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!

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?




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! You can get it here.


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.)



Book Review: The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet

I’m no stranger to keeping mementos out around the house. They’re pieces that serve as decorations, but also contain little memories… organized in my favorite manner: by color. There’s my ‘Poppop corner’, which contains my Grandfather’s magnifying glass, a cancelled check that he wrote and a lovely Wedgewood dish of change that fits the color scheme:

I have a collection of ‘clear glass & silver’: an old insulator cap, a weird thing-y from an old tv, a platypus spoon from Australia and some vases:

And of course, there’s some blues… a paperweight I got from a glass-blowing shop in Bermuda, a bell from Holland and some candlestick holders that were my Grandmother’s:

They’re things I look at every day: reminders of pleasant memories and conversation points when friends come to visit.

The Curiosity Cabinet

In contrast to my mementos out for all to see, Curiosity Cabinets (a tradition dating back to the 17th century) contained personal collections usually kept closed in a cupboard. These cabinets contained trinkets from exotic locales (like my Bermudan paperweight!) or perhaps an interesting sketch.

I didn’t know about curiosity cabinets until Hunter Hammersen’s delightful description of the concept in her book, The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet. Hunter has unlocked the secrets of these oft-mysterious collections and developed a series of knitting patterns based off of the botanical illustrations one could expect to find inside.

The book contains 10 botanical illustrations, each inspiring a sock and an accessory pattern. What transpires inside this book is part history lesson & part botany lesson, inside a book of knitting patterns teeming with Hunter’s passion for vintage botanical prints.

Interview with Hunter

Don’t you want to get to know the woman who’s clever mind created an entire book of knitting patterns… inspired from the vintage botanical illustrations found in curiosity cabinets? I do!

I love the idea of a Curiosity Cabinet! Tell us about a few items in yours.

I have such conflicting feelings on this one. A big part of me is almost alarmingly minimalist. I have a habit of going around my house and getting rid of stuff I don’t need whenever I’m in a bad mood. The vast majority of the house is more or less totally free of little bits of stuff. But, I also have magpie tendencies. I am forever picking up all sorts of wee treasures. I indulge this tendency to collect in my office. I’ve got one bookcase in particular that we refer to as the home for wayward knitting props. I have a whole array of old hat forms and old glove forms. They’re totally practical (by far the best way to block and display hats and cuffs), but I love them just as art objects. I’ve more or less convinced myself I have enough hat forms, but I’m still officially on the look out for more of the hands.

I can totally relate! If it’s a display item that has a function… then it’s okay, right?
This book contains a lot of sock patterns, so I have to know: what’s your favorite way to knit socks? Dpns? Two circs? Magic Loop?

DPNs all the way! I’ve tried both (Cat Bordhi herself snatched my DPNs away, put circulars in my hands, and supervised the process), but I just like the feel of DPNs better. The circulars always seem too small and flimsy. Besides, all those sharp points and flailing sticks look suitably impressive to non-knitters!

Wow! Dpns despite explicit instruction from a sock-goddess… you’re hard-core! What characteristics do you look for in a good sock yarn?

Tight twist! It makes all the difference. Also, I’m a big fan of nylon in sock yarn. It dramatically extends the life, and I don’t find that it compromises the look or the feel. If I’m making socks, I more or less insist on it (though I will occasionally hold a strand of woolly nylon along with the yarn for the sole of the foot if I’m overcome by the beauty of a slightly unsuitable yarn).

I also like what I tend to call fat sock yarns. Something with a bit more heft to it (I have big feet and I’m impatient…fat yarn helps the socks go faster). The secret to long lasting socks is making a tight fabric. That’s easier to do (for me at least) if I use a fatter yarn. Some of my favorites are Nichole by Schaefer, Casbah by Handmaiden, and Everlasting by Dream in Color (that one doesn’t have nylon, but it’s so yummy it’s worth it).

Describe a bit about the process of designing lace patterns inspired by botanical designs. Did you draw your own sketches? Or just get straight to knitting/charting?

It’s sort of a hard process to describe. It usually starts with doodling on the botanical print (well…on a photo copy of it…not on the print itself). That lets me see which parts of the print I want to play with. After that, there’s a long period of playing with graph paper (sometimes with the aid of a handy collection of stitch dictionaries) to try and capture those aspects of the print in stitches. The best of the graph paper doodles eventually get worked up in yarn.

That leaves me with some neat stitch patterns, but that’s only half the project. Then you have to figure out what to do with them…how to take the stitches and turn them into knitted objects. That means a bit of math and quite a bit of planning. Somewhere along the way it’s also important to pick out yarns and swatch the stitch with the actual yarn you plan to use for the piece itself (don’t ever ever ever skip this step).

The whole thing happens in sort of a non-linear fashion too. It’s not like you can plow through each print in turn from start to finish. There’s a fair bit of scattershot experimentation and switching from one project to the next with wild abandon. In the end it all gets done though!

Do you have any advice for knitters who might be new to charts? Tell us a bit about why you used charts (over written directions).

I am a huge proponent of charts. They just make so much more sense than written directions. I know they can seem a tiny bit intimidating the first time you see them, but I promise they’re worth getting used to. I really think learning to use charts is the trick to becoming a comfortable and confident knitter.

Remember, charts are stylized pictures of what your knitting will look like. So you can look at a chart and see…actually see…’oh hey, look, this line of decreases goes like so and it’s a mirror image of that line of decreases over there.’ That means you’re less likely to make mistakes in your knitting, because you know ahead of time what sort of shapes and lines you should be expecting. It also makes it easy to get into that lovely zen state where you’ve really understood the stitch pattern and you can just sit back and knit, rather than struggling to read a list of abbreviations. You totally owe it to yourself to try them, you’ll be glad you did!

Tell me a bit about your workspace!

Alrighty…for you, I’ll vacuum and dust! My office is a long, narrow room, painted a lovely rich red, and filled to the brim with books and yarn. The red part means it’s awfully hard to take a decent picture, but maybe this will do. What you see there is the view from my desk (if you, you know, stand up and peer over the computer monitor).

I wasn’t kidding about the books part…there are a few more bookcases behind the desk that didn’t quite fit into the picture. Acquiring books is something of a family curse. Not one of us can leave a bookstore unscathed.

Given these tendencies, I think the card catalog makes perfect sense. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole house. It holds my sock yarn. Well…most of my sock yarn. It’s actually quite well suited to the job. Each drawer holds 2 big skeins. I may just possibly have been known to organize it in rainbow order when I had the flu and needed to pet yarn but was too sick to do anything more useful. The closet holds the rest of the stash (it is not nearly so tidy) and other crafting supplies like my poor neglected sewing machine.

Then, of course, there is the all important comfy chair. If I’m in the graph paper stage of working on new patterns, that’s where you’ll find me, (colored pencils in hand and cup of tea by my side). It’s where I do a fair bit of my swatching too, hence the crock of various needles at the ready. Barry the Wonder Cat has graciously offered to keep my seat warm for me while I’m not there.

What’s currently on your knitting needles?

Will you think I’m terribly boring if I confess that I’ve only got one lone pair of socks going at the moment? And that they’ve been waiting for the toe (of the second sock) for the better part of a week now? Shameful I know. In my defense, I did just finish up a project for the next book! It’s a lovely smooshy purple thing, that must (alas) remain secret for a bit longer yet. I’m starting to feel a hat-knitting urge though. I’ve got some yarn on hand that is destined to become a hat for my husband, and it’s been whispering to me for the last few days.

That’s not boring at all!

Thanks so much for coming over and having a chat, Hunter!

Find Hunter and the book!

Get the book here!

Learning Bead Crochet

Goals for Bead Crochet

I got a copy of Bead Crochet Jewelry, and the jewelry looks amazing!


Bead crochet is a little different than regular crochet, and gives you a piece with a totally unique look. To bead crochet, you pre-string a lot of beads, and then (basically) slip stitch around a 4 stitch round (or more stitches, if you’d like). While slip stitching, there’s a certain technique for incorporating the bead appropriately into the stitch.

My long-term goal is to make myself a few fabulous necklaces! But, that’s a bit much for one Saturday! So, my goal this week was to:

  • select beads and thread appropriate for a starter project
  • string beads (you need to pre-string a LOT of beads!)… and see whether it would drive me bonkers
  • learn the basic technique for bead crochet
  • fasten off my work

My Resource

Now that I’ve completed my first (albeit, small) bead crochet project, I have to tell you: this book is fabulous! Bead Crochet Jewelry is written by a mother and daughter (who I had the good fortune of meeting at TNNA), and it’s completely obvious throughout the book that this duo has a passion for bead crochet and are skilled teachers!

The book is organized by difficulty level (really helpful for us newbies!), and choc-full of helpful tips and step-by-step photos. I’m not going to fib: bead crochet is pretty different from regular crochet, and I had some trouble manipulating such thin thread early on. But, I persevered because of the great instructions (and dreams of future projects), and I couldn’t be happier!

My Materials

I checked out my local craft stores, and none of them carried the type beading thread that was recommended in the book. So, I ordered my thread (and some beads, while I was at it!) from

What I Did

I’ll admit: since I’m a pretty proficient crocheter, I thought I could start straight away on one of the projects, and skip over the advised practice. I was wrong.

Bead crochet requires a new way of interacting with the beads and hook… and that’s really hard to do for the first time with bead thread.

I began by stringing a pretty collection of beads. However, not only was the thread tiny (and I had no idea what I was doing!), the beads were slightly different sizes, making it a tough 1st project! So, after struggling a bit, I took the book’s advice and did a practice piece with yarn and jumbo beads:

I’m so happy that I did! Even though it doesn’t look fabulous, it allowed me to get the basic technique and get my fingers used to what they were supposed to do!

Next, I strung seed beads for my real project! I decided to use all identically-sized seed beads to make it easy on myself. I was delighted to discover that the crocheting was much easier now that I had some practice under my belt.

Isn’t it pretty? Look how nicely the colors are swirling! Yay!

I even finished off my piece in a circle. I have no idea what I’ll use it for (turns out that I strung on too few beads for a bracelet), but I’m so proud!

What I Learned

Most importantly, I learned that I like bead crochet! I was very worried that I would find the pre-stringing and tiny thread size irritating… but I found the stringing relaxing and got used to the small gauge size. Hooray!

I also learned a few pieces of advice for starting. It’s incredibly important to practice with a larger hook/bead size to begin, and also use multi-colored beads. If you do that, you’ll get the hang of what you’re doing to move on!

Finally, I realized that I need reading glasses. I suspected this for a while, but this tiny project brought the need into focus! And trust me, it’s much easier to bead crochet when you can really see what you’re doing!

Future Goals

I love this! I’m going to keep going! Next up for me is a bracelet with some focal beads… so excited!

I totally recommend Bead Crochet Jewelry, it’ll really inspire you to learn!