Sunday, November 18, 2012

Curvy Girl Crochet by Mary Beth Temple

Curvy Girl Crochet by Mary Beth Temple
I collect crochet books. Especially ones that have more than just patterns in them. I like books that have lots of explanations, like how to alter garments. I learn a lot from reading the explanations -  how to make patterns fit me. Even patterns designed for "curvy girls". Which I am not. But - I  find ideas, hints, and ways to make the patterns fit my shape. And my style. I like loose, not fitted waists. I like long sleeves. I like long sweaters that go below my hips. One reason I started designing sweaters was because I couldn't find patterns for sweaters that I liked. (The other reason is that I could never get the gauge for the pattern, even with the same yarn that was used in the pattern.) So, I started designing - for me, and then for others. But I still had to learn/know things - like how many inches to add to my actual measurements to accommodate for ease. And what kind of ease I wanted - negative or positive. And how to adjust the length of sleeves so I could have a short sleeved garment or a long sleeve garment, or even a sleeveless garment, with the same pattern. And how to adjust the length of the garment, so I wouldn't have it too long, or too short. I didn't want to sit on the fabric, nor did I want to have the hem at the widest part of my hips. And what should I do about the neckline? If I wanted something that was a V-neck, or even a rounded, scoop neck, I had to make sure that it wouldn't be too low, or too high, but just right. Lots of things to think about when designing a sweater, or when altering a sweater that's already been designed, and the pattern written, but that you want to change. It's not a matter of just adding or subtracting stitches to make an armhole wider or narrower. You have to know where and when to decrease or increase, and where or when to crochet "even". You have to know what the fabric will do, how it will drape with the alterations. If the garment has seams, depending on where you sew the seams, the fit may change. If the garment has buttons, depending on where you place the buttons, the fit and the garment may change. So for designers, designing a garment, and also for crocheters, altering an already designed pattern can be scary. 
But luckily, Mary Beth Temple has just solved our problems with her new book Curvy Girl Crochet

All of those things I mentioned in the above paragraph - all those things that could cause problems, whether you are designing a pattern or following a pattern, Mary Beth explains thoroughly. And more. She even talks about yarn and hooks. Even though yarns may have the same CYCA weight designation, they may not be equivalent. The fibers may react differently, they may not be exactly the same weight, they may handle differently, etc. And hooks - when you make your gauge swatch to see if your fabric that you make will be what you want, use the same hook that you will be crocheting the garment with. Hooks made with different materials may give you different gauges. Also, make sure you check the millimeter measure for the hook you use. Hooks that have the same letter designation made by different manufacturers (or by the same manufacturer but made at different times) may not be the same millimeter size. And even if they are the same millimeter, the shape of the hook may be different - inline or tapered. And even inline hooks, by the same manufacturer, out of the same material, may have a slightly different shape if they were made at different times. And not all tapered hooks are the same tapered shape. So the best thing to do is to keep your hook with your project! I have found this out by experience, and teach my students this - that all hooks are not equal!
Mary Beth even explains how to measure yourself, and why you shouldn't use old tape measures. And throughout the book, Mary Beth has tips and hints to make your crocheting and your projects better. This is one thorough book!!!
Looking through this book, I've been picking out garments and accessories I want to make for me. The Stratum wrap - it's one-size fits all, so I may not have to do too much altering. The Sensible Shawl,
the Shimmer Scarf, 

felted Carryall

also look interesting. I like the Peacoat for Rule Breakers, the Simply Stripes Jacket, 
the Perfect Base Tank Top,

the Progressive Tunic, 

and the Essential Pullover.

Hmm - now I just have to find the time.
Oh - two other things in the book. Things that I just love to find! Pattern schematics, of course. And STITCH DIAGRAMS! So if you're used to using them, you can. And if you're not used to using stitch diagrams, you can practice by reading the pattern directions and looking at the stitch diagrams, and working back and forth. 
This book, Curvy Girl Crochet, by Mary Beth Temple is a definite must for your book shelf! 

The pictures in this review come from Curvy Girl Crochet, published by Taunton Press in 2012. All photos ©Susan Pittard, the photographer, and reprinted by permission.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Custom Crocheted Sweaters by Dora Ohrenstein

I have been crocheting for a very long time. I learned when I was 5, and I started crocheting small stuff - I remember making blankets for my dolls. As I got older, I started crocheting scarves - for me, my college boyfriend (in MY school colors - so he would have to think of me whenever he wore it), and baby blankets. Not sweaters, though. Whenever I saw a sweater that I wanted, I just asked my mother to crochet it for me. And usually she did. But eventually, I started crocheting sweaters, too. However, in those days, the default hook that was recommended for worsted weight yarn (which was sold in dime stores, department stores, and just about everywhere else), was a G/6, 4mm hook. You can just imagine the fabric I created with that hook. I hardly ever get rid of or throw out things that I make, so I still have most of those old sweaters and skirts. And yes - they can stand up by themselves! Here is a picture of a sweater I think I made in those days (although, my mother may have made it for me). You can see how stiff it looks!

This next sweater is one from Dora's book - it's called The Floating Tee. When I was looking through the book, I first saw the different styles of sweaters. I saw the Drop Shoulder style, and searched the book for the Drop Shoulder Sweater. This Floating Tee is the Drop Shoulder example. I looked at the schematic, and immediately thought of my sweater, which I had recently "found" when I was searching through my trunk of stuff. The schematic for my sweater, if there were one, would be the same as for The Floating Tee. But the fit for my sweater would be nothing like the fit for The Floating Tee. 

And the yarn I used for my sweater was not a wise choice. It "pools" (the colors clump together) and form strange patterns that are obvious when you change skeins. (Look at the body of the sweater at the bottom - there is a "line" just about in the middle of the sweater, where the color pattern changes. That's where I changed skeins.) And the color pattern is different on top and on the bottom. I know now how to fix that, or work with that. I teach classes on how to work with variegated yarns like this. But then, when I crocheted this sweater, I didn't know. So with that, and the stiffness of the fabric - I don't think I wore this one at all.

Later on, after I got my Ph.D., and got to crocheting again, the default hook to use with worsted weight yarn was an H/8, 5mm, not much better for drape. But after awhile, I just started using an I/9, 5.5mm or a J/10, 6mm with worsted weight yarn if I was making a sweater and I wanted a lot of drape to the fabric. 
At the same time, I started altering patterns, because I couldn't get the designer's gauge with the larger hook. But it was difficult, and I had to start over many times. And if I used the smaller hook, I didn't like the sweater fabric. Eventually, I just started designing my own sweaters. (I had been designing afghans, toys, scarves, totes, for a while - all those things that don't really need an accurate gauge and a specific size.)  When I started designing sweaters, I couldn't find any books published that spelled out the "whys" and "how-tos" for designing crocheted sweaters. So I had to figure out lots of things by myself - like how to make fitted armholes - not just for my size, but for 5 other sizes, if I wanted to publish the design. Or - how to accommodate various bust sizes. Or different sleeve lengths, or shoulder shapes, or neck sizes. For me, I'm happy with loose sweaters most of the time. But, sometimes I want something more fitted. So I needed to learn all those things and more, even when I was just making myself something to wear. 
When I saw Dora Ohenstein's latest book Custom Crocheted Sweaters - Make Garments that Really Fit, earlier this year, and was asked to review it, I knew that was the book that would have helped me then.  It really does teach everything you need to know about crocheting garments. All the above topics and more: altering length, changing waist placement, altering sleeve length, adjusting size by changing gauge (this would have saved me so much time and effort!), choosing yarns, blocking to your measurements, how to take your measurements....I could go on and on. Dora has some basic sweater designs in her book - like drop shoulder, top down, raglan and more - and for each sweater, she discusses construction techniques and how to alter the sweater to give you your unique look and fit. She also discusses how to pick yarn - for your first efforts, and for future ones. She has 10 sweater designs in her book, and if you read her "lessons" for each sweater, you will know all you need to know to make garments that REALLY fit! 
This is a must book for every crocheter who wants to make a garment. Refer to it along with the pattern when you're making your garment, and there will be no more second guessing the designer. No more UFOs (unfinished objects). No more wasted yarn. No more tears. This book will guide you all the way.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Seamless Crochet: Join-As-You-Go Designs

When I was asked to join the Blog Tour for Kristin Omdahl's new book Seamless Crochet: Techniques and Motifs for Join-As-You-Go Designs, I was thrilled. I love crocheting motifs, especially Granny Squares. If you read my other blog:, you'll understand my fascination with Granny Squares and motifs. However, the one thing I can do without is weaving in all the ends. Sometimes, in fact, I make the ends part of the design – it is a "design decision", I often tell my students. However, now that I've read Kristin's book, I know a way to make one-color motifs, and join them as I make them all together as one motif. You read that right. Multiple one-color motifs, made as a single piece. Only 2 ends to weave in!
I got Kristin's book one day last week, and thought I would have time the next day to go through it. But it was calling me, telling me I needed to drop what I was working on and look through it RIGHT THEN! So I did. And I saw some amazing designs. I even saw a Granny Square motif! And as I was looking through the book, I noticed that Kristin had the stitch diagrams for the designs, with multiple motifs, in multiple rows. But, she also had stitch diagrams and directions for just the motifs so you could practice. I thought I would do some simple motifs first, and then, do the Granny Square motif. If I could.
I tried two simple motifs – first, the Radiance motif for the Sparkly Skinny Scarf (I'm into making scarves right now – for family and for the Chase the Chill – Greensboro project that I'm working on). This would be a great way to make a quick scarf. Here is what I did:

And here is the picture of the motif in the book:

Kristin also gives ideas about other ways to use this motif – depending on the yarn you chose, you could make a sash or a bracelet, in addition to the scarf.

I was feeling pretty good about this motif – so I went on to another motif – the one for the Blue Skies Chunky Cowl. Another pretty straight forward one that you could make into a scarf or into a cowl. Here's my picture:

And here is the picture of the motif in the book:

You may notice that I used self-striping yarn for these motifs. Yes – I decided to see what a yarn that changed colors would look like in these motifs. And I had a partial skein of Noro Kureyon (one of my favorites) handy.
Well, these two samples weren't too hard. They looked pretty good, I thought.
So I was feeling brave – time to try the Granny Square motif (Kristin calls it the Jamie motif and hat). The difference between this motif and the other two – this motif has multiple rounds, the first two had only one round in each motif. This would be interesting. But Kristen has stitch diagrams, directions, and motif-joining diagrams to help you as you work, so after a while, I figured it out and made this next swatch. Of course, I used the rest of the skein of Kureyon that I had, but it wasn't enough, so I used a remnant of another skein – another colorway – but that's what Granny Squares are known for – lots of colors. I didn't think it would matter.  And it doesn't. It gives the illusion of a multi-colored regular Granny Square.
Here's the picture of the motif I did:

And here's the picture of the motif in the book:

I'm almost ready to work on multiple motifs, not just in one row, but in multiple rows like the above motif. I do need to practice some more. But Kristin has made it easy to understand how to do it. In the back of the book, she gives a great, thorough explanation of how to figure it out – how to join a motif or partial motif to another motif or partial motif, so that you will have just TWO ENDS to weave in. The beginning and the end. And how to do this with your own motifs.
Kristin has included patterns for hats, scarves, shawls, afghans, pillow covers, trivets – but you can use the motifs she provides for other patterns. And you can use your own motifs once you understand the process.

This book also includes a DVD, so if you are a visual learner, you have it made.
In conclusion, this is the type of book that I like. It is a pattern book, but it is also a method book - a "how to" book. It shows you how to do some patterns, and tells you how to figure out others. This way, it opens up opportunities to unleash your creativity! It's my kind of book!

Read more about Kristin's blog tour, and find more of the blogs on the tour at: