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

Enter to Win!

You can enter to win ALL 5 of these books! Just leave a comment (including your email address) by the end of day, October 18, 2017. A winner will be randomly chosen on the 19th and contacted via email. Because of the weight of these books, entries open to those living in the US, only.

Children's Books with Knitting (and Yarn!)

It’s gift-giving time! And I LOVE giving books as presents!

So I’ve compiled a list of Children’s books that contain knitting (or spinning or weaving or yarn… but it’s mostly knitting)! Not all of these books is about knitting, but yarn gets either a mention or an illustrated appearance!

Maddie of FreshStitches reading a book, recommendations for books about knitting for children

Some of these we already own… but I’ll tell you, I added quite a few to Maddie’s Wish List! Thanks so much to everyone who chimed in on Twitter and Facebook to contribute their faves!

This post contains affiliate links to amazon.

book recommendations with knitting for young children

Books for Small Children (to 3 years)

Knitting book recommendations for children

Books for Bigger Children (4 – 8 years)

Knitting book recommendations for young children

More Lists!

I’m not the first one to put together a list of books of children’s books featuring knitting! Check out these other lists!

Any I’ve left out? What’s your fave?




Review: The Spoonflower Handbook

I purchased this book with my own funds. The links to Amazon are affiliate links. As with all of my book reviews, this post is 100% my honest opinion. I have received no compensation and I did not agree to publish a positive review.

Bringing fabric design to the average person

Traditionally, printing fabric was something that required huge machines and required minimums in the thousands of yards. If you wanted to sew a dress with that great fabric idea you had… you would have ended up with 49,999 extra yards sitting in your garage.

That is, until Spoonflower came along. It’s a website that allows you to print your own fabric, with no minimum order. It’s amazing.

I actually didn’t think much about how revolutionary the site was until I attended the launch for The Spoonflower Handbook at The Textile Center with Stephen Fraser (co-founder of Spoonflower) and Becka Rahn (surface designer, author and sewing teacher).

Corkscrew tie
Check out this tie! My father-in-law collects corkscrews, so for one Christmas, I designed a fabric with a drawing of the specific type of corkscrew he specializes in. I had it printed at Spoonflower back in 2011 and sewed a tie!

I listened to Stephen talk about the technological hurdles they’ve conquered in the quest to allow normal people to print their own fabric in small quantities… and wow. I’m glad they figured it out. And I’m glad it wasn’t me!

The thing I love most about Spoonflower is that it’s become the best site for indie-designed fabric anywhere in the world. You see, you can upload your own design and have it printed. But, you can also allow your design to remain on the site so that others can order it, too! And the designer earns a cut of each sale. It’s fabulous.

And the result is that you can find beautiful fabric in almost any niche. Seriously. Where do you think I found Tour de France fabric for the pillows on my sofa? (And you can check out my tutorial for sewing removable pillow covers!

Tour de France pillow from Spoonflower

I head over to the site whenever I want a fabric that’s a little something special. I know I’ll find what I’m looking for!

The Spoonflower Handbook

All that was lead-in to my review for The Spoonflower Handbook. I was excited when I found out about this book because I had just been making my fabrics willy-nilly. I know nothing about surface design.

Spoonflower cover

I want to applaud this book for being a rare one that dabbles across a number of categories. It covers the basics of using the Spoonflower site, basics of surface design (aesthetic principles and software options to create the designs) as well as sewing projects for using the finished fabric from Spoonflower.

A creative person will have a blast with this book, since it focuses on creating finished projects where you’ve had control over every step of the process. You can create a 3-D plush toy where you picked the colors, drew the fabric and sewed the shapes.

While comprehensive, this book is an overview of these various categories, and makers experienced in any of these areas may find the information too basic. For example, this isn’t a book with very intricate sewing projects. Most of the projects are composed of sewing two pieces together: a tea towel, a simple quilt, a pillow, a shower curtain, etc. The information about how to use the site is wonderful to have in one place, but much of it is information that could be gleaned by searching the information available online. If you’re looking for a book about surface design or to learn how to sew, then there are other books that would better serve you.

Inside Spoonflower handbook

I feel very inspired by the book. Even though I used Spoonflower before, designing fabric wasn’t a part of my creative process. I planned a project and then just bought some fabric. Now there’s a little seed in my brain: making the fabric is part of executing the project.

Since I’m on the more novice end of sewing, thinking about sewing in this way brings my understanding of the craft in line with how I think about my knitting. When I want to make a sweater, I consider yarns (color, content, the ply, etc.) at the same time as I’m shopping for patterns. For example, if I want to make a cabled sweater, I would pick a yarn with smooth definition. But if I am looking to knit with alpaca, I would select a pattern for a sweater with more drape to take advantage of the properties of the yarn.

I’ve already given myself a homework assignment to create a new fabric… now that’s a good book!

Do you have this awesome design resource?

This week, I’m headed off to Stitches South and teaching a packed schedule of classes!

Crochet Classes at Stitches South in Atlanta

One of the classes I’m teaching is Designing Crochet Afghans. Since I’ve designed a few afghans in my day, I’m excited to teach other folks the tools they need to design their own!

Argyle afghan crochet pattern

One of my afghan designs from Modern Baby Crochet

One of the books I’ll be recommending to my students is Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia by Robyn Chachula.

book cover

It’s a great resource for crochet stitch patterns! I’m terrible at coming up with new stitch patterns… but with a book like this, you can be terrible and still come up with new afghan designs. Isn’t that great news? (If you’re interested in more info, click over to my review of the book)

Check out this pretty little swatch I made from one of the stitch patterns in the book:

crochet swatch by FreshStitches

Can’t you picture this as a full-sized afghan? Or this would be a square in an afghan with various squares?

The possibilities are endless!

So, check out this book… and maybe I’ll see you at Stitches South! I’ll report back with photos for those of you who can’t make it!

Peek Behind the Scenes: my Book Proposal!

My new book, Modern Baby Crochet, was released last week… and I’m so excited about it!

Modern Baby Crochet

The seed of a book is planted when you write a book proposal and submit it to a publishing company. I thought it would be fun to share some of what goes into writing a book proposal… who knows, you may want to write one yourself!

Getting Started

I knew that I wanted to do a crochet book full of nursery patterns… but you need more than that for a book proposal. A publishing company will expect you to explain what makes your book exciting and different from all of the other ones on the market.

crochet argyle afghan

I had a look at the books on the market, and saw that there was a place for a book full of modern nursery decorations, particularly using ‘non-standard’ nursery colors like greys, rainbows, neon brights and neutrals.

The process of submitting a proposal varies by publisher, but Martingale (the publisher of my last 3 books) makes it easy: a proposal packet is available for download on their website!

Other Things to Think About

Although the particular questions you are asked to answer vary by the publishing company, here are some basic questions you can expect to see.

  • What makes you qualified as a designer? What other work have you done?
  • How is your proposed book different from what’s already on the market?
  • Can you demonstrate that there’s a market for the book you want to write?
  • Do you have enough projects for a book? Are you including reference material beyond the project instructions?
  • What’s your timeline?

Filling out this type of information for my proposal was easier because I’ve written two (successful) books. But, even though I didn’t need to convince the publishing company that I was capable, I still needed to carefully articulate the concept behind this book and explain why it would be fabulous!

Samples Sell!

No matter how amazing your idea is, your proposal might get passed up if it isn’t obvious to the publisher that your idea is fabulous.

It’s important to include as much information about your proposed designs as possible, including sketches and maybe even samples.

Since I typically design stuffed animals, I thought it was important to include (miniature) samples of a few of my nursery designs.

I made a little afghan:

mini rainbow afghan

Which, as you can see by my hand in the picture, is only about a foot long. However, even a tiny piece helped to convey my idea for a rainbow-colored granny square afghan:

rainbow granny square afghan

I also crocheted a very tiny circle:

small crochet sample

… that showed the start of the pattern for my Monochromatic Spiral Rug:

baby rug

Obviously, the size isn’t too important… but it is key to use the samples to demonstrate stitch detail that might not be illustrated in a sketch or written description. For the rug, I was interested in showing the join of the rounds, the non-circular overall shape and the slight spiral of the rounds.

This tiny cutie showed off the basic triangular shape…

triangle toy

… that would turn into the Crinkly Triangle Toy!

Then the hard part… waiting!

After you’ve followed the publisher’s instructions very carefully and submitted your proposals and samples, expect to wait a month or two to hear back from the publishing company. The decision is usually made by an acquisitions team that might only meet every month or so to discuss new submissions.

In my experience, if the publishing company likes your concept but thinks it needs a little tweak, they’ll contact you to discuss instead of tossing your proposal out right away.

published by Martingale Publishing

This is what happened with my first book, Cuddly Crochet. I had proposed a book of stuffed animals, and they asked if I’d be interested in adding some baby items. And I was happy to!

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!


Dipping a toe into drawing…

Craft School Saturday

You’ve probably heard me say that I’m not very good at drawing. It’s true.

I usually don’t show you sketches of what I’m working on because they’re so bad!

How to Draw Super Cute Characters

Of course, I fantasize about drawing lovely sketches of my plans to post on the blog… so when I discovered Manga for the Beginner Kawaii: How to Draw the Supercute Characters of Japanese Comics, I had to get it!

how to draw cute japanese characters

Isn’t that girl on the cover adorable? And doesn’t she look like my stuffed animals?

drawing book

The book is a lesson on cute: the proportions and features that make a sketch adorable. You might not be surprised to know that they’re the same proportions that make a crocheted animal cute!

My hands still don’t work, but…

My hands seem to be made for needlework and not drawing… they just don’t work a pencil the way I want! But, I took the lessons from this book and translated them into making computer sketches!

I made this girl all by myself:

happy girl

And then, I did a sketch of my upcoming pilgrim design!

cartoon pilgrim boy

I’m drawing! Even if it’s on my computer… I’m doing it!

Do you like them?


The book doesn’t contain a lot of information about drawing animals, but using the concepts for drawing dolls and characters, I’m pretty confident that I can expand.

So, you might see more sketches from me in the future!

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: Beastly Crochet

As soon as I saw the cover of Brenda Anderson’s new book, Beastly Crochet, I knew there would be some cuties inside:

Beastly Crochet

But… I had no idea there would be so much other awesome stuff! Let’s peek inside, shall we?

The Beasties

You know me, I can’t resist a cute stuffed animal. (Are monsters really animals?!? Hmm… I digress.)

The thing I really love about the creatures in this book is that they feature a variety of crochet techniques. Check out ‘A Zombie named Skip’, a marionette who sports an open mouth with beads as teeth!

Crochet Zombie Pattern

The other critters (including a Frankenstein & his bride and an adorable yeti-type monster among others) feature colorwork, textured stitches, appliques and even felting (the cuties on the cover!). While there are a few patterns suitable for beginners, this book is targeted at crocheters who are looking for innovative patterns and want to add a new skill or technique to their repertoire.

The Wearables

The ‘Beastly’ part of the book is broadly construed to include: zombies, monsters, skulls, robots and myths. I was really surprised by some of the fabulous wearables in the book:

skull zipper cowl

This fun skull cowl is just one of many clothing patterns in the book. There are Sasquatch slippers, a couple great sweaters for kids as well as bibs and bags.

Seriously, how did Brenda fit all of this stuff in one book?

And more!

gnome coin purse

Look at that coin purse! Isn’t it ridiculously cute?

And this Tiki pillow:

Tiki Pillow

So clever and fun!

I particularly love the book’s section on ‘Principles of Cuteness’, where Brenda talks about eye shapes and spacing, so you’ll get the maximally cute monster!

The Verdict

With Halloween coming up, the timing of this book couldn’t be better! It contains 23 fabulous projects for anyone who loves monsters/robots/fantasy.

This book is aimed at the advanced beginner/intermediate crocheter. It doesn’t contain a lot of introductory material (so, expect to learn how to single crochet elsewhere!), but it’s packed with patterns that have great assembly/finishing information. A crocheter with a standard cache of skills won’t get lost, and will learn a bundle of new techniques and methods.

It’s a fab book!

Book Information

Beastly Crochet is published by Interweave (a division of F&W Media) and lists for $22.95 in the US. It is available through Interweave, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in most major bookstores.


The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos, Review

I don’t buy a lot of books.

Working in the industry, I often get sent review copies of knitting/crochet books. I’m also a very healthy user of my local library.

So, what’s a girl do when she’s given a $25 gift card to a bookstore? What book did I have to have? (true story… I just spent the gift card my mom gave me for Christmas)

The Crafters Guide to Taking Great Photos

I got The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos: The Best Techniques for Showcasing Your Handmade Creations, and I love it!

I’ve had this book on my wishlist for quite some time, but there’s no ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon, so I’d been waiting until I found it in a physical book store. I’m so excited that I finally got it! It’s exactly what I’d hoped it would be.

I’ve read a lot of photography books about exposure levels and focus settings… but this book goes beyond camera basics.

crafters guide to taking great photos

The best part about this book (in my opinion) is that it gives you oodles of suggestions for staging and taking photos in a way that display your craft the best.

crafters guide to taking great photos

The book highlights artists who take amazing photos in their online shops, and shares the artists’ tips and photos. What inspiration! The artists have a range of products, so you’re sure to find tips for the kind/size of craft that you do.

And check out this page:

Troubleshooting craft photography

An actual item, shown in tons of poor photo situations. No abstract chatter about exposure, here! The book is packed with real, easy-to-understand examples!

Even if you’re not a professional crafter, I get a real thrill from showing off my handmade items on my blog, Ravelry and Craftsy… so I think it’s worth learning a few tips for taking pictures of your goods. After all, you spent so much time making the thing, right?!?

So, if you’re looking to spice up your craft photos, I highly recommend The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos. It’s the best craft-oriented photography book I’ve found!