Sunday, January 31, 2016

Butterfly Garden Cocoon Shrug

My latest creation has been much admired so with my children as photographer and stylist ("Don't smile with your mouth open mum!") here are a few photos of my holiday project: the Butterfly Garden Cocoon Shrug.

My inspiration for the construction is the granny cocoon shrug by Maria Valles which went viral on Pinterest in 2015. I've had it pinned on my "Crochet Tops" Pinterest board for a while.  My last granny square shrug worked out wonderfully, see it on this post if you scroll down a little way. My butterfly garden project kept me busy over the holidays, travelling to France to see our family for 10 days. I had a large quantity of alpaca yarn (Cascade Alpaca Lana D'Oro) purchased in the final sale at the store where I work. I needed a delicate pattern to balance the dark green so found a wonderful butterfly garden square in one of my favorite books: The Granny Square Book by legendary crochet great Margaret Hubert.

The construction is blissfully simple. It's just a square joined under the arms with a little bit of edging. After following the 10 rounds of the butterfly garden pattern I just kept going until I could drape my square across my shoulders down to my wrists. I seamed under the arms with a single crochet and added treble rounds to armholes and neckline. It's easy to pull on and snuggle into - perfect for January in Texas.

Maria Valles provides step by step instructions for the granny cocoon shrug on her blog. There is also a video tutorial by Nadia Fuad of Yarnutopia. Some people learn best by watching rather than reading. What's stopping you?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Review of Hook to Heal

Have you ever read a book and felt compelled to place post-it notes in it because you know you want to return to many of the pages? Hook to Heal makes me want to do just this. It's a creativity exercise book that offers suggestions for using crochet to improve all aspects of your life - exactly my kind of thing!

I read Hook To Heal over the holidays and thought I'd share a review with you. It's written by Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence, a specialist in the area of the health benefits of crochet.


Each chapter covers a different area such as "facing fears", "mindfulness crochet" or "giving back" and starts with Kathryn’s own experience and research as a graduate student studying Integral Counseling Psychology. Then she shares exercises for using crochet to work through some of the issues related to the area.

There are a grand total of 100 exercises to try! As I read through the book, I could put the exercises into three categories:
1 "Yes, that would be useful. Wow. I'm going to try this." <Insert post-it note.>
2 "I've done this before and there are even more suggestions for me to try here. Excellent! <Insert post it note.>
3 "Oh no, I don't want to try that. Even the thought of it makes me feel uncomfortable. Why am I feeling so uncomfortable? I must examine this further." <Insert post-it note.>"  

I particularly like the exercises under the Self-Esteem topic on turning negative crafty talk into positive affirmations. I practice yoga and have tried unsuccessfully over the years to meditate, attempting to observe and chase negative thoughts from my mind. I just can't do it and it makes me feel even more of a failure than when I started out! I find that replacing the negative with positive is so much better for my self-esteem. And reading Kathryn's crafty spin on this is just marvelous!

Affirmations are also the subject of a current craftivism project "You are So Very Beautiful" by Betsy Greer, godmother of Craftivism and Mary England. (I've written about meeting Betsy in person here. I'm a big fan.) Betsy writes that:

"Craftivism is about healing ourselves as we stitch, and then healing the world with the product, so this project is about taking a microstep to help other people, to let them know that they are so very many wonderful things. And to remind ourselves that we are so many wonderful things."

Handmade signs are being left out for free in Baltimore, Vancouver and London on February 9th. Find out more about the project on Betsy's Craftivism site.

Anyway, back to Hook to Heal before I get too sidetracked! I can see this being a really great book for people who already crochet and find it relaxing and want to get more out of their craft. I can also see this being a good book for people looking for a new relaxing hobby because the exercises are suitable for beginners to the craft. And finally the book would be a useful resource for those who practice crochet as therapy in a professional capacity.

Head on over to Createspace or Amazon (paperback or Kindle) if you want to get your own copy!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Are you bistitchual?

I think the term bistitchual is rather fabulous. It's defined along with a great example in the Urban Dictionary as:
The ability to create stitches in two crafts, e.g. knitting and crocheting.
Alena is bistitchual; she can both crochet and knit.
Penelope is not bistitchual; she can only knit.
I am one of the 49% of crocheters who also knit* and it's time for me to devote a little more time to improving my knitting skills now that the holiday gift-making is a distant memory.

I am embarking on the Craft Yarn Council's first knitting certificate. Hurrah! It's a six month long distance-learning course and my career in the yarn industry really began when I started my first CYC crochet certificate almost two years ago. Back then I didn't plan to actually get a job teaching crochet at that time. Read about it in my earlier post "How my crochet career began".

I have run a knitting and crochet workshop at my local yarn store every Friday afternoon for the last 16 months. I certainly knitted more frequently than crocheted in my younger years. The height of my knitting prowess was a sweater with a multicolored intarsia countryside scene (so twee!). In short, I'm not a beginner. Pattern support is the most common requirements at the workshop and I am pretty good at deciphering the symbols. However, having gained so much knowledge undertaking my two crochet certificates I feel that I have a duty to my knitting attendees to up my game to the same level. I want to be able to talk authoritatively about knitting best practice in the same way as I can for crochet and I know that the certificate will do this for me.

I just received details of my assignments today and my master teacher is the knit and crochet guru Edie Eckman. I own two of her books and I am totally in awe of her skills. I am so excited and albeit rather nervous about having her assess my work. Better get stitching!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It's all about the blog

New to me: guest blogging

At the end of the year I wrote my first ever guest blog post. It was published on December 18th on the wonderful Kathryn Vercillo's Crochet Consupicence website. The article is entitled "The Back Story of my Growing Blog". Why don't you head on over to read it? If you don't already know Kathryn (pictured below) you should really get acquainted. She is a freelance writer, blogger and fellow crochet lover and I first came across her when I spotted her book "Crochet Saved My Life". In my mind, she is the leading authority on the health benefits of crochet and my holiday reading has been her latest Hook to Heal book which I've enjoyed immensely. What a treat! 

It took a long long time to write my guest article. I just wanted it to be perfect because I was so keen to impress Kathryn. I was also visualizing a huge number of people finding out about me for the first time via my guest piece and worried that perhaps they wouldn't like me. Anyway, I mentioned my block to a professional writer friend and he advised me to just write the guest post as though it was for my own blog Crafty Escapism and his advice worked! The words started to flow again. Phew!

I've just finished my second guest post for a brand new crochet magazine being set up by a good friend and talented hooky lady Catherine and I'm repeating to myself "it's going on MY blog, it's going on MY blog..." to prevent any further blockages. It's a big topic - the health benefits of crochet - so keeping to the word limit is the challenging element this time. Of course I'll let you know where it is, when it's live.

All my blogs in one place with Bloglovin'

I've just discovered Bloglovin. I am now keeping all my favorite blogs in one place - genius! I do enjoy reading other people's blogs. I guess that's one of the reasons I'm blogging too, having been inspired by others. In Bloglovin you can search for any blog by name, click on the follow button and new posts will appear in your feed. I've installed the app on my phone and I am loving it.

In the past I've been a little haphazard in the reading of my favorite blogs. For some, I receive emails but they tend to get overlooked in the email deluge; others appear occasionally in my Facebook newsfeed but Facebook decides on what I see based on a complex algorithm so I suspect I miss a lot. I have saved some as icons on my iPad screen but I have icon overwhelm so these get missed. Bloglovin keeps them all together. The design is cute and clean and I'm a sucker for a user friendly interface.

Finding other yarn-related blogs

Bloglovin are also suggesting blogs that I may like based on my existing blog choices. I can enter a search term and search by category. It's all very helpful. Another place I go to find fellow craft bloggers is my favorite go-to-craft community Ravelry. There is a Ravelry group Blogging: a place for and about blogs with over 2,300 members. Not all of these members are bloggers! The group is for crafters who blog, read blogs or want to start a blog. I'm excited about adding new members to my new easy-to-access blog feed. Members of the Blogging group are invited to post their blog articles each month so it's really easy to see to find recent posts in a single thread.