Giveaway: "Mini Knitted" Book Series + Interview with Sahiyo Ishii

Mini Knitted Books

I have an amazing opportunity for you today! Search Press (the publisher of the adorable Mini Knitted series) is giving one reader 5 books, including:

Keep reading for details on how to enter! Sachiyo Ishii is the author of 4 of these books, and she’s joined us to tell us a bit about herself and her process!

Each book is packed with projects (more than 25 patterns per book), using a variety of techniques with simple knitting stitches.

Interview with Sachiyo Ishii

Sachiyo is the prolific author of 4 of the Mini Knitted books, and I was delighted that she took the time to come talk to us! Welcome, Sachiyo!

How did you begin knitting? And when did it take a professional turn?
I took up knitting in my 30’s after my second son was born. I could not knit a stitch until then. I thought dressing my boys in my handmade clothes was trendy and very Yummy Mummy, but soon discovered that knitting requires skill and patience. With my friend’s help, I did achieve my very first piece, but the stitches were messy and uneven, and the sleeves came out in different lengths.

It seemed to me that I had a very long way to go until I would be able to knit a decent garment. I almost gave up knitting altogether, however, I discovered that you can make small toys with basic skills. I practiced published patterns for some time and then, I started creating my own to add personality. I knitted many animals and proposed my current publisher, Search Press the idea of the knitted animal park. It is great to find a channel that I can put my effort into.

You’ve written so many books! Where do you find your inspiration?
I get inspiration from everywhere. When I walk in town, looking through books and magazines, shop windows, everywhere! I am constantly thinking of new designs no matter where I go or what I do. Illustrations and cartoons, felted work and sugar craft are a good source, too. They are already in simplified forms and it is easy to make them into my craft projects.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy attending fitness classes and swimming. When I get stuck with a project, swimming can be the best solution to get a fresh idea. I don’t do enough but I like visiting craft shops and fairs. I guess I cannot completely be free from crafting.

What is your favourite yarn/knitting needle/craft supply?
For many years, my favourite yarns are Rowan. I love felted tweed especially. It is such a delight to knit with quality yarn.
I have been using bamboo needles since I took up knitting. They are less slippery and keep stitches well and the best of all, they feel great in hands. If you are still new to the skill, bamboo needles are must. I have been using Clover Takumi needles.
My favourite is Clover products. My mother loved them for many years and recently I inherited them all. Some are bought over 30 years ago but still in very good condition.

Is there a favourite piece you’ve made? Perhaps for yourself?
It is hard to say since I have many favourites, but I love the knitted carousel. I have a whole set of amusement park in knitting and would love to do a book someday. Most of my creations are for myself except occasional gifts to my friends. It is great to be an author. You get to keep all samples!
knitted carousel Sachiyo Ishii

Thank you, Sachiyo!

Find Sachiyo!

Instagram: knitsbysachi
Ravelry: sachiyo-ishii
Pinterest: knitsbysachi
Twitter: Knitsbysachi

The Crochet Wildlife Guide Review + FREE Penguin Pattern + Giveaway!

I am so excited! I love showing off a great book to you… and there are so many goodies! Keep reading to grab a FREE download of the Chinstrap Penguin by Philip Ha (aka Sir Purl Grey) AND enter to win a digital copy of the book, The Crochet Wildlife Guide.

The Crochet Wildlife Guide

You may have heard me say this before on the blog, but I get a lot of amigurumi books across my desk and for many of them, I say, ‘oh, ok. This has some cute patterns.’ And it ends there.

And I’ll admit it, my books are among them.

Much of the bare-bones nature of many books you see is completely driven by the publisher’s desire to save money. Cute illustrations? You have to pay an illustrator for those. Step-by-step detailed instructions? Nope. That takes too many pages. Fancy shaping techniques? Oh, no. That doesn’t appeal to a wide-enough audience.

For a crocheter who wants extra information either because they’re a beginner (and need the help and explanations) or are adventurous and want to try something new (hence, needing explanations of new and complicated stitches), this formula can be very frustrating.

Needless to say, when a book comes to me that breaks the mold, I jump out of my chair with glee!

The Crochet Wildlife Guide

The Crochet Wildlife Guide is a self-published book by Philip Ha and Jeff Wiehler, and the book is filled with creative crochet ideas and an artist’s touch. I was impressed by the coverage of basic crochet techniques as well as detailed instructions and illustrations for each animal.

The Crochet Wildlife Guide bird

Each project contains a diagram (as shown above) that allows you to see each piece and how they are put together. These photos are often what takes a good pattern and makes it amazing and easy-to-follow. (It’s why I include step-by-step photos in all of my individual patterns… no matter how many words you have, sometimes, you just need a photo!)

I was also enchanted by the darling illustrations in the book (including this table of contents).

The Crochet Wildlife Guide table of Contents

The patterns included in the book walk the line perfectly between wildlife-realism and kawaii cuteness. Amigurumi like the red panda on the cover, have little details so the animal is instantly identifiable and unique, but not fussy and still cute with wide appeal.

The book also includes a table of the skills required for each pattern. This is such a great idea… you can identify the project that’s just right for you!

The Crochet Wildlife Guide difficulty levels

Throughout the book, the authors emphasize places where you can become your own designer, by highlighting small changes you can make or pointing out the design techniques used to create a particular shape.

The Crochet Wildlife Guide Bat

The photography, with animals photographed in nature, is lovely as well.

The book is available for purchase in digital or print form, from The Crochet Wildlife Guide website or from Amazon.

FREE Chinstrap Penguin Pattern

Free penguin crochet pattern

Phillip and Jeffrey have given us a pattern that didn’t make the book for FREE so that you can get started on some crochet cuteness right away!

Click here to download the pattern:  Penguin pattern by SirPurlGrey

Happy stitching!

Book Review: Woodland Knits

I adore Stephanie Dosen’s (aka Tiny Owl Knits) designs. She designs whimsical and fun knitting patterns… so I was really excited to see her book, Woodland Knits.

Woodland Knits by Tiny Owl Knits

The book contains 21 adorable patterns, 10 of which are new designs for the book. The remaining 11 designs are well-loved favorites, like the deer with antlers hat, bo peep scarf and fawn poncho.

mr. fox stole my heart woodland knits

The book contains cute little notes and helpful tips throughout, but no introductory material. It’s 21 lovely patterns bound together in a book.

Woodland knits

I was surprised to see that all of the patterns in the book are available for individual purchase as pdf downloads. At around $5 a piece, if you’d like to make a few, then $20 for the book is a great deal!

Bo peep scarf tiny owl knits

Besides the discount over purchasing 21 individual patterns, though, you don’t get much additional content to the book. So, I would recommend having a peek at the included designs (which is tricky, since only the new 10 designs are listed as patterns in the book on Ravelry), and deciding whether there are a few you’d like to knit.

The patterns are cute and the book is very pretty… so if you can find a few, then I’d say go for it!



Book Review – Quilting Happiness

Quilting_HappinessWhen I read a book to review it, I read it with a notepad next to me so I can capture my thoughts as I go along. My notes for Quilting Happiness – a terrific new book by Diane Gilleland and Christina Lane ended up being a long list of things I loved.

So let me tell you what I love about Quilting Happiness. . .

I love the title. My business is called Shiny Happy World. How can I not immediately pick up a book called Quilting Happiness?

I love the quote mentioned in the dedication. “You’ll never notice it on a galloping horse.” That – in a nutshell – sums up my quilting spirit. It’s something I often tell my students when they fixate on a tiny “mistake” in a big, beautiful quilt.

I love the list 5 Things About Quilting That Makes Us Happy.

Quilting_Happiness_listI really connected immediately with both authors of the book – but especially with Diane’s last point. “Give me some hand quilting to do, a cup of coffee, and a Doctor Who marathon, and I’m one happy woman.” That’s exactly how I feel about all hand work – quilting, embroidery, finish work, etc. Although I’d also add in Sherlock, Downton Abbey, the Phryne Fisher Mysteries and lots of other favorite TV shows. 🙂

I love the many quizzes sprinkled throughout the book. They can help you articulate what kind of quilter you are – something I sometimes find difficult to do. And I love how the results of the quizzes point you to specific quilts in the book. It’s a fun “Choose Your Own Adventure” way to work your way through the projects.

I love that every single project has very specific suggestions for quilting each quilt.

Quilting_Happiness_Ideas_QuiltingSo many books just say “quilt as desired.” That’s not helpful at all! And not only does the book have specific suggestions – it has multiple suggestions for every project! And they range from simple line stitching to more complicated free motion stitching and even some hand quilting and tying suggestions. That is fantastic – and very unusual!

I love that the instructions for each quilt are super clear – with excellent diagrams.

I love that there are detailed instructions for cutting the fabric. A lot of books will tell how many of each shape and size to cut, but leave it up to you to figure out the most efficient way to do that. This book breaks it down step by step. It tells you how many strips to cut of each size, then exactly what pieces to cut from those strips. Very nice!

Crazy_Strips_Quilting_Happiness I love this Crazy Strips quilt. I think it’s my favorite in the whole book. It’s pieced improvisationally, but within a structure. That helps keep things balanced and can be less overwhelming to someone just getting started with that kind of loose approach.

I love the range and variety of projects. There are bold, dramatic, modern quilts. There are traditional quilts made with vintage-style fabrics. There are quilts for beginners and quilts for more advanced stitchers. There are small projects like pillows and tote bags, and there are large bed quilts. This is an especially great book for beginners who know they want to try quilting, but maybe aren’t sure what kind of quilts they want to make. They can take some of the quizzes to get pointed in one direction, then stretch their skills as they learn.

I love the “Happiness Practice” exercise about Finding Inspiration Guides. It’s a great guide to studying a quilter you admire – breaking down just what it is about their quilts that really works for you so you can apply that to your own work without copying them directly. What a terrific exercise!

I love the general instructions at the end of the book. They’re very clear and cover all the basics – how (and why) to square up your fabric, piecing curves, basting and binding your quilt and more. It’s a great reference.

Haphazard_Chevron_Pillow_Quilting_HappinessI love this Haphazard Chevron Pillow. It’s similar in many ways to the Crazy Strips quilt I mentioned above – in that it’s irregular piecing within a structure. But it’s a smaller project and one I could realistically tackle right now.  So I decided to make one for myself!

I strayed a bit from the instructions (of course) – not because they were unclear – they’re terrific! But I have overflowing scrap bins, I knew my daughter would really like a rainbow pillow, and I wanted to try a quilt-as-you-go technique I’ve been toying with. So here’s my Scrappy Rainbow Chevron Pillow. 🙂


My pillow form was a bit larger than the one in the book, but I used the same suggested range of widths for the strips I cut so it would have a similar effect.

I love it! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Are you ready for some Quilting Happiness of your own? Get the book here.

Happy quilting!

That's me!

Book Review: So You Want to be A Knitting Designer…

Being a knitting/crochet designer is kind of a weird job. Being successful means being part designer, part webmaster, part marketer and part photographer. And you can’t go to school for it. (okay, you can go to school to learn to design, but not do all the other stuff!)

I learned it through the grapevine…

Most of what I know about ‘the biz’, I learned from other designers. Chatting on online forums. Talking in person at trades shows. It took me years to feel like I really got what was going on.

FreshStitches and Space Cadet

That’s me and Space Cadet pausing for a photo during a chat-session!
I can’t tell you how much I learned about marketing and my brand by chatting late into the night with other designers at conferences!

But now… the Reference Guide!

If you’re a newbie designer, you’re coming in at a great time! You don’t have to spend big bucks traveling to conferences to find out about the ins and outs of the industry… there’s a book about it!

So you want to be a knitting designer

Alex Tinsley (designer behind Dull Roar and also Designer Liason with Malabrigo) has just written an ebook that tells you (basically) everything you need to know to be a knitting or crochet designer.

I just read it. It’s awesome.

Not only is Alex hilarious, but the information in the book is dead-on. She gave me permission to post a looky-loo at the table of contents:

Knitting Designer Book

So You Want to Be A Knitting Designer covers how to write patterns, hiring a tech editor, photography, self-publishing, how to work with magazines, marketing, what to do if your idea is stolen, how to wholesale to yarn stores… you name it!

Is this book for you?

Alright, so let’s talk about what this book does and doesn’t do.

This book:

  • gives you real, authentic help for becoming a designer: including a pattern template, sample emails for sticky situations and advice about submitting proposals that you really need for real design life.
  • gives you a comprehensive list of resources for finding tech editors, hiring photographers and chatting with other designers.
  • walks you through the basics of the industry (including the dos and don’ts of asking for yarn support!) in a friendly and honest manner… from someone who’s worked in lots of different parts of the industry.
  • leaves you feeling confident about doing knitting design as a career (it’s hard, but not mysterious!)

Although the book has ‘knitting’ in the title, it’s equally applicable to crochet designers, too!

This book is intended to helping someone who’s seriously thinking of designing navigate the industry, and already has some knitting experience. It doesn’t contain lessons on how to design, detailed help with taking photographs or address the financial/tax/contract aspects of beginning a business.

Get it!

I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in becoming a designer (whether it’s part or full-time).

Visit Alex’s website to grab your copy of So You Want to Be A Knitting Designer…!

Not only does it distill lots of information that’s available in thousands of posts online into one fun & readable document, but it also contains a little bit of extra information that many designers aren’t always willing to post in a public forum (such as how much tech editors are usually paid and examples of email templates in sticky situations).

I’m so happy Alex wrote a book like this… the industry really needed one!


Book Review: Flip Dolls & Other Toys That Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go

Flip Dolls cover

As soon as I saw the name of this book I knew I had to have a closer look.

I LOVE softies that do something! And the toys in this book do the most clever things!

There’s a stacking tree that unstacks to make a forest of individual trees.

There’s a frog with an elastic tongue that can grab things.

There are cars with wheels that turn.

There are some trule amazing flip dolls. It’d be more accurate to call them reversible dolls – but that’s nitpicking. They’re incredibly fun and creative no matter what you call them! And she includes terrific instructions for a base doll to use to design your own. Score!

There’s a ukelele with elastic strings. Love! Speaking of ukeleles – here’s a link to my favorite ukelele video. Yes. I have a favorite ukelele video. Ukeleles are cool.

There’s a terrific crocodile with zipper teeth.

There are so many fun projects in here!

FD turtles

I asked my daughter which one she thought I should make for this review.

She flipped through the book – oohing and aahing a lot.

She tagged a ton of projects, including these incredibly cute turtles with removable shells.

So sweet!

FD horse

She also really liked this horse with the button-on wings.

But I’ve been working on a removable wing thing of my own for a few weeks now and didn’t want to start looking at a whole other technique.

Plus, I’m not crazy about making standing stuffed animals like that. I know they’re great to play with – I just don’t enjoy making them and I’m ok with that.

Gulp the Whale from the book Flip Dolls

Jo’s favorite toy in the whole book was Gulp the Whale.

So anxious-looking!

And so weirdly cute!

Now – I recently made a whale from a Zooguu pattern. And I have a whale pattern in my own book (Creature Camp, coming in November). I didn’t really feel like making another whale right now.

But that pocket! When I was a kid my favorite teddy bear had a hole in her neck. I used to hide things in there even though it wasn’t a pocket and they sometimes got lost in the stuffing. In fact – my diary key is still in there somewhere. 🙂

Ever since I started making softies I’ve wanted to make one with a proper pocket for hiding secret treasures. I included one in the proposal for my book but ended up cutting it for space reasons before I actually made it. This is a project I’ve sketched out and made in my head a hundred times, but never actually made in real life.

The time had finally come!

So I made a doll with a pocket mouth using the construction technique in the book, but my own pattern. Laura’s technique was very similar to what I had envisioned, and her instructions were very clear with just enough illustrations. And she had a nice tip for stuffing the softie before tucking the pocket inside which really helped keep things nice and full and smooth.

Want to see a sneak peek at my guy?

Glutton softie from Shiny Happy World
Hi there! I’ll be a pattern soon!

I’m not happy with the antennae and – now that I’ve played with him a bit and have a better idea of his personality – I have an idea that I like better.

Oh yes, I played with him. 🙂 A lot. I wanted to make his limbs long enough to really be playful. What I didn’t anticipate was how expressive he would be!

Scared Glutton softie from Shiny Happy World
“Sometimes when I’m scared I chew on my toes.”

This little photo shoot was so much fun!

Hand-eating Glutton from Shiny Happy World
Now what did I have for lunch?

The first thing Jo did was stuff one of his hands down into his belly. 🙂 Updated to add: You can find the pattern for Munch here!

I rarely make actual projects from the many (MANY) craft books I buy. They’re a source of inspiration and a way to learn new techniques – and Flip Dolls & Other Toys is all kinds of inspiring.

Maybe your kid isn’t into cars, but he LOVES windmills. Use the technique for spinning wheels from the book to make a windmill with spinning vanes!

Maybe your kid doesn’t care for robots (is that even possible?????) but loves those I Spy books. Use the very cool technique for the nuts & bolts robot to make pocket search games for the car. Or a little aquarium with fish that swim in and out of view!

That’s the thing about this book. The ideas are so clever and so fresh – the possibilities for spinning off the ideas are endless! For me that’s a great book – one that doesn’t just give me instructions for a handful of projects, but one that fires my imagination and gives me instructions for techniques I can use a lot of different ways.

For those who DO want to make the projects just as they see them in the book – here’s a little tip. The patterns all need to be enlarged. As someone who lives in a remote area a long way from a copy shop this is a real pet peeve. BUT! Lark now has full-sized templates on their website that you can easily download and print. Yay! Just save this link because I couldn’t find this nice feature or the link mentioned anywhere in the book itself.

So. Are you ready for some really clever softie designs unlike any I’ve seen before? Get this book! Flip Dolls & Other Toys That Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go by Laura Wilson of We Wilsons. And get ready to have some fun!

Happy sewing!


Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)

Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction

Stuffed Animals From Concept to ConstructionI’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time. Abby told me about it way way back in the early days when she was just starting to write it (it takes a long time for a book to come out!) and I’ve been following along with interest as she designed all the animals, took all the photos, and edited all the drafts.

And now it’s here.

And it’s fantastic!

In many ways it reminds me of Anatomy of a Doll – my very, VERY favorite doll-making reference book.

Like Anatomy of a Doll, the book is filled with detailed information showing the reader lots of different techniques (a variety of ways to attach a head, a ton of joint options, etc.). For each technique introduced, Anatomy of a Doll has loads of photos of finished dolls – showing you the many different ways that technique can be applied.

Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction goes one better and has a project! A project with detailed instructions and clear step-by-step photos showing you exactly how to do it so you can practice that new technique right away.


As I said – I knew about this book long before I had a copy in my hands. As soon as I opened it up I knew I was in for a treat. People – the Table of Contents impressed me! I’m not kidding. Each chapter is the name of the animal you’ll be making, and below that is a list of all the lessons in that chapter.

Camel softie from Stuffed Animals bookIn the Camel chapter (yes – there’s a very cute stuffed camel) you’ll learn. . .

  • How to Design a Jointed Animal
  • Thread Joints and Exposed Button Joints
  • Invisible Button Joints
  • Cleft Hooves
  • Eyelashes

Eyelashes! I love it!

I read the book from cover to cover and it’s simply terrific. Fun projects. Clear instructions. Good photography. Well organized. It’s all there!

Oooh – and here’s another nice feature. The pattern pieces are all (except one) full-sized. No enlarging needed! AND you can go to the website of Lark Books and download them so you have digital files – which would make it super easy to print them out on printable freezer paper. No tracing! (You all know how much I loathe tracing.)

Abby has written a book that will become a well-worn reference for both makers and designers. I love that she assumes from the beginning that readers will want to design their own softies at some point. 🙂

We all learn best by doing and Abby gives us 16 projects to make, with 52 lessons to learn. Those lessons are so well-explained that you learn why you do things a certain way to achieve a certain effect. You’ll become better at making softies from anyone’s patterns, and you’ll be on your way to designing your own creations.

I was going to make one of the projects from the book – but every time I opened it to decide what I wanted to make I kept being drawn to the interesting joint she teaches in the Kangaroo chapter. (Here’s a little video showing more about the kangaroo.)

Kangaroo Featurette from Abby Glassenberg on Vimeo.

I’ve never used it in any of my designs, and never run across it it any of the patterns I’ve sewn. I was intrigued! I decided instead of making one of the projects from the book, I’d use this technique to design a new softie in my own style.

I thought about making a remora (or suckerfish) attached to a shark, but then I realized very few people would actually want a remora-stuck-to-a-shark stuffed animal – and for the few kids who would want that, they’d want the remora to be removable.

So I decided on a caterpillar instead. 🙂

Caterpillar softie patternA cute, bendy caterpillar with very sturdy joints between all his segments. And easy to sew! (You can get his pattern here.)

It was so much fun trying out this new technique! It’s one that kind of twists your brain around, but Abby explained it so well that my prototype turned out perfectly on the very first try – which hardly ever happens. 🙂

Have I convinced you yet that you need this book? How about when I show you this?

Elephant softie from Stuffed Animals book

My favorite project in the book. I love those droopy eyes!

Or this?

Puppy softie from Stuffed Animals book

Look at those big puppy feet!

Or this?

Dinosaur softie from Stuffed Animals book

You all know I love zipper mouths. . .

Seriously. This is the reference book on sewing stuffed animals. I’ve read (and I own) a lot of them and this is THE BEST.

Buy it.

You’ll use it over and over again for years of softie-making joy.

Happy sewing!

(For Stacey’s review of the same awesome book, click here.)

That's me!

Stuffed Animals: the must-have sewing book of the year!

Oh, I know. It’s only April. How can I make such a bold claim?

Because this book is that good.

I’ve been waiting for this one…

Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction is a fabulous new book by stuffed animal designer (and buddy of mine), Abby Glassenberg.

Stuffed Animals design book by Abby Glassenberg

As she was writing the book, I could tell that Abby was really excited about it. She’s an incredibly passionate designer, and pours her heart into not only designing adorable stuff, but also teaching others how to make things. So, I knew this book would be good.

But now that the book is out, and I have my hands on a copy… I can tell you that this book is fabulous! Whether you’re new to sewing stuffed animals, or you’re a sewing pro who wants to get deep into designing, there’s oodles of information in this book that you’ll love!

Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction

Have a peek at this trailer for the book:

Stuffed Animals Book Trailer from Abby Glassenberg on Vimeo.

Squee! Doesn’t it look like so much fun?

What’s inside

Stuffed Animals contains 16 projects (complete patterns for sewn stuffed animals) and 52 lessons (designed not only to give you tips to complete the projects, but also to help you design your own pieces).

inside stuffed animals by Abby Glassenberg

The book also contains a hefty introduction, so that even if you’re a newbie to sewing, you’ll be set to start on the easier projects in the book! Some of the topics covered in the introduction are:

  • Basic materials needed (including a big secret… using hemostats!)
  • Using freezer paper for making sewing patterns
  • How to draw/mark/edit a pattern
  • Tips for using your fabric, including considering the grainline
  • Notes about seam allowance in patterns
  • How to adjust/correct your sewing machine tension
  • Various techniques for sewing stitches, by machine and hand
  • Step-by-step details on clipping curves, basting, turning & stuffing
  • Info about the proper finishing of your animal

And that’s just some of the topics covered in the intro!

The book continues… and features adorable patterns and oodles of great tips.

sewing camel pattern

And… (this book is almost 200 pages!) the pattern pieces are included in their actual size! That means that you can trace the pattern pieces without running to a copy shop to do fussy enlargements (as you need to do with some books).

pattern pieces in sewing

Each pattern and lesson contains step-by-step photos, so even if you’re not too confident about your sewing skills, you’ll be able to follow along! Love that!


What am I going to do?

Well… the first thing I’m going to do is re-read the entire book, cover to cover, because it’s just chock-full of so much inspiration!

Then… this sheep is pretty darn irresistible:

ram stuffed animal pattern

(and get it? I knit and crochet… so he’d be sorta like a mascot!)

Or… I’m pretty drawn to these monsters that can be made up with scraps:

monster pattern abby glassenberg

(you know I love using leftovers!)

Can you tell I’m inspired?

Ready to get sewing?

If you’ve been looking to sew some adorable stuffed animals, then grab yourself a copy… you’ll love it!

I think this is the sort of book that’ll last your whole sewing life: from starting out as a newbie to designing your own adorable animals. What better value is there than that?

And if you’ve already snagged a copy… let me know what you think!

(To read Wendi’s review of the same awesome book, click here.)



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!

The making of a finely-crafted crochet hook…

So often, I get asked, “how did you start designing?” or “how did you start crocheting?” I’ve told my story on the blog… so I thought it would be fun to interview another artist about how they came to their calling!

I wanted to find someone who did beautiful work, but maybe someone you hadn’t met before. Then it hit me: Harrison Richards.

Meet Harrison

In the crochet world, we tend to think about the pattern designers, indie dyers (of yarn) and folks who do the crocheting. (Right? That’s who you think of, isn’t it?)

But what about the artists who make crochet hooks? Harrison Richards is the woodcarver (and founder of) Furls Crochet Hooks (pictured above). I describe these hooks as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of crochet hooks: stunningly beautiful, but also built for performance.

Furls crochet hooks are crafted to be ergonomic and are custom made for your hand size. The design of the hook is made to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, so that you can comfortably crochet for hours on end.

How do you start designing custom crochet hooks? For Harrison, a master woodworker, the journey began with the goal helping out a crocheting friend stricken with sore muscles from a conventional crochet hook.

I asked Harrison to come over and tell us his story… and to talk about his start & inspiration.

Harrison’s Journey, in his own words

It’s 4pm on a Wednesday after school, and the last bell rang a while ago. Sitting on the front porch of his school, a 16 year old boy patiently watches his high school sweetheart crochet as they both wait for their rides home.

Stitch by stitch, she lovingly loops each length of fiber into a soft circular cap, soon to be a crocheted beanie. She’s been at it all day, and her hands are starting to tire, her stitches are getting tighter, and holding the tiny, florescent pink metal crochet hook in her hand is feeling more and more tense. He notices her straining wrists, and the small clicking sound coming from her knuckles every so often. Eventually she has to take a break, otherwise she knows her hand will cramp up. Their rides arrive, they exchange a high school kiss and go their separate ways.

She goes home and crochets. He goes home, and he can’t stop thinking about her hook. “I hate it”, he thinks. He knows that there has to be something better for her. “She deserves so much more”, he yells in his head, “she shouldn’t have to endure pain just from doing something she loves!”. He jumps on the internet, and tirelessly searches until stumbling upon ergonomic crochet hooks.

These aren’t for her either: they’re all alien looking, she deserves something beautiful. She is the absolute dream of this boy and he refuses to settle for less then perfect. Armed with his dad’s blunt Swiss Army knife and no woodworking experience, he sneaks into his family’s garage-turned-woodshop and starts to carve. “This will be the most beautiful crochet hook on earth…no one will have another like it… and it will fit her hand perfectly”, he muses. In that tiny woodshop, as the sun began to rise early the next morning, after hours of recklessly attacking an young oak twig until it resembled a crochet hook, he had finished with her hook and Furls Crochet was born.

Years later, Furls Crochet still furiously strives to provide every crocheter with what they really deserve; a perfect crochet hook. You craft moment by moment, stitch by stitch. You are not a machine. You are a human being who delights in every turn of the hook, every pull on the skein and every completed row. You are an artist. I treasure that about crocheters, and I want every crocheter to have a hook that reflects who they really are.

They say that you can tell a lot about someone by the character of their lover. I believe the same can be said for crocheters and their hooks. There is a romance between your hand and your hook that is an expression of who you are as a crocheter. This is why, years after a high school romance, every Furls Crochet hook is still made by hand, one by one, hook by hook, to exacting artistic and ergonomic standards out of the most gorgeous pieces of wood on earth. I believe that you deserve a crochet hook that is as unique and beautiful as you are.

– Harrison, founder of Furls & the ‘grown-up’ high school Romeo

Did you just get goosebumps?

The mark of a true artisan is that they’re obsessively passionate about their work. Had you thought about your hook as a finely crafted tool before? Maybe not… but after reading Harrison’s words, I’ll bet you will!

Even though Harrison is a woodworker and I’m a designer, to me, it seems that our stories are the same. I love stuffed animals. I’m excited about stuffed animals… and I want everyone in the world to make them. Harrison loves his hooks.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Thank you so much, Harrison, for coming by and sharing your story with us!

Find Harrison

Want to learn more about the object of Harrison’s love, Furls crochet hooks? You’ll want to visit the Furls website and find Furls Crochet on Facebook.

Happy crocheting, everyone!