Thursday, January 21, 2016

COLD WEATHER CROCHET by Marlaina "Marly" Bird

I live in the South. Specifically, North Carolina. Okay, it's not the deep South but it's called the South, and when we moved here many years ago, we thought we wouldn't need winter coats, sweaters, scarves, gloves, etc., any more. This WAS the South, after all. And we moved from Chicago – where the Lake Effect could cause the temperature to drop 30 degrees in 30 minutes! I could tell you many stories about driving in snow, never having school cancelled in Chicago because of snow, ice skating on Lake Michigan (yes, on the lake), building snow forts that would last forever! But, instead, I want to review a book that was just sent to me, published by Interweave, a division of F+W Media, Inc. Just in time to warm me up from the winter weather we've been having lately down here in the (not so south) South.  And there's more to come. Snow today as I'm writing this. More snow this weekend! Lots of it!
The book I want to review is called Cold Weather Crochet by Marlaina Bird. 

You probably know her as Marly Bird. I met her years ago at a TNNA (The National Needlearts Association) trade show in California, and I was impressed with her enthusiasm and knowledge. And looking at her book, I am impressed with her design sense. Just looking at the afghans, hats, scarves, cowls, shawls, socks, mittens and slippers that are in her book, I feel warm and cozy. I know that any one of the 21 patterns would be a welcome addition to anyone's cold weather gear!
And, the great thing about the book, is that there are stitch diagrams in addition to the written directions. (You know I love stitch diagrams!) So – if you want to crochet one of the patterns, but you have problems reading crochet directions, or you want to make it with another weight yarn, or you want to use the stitch pattern in another pattern, it's easy to do. In reality, then, you get more than 21 patterns. You can use the stitch pattern for the Chevron cowl for a scarf. Or perhaps, for a baby blanket. Or even a shawl to keep you warm. All you have to do is use your imagination. Which is easy, with this book! It's like a stitch dictionary!
And, if you like to use many different weights of yarn, this book offers patterns in weights from #1 to #5 - extra fine to bulky weight.

Here are some of the patterns that "spoke" to me.
If you like to crochet motifs, you'll love the African Flower Afghan, 

the Tilt-a-Whirl Afghan, 

and the Log Cabin Blanket.

If you want something to wrap up in, when you're at home or out, you'll love the Cabled Shawl.

And when you're out, to keep your head and neck warm you have the Hat and Chevron Cowl Coordinates.

And these: Linen Stitch Scarf,

Pewter Slouchy Hat, 

And Pretty In Pink Infinity Cowl.

All perfect for this cold weather!
These are just some of the 21 patterns in this book. All of them will keep you warm. All of them are good for COLD WEATHER CROCHET!
And here's the information where you can find the book:

Interweave/F+W; $22.99

If you do crochet something from the book, please comment below, and post a picture of your project. I would love to see it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015


As I've mentioned before, my favorite type of crochet book is a stitch dictionary. I like to go through the pages, stitch pattern by stitch pattern, and think what each stitch pattern would be good for. Sometimes, I decide that the stitch pattern is not one that I want to bother with. Maybe it's too complicated, or there are too many rows to remember. But, sometimes, I think that the stitch pattern may become one of my favorites. And, that happens more often than not. I look at the stitch pattern and think – Hmmm, good afghan, or good scarf, or good sweater. Or good shawl, or good tote, or….. I go through all the types of designs I like to design and crochet, and I realize that I can use that stitch pattern for many of them. And sometimes, looking at one stitch pattern will make me think about ways I can subtly change it, to make another stitch pattern. So a good stitch dictionary is like gold to me.
And the Crochet Stitch Dictionary by Sarah Hazell, published by Interweave, a division of F+W Media, Inc., is one of these golden stitch dictionaries. Let me tell you why.
First, there are 200 stitches and stitch patterns in the book. And each of them has a very clear picture of the finished stitch or stitch pattern, a description of the stitch or stitch pattern, what it would be good for, one or more stitch diagrams, step by step clear photos that are easy to follow, and good directions so you can crochet it yourself. There's an index with all the stitches and stitch patterns at the end of the book; in the front of the book, the table of contents has a Directory of Stitches, divided into 9 families of stitches: 1.Basic Stitches, 2.Fans and Shells, 3.Puffs and Bobbles, 4.Spikes, 5.Relief Stitches, 6.Mesh, Filet and Trellis Stitches, 7.Crossed and Interlocking Stitches, 8.Waves and Chevrons, and finally 9.Decorative Stitches. Each stitch in this Directory has the page number where you can find the stitch or stitch pattern, AND it also has a picture of the stitch. So you can look at the Directory to search for a certain stitch to learn, or just pick a section of types of stitches you would like to learn, and work the stitches in that section. Also, the stitch diagrams with the patterns are in the same color as the yarn that's used in that stitch. If more than one color yarn is used, the stitch diagrams for that stitch are printed in the yarn colors. That makes it much easier to use the diagrams.
In the front of the book is a good explanation of all this and more – how to read the diagrams, how to read the patterns, what you need to know about hook sizes and yarns, and basic crochet skills. If you haven't crocheted in a while, or perhaps are just starting out, the book also gives you a lot of tips and hints to make your crochet easier. Even if you are an avid crocheter, these are tips that are very useful.
Oh, one more thing. Each stitch and stitch pattern has the stitch multiple that you would need to start the stitch. So you can work the stitch to any width. And you don't have to figure out for yourself how to do that. 
And one more thing - the yarn used for the swatches makes the stitches and stitch patterns easy to see. And the photography is great!
When I went through this book  I saw many stitches that I wanted to try. I thought I would crochet a few of them in one long swatch, instead of making each swatch separate. And that way it would be easier to compare them to similar stitches. I marked the stitches that I wanted to use in this swatch. Some were just simple ones – like extended hdc – not much thought involved. 

Some, I had to pay attention to – like Herringbone dc. I had previously designed a scarf for Crochet Today! using that stitch, but I haven't used it since. So I had to pay attention. 

And I also wanted to compare it to the Herringbone hdc, which I had played around with when I was doing the scarf, but didn't do anything more with it then.  

I also liked the idea of the Corded Ridge, 

and the Aligned Double Clusters, 

so I wanted to see what they would look like.
This is a picture of my swatch.

 From bottom to top, these are the stitches: (there are 4 rows of each) - Aligned Double Clusters, Corded Ridge, Herringbone HDC, Herringbone DC, Extended HDC. The last rows I worked in Extended SC and Extended DC, two stitches that weren't in the book, but easy to figure out if you know how to do the Extended HDC. 

When I saw the way the Aligned Double Clusters ruffled, even though I tried to keep the stitch counts the same, I thought wouldn't it be great to crochet a scarf, using whatever stitches and stitch patterns intrigued me, starting out and ending with the Aligned Double Clusters, so I would have a ruffle at each end. I wouldn't have to work the same number of rows for each stitch pattern.  And when I was finished with the scarf, I would have more stitches in my vocabulary.  And a unique scarf to wear!

If you think this is a good idea, and you try it, I would love to hear from you. Please comment below!

So if you're looking for a good book that you will get a lot of use out of, or are looking for a Sparkle Season present for a friend (or yourself), this is a great choice!

Here's the link to the book:
Interweave/F+W; $22.95

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Colorful Crochet Lace by Mary Jane Hall

I probably have mentioned it before – I love crochet books! I get a lot of ideas from books - not just patterns that I can make, because as a designer, I usually just crochet my own patterns. Yes, what I get from crochet books is a lot more than just patterns. I love books that have stitch diagrams in them, because looking at the diagrams I can think of so many other things I can make, using the stitch pattern or something similar to it. Stitch diagrams give me ideas! So do schematics. Patterns that have schematics, pictures that show how the projects are put together, I like, because the schematics also give me ideas! Other patterns I like are ones that explain a new or different technique, or stitch. I can learn a lot from them. I also like patterns that give you choices. Do you want long sleeves or short sleeves? Do you want the sweater to stop at your waist or your hips?. These choices help you make the pattern your own.

When I was asked to review Mary Jane Hall's book Colorful Crochet Lace, I thought "Oh, all the projects will be worked in Laceweight #0, or Fingering weight #1 (Superfine) yarns. I don't work with those weights, so I wasn't sure if I could write an unbiased review. When I received the book, I deliberately checked on the yarn weights that were used in the patterns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the patterns used Sportweight #2, DK Weight #3, and one even used Worsted Weight #4. So if you're used to working with #3 and #4 yarns, you can start with those patterns, and then work some of the patterns that call for #2 yarns. By the time you finish those, you won't have any problem working with #1 and #0 weight yarns. So don't let the word "Lace" scare you away. You can make lace patterns with any weight yarns.

Then, after I settled that question, I looked to see if there were stitch diagrams. Yes – there were. A lot of them. For each pattern. They were excellent diagrams, too. They showed just what you need to make the pattern, or to use the stitch pattern in another way. It was almost like looking in a stitch dictionary. And schematics were there, also, when needed. In fact, for one sweater, made from lacy squares, the Magnifique Modular Tunic, there were 6 different schematics showing what you can make with the squares. So, indeed, you can make this tunic 6 times, and have 6 different garments!  I wouldn't know which one to crochet first.
And the patterns give you choices. Mary Jane doesn't just leave it to you to figure out how to alter her patterns. She gives you good hints and instructions about what to do.  

For the Tres Chic neck warmer (above), she tells you how to make it taller and wider. 

For the Isabelle sleeveless tunic (above), she gives instructions for making it shorter, or longer to make a dress. For the Dominique dress overlay, she gives instructions for turning it into a crop top, a skirt, or a tunic. So even though the cover of the book claims that there are 22 garments and accessories, with all the variations that Mary Jane Hall provides, there are many, many more.

Here is the info about the book so you can order a copy for yourself. (You can order a hard copy or an ebook.)
Colorful Color Crochet: 22 Chic Garments & Accessories
By Mary Jane Hall
Interweave/F+W; $24.99

By the way, I just checked the "order" link above, and the book is on sale. (September 30, 2015) Both the hard copy and the ebook. Who knows for how long! So if you want it, order it today!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blog Tour for National Crochet Month - March 2015

March 3, 2015

Once again, it's National Crochet Month, and Crochetville is hosting a blog tour to celebrate. (Thank you, Crochetville!) I thought I would tell you all what has happened to me - crochet-wise – this past year. 
The sad news first – the magazine Crochet Today! stopped publication in 2014, and I was sorry to see it go. I had been designing for this magazine for many years. And writing The Crochet Doctor column for the magazine's last year or so. I designed a lot of afghans for the magazine, which I love to do, and a lot of other designs (purses, felted covers for electronics, scarves, kitchen goodies, baby buntings, and other designs that I might not have tackled if it weren't for Crochet Today! asking). I also got to teach crochet techniques and talk about other things important to crochet, and I love to teach and I love to write about crochet. So I miss the magazine and the opportunities it offered.
Here's the good news - in 2014 I got to teach at Stitches South in Atlanta in April, at the CGOA Chain Link conference in July in Manchester, NH, and I was asked to teach a video class for Craftsy in July! So I am now a Craftsy instructor! Did I tell you I love to teach? I do. And this year I realized, when I thought about all that I've done since high school, that whatever I love to study, I eventually teach. I thought about listing all the subjects that I taught throughout those many years since high school, (including math, calligraphy, ballet, group exercise, and kayaking) but it would take up too much time – time that I could be crocheting! Just know that I've taught all my life, (my first student was when I was in 8th grade – I taught my mother to crochet a granny square). So, when I got to teach at these three venues, I was thrilled!
And now it's National Crochet Month – and to celebrate my love of teaching and love of crochet, I'm going to give you a present.
I hope you know about Craftsy – it's a site where you can purchase video classes for all kinds of crafts – crochet, knitting, photography, drawing, cooking, wood-working, sewing, quilting, etc.,- and these classes are yours forever. You can watch the video, and there's a 30 second repeat button so you can see something again. You can speed it up, or slow it down. You can ask questions of the instructor, participate in discussions, and, did I tell you, you'll own the class FOREVER! And now, if you've been reading this far, you can purchase my class, Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches, for half price. 

Yes, that's 50% off the regular price. My class is not a beginning class. It's a "learn a new technique" class, not to teach you how to crochet, but to teach you how to crochet better. If you don't know what Foundation Stitches are in crochet, let me tell you.  Foundation stitches eliminate the beginning chain that you have to work in to. So instead of chaining 299 or so, and maybe losing count and working too many or too few chains,  and then working your first row stitch by stitch, into that chain (and you know you'll either skip a stitch or add a stitch where you didn't want to), with the basic foundation stitches that you learn in my class, you make one chain, then the stitch that goes in it, then you make another chain, and the stitch that goes in to that chain. Then you continue, making one chain, then one stitch. Until you eventually have all your stitches. So you won't add a stitch or miss a stitch. You won't have too many or too few stitches in the first row. It's a great way to start almost any pattern. And it gives you a more elastic foundation row.
There are also ways to work stitch patterns using Foundation stitches. I teach the method to do this, and some of the stitch pattern Foundations in the video class also. Best of all, as I said, I show you how to figure this method out for yourself, so you can start almost any stitch pattern by using this information.

I have noticed lately that a lot of designers are now using Foundation stitches in their published designs. They give directions for the stitches, but some people learn better when they SEE the directions. So - if you crochet from patterns, and you've been finding directions about Foundation stitches, but are getting confused, this class will help you by SHOWING you how to crochet them. And remember, you can just hit the 30 second repeat button, and you can see the directions over and over and over, until you're sure you know how to crochet these stitches.

You'll also find that these Foundation stitches provide more stretch at the beginning of the piece. So if your long chain tends to be tight (and we've all had that happen), Foundation stitches will help that. 

Remember, this is not a beginning crochet class. You do need to know how to chain, how to make a slip stitch, a single crochet, a half double crochet, a double  crochet, and a triple crochet. In the first lesson, you'll learn how to crochet extended stitches, because they are very similar to Foundation stitches, and they'll make learning Foundation stitches easier. And then you'll go on from there. You'll get three patterns to practice your new technique – a washcloth, a basket, and a tote bag. 

You'll also get some stitch diagrams of stitch patterns that you can practice with. And, remember, my class is now 50% off! Just for you!!!
Here's the link:

If you want to see a preview of the class – here's the link to that:

Now, if you want to find out who else is going to be blogging for the Crochetville Sponsored Blog Tour for National Crochet Month - check out the Crochetville Blog here:

And thank you for reading my blog today!
Check out my project page on Ravelry:
My Facebook page:
My other blog:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 Crafter's Market

2015 Crafter's Market - How to Sell Your Crafts and Make a Living

edited by Kelly M. Biscopink

I wish this book had been available years ago, when I was first starting out as a crochet designer. I had a young son, and I started designing and crocheting puppets for him and his friends. The kids all liked them, so a friend of mine and I started making the puppets in huge quantities, and selling them at local craft fairs. (We found time to crochet when our kids took naps, and when they finally went to sleep at night!) There were one or two craft fairs we knew about – one that was in our town and one in the larger town I moved to – all in the same state. And we sold some puppets at one or two craft consignment shops. We also knew enough to copyright the designs. But that was that. This was before computers and the Internet, so we couldn't sell on-line. And I wasn't versed in writing good patterns. After I designed a puppet, I gave the "pattern" to my friend so she could make the puppet, too. Many years later, I found a copy of some of my "patterns" – they were just numbers. Like one may have read:
 1. 6
 2. 8
 3. 10
Like I said, just numbers. No info on turning chains, where to work the increases, how to put the puppets together. Nothing. It was a miracle that we could make them from my "patterns". I can just imagine what would have happened if I tried to self-publish them, or submit them to a crochet magazine. If I even knew of any crochet magazines.
Well – that's why I wish there had been a book like this available years ago. It would have told me everything I needed to know about making money from my puppets. It has a section on Business Basics – including how to get paid, and all you need to know about copyrights. Then it tells you how to find your niche and how to make it as a crafts person – it also includes lots of tips to be successful and "turn your passion into a business".
It lists many craft shows by state, explains what to do if you have to apply to get accepted, and talks about how to plan for the show, including how to figure out how much to charge for your craft goods. It also explains how to organize your own show, which I have tried, too, and let me tell you it isn't easy!
Then, if you're more interested in selling your patterns/directions rather than the finished goods, it also lists various book/magazine publishers that are in your field. And this is another reason why I wish this book were available about 15 years ago, when I started designing for publications and yarn companies. It goes over how to write a book proposal, how to present a proposal to a magazine, and it explains what could be in the contract you sign (like publication rights), and what various terms in the contract mean. When I first started designing for publications, I didn't know any of this!
Just looking through this book at first, I could tell that it was a "must have", not only for new crafters, but for experienced ones. And every time I opened it to read a section, I found another section that was just as interesting and just as important.
That's why I highly recommend this book – for all you crafters who want to sell your crafts or your designs. You won't be sorry! 

This book is published by F+W, and is available here:

By Kelly Biscopink
Fons & Porter / F+W

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Formal Jewelry by Karen McKenna

So - you know how to crochet. You can chain, do a single crochet, and make a slip stitch to join. Guess what? That's all you need to know to crochet any one of the twelve patterns in the book - Formal Jewelry, by Karen McKenna. And all twelve patterns are rated "easy". And easy they are. I love the necklaces and bracelets that you can crochet. And I wanted to try making some - but I didn't have the pearls, nor the metallic thread needed for some of them. So - I improvised. I found some large beads in my stash, and some elastic yarn for one necklace, and some nylon "yarn" for another necklace. I wanted to crochet the Sparkle necklace with the elastic yarn, and the Black on Black necklace with the nylon cord. I realized that I didn't have enough beads for the Sparkle Necklace - so I thought I would make a headband instead, using the techniques in that pattern. I did have enough beads for the Black on Black necklace - they were green, but my nylon cord was green, too. So I had a Green on Green necklace instead of Black on Black. 
Here is the Sparkle Necklace from the book:

And here is what I made - using the same technique. I can use it as a wrap-around bracelet, or give it to my niece's daughter to use as a headband or to wear it wrapped around a ponytail.

Here is the Black on Black necklace from the book:

And here is my Green on Green necklace. This took me all of 15 minutes to crochet. Or less. 

The book is full of projects like this - quick, but gorgeous looking. You can make them with pearls or pearl-like beads, like Karen shows them - to make Formal Jewelry, or make them with colored beads, like I did, to have a more informal touch. Whichever way you decide, you won't be sorry.

And, Karen doesn't just tell you how to crochet these jewels. She explains in detail how to finish them - like how to put clasps on. She also tells you just what tools you'll need - like what kind of pliers to have on hand so you can open and close an Eye Pin, what kind of End cones are needed, and which clasps would work. All of these tools can be found in the beading and jewelry section of your local craft store. 

Oh - one more thing. On the cover, do you see the camera with the words: Bonus, Online Tutorials? When you see the camera on a pattern page, that means that you can go to the link and see video tutorials. So if you can't figure something out from the directions and patterns in the book, you can go to the website and look at the video!

Interested? Check out the book, or e-book at: or, and get started crocheting your bling today!

Be sure to check out what some other crochet designers have to say about Formal Jewelry.
January 19:  Amy Shelton from Crochetville
January 21:   Marty Miller  designer, teacher, author
January 26:   Tammy Hildebrand   designer, author
January 28:   Sharon Silverman    designer, author
February 2:   Jennifer Ryan    designer
February 5:    Gwen Blakely Kinsler  author, founder of Crochet Guild of America
February 10:  Karen Whooley  author, designer, teacher
February 11:  Sandy Huff   designer
February 16:  Linda Dean    designer

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches

This past July, I had the pleasure/honor of video taping a class for Craftsy. Craftsy is a wonderful platform for teachers of various crafts (crocheting, knitting, cooking, photography, etc.), and I have always wanted to be one of their instructors. Well, now I can say it: I am a Craftsy instructor!

I teach a lot of crochet classes at various venues - the Crochet Guild of America's Chain Link conferences, the National NeedleArts Association trade shows, some Stitches conferences, my local yarn shop, and various other yarn shops in other states - just to name a few. I had never taught an on-line class before, though, so it was quite an experience. An extremely great experience! I taught one of my favorite classes, and one of my most favorite techniques to use - Foundation Stitches! How to work a foundation chain, and the stitch that goes into it, at the same time! Some people call it a "chainless foundation". But it isn't "chainless". There is a chain for each stitch, you just don't work all the chains at once, and then crochet the stitches that go into the chains. You chain one, then you work the stitch that goes into that chain. Then you chain another, then you work the stitch that goes into that chain. Etc., etc., etc. It's an amazing technique. And then, after you learn the basic technique, there are  ways you can work Foundation Stitches to start stitch patterns. And color work. And how to add stitches on to a row or round with Foundation Stitches. Lots of information in this class!
Now, I know you probably hate to crochet a long foundation chain, then work your first row of stitches into that chain, only to come up short at the end - you don't have enough chains. Or you have too many chains. Everyone hates that! Well, if you learn how to do Foundation Stitches, you'll never have to worry about that again! You won't waste precious time or energy ripping out that chain and starting all over again. No, no, no! My class is called "Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches", and by the end of the 7 lessons, you will indeed have mastered this technique! But not only will you have mastered the technique. You will have a pattern for a tote bag, a basket, and a dishcloth (that you can easily crochet longer to make a scarf). Plus other stitch patterns that you can use in your crochet!

My class is launching on September 23, 2014. And, Craftsy and I are having a give-away. Yes, that's right! All you have to do is click this link:
and you might win a free class! Yes, I said it right. Click the clink and register at Craftsy (if you're already registered, that's okay - you'll still be entered in the drawing - just click on the link above!) and do it before Midnight, Eastern Time Zone on Monday, September 22, 2014.
I'll let you know on Tuesday, September 23, if you have won!
Good luck to all of you!!!

(Added after September 23, 2014.)
The Give-away class has been given away. But you can still check out the class, and order it from Craftsy. And it even might be on sale! Click this link:

to check  it out!

 By the way, if you've never taken a Craftsy class, you might like to know that once you're enrolled in the class, you can access it at any time! You can ask the instructor questions (and they will be answered!), you can show your projects that you crochet for the class, you can enter in discussions, etc., etc., etc. It's a great platform for teaching AND for taking classes. You can even press a 30 second replay button while you're watching a section, if you want to see that part again. 

Hope to see you soon in my Craftsy class - Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches!