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!

Quick Crochet for the Home Review + Giveaway!

Yes, you have a chance to win this book until July 28, 2017! Keep reading for details on how to enter!

I’ve known Tamara Kelly of Moogly for years: she’s a delightful (and fun!) person and a total powerhouse in the crochet world. Moogly is known for amazing crochet tutorials, Crochet-a-longs and fabulous giveaways, and has an astounding following.

So, when I found out about her new book, Quick Crochet for the Home, I suspected it would be good!

Good news. I was right! It’s fabulous!

We all like a quick project… but sometimes ‘quick’ equals ‘Easy and boring thing with big hook’. Not true at all in this case!

I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting the stitch patterns and color combinations used in this book are. Take a look at this pillow:

Look at that stitch pattern! And the fun color-blocking! It looks complicated, but Tamara’s done a lot of crochet patterns for beginners, so she knows how to design patterns that are both interesting and totally approachable.

I would say the patterns in this book are for an ‘adventurous beginner’. So, you don’t want most of these to be your first or second project (for those, I recommend beginning with amigurumi!), but the patterns in this book definitely have a firm grasp on ‘explaining the details’.

What do I mean? We’ve all followed patterns that make lots of assumptions, and it’s easy to get lost, even if you have a little experience under your belt. Not this one! I was delighted that even small pattern notes, such as ‘ch 1 at beginning of row is not included in stitch count’, are included. Those are the tiny things that are often omitted from patterns- turning a simple-ish pattern into a nightmare for beginners.

Check out the shaping on these placemats… so fun, right?

Ooh, and this bathmat! Lovely!

The back of the book contains a glossary with a definition of each stitch used in the book, including illustrations for nearly all of them.

That afghan! That basket!

I loved seeing all of the creative textures used in this book, including a few patterns using front/back post double crochet.

This book is a great pattern collection for a crocheter looking for fun and approachable projects, but also interested in learning a few new skills and techniques. They’re fast projects that aren’t at all boring. But not too hard, either! Perfect!

Grab a copy of Quick Crochet for the Home for yourself!

Giveaway

Sorry – the giveaway is closed now.

 

 

Huggable Amigurumi Review + Interview + Giveaway!

Today, I’m excited to share Huggable Amigurumi: 18 Cute and Cuddly Animal Softies with you! I’ve known Shannen for a long time and I couldn’t wait to get her first book into my hands!

Huggable Amigurumi

Interview with Shannen: a behind-the-scenes peek at making the lamb

Hi there! I’m Shannen from Sweet N’ Cute Creations and the author of Martingale’s newest crochet book: Huggable Amigurumi!

When Stacey and I were talking, one cutie kept popping up: Little Lila the Lamb.

Making her was way more complicated than what I had in mind, but I was adamant on making sure that her fluffy-ness didn’t just rely on the yarn used. For this, I used a puff stitch! (Honestly, it was also because I’m not really used to using fuzzy yarn and it’s not as available in the Philippines)

The first few versions of little Lila was not good. Like it just looked odd. I knew I wanted to use a puff stitch for the body, but I never really thought of doing that for the head – quite frankly, I didn’t think it would look this weird ahahah.

Here’s a photo of how I was starting with the body. I experimented between puff stitching every round or just alternately, I ended up going with alternate rounds as seen here.

beginning of making lila the lamb

This photo is the very first version of Lila. She looks SOOOOO different from the finished version. Here, I started troubleshooting already. From this point, I saw that maybe she did need that added bit of fur. If I had to add the fur, I had to change the ears, or at the very least just switch up the positioning of the ears (which I did, I made it face front instead of down)

progress photo of lila the lamb

Here Little Lila looks more like the Lila on the cover! I added blush on to the ears, added ‘fur’ to the head, and changed up the nose to use thread instead. I actually decided to remove the weird little accessory I made (I don’t even know what I was thinking that was!)

After all those changes, here’s little Lila now!

finished lila the lamb

Review

This book is an adorable collection of 18 amigurumi cuties! These are plush-sized animals, with most of the finished animals 9-12″ tall (when using the recommended yarn and hook).

The patterns in the book use a variety of stitches and techniques, so they will be exciting and a learning experience for a crocheter with a bit of experience under their belt. Moby whale even has some beads! 3 pages of basic stitch instructions are given in the back of the book, but I wouldn’t recommend that information for those started out: it serves more as a refresher for those already familiar with the techniques.

Most of the animals have some extra details, such as hats, a smile or accessory. These features give the animals a bit of extra pizazz, but may feel fussy for folks who aren’t a fan of attaching. The assembly instructions are just a few sentences (such as “Stuff head, arms and legs. Sew arms legs onto body.”), and do not include specific placement instructions, so you will need to closely follow the provided photos.

Exact gauge and yarn information is not included, so readers can feel free to experiment!

The book retails for $18.99, and with 18 patterns, it’s a good value if you spot a couple patterns that suit your fancy (It’s the price of 3 pdf individual downloads). The tradeoff is that the patterns are detailed and the book is only 64 pages, so there isn’t much space for step-by-step instructions. A crocheter with a couple of amigurumi under their belt will enjoy these cuties!

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of the book! Just leave a comment on this page, and you’ll be automatically entered! Entries are open until noon, January 24th EST. International folks, too!

Update – Sorry! the giveaway is closed now, but you can still get the book here.

Good luck, everyone!

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?

 

Save

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Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary Review & Giveaway

I’m so excited about what I have to share with you today! I’m going to tell you about my buddy, Wendy Bernard‘s, new book and we’re having a giveaway so you can get a copy!

Wendy Bernard's book signing

(Picture from my instagram!)
It’s called Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary: More than 150 stitch patterns to knit top down, bottom up, back and forth, and in the round and it’s an amazing book! And all of the samples are knit in one of my favorite brands of yarn, Blue Sky Alpacas… and you can win some of that, too!

Keep reading for details on how to enter the giveaway!

Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary

You may be asking… why should I be excited about another stitch dictionary? What’s new about that?

Well, let me tell you.

Up Down All Around Stitch Dictionary

Have you ever been trying to work a stitch pattern and gotten stuck because you’re knitting in the round? And the stitch dictionary only gave instructions for how to work the pattern flat?

Or have you wanted to add a fun pattern to your top-down sweater and then discovered that your pattern would end up upside-down?

No more! Because this stitch dictionary has the stitch patterns written in a variety of directions! (Get it? Up, down and all-around! Giggle.)

Up Down All Around

It’s the first stitch dictionary its kind, offering up to 4 different directions in which a stitch pattern can be knit. There’s no need to do all kinds of crazy re-figuring for your particular project! And every pattern is in both written instructions and charted.

So, no matter how you like to get your stitches, it’s there!

Look what I made!

The book just turned up on my doorstep a couple days ago, but I couldn’t help but get started on a swatch right away. I fell in love with this super-cool chevron pattern in the Knits and Purls chapter:

chevron knitted swatch

The swatch is Blue Sky Alpacas Cotton Worsted, a super-lovely cotton that has great stitch definition.

The other chapters (in case you’re curious) are:

  • Ribs
  • Textured, Slipped and Fancy
  • Yarnovers and Eyelets
  • Cables
  • Lace
  • Colorwork
  • Hems and Edgings
  • Projects

Doesn’t it sound amazing?

And, the book is spiral bound so that it lays flat while you’re reading… fabulous!

 

Blue Sky Alpacas Up Down All Around Giveaway

Follow the Tour!

I’m just the first stop on the blog tour hosted by Blue Sky Alpacas! Be sure to follow the rest of the stops… bloggers will be sharing their thoughts, works in progress and customization ideas!

Wendy, the author of the book, is a real hoot. I had the pleasure of having dinner with her this TNNA and she’s fabulous! So, you’ll probably want to check out her blog: www.knitandtonic.net!

Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard

Published By Abrams | STC Craft

Photos by Thayer Allyson Gowdy

disclaimer

Do you have this awesome design resource?

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

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!

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!

Best,
Stacey

This post contains affiliate links. That means I make a little commission if you buy something after clicking through. All affiliate links are marked with an *.

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.

disclaimer

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!

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!

inside1

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.)

Best,
Stacey

disclaimer

5 crucial considerations when starting your craft business

I often get emails that (roughly) say, “I want to start a craft business. Do you have any tips?”

This is a very big question.

The fact is: there’s no one solution that works for everyone, and determining the best course for your craft business will take both soul-searching and industry research.

So, while there’s no golden ticket, I do have a bit of useful advice…

The most important thing: consider your goals

Anyone who tells you that this way is the way you need to run a business to be successful is just plain wrong. There. I said it.

There are guidelines that are universal: setting goals, providing good customer service, looking for growth opportunities, etc. are all common denominators to successful businesses. But these central guidelines leave lots of room for individual variation.

Do you remember when Mary Beth Temple visited my podcast? We’re both successful crochet designers, but that podcast revealed that we run our companies completely differently. Mary Beth is heavily involved in magazine publishing and LYS distribution, while I focus more on self-publishing on my website. Who’s right? Both of us.

Our businesses are shaped by our experience and strengths, as well as our goals and constraints in our personal lives. We’re both happy. Yay!

When you’re planning to start a craft business, the first thing you need to do is give some careful thought to where your priorities are. Unless you’re superwoman, you will not be able to begin a company, produce a significant amount of product, have features in major magazines and be active on 5 different social networks the first month. You will have to make choices. And you will have to plan where it is most important to put effort into your new business.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your niche? Sure, maybe one day you will design knitting and crochet patterns, as well as make complementing stitch markers. But when you’re starting, you probably won’t have time to do all of these well (and devote energy to growing a business). Pick a niche. When sketching your business plan/picking a name/developing a website, consider the time it will take to become a rock-star in this niche, then plan to expand.
  • How much time can you devote to your business? If you need to pay a mortgage, you’ll probably be working a ‘normal’ job while you start your business. How much time can you afford to dedicate to the endeavor? Be sure to be honest with yourself: burnout leads nowhere good.
  • What keeps you going? Keep in mind that whatever your craft business is… you’ll be doing a lot of it. If you want to make headbands, ask yourself, “do I want to make hundreds of them? Will that make me happy?”
  • Where’s your main audience? Do you aspire to sell at craft fairs? Do you want to have a website? This decision will have major implications on where you place your early effort. Having a website means dedicating serious hours (or money) to developing the website. Decide if that’s right for your path.
  • What other skills to you want to use? I actually love the social media part of my job. What extra skills do you have that you can bring to your business? If you’re missing certain skills (like graphic design/marketing/photography), prepare to either learn them or hire someone to do them for you.

Giving serious thought to these questions will allow you to begin to shape the path for your crafty business.

Then, get real advice

I’ve just given you some questions to think about… I haven’t even mentioned the work involved in actually starting your business!

Talk to others who have craft businesses. Start reading blogs and websites about small businesses. Get a good book.

I just finished reading The Crafty Superstar’s Ultimate Craft Business Guide, the new and expanded version written by Grace Dobush.

This book is aimed at crafters looking to run a part-time business, which makes it an ideal book for those just starting their businesses. Because chances are, your business is going to be a part-time affair until it gets rolling.

Grace covers all of the crucial topics you need for starting and building your craft business, including:

  • determining pricing for your work
  • keeping business records
  • the legal end of your business
  • website basics
  • selling at craft shows
  • media & publicity
  • turning your business full time

In addition to covering these topics, Grace includes helpful worksheets that’ll get you on the right track.

The book is a fun read, interspersed with interviews and stories from super-famous crafting folks. It’s a very down-to-earth book, filled with practical advice that will (importantly!) assure you that starting a small business is feasible.

And once you’ve made your crucial decisions and gotten a handle on the basics of beginning a business, you’ll be better placed to decide if you need more in-depth information, like a hard-core book on website design or hiring employees.

What’s your best piece of advice?

Do you have a craft business? What’s your best piece of advice for newbies?