Want to discover a whole new world of patterns? Try reading crochet charts!

I adore Japanese craft books. It doesn’t matter if the craft is sewing, crocheting, needle felting… you name it and I can guarantee that you’ll find a supply of irresistible Japanese books on the topic.

Just one example of the crochet fabulous-ness that comes out of Japan.
Of course there’s a little bit of bad news that accompanies this discovery: many of us (myself included) don’t read Japanese.

Meet your friend: the crochet chart

Want to know the good news? Japanese crochet patterns are written with charts: meaning that, if you can understand the international language of the charted symbol, you’ll gain access to all of those amazing patterns!

Page from Crochet with Color, book reviewed below.
(Actually, the illustration-heavy nature of Japanese instruction books applies to other crafts as well. You can read about my latest needle-felting book purchase in this blog post.)

I know… it can be daunting to pick up an entire book in another language. And, I’ll be honest with you: buying a Japanese book as a way of trying to learn the charts will be tricky. But fear not: I have an idea that will set you on your path to charted bliss.

Crochet with Color

What if there were a magical book: originally written in Japanese (so it contains all of the charts and illustrations, exactly as they would be written in a Japanese book), but with the text of the book translated into English? Wouldn’t that be the perfect way to get your feet wet with charts?

Crochet with Color is your book!

This book contains 25 beautiful & colorful crochet projects, all fabulously photographed and totally enticing. But really, if you’re just curious about the projects in the book, you can head on over to Amazon and use the ‘look inside’ feature. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about what the book contains.

Although the projects are adorable and lovely… if you’re buying a book for the projects, it’s a personal judgement about whether the particular projects in the book speak to you. And I can’t tell you that! But, I think there’s a real value to this book aside from the projects, and that’s the charts I’ve been talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, there are American books that contain charts (Robin Chahula‘s books are almost all charted, and are fantastic). However, let’s say your goal is to gain the skill set to read Japanese crochet books. Crochet with Color is, in my opinion, one of the best stepping stones you can get: since the charts and illustrations are exactly what you can expect to find!

And yes, I really do think that once you can read the charts and understand the illustrations, you can use Japanese crochet books… because I’ve done it!

Feed the addiction…

Once you feel comfortable with reading charts, you’re going to want to get your hands on more Japanese books!

If you live in a big city, you might have a Kinokuniya, an import book store with a huge crafting section! I definitely suggest a visit if you’re near one!

Aww! So cute!
If you’re shopping online, it definitely takes a little searching to find a source: since most of us don’t know the Japanese characters you would need to search a Japanese website. The Etsy store, Japan Lovely Crafts sells Japanese knitting, crochet and sewing books. Ebay is also a good source, search “Japanese Crochet Book”, and a good number come up.

Just be cautious, you want to make sure you’re buying the actual (legitimate) book and not an illegal pdf photocopy!

I hope you’re motivated to delve into a new world of crocheting!

Review of The Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger

Love knitting cute monsters? Rebecca Danger’s Big Book of Knitted Monsters has been on the wish-list of every monster-knitter I know! And for good reason: it’s packed full of adorable monster patterns. This book isn’t for every knitter out there, so you’ll want to skip down to reading my review to see if it’s for you. But first, I want to show off the cutie I knitted from the book!

Hugo the Couch Monster

I couldn’t wait to break into the book and make a monster of my own! I chose Hugo the Couch Monster… he’s a real cutie! Since all of the patterns in the book are ‘any size, any yarn’ patterns… I was pleased to use up some of my stash! Hooray!

The book recommends using magic loop, but I’m a two-circulars sort-of-girl, and that technique worked out just fine!

And I’m very happy with my resulting cutie!

What do you think?

The Review

If you’re familiar with Rebecca Danger and her adorable monster patterns, then you know what this book is about! Big Book of Knitted Monsters contains 20 patterns for cuddly monsters that you can customize to be any size you’d like.

Besides the cuteness of the monsters, one of the big strengths of this book is the variety of yarns that are used to make the samples. Rebecca says in the introduction that the monsters can be knitted with any thickness yarn (and the appropriate sized needle), and she demonstrates the flexibility of her patterns throughout the book. Every monster in the book is knitted in at least two yarns: often a bulky yarn and a worsted weight yarn. It’s really great that you’re able to see how the pattern works up in different yarn choices… gets your creativity flowing!

One of the weaknesses of this book is the lack of detailed introductory and finishing information. I know why there isn’t: Martingale (the publisher) imposes an 80 page limit on its books. So of course, if you have a book with 20 different patterns, there isn’t much room for details. There are very helpful photographs sprinkled throughout the book, which I appreciate… but there are a few spots where you’re left to fill in the gaps. You’ll be instructed to ‘sew the arms on using a whipstitch’, but the exact positioning of the arms is up to you to sort out from the photograph (or maybe, your own creativity!).


  • The writing in the book is whimsical, playful and enjoyable to read.
  • The monsters are adorable.
  • Each pattern can be knitted in a variety of yarn thicknesses and colorways, so there’s lots of options!
  • Tricky knitting techniques are demonstrated through photographs: which are much clearer than an illustration.
  • If you can knit on double points (or two circulars, or magic loop), you can do almost any of the patterns in this book. Most of the monsters are fairly simple to knit.


  • The introduction is sparse. It contains information about how to do the magic loop technique, but you’ll need to look at an outside resource if you need help with other knitting techniques.
  • Other reviews I’ve read have been disappointed in the similarity between the various monsters in the book. I, personally, am not too bothered by this… they’re knitted in Rebecca’s signature style, and each one demonstrates a different shape/feature. However, each monster has a glued-on mouth, and I would have liked to have seen one that doesn’t- since glued-on mouths aren’t safe for small children to play with. She mentions in the introduction that the monster would be just as cute with an embroidered mouth, but we don’t ever see one knitted up.

So, if you like monsters and are comfortable with basic knitting techniques (or, at least, feel confident looking for outside help if you need it), then this book is for you! Happy monster knitting!

Come Visit Me at Made By Joel

Made by Joel Embroidery

Hey everyone! I’ve got a guest post over at Made by Joel – one of my very favorite blogs!

For those of you who don’t know about Joel – he’s an awesome Dad who make The Most Amazing Toys for his kids. Simple things out of everyday materials that have LOADS of play value. Scroll through his archives and order his book, Made to Play!. It looks fabulous!

Anyway – Joel does these terrific coloring pages – really great lines drawings that just beg to be embroidered. So I stitched one up and wrote up a post on how to do it.

There’s a lot of info you’ve already seen on my site about how to transfer the pattern and what some of the basic stitches are. But I also include some information about my thought processes as I made the design decisions about what stitches to use where, where to add color, and what color thread to use. I think it would be useful to anyone who wants to learn more about making their own embroidery design decisions.

Check it out!


A finished Clapotis and some tips

Tips for knitting Clapotis
Just the other day, I finished my clapotis, a wonderful scarf/wrap pattern by Kate Gilbert available as a free download on knitty. Clapotis is a wrap that makes use of dropped stitches for a great finished texture. It’s a very popular pattern (over 14,000 people on ravelry have made it), and no wonder! The pattern is easy to remember and it’s fun to do!

tips for knitting clapotis
After a successful Clapotis attempt, I learned a couple tips and tricks to share. These tips will be most useful once you’ve familiarized yourself with the pattern.

  • selecting a yarn Keep in mind that you’ll need to drop lots of stitches (on purpose) for this pattern. That will be easier to do if your yarn isn’t fuzzy or sticky. I used a 50% wool 50% silk for mine, which I loved, but dropping the stitches took a bit of effort because it clung to itself. If a yarn is hard to unravel, then it’s going to be hard to drop stitches.
  • switching yarns If you’re using multiple balls of yarn, you’ll have to change yarns at some point. Some folks are ‘switch yarns at the end of the row’ people, but I’m a ‘switch yarns in the middle of the row’ sort. If you’re like me, it’ important to switch yarns in the middle of a k3 sequence. This will ensure that your change isn’t near a stitch that will be dropped, and also give you solid surroundings to weave in your ends.
  • customizing Don’t forget that you can change the size from what is called for in the pattern (either by changing the number of increase repeats- to alter width- or the number of straight repeats- to change length)! Mine is much longer than what is called for, so I can wrap it around me oodles of times! If you’re looking for a quick project, you can do a skinny scarf version.
  • knitting through the back loop Don’t forget to knit through the back loop… especially the row after you’ve done your yarn overs! If you forget on this particular row, it will look very sad when you drop the stitches. And, the saddest part is… you will have knitted lots of rows before you find out!
  • instead of stitch markers If you’re low on stitch markers, you can purl the stitch that you’re going to drop. This will remind you when to knit through the back loop without oodles of little rings. (thanks, Ravlery, for that tip!)

If you’re interested, you can check out the full details of my clapotis project. I loved it so much, I’ve already started a second one!