Review: 300 Classic Blocks by Linda P. Schapper

300 Classic Blocks for Crochet Projects by Linda P. Schapper, Lark Crafts: 2011, 256 pages. Paperback and hardcover editions available. Grade: A

When the title says this is all about “classic blocks” it isn’t a joke. These grannies are all older than the hills and mostly simple to crochet. In fact, we can find directions for some of these floating around the Internet free of charge. I’m actually grateful that “classic” is in the name so that I know what I’m getting into if I decide to use this to make something.

I think it’s also important to remember that this is a revised edition. It was originally published in 1987 and since then it has been redone several times. The fact that it continues to be edited is promising and also means that there are people who would buy this title (like me!).

I like how the blocks are organized by the types of stitches that are used to make them. For example, there’s a category for post stitches and another for bobbles, etc. Motifs that don’t fit into any of these groups are organized according to their overall shapes, like circles and triangles.

An experienced crocheter will no doubt open the book and say, “I could have made that up myself!” Indeed, there are many very basic patterns that a lot of us can just make off the tops of our heads. Others are traditional and we have memorized them by now. However, there are also more complex designs. My motive for getting this collection was to have all my information in one place without having to actually sift through millions of web links and/or patterns for afghans that take advantage of the “classics.” I’ve got all the basic things in one nicely organized book so that when I want to make something simple I can refresh my memory quickly. Alternatively, if I want to make up my own complex block, I can start with one of these simple ones and pimp it any which way I like.

I recommend this book to new and experienced crocheters. New crocheters will appreciate some guidance on how to make different shapes and learn how stitches can be stacked on each other to achieve a variety of effects. People with more hooking history might like to have this title for the same reasons I got it: all the classics in one place. I’ll add that it’s useful for designing our own blocks, maybe starting with one from this book and adding our own modifications to turn it into something else.

Review: Crochet One-Skein Wonders (r)

Crochet One-Skein Wonders (r) by Judith Durant and Edie Eckman, Storey: 2016, 288 pages. Paperback and digital editions available. Grade: A

Do you crochet? If you’ve answered “yes” to this question, you will probably benefit from having this book in your library. The reason? If you often wield the hook, this means you have some singles lying around your stash. Even if you don’t, you are no doubt happy to crochet projects that only require a small amount. It’s cheaper to buy one ball than two or three. Also, a project that only needs one of something is fast to crochet, something I need so I can take a break from larger endeavors.

The number of projects to be crocheted with just one skein is impressive. I personally like books like these because sometimes I don’t feel like being creative and dreaming up my own way of using a ball or scraps. When I’m in the mood to plan and execute what I thought about, I’m all in on the creative process. Other times I just want to browse through some designs and find something to make and get on with crocheting right away. As a matter of fact, I love this collection so much I bought it twice: once for me and then another time for my sister at Christmas. In case you’re curious: she loves it, too. I have only made one item from it but plan to do more in the future. That was “Tunisian Croc Rock Cap” by Yvonne Cherry, which creatively combines Tunisian and standard crochet. I had so much fun making my first cap that I made a second one.

Then, there’s variety: toys, baby clothes, kitchen gear, projects with beads, hats, scarves, bags, table ware, and the list goes on. It’s really hard to pick some favorites because I like every single project in this collection. That’s right! I like all 101 of them and my life’s goal is to crochet every single one. That’s never going to happen, but I want to, I really really want to. There is just so much creativity here, also. To name a few examples: playing with self-striping yarn, as we see in “Autumn Camouflage Scarf” by Janet Brani, weaving, employed for “Boutique Weave Scarf” by Nirmal Khalsa, buttons with appliqué for “Fuzzy Tea Cozy by Melinda A. Sheehan, and felting with “Maywood Purse” by Brenda K.B. Anderson.

Finally, it isn’t necessary to use the recommended yarn for these items. For example, when I made my “Tunisian Croc Rock Cap” the first time, I used a “thick and thin” multi-colored number and it came out great. The second time I used some self-striping Katia City and I got really good results. The recommended skein-of-choice? Lorna’s Laces Worsted. The same can apply to the other patterns. Just think of the possibilities with the thread crochet stuff in this book, especially. You could even alter the gauge for some of them to make other things that are larger or smaller. For example, why not turn a coaster into an afghan square?

Crochet One-Skein Wonders (r) is very useful to me and it will continue to be handy in the future. I think crocheters who like to make small, quick projects, like to buy single skeins, or have leftover yarn from other projects will truly enjoy this book and go back to it again and again.

Review: 150 Knit and Crochet Motifs by Heather Lodinsky

150 Knit and Crochet Motifs by Heather Lodinsky, Interweave: 2011, 128 pages. Paper back and digital editions available. Grade: A+

I think it’s pretty obvious why I bought this book a few years ago. It’s for people who like to knit and crochet. Another motive for getting it is that I’ll never stop adding things to my library, especially motif books and stitch dictionaries. They provide me with lots of inspiration. Finally, I was eager to grab this title because it’s no-nonsense.

It’s just motifs and a handful of projects to illustrate how to use them. The book starts with a visual table of contents. A clear picture of each motif is presented and captioned with its page number. All dictionaries should be planned this way. It’s so much easier and time-saving to just see all the photos and decide which ones are appropriate for the project in mind. There are very few squares in favor of more interesting and unusual shapes. It’s delightful to see circles, leaves, flowers, and many other cool forms.

Although the idea here is to create interesting projects that combine knit and crochet, the reader doesn’t have to do that. I like the idea of combining the two crafts but I haven’t really got serious about it just yet. I see myself trying it out in the future.

After the motifs come five projects using some of the presented patterns: two beautiful afghans, a bag, and a cushion. The directions are very straight-forward and visual. I hope I have time in the future to try one out because they’re really beautiful designs.

At the end of the text comes a little tutorial on techniques. Among the more useful instructions are on how to fit motifs together and planning an original project.

Something that has come to mind while thinking about this book: It’s possible to combine stuff from this book with others from other catalogs, both knit and crochet.

This dictionary most certainly isn’t for everybody because some people only know how to do one craft or the other. I recommend this title to people who equally enjoy knitting and crocheting and would like to have a book with motifs made with the two methods. Anyone who is curious about creating original designs that combine knitting with crochet would also want to add this book to the pattern stash. I’m certainly not sorry I bought it. I hope in the future more references include a visual table of contents. It’s one of the strong points of this collection aside from the fact that I want to knit and crochet all the motifs now that I’ve perused it again!

Review: LA 5505, Afghan Lovers Collection

Afghan Lovers Collection by Anne Halliday, Melissa Leapman, and Barbara Shaffers, Leisure Arts #5505, 2011. Paper back and digital editions available. Grade: A

It is very rare for me to like every single afghan pattern in a book devoted to them. This giant leaflet has thirty-six afghans and I might never have the chance to crochet all of them. First I have to finish the ones I started.

As with just about all Leisure Arts pattern sets, I appreciate the fact no particular yarn is suggested. Do you feel like using Cascade 220? Go right ahead. Do you want to roll on over to the big box store and pick up some Red Heart acrylic? It’s all good. All they do is tell you the gauge and the weight of the yarn (worsted, DK, etc.). If you’ve never bought a publication from this company you don’t know what you’re missing. No, this is not an advertisement. I am just that much of a fan. An afghan collection is a good leaflet to start with in your addiction. Always wait for a sale, go to the web site, and buy some patterns from this publisher.

Anyway, I have digressed. Getting back on track, one of the aspects of this book that I really enjoy is how the patterns offer a variety of constructions. There are squares to put together, large modular chunks to assemble, and afghans crocheted all in one piece.

The combinations of texture and color are also spectacular. “Tiny Twirls” is a fine example, in which the textured circles create a burst of color in every square.

Some of the color choices were poor for the photographed samples, but that can be fixed: Use better colors.

I recommend this book to crocheters who love afghans and need more patterns. Alternatively, crocheters who just love afghans will also want to get this title. The regular price for this publication is US $9.99 but there’s always a sale to take advantage of. Most American holidays I get an email from them telling me there’s a digital or printed pattern sale.

Three pairs of socks

I set a goal for myself: By June I’d have six pairs of socks completed. It didn’t happen. It’s logical because every time I set a knitting goal for myself I do not follow through. I have finished a lot of sweaters this year, after all.

The nice thing about goals is that they can be subjected to reassessment. I have reassessed my goal as unrealistic for this year so it is now in the trash.

I’m very happy with my socks. It’s too hot to wear them so I haven’t washed and blocked them yet. I’ll get around to that after I prep the last wool sweater for summer storage.

You might recall that the red socks have quite the history. I originally wanted to try a triangles stitch pattern but I didn’t like it so I went for cables. Then, I ran out of yarn. Last month I ordered more red sock yarn and finished them. The neon striped socks were really fun to knit as were the Arne and Carlos self-patterning socks that are to the left of the red ones. The red socks aren’t exactly looking good in the photo. Did you know it’s really difficult to photograph red things? I got fed up and left them as they were in the picture. The other two pair look fantastic.

Of course, I started a new pair of socks last night. This time I found a skein of Cascade Heritage Prints. More self-patterning yarn! I’ll post about them next week when we can really appreciate the pattern that emerges.

I missed WIP Wednesday so here is my sister’s crochet pineapple shawl in progress.

I’m happy with how it’s developing. I started with one pineapple panel and two shell panels. I then increased to three pineapples and then rapidly to seven. Now on every repeat I add one pineapple panel to each end of the shawl. I like how the self-striping yarn makes it a little difficult to see the pineapples but then they’re noticeable with a more careful inspection.

So, whew! Finally some FOs to share. This weekend, if I don’t drink any alcohol, I think I’ll work on my blue knitted lace scarf. Have fun, everybody!

Tardy Thursday

I missed WIP Wednesday. I didn’t forget, I just had to work. Also, I’ve been swatching a crochet stitch pattern that I wanted to get “just right.”

This week, as last, crochet has been the dominant craft. I have plenty of knitting to do, I’ve just been distracted by crochet. I think the weather is helping direct my attention to crochet, because I typically find it more comfortable for hotter weather. This week has brought some seriously high temperatures so I’ve been working a lot with cotton.

Mostly, I’ve been crocheting my table cloth and my green “Telegraph Sweater”.

The work on these projects got sidetracked, though, because in my free time, on Monday, I started getting obsessed about a Schöppel Lace Ball that’s in my stash. It has many shades of blue so it has my sister’s name written all over it. It could have my name written all over it, too, because my favorite color is blue as well, but I haven’t made my big sister a shawl in a while. She is big on crochet, so I thought I’d crochet the shawl, and I decided it had to be covered in pineapples. Do you know a crocheter that doesn’t need a pineapple shawl? I thought not.

The problem was finding an appropriate pattern. The “Ananas Shawl” by Zsuzsanna Makai caught my eye, but to wear it you have to have the tropical fruits running sideways. I just know the wearer will want upright pineapples. Some other designs drew me in, but they weren’t triangles. My sister doesn’t do giant shawls. When I make her one, she most often uses it like a big scarf. Long story short: I had to work out my own pineapple pattern.

How do you crochet a triangular fabric covered in pineapples? With lots of planning. These fruity things are not exactly simple to design with, even though following a pineapple pattern is really easy. After a lot of trial and error, and browsing my doily patterns, I realized that you basically need to think about your pineapples in panels. Double-v stitch is the most common thing to frame them with, and happily they can force a fabric to take on just about any shape you want: triangles, circles, squares, and so on. I swatched away with some cheap dollar store yarn and finally, after trying to learn how to use software for making crochet charts, I now have a game plan.

What could be harder than designing with pineapples? Figuring out how to use computer software to create crochet charts. Yes, I could have written the pattern out line-by-line, but I was experimenting and swatching, so I was desperate for a quick visual. Here’s my horribly messy, unprofessional chart, that will work just fine for me when I start this shawl:

pineappleshawl

I really need to practice more with this crochet charting program, which is really wonderful and convenient. Right now I’m pretty sloppy, but it’s just for my reference so, why worry? If you’d like to give the application a spin, it’s available for free.

This chart is not a pattern, really, it’s my personal record of what I need to do when I get going on the project. If you want to use it, feel free to do so at your own risk because I was just looking for the repeat for the increases. To understand how to make the pattern continue and grow larger, just pay attention to the increases. The double-v stitch panels are increasing over several rows. So, what will happen is that you will add many pineapples to the pattern at once. You start with one, then stitch two, then four, etc. The number of pineapples increases rapidly because they depend on the increases done on the double-v stitch panels. Really, it’s nothing special and this type of thing can be found in a lot of patterns, especially for doilies. The trick is to remember to start increasing for the new pineapples that will come later while still finishing off the old pineapples.

Review: Beyond the Square by Edie Eckman

Beyond the Square by Edie Eckman, Storey Publishing: 2008, 201 pages. Spiral bound, paper back, and digital editions available. Grade: A+

Beyond the Square is an apt title. First of all, the motifs for which the patterns are written are not only squares. They come in a wide range of shapes. Second, the author provides a truly handy reference manual about everything related to creating beautiful things with crocheted motifs. I think it’s organized very well and it was very carefully planned to fulfill its aim at instructing crocheters on the principles and techniques of creating with motifs.

Rather than number the chapters, the author decided to just divide the book into three sections: “Crochet Motif Workshop,” “Motifs,” and a chunky Appendix that should be considered Appendices.

The workshop section – clearly taking new crocheters into consideration – begins with a “Quick-Start Guide” which discusses and illustrates crochet basics. There are lots of nice bits of information here, with so much wise advice, enough to interest crocheters of all skill levels. Some of the illustrations show Edie Eckman’s own personal tricks. She provides all kinds of information and instructions on the many ways motifs can be joined together, how to design with them, and many more lessons that should not be overlooked. Aside from the fact that this portion of the text is overflowing with tips and tricks, I think it’s quite original because, as far as I’m aware, it’s the first time a crochet book has ever attempted to catalog, describe, and instruct on so many techniques related to motifs.

After all of this educational goodness come the motifs, which are organized by shape: circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and an “unusual shapes” category. The motifs are modern, refreshing, and there’s a really good balance of more “closed” versus “more lacy” patterns. Furthermore, I like how the title doesn’t disappoint. Not only do we see motifs far beyond the square, we also see new ways to create them. My favorite is the inclusion of the leaning tower stitch and illustrating how it can be employed to generate an infinity of shapes, textures, and color combinations.

Then, there’s an Appendix, graph paper, thorough directions on how to arrange and attach the motifs, basic stitches, and an index. Again, the emphasis is on creativity and options, not set patterns that instruct the reader on how to create something that looks “just like the photo.” As in the previous two sections, the Appendices are chock full of interesting and innovative tricks for making original designs all thanks to crochet’s versatility and convenience.

I recommend this book to all crocheters that wish to get their creative juices flowing when it comes to motifs and what to do with them. I truly love how this book encourages independent creativity while at the same time provides patterns to hook away at motifs. It’s a wonderful oxymoron, when you think about it, and why not say it? That’s what crochet is all about. It’s truly modular, as modular as the crocheter wishes it to be. We crocheters know that if we can imagine it, we can pick up a hook and yarn and make it happen. This title taps into that spirit of going far beyond the square.