three tips: join being careful not to twist

There are six simple words that strike dread every time, “join being careful not to twist”. My brain groans and sighs with an “I know!” and I set out to make a careful join. I rarely get it right on the first try. Or the second.

For instance, take this lovely foundation chain of over 100 stitches of Universal Yarn’s Whisper Lace (colourway Lemongrass), it’s for a sample crochet project. It was extra frustrating because I also twisted the join on my gauge swatches too! The sore point is that I didn’t double check until I was in the middle of my second complete round.

See, it happens to me too. Newbies, please don’t be embarrassed!

It’s why I prefer to knit my socks toe-up, work my hats from the crown-to-brim, and in general avoid joining a large number of stitches whenever possible. Is there anything you can do? If you ask knitters or crocheters their advice for avoiding that dreaded twist will differ as much as which needle or hook is best. There’s no wrong way to do it, however, some may affect the design effect. It’s worth keeping that in mind as you develop your own tool box of tip and tricks. When I create a sample, I follow the designer’s instructions as rule and can’t always use my favorite method.

Three ways to join being careful not to twist

  1. Work the first row straight and then join on the second row. This often requires me to reverse the pattern for the wrong side so it isn’t always an option. I use the tail to close up the gap from the first row.
  2. If when I reach the end of the first round I discover a twist, I twist again and carry on. Really! Depending on the project this may or may not be noticeable at the end.
  3. After completing the cast on, I add stitch markers to the bottom edge to weigh it down and provide visual contrast. Then I lay the project on a flat contrasting surface and make sure that all markers are in the same direction before bringing the ends together.

Do you have a favorite tip for joining to work in the round?

two book ideas for easy crafting

I love challenging myself with complicated designs, though I also take great joy in the beauty found within simple patterns. After a long day I don’t always want to knit another garter stitch washcloth, it’s nice to have easy to work patterns on hand. The two books in today’s post fit this basic criteria.

Drop-Dead Easy Knits

by Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Egan, Kirsten Kapur

With this title on your shelf you’ll never be without a knit, from a quick and cozy project when you need something warm to a lightweight item keeping you occupied at the beach after you’ve finished your latest guilty read. With classic designs, Drop Dead Easy Knits will become a good knitting friend that you pull off the shelf again and again.

The designs are grouped by topic, not the expected type of item, but rather the knitting environment. You’ll find items to work confidently while distracted at knit night with the Shandy Headband or you can turn to the joggle scarf when enduring a family get-together. At the seashore sit with your toes in the sand while working up a Searsport Market Bag or warm your toes at the fire as you whip up an instant gift, also known as a Portillo Cowl.

The range of projects suits a variety of knitters, yarns, and situations with the benefit that they really are easy! There are tips and notes in each pattern for if you can engage cruise control, or if success requires paying attention. This is a title I recommend for all bookshelves.

Want to know more? Gale, Mary Lou, and Kirsten filmed a short video with great additional tips:
[youtube https://youtu.be/AFgnuV0fIkE]


Crochet One-Skein Wonders for Babies: 101 Projects for Infants & Toddlers

by Judith Durant, Edie Eckman

The eighth book in the One-Skein Wonders series does not disappoint, and even more delightful is that it’s for crocheters! While several earlier titles include a token project or two, this volume celebrates all designs crochet.

The projects are arranged by standard categories: hats, socks, tops, blankets, and numerous types of accessories. In addition to a standard index is one by yarn weight. These are helpful for those situations when you have yarn but aren’t quite sure what you want to make. Many different tips are included to ensure successful projects. Two I like are nice reminders for hats: a larger hat can be grown into, a smaller one is pointless and to keep bonnet tie lengths short. Symbol diagrams are included where feasible. Attention to layout means the symbol key and abbreviation chart are facing each other in the print copy.

If you crochet and wish to expand your repertoire, I recommend this versatile addition to your bookshelf.

I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

five books for your spring bookshelf

It’s officially spring, and my reading pace hasn’t slackened one bit. The “to be reviewed” pile is threatening to overtake one of the “to be read” piles, so here are five titles that recently caught my eye. They are each unique and diverse in topic and skill; I’ve decided their trend is colour. I love colour most during late winter and early spring as I wait for the snow to slowly melt. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

Crochet

A Garden of Shawls
by Karen Whooley
Review copy provided by the author. I crocheted a sample for the collection.

It’s delightful to finally be able to talk about this collection of twelve crochet shawls by Karen. Karen’s expertise and professionalism is evident in every page of this title from her new imprint, Occhi Blu Press. The patterns are beautifully photographed, schematics are included, and the stitches are provided in both written and diagram form. I had great enjoyment working up the sample for Trellis. Now I need to decide which design I’ll work up for myself, I have a feeling that in time I’ll work through each of the twelve designs.

Knitting

Coffee with C.C. (and Dami Too) ~ Another 7 Pattern Caffeine Inspired Knitting Collection
by C.C. Almon & Dami Almon
Review copy provided by the author.

When C.C. let it be known she was working on a new collection, once again I almost spilled my coffee in my rush to reply! I very much enjoyed her first title, and this time she is joined by her daughter Dami. Five of the designs are for socks, there’s a brilliant pair of fingerless mitts, and a new wrap to help keep away the chill of your favourite coffee shop. Once again, I love that the sock patterns are written for both toe-up (my personal preference) and cuff-down (many other knitters’ preferred sock knitting technique). While I am not a fan of instant coffee I really like Dami’s Instant Coffee Socks. CC’s 1 Shot, 2 Shots, 3 Shots Fingerless Mitts are brilliant, I am the only person I know able to be holding a hot drink and still sport ice cold hands. The newest 7 designs from the adorable mother/daughter duo of C.C. and Dami Almon is sure to delight.

Mosaic & Lace Knits: 20 Innovative Patterns Combining Slip-Stitch Colorwork and Lace Techniques
by Barbara Benson
Review copy provided by Netgalley/Stackpole Books.

Barbara possesses one of those brilliant, creative, and generous minds that I would love to take out for coffee. She has figured out colourwork lace by building upon Barbara Walker’s Mosaic technique. This melding of brilliant Barbaras has created many new and fascinating possibilities. It has been difficult for me not to tell my schedule to go away and swatch the projects for days on end. Benson takes you through how she created this process, tips for getting started, and things to keep in mind aloncg the way so your mosaic lace projects are successful. The first project is a basic bulky mosaic mitten, without lace, to help you become comfortable with mosaic knitting. From there, the possibilities expand not only to shawls and scarves at various yarn weights, but also hats, a bag, fingerless mitts, and a delightful pillow. Several designs caught and held my eye that I hope some day to find the spare time to work up, including Isochronal Arc, Lacy Pinstripe Cowlette, and Fractured Helix. What will you knit first?

Creativity

I think that combined these two titles could be quite powerful to helping jumpstart your creativity.

Pattern Studio : A Creative Workbook for Sketching Unique Repeats
Kulik, Shayna.
discovered on the shelves at my local public library

I keep thanking the acquisition librarians at my library for adding titles I don’t think I would otherwise ever encounter. Kulik’s book is one of those rare gems. I’m also thankful I found it while it’s new, it was very tempting to start doodling on the enticing blank pages! This title provides 56 worksheets (6 warm-ups and 50 exercises) that will help you to develop the tools in order to create unique patterns of your own. The second portion of the book offers patterns, bios, and quotes from a diverse group of 50 artists to help you see the infinite creative possibilities. The exercise pages include subtle doodles so that you don’t need to fear the blank page. The exercises range from geometric patterns such as from the soles of your sneakers or the zigzag of a staircase, to patterns of buttons or stacks of books. This is a title that will definitely help direct your creativity and take your pattern and texture creation to new places.

Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking
by Emily K. Neuburger
Review copy provided by Netgalley/Storey Publishing.

I don’t see myself as an art journaler, but I know the value of regular focused practice. I requested a review copy of Journal Sparks with the desire to find ways to improve my doodling and my creative thought process. Neuberger has created a beautiful and thorough book with many different ideas and prompts that will inspire; my notes of the title have many more doodles than I expected. I think this would also be fun to work through with another Storey title, Knit the Sky. The creative possibilities are endless and I have many new ideas to help nudge my creativity when I feel stuck.

review: Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches

beth graham craftsy classWhile I was chatting with Beth Graham, she mentioned that I could take her Craftsy Class, Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches.

It’s taken me a while to sit and attend the course; I struggle with video, preferring the written word. Thankfully included with the class are detailed handouts and the video lessons are close captioned so I can mute and “watch” at 2x speed and read the lesson to my heart’s content and switch to the audio (and slow down the playback) if I want. If you aren’t familiar with the Craftsy class format, they offer an extensive help center.

Beth’s class covers about 17 textured crochet stitches and how to combine them to create new combinations over 7 lessons. I’ve begun to think of it as a class that brings a stitch dictionary to life. While it’s helpful even for advanced crocheters to review the first lesson, it’s very easy to skip and jump around.

The organization of this class progresses and builds on different types of stitches that all provide intensive texture to crochet fabric. While not seemingly relevant at first, I love and appreciate that Beth begins by stressing the benefit to stitch markers in crochet. They really are project savers!

She then goes on to cover easy texture just by playing with simple stitches and proceeds to puff, bobble, popcorn, and post stitches. The final lesson combines all of these stitches to help the student master two complex textures, the Basket-Weave stitch and Dots & Diamonds.

There’s a lot here and while you can watch the class from intro to close, after the first lesson I found I enjoyed skipping around as I didn’t have a particular project in mind, but know I would love to break out of my hdc stitch rut I’ve found myself in for several years.

From a course design viewpoint, I found the course organized coherently and pacing great. The camera work and pauses Beth takes to explain each stitch are beneficial to help get through the tricky parts. I was surprised to find myself pausing more than once to scribble notes of ways I’d like to incorporate stitches into future designs.

From an experienced crocheter viewpoint, I found this class beneficial! Not only was it useful to see a video of stitches I’ve worked for years, but sometimes even a different yarn can transform a stitch from something I skip over to something I am eager to work.

The handouts are well designed and include reference lists, suggested materials, and of course the stitches and projects discussed during the course. It’s condensed without being overwhelming and includes many stitch diagrams. However, I do wish they were a bit more flexible in the style guide application (this is not the instructor, I believe it is a style for the company) and enabled stitches to appear together completely either on the page or how they are broken across columns. But that is a minor quibble and didn’t not distract from my using the materials. I appreciate that special notes are called out in a different color and styled font, useful both for accessibility and black & white printing.

Here are two swatches I’m working on, the first is a good reminder about the importance of the proper hook for you and the fabric you wish to create. I am very loose in the formation of my stitches. It shows in the swatches that I just grabbed a hook and a skein of yarn and started working.

Aligned Cobble Stitch swatch from <a href="http://www.craftsy.com/ext/BethGraham_10172_H" target="_blank">Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches</a>

My class viewing setup & Aligned Cobble Stitch swatch from Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches.

There is a nice feature of the course software that I found very helpful. I don’t need to watch an instructor crochet the entire row of a stitch, but sometimes I want to see it a few times in repetition. When using the viewer in my web browser on my desktop/laptop, I was able to create my own repeat and have it play multiple times in succession. Please note that not all features are available on the mobile apps or may work slightly differently. You can read more about this feature in their help article, Class Features and Navigation.

I have a few frustrations with the software and they may even just be user errors and all are minor quibbles. The video player forgets settings (of video speed & closed captioning) from lesson to lesson if the class is on autoplay. It was frustrating, but not one that caused me to not look forward to taking my next Craftsy course. Overall I was very pleased with the experience from a technological point of view! I watched a lesson on my android tablet, but I don’t have a way to watch the device (it defaults to landscape) and work ergonomically so I preferred to watch the class and work at my desktop.

I received enrollment in this course in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

stitch dictionaries, some new, some old

I love stitch dictionaries and they seem to follow me home from book sales as if I’m the pied piper. In this post I’ll share a few dictionaries that are new and several classic favorites. Please also check out these previous posts, knit resources and crochet resources.

Why do I like to have so many? Sometimes seeing a stitch explained a little differently, next to another stitch, photographed a different way can make all the difference from my skipping swatching to it hopping on my needles or hook.

Upcoming Release

Every Which Way Crochet Borders: 139 Patterns for Customized EdgingsEvery Which Way Crochet Borders
by Edie Eckman
Storey Publishing
Expected publication: January 24th 2017

This title will be a great resource for those who always turn to the same handful of crochet borders. Eckman begins with basics of crochet borders onto a variety of base fabrics and then jumps into creativity far beyond the simple foundation. I’m slowly working on adding a border to a fleece blanket, once I progress past my first round, I’ll need to make a decision one which border from the vast catalogue provided. The attention to detail is what makes this book stand out, with clear photos, easy to spot categorizations of each border (wide/narrow, reversible, textured, etc.), instructions in both written and charted form, and more. I hope to provide a more detailed review when the book is available.

I received an early review copy from Storey Publishing through NetGalley, the FTC wants you to know.


New Release (Relatively)

The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary: 150 new stitch patterns to knit top down, bottom up, back and forth & in the roundThe Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary: 150 new stitch patterns to knit top down, bottom up, back and forth & in the round
by Wendy Bernard
STC Craft

Sometimes I knit flat, sometimes I knit in the round, sometimes I knit something toe or brim-up, and sometimes I knit cuff or crown-down. While I could convert most stitches quickly sometimes I just want to knit. I find that possible with Bernard’s stitch dictionary. There are many classic stitch patterns from knit and purl combinations, to ribbing, to cables, and even lace. The first volume is Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary.


Classics

The Harmony Guide To Knitting Stitches (The Harmony Guide to Knitting, #1)The Harmony Guide To Knitting Stitches

While this title is a new addition to my library, it’s a classic; I’m very thankful to have found it at a local library book sale a few weeks ago.



Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting PatternsMary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns
This was the very first knitting stitch dictionary I purchased. Even in this age of ebooks, I still turn to it when I want something light to tuck into my bag.

A Treasury of Knitting Patterns A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns Charted Knitting Designs: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns
I’m a fan of the Barbara Walker Treasury of Knitting Patterns series. They are expensive, but if you are very very lucky and patient and haunt used book stores, it is possible to find them second hand. I use these in combination with Reversible Pattern Stitches in Barbara G. Walker’s Treasuries Compiled by Mary Lee Herrick and The Walker Treasury Project. If you would like to purchase them as a complete set, I suggest ordering from Schoolhouse Press.

pile of stitch dictionaries

Do you have a favourite stitch dictionary?

a chat with Beth Graham

I recently chatted over email with Beth Graham, a phenomenal crochet teacher and designer. We spoke about the path Beth took that led her to where she is today, student mindset, and having fun.

I’ve been working through a few of Beth’s patterns, including several from her Craftsy class, Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches, and her new e-book of Tunisian Crochet Washcloths. You’ll find out more about both of these projects in the coming weeks.

Without further ado, let’s jump in:

little acorn:
I start these conversations off with a basic get to know you question. Is it a surprise to you today you are a crochet teacher whose aim is to help newer crafters “be successful right from the start”?

Shadow & Cattus

Shadow & Cattus

beth:
The real “big picture question” is why the heck I’m doing what I’m doing.
I love to talk and I love to share what I learn with others. My elementary school teachers knew this about me from early on, making comments such as “Beth lacks self-control,” and having me write lines for punishment such as “My tongue flaps like a flag in the wind.”

Now that I reconsider my teachers’ reactions, I think they got it essentially wrong: My issue, mainly, was that I was SO enthusiastic about whatever I was doing and learning that I simply could not wait to share with others until what grownups thought was the appropriate time. Which got me into trouble. A lot of trouble. (And still does, every so often!)

As I’ve matured (and my brother insists that I’m aging like stinky cheese), I’ve learned to modulate my responses just a bit. I am still hugely enthusiastic about whatever my “flavor of the month” is, but I’m just a little bit more considered about how and when I present what I’m excited about with others.

At the heart of things, I aim to convey my enthusiasm through good communication. I love to write (scratch that: I love to have written), and the most important job I have, as I see it, in whatever I do, is to communicate clearly and simply. It’s not enough to be excited about a new idea; one has to be able to break it down into logical, discrete steps so that someone else can replicate it – and also have a good result.

Monkey see, monkey do, as it were.

If I do my job right, new crocheters can be successful right from the start because information is fed to them in bite-sized chunks that they can easily digest. After all, a little bit of stinky cheese goes a long way.
When I think about my patterns, I think about the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: My designs are not too hard, not too soft, but just right. And here, my own professional background has been a huge help. As a children’s librarian and later, as an elementary school teacher, I learned the importance of clear, deliberate speech – and logical, sequential instructions.

My Craftsy class, Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches, was a great way for me to take what I’ve learned in other areas and apply it to teaching a specific topic for adults – and I just loved everything about the process of planning and filming the course. In the class, I guide students through stitch patterns both easy and more complex they begin to build their own personal stitch dictionary. Students learn what they love (and what they hate!) as they explore texture in my carefully thought out class projects.

One of the things I love most about the Craftsy class is that, even though I filmed it late last year, it continues to be an active class. Students can ask whatever questions they want of me, and I’ll do my best to answer them. As well, other students can chime in to give encouragement and tips. I love my classroom community!

little acorn:
When a student steps into your classroom or opens up one of your patterns, what do you wish for? What drives you the most nuts?
beth:
I was reading your recent interview with Jill Wolcott, and practically nodded my head off my shoulders as I read:

Those that come in with a surety that I cannot teach them anything make me irritable because it ends up being true, but I don’t think it is because I’m not a skilled teacher.
~ Jill Wolcott interview, 06 September 2016

Until recently, I always said to myself that I never met a crochet student I couldn’t teach. A while ago, I had two students who came to me for a private class. They had a specific project that they wanted make – but they needed to learn crochet first in order to make it. The one student had crocheted a bit when she was a child, but her friend had absolutely no experience. What was remarkable was how open the friend, who had never lifted a hook in her life, was to trying new things, while the other student, who said she had crocheted before, was completely resistant to trying anything. Her mindset was “I tried that before, and that won’t work.”

I completely failed with this student – and in the process, failed to give her friend, who was keen to learn, all that she deserved too. The problem was ultimately, that the student came to the class with a resistant, negative attitude: I’m not even sure that she really was that interested in learning, but was only there for the friend’s sake.

I would like to get better at disarming that sort of adult student conditioning. But maybe I can’t, and maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation on my part.

little acorn:
I’ve noticed this mindset more frequently with my technology clients, they want the googled solution to be The One. I don’t have a good answer.
When not crocheting, you can be found…
beth:
Travelling with my husband: going to art museums (portraiture for me, thank you very much!) and eating as much local food as I can. We recently returned from a trip to England and Belgium, where my husband had conferences. You can read about a few of my favorite things at my blog post.

I also love to read (mostly biography) and knit socks.

little acorn:
I confess, I love to tag along on business trips. I find them the best of both worlds. I get a short break and to see the things I want to. He has an excuse to break away from the business and we have nice dinners that I don’t have to cook! We need to have another conversation about biographies… and sock knitting.

What drives your creative process? Is there any part of it that isn’t fun?

beth:
I’m in this to have fun. Seriously. If there ever comes a time that I no longer enjoy what I do, I’ll hang up my crochet hook and move on to something new.

In a way, I write and design for selfish motives: I like the creative process, and I like to have a good time. I get a kick out of writing a good sentence and out of getting a simple design just right. I make things that I enjoy – things that amuse me – and then I try to discover if there’s a market for what I’ve done.

Shadow & Swirly Blanket

Swirly Blanket & Shadow

I’ve been pretty lucky so far. Whatever it is I do seems to work – and I’ve had some pretty incredible opportunities in a relatively short time!

I know that goes against good business practice; conventional wisdom says to find your audience and then create for them. I create for myself, and then seek out an audience for my work.

little acorn:
I prefer this mindset and it’s what drives my businesses. It’s not easy – but I think overall it keeps us as happier and healthier individuals. Especially when the answer to my favourite question is:
Kitten or Puppy snuggles?
beth:
When you have a face like this on your lap most mornings, would you ever think to defect to the other side?!
purr & cattus

Purr & Cattus

little acorn:
Thank you Beth (and Purr)!

You can find more of Beth at www.zagraham.com and peruse her entire ravelry catalog of patterns. You can enjoy 50% off class enrollment by using this special link: Fun & Fantastic Textured Crochet Stitches.