Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: The Fine Art of Crochet

Title: The Fine Art of Crochet
Author: Gwen Blakley Kinsler
Year Published: 2013

Dee's Rating: 10 Hooks out of 10

"...crochet as a means of expression" can be "...composed in one piece and, like pottery and glassblowing, can be fluidly molded..." ~Clinton MacKenzie

To think that if the author Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder) was reportedly amazed to find "American Crochet" (aka 'granny squares') during one of her visits to a museum in Europe, I can only imagine what she would think of the diverse collection amassed in Gwen Blakley Kinsler's new book, The Fine Art of Crochet.  Twenty artists whose crochet work is on the cutting-edge in modern times were selected for their wonderment and inspiration that is not bound by gender nor by financial constraints.

Gwen's book is her tribute to crochet; she is the Founder of the Crochet Guild of America, and has been creating her own inspirational crochet art since 1982. To help us become unstuck on the "crochet is stiff" and "only women do it" thinking, Gwen shares the history of crochet from the 1960's to today to show us how it has evolved as an extraordinary art form.  As each of the twenty featured artists are introduced in this book, the reader is given the experience usually reserved for visits to the museum. Gwen even features the work of one artist, Jerry Bleem, who creatively redefines the "American Crochet" by using plarn (yarn made of recycled plastic bags) in one of his pieces!

Each of the twenty artists listed below were selected to provide a fresh look at crochet which includes four men: Arline Fisch, Leslie Pontz, Georgina Valverde, Pate Conaway, Carol Hummel, Renie Breskin Adams, Donna Lish, Dale Roberts, Nathan Vincent, Andrea Uravitch, Kathleen Holmes, Tracy Krumm, Donna Rosenthal, Karen Searle, Soonran Youn, Jerry Bleem, Jo Hamilton, Yvette Kaiser Smith, Bonnie Meltzer, and Dr. Carol Ventura.  The textures, the shapes, the techniques and the various mediums used are all part of this stunning and inspirational collection of crochet art!. If you are interested in exploring crochet outside of its traditional roles, then this is the book for you.   Bravo, Gwen!  Bravo!
Myra Woods showing the International Freeform Crochet Group's
collective work; image from my 2007 blog entry,
"Oh, Those Freeformers!"

Note: Gwen even includes some history behind a collective piece of work by members of the 
 International Freeform Crochet Group which I am proud to state I contributed to. (see image above)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Wonderment of Miniature

rare black Boye WWII Crochet Hook, Silk sewing thread
I am venturing, for my first time - ever, down that famous bunny hole, entering into the world of Alice in Wonderland.  I am talking about where things are big, and things are small, and thinking of impossible things are indeed quite possible.
“Alice: This is impossible!
The Mad Hatter: Only if you believe it is.”
             ~ Lewis Carroll

I'm talking about Miniature Crochet.

I have crocheted with thread before, in crocheting doilies and Irish Crochet projects and such. But I have never, other than admiring other people's amazing work and purchasing the book on Miniature Crochet, ventured any deeper into the world of miniatures.

zooming in...doily pattern can be found in the book,
Doilies in Color
Still working on my comic newspaper doily for my CGOA's Chapter's "Hello Doily Challenge," I decided it would be fun to also have a tiny version of the same doily crocheted in sewing thread.  You know, as a comparison of big and small, paper and ____.  Paper and silk! I purchased a spool of silky sewing thread that changes color.  Once I was home, I grabbed one of my black World War II Bates crochet hooks (size 10/ 1.5mm) and set to crocheting my beginning chains required by the pattern.

Let me state that it was at that very moment I felt like Alice as she started tumbling down that rabbit hole!  I was lost.  I couldn't see my stitches, and the thread was so darn slippery!  Had I read this excellent blog post on Choosing Threads first, I think I would have chosen a different thread to start this journey with! 

I would also recommend getting something to magnify -- such as a good pair of glasses -- as well.  I located two pairs of glasses (2.0 and 1.5 magnifying glasses) and can now turn the impossible into the possible if I wear both glasses at the same time.  (The next time I venture out to the store I'll pick up a single pair of strong magnifying glasses that can do the job of both.  Unfortunately, the magnification is also pointing out that I am in need of a manicure -- add that to the list of recommendations.)

I am now several rows into this miniature world, and I must admit that I am enjoying this adventure.  :)


Want to know more about the hard-to-find WWII Black Boye Crochet Hooks?  Visit

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: Crochet Wraps Every Which Way

"Crochet Wraps Every Which Way" by
Tammy Hildebrand
Title: Crochet Wraps Every Which Way
Author: Tammy Hildebrand
Year Published: 2014; printed in USA

Dee's Rating: 9.5 Hooks out of 10

Tammy writes in her book Introduction:

"Is there anything more versatile than a wrap?  One of the most long-lived garment designs in existence, a wrap can be anything from a light, lacy shawlette, to a thick, cozy poncho, to a huge, intricate, jaw-droppingly gorgeous lace shawl."

She is so right! And the timing of her new book couldn't have been better, especially with the Bridal, Prom and Graduation seasons right around the corner! What could be better than wearing a hand-crafted shawl to such occasions? :)

Tammy's "Aqua Marine" from her new book,
"Crochet Wraps Every Which Way"
© 2014 by Stackpole Books. Used with permission

In this hot-off-the-press book, Tammy offers 18 original patterns, which includes 6 crochet techniques that range from traditional crochet to double-ended crochet.  The project Skill Levels rotate from easy, to intermediate, to experienced. This means there are six patterns offered with each of these 3 skill levels -- offering something for everyone to try!  Thinking inline with Tammy again, I do not agree with judging a pattern by the Skill Level as it could discourage a crocheter from trying something new: as long as you are proficient with the basics of crocheting, and diligent in counting and using stitch markers when needed, then you are ready to crochet up one of her beautiful wraps!

And I know this first hand -- as I type this book review, I already have her "Aqua Marine" wrap fresh off of the blocking board! Not only did this project work up super quick, but I also found Tammy's instructions easy to understand - and adapt! (Hey, she does say in her Introduction to "Have fun, experiment.")

My version of Tammy's "Aqua Marine" pattern
worked up as "Amethyst."
There are no symbol charts offered, but as I already stated, I found her written instructions easy to follow.  The only reason this book lost "half a hook" in my rating is due to some of the photography being blurry -- I am not sure if it is just my book (perhaps a printing mishap?*).  I do want to state that the images in question that I found to be blurry do not distract from the quality of the projects being offered: meaning I'd still want to add this book to my private crochet library!

* ETA: In an email exchange with the publisher, they report that the images look fine in their copies of the book.  So perhaps the issue is only with my copy.  

Want to see more photos of patterns offered in this book?  Visit Stackpole’s Look Book here.  Want to get to know Tammy? Follow her on Facebook here.  My Amethyst project details can be found here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A "How To" - Peacock Garment Closure

Create your own pretty "Peacock Garment Closure"
If you are anything like me, you yarn shop AND shop for buttons, tassels, and beads too.  But not necessarily at the SAME time, or with a project aways in mind.

Sometimes inspiration hits. We go stash diving, find the perfect yarn and pattern combo and then begin happily stitching away. Then, once the project is done, we consider "the closure..."

So we head to the stash of buttons to find we do indeed have the perfect button, but then realize the project lacks button holes!  What to do? What to do!

An easy fix! We create a "Peacock Garment Closure."  Which is very pretty indeed!

You will need:
1 large button (the pretty one)
1 smaller button (used as a stabilizer)
2 pretty tassels, beaded ones optional
a sewing needle.

1. Sew the pretty button on the front of the project, with the smaller (stabilizer) button on the backside with the project "sandwiched" in the middle.
2. On the other front side of the project, sew the tops of the two tassels together so that they can dangle freely.

To use:
1. Take one tassel and loop over the button.
2. Take the other tassel and loop around the button in the opposite direction.

Now not only do you have a super pretty closure, but also more inspiration to enhance your button, bead and tassel stashes.  :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy Cro-tastic New Year!!

Can you believe it?  Today is the start of a brand New Year -- and, in just a few short weeks, it will also be the official 10th Anniversary of my blogging (mostly) about crochet.  TEN YEARS!!!  What a milestone!!  The yarn, the hooks, and the projects!  The classes, conferences, and sheep & wool festivals!  Wow!!

To celebrate, I'll be awarding one lucky reader a one-year membership to the Crochet Guild of America: a year of opportunity, possibilities, and discoveries!  I've been a member since 2001, and I can tell you I have enjoyed every moment of it. ... So, not only is it my blogiversary, but the CGOA will be celebrating their 20th ANNIVERSARY!!  What an exciting year this is going to be!!!  :)

For those interested in helping me celebrate and want a chance to win the CGOA Membership, the rules are posted below.  Please note one entry per person, and the drawing for the 1-year membership is open to everyone of adult age.  (If you're not sure if your country is open to the CGOA Membership, you can contact the CGOA to inquire prior to entering.) 

>>>  EDITED 2/1/14: GIVEAWAY is now CLOSED.  Winner TBA in future blog post.  <<<
The Rules:
1.  Dive into my blog archives and find a post that you like.  An easy way to find a topic that might interest you is by utilizing the "search" option in the upper left-hand corner. You can search for a technique, a hook, a project, a yarn, a book review, famous crocheters and more!
2. Once you've found on you like, right-click onto the title, click onto "properties" and grab the address to that post.
3. Come back here and leave a comment stating "This is a post I liked: (insert the post address by right-clicking again and pasting the post address)."

Example: one of my favorites from my archives is

If you comment on why you liked the post, then you will get two chances of winnng the membership.
4. Leave a way for me to be able to contact you should you be the winner.  If I can't reach you, I'll have to pick someone else.
5. Note that this is for the CGOA Membership, and is not exchangeable for actual cash.
6. Yes, even if you're already a CGOA Member, you can participate. Should you win, it will be more like a Renewal.

Good luck, happy post hunting, and may your New Year be Cro-tastic!  :)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Guinness, A Rematch, please .. re: World's Largest Crochet Hook

For quite some time I have been interested in which crochet hook should be crowned the World's Largest. I've actually been accumulating links on my Hooks and Stitches blog to the various articles and videos  could find after exhaustive searches so that my decision stays as fact driven as possible.

Today I received the latest Talking Crochet enews with an article on this very topic. It states that "Jeanette Huisinga of the Yarn Studio in Casey, Ill., who teamed up with Jim Bolin, also a resident in this small, central Illinois town, to compete for the Guinness World Records for the largest crochet hook." They won the title and I do wish them the most sincerest Crochet-ulations.  But did Guinness get it right? Their finished hook measured 6 feet, 1.5 inches long and 3 inches in diameter.

Ah, but what about Jimbo's hook? I mentioned his "Diplohookticus Jimbosei" hook in my article, " Magic Wands, Part II." Jimbo states here that his hook measured 57.87 inches long and 6 inches in diameter.

... and what about the other contender?  Let's not forget about that lady in the 1955 film, crocheting with a whoppingly long crochet hook who needed an assistant to ensure her hook wouldn't be hit by passing cars ...

To help me visualize these hooks, I drew out some basic rectangles and then called my son over to help me with a bit of math.  Here is what we compiled (if you right-click onto the image and select "open in new window or tab, the image should be much larger):

Based upon what we compiled, Jimbo is still the front runner.  Jimbo had stated that "The wise folk at Guinness informed us that the largest crochet hook in the world wasn't "unusual" enough to merit recognition."

I say lets ask Guinness to a rematch.  Wouldn't that be fun to watch?  :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pom Poms on the Fly!

The conclusion of the Tenth Annual "60 Scarves in 60 Days" Challenge took place on November 30th.  This year, I crocheted a total of 12 scarves with matching hats that were donated locally at the beginning of this month.
Why is there a credit card in this picture???
(one of the scarves & hats I crocheted for the 60/60 Challenge.)

Mr Dee, being observant as I worked on my last set, asked me why I don't share my little "time saver" tip...  I replied, "I plan too, I just need to find the time."

What he observed was me creating a pom pom utilizing fake credit cards various companies sent out in hopes of me opening an account with them.  Gift cards, the plastic kind, also work equally well during those times you cannot locate your Clover Pom Pom maker (which I absolutely LOVE!).

Here is how I use fake credit cards and used gift cards to make pom poms on the fly:

Recycle those fake credit cards and used gift cards as a Pom Pom maker!

Quick, easy, and from recycled materials.  Easy, right?  :)