral Counseling Psychology, which combines Eastern and Western approaches to healing for a degree that can lead to an MFT counseling license. I have already learned so much that I’m incorporating with my crochet health experiences; I look forward to doing more research and writing that combines this newfound knowledge of neuroscience and psychology with my hands-on knowledge of craft therapy.

My degree is a three year program so my cohort’s program ends in May of 2016. However, I am likely going to take one year off. The purpose of this is to integrate what I’ve already learned with the other writing and work that I’m doing.

I’m almost about to wrap up my next book, Hook to Heal, and after that I’ll be working on a revised edition of Crochet Saved My Life that updates the research with the new things I’ve learned. So I’ll be busy and I want to give that ample attention before starting on my practicum year (my third year where I do 20 hours per week of on-site counseling work.

Crochetqueen: What are your plans for using your professional degree in your new field?
Kathryn: I intend to keep doing what I’m doing for the most part - using my education and writing experience to help others share their personal stories as well as to write about self-care and healing through crochet and crafting. The degrees for me are more about the education that I gain and how I can use that to develop myself and therefore my writing than they are specifically about getting the degree. That said, degrees do open doors, and I hope to use mine to gain additional opportunities in research.

Crochetqueen: Do you hope to create a niche for yourself?
Kathryn: I think I’m in a really unique niche in terms of the research I’ve done and am doing into specifically how the craft of crochet can be healing and I hope to continue making headway in this. I believe that it’s really important work. I’m open to where else my path may lead but right now that’s a really key part of what I plan to do with my future work.

Crochetqueen: Crochet Concupiscence is very organized and the categories are good
Kathryn: Thanks, I’ve tried really hard to cover a diverse range of categories within the niche of crochet and to organize the information so that it’s fairly easy to find. I’m always honing and re-working it. In fact, Crochet Concupiscence just got a major site re-design with a new logo; and I pared down some of the categories to make it even easier to find things. I’ll be continuing to work on this in 2015.

Crochetqueen: You are very generous to others out there in all the social media you produce.
Kathryn: I’m glad that you noticed this. It has always been really important to me to use the platform that I have to help others in this community. The crochet community has always been incredibly generous to me and I want to support what people in it are doing. That’s what my Saturday Link Love roundups are all about - sharing the best of the best links with everyone in order to support and grow the community while providing information that I hope is inspirational to readers.

Crochetqueen: Tell me about your annual Awesome Blog Awards.  Do you feature the same thirty-one categories every year? I am certainly honored to have received an Award more than once since 2011 because I believe you have your finger on the pulse of bloggers everywhere! How ironic that I won for “Best Crochet Interviews” this year since you; and wehave been trying to get this interview of you done since last summer. Somehow, life got in the way!!
Kathryn: Each December I do daily “crochet awards” to recognize what awesome crocheters are doing in different areas of the craft. And I also do book reviews, yarn reviews, etc. to help the community in that way as well.

Crochetqueen: Are you promoting your blog more now?
Kathryn:  I’ve gotten more active on social media in the last year because I’ve been able to find decent tools that streamline the process pretty well for me. My website has gotten more attention for the site, but other than that I just try to write good content and hope people find it.

Crochetqueen: Would you say that this site is made up mostly of your scouring the internet? Do you cut and paste content you find to the website? It seems to stay mostly superficial, info scooped and passed on to crocheters. It also appears that there are not many in-depth person- to-person interviews. Is this accurate? Understandably so, if it is true; personal interviews are very time-consuming!
Kathryn:  This is an interesting line of questioning and one that I’m really glad that you took because CC has changed over time and will be changing in 2015 to better reflect some of my core values. It started out as a site that had four posts per day including a daily Etsy find, a daily crochet quote and usually a long well-researched article. That proved to be too much (for me and for readers,) and it’s shifted a few times over the years.

In the past year or so people have really wanted access to more crochet patterns so I’ve been doing a lot of pattern roundups. Those do often come from feedly RSS feed. I don’t typically cut and paste but what I share has been pretty brief in those roundups. Readers and the search engines have liked that but it’s made me really feel lately like something is lacking that the site used to have - back when I did more researched lengthy posts.

I don’t want to get rid of those types of posts entirely, but in 2015 you’ll see that there’s less emphasis on them and there will be more of the longer posts. Over the summer I put out a survey about crochet health that was answered by over 10,000 respondents. About 3000 of those people indicated that they’d be interested in doing interviews about how crochet has helped them heal. So I’m starting to do those interviews now and many of them will be on the blog in 2015. I’ll also continue doing posts about crochet art and fashion but I’ll go back to articles on those topics that include more of my original thoughts and the research about the artists/ designers.

I will continue to do my weekly Link Love posts,  to give back to the community in that way, and that’s where the info from my feedly will be coming in. There will still be some pattern roundups, etc. but they will not be the bulk of the site. I get a lot of information from around the web and want to continue to showcase that in the best way possible; but I feel like the site has been erring on the side of simply rounding up what already exists and in the new year I plan for there to be a lot more original content.

Crochetqueen: As a CGOA member what are your thoughts about belonging?  Do you have plans to attend the 2015 conference  in San Diego July 22-26, or apply to present a workshop at Professional Day? It will be pretty much in your neck of the woods!
Kathryn: I’m planning to sit down with a calendar in January and map out the entire new year to see what I can fit in and where.  This would be a great opportunity and thanks for putting this one on my radar! I was really saddened to see that Stitches East isn’t happening this year. it really shook me up and made me realize that the time to participate in events is NOW not “someday” because it’s our participation that makes them continue to happen.

I think that the CGOA seems like a great organization that offers tons of terrific resources to members and I’ve just renewed my membership for the second year. One of the things I love about crochet is that there’s a great community built up around this craft. The crocheters I’ve met in person and online are generous, creative people with positive spirits and interesting lives. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with others who love this craft and I think CGOA offers opportunities for this kind of connection.

Crochetqueen: Do you ever meet with a group of crocheters? That’s a great resource for original content.
Kathryn: I have met up with groups of crocheters in the past but it’s not something that I do regularly. There’s no Barnes and Noble here in San Francisco and I have not made it to the meeting of the local CGOA chapter but due to scheduling conflicts. There is a local knitting / crochet in public group as well as a general craft meet-up and I’ve attended both of those in the past. I think that they’re a great way to meet people and work on projects. If I was ever at a point again where I was struggling with depression and needed a scheduled event to get me out of the house and socialize, it’s definitely something I’d turn to. For now, I find that I’m happiest crocheting on my own at home because of how it helps me decompress and get in touch with myself; but I’m sure that won’t always be the case.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Awesome Crochet Blogger Awards: I won for Best Interviews!!

Sponsored by Crochet Concupiscence
I am super-thrilled an honored to have received the news yesterday that I received the 2014 Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for "Best Crochet Interviews"! This award bestowed upon 31 bloggers, one each day during December, is spearheaded by the prolific blogger and crochet supporter, Kathryn Vercillo. (Be watching for my interview of Kathryn this week!)

Previously my blog has won Awesome Blogger Awards in 2013 for "Best Guest Posts" and "Best Newsletter" 

and in 2011 for "Best Freeform Crochet." 

Receiving a prestigious award like this only adds to the joy of blogging and makes me want to do even better next year at seeking out stories and people who sing the praises of crochet! Ats s the announcements of the 2014 winners continue until the end of the month, I will be highlighting winners who I have included here on my blog:

March 4, 2014: Stacey Trock, author of Modern Baby Crochet; August 27, 2013-Guest Blogger, Marie Segares on Vintage Crochet Art.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: The Big Book of Granny Squares: 365 Motifs by Tracey Lord, et al

Like all great things, the granny square has come and gone in waves. In the 70s it was the go-to technique; creative hobbyists and artists alike found ingenious ways to use it with great flair.

Silver Evening Bolero from The Golden Hands Complete Book of Knitting & Crochet, 1973
In the 90s, it got a bad rap as “tired, trite and needing a lift”. During that period, crochet in general was on an upsurge and unenlightened journalists often used the phrase, “Not your granny’s crochet” to demean the past and focus on the “new present.” These frequent slights fueled a revolution for passionate crocheters, led by the Crochet Guild of America, who stood up for their beloved craft and brought it to the fore not only as a hobby, but also as an art form and fashion-inspiration. That popularity of crochet as art and fashion surged upward and is currently at its apex of acceptance as a valid fiber art.

Vintage motifs on canvas by Kathleen Holmes, The Fine Art of Crochet, 2013
With the introduction of The Big Book of Granny Squares by Interweave/F+W, the publisher did its part to stir the waters and create a new wave for the granny square. The "biggest collection of crochet motifs ever," this collection of both historic and modern designs has something to tempt the taste of any crocheter. “Whether your taste is for floral or lacy, textural or modern, there is plenty to capture your imagination and get you hooked.”

Not only are there 365 granny squares with complete instructions, but also included are twenty-five pages with a wealth of basic crochet knowledge clearly and beautifully illustrated. Whether you enjoy crocheting a square in the evening for relaxation or plan to create a future heirloom, there is something for everyone! The photos for each square are bright and bold; some larger than others. A lot of effort went into naming each square; they are clever and unique.

Many of the squares are familiar and traditional, but there are certainly plenty of permutations on the granny square to keep it interesting. I particularly like the few descriptive sentences for each motif which includes information on the inspiration behind the design along with hints as to how to best incorporate the square into a project: "Kilim-Rich colors maintain the vivid tones of the Middle Eastern carpets which inspired this design." A clever approach to visually describe the colors of each motif is included on each page edge with the corresponding letter used in the pattern instructions.

Well done, this book is a must for every crocheter’s library. Published in November 2014 by Interweave/F+W, The Big Book of Granny Squares retails for $29.99.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Magazine Review: Debut Issue of Artists & Makers Winter 2015

Artists & Makers
Editor Jeannnine Stein explains in her editor's letter that the goal of this exciting new magazine is to “be that friend, that peer, who will guide you through the rough spots, help you celebrate the victories, and inspire you to achieve your wildest dreams” in today's atmosphere where supporting art and handmade goods is the right thing to do.

As I began my first-pass perusal of Artists & Makers I was struck by the incredible information in just the ads! I viewed full-color ads about arts and crafts; things I will probably never do, but are nonetheless inspiring.  These are some examples:  “next steps in painting with fire, video on binding custom books, a mixed media art retreat; and a coffee table book about art studios; and that is just from the first 8 pages!

"Gustavo Victor Golar: Carving His Own Path"
As I continued to delve into the content of the articles, there was exciting insight to share.
I chose one article to share an in-depth summary because of my interest in Social Media: “Working the Network" by Grace Dobush, author of The Crafty Superstar Ultimate Craft Business Guide. She offers this, “As makers we are our own brand so it is important to keep our personal and business presence separate on social media while still letting our personalities shine through. Pure marketing/sales posts don’t create loyalty; fans want to see what you are working on or inspired by. Let photos do the talking; and that is good news if you are not a writer. Focus on networks where your fans are. Keep your social network accounts active. Use tools such as Hootsuite (hootesuite.com) and Buffer (bufferapp.com) to work smart not hard.”

The Social Life: "Working the Network" by Grace Dobush
Each issue is divided into 3 sections: Artist Features, The Goods and Findings. Although the content is quite varied and shared across many genres, you will find the well-written articles of interest whether or not they directly address your particular niche. The featured artists are professional, successful and inspiring; and everyone can benefit from knowledge like how to keep going when you get stuck or reach an impasse or how to avoid “copping out” as a starving artist.

Art Coach: "Getting Unstuck" by Mary Edwards
Richly presented in full color, I highly recommend, Artists and Makers; it is brought to you by Interweave/F+W and costs $9.99 per issue. I have issues to give away to 3 lucky winners. It's easy! Just follow my blog by inserting your email; and then email a confirmation to me that you've done so.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: Cozy Toes for Baby ~ Sweet Shoes to Crochet and Felt by Chantal Garceau & Mary J. King

Cozy Toes for Baby
I haven’t been aware of a more heartwarming reason to create a book sommme time! “As I pondered a new direction for my life work and a direction for my design talents,” Chantal wrote, “serendipity intervened and led me to the Imani Project  and  I decided to sponsor a Kenyan child orphaned by HIV/AIDS.” This book is dedicated to the Masheleni children and the Imani Project and pictured is Linet who was one of the first children sponsored by Chantal.

With crochet patterns that are as adorable as they are practical, you can provide fashion for wee ones while keeping tiny toes warm. Instructions for making the soles and even re-purposing the materials from leather elbow patches are included along with how-tos on felting for shape and sturdiness. 

"Sparky Dog"
One basic pattern is used for the 7 sets of shoe designs, each in 5 sizes. Incredibly  appealing embellishments and styling sets each design apart from the other. 

"Fresh Watermelon"
Complete instructions and tips help the crocheter achieve results that are professional looking and unique. Personally, I have been felting-challenged for years. However, the sheer cuteness of these shoes makes me want to try again and again so that I can have several pair on hand: a fantastic gift for the next new baby that comes along.

"Silly Monkey"
Chantal and Mary are accomplished professionals who have found a way to turn their love of crafts into a worthwhile social enterprise. I hope you will stitch to support a worthy cause—the authors' proceeds will all be donated to the Imani Project in Kenya.

Cozy Toes is available at Martingale for $16.99 which includes both print and e-books. E-book only costs $11.99. Photography is by Martingale and Brent Kane.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Linda Lehman, Bead-Crocheter Extraordinaire!

Linda Lehman hails from Silver Spring, Maryland and retired from a career in finance many years ago. Since that time, she has focused on her love of crafts. She has had a successful shop on Etsy for 4 years where she sells not only the finished bracelets and necklaces but also patterns for crocheters to make their own jewelry. She is also the author of Bead Crochet Jewelry (Schiffer Publishing).

Linda Lehaman, author of Bead Crochet
I am a member of her Ravelry group and was the lucky recipient of her annual drawing where I have won challenging patterns as well as jewelry and beads from her co-moderator, KnotChaCha. Linda also has a store on Ravelry. I am so inspired by her skills when it comes to designing that I wanted to get to know her better.

"Dots & Spirals": I won this pattern and it is a delight to wear!
Crochetkween: What got you interested in crochet? Did you learn crochet or bead-crochet first? Do you do other beading techniques?
Linda:  “I first learned to knit, and then crochet and later bead crochet. I’m a self taught bead crocheter.  A student asked me to learn so that I would be able to teach her.  I also do peyote, brick, Ndebele, African Helix, polygon weave, square stitch and RAW (right angle weave)."

Crochetkween: Where does your inspiration come from; fashion, the fashion runways?
Linda: “Having been a designer since 1987 I am inspired by the mathematics of it all.”

"Color Block"
Crochetkween: Is there one design that you would not part with?
Linda: “I am not a fashionista, so I do not wear my creations. I enjoy the process of creating as well as having others wear my work.”

Crochetkween: What is your educational background? Your designs must require a very mathematical mind.
Linda: “My bachelors degree is actually in the field of philosophy which has had an enormous effect on the way I think, and ergo, my designing. When I approach a pattern idea, I tend to throw out all previous assumptions, and start from scratch each and every time I work on a new design.”

"Silver Threads"
Crochetkween: Will you share some tips that have helped make your shop a hit?
Linda: “Self market, and don’t depend on Etsy to do your marketing for you.  Since there are over 400,000 shops it would be impossible for Etsy to promote them all.”

Crochetkween: What is the most fun for you on your page?
Linda: “Interacting with the people who are learning and loving the technique for the first time.”

Crochetkween: Tell me about your partnership with Knot-Cha-Cha on The Bead Crochet Exchange? Linda: “We got to “know” each other as email friends from Etsy, and the relationship grew from there.”

Crochetkween: Do you teach classes or offer online classes?
Linda: “I used to teach nationally at almost all the major conventions and bead guilds, but stopped when I opened the Etsy shop as the traveling got tiresome.  In addition, I was “gifted” a grandchild who ties up many of my weekends in a much more fun way!”

Crochetkween: Are you a member of any groups or associations?
Linda: I am a member of TNNA (The National Needlearts Association), and I enjoy attending their wholesale shows which is where I tend to find all the yarns that I like.”

Crochetkween: I don’t run into many people who do bead-crochet? I think it is an untapped niche that has so much potential, but maybe people are a bit intimidated by the small beads and thread. Do you find this to be the case in your area?
Linda: “No, I find that most beaders want to learn bead-crochet as well as many crocheters.  The beaders want to expand what they can do with beads, and I think most crocheters want to be able to make jewelry, and bead crochet definitely fits that bill.”

Crochetkween: What do you do to promote/market the skills of bead crochet?
Linda: I regularly put out my newsletter, Tips and Tricks and I am the author of Bead Crochet Jewelry; and I’ve been published in many beading magazines such as Bead and Button Magazine, Beadwork Magazine.

"Tips, Tools, and 15 Beautiful Projects"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Review: Big Book of Little Amigurumi by Ana Paula Rimoli

The Big Book of Little Amigurumi by Ana Paula Rimoli
Yet another book on the popular crochet-style, Amigurumi, has been added to the stable of offerings. At first glance, one might think the book contains just repeats of oft-seen patterns: the ubiquitous owl, plentiful penguins and common cookies. About then the clever style of Ana Rimoli kicks in to surprise the reader!

The carefree look of the Mommy and Baby Hedgehogs along with their disco-era hair makes you want to kiss them! The Hot-Air Balloon is colorful and clever and as Ana Paula says, “It hangs in the room and watches my children play.”

Hot-Air Balloon
Little Bunny and Her Carrot Home will provide endless hours of play for the little ones. Once it is done, Ana suggests you fill the carrot with jelly beans and set the bunny on top for an Easter surprise!

Little Bunny & Her Carrot Home
By providing a water lily throne, Ana turns a prickly frog into a loveable creature! Just when you thought you’d never need to make another unicorn again, Ana Paula adds a colorful, curly mane to hers; and you won’t be able to resist making one of your own!

Shy Little Unicorn
Ana has included her favorites in the 72 pattern offerings; all of which can be completed in about two hours. Many of the designs include Identical “Mommy and Baby” options. Visit her on her blog or Etsy shop  and you will see what a prolific Amigurumi expert she is!

The Big Book of Little Amigurumi is available at Martingale as a print version + e-book for $22.99 or e-book only for $14.99. Photography is by Martingale/Brent Kane.