Learning More about Sheep

I’m headed off to the TNNA Summer Trade Show this coming weekend. In between all the fun of packing and preparing for the meetings I’ll be having at the show, I’ve been reading a book that I won at my first ever TNNA show. That was the Winter 2012 show in Phoenix, Arizona.

This is “The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook” written by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius. It is shock full of information especially from the standpoint of how various breeds of fiber animals fiber behaves in yarn and spinning. The first 30 pages are full of basic information on fiber and fiber animals.

Part 1 is all about Sheep and is divided by geographical region that the sheep are known for with breed specific sub-sections. Each breed specific section is really informative about the origin of the breed and the type of fiber that comes from that breed. There are photographic samples of the fiber; in both raw and cleaned form, a short length of hand spun, woven and knitted swatches, and sometimes multiple samples of carding and combing the fiber.

Following the specific sheep sections is Part 2, which deals with the other fiber creatures. It’s divided by critter sections: Goats, Goat crosses, Camelids (includes Alpaca & Llamas), Other Critters (Bison, Musk Ox, Rabbits, and Yak to name a few).

After my fun adventure with Margie’s herd last week I had wanted to learn more about the breed she is raising. She has CVM sheep, which is the abbreviation for California Variegated Mutant. A name for a geek to love. The CVM sheep are considered a Critical Conservation Breed. This means that there are not a lot of them around, keeping the breed going is important to maintain diversity in domestic sheep stocks. This is one of the reasons that Margie chose this breed of sheep for her herd.

Margie had told me a little about the breed, but I wanted to find out what their origin was. I knew I had tucked this book away on my reference shelf and am really glad I dug it out. I will be doing quite a bit of reading in this book the next couple of months. There is terrific information in there about sheep breeds, spinning and felting of fibers.

If you are interested in learning more about the fibers that go into your yarn or you like to spin your own yarn, this is a great book to have on your reference shelf.

“A Garden of Shawls” book

Today I’m excited to share a review of a fabulous new book from my friend and colleague, Karen Whooley. As many of my long time visitors know, Karen was my mentor when I got started as a designer 8 years ago. The photo above was one of our first attempts at a “selfie” back at the 2014 CGOA conference in Manchester.

Copyright Karen Whooley – Photo by Anne Podlesak

Karen and I have always shared a love of designing wearables, especially wraps. In her new book “Garden of Shawls” Karen has created 12 beautiful wrap designs worked in lightweight yarns. She has a great eye for creating fun balances of lace work and solid fabric that will have you grabbing your hooks and yarn to get started on these shawls.

I love the lay-out of this book. Each project has stitch charts and super clear schematics as well as concise written instructions. This means you can have a very clear picture from the start of your project to the end about how your shawl should work out.

If you are like me, you likely have been to a fiber festival where you just couldn’t resist purchasing a couple of gorgeous hanks of lace or fingering weight yarn. Karen has designed most of these shawls using 1 or 2 hanks of yarn so you can finally take those lovely hanks out of your stash and turn them into a beautiful wrap that you will wear for years.

I had a hard time deciding which of the 12 Shawls in the book were my favorites. Currently I’m voting for these four…

Photo taken by Anne Podlesak

Breeze – This shawl is the style I associate with Karen the most. She has a knack for end to end construction that creates a lovely border on the one side of each row. You reach the end of the rows and your shawl has a gorgeous border all done. So clever! Many of the wraps in the book use this technique.

Photo taken by Anne Podlesak

Solar – This shawl just struck me with its happy color choices, but even in another color series it would be lovely. The radiating spokes of the top-down construction combined with the eyelets that showcase the “ripple” style patterning are eye-catching and entertaining to crochet.

Photo taken by Anne Podlesak

Drift – Another top-down shawl that uses gradient changing colors for a dramatic border. I love the textural interest Karen created in this shawl by including post stitches.

Photo taken by Anne Podlesak

Ecliptic – a more traditional top-down Triangle shaped shawl with graceful columns of shells ending in a soft scalloped border.

Print copies of this book will become available in Apirl, but you can pre-order your copy. She has a couple of ordering options, you can get an Ebook version only or a print version + a free Ebook. You can place you order here on her website.

Best of all, if you live in the USA  and place an order during the month of March you will be entered into a drawing to win one of these awesome Goodie Bags from Karen. You can find out more about those by clicking here to visit her blog.

I hope you get a chance to check out Karen’s book and that you decide to add it to your library. It is definitely a good investment. If you would like an opportunity to win a complimentary Ebook copy of the book leave your name in the comments on this blog post by Sunday March 19, 8 p.m. Mountain Time and I’ll announce the winner on March 20th here on the blog.


Sometimes you need to Color

As many of you know I’ve enjoyed arty pursuits most of my life. According to my parents I used to regularly decorate the walls of our early homes with whatever drawing instruments I could find to hand. That grew into my parents defense of presenting me with gifts of drawing pads and colorful implements for most gift-giving occasions throughout my childhood.

Sometimes though it is nice to just color pretty pictures that someone else has drawn, and this new trend of adult coloring books has been embraced even by creative types like myself. It is a restful quiet way to unwind from a busy day of crochet design and chasing around with my family.

In my Mail box

This week I celebrated the arrival in my mail box of a new coloring book from the wonderful imaginings and pen of Franklin Habit titled, “I Dream of Yarn”. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon, and had been stalking my mailbox all week in anticipation of it’s arrival.

I’ve enjoyed Franklin’s writing and humorous illustrations related to yarn crafts for sometime. So when I saw the announcement of this up-coming book I knew I needed to have a copy.

Franklin doesn’t disappoint in this coloring book. The drawings are clever and funny. I’ve been looking thru it with delight and trying to decide which I will color first. Picking a favorite is going to be hard. Currently it is a toss-up between the page of Escher like kitties playing with yarn or the lovely haughty goddess of crochet. There are hedgehogs, sweater wearing sheep, and a multitude of yarn in balls and skeins thru-out.

Ready to Color

This book is a great gift for any yarn loving crafter, whether they are devotees to the art of 2 sticks or one hook. You might want to get one for yourself as well. Now I’m off to do some coloring on this lovely Memorial Day weekend.

“Wiggly Crochet Dishcloths” Review

Image courtesy of Annie's Publishing
Image courtesy of Annie’s Publishing

Today I’m honored to be a part of the blog tour for Susan Lowman’s new booklet from Annie’s Publishing “Wiggly Crochet Dishcloths”.

Wiggly Crochet is a fun surface crochet technique that Susan designs wonderful textural colorful pieces with. I’ve always admired Susan’s use of color-work in her designs and had wanted to try out Wiggly Crochet.  I was very excited to receive my review copy of her new booklet.

This is a beautifully laid out booklet. The directions are written out in text, with gorgeous sharp photography of the finished dishcloths and clear colorful charts that you follow for the various “wiggle” designs for the surface work.  Of course, being the geometry nut I am, I love that all the designs use geometrical terms in the names.

Dishcloths are a fantastic project for learning new techniques. Not a huge committment of time or yarn, yet you end up with something useful (even if you goof a little).

Image courtesy of Annie's
Image courtesy of Annie’s Publishing

I decided to use what I had on hand in my stash to try out the first pattern in the booklet “Concentric Squares”. I used Lily Sugar’n Cream, which is a #4 (worsted) weight kitchen cotton with my Etimo G (4mm) hook. So my cloth came out 11.75″ x 12″ in size instead of the 10.5″ x 11″ that is the finished size in the booklet.

Mesh in progress
Making the background mesh

Susan is going to be very proud of me, I actually read the directions. I have a bad habit of getting ahead of the directions in patterns other than mine. I’ve been crocheting a long time, so I think I know what I’m doing, but sometimes a designer is doing things differently.  Some bad experiences have taught me, read the directions and follow them as written…at least the first time thru the pattern.

Beg Mesh
My finished mesh for the dishcloth

This part of the project worked up pretty quickly and didn’t take very much yarn. I have always enjoyed filet crochet because of how quickly you can create a significant sized piece of fabric.

My Sq in progress
First round of surface crochet completed, beginning 2nd round.

I was having a great time crocheting the “wiggles”, it’s rather meditative. Though I did discover it is helpful to lay the project out flat occasionally and look at your work. I was half watching a program on TV at the same time and started going off in the wrong direction.

My Finished Conc Sq
All Done!

When I started out on this dishcloth I thought I would put it in the kitchen for my husband (he is my “dishwasher”), but I really like the feel of the finished cloth. So it’s being adopted as my washcloth.  With all the texture of the “wiggly” ridges it will be very nice.

So I know you really want to try this technique too. You still have a chance to enter a drawing for a signed copy of this fun booklet, just stop by Susan’s Announcement blog post and leave a comment.  I think I am the last stop on her tour, so you will need to get over there quick since the entries are only thru the end of the tour.

If you aren’t lucky enough to win the booklet (or you just read this too late to enter), you can purchase a copy of her booklet either as a print version or as an Ebook at the Annie’s Website. And be sure to visit the Annie’s Facebook page to keep up with all their fun crochet offerings.

You can see more of Susan’s wonderful designs, including other wiggly crochet pieces, and find out where to get them on her Ravelry Designer Page.

For a little giggle: one of the Ravelry groups I belong to has forbidden the use of the word “Dishcloth”, so instead we say “Art Square”. And I think my finished cloth is definitely beautiful enough to be an “Art Square”.

The Last Bit of Christmas

Yesterday when I checked my PO Box there was a package notice in it. So after dropping my boys off at school this morning I stopped by the Post Office to collect my package.

I was very excited when I saw it was a box from Amazon.com. I was pretty sure it was my books I had ordered with some of my Christmas money.  Unfortunately I had a very busy schedule for the day, so I just now got to open the box.


I’ve been wanting both of these books for a while, especially Edie’s “Connect the Shapes”.  Edie’s books are always full of useful tips and new ways of looking at crochet and this book looks to be another winner.

Margaret’s “The Complete Photoguide to Crochet” is a beloved reference in my teaching library and I think that “The Granny Square Book” will be joining it as another great source for myself and my students.

I’m looking forward to many fun hours with both of these books in the coming months.  I’ll do a more in-depth review on them once I’ve had a chance to read thru them completely.

Curvy Girls Celebrate!

How many of us, over the age of 25, who crochet are a size 0 or size 2 in garments? Not me, that’s for darn sure.

Yet, many of the garment patterns that you see in books and magazines are rarely sized for larger women.  Sometimes you will see them sized up to a 2X.

Fortunately there is now a book for crochet patterns that were specifically designed for women built with curves. “Curvy Girl Crochet; 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter” by Mary Beth Temple is available from Taunton Press.  Official publication date is September 1st, but I know a number of folks that had pre-ordered the title from Amazon have received theirs already.

This book is all about creating garments that look good on plus-size figures. Not only are all the patterns written for size Large up to 5x, but there are 2 chapters giving you the inside scoop on how to achieve the most flattering fit for your figure type.

When Mary Beth was in the process of developing this book she decided she wanted to include some designs from guest artists, and I was fortunate to be one of those invited to propose designs.  My “Skirt the Issue” wrap skirt was chosen and can be found on page 130 of the book.

©2012 Susan Pittard

I wanted to create a skirt that would be flattering, yet not become too heavy from the amount of yarn used in it. So I looked at Hyperbolic math for some answers. 

The sizing comes from the waistband, then steady increases create a fabric that skims over the hips into a lacy fullness that swirls around the knees.  The transition into lace work at the bottom third of the skirt keeps the overall weight of the skirt from becoming too heavy.

There are 24 other lovely sweaters, wraps and wonderful garments in this book as well.  It’s a great addition to any crocheter’s library and will be available to purchase just about everywhere.  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Local Yarn Shops, Annie’s Attic, Patternworks, JoAnns, Hobby Lobby, Michaels. So you should have no problem getting a copy of your own.

A New Book

One of the fun things I got to do at TNNA in Phoenix was meet Dora Ohrenstein. We were talking about crocheted fabric and the wonderful fun things one can create with hook and yarn.  And even better, Dora had a book signing on Sunday at the show, and I got a copy of her latest book “Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments That Really Fit”.

This is an awesome book!  Visually it is gorgeous. It is filled with beautiful clear photography, including close-ups of fabric construction. As well as stitch diagrams and schematics that compliment the concise text on making and modifying garments for an ideal fit.  I haven’t had time to read thru the book fully yet, but I’ve read enough to know this will be a favorite and well-used book in my own crochet adventures.

If you want a copy for yourself you can purchase the book online at Amazon.com or request that your local yarn store order it in.  Currently there is also a give-away being held by the lovely Jocelyn Sass on her blog Cute Crochet Chat, but you need to leave a comment on her post by Wednesday, February 1st to be entered in the contest.

Friendship Shawls

I received some exciting mail recently.  My designer copy of the new Go Crafty booklet from SoHo Publishing “Friendship Shawls”.  The booklet will be available at JoAnn Fabric and Craft stores.

The book contains patterns for 10 different wraps to crochet.  I designed the “Spice Island Lace Drop Shawl” on page 18. It is always so fun to see how one of my finished pieces will be styled for professional photography.

These are photographs I took of the shawl on my dress form before sending it off to Caron Yarns. It is worked in their “Spa” yarn, which is a favorite of  mine for shawls and transitional weather scarves.

Rocking the Socks


Today is about crocheted socks. In particular I’m celebrating a wonderful new book from Leisure Arts written by Karen Ratto-Whooley, “I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks”.

I first met Karen when she and I were paired as mentor and mentee by the CGOA. Our original meetings were via email, though we finally met face to face at Chain Link 2009.  Karen is a wonderful mentor as well as a talented designer and teacher. 

My Little Sock

I was delighted to take a sock-making class with her during the Crochet at Cama Retreat. It was an informative and well-organized class, though my attempt at making a sock  was pathetic (due completely to my own short-comings). At the time she told us she had a book coming out in 2011 on crocheting socks, and I knew I would be adding it to my library.

The book is now available and is a great resource for those who have always wanted to crochet socks. Karen kindly invited me to be a part of her blog tour for this fabulous book.  As part of the fun I’m going to be giving away a signed copy of the book to one of my lucky readers.  Just leave a comment by March 16th and on St. Patrick’s Day I’ll announce the winner.

If you have never crocheted socks before the “Basic Cuff Down Sock” and “Basic Toe Up Sock” patterns that start the book are almost as good as taking one of Karen’s classes. I really like how the  sample socks were worked in different colors, so it is very clear how the parts fit together. 

There are also plenty of patterns for more experienced sock makers. The information provided on making your socks fit the feet they are made for is easy to understand. Detailed photography and clear graphics make this a book that I will be turning to regularly.

Who knows, I might eventually succeed in crocheting socks for myself.  Up here on the mountain comfy cushy socks are prized. I’ve been given some  beautiful hand knit socks over the years, but would love to make my own as well as being able to give socks as gifts.

Karen has also started a wonderful club to make it even easier for folks to learn to crochet socks. To learn more about this go check out her “Crochet Rocks Socks” club.

Being Invisible

Do you ever get annoyed with that pesky bump that comes from joining the last round of a motif when you are crocheting? Even if you are the only one that sees it, you know it’s there.

I’ve always loved working in the round.  But I went thru all kinds of hoops trying to find a way to join the last stitch of a round to the first without it looking unsightly.  I wanted a join that would hold up to use and yet would not be too obvious.

In fact, what I was really searching for was something invisible.  I happily found some great solutions in Edie Eckman’s book “Beyond the Square; Crochet Motifs” and Suzann Thompson’s book “Crochet Bouquet.”  Like many of the tips you learn in crochet, it was so obvious once I’d learned it.

In Edie’s book she talks about Tidy Joins on page 17 and has lovely clear instructions and illustrations for a couple of different joins that are invisible.  This is also a fabulous book to learn many refining techniques for getting the most out of your crochet, as well as lots of clearly illustrated and charted designs for more motifs than you can imagine.

Later on I acquired Suzann’s book.  On page 14 she shows step-by-step the instructions for doing a Needle Join that has become my favorite join to use, particularly on hats as it is nearly impossible to spot.  This is also a book that will have you itching to make all kinds of crocheted flowers to embellish anything and everything.  My only complaint with this book is it does not have any stitch charts, all the patterns are only text.

If you are looking for an invisible join for ending your crochet work, take a look at either of these books.  Both are great additions to your crochet library.