Simply Crochet Blog Tour: Blooming Beauty Purse

Yay! I can finally tell you about this! Simply Crochet is now available in print (or you can get a downloadable e-book here).

Simply Crochet

Photo copyright Interweave

This book is jam packed with great patterns from great designers that I am honored to be in a book with. The best part of this book? It’s all about what to do with five balls or less of yarn. Great yarn. Yummy yarn. And, all of us have shared our tips and tricks on how to get the best bang for your buck.

My contribution? The Blooming Beauty Purse. This cute little purse uses only three balls of scrumptious Filatura Di Crosa’s Zara yarn. This yarn was wonderful to work with. Super soft, great color, and crisp stitch definition. I had a hard time packaging it up to send.

Blooming Beauty Purse

Because the motifs are open and lacy, you need to make a lining, but that’s super easy. And it gives you an opportunity to play with pops of color in fun fabric. I used two “fat quarters” that I picked up at my local fabric store. There are instructions on how to do the lining in the pattern. I’ll tell you a behind the scenes secret. Shh, don’t tell anyone else, this is just between you and me. I had my sister sew my lining for me. She has a better eye for this and I was close to my shipping deadline. And then the fabulous tech editor at Interweave worked with my faltering ability to explain what my sister did (and I had a hard time “showing” her what I did with just words in an email…lol) and wrote the directions for the sewing bit so anyone can follow it.

Here, I want to show off how pretty the inside is. I love the fabric. I actually bought four different fabrics (fat quarters are pretty inexpensive so it’s fun to play with) and put each one inside the finished purse to see which I liked best. The red won out.

Lining shot

You know what’s a fun idea? Put a nice neutral fabric on the outside of the lining (the part that will peek through your motifs to the world) and put a bright fun fabric for the inside. Because the lining uses two layers, you can fully customize it. Imagine the possibilities!

The purse is a great take along project. You make the first two rounds out of two of the colors and then later put the third round in the third color and join them all together. So the first bit can be taken with you and then you can sit at a table or in your favorite comfy chair and join them together following the diagram. I’ll tell you another little secret. I didn’t know it would be that shape when I was joining it together. I had in my mind something else and it wasn’t until I joined the last two motifs and stepped back that I saw it was in this great shape. Sometimes happy accidents are awesome.

There are 21 other designs in this book that are all awesome. I’m so honored to be a part of this book. Some of my favorite designers have designs next to mine. This is something that always makes me do the happy dance. This book is chock full of great designs, great tips, and is wonderful for stash busting.

 

Now the fun part! I get to give away a copy of the e-book. This will not be a hard copy. It’s a PDF file that you can take anywhere (I highly suggest Dropbox, especially if you have a smart phone…there’s an app for that and you can carry the book with you!).

Here’s the details for the giveaway! Comment below telling me your favorite tip for saving on yarn. You need to enter by Monday, December 12 at 8am Eastern time. I’ll pick a random commenter from all the comments and you’ll win! Easy peasy. :)

 

Did you miss a post on the tour? Here’s the whole list of the tour. It’s like flipping through the book in order!

1 Ball or Less
Dec 1 Iced Ascot by Rebecca Velasquez, http://rebeccavelasquezdesigns.blogspot.com/
Dec 2 Flapper Hat by Margaret Hubert, http://margaretshooksandneedles.blogspot.com/
Dec 3 Billows of Baubles Scarf by Sheryl Means, http://sherylmeanscrochet.com/
Dec 4 Twist Cowl Wrap by Linda Permann, http://www.lindamade.com/wordpress/
Dec 5 Mystic Cuff by Robyn Chachula, http://crochetbyfaye.blogspot.com
Dec 6 Emma Lace Scarf by Simona Merchant-Dest, http://stylishknits.blogspot.com/
Dec 7 Diamonds and Lace Hat by Linda Permann, http://www.lindamade.com/wordpress/
Dec 8 Neck Lattice by Vashti Braha, http://designingvashti.blogspot.com/

3 Balls or Fewer
Dec 9 Botan Placemats by Marlaina Bird, http://knitthing.blogspot.com/
Dec 10 Tapestry Basket by Carol Ventura, http://www.tapestrycrochet.com/blog/
Dec 11 Blooming Beauty Purse by Tracie Barrett, http://traciebarrett.com/blog/
Dec 12 Nedburt Puppet by Robyn Chachula, http://crochetbyfaye.blogspot.com
Dec 13 Natalie Shrug by Megan Granholm, http://loopdedoo.blogspot.com/
Dec 14 Giselle Vest by Simona Merchant-Dest, http://stylishknits.blogspot.com/
Dec 15 Sidney Cardigan by Robyn Chachula, http://crochetbyfaye.blogspot.com
Dec 16 Annabel Shawl by Kristin Omdahl, http://www.styledbykristin.com/

5 Balls or Fewer
Dec 17 Tallula Baby Top by Marlaina Bird, http://knitthing.blogspot.com/
Dec 18 Amelia Cardigan by Julia Vaconsin, http://www.juliavaconsin.com/
Dec 19 Float Vest, Float Cardigan by Robyn Chachula, http://crochetbyfaye.blogspot.com
Dec 20 Linked Jacket by Robyn Chachula, http://crochetbyfaye.blogspot.com
Dec 21 Dots and Dashes Blanket by Ellen Gormley, http://gocrochet.com
Dec 22 Spa Shawl Top by Doris Chan, Spa Shawl Tunic by Doris Chan, http://dorischancrochet.com/

Got Gauge?

Gauge swatch

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you knew this one was coming. I tweeted last weekend that a rant was coming on gauge after doing some pattern searching. Well, here it is. Buckle up folks, this one is for everyone.

Gauge. That word that many hate. And I don’t understand why.

Well, okay, there’s the issue with doing swatches. For some reason, a lot of people would rather poke their eyes out with a rusty crochet hook than take the time to do a swatch. Now, I’ll admit, I was one of these people, too, back in the beginning. Know what cured me of that? Spending hours working on a project that I hated, but was too invested in to stop or rip out. Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t a garment (I was smart enough to know I needed to do swatches for those). It was an afghan.

What would I have learned by doing a swatch?

  • That while the pattern called for an I hook, I was still too tight of a crocheter and what should have been a twin sized blanket was coming out as a lapghan.
  • Because I was a tight crocheter, this was not going to be a wonderfully drapy blanket. It instead was going to mimic wet cardboard.
  • The colorway I was using made the nifty stitch pattern just disappear
  • The stitch pattern was really hard on my hands and wrist.

Yes, all those things I could have learned by taking an hour to make a simple swatch. Now I swatch. Maybe not always, especially in cases where I’m making something for a second or third time in the same yarn. But even if I just spend a few minutes doodling with the yarn and hook to see if I like the way the stitch pattern is working with the yarn and hook, it helps.

But honestly, that’s not what I was going to rant about. No, my rant goes much further.

Patterns. Patterns should (nearly) always have gauge listed. Look, I get it, some things gauge just isn’t vital. But you know what, gauge isn’t for making something fit. It’s for making sure that if I use the hook you tell me to use and the yarn weight you tell me to use, I’m going to get a finished object the right size. How does that happen? By checking gauge.

It’s okay to put “Gauge not critical to this project”. I do it in some of my designs. But gauge is a jumping off point. What if you, dear designer, crochet tighter than I do? What if you crochet looser? What if I want to use a slightly different yarn? I have no way to replicate the finished size if I don’t know the number of stitches and rows you got in that magic four inch measurement.

It’s even okay for some patterns to say, “Rows 1-5 = 4″, gauge not critical”. At least then I’m not completing the whole thing before finding out if it’s going to be the right finished size.

I saw (and passed on) at least five patterns in the course of an hour on Ravelry because they had some variation of the following listed in the pattern description: “I didn’t check gauge or mark it down. It’s not necessary.” Considering the items I was looking at were fingerless gloves, slippers and hats, they were very much necessary.

Look, I understand that not everyone who posts a pattern on Ravelry is or desires to be a professional designer. I’m not here rallying for charts and standards and pretty formatting (that’s another discussion for another day). But, take five minutes, slap down a ruler and count your stitches. Give us something to work with.

My fear is that there are new baby crocheters who will gravitate toward free patterns while they learn their skill, and then give up because things don’t work out. Maybe they crochet tightly and the fingerless gloves that should fit everyone end up fitting baby dolls only. Maybe they’re still pretty loose and that hat will fit two heads. And maybe they give up and walk away. That makes me sad.

So please, take a few minutes if you’re writing a pattern and mark what your gauge is. And if it’s a project that will need to be blocked, let us know if that’s blocked or unblocked gauge. You have a better chance of people being successful with your designs.

And if you’re a crocheter, trust me, take the time to check gauge. You’ll be happier with your final product.

A handful of announcements

Today is very hot (and humid…gotta love Florida in the dead of summer), and I’ve been at the computer all day long. This is my last computer related item on my to-do list and then I get to go sit under the fan and crochet. So, this will be pretty quick. :)

Item #1: Since it’s been brought to my attention that I didn’t clearly announce this a few weeks ago when I wrote that one post. Um, I won’t be at the Summer Knit and Crochet Show. Sorry, but due to health issues, I had to pull my classes. I just could not see making it through the whole week of activities and teaching classes. Especially considering that most days I feel the need to take a nap after running an errand. For the record, I don’t always take that nap, but the fatigue is there. I’m so very sorry and I will miss seeing all my friends. Y’all have fun and tweet away so I can be there vicariously. :)

Item #2: I am, however, teaching another round of classes at Crochetville. You can see the upcoming schedule (starting in August) here at their website. I hope you’ll join me as the last round was a lot of fun. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have over there in the forums. :)

Item #3: This one is really good news. The urge to crochet has bit again (which is good ’cause I was getting worried). I spent this weekend crocheting away on fun stuff for myself and for gifts. I’ve also got some little sparks of inspiration I’m hoping to fan into flames of designs, but we’ll see. I’m not pushing or rushing anything that’s going on right now. Thank you all for your support!

Item #4: If you wanted to get my pattern for the Fearless Scarf but didn’t get a chance to vote in this last round of Flamies awards, fear not! I wanted to have a period of exclusivity for the pattern (and to encourage everyone to go vote), but I was given the go ahead to release the pattern in my line. So…next week come back here for an announcement. :) It will be available and I’ll have all the info then. I need to do a double check and clean it up and get it ready to go.

Item #5: There are a few other designs that were in the finishing stage that will be coming down the pike in the next couple of months. I hope you’ll check them out when I get them ready. :)

Okay, that’s all from me for this week! I hope everyone is having a wonderful day and a great start to the week. Stay cool, all!

Still alive and a review

Hi everyone!

I want to start by first saying a heartfelt thank you to all of you. Really. The outpouring of support and encouragement that I’ve received over the last few weeks has been amazing. I was so very worried when I hit “publish post” on that last post that I would alienate myself from everyone. So, imagine my surprise when the comments (both here and on Facebook), tweets, and emails started pouring in. Y’all are amazing. And you made me cry, but in a good way. :)

Since I last spoke (typed?) with you, I’ve gone on a much needed vacation, finished up my last publication project, rearranged my entire room, and spent a lot of time thinking. That last one is often the hardest. Mostly ’cause I’m a hard core planner and I’m not sure where I’m going yet.

My vacation was awesome, but I won’t go into details here. As many of you know, I try very hard to keep this blog focused on the business end of things. I will say, though, that if you can get to St. Augustine, Florida, do it. We stayed for four days there and totally did the touristy thing. I bought a Colonial Loom while there and have been playing around with weaving. I will share a couple of fiber related pictures with you, though!

This is a cool huge floor loom that was in the government house. I’m sure it still works. I will tell you, after doing a bit of weaving on a frame loom, I can totally see how someone came up with the idea of automating as much of the process as possible. :)

We found this spinning wheel in one of the Dow Historic Homes. So neat!

Ok, so when I got home from vacation I finished up my publication project. This is where I want to share a bit of a review. Back when I was at TNNA, I received in my goody bag at the Designer Dinner a pair of the Crochet Dude Curved Blade Snips.

These snips? In one word? AWESOME.

They’re super sharp. They fit so well in the palm of your hand. And because the blades are curved, they can snug up against your project to snip your ends. These things are so cool and so simple and so awesome. They have honestly replaced my scissors in my work basket.

This year, if you have a crafter of any kind on your gift list (including seamstresses), buy them a pair of these. Honestly, they’re so cool. Drew really did a great thing coming up with these.

And finally, the rearranging. I’ve shared pics before of how my room was set up. It was mostly set up for what I call production style crochet. Which is what I’m trying to get out of for my own sanity. So, the room had to be changed. Tuesday was what I called Operation Room Flip on Twitter. I went from my studio space taking up 40% of my room to my room finally being a bedroom and living space. My worktable became my desk and is sitting in the corner of my room. It’s now maybe 10% of my room. I downsized my yarn and donated a lot of it to the charity crafting group at my church. I only kept the yarn that really spoke to me. Yarn I wanted to feature in my design line (or yarn that I had already tapped for my personal projects). And by the end of Tuesday? I was able to breathe again.

Last night an amazing thing happened. I was doing some final tweaks to my room and setting things up. And while doing that I thought, “You know, I need to make something to go right there. I think I even have those colors in my stash and can totally do it this way.” Nope, not going into details on what it was until I get it hashed out. But, it’s a great sign. The creativity is still flowing a bit. I just need to get the fingers to want to do it.

So, please continue the good thoughts. They’re working and I greatly appreciate it. Much love to all of you!

Not the post I planned to write

I got back from TNNA last week. I spent the remainder of last week recovering from the travel and the stress of that. As many of you know (because I’ve always been honest about it), I have fibromyalgia. For the most part, I do quite well and manage what my “normal” is for me. I say it like that because it’s not the normal I used to have. Anyway, trips and such always throw me off a bit and I struggle upon return to get through the fog and the fatigue and the pain to be able to function again. I’m just about there now.

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me post about making some big decisions and getting clarity on direction. I promised an explanation upon my return. I had planned to wait a few weeks to get everything planned out in my head. But, as the days went on without a blog post from me, my fingers kept wanting to type this one out instead of the two I was going to write (don’t worry, those will come in the next couple of weeks).

Long time followers likely know that over this last year or so I’ve had a lot of changes in my personal life. Big, earth shaking, stress-inducing changes. I held on tight, kept my head down, and made it through. I’ve worked more over the last year than I’ve worked the other three years I’ve been designing full time. And now I’m at this point.

I’m burned out. I pushed past the first warning signs of it because I had to. And now I’m to the point that I haven’t even been crocheting for fun. In fact, a sign to everyone (when they heard) that I was seriously burned out was the fact that I read on the plane to TNNA. In the last four years that I’ve traveled by plane, I have always crocheted. Always. Until this trip. I almost didn’t pack any crochet with me, but I had a custom piece someone ordered from me that I needed to do.

TNNA yielded long talks with those I respect and trust, quiet time sitting alone thinking, and a lot of decisions being made. That sounds ominous and stuff. Sorry. Some may wonder why I’m sharing this here. Well, I’ve always believed in being honest about this business. Good, bad, ugly, indifferent, I was determined not to just put on a happy smiley face and pretend that it was all good if it wasn’t. And I’m a firm believer that someone out there may need to hear this right now.

When I got home, I read this blog post by Goddess Leonie. I’ve been reading her for a few months now and most of the time she posts about things right around the time I needed them. :) This blog post was one of them. When I read it, I knew that I was on the right path.

So here it is.

I’m taking a break. I’m not sure how long. I have one last deadline project to finish and then I’m stopping for a bit. Somewhere in all the busy and crazy deadlines and work for other companies and publications I’ve lost my inspiration and mojo. So I need to find it again. I need to find why I fell in love with this crazy business in the first place. And I need to find the joy and bliss in having fiber run through my fingers.

The plan at the moment is that when I come back (it’s transferred to a “when” instead of an “if”…already that’s progress) I will focus exclusively on my own design line. I have ideas, y’all, I just need the time and space to work on them. And the plate spinning I’ve been doing is starting to lead to cracked plates and a mess. It’s hard to crochet when you’re sweeping up broken plates.

I still have a lot of blog posts to write, and will likely do them throughout the break. I have tons of cool products to review that I received during the Marly Bird Designer Dinner. Honestly, there were some fabulous sponsors and I plan on writing reviews of each of the products they gave us. I also have a few more patterns that were done over the last year that are finally coming out and I want to talk about them, too.

So, you’re not getting rid of me right away. And I hope that I’ll be able to tap back into some creativity. If anything, the good sign is that I started a lace crochet project (not my design, just clicking off the designer brain for a bit and enjoying yarn) to take with me on my vacation next week. Last week, that wasn’t even a consideration on the packing list.

And if it’s not too much to ask, good thoughts and all that are always welcome. I’m also dealing with some ramifications from my fibromyalgia as I come out of the non-stop stress and work mode. Which is likely why this post is a bit rambly. :)

New Pattern: Fionnuala Cowl

In case you didn’t hear already, I have a new design out in the Fibers By Tracie line. The Fionnaula Cowl is a mobius cowl/wrap made of natural fibers. I made the sample in Classic Elite Soft Linen which is a fabulous blend of alpaca, wool and linen. It only takes four skeins, so it’s possible to get a great accessory without a lot of yarn. Soft Linen is a DK weight yarn if you want to substitute, but I would recommend using a natural blend to the great drape.

Here’s a pic and all the pertinent links and such.

Ravelry Link


$5.00

Fionnuala means Fair Shoulders in Gaelic. I love the name (pronounced fin-OO-lah, by the way) and thought it fit the item perfectly. The yarn has a lot of drape. When I was outside photographing it, it rippled in the breeze. Too bad it was also 85 degrees outside (this was before 11am). Ah, pre-summer in Florida. Which means I won’t be wearing mine for a while, but hopefully if you live somewhere with real seasons, it may still be cool enough to wear one!

I have a few more designs in the works to come out in the Fibers By Tracie line, so keep an eye out! :) Have a fabulous week everyone!

Knitting & Crocheting Blog Week: Day Five – And now for something completely different

Day Five!

This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create.
There are no rules of a topic to blog about (though some suggestions are given below) but this post should look at a different way to present content on your blog. This can take one of many forms, but here a few suggestions:
Wordless, photographic post
This is the one I’m doing!

Stay tuned, I’ll have a post each day through Sunday, answering the prompts given at Eskimimi Knits’ site. If you want to read the rest of the blogs that are also posting, you can do a google search on this term: 2KCBWDAY5. Everyone participating will have that term in their post and you can follow along that way. :)

Two new patterns out

I’m so excited to be able to tell you about two new patterns of mine that are out now! Both patterns use new yarns and so I get to tell you about them, too!

The first one can be found in Crochet World April 2011 issue. Glitterbug is made out of Simply Soft Party and came about during the Knit and Crochet Show last year. Michele Maks took my amigurumi class and we met afterwards to talk about designs. I sketched this out for her and had it to her a month or so later.

Okay, here’s a picture of the little guy:

Photo copyright DRG

I just love him so much! Let me tell you about the yarn. Simply Soft Party is all the goodness of Simply Soft with a metallic thread running through it. Now, metallic threads tend to feel itchy to me, but this is actually soft. How soft? Well, at that same conference, I had a crocheted chain of it (double stranded) around my neck as a choker for the Dance Party. I never noticed it on because it was that soft.

The other great thing about the metallic thread? It’s the same color of the yarn it’s in. Which gives it a very subtle glitz. I really love it and can’t wait to design a few more things in it.

So, I hope you’ll check out the April issue and give it a try. It’s a great beginner amigurumi pattern. The only sewing you have to do is to sew the legs and antenna on. The body is made in one piece. Oh, and here’s the Ravelry Link.

The second pattern is a great home piece. It’s a quick project and can dress up the little storage ottomans that you can get at Target for under $20. It’s simple to make and works up fast because it’s a chunky yarn.

Here’s a pic:

Photo copyright Coats & Clark

The Granny Ottoman Cover (Ravelry Link) is made with the new Red Heart Super Saver Chunky. This yarn is just as hard working as regular Red Heart Super Saver, but in a new speedy weight. This will be a great yarn for making thick scarves and hats or quick afghans. Or, ottoman covers!

I hope you check out both of these patterns and if you give them a try, let me know!

I should hopefully have a few more patterns to show you soon. I’ve seen them in the newest Aunt Lydia’s catalog (oh, could that mean they’re thread items?) and once they get them up on the website, you will hear about them.

Also, speaking of thread, there’s a CAL over on the Fibers By Tracie group on Ravelry for the Natural Beauty Wrap. We’re running until the end of April because we’re all so busy. I do hope you’ll come on by and check it out and join us! There will be prizes!

Okay, gang, that’s all for this week! I hope you have a fabulous week!

I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks by Karen Ratto-Whooley

Photo copyright Leisure Arts and used with permission

Okay, so everyone who knows me knows that I love crocheted socks. My sock yarn stash has a special bin that I can reach at any time. If I have extra money to spend, it will often go to sock yarn. This is because, to me, socks are the perfect travel project. They fit in my purse, are easy to do on a plane or bus, and allow me to make something for myself in a short amount of time. I actually bought a pair of shoes that show off my crocheted socks and wear them proudly to any yarn event. My socks never match my outfit, and I don’t worry about that.

See?

So when I heard that my dear friend and fellow designer, Karen Ratto-Whooley, was coming out with a sock book, I was so excited. When she asked me to do a stop on her blog tour, I was over the moon. The book is I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks and is published by Leisure Arts.

First off, a little about Karen. She is so completely awesome. I met her in person at the 2010 Knit and Crochet Show. We clicked instantly and hung out most of the weekend. Unfortunately, we were so busy chatting and having fun that we failed to get a photo together. And of course, we didn’t notice that until we were back at our respective homes. She is the utmost professional, and a very talented designer.

Okay, so the book. When I got it in the mail, I dropped everything and immediately flipped through it. This book is so very well put together. She explains the parts of the sock, the differences in fiber types, and all the tools you’ll need to make socks. Once you get addicted like we are, you’ll start keeping a whole kit together just for your sock projects. Go ahead and set it up now, you’ll thank me later.

One thing I love about this book is there are two patterns explaining the basic sock methods: Toe up and Cuff Down. And Karen has written the patterns where you can change color in each different part of the sock. It’s not necessary, but if you’re making socks for the first time, this is really great to understand the concept of what you’re doing. I love it.

Basic Toe Up Socks. Photo copyright Leisure Arts and used with permission

Basic Cuff Down Socks. Photo copyright Leisure Arts and used with permission

Another thing I love about this book is the patterns themselves. There’s a great mix between toe-up and cuff down. There are two socks sized for men (which after making socks for my dad and brother after extrapolating a pattern I typically used, this is a great thing…less math for me!). All the sock patterns suggest sock yarn, which means these will fit in your shoes! Also, no seaming (unless you’re doing cuff down, then you just have to close up your toe)!

Ripple Socks. Photo copyright Leisure Arts and used with permission.

These ones are my favorites and the ones I’m currently working on. I’d hoped to have at least one to show you, but life got in the way and I didn’t get them finished in time. But they will be done soon and I’ll blog about them! These are the Ripple Socks and the pattern is very easy to understand. I will share one bit of advice. Trust Karen. Seriously. She knows what she’s doing. I had a moment where I thought, “Hmmm, that’s different than I usually do it, I better be prepared to fudge it to make it work.” But you know what? I didn’t have to. It was perfect.

The photography is fabulous in this book. Especially in the first two patterns which are broken down like tutorials. Perfect for new sock crocheters. The patterns are clearly written. Everything you need to know is there. If you’ve ever thought of crocheting socks, this is the book to get.

Now, I wanted to do a question and answer with Karen, so here we go:

Karen, as a fellow sock addict, I’m so thankful you did this book. Why do you love crocheting socks so much?

There are lots of reasons! They are fast and portable. A whole lot faster than knitting socks! I love all of the self-striping and long-striping yarns available in sock weight yarns. I end up crocheting a whole lot longer because I want to see “what the next color will do”. And then when that color is done, I want to see the next one. LOL!

Many crocheters seem to be afraid of crocheting socks. Why do you think that is?

Honestly, I think crocheters are intimidated by the size of the yarn. When you see a knitter knitting socks, they are using very small needles (Size 0 sometimes!) That is not true with crochet. I actually encourage using a larger hook than you would normally in order to get the drape and elasticity needed for socks. Crochet is already dense. The larger hook helps reduce that density.

The other thing I think that crocheters don’t realize is that you can use sock yarns. So many patterns in the past use sport or worsted weight yarns. The result is “slipper-like” socks, that won’t fit in a shoe, and many times are so bulky that most people don’t like the way they look. By using sock yarns with a slightly larger hook, the result is a sock that can be worn and is lovely to look at.

What would be your advice for a crocheter trying socks for the first time? Should they do one of the tutorial patterns in a larger yarn? I know you suggest a “light” yarn for those. Do you find this helps the crocheter learn the steps before committing to smaller sock yarn?

If a crocheter hasn’t made socks before, I would say, definitely try the cuff-down tutorial pattern first. Try using the sock yarn first, but if you are struggling, then go up to sport or worsted weight. Once you can see what you are looking for, then bump back down to the sock yarn. The cuff-down sock would be the best for a first timer. Once that has been accomplished, the toe up will make more sense.

There are so many sock yarns on the market now. Do you have a favorite sock yarn? Do you prefer yarns that will stripe or just regular variegated yarns? What’s your go-to sock fiber?

I have to choose? LOL! I love the striping yarns, I love the variegated yarns. I love the solid colors. I think I pick my yarn based on the pattern. If there is a lot of detail in the sock pattern, I will gravitate toward a solid or a tonal yarn. If the sock is more basic, I will chose a striping or variegated yarn

As far as fiber, I really love yarns with bamboo in them. Not only are they soft, but they have a beautiful sheen. I always make sure that my yarns have a little wool or acrylic for those who might be allergic to wool. Wool and acrylic have more elasticity than cotton, silk or bamboo. Using a blend helps with fit! My LYS just got in a sock yarn with Cashmere. I haven’t tried that one yet, but just by touch I think that could be a new favorite.

What is your number one tip for sock crocheting success?

I think the best tip I have is to TRUST in the pattern. I teach that all the time in my sock classes. A lot of the time my students will start a toe-up sock and it just doesn’t look right to them at the beginning. Many times the pattern for a sock isn’t straight forward. But if you just trust and keep going, you will discover that it usually works out in the end.

Can I just toss in an “absolutely!” here? :)

One of the complaints I hear about making socks (both by crocheters and knitters) is having to make two items from the same pattern. Any tips to help stave off the dreaded ‘second sock syndrome’?

Split your ball of yarn, and work both socks at the same time! If you purchase a large ball of yarn (350-450 yards in a single ball will usually make a pair of crocheted socks) have the LYS wind and split the ball evenly for you. If you have to do it yourself, use a kitchen scale that has grams. Weigh the ball before and then keep weighing until you have split the ball in two.

When working the pattern, do the cuff on one sock then do the cuff of the other. Then one leg, then the other. Same for the heels and foot and toe. It goes faster and you don’t have to remember for very long or have to write down your row counts as much if you do it this way. And it is something that knitters cannot do necessarily unless they know how to knit 2 at once on a circular. We just have to pull the hook out.

Confession time. I have nine pairs of completed crocheted socks and three pairs that just need some finishing (or are close to being done). Just how many pairs of crocheted socks do you have?

For myself, I only have 2-3 pairs. My kids each have more than that and even my husband has a pair. The rest of the socks have gone to either family, models for classes and/or books! Although I do have a pair that are in progress just for me! If I ever get a chance to get back to them!

I’m beginning to think I might have a problem now.

I’m a huge fan of toe-up socks because I hate that seam at my toe (and no matter how smoothly I try to do my whip stitching, I can always feel it). What’s your favorite direction to work your socks?

Toe up is definitely my favorite way as well. I am one of those people who doesn’t like to sew either. This way, I only have the ends to weave in.

However, there are times that the cuff down with the heel flap and gusset are better. I think for men’s socks especially. Men seem to have trouble with getting their feet into socks if it is too tight at the ankle. The way I do my short row heels help in the ankle area. And I am working now on a pattern with a toe up heel flap and gusset pattern, so that I can avoid that issue.

For people who may want a hands on lesson in learning to crochet socks, where can they take classes from you?

I regularly teach at Crochetville.org. I have 2 sock classes on the schedule there this year. Cuff down starts May 6th and Toe Up starts November 4th!

I am also starting to teach online at my website. The Crochet Learning Studio will be open this month, hopefully by March 7th, 2011 for registration. The link is http://www.krwknitwear.com/learningcenter. I have a newsletter there just for classes, so be sure to sign up if you are interested.

If you are local to me, I teach classes at Great Yarns! in Everett,WA http://www.greatyarns.com. Check the website for the class schedules.

I also teach nationwide. If you have a guild or a shop that might like to have me come and teach, let me know! I love to visit new places! I also teach at major events like Stitches and The Knit and Crochet Show. I always have my schedule on my website: http://www.krwknitwear.com.

I hope you enjoyed our visit with Karen today! If you love crocheting socks, get this book. If you’ve always wanted to try crocheting socks, get this book! You, too, will be saying, “I can’t believe I’m crocheting socks!”

New Pattern Available: Ruffle Rose Pillow

Good morning all! It’s Monday here, and a holiday, which means no mail and a lot of people have the day off. Not me, of course, because I have to write two patterns today to prep for shipping off projects before their end of month deadline. It’ll also mean I can clear off my white board because the center section has been FULL of projects. Again, good for bank account, bad for taking holidays off.

Today I wanted to share with you the latest design that’s been published. Now, it came out a couple of weeks ago, but I had promised the dress form post, so you’re getting it now. Plus, I wanted to share with you what happened with this design.

Let’s get the design stuff out of the way first.

The Ruffle Rose Pillow is from Coats and Clark and is a free pattern. Here’s the details:

Photo copyright Coats & Clark and used with permission

Pattern is available here on RedHeart.com: Ruffle Rose Pillow pattern

Ravelry link: Ravelry Page

This pillow uses four balls of Red Heart Soft Yarn, an H-8 and I-9 crochet hook, and a 16″ round pillow insert. Make sure you check your gauge. I used just about the entire four balls, so if you think you won’t make gauge, then buy an extra ball.

This pillow will look great in your home. Quick and relatively easy (it will get a bit fiddly near the end, and when you’re crocheting the pillow closed), I think it would look awesome in any number of colors. The back is not ruffled, and is attached to the front in the last round. No sewing! Although I suppose if you wanted to (or needed to be able to remove the pillow from time to time) you could sew it together and install a zipper or something.

Now, this lovely pillow seemed so easy when I got the assignment. And it was. The construction concept stayed the same throughout the design process.

However….

It always seems that what should be the easiest design to execute is always the one to bite me every step of the way. This was the design that I ripped back four or five times during construction (I don’t remember and it pains me to look back through Twitter to see). This was the design that I often times daydreamed about setting on fire. To be clear, not because of anything wrong with the design (I love the final product)…it was simply figuring out exactly what needed to be done. Once I finally got through the roadblocks in my own head, I was able to quickly finish the pillow.

The wonderful thing for you? You simply get to pick up the pattern and start crocheting. All the hard part has been done. As long as you follow the directions, the pillow will simply fly off your hook.

I share this with you because I’ve always been honest about the design process (see my designing series for hard truths and such). It’s not always sunshine and roses and unicorns. Sometimes there’s real blood, sweat, and tears that go into the designing process (I’ve had all three happen, thankfully never on the project itself). It’s important to me that crocheters understand what goes into the designs they use.

Sometimes we’re lucky and it’s a quick design to create (those are usually the hardest to write the patterns for…just so you know that sometimes it’s a struggle either way). Sometimes we’re not. Either way, the hard work we do turns into a wonderful project for you to create.

I do hope that you’ll give this one a try. If you do, let me know! If it’s on Ravelry, I’ll see it. I can’t wait to see it done in a few different colors. I think a bright color would look great on a neutral sofa or chair. Spring is on its way, so you should totally get this done for your spring redecorating.

Next week I’ll have the wonderful Karen Ratto-Whooley here and we’ll be chatting about her newest book: I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks. I’m almost done with my first sock from this book and I can tell you, her instructions are clear, detailed and wonderful. I’m hoping to finish at least one sock this week so I can show it to you next week. If you love crocheting socks, or were always interested in learning how, get this book when it comes out. You won’t be disappointed! Come visit me next week to meet Karen and read our little chat about it.

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