Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bloomin' Flowers: Surface Crochet'em Right On!

Spring is in the air ... flowers are a'bloomin' ...

I have lost count of how many chemo caps I now have completed (45 is my goal; one for each day my father goes in for cancer treatment. All to be donated.)  This one, is hot off my crochet hook, is crafted with half-double crochet stitches.  As I completed the last stitch for the cap I decided it needed a few flowers, and I admit: I really like how they came out.  I thought I'd share how I made them right on the hat itself!

Crocheted flowers with beaded centers make for pretty embellishment.
Bloomin' Flowers:
By Dee Stanziano

Create a slip knot, place loop on hook.

Look at your finished project. Decide where you'd like your flower to reside. Look closer at your work, more importantly, look at the individual stitch that you decided your flower will rest upon. See the legs of your stitch? Or the cross-bar from a hdc or dc stitch? These make great "loops" to directly crochet your flower onto! :)

Gently insert your hook under one of those stitch loops, yarn over and pull through the loop, yarn over and pull through both loops on hook  (this makes your 1st sc st), utilizing that same "loop" create 2 more single crochet stitches.

Turn work 180 degrees, look for another "loop" on the project to secure your flower to. Ensure it is *very* close to the prior used "loop". Make 2 single crochet stitches here, join to first sc st with a slip stitch to complete the round.

Petals: *(ch 3, dc in sc twice, ch 3, sl st in same sc st), sl st in next sc, repeat from * until you have 5 petals. End off.

Since you crocheted the flowers right onto your project, there is no need to sew them on. At this point all that is left is to weave in the tails. Adding a decorative bead to the flower makes for a great option. :)

For those fairly new to crochet, the technique of crocheting directly onto a finished project, be it crocheted or knitted, is known as "surface crochet."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Interview and Book Review: Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats

Title: Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats: 30 Fun & Stylish Designs for Kids of All Ages
Author: Kristy Simpson
Year Published: 2014

Dee's Rating: 10 Hooks out of 10

I had just vowed to crochet a chemo cap for donatation for each day I will be taking my father in for cancer treatment when the publisher of the new book, "Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats" asked me to write a review. I said yes!

Within days the book arrived and upon my initial flip-through I instantly thought the title should have been "Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats, and Some For Daddy too!" I say this because the book also includes patterns for the Dads in our lives. While this book is not intended to be "chemo" in theme, it has plenty of patterns to inspire everyone.  :)

Chemo cap inspired by "Groovy Waves Beanie" pattern
featured in the "Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats" book.
Yarn by Lotus, Hook by Graydog.
Wanting to give a pattern a test-drive, I grabbed some Lotus yarn generously given to me by Vashti, and set to work on the Groovy Waves Beanie. I found the instructions to be easy to follow (and alter, since I was using a thinner yarn and smaller hook), and liked that the instructions include sizes for Small, Medium, and Large.  I already have a second hat from the book on my hook.

I give this book a rating of 10 hooks out of 10 for the diversity of styles, ease of pattern following, and for clear how-to images of stitch instructions.

Prior to the start of my father's cancer treatments I  got a chance to interview Kristi, the author of this book:

Q. When did you start crocheting, and what was the first project you ever completed? Did you learn how to crochet from someone, or are you self-taught?
A. I began crocheting around 6 years ago. My daughter had received a 'Learn to Crochet' gift for Christmas and she sweet talked me into teaching her. As I was learning the basics to teach her....I was 'hooked'! So, yes, I am a self taught crocheter.

Some of Kristi's favorite designs
featured in her newest book.
Images used with permission.
Q. The "Mommy & Me" concept for crocheted hats is great, especially since you include patterns for Daddy too. Where did you get the inspiration for your hats?
A. "Mommy & Me" was such a blast to design. I have a sweet spot for hats, as they are my most favorite things to design. I have had sketches for YEARS, a binder of ideas that I had compiled from magazines and every day life experiences, and my publisher and I worked together to come up with a list that we thought would be great for all ages...kids to adults! For instance, I had been out to my Great Aunt's house one afternoon and she had NEW baby sheep. now, if you haven't ever seen baby sheep--you have to look up a photo. They are so cute (and even a little awkward) but their ears just get me every time! So, that was my instant inspiration for the Lamb Bonnet!

Q. I'm known for loving various crochet hooks of various manufactures. Do you find you have a favorite brand? And, how would you define your crochet style: knife holder, pencil holder, or perhaps another style?
A. When it comes to holding a crochet hook, I am a knife holder. I have seen the other styles being used, and not that one way is right or wrong-- I just can cruise right along with the knife holder style. My favorite type of hook is a generic brand from Hobby Lobby that has the bamboo on the end. I love the extra grip it gives me and I honestly do not drop my hook as much!

Q. Of the collection of hats featured in your book, is there a pattern or two that stick out in your mind as a 'favorite'?
A. If I had to pick a few favorites, I would choose the Giggles'n'Curls Hat, Downtown Slouchy, Horse hat, Pigtail Hat and the Daddy's Bearded Dude Beanie (but that's since I have to choose!---I personally love them all!)

Q. What big projects do you see in your future? ... another pattern book perhaps?
A. I am actually working on Book #3 right now! The theme is still a surprise, but I think you're going to LOVE it!
Thank you Kristi!

Kristi is the founder of Inspired Crochet magazine, and is the author of "Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet: 35 Adorable Designs for Newborns to 12 Months," published in 2013.  Additional pictures from her new "Mommy & Me" book can be found here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

waiting and souvenirs

I was sitting in the hospital's ER, patiently waiting for the doctors and nurses to tend to my father's recent health scare. I held in my hands my trusty crochet hook and a skein of yarn; made a slip knot followed by two chains and thus began a series of seamless rounds that would grow into a chemo cap to be earmarked for donation.

The start of a chemo cap while waiting
at a wrestling match, February 2014.
I was mid-round in my stitch count when a father brought his 5-year old son into the waiting room. The boy was fidgety, tugging on his "bracelet" the hospital had given to him to wear.  "But Dad! Why do I have to wear it?!!" His dad tried to explain what the bracelet was for but the boy wasn't buying into it.  As we were the only three in the waiting room, I said to the boy, "It's a souvenir of your trip to the hospital. My son collects his. He has this many," I said as I held out my hand showing all five fingers on it.

 "He does??" the boy asked.

 "Yes," I replied, "In fact, he just got one last week when he hurt his collar bone."

"Did it hurt," the boy asked.

"Yes. My boy told me it hurt so I brought him to the hospital so the Doctor could look at it and they gave him the souvenir bracelet, just like yours."

The boy turned to his dad, held up his wrist and said, "Dad! Look! I got a souvenir!"  His dad smiled at me and mouthed "Thank you."

"What are you making," the boy asked me.

"I'm making a hat that I will give to someone who is very sick. It's what I do when I'm waiting," I replied.  "Today I'm waiting for my dad. They gave him a souvenir bracelet too."

"Ohhh, you're a very nice lady!" the boy exclaimed.

His dad told me his son had hurt himself on a trampoline and has been complaining about his "owwie" for a little while so he thought it best to be checked out.  "Dad," asked his son, "can I learn how to make a hat? His dad said yes, that he could ask a relation to teach him.

At that point the nurse called me, stating I could go see my father. As I gathered up my things the boy said, "Goodbye nice lady. I'll take good care of my souvenir!"  :)

Note: My father turned out to be (thankfully!) OK.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crochet Sampler Dreams go Digital

Piecework Magazine tempts me with a
Crochet Sampler cover.  August 2010 issue.
I love the idea of having a crochet sampler book. Sometimes I head over to ebay in search of one, crafted by someone who had shared the same passion for crochet. But, alas, it seems, I am not alone in wanting to own a piece of crochet's history -- I am usually outbid at staggering prices well out of my reach.

I see that I have two options: I could craft one myself, which is not a bad idea. Perhaps this is why I drool all over magazine articles about stitch sampler books such as the 2010 issue of Piecework Magazine pictured on the right.

My other option is that I can scan bits and pieces of finished projects featuring stitch patterns I find alluring, tuck them into a virtual folder, and eventually craft a digital version of a stitch sampler booklet.  Oh, I'm liking the way this sounds!  And, honestly, this is what I've been doing each time I purchase an item that has a bit of crochet on it that I like!

Crochet Sampler Dreams go Digital;
pictured is a sample scan of some stitch work I did on
a Chemo Cap.

This past December, while out shopping with the family, I discovered a sweet little gadget. The sales associate was quick to point out that there would no longer be a need for me to turn on my all-in-one-printer, wait for it to warm up, scan it into my computer, rename the file, and then edit it. No. This little gadget fit right into the palm of my hand and could easily scan bits and pieces, as well as full pages ...  whatever he said after "bits and pieces" was lost to me. He had said, "Bits and pieces." Would it, could it, scan crochet and knit fabrics?  I asked. He didn't know. I pulled out my gloves out of my coat pocket, laid it on the counter and moved the mouse over them. It worked!!  Ohhhh, I so wanted to purchase this little mouse right there and then. But I didn't. Instead I grabbed my Santa's hand and pointed, and said, in direct words, "Me. Want!!"  I don't think Santa took good notes last year because it wasn't under the tree.  Trust me, I LOOKED!!

Moving the story along, I purchased the sweet little gadget this week -- and mind you not at the December retail ($99), but rather at the April sales price of just $38.  That's a whole'lotta savings I can use to enhance my yarn stash!

One of, if not the best reason, I really love my new toy, is because with the stitches scanned, I can zoom right into to the stitch work I want to study. It doesn't have to be actual stitch work I've already completed. It can also be a picture of a project from a publication, that perhaps I want to see more of -- perhaps on how it was constructed, or to help clarify written stitch instructions. I'm so excited to add this product to my "tool belt."  :)

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)