Review: Interweave Crochet vs. Simply Crochet

In this review my goal is to evaluate two crochet magazines in a very general way. I’m doing this mostly because I used to be a fan of magazines. I actually had subscriptions. Two years ago I canceled all of my magazine subscriptions but I still continue to buy single issues here and there of two related to crochet, which are the titles being examined here. I think it’s important to compare them because, in my humble opinion, they are the two best crochet magazines out there. I buy one of them on occasion because I just have to have such-and-such pattern I saw on Ravelry. The other one is a title I get more frequently just for fun because it has innovative designs in it. Can you guess which is which after reading this review? Can you feel my sadness of having to say all at once that these are the two very best yet not worth subscribing to?

I’m going to discuss my general comparisons according to these categories: publication frequency, price, design innovation, regular columns, and presentation. I’m not going to give them a grade because I think it isn’t appropriate in this case. Grading a whole magazine is like putting a price on a life. Periodicals have histories and go through different phases.

Frequency

Interweave Crochet is a quarterly publication. So, if you order a subscription, you only get four issues a year. The subscription is $21.95 US for the print edition and $19.95 on Amazon for the Kindle edition. Single issues cost $7.99.

Simply Crochet is a monthly publication. It costs $59.99 US for a digital subscription. Single issues are similarly priced to those of Interweave Crochet.

Price

Proportionally speaking, the pricing of both magazines is fair in the sense that they cost about the same as any old magazine. (See above)

Design Innovation

Both magazines attempt to show off modern style and trends as well as introduce readers to new techniques. Interweave Crochet has been brave in that it occasionally provides sweater patterns intended for men (no, they don’t want crochet sweaters usually, alas) whereas Simply Crochet does not (how brilliantly practical, my dear Watson!). I’d say, however, that overall Simply Crochet wins in innovation. It always provides patterns for interesting accessories and clothing that are equally practical and decorative. I often open an issue of Simply Crochet and say at least once, “Huh! I never thought of doing that!” One memorable issue has a pattern for a Tunisian crochet sweater done in the round on a cro-hook. I plan on making this sweater some day for myself, but with different colors. I might add that this is very unusual to find in a magazine. Another favorite of mine is something I actually crocheted: woven potholders. One side of the potholder is made of strips of single crochet woven together. The other side is a crochet square. The strips are held to the other side by crocheting around the edge of the potholder, not by slip stitching or sewing or other “boring” technique.

I think Interweave Crochet most often excels at publishing “viral” patterns from time to time. They are not necessarily difficult or challenging, but are popular because they’re easy to make as well as surprisingly different to look at. The Babette Afghan is a fine example of this type of pattern. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Babette. I just don’t think it’s a grand challenge to create which is why it’s so popular. In my opinion, it’s a good one to make to use up a ton of scraps, perhaps another reason why it’s gone all viral.

Regular Columns

Interweave Crochet‘s regular columns are not very interesting to me. Often, they talk about something floating around on the Internet. One of their biggest mistakes was to introduce readers to free form crochet by giving a pattern for making an object that looked free form. The author totally missed the point of what the term “free form” actually means. Another time there was a regular author who attempted to uncover the mystery behind creating interesting color designs with self-striping yarns. The goal was to “set the record straight” and help readers who might have been misinformed by untrue things people have said on the ‘net that were just plain wrong. The problem here is that Crochet Crowd had already done this and the article was available for people to see for free. Another time, one of the designers wrote about how he hated that people used a color different from the suggested one in his pattern. I mean, really, people, you have to make everything just like the picture! In conclusion, the regular columns in this magazine are not very interesting. I also call all crocheters to make all the things with a color other than the one pictured or suggested by the designer to send a bold message out there. Oh, never mind, that was already done with everything.

This is not to say that Simply Crochet‘s are any better. I begin reading one and my eyes glaze over with boredom. I can’t remember anything I read. Mostly, they are incomplete instructions for some trendy technique or an interview with somebody without asking very challenging questions.

The stories in both magazines about how crochet has helped people or charity work are very interesting, of course!

In conclusion, it seems both magazines think that people buy their issues because they want patterns and pretty pictures.

Presentation

Overall, Simply Crochet‘s presentation is a big winner. Interweave Crochet has recently tried strange photographs in which the models appear in unreal or unusual settings. Other times, they don’t show me what I need to know about the finished object. Sometimes models wear their sweaters with the sleeves rolled or riding up (shocking, yes). In Simply Crochet the photos are a little more practical. The goal, I suspect, is to give us a good view of the piece and make it pleasing to the eye with colorful props and sharp images.

Conclusion

The magazine issues I buy most often out of simple curiosity are from Simply Crochet. I buy issues of Interweave Crochet very rarely because I see a must have pattern on Ravelry. Overall, I’d suggest not subscribing to either and just buy one or two individual issues a year. In the end, I believe this manner of buying them has saved me a lot of money. I am actually very sad to say this because for me it was like Christmas twelve months a year to have magazine subscriptions. Every month somebody sent me something nice and I momentarily forgot I had paid for it. I not only had subscriptions to craft magazines. I had also subscribed to many others such as National Geographic. I really hope that magazines work out how to compete with the Internet more effectively. Right now it just doesn’t make much sense to subscribe to anything anymore. My advice to craft magazines in particular would be to assign tasks to regular contributors such as: research something unusual or invent something nobody can find on the Internet. The old way of doing it is old, you know?

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Yet another sweater in progress

The year 2017 has proven me to be the sweater king. I have finished eight sweaters and I have now started number nine, a purple cardigan. The orange crochet sweater has been done since last week. I just need to take really nice photos of it to go with the pattern I’m writing up as well as to find a time to get the wearer of its brown cousin to model his sweater for me. You might recall that the brown one does not fit me in a flattering way.

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The purple cardigan looks like a crumpled blob right now because it’s yet another top-down raglan. I have been using the numbers from Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters as a guide, only modifying the button band, which I preferred to knit along with the body rather than as a final step. This has required some experimentation because I couldn’t cast on any extra stitches for the neckline as the instructions indicate. I decided to double increase along the neckline gradually. We shall see if my decision was a good one or a total fail soon enough! My plan is to knit the yoke in moss stitch and then the rest of the body in stockinette. We’ll see if I tire of purling when the yoke is finished, too.

I’ve dived deep into the depths of my stash for the yarn. It’s Cascade Quatro superwash, a discontinued item. I bought it five years ago (gasp!) and I forgot I even had it (double gasp!) As far as my stash goes, I am being a very good boy. I haven’t added any yarn to it for several months and I actually have an empty plastic container because I used all the yarn it was storing. It’s a good thing because I’ll need it to store the sweaters I’m finishing.

I’m also knitting on a Hitchhiker scarf, the now world-famous Martina Behm design. I’m using Malabrigo Sock in the Caribeño color way. This is my last skein of Malabrigo.

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I made this same exact scarf in the same color as a gift a couple of years ago. I liked how it looked so much I bought another skein to make one for myself some day. Some day is here.

Is there a “Garter Stitch Month?”

I have always loved knitting in garter stitch. Not just plain garter stitch, but also mosaic, lace, and other useful tricks with this bumpy buddy. My newest and completed garter stitch project is the Zaria shawl I need to mail to my mom ASAP.

The band of lace on this design is easy to create although it looks rather complex. This was such a fun knit. However, if I ever make this again, I’ll make it a little bit bigger. I followed the pattern yet wound up with leftover yarn for some reason. In case you’re curious, the variegated yarn is Malabrigo Sock in the color way Arcoiris and the gray yarn is Regia Sock.

As soon as I bound off Zaria I got working on a Hitchhiker for myself, yet another scarf that is all garter goodness. This has inspired me to wonder if there is a month devoted to garter stitch. I have googled and come up with nothing. So, I think somebody with some clout needs to dedicate a month to it.

WIP Wednesday: A lot of sweater!

I’ve made lots of progress on my orange crochet sweater. I’m halfway through the body already. Even though I just finished a brown pullover with the same stitch patterns I haven’t got bored yet!

Sizing has also been very easy. I started off with the same number of stitches as I did for the medium-sized sweater and just added an inch to the arm holes to give myself extra ease. The fabric doesn’t bunch up under the arms so when I write this up I’ll keep the numbers the same for these two sizes. I think I’m going to include instructions for an extra large size, too, which will be easy to calculate.

OT Monday: What I’ve been watching

In some ways this isn’t off-topic because a lot of us do our crafting activities in front of the TV. But, this isn’t about the yarn or the fabric. In August I watched a ton of Netflix because it was my month away from work. I think I’ve basically binged on series without paying any attention to films.

Marvel’s Defenders

I did not really like this Netflix Original series at all. I was attracted to it because it features Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, protagonists of their own series, respectively.

First of all, the background story is not at all clear. Everything is vague except that a group of people are immortal and they have some spirit protector that has to inhabit a corpse to be able to fight. Of course, the group of immortal people are the evil ones to defeat. For some mysterious reason they wish to destroy New York City. Perhaps they think it’s fun to destroy cities? There’s a lot of talk amongst them about how cities eventually get destroyed and that’s how it is. Not very convincing.

You might think that since this series features Sigourney Weaver it might be at least pretty good. Ummm… no. In fact, this is the worst performance I’ve ever seen her do. Her monotone voice bores rather than convinces me that she is an unfeeling bad guy. I wanted her to hurry up and die just so I didn’t have to listen to her anymore. Every episode I was like, “Is she going to die in this one already?”

I watched the whole thing but by episode 6 I stopped paying attention. If you watch the first episode and the last one you can figure out the middle.

Ozark

This is another Netflix Original. It is absolutely amazing. It is a dramatic satire and it keeps you guessing every step of the way through the winding plot, which is about a family man who launders money for a drug cartel. Everything about America is satirized here: rich and poor, north and south, city and country, teen and adult, faithful and unfaithful, etc. I couldn’t stop watching this one.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

I watched all four seasons and I’ve started watching the episodes again. It is better than any Avengers comic book. It sort of reminds me of the old X-Men and X-Factor comics, as well, except in those stories we have mutants and in this show we have humans with a touch of alien DNA. The focus is also different: it’s on the human agents, mostly, and not so much on the people with super powers. The show sort of combines a lot of different Marvel goodies to create the back story: Thor, the Avengers, Sgt. Fury, etc. The humor is very good and so is the character development. As a matter of fact, I suspect that the actors enjoy their work very much because their characters are constantly evolving and changing, just like in a classic comic book. It isn’t very often that you find a show with all the characters in constant evolution. The guy that plays Grant Ward especially must have a lot of fun.

Helix

This one comes from the SyFy channel, so I didn’t expect it to be great. It wasn’t. The first five episodes in the first season are pretty good, but from there it’s all downhill. It’s a shame, because it could have been great, but like almost all SyFy channel things, it turned into a stupid thing to watch. Season 2 gets even more stupid. I watched it all, though, which means that at least I enjoyed the idiocy.

Killjoys

This is also from the SyFy channel and it is awesome, which is a huge surprise. I can’t wait to see season 2. It’s all about bounty hunting agents working in the future of colonized planets and the privatization of just about everything in the universe. They ride around in their space ship capturing people the company has warrants out for. It almost reminds me of Firefly because the team lives on the ship and rides around the universe having adventures. The only difference is that the killjoys are the law while the Firefly crew are the rebellious outlaws.

And that’s it! I’m grateful for August giving me the opportunity to just watch a bunch of entertaining stuff. I feel all rested up to face the challenges of teaching this school year.

A fancy winder and a cheap swift

It’s unbelievable that I have spent an entire lifetime winding my yarn by hand. Now that I have entered the luxury world of spinning swifts and cranking winders I see that I was a fool. At least now those days of chair backs and dowels are over because I bought a yarn winder and a swift. Finally.

What has always kept me from buying these useful tools is that I’ve always wanted to spend the money on yarn, instead. I have a lot of yarn, a lot of it in hanks, and after I wound some Cascade 220 Fingering hanks by hand to get my sweater started I said, “Enough is enough!”

This morning I got out the ball winder and finished winding up the acrylic for my Tunisian crochet blanket. Previously, I had been winding up a ball by hand, crocheting with it, and then winding up another ball. The yarn is actually sold in skeins, but they are huge and not center-pull, so unless I wanted the skein to jump around too much, get all tangled, and make me angry, I had to wind them up into center-pull balls. This morning I got the rest of the yarn tamed in no time. No more “wind a little, crochet a little, rinse, repeat.”

I know, I know, I’m nerding out over it so much that I took pictures and right now I’m blogging about it. Most of you are probably saying, “meh, I got my ball winder way back when.” Anyway, I put each skein in my washing bucket and let it flop around in there like a caught fish as I turned the crank on the winder. You’ve probably noticed that the machine is a KnitPro. It cost €10 more than the others I looked at, but it can accommodate a lot more yarn than its competitors. Look at that big old ball of gray yarn I made!

When I finished the skeins of acrylic I went on to finish off the hanks of Cascade I needed to ball up for working on my crochet sweater. The swift, as you can see, is plastic. It cost me half of what a wooden one would have cost me, so that was what I went with to make up for splurging on the winder. It works wonderfully, so maybe if and when this one breaks I’ll consider a fancier, state-of-the-art swift made of the finest wood.

So, I must confess, I once was ignorant and wound my yarn by hand and so I now step into a new age of Enlightenment.

Put a fork in it, it’s DONE

The brown crochet sweater I invented is finished. Its owner is unavailable for modeling, so I decided to don it and photograph myself. We must keep ease in mind to appreciate it to full effect: on me it has about 1 inch of ease but on the wearer it has 4 inches extra. With less roominess on me it seems to have a mysterious slimming effect on the view from the front even though the stripes are horizontal. On the back it has no effect. I look the way I do, a little too much so to my liking.

Honestly, I don’t like how this sweater looks on me with 1 inch of ease. My instincts were correct, which is nice to know, because I began the orange one for me planning on having 4 inches of ease. The wearer tried on this brown one before I washed it and dried it. It looks far better on him with these measurements.

I of course took some detail photos:

I decided to border the cuffs, bottom, and collar with a few rounds of single crochet because I didn’t like the idea of this sweater having ribbed edgings. It makes for a roomy and comfortable collar that doesn’t ride up. At the hem it ends in a comfortable and casual finish with no need to adjust or fiddle with how the sweater will ride on the hips.

I can’t wait to finish the second one in orange that I’m working on. The cooler temperatures have arrived and I want to wear it in autumn when orange, red, and yellow are in season. Even with less ease it’s a comfortable design, so I’m psyched to find out how it will feel to wear mine.