Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: Crochet for Baby All Year

Title: Crochet for Baby All Year
Author: Tammy Hildebrand
Year Published: 2014; printed in USA

Dee's Rating: 10 Hooks out of 10

In my last blog post I revealed the big family secret, so now that I have the baby blanket project completed it was time for me to move on to a little sweater.  So when I was asked to review Tammy Hildebrand's new book, Crochet for Baby All Year, the timing couldn't have been better!

Flipping through the book I instantly loved that the little outfits were organized by month; and that it offered more than just baby sweaters -- it also has outfits for the football enthusiasts, for Halloween, even for a day of total beachin' fun.  I decided to give the "Fall Festival Cardigan" pattern a try. The pattern calls for a variety of colored yarn but I opted to go with just two colors, blue and white. I was amazed with how quickly the project worked up.  I think I spent more time deciding which buttons to go with! (lol)
Tammy's Fall Festival Cardigans featured in her new book,
"Crochet For Baby All Year"

There are no symbol charts offered for any of the projects, but I don't think they were needed as I found her written instructions easy to follow. The project Skill Levels focus mostly on easy, but there are some intermediate patterns, and one experienced. Tammy and I both agree that Skill Level should not discourage a crocheter from trying something new: as long as you are proficient with the basics of crocheting, and diligent in counting and using stitch markers when needed.
Dee's two-color version of Tammy's
"Fall Festival Cardigan" pattern

I think this book offers a great collection of patterns for baby's first year, for both boys and girls. And since babies tend to grow quickly, Tammy's quick patterns will help ensure your project is well off the crochet hook before that next growth spurt.

Want to see more photos of patterns offered in this book?  Visit Stackpole’s Look Book here.  Want to get to know Tammy? Follow her on Facebook here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hot off the Hook: Sweet Dreams Baby Blanket

With news we're expecting -- a new nephew! -- it was time to get the hook in motion to crochet something special.  I ordered the yarn and while waiting for it to arrive, I started looking for inspiration by perusing through the pattern books in my personal library. That's when I came across Silverman's pattern, "Sweet Dreams Baby Blanket."  What instantly appealed to me was a "new to me" Tunisian stitch that looked very interesting, and with it, I'd get to use my Knitter's Pride Tunisian crochet hooks with the adjustable cables. (a win-win!)

As a rule, crochet pattern books don't make my "shelf space" unless there are a minimum of three patterns (or stitches/techniques) that I think I might enjoy.  Aside from the cost/investment factor, I have an extremely limited amount of space I can store my growing "reference books" at, so this "3 pattern" rule is important to me.  I am not sure how long ago I purchased Sharon Silverman's book, "Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the ease of Crocheting," but based upon the price sticker on the back of my book, it was during the days when Borders bookstore was still around and it retailed at the time for $24.95. (Amazon has it now for just under $19). Flipping through the pages now, I still find patterns in it that I find appealing and may return to try in the future.

Some of the changes I made to her Sweet Dreams Baby Blanket pattern included:
"Sweet Dreams Baby Blanket"
pattern by Sharon Silverman
  • Using Margaret's "Italian Cast On" method; I really like that it isn't rigid.
  • Using the Knotless Russian Join technique for joining (less ends to weave in later)
  • Exchanged the first round of single crochet stitches for the edging for extended-single crochet stitches (to continue a bit with the 'knit' look) -- note that if you're going to do this, it will require more yarn. Don't be left hanging, with, say, 30 stitches to go to completion with no more yarn in the stash. This is why we should always buy a little bit extra yarn. :)
  • To soften the drape, I bumped the hook size up by one size. And since I was using the Knitter's Pride Tunisian crochet hook, when I was done with my Tunisian stitches, all I had to do was remove the cable to make it into a 'regular' crochet hook to complete the border. Sweet!!

Blocking a crocheted project is well
worth the effort.
Tip: Keeping notes on changes you've made to a pattern is important, especially if you ever find yourself needing to duplicate the work

 And, -As always, I strongly recommend blocking your crochet work. Blocking takes your completed project from looking 'Home-made' to "Hand made."  Well worth the time I assure you!  :)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Can Giraffes Crochet? Webs says "Yes!" ...

As I stated in my last blog post, I've been crocheting A LOT of chemo caps. At my last count I had consumed some 26 skeins of yarn!  Mr Dee has shown some concern that I "might run out," but I had replied, "Like that would ever happen."  After giving my reply some thought I realised I might have missed out on an opportunity to enhance my yarn stash...

No worries there. Webs, a yarn store in Massachusetts, had announced their anniversary sale. Only, I couldn't make the sale -- I was to assist Mini~Dee in preparing for her Junior Prom.

Again, no worries: Webs must'a known. They sent me an email announcing an online sale they were having. I selected some yarn and then proceeded to complete my order.  When I came to their "Special Instructions" part of the order form I typed in:
"If you need to call, please call AFTER 12 (noon).
Please draw me a picture of a giraffe enjoying an afternoon of crocheting. :) "
The calling instructions were legit, since most mornings I've been at the hospital with Cowboy for his cancer treatments. The giraffe request -- now where did that come from??  lol   I guess that was just me being a bit silly. Never did I think that they would actually draw me a picture, never mind it being one of a giraffe crocheting!

A few days after placing my order I found myself "living" at the hospital's ER with Cowboy. Fortunately everything turned out OK, but I returned home exhausted, and in much need of some giggles and grins. That same day my order from Webs arrived. Included with my yarn goodies was a beautiful hand-drawn giraffe, enjoying an afternoon of crocheting!!  I'm not sure how often their customers request hand-drawn work, and/or if they normally fill such requests, but for this customer I can attest that it was very much appreciated; it was the lift I needed, totally making my day!  Thank you, Webs!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Home-stretch

It may seem as though I have dropped off the face of the earth, but if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you already know that isn't true. What is, is that I seem to be hanging onto the edge by my fingertips! (or, at least, that's what it feels like.)

My father, who we will give the name of Cowboy to, was recently diagnosed with cancer. His doctors are optimistic that they caught it in time. It has been my job of getting him to all his doctor appointments and radiation treatments, which has not been an easy task: Cowboy, who is as tough as an ox, is not one of those who willingly go to doctors. No, he was brought up to believe that the only reason you go to a doctor is to die. It hasn't helped that also during this time he has also been hospitalized three times with serious heart issues ... to say I am stressed is a bit of an understatement.

Fortunately, I crochet. Crochet is great for reducing stress! And I had decided at the very beginning of his treatments that I would crochet at every. single. treatment. and. doctor. visit. until I had 42 chemo caps completed. (I decided to make 42 caps based upon the number of radiation treatments he was to go through; then bumped it up to 45.)  At this time I have 45 completed with a new goal to round off the number at 50.  Each cap I've crocheted has helped keep me calm and focused, and now that we're in the home-stretch of his treatments I can only hope for the best that all these treatments will work, keeping Cowboy around to see many, many more sunsets!
Labeling Chemo Caps with Care Instructions

In the meantime, the Radiation department staff has asked if I would consider donating my chemo caps to them as their department is often overlooked -- and is in dire need of -- chemo caps.  I said yes.  I will be giving all 50 of my caps to them on the last day Cowboy goes in for treatment.  Fortunately, one of my CGOA Chapter members had some chemo caps ready for donation so I gave them to the Radiation department earlier this week. You'd have thought I was giving out bars of gold; they were so happy!  :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bloomin' Flowers: Surface Crochet'em Right On!

Spring is in the air ... flowers are a'bloomin' ...

I have lost count of how many chemo caps I now have completed (45 is my goal; one for each day my father goes in for cancer treatment. All to be donated.)  This one, is hot off my crochet hook, is crafted with half-double crochet stitches.  As I completed the last stitch for the cap I decided it needed a few flowers, and I admit: I really like how they came out.  I thought I'd share how I made them right on the hat itself!

Crocheted flowers with beaded centers make for pretty embellishment.
Bloomin' Flowers:
By Dee Stanziano

Create a slip knot, place loop on hook.

Look at your finished project. Decide where you'd like your flower to reside. Look closer at your work, more importantly, look at the individual stitch that you decided your flower will rest upon. See the legs of your stitch? Or the cross-bar from a hdc or dc stitch? These make great "loops" to directly crochet your flower onto! :)

Gently insert your hook under one of those stitch loops, yarn over and pull through the loop, yarn over and pull through both loops on hook  (this makes your 1st sc st), utilizing that same "loop" create 2 more single crochet stitches.

Turn work 180 degrees, look for another "loop" on the project to secure your flower to. Ensure it is *very* close to the prior used "loop". Make 2 single crochet stitches here, join to first sc st with a slip stitch to complete the round.

Petals: *(ch 3, dc in sc twice, ch 3, sl st in same sc st), sl st in next sc, repeat from * until you have 5 petals. End off.

Since you crocheted the flowers right onto your project, there is no need to sew them on. At this point all that is left is to weave in the tails. Adding a decorative bead to the flower makes for a great option. :)

For those fairly new to crochet, the technique of crocheting directly onto a finished project, be it crocheted or knitted, is known as "surface crochet."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Interview and Book Review: Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats

Title: Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats: 30 Fun & Stylish Designs for Kids of All Ages
Author: Kristy Simpson
Year Published: 2014

Dee's Rating: 10 Hooks out of 10

I had just vowed to crochet a chemo cap for donatation for each day I will be taking my father in for cancer treatment when the publisher of the new book, "Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats" asked me to write a review. I said yes!

Within days the book arrived and upon my initial flip-through I instantly thought the title should have been "Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats, and Some For Daddy too!" I say this because the book also includes patterns for the Dads in our lives. While this book is not intended to be "chemo" in theme, it has plenty of patterns to inspire everyone.  :)

Chemo cap inspired by "Groovy Waves Beanie" pattern
featured in the "Mommy & Me Crocheted Hats" book.
Yarn by Lotus, Hook by Graydog.
Wanting to give a pattern a test-drive, I grabbed some Lotus yarn generously given to me by Vashti, and set to work on the Groovy Waves Beanie. I found the instructions to be easy to follow (and alter, since I was using a thinner yarn and smaller hook), and liked that the instructions include sizes for Small, Medium, and Large.  I already have a second hat from the book on my hook.

I give this book a rating of 10 hooks out of 10 for the diversity of styles, ease of pattern following, and for clear how-to images of stitch instructions.

Prior to the start of my father's cancer treatments I  got a chance to interview Kristi, the author of this book:

Q. When did you start crocheting, and what was the first project you ever completed? Did you learn how to crochet from someone, or are you self-taught?
A. I began crocheting around 6 years ago. My daughter had received a 'Learn to Crochet' gift for Christmas and she sweet talked me into teaching her. As I was learning the basics to teach her....I was 'hooked'! So, yes, I am a self taught crocheter.

Some of Kristi's favorite designs
featured in her newest book.
Images used with permission.
Q. The "Mommy & Me" concept for crocheted hats is great, especially since you include patterns for Daddy too. Where did you get the inspiration for your hats?
A. "Mommy & Me" was such a blast to design. I have a sweet spot for hats, as they are my most favorite things to design. I have had sketches for YEARS, a binder of ideas that I had compiled from magazines and every day life experiences, and my publisher and I worked together to come up with a list that we thought would be great for all to adults! For instance, I had been out to my Great Aunt's house one afternoon and she had NEW baby sheep. now, if you haven't ever seen baby sheep--you have to look up a photo. They are so cute (and even a little awkward) but their ears just get me every time! So, that was my instant inspiration for the Lamb Bonnet!

Q. I'm known for loving various crochet hooks of various manufactures. Do you find you have a favorite brand? And, how would you define your crochet style: knife holder, pencil holder, or perhaps another style?
A. When it comes to holding a crochet hook, I am a knife holder. I have seen the other styles being used, and not that one way is right or wrong-- I just can cruise right along with the knife holder style. My favorite type of hook is a generic brand from Hobby Lobby that has the bamboo on the end. I love the extra grip it gives me and I honestly do not drop my hook as much!

Q. Of the collection of hats featured in your book, is there a pattern or two that stick out in your mind as a 'favorite'?
A. If I had to pick a few favorites, I would choose the Giggles'n'Curls Hat, Downtown Slouchy, Horse hat, Pigtail Hat and the Daddy's Bearded Dude Beanie (but that's since I have to choose!---I personally love them all!)

Q. What big projects do you see in your future? ... another pattern book perhaps?
A. I am actually working on Book #3 right now! The theme is still a surprise, but I think you're going to LOVE it!
Thank you Kristi!

Kristi is the founder of Inspired Crochet magazine, and is the author of "Sweet & Simple Baby Crochet: 35 Adorable Designs for Newborns to 12 Months," published in 2013.  Additional pictures from her new "Mommy & Me" book can be found here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

waiting and souvenirs

I was sitting in the hospital's ER, patiently waiting for the doctors and nurses to tend to my father's recent health scare. I held in my hands my trusty crochet hook and a skein of yarn; made a slip knot followed by two chains and thus began a series of seamless rounds that would grow into a chemo cap to be earmarked for donation.

The start of a chemo cap while waiting
at a wrestling match, February 2014.
I was mid-round in my stitch count when a father brought his 5-year old son into the waiting room. The boy was fidgety, tugging on his "bracelet" the hospital had given to him to wear.  "But Dad! Why do I have to wear it?!!" His dad tried to explain what the bracelet was for but the boy wasn't buying into it.  As we were the only three in the waiting room, I said to the boy, "It's a souvenir of your trip to the hospital. My son collects his. He has this many," I said as I held out my hand showing all five fingers on it.

 "He does??" the boy asked.

 "Yes," I replied, "In fact, he just got one last week when he hurt his collar bone."

"Did it hurt," the boy asked.

"Yes. My boy told me it hurt so I brought him to the hospital so the Doctor could look at it and they gave him the souvenir bracelet, just like yours."

The boy turned to his dad, held up his wrist and said, "Dad! Look! I got a souvenir!"  His dad smiled at me and mouthed "Thank you."

"What are you making," the boy asked me.

"I'm making a hat that I will give to someone who is very sick. It's what I do when I'm waiting," I replied.  "Today I'm waiting for my dad. They gave him a souvenir bracelet too."

"Ohhh, you're a very nice lady!" the boy exclaimed.

His dad told me his son had hurt himself on a trampoline and has been complaining about his "owwie" for a little while so he thought it best to be checked out.  "Dad," asked his son, "can I learn how to make a hat? His dad said yes, that he could ask a relation to teach him.

At that point the nurse called me, stating I could go see my father. As I gathered up my things the boy said, "Goodbye nice lady. I'll take good care of my souvenir!"  :)

Note: My father turned out to be (thankfully!) OK.