Thursday, August 28, 2014

Road Maps - A Review of Modern Baby Crochet by Stacey Trock

Do you remember in Episode 76 when I said that I probably will not be picking up my crochet hook for a long time after finishing the Mario Blanket?  Well, thanks to Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches and her adorable new book, I may have to eat my words.

Photo courtesy of Martingale and Brent Kane
Earlier this year, Stacey published her third book, Modern Baby Crochet - Patterns for Decorating, Playing, and Snuggling.  This book is available from Martingale for $22.99 for the Print + eBook or $14.99 for the eBook through their website.  I would like to thank Martingale for kindly providing a sample eBook copy for my review.

Before diving into the patterns, the Getting Started section contains useful information for choosing yarns (machine washable yarns are best!), gauge, and other supplies.  The Anatomy of a Stitch section goes beyond the basic "how to crochet" and discusses the different stitches and why you would want them constructed in a certain way (i.e. through the front loop vs. through both, etc.)

This title contains 21 patterns divided into three sections: Bold &Bright, Pretty in Pastel, and Naturally Neutral.  As Stacey describes, these patterns focus on making the nursery whimsical and adorable, but with a chic twist.  The pattern format is clear with bright photographs, both close-up and of the whole object.  Each pattern lists the skill level, size of the finished project, gauge, materials needed, and helpful project notes.  
Photo courtesy of Martingale and Brent Kane

As for the actual projects in this book, there is a wide range from blankets, to a mobile, monsters, and pillows.  And all of them appropriately fit the title of Modern Baby Crochet.  The Mondrian Inspired Afghan starts off the book with its bold color blocks that are not your typical crochet blanket motifs.  Beyond a baby's nursery, I can see myself making this blanket larger to be a throw in the living room.  

Throughout the book, Stacey provides many tips and tricks that as a newbie crocheter, I find extremely helpful.  For example, in the Zabby the Giggle Monster, there is a tip box explaining why Stacey has you do a ch1 in the body rounds.  These may seem like minor details or no-brainers to some experienced crocheters, but for someone just moving beyond granny squares this information can prove invaluable.

Photo courtesy of Martingale and Brent Kane
As a self-proclaimed preppy gal, I was immediately drawn to the Funky Argyle pillow and matching afghan. Again, the pattern contains tips about crocheting intarsia - turns out it is just like in knitting when you want to work with a separate ball or bobbin of yarn for each color section!

And what would this book be without Stacey's signature crocheted stuffies?  From Oakley the Owl to the Teddy Bear Bookends to the Sweet Tweeter birds that appear on the cover.

Photo courtesy of Martingale and Brent Kane

Following the patterns, there is a section on finishing and care, which tells you how to block and wash the items.  As with any craft, the finishing can be the most important step to make your project come to life and these projects are no different.

Overall, I found this book to be fun, educational, and approachable.  The instructions are clear and there are many helpful hints along the way.  The projects are whimsical, fresh, and absolutely adorable. Now where did I hide my crochet hook?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Commuter Knitter - Episode 76 - Crazy Talk for a Monday (airing on a Wednesday)

You've Arrived At Your Destination
Hitofude out of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Volga for Camp Loopy Project 2


Mario Bedspread

Mario Blanket

TheKnitGirllls Stash Dash 2014

Camp Loopy 2014 
Ginny's Cardigan

Ginnys Cardigan

Purloining my own show notes from last year when I talked about subbing a different yarn that is not the same gauge:
How to substitute yarn of a different gauge in a pattern.  A little bit of math is involved, but it's not too difficult.

Pattern gauge - 4 sts per inch
Personal gauge - 4.5 - 5 sts per inch
Stitches at the bust to get desired size, which in this case for me is 34:

x sts/34" = 5sts/1"
x = 34*5
x = 170 sts

This will be the number of stitches needed across bust to get the desired 34" bust measurement. Next, look through the pattern to find which size gives that number of stitches at the bust.  Use the numbers for that size in order to get the size I want.

Rearview Mirror
Camp Loopy 2013 - where are they now?

Road Maps
Review of Mystic Shawls by Anna Dalvi, released by Cooperative Press
Check out my full review on the blog with a chance to win an e-copy for yourself!

Hop on the Party Bus
Congratulations to the winder of the giveaway for a cube sock bag by Sue and Sandy of Prairie Bag Works on Etsy.  Thank you again to Sue and Sandy for providing the bag for the giveaway!

Prairie Bag Works Giveaway

Road Trips
Bridgewater Country Fair - August 15-17, 2014
Bridgewater Fair 2014
Stitch N Pitch at CitiField - September 14th @ 1:10 pm
Western CT Yarn Crawl - September 26-28th
STITCHES East - Hartford, CT - October 9th-12th
NYS Sheep & Wool - Rhinebeck, NY - October 18th-19th

Come Find me on the Interwebs
Ravelry - ndjen04
Ravelry Group - Commuter Knitter Podcast
Twitter - @CommuterKnitter
Facebook - Commuter Knitter
Email -
Instagram - ndjen04

Road Maps - A Review & Giveaway for Mystic Shawls by Anna Dalvi

Since I normally record the podcast in the car, I do not have the convenience of having a copy of the book I am reviewing or extensive notes in front of me for reference.  Therefore, I have decided to take a different approach with my review process by moving to written posts here on the blog to give you additional information, and to ensure that I have covered all that I want to mention.  I will still give an overview of the titles, products, or other review items within the podcast episodes, but I want to be sure to give these items proper attention as they are often provided to me from the companies free of charge.  As always, all opinions are my own.  I hope you find this new review format useful.

© Cooperative Press
Today I will be reviewing Mystic Shawls by Anna Dalvi.  This title is available from Cooperative Press for $26.95 for the print and eBook or $16.95 for the eBook.  Thank you to Cooperative Press for providing an eBook copy for my review.

This book contains 14 different lace shawl patterns that all started as mystery knit-alongs (KALs), beginning with Anna's first shawl design, Mystic Waters.  Anna was drawn to the mystery KAL after joining one in 2007.  While waiting for another one to come along, Anna decided that she could just host one of her own and as she writes, "Really, how hard could it be?"  Hoping to find a couple dozen or so people to join her KAL, Anna was quite surprised that over 1400 knitters had signed up!  And the rest is history.

© Cooperative Press
First, a few words about the format of the book itself.  As with most (all?) Cooperative Press titles that I have seen, this eBook contains a visual table of contents with links directly to the patterns.  Each pattern contains a brief introduction describing the construction, offering tips and hints, and detailing Anna's inspiration for the particular shawl, along with some tidbits behind-the-scenes (for instance, Anna writes how she came to purchase her first yarn winder after hand-winding 2400+ yards of lace weight - eek!).  The start of the pattern page also provides a materials list, gauge, and finished (blocked) size.  The pattern pages are clean, with plenty of white space, which is helpful to take notes as needed.  

There are a variety of shapes among the fourteen patterns in the book, including six triangles, four rectangles, two square, a circular, and a crescent shape.  Something for everyone.  One of the square shawls, Mystic Ice, can be worked either as a square or as a triangle.  There is even a multi-colored triangular shawl, aptly named Mystic Delight. (pictured below)

© Cooperative Press
All of the patterns in this book are charted.  And the charts... well the charts are HUGE, and often divided among a number of pages.  However, if you keep in mind that these patterns were originally released in mystery KAL format one section at a time, then the charts do not seem as daunting if you take them one piece at a time.  One critique I have is that I would have liked to see the special stitch key appear with the particular shawl pattern in which the special stitches appear instead of all the way at the back of the book forcing you to flip back and forth.   

That said, these designs are delicate, intricate, and stunning.  Many of the patterns have lace work on both sides, bringing to mind the difference between lace knitting (rest rows between patterned rows) and knitted lace (patterning every row).  Anna even cautions that you will want to keep careful track of where you are in some of the patterns due to their complex nature.  These pieces are truly a labor of love and will give you heirloom quality shawls worthy of a special occasion (i.e. wedding, baby christening, etc.)

While lace is not necessarily my go-to knitting style, I will say that this book is worth a peek for those of you who love to dive into these complex designs.  If you would like a chance to win a copy of this book for yourself, please leave a comment on this post with your favorite part about knitting lace and I will draw a random winner in four weeks (September 17th, 2014) using a random number generator.  Please include your Ravelry ID in the comment so I know how to reach you.  Good luck!