Spring is Here!

It is finally feeling like spring time up here on my mountain. I can almost believe that summer is just around the corner. Down in town I’ve been seeing lots of butterflies, so I thought this coloring page would be perfect for celebrating the change in seasons.

For those of you that are more interested in crochet than coloring, you will be happy to know I have a new design published in the June 2019 issue of “I Like Crochet” online magazine.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links.

This is the “Shoreline Cold Shoulder Tee” worked in King Cole’s “Vogue” cotton yarn. Available in a wide range of lovely colors this yarn worked up great for this sweet little girl’s tee. Though worked in a simple linen stitch this is an advance level project.

You can subscribe to the “I Like Crochet” magazine and get this and many other wonderful crochet patterns as well as informative “how to” articles and other crochet themed content. Click here to go to the “I Like Crochet” subscription page.

I crocheted the sample with my Clover Amour hook. These are some of my favorite hooks to work with. I spend a lot of hours crocheting and find this to be a good match for my hands. If you can’t find them locally you can purchase them on Amazon.com, just click on the photo above and it will take you right to them.

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My Clover Amour Hooks

A while back I was talking about keeping our hands happy when crafting. One thing that can help crocheters with that is using a hook that is kind to our hands.

The Clover Amour hooks first came to my attention when the Vouge Knitting Crochet issue can out in Spring of 2012. There was an ad in there for them and I was extremely intrigued. Oh let’s be honest, I wanted them, badly.

Not only did they have an ergonomic handle, they were pretty colors and they had the lovely shape of the Clover Soft Touch hook which I have always liked. The Soft Touch is a great value hook and the paddle shape of the handle can reduce the amount of grip strength needed to use the hook. I prefer a hook handle that has a bit more “give” to the surface though.

Rainbow-of-Hooks

The combination of elastomer and ergonomic shaped handles of the Amour hooks really caught my attention, as soon as I could I ordered a set of them to try out. These were the Yarn hook version. The working end of the hook is a lovely blending of tapered and inline with a nice point on the tip making it easy to work into stitches.

They quickly became my favorite hook to work with. Unfortunately, there was a limit in the sizes with bulky and chunky yarns becoming more widely available, I needed some larger hooks.

I embarked on quite the adventure searching for larger hooks that were commercially available and had a hand friendly handle. The common problem I ran into was that many of the larger sized hooks with ergonomic handles had very little space between the top of the handle and the bottom of the “throat” of the hook. This section of the hook is what determines the uniformity of your loop sizes when making a stitch.

This isn’t a problem if you are only crocheting chain or single crochet stitches, and sometimes was okay with even a double crochet stitch. Too often though, double crochet and taller stitches are impossible on these larger hooks because the yarn-overs are distorted. Then you end up with distorted or “leggy” stitches in your finished project.

Now if you are an experienced crocheter very likely you can compensate for these issues, but generally those compensations lead to other postural or motion habits that can cause stress in your wrist or arms. Ideally, the hook is designed so that working with tall stitches is as easy as the other stitches in your project.

Clover Amour Steel hook

At the Summer 2014 TNNA show I stopped by the Clover booth to compliment them on the design of the Amour hooks and let them know how much I enjoyed working with them. They were just rolling out their steel hook version of the Amour hooks and I took a sample home with me. It quickly became my favorite hook to use when adding beads to projects.

I was happy to hear they were working on coming out with some larger hooks in the Amour line and we talked about the design of the hook.

At the Winter TNNA show in Phoenix they had the larger sized hooks. I was excited to try them out. They had a wonderful little sampling station set up where you could play with yarn with the hooks. I was thrilled to see that all the hooks had plenty of room for multiple yarn-overs. I had a wonderful conversation with one of their representatives who doesn’t actually crochet. I showed him how the longer shaft of the hook made a difference in the tall stitches.

Bigger Hooks 6

I ended up bringing home a set of the 5 larger Amour hooks to add to my set of Amour yarn hooks; sizes K-6.5mm, 7mm, L-8mm, M/N-9mm, N/P-10mm. These larger size hooks are made with a slightly different material for the handle and the hook itself is a hard smooth plastic that I have found to be very cooperative with every yarn I’ve tried them with. The handle shape is still wonderfully ergonomic and comfortable for both a knife hold or pencil hold.

Biggest Hooks 12mm 15mm

This last Summer TNNA show they had added 2 more larger hooks to the Amour line-up. A 12 millimeter and 15 millimeter (P/Q) hook. The 15mm hook is a bit short between the handle and throat of the hook, but still very nice to work with. I rarely need to make taller stitches than a double crochet with this size a hook as it is generally used with extremely chunky yarns or multiple strands of worsted weight yarn to get the appropriate thickness.

Tiny Hooks w Caps

I was just missing the tiny steel hooks. I decided I needed to add them to my set of Amour hooks this summer. They are super for when I am working with thread weight yarns and they are a great tool for when I am creating projects that need beads. Because they come in smaller sizes than any of my other steel hooks with ergonomic handles, they are very handy for my intricate bead and thread work.

My work kit w Hooks and accrmts

I’ve filled my entire purple work case with my set of Clover Amours. I have a few other hooks in there, as well as the other accoutrement that I need when working on projects or teaching crochet.

These are not the only hooks I use, but they are definitely my favorites. I use a modified knife hold most of the time I crochet, so these handles are very comfortable for me. Everyone’s hands are different though, so you need to find out what works for you.

I’ve seen them available in my local JoAnn’s craft store (and on Amazon), so they are easy to obtain. I recommend purchasing just one hook in a size you commonly use or need. Then give it a try-out for a while to see if they are right for you. You may find yourself falling in love with Amour hooks like me.

Where’s Andee?

Hey there, yes the blog has been very quiet.

Mainly because I have been very busy with lots of challenges and changes in my business. I’m working on implementing some new ways I publish my designs and expanding how and where I teach crochet and healthy crafting.

One of those changes may be moving my blog to a more customized website, the learning curve for that has been a bit more extensive than originally expected. I have every confidence in accomplishing it, just takes more time than I have easily to hand.

Meanwhile, here is some eye-candy for you yarnie ones. The following are  few of the wonderful goodies I acquired at the TNNA Winter Trade Show in Phoenix the second weekend of January. Was a perfect time to travel south as the weather in Colorado and on my mountain was very cold and snowy. Spending a couple of days in warm and mostly sunny Phoenix was a nice change. Brutal returning to snow, ice and freezing temperatures when I came back though.

Yarnit

This was an exciting new product that I first saw being used by another attendee. The “Yarnit” is just too darn cool. Completely protects your ball of yarn and travels along with you easily. You can learn more about their products and where you can purchase them at their website.

Clover Amour Large Hooks

I’m really enjoying these new larger sizes of the Clover Amour hooks. They come in a range of sizes. K-6.5mm, then 7mm, 8mm, 9mm and 10mm size. The handles are shaped just like the Amour Yarn hooks, but the material is different. The hook part is a wonderfully smooth hard plastic with the handle a slightly softer plastic.

The best thing about these larger hooks are they have a decent length of shaft above the handle. This is really key if you want to crochet any stitches taller than a single crochet. Most of the larger sizes of hooks with handles on the market sacrifice shaft length to accommodate the handles.

ElementalAffectsyarn

The yarn above is from ElementalAffects and I’m going to be doing some exciting things using their yarns this coming year. The 2 hanks I brought home with me are both Fingering weight, the Cormo is 100% Cormo wool and has a lovely tight twist that gives marvelous stitch definition; the Civility is 70% Merino wool with 30% Mulberry silk so very soft with luxurious drape.

I only got a little bit of yarn during this show. Monday is usually the day at the show that I get samples of yarn, but our time on the floor was cut short when the fire alarm went off around noon. Then it was time to catch the shuttle to the airport and head back home.

Since my return I have been finishing a slew of patterns that will be self-published on Ravelry over the next couple of months. Currently they are out for final testing and technical editing. I’ll let you know as they become available.

Where I am now? Learning new stuff and creating new products for other crocheters and crafters. I’ll be back soon, I promise.

Another Awesome TNNA Show

As some of you know, the first weekend of May (2-5th) was the TNNA Summer Trade Show in Indianapolis, IN. This is the show where all sorts of needleart craft vendors have booths that show their wonderful merchandise for the coming Fall/Winter season.

There is yarn, and tools, and yarn, and accessories, and yarn, and books, and yarn. Yeah, you can tell what I was paying the most attention to.

Most of the folks attending the show, besides the many vendors, are shop owners looking for the products they will be selling in their stores. So there really isn’t much to purchase there. It’s more a matter of talking to the various vendors about how a freelance crochet designer/teacher like myself can utilize their products. The main thing being designing with some of those lovely yarns.

Jill and Tabs on the inbound flight

I took a flight out of Denver on Friday and it must have been the TNNA flight. My friends and fellow designers Jill Wright and Tabetha Hendricks were seated across the aisle from me and one of my seat mates was a yarn company sales rep. The TNNA show is more of a working show, everyone is in and out of meetings so it is sometimes just a quick hug with friends. It was fun to have some time to visit with Jill and Tabs on the flight.

Seattle Skyline Chocolate Bar Karen brought.
Seattle Skyline Chocolate Bar Karen brought.

I was rooming at the Hyatt with Karen Whooley.  We had a great time catching up between meetings and inspiring each other. We also each brought chocolate to share. I brought my usual assortment of Chocolove bars, with extra “Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate” ones to give to Mary Beth and Karen.  Karen brought a wonderful sculpted bar from Dilettante Chocolates. They are a family-owned company from Seattle that has children in school with Karen’s.

Every time I go to a TNNA show I am always a bit overwhelmed. There is so much to see and everywhere you look there is color and exciting yarn. Sometimes I think I get a bit lightheaded from all the yarn fumes.  I always go with an eye toward a particular goal for my business. This time it was to reach out to more of yarn companies there and see about using their products in my upcoming indie published designs.

I am particularly drawn to the hand-dyed yarns. The colors are always so wonderful and get my brain ticking over.  I also spoke to many of the yarn companies about US made yarns. Some companies are really working on having products that are all domestic, sheep-to-skein production of yarn. Something I am strongly in favor of as it creates jobs in our local economies. As well as being better for the environment since the yarn isn’t being shipped across the planet to get to it’s end users.

Pile of Yarn

Some of the yarn companies were kind enough to provide me with a skein or two of their products to swatch with for my designs. Fortunately I left room in my suitcase to bring those home with me. Keep a watch here on the blog as I’ll be letting everyone know when I have patterns coming out using these yarns.

In the tools department I was very excited to see that Clover has steel hooks now in their Amour line of crochet hooks. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Steel hook” it is usually referring to the tiny hooks used for crocheting with very fine thread. Those hooks can be the culprit for many hand injuries for crocheters, because they are tiny and steel is a very cold conductive metal.

Clover Amour Steel hook

Clover now has 7 different sizes of steel hooks, ranging from Size 0/1.75mm to Size 12/.6mm. I got a Size 8/.9mm to test drive. So I’ll be writing more about these wonderful new hooks very soon.

Thera-glovesSupport Glove

One of the companies that I was excited to see at the show was American Orthopedic Appliance Group with their many styles of “Thera-Gloves”. They were kind enough to share a sample pair of their “Designer Series” gloves with me that I will be doing a more in-depth review of later this summer. They have a variety of styles of therapeutic support gloves that you can see at their website: http://www.thera-glove.com.

Speaking of hands, I’m always looking for lotions to use on my hands. Colorado is a dry climate and my hands tend to really show it.  Back in January I made a trip to Ft. Collins with one of my friends to visit the LambSpun Yarn Shop. They had nifty “lotion bars”.

They looked like soap and it was suggested that you put them in a soap dish as a way to have them available to use. I really like the formulation, but there is no way putting the bar on a soap dish will work at my house. There are boys, dogs, and a cat. Too many opportunities for something undesirable to happen to the lotion bar. Not to mention I am on the go a lot and want to be able to take my lotion with me.

Milk and Honey lotion bar

It was great to find the Milk & Honey products at the show. Davin makes these lovely lotion bars and packages them in a tin that can fit very nicely in my project bag. She had the lotion bars in 3 different scents and I loved how they are molded in a shape. The little tin in the photo is some of her “Anywhere Balm”  that is lavender/mint. This is a great lip balm and is also now living in my project bag.

By the end of Monday at the show both Karen and I were exhausted. Fortunately our flight wasn’t until 8 p.m. that evening. We went back to the hotel and had a late lunch at the restaurant, which revived us a little. Then it was time to retrieve our bags and take a taxi to the airport. As we were doing that we both got messages that our flight was delayed. We were flying out of Indianapolis on the same flight, but Karen would have to switch to another plane in Denver to complete her journey home to Seattle.

Tired but Happy. Selfie of Us at Airport.
Tired but Happy. Selfie of Us at Airport.

We headed off to the airport and decided to see what the airline folks could do about Karen’s flight. She ended up having to take a different route home. So we said good-bye at the airport when it was time for her flight. As it was, we both got to our respective homes very late that night.

The next morning I slept in late and then spent the rest of  the day unpacking from the trip and making lots of notes about my meetings from TNNA. A week later I am still feeling inspired and excited about the yarns and products I saw there.  I’ll let you know more as I test out some products and swatch with the yarns. Looks like I’m going to be even busier this year.

 

 

A Little Indulgence

Those of you that know my obsession with all things crochet will not be surprised by this news. I have many many crochet hooks. At last count over 200. I’ve acquired a few since that tally was made so that number has been surpassed, but I’m not counting them all again.

I’ve long confessed that I have a serious case of H.A.S. (Hook Acquisition Syndrome), and I am not looking for a cure anytime in the near or distant future. There seems to always be another hook I need to add to my growing collection.

I’ve been staying up late a lot the past week. My 2 boys missed returning to school from winter break, due to a nasty cold cough bug, so late at night is really the only time it’s quiet around here.

ImageProxy

Last night the late night got me in a wee bit of mischief. I’ve been wanting a set of Hamanaka Crochet Hooks for some time.  This desire was further fed by getting to see the hooks in real life when I took a class with Jennifer Hansen at the Reno Knit & Crochet Show in Fall 2012.

Then there was an ad in my email yesterday from Stitch Diva Studios showing the hooks. I had some Christmas gift money that I hadn’t assigned to any of my wish list as of yet, so I decided (after suitable internal debate) that I “needed” to finally get these hook.

One reason I have always liked the look of these hooks is the squishy triangular-shaped center handle. It looks like it will be ergonomically kind to one’s hand. Something I am going to be very excited to test when I receive my set.

I also love that there are 2 sizes of hook to each tool, so you can fit twice the hooks in the same amount of space as 1 regular crochet hook. Super handy when traveling and wanting to limit the weight of your luggage.

One reason I had put off purchasing these hooks in the past is that the sizes run a bit smallish (fairly common for Japanese hooks), the largest hook is a J-10, 6mm. But, I’ve been working with finer weight yarns quite a lot the past year, so the smaller hook sizes have become more useful to me.

Now I’ll just be watching the mail box like a hawk the next week waiting for my new hooks to arrive. I’ll definitely post about them again once I get a chance to use them. If you are too impatient to wait for my review and you want to try them out for yourself, pop on over to the Stitch Diva Studios.

Pointy Hooks

Orig 5 w Set

In May of 2009 I went to my second Knit & Crochet Show. It was there that I first saw Laurel Hill Hooks in person and tried them out. I ended up purchasing 5 hooks in my favorite sizes.

First L hook

One of the fun thing about purchasing the hooks there was looking through all the available hooks to find the ones I considered the most beautiful. There was a variety of color changes in the woods and I really liked the ebony hooks that had some lighter color mixed in with them. My first purchase was this L hook, the beauty of the wood drew me in, plus it is a size that was a bit more difficult to find at that time.

I have used my Laurel Hill hooks quite a bit since I obtained them. They are very pointed on the end, which means that they work nicely when doing tight stitch work as well as when working with fluffy yarns. The shape of the hook is very comfortable in my hand as well.

My dear friend Jan has often heard me bemoan the fact that I didn’t purchase a full set when I had the chance. I’ve been searching the market floors at every yarn enthusiast type event I’ve gone to since then.

Jan & I both have H.A.S. (Hook Acquisition Syndrome, for those of you outside the addiction).  This isn’t really an issue since neither of us have any desire to be cured, but it does mean I have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on about missed opportunities for hook purchases.

Case closed

Recently a box arrived at my house, when I opened it this was inside (with a note about the number of birthdays this covered).

All my LH hooks

Thanks to my dear Jan, I now have a full set of Laurel Hill Hooks as well as 5 duplicates.

Comp Old n New

It is very interesting to note the difference between the hooks I purchased in 2009 and these newer Laurel Hill hooks. Can you spot all the differences in the photo?

Older hook on top
Older hook on top

It seems a lot of hook manufacturers change their products over time. If you are a fan of Bates and Boye hooks for the past 30 years you will have seen this too. The changes are not necessarily bad, but they do tend to be a bit disconcerting if you are in love with the original design.

I still like the Laurel Hill hooks even with the changes, though I think they have lost a bit of their “beauty” with some of the changes.  Now if Laurel Hill would just make their hooks in a size “P” life would be very good.

The Best Brother Ever!

There is that old saying, “You can choose your friends, but you are stuck with the family you’re born into.” Fortunately I am pretty lucky on that count. I have undoubtably the very best younger brother in the world. We have gotten closer over the years, and it is really funny how similar we are. I love the rest of my siblings too, but Cy has always held a very special place in my heart.

Cy and I

When my parents brought him home from the hospital my 7 year-old self was thrilled to have a real live baby to play with instead of dolls. Of course as he has grown he has gone from being my “baby” brother to being my “little” brother onto being my “younger” brother. Cause let’s face it, when the little brother towers almost a foot over you in height, you really can’t call him “little” anymore.

Cy is a very talented and expert woodworker. He started learning his skills from our father as soon as he was old enough to hold tools in his hands. He’s been making amazing djembe drums and other tribal musical instruments for over 20 years, you can check them out on his website: Djembeanddidge.com. He even made a massive drum for the Kansas City Cheifs Football Team this past Fall.

I’ve been bugging him for years to make crochet hooks. He finally decided to create some as well as other lovely fiber arts tools like knitting needles, nostepines, and spindles. He is even making yarn bowls.

The weekend before Thanksgiving he and his girlfriend came to visit. When they were here he and I talked about hooks a lot. I showed him various hooks in my collection and told him what was good or bad about them.

I helped him refresh his memory of how to crochet, since it had been a long while for him. My siblings and I all learnt to crochet from our mother when we were little. You could say that with making fiber tools he is marrying the 2 talents he inherited from both our parents.

During his visit we talked about hand health and how different shapes for hook handles can help reduce stress that leads to injury. So he has been experimenting with various handle shapes, and we had talked about me testing some out for him.

HooSet-from-Cy

Last Thursday I got this wonderful surprise in the mail from him. I was only expecting a page with his and his girl friend’s footprints so I can make them some slippers. He had told me there would be a little something extra in there. But I figured at most it would be just one hook, not a lovely set of 5!

Pencil-hold-w-Cys-Hook

I really like the shape he used for these handles. It works great and fits comfortably in my hand, no matter what hold I use: Pencil hold (pictured) , Knife hold, or Modified knife hold.

These hooks are made from Mulberry wood, which is very lightweight as well. Funny thing, when he was about 3 years old I had to rescue him from the mulberry tree at our house. I’m wondering if he remembers that and it guided his choice in the wood? Wouldn’t surprise me if he did as he has an incredible memory. I’ll have to remember to ask him next time we talk.

Either way, I predict that I will be creating lots of wonderful new memories crocheting with these lovely hooks. My hands and heart will be happy as each time I work with them will be a reminder of my dear brother, who my sons call Uncle Cy.

If you would like to have one of his marvelous hooks for your own crocheting joy you can find them at his Etsy Shop: UncleCysWoodworking.