Review: Celtic Cable Crochet by Bonnie Barker

Celtic Cable Crochet by Bonnie Barker, Interweave, 2016. 128 pages. Paperback and digital formats available. Grade: A

There are 18 patterns in this collection. All of them are intended for women to wear. I bought this book looking for inspiration because I think in the future I’d like to make up my own accessories and garments with crochet cables. The cover says that the designs are all “modern,” which I suppose means that the usual kinds of cabled items won’t be found in here. I definitely got what I wanted and was not disappointed by the “modern” descriptor. The designs all play with shaping just as much as they work with cable panels.

The two sweaters featured in this set are truly fine examples of creative design with cables. The “Binne Cardigan” has an interesting shape, ending at the bottom with subtle ruffles that aren’t too strong to annoy, but with just enough ripple to add more pizazz to it. The “Orlaith Robe Sweater” may have an unfortunate name, making it sound like a bathrobe, but it is a very tasteful coat with lots of texture and eye candy.

The two ponchos, one of them a wrap “hybrid,” could be turned into afghans, and the hats and cowls are also very exciting, both to wear and crochet. There’s even a sweater-wrap hybrid, an innovative shape that seems to be becoming very popular lately in several crochet magazines. As with most books, it’s helpful to check out its Ravelry page to see how everything looks before considering purchasing the title.

The instructions look clear enough to understand and the sizing is also varied enough for people to work out something that will give them a good fit.

I think people that want to add cables to their crochet pattern collection would like to have this book as well as anyone like me that is looking for inspiration in their own creative efforts.

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Free pattern: Up and Down Crunch Sweater

If you came here just to download the pattern, scroll to the bottom of this post and download away! Updated September 27 at 12:30 AM CET. Reason: corrected instructions for foundation dc stitches. Now you are told to pm in the middle stitch of the group of three. UPdated again September 27 at 11:05 PM CET. Reason: changed wording of decrease rounds for sleeves (picky change).

Well, I finally got this crochet sweater pattern written. In the end, I decided to go with myself as the model for the small and large sizes of the sweater. My blog followers get to see and download this pattern first, before I put it on Ravelry, since a couple of people asked me to write it all up. In the pictures, above, you can see me wearing two different sizes. The brown one is size small, or 42″, with 0″ of ease (yikes, but I felt sleek in it!). The orange version shows me in the large version, or 46″, with 4″ of ease. Originally, I thought the brown one gave me 1″ of ease but I think it was a long time since I had measured myself and I’m afraid I got a bit wider! Whoops.

The sweaters are also shown with two different types of yarn. For the brown one I used El Gato Negro lana especial 4/4 C, which is a 4-ply yarn. The orange sweater was made with Cascade 220 Fingering, a lighter, 3-ply yarn. I love how both came out. In the pattern I make more yarn suggestions and even offer advice on using a 5-ply yarn.

I tried to accommodate a good range of sizes: 42″ (44″, 46″, 48″, 50″). This way, dearest women, if you want one for yourselves you can work out the bust measurements easily.

The pattern seems a bit long, but in exchange for that it is easy to read without columns or text boxes. Additionally, I wanted to explain all the little details, like clearly describing the pattern repeat and how to decrease and increase in pattern so that people will feel more confident in customizing their sweaters. I also wanted to explain the options to anyone who wants to customize it to fit their personal needs and tastes. Since this is a free pattern without any official pattern testing, tech editing, etc., I decided that I could use my liberty to innovate and leave sleeve length up to the crocheter. I found it ridiculous to give a sleeve measurement for each size. I don’t think I’ve ever made the sleeve the same exact length as indicated in any sweater pattern. So, no sleeve numbers. Make it long sleeved, short sleeved, three-quarter sleeved, no sleeved, whatever floats your boat!

Download the pdf pattern here! And, of course, have fun crocheting!

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?

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.

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.

 

Generous knitting and selfish crochet

The brown crochet top-down sweater I made up all by myself is drying. That one is for my partner. I want one, too, so I got going on it straight away, using Cascade fingering in the color way Jack O’Lantern. I’m very happy with this shade, which will show off the texture of the stitch patterns even more. I’m also happy with how the yarn feels. It’s very soft and drapes even better than the brown yarn does.

updowncrunch

I’ve also cast on the Zaria shawl for my mom, which I should have started months ago. It was going to be her birthday gift. I’m sorry, mom! I started off making a shawl from another pattern and it wasn’t right, so I searched for another one. I’m very happy with Zaria.

zaria

Right now I’m still in the garter stitch part of the pattern. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in the color way Arcoiris. Now, only one hank of Malabrigo remains in my stash. I love making shawls and scarves with it, so I might just order some more pretty soon. For the lace section I’m going to use a light gray sock yarn which I think will show off the stitchery very nicely.

If you look at my in-progress photos often, you might notice that I have different needles. KnitPro (or Knitter’s Pride) Symfonies usually can be seen in my pictures of garments and other things while Hiya-Hiya sharp circulars are often in my sock photos. For years, Symfonies have been the only needles I’ve wanted to knit with. I like their semi-sharp tips and the feel of them in my hands. I started to change my mind about them as all-purpose when I was in the middle of my blue lace scarf. For some reason, and at least according to my subjective observation, the 3 mm Symofonies, just like the US size 2’s, have blunter tips than on the larger sizes, making increasing and decreasing a real pain. I decided to give KnitPro Karbonz a try because I needed sharper points, but not too sharp to stab myself and bleed. The Karbonz are now my favorite for lace knitting. They get the job done and, as I prefer knitting “continental” style, I don’t have to worry about accidentally stabbing my finger tips. I bought interchangeable needles in the sizes that I use most often for lace knitting. If anyone else has been looking for needles with that “just right” tip – neither too sharp nor too blunt – Karbonz could be the solution. The nice thing is that they work with the same cables as Symfonies, so if you already have KnitPro (or Knitter’s Pride or Knit Picks, all the same) cables or an interchangeable set of Symfonies, there is no need to buy new cables.

 

Missing: A collar and two sleeves

August is a month when my teaching responsibilities typically diminish. I have plenty of free time. I’ve devoted it all to this top-down crochet sweater.

sweater

The body is done. That means tonight I’ll be busy on a sleeve.

Just so you know, there is no pattern for this sweater. I’ve made it up on the fly. The yarn is from the shop and yarn factory El Gato Negro, based in Madrid.

A while ago I reviewed Dora Ohrenstein’s book on top-down crochet sweaters so I took her advice in the section on how to design one and just made up my own. It’s very easy to make, alternating crunch stitch with up and down stitch. In between those patterned stripes I put a round of back loop hdc on the wrong side, a round of dc on the right side, and another round of back loop hdc. On the yoke I increased in hdc on the corners except whenever I did a round of dc.

I had considered writing a pattern for this, but the yarn weight is fingering (sock) and most people don’t have access to the Madrid shop where it’s sold and so, you know, it would be a waste of my time to write it because nobody would feel encouraged to make it. Crocheters seem to me to be adventurous with their yarn choices, but still, the idea of using fingering weight yarn for a sweater would put a lot of people off. I’m toying with the idea of giving instructions on how to figure out one of these using any yarn or gauge. That would probably be useful to more people, especially since this is a unisex crochet sweater. I haven’t seen a lot of crochet patterns for sweaters like this that would be appealing to a man to wear.

I plan on making two. This brown one is for my partner. I’m going to use Cascade fingering to make one for myself. The color way is called “jack o’ lantern.” I love it.

The best part about crocheting a raglan sweater top-down without using a pattern is that it isn’t terribly important to count much. Sure, I figured out my gauge and measurements and started with a set number of foundation stitches, but after that you just increase on your marked corners on the yoke, then fold and attach the front sleeve corners to the back ones, and proceed to zip round and round to the bottom. We’ve done a lot of try-on sessions so I haven’t had to measure much as I’ve been working on it, either. I’ve got my sleeve decreases already calculated and I did count my stitches around the arm hole, so that’s it! The only planning left is to figure out how I want the collar to be.