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!

Website: www.Knitsbysachi.com
Instagram: knitsbysachi
Facebook: www.facebook.com/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!

Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook: Review

This book. Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook. Drool.

I saw it. And I bought it.

I don’t buy a lot of craft books. (Seriously, all of my books fit on one shelf!)

But I bought this one and love it. And I added my old cable stitch dictionary to my ‘Spring Cleaning’ pile. Because I don’t need it any more.

Norah Gaughan's Knitted cable sourcebook

(does this inside cover give you an idea of all of the amazingness inside?)

I had read a lot of amazing reviews about this book, but I’m a bit of a skeptic. I thought, ‘oh, they’re probably just saying nice stuff because Norah Gaughan is really famous’. (geesh, that makes me sound really awful, doesn’t it? It’s just that in my job, I see a lot of books.) And the cable on the cover is nice, but it didn’t make me pass out from the amazingness.

But once my book arrived I discovered that my skepticism was unwarranted. It actually IS really amazing.

The introduction isn’t very long, but it’s packed with pretty juicy information. The topics covered include:

  • Using a double point needle as a cable needle
  • Left vs. Right slants
  • How to slip stitches onto a needle & how to work the held stitches
  • Cable terminology
  • How to read cable charts
  • Tips for keeping your place on a chart
  • A full explanation of Norah’s own Stockinette Stitch Equivalent System (SSE), so you can swap different cable stitches into different patterns
  • How to fix a mistake in a cable
  • How to count cabled rows

I read the introduction and felt like, ‘Wow. That has everything I need to know.’

The cable designs (many not previously published) are just stunning. Look at this one.

Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook

What?!?

Very few are this complicated… most of the stitch patterns are two notches above ‘simple’, but stunningly beautiful and hovering significantly below ‘crazily complex’. Which is exactly what you want in a stitch dictionary.

I fell in love with the Seed Rib Half Drop (#84 in the book) and cast on for a scarf immediately.

Seed Rib scarf from Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook

Isn’t it gorgeous? (The cable pattern, I mean… not my knitting!) It was so enjoyable to knit… I felt like each cable was a little piece of knitter’s candy. I just kept wanting to get to the next one!

FreshStitches scarf cable pattern norah Gaughan's

The book also contains 15 projects, which are all quite lovely and creative projects using cables, in addition to the more than 150 stitch patterns in the book.

Pullover Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook

Whoa. This book is just plain fabulous. Treat yourself.

Those links are affiliate links. That means I earn a tiny commission if you buy after clicking through. 🙂

Zoomigurumi 5 Review + Giveaway!

Zoomigurumi 5

Today I’m reviewing and having a giveaway for Zoomigurumi 5! I’m really excited about this one… keep reading for details on how to enter the giveaway.

The Zoomigurumi series is published by the folks at AmigrurumiPatterns.net, which, in my opinion, is the premiere place for amigurumi patterns. The offerings are curated (giggle, I’ve even had some of my patterns rejected!), so you’re browsing through a lovely selection of both paid and free patterns by the leading designers.  There are over 22,000 amigurumi patterns on Ravelry. It can be overwhelming.

And by the way, Zoomigurumi 6 is available for pre-order! It’s your chance to get one of the first copies!

Zoomigurumi 6

The Review

All of the Zoomigurumi books are curated by the editor of AmigurumiPatterns.net… and the result is 15 amazing and adorable patterns! Other AmigurumiPatterns books (like Amigurumi Circus) are created by customer votes on submissions… isn’t that such a great idea, too?

table of contents for Zoomigurumi

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but I’m going to say it: this book is as close to a perfect amigurumi book as you can get. At least in my opinion, anyway.

Look at all these cuties!

Zoomigurumi 5It’s a pretty thin book, only 80 pages. So I was expecting compromises. Sometimes small books skimp on the step-by-step photos. Or they don’t include tutorials on the basics, like how to single crochet or do magic ring. Or they write the patterns in a super-cramped format (like “[inc, 2] 6 times”). Or the patterns are crazy simple to keep the instructions really short. But this book doesn’t take any of those shortcuts.

inside of Zoomigurumi 5

The patterns are delightfully complex (not overly complicated, but have significant character) and the pattern pages feature step-by-step photos of advanced parts. The introduction covers all of the basic stitches and skills (with illustrations!) and the patterns are well-written and include the specific rounds in the attaching instructions.

And a beautifully illustrated table of contents and biographies of the authors! How did they squeeze it all in? I have no idea.

caterino the walrus from zoomigurumi 5

Each pattern features multiple photos of the finished object, so you can see it from every angle.  It’s truly very lovely.

Each pattern includes the yarn weight, recommended hook size and yarn shown in the sample, something that is often omitted from amigurumi books. Sometimes you really DO want to know what yarn the author used!

If you love these cuties, then grab this book. I don’t think you’ll see patterns done much more clearly in a printed book. And they’re adorable!

Giveaway

Would you like to win a copy? Sure you would!

To enter, just leave a comment on this page! It’s that easy! A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, February 14th.

Update – The giveaway is closed now.

Good luck!

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Book Review – All Points Patchwork

All Points Patchwork book review

I may have mentioned once or twice here that I really love handwork. 🙂

I love the feel of the fabric and thread in my hands.

I love the little pop I hear when the eye of the needle with the doubled-over thread passes through the fabric, followed by the low shush of the thread.

I love that I can take it anywhere.

I love the slow, meditative pace – and the fact that it allows me to sit and watch TV guilt-free. I’m “working” while I watch. 🙂

I can not believe that it has taken me this long to try English Paper Piecing.

I got interested a year or two ago when I started seeing fun projects popping up on Pinterest – but then I heard that Diane Gilleland was writing a book and I decided to wait for that. I’ve read Diane’s books before and they are always amazing and comprehensive and inspiring.

All Points Patchwork is available now – and it’s everything I knew it would be!

Quite simply – it’s the best craft book I’ve ever read. Even better than Anatomy of a Doll – the book that got me interested in 3D sewing.

Like Anatomy of a Doll, there are no projects – it’s pure instruction and inspiration from start to finish – exactly what I look for in a craft book.

Let me show you what I’m talking about. . .

I love that the front of the book shows a block with some of the pieces flipped over. On the back of the book you see the same block, entirely from the back (so you can see the construction details) and the most basic instructions for English Paper Piecing.

All Points Patchwork book review

Really – that’s all there is to it. Choose a shape and cut it out of paper. Baste some fabric around the shape. Join the bits together.

If it’s that simple, why do we need a whole book?

Because Diane teaches you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.

EVERYTHING.

The pros and cons of different template materials.

Where to buy pre-cut templates.

How to design your own blocks – on the computer with high-tech drawing tools or on paper with nothing more complicated than a compass and a straight edge.

Different basting techniques.

I could go on and on and on. It’s all in here.

And she doesn’t just throw the information out there. She anticipates any possible problem you might have and helps you fix it. I love this bit on getting the perfect, invisible whipstitch seam, with good and bad seams shown, along with several troubleshooting suggestions.

All Points Patchwork book review

The tone throughout the book is warm and encouraging – like she’s sitting on the sofa next to me helping me learn this new craft. Just what I need!

The book isn’t just for beginners, though. She includes more advanced techniques too, like how to add a pieced, finished edge to your work.

All Points Patchwork book review

So fabulous for a table runner or mug rug where the back will be seen and where you don’t want to square off the edges!

Or this bit, where she shows two different ways to baste diamond shapes, and then explains when she uses each method. Throughout the book she shows exactly what she’s doing (with really terrific photos), and also explains why. This is so rare – and so helpful!

All Points Patchwork book review

After a general intro with all the basics, she moves on to more detailed sections for each type of shape you might use. This, to me, was the real meat of the book.

For each shape she shows how to draft it by hand, and exactly how best to baste it.

All Points Patchwork book review

Then she shares a couple of pages showing sample layouts, the different kinds of arrangements that each shape lends itself to.

All Points Patchwork book review

Finally, she gives tips for how to join individual pieces and larger units together.

All Points Patchwork book review

She does this for hexies, diamonds, jewels, triangles, tumblers, octagons, pentagons and even curved shapes. It’s so comprehensive!

And then there are the “Project Inspiration” pages. They’re scattered throughout the book, and each one shows a finished project, with suggestions for fabric choices and alternate ways of using it.

All Points Patchwork book review

This lovely book cover, for example, is a great way to showcase tiny scraps of favorite fabrics – really setting the bits off surrounded by a frame of solids – and would also be good for placemats, a pillow, or a table runner.

Or this one, showing a softie made with EPP fabric.

All Points Patchwork book review

Basically, she’s showing us how to create fabric using EPP, then showing us how we can use that fabric with any of our favorite patterns!

I’m not sure I ever would have thought of using EPP for a softie, but now that I’ve seen this image, I can’t stop thinking about how great Bailey Bear or Bartholomew Bunny would look with this technique. Their construction is very simple, just like this little guy, and I’m going to have to try it now.

(If you don’t have a favorite pattern for a project, go to www.allpointspatchwork.com where Diane has collected links to tons of different patterns and organized them by category. Handy!)

Most of the projects shown are small, or are larger projects with smaller bits of EPP incorporated into them, like this quilt.

All Points Patchwork book review

These are a few EPP appliqués added to a whole cloth quilt, and she also reminds us that we can add them to a store-bought blanket, or even use them as patches to give a second life to a stained or worn quilt. I love that!

But I also love this. . .

All Points Patchwork book review

It’s a feature of someone who actually made an entire hexie quilt – in less than a year! She shared exactly how she did it – a totally doable approach for anyone who wants to tackle a big project.

All Points Patchwork is a craft book designed for the way most of us actually use craft books. It’s got. . .

  • Instruction! All the information we need, and a lot we didn’t even know we needed – the kinds of tidbits that you pick up from your mother or grandmother, or from years of practice and trial and error.
  • Clear organization with a solid table of contents and index.
  • Beautiful illustrations – terrific photos for all the how-tos and clear diagrams for all the layouts.
  • Inspirational eye candy – also beautifully photographed, and with extra tips for how to take each project in your own direction.

I just finished my first EPP project – this doll quilt.

my first EPP project!

It was so much fun to make that I already started a new project last night – and you can bet there will be more projects to come – including some free patterns here at Shiny Happy World. I know I’ll be referring to this book again and again for years to come. It’s an incredible reference book for anyone – of any skill level – interested in EPP.

Get All Points Patchwork here. And get it now. The first free pattern is coming soon and summer is the perfect season for hand work. 🙂

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

My Stitch & Stash Project Bag

I love, love LOVE my new project bag! It makes me smile every time I use it – and I’ve been using it steadily for about two months now.

It’s made with the Stitch & Stash Project Bag pattern from Betz White – reversible, with no zippers or velcro to snag on my work, and with a handy pocket inside to hold my tools. Such a well-designed bag for crafters!

Of course, I had to add some appliqué to the front. Give me a flat surface in a pattern and I will add some appliqué. Guaranteed. 🙂

I only made a couple of simple changes to the project.

The original pattern has snaps on the sides, but I decided not to add them because I know I will never actually snap them and I like the shape without tucking in the sides.

I quilted the outer bag fabric instead of just staystitching the batting around the edges. I love the little bit of extra texture the swoopy quilted waves add to the front. I just quilted the batting to the main fabric – no need to add a backing fabric since the bag is lined. This is how I quilt all my quilts, too.

You might worry that that will make the seams too bulky, but if you use 100% cotton batting (I love Warm & Natural) and press the seams open, it’ll squish nice and flat.

Stitch & Stash Project Bag - in progress

When I work with batting like this I also use sewing clips instead of pins. They’re great for holding bulky fabrics in place with no distortion!

Stitch & Stash Project Bag - in progress

Of course, the main change I made was adding the cute kitty. 🙂

After I did the quilting, I appliquéd the cat in place with fusible adhesive and stitched around all the pieces with black thread. I love the cartoony pop that gives.

Here’s a video showing how I appliqué an image like this.

Stitch & Stash Project Bag - in progress

The cat is one of the blocks in my Cuddly Cats quilt pattern, shrunk down a bit. I made the small bag and resized the cat image to be 5 inches tall and 4 inches wide. That left plenty of breathing room between the top of the cat and that awesome big grommet, and fit from side to side nicely. I wouldn’t go any bigger than that in either direction for whatever image you’re adding.

I love it! Mine is holding my current EPP project (to be shared soon – it’s almost finished!) and Jo has already requested a larger one with a monster on it, and a tall, skinny pocket inside especially for holding a few crochet hooks. My plan is to make a few more in different sizes (the pattern includes three sizes) to hold various works in progress and hang them on some hooks on my studio walls. Cute AND functional. I see a lot more of these in my future. 🙂

Get the bag pattern here.

Get the cat quilt pattern here.

Happy sewing!

Book Review – Stitch Love: Sweet Creatures Big & Small

Stitch Love by the awesome Mollie Johanson

As soon as I found out that Mollie Johanson from Wild Olive was writing a book, I knew it was going to be wonderful. She’s incredibly talented and one of my very favorite designers. Everything she makes is just so amazingly CUTE!

This book is everything I hoped it would be – and more!

Let’s start with this line on the cover. . .

“Cute Kitties and Cows and Cubs and More. . . and a Yeti.”

Because Yetis! I love Yetis! I was excited before I even opened the book. 🙂

Inside there are terrific projects to sew and embroider – very simple projects that don’t require any advanced skills. I especially loved this rooster apron. . .

Rooster Apron from Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

Look at the extra sweet detail of the footprints on the waistband!

And these reversible placemats are great!

Reversible Placemats from Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

On one side you stitch the cute critter – like that adorable bear. On the reverse you stitch what that critter likes to eat – that sweet smiling honey pot. What a cute idea! And lots of fun for kids. 🙂

I also loved this cute furoshiki – a Japanese-style gift wrapping cloth.

Mouse Furoshiki from Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

And that mouse? He’s shown with a birthday hat and gift, but Mollie provides patterns for a whole bunch of different hats and things for him to hold, representing all the major holidays of the year. So clever!

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but one of my favorite projects was this possum.

Possum Hanging Sachet from Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

I don’t like actual possums. We have a really persistent one right now who keeps getting into the chicken coop to eat their food. How do I know when he’s in there? Because the chickens go into absolute panic mode. (They’re such a bunch of. . . chickens.)

But this possum sachet is adorable! I love how you loop the tail around a hanger to hang it in your closet. It’s just – fun!

So all of the projects are great. Easily doable for beginners, relaxing and fun for more experienced stitchers. Exactly my kind of projects.

But the real gem of this book comes later – in the pages and pages and pages of embroidery patterns. Over a hundred of them! And every one of them is incredibly cute! Here’s just one page. . .

adorable embroidery motifs from Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

That tree sloth! And the baby elephant! And the orangutan! Mollie has them grouped by theme – wild animals, pets, farm animals, mountain and prairie, etc. so you really have every reason to use them in clusters.

Of course, my first thought when I see a group of cute animals is to make a quilt out of them. So that’s what I did!

I didn’t make a whole quilt – but I made a single block that can be used in a pillow, tote bag, T-shirt or anything else you want to add a dinosaur to. 🙂

Applique dinsoaurs from an embroidery pattern in the book Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

What a cutie, eh?

I’ve got a tutorial here showing how to enlarge or reduce any digital pattern, and one here showing how to use an embroidery pattern for applique.

So if you get this book you not only get 25 sewing patterns and over 100 embroidery patterns, you also get a ton of applique patterns! What a deal! 🙂

I should also mention that the book has an excellent instructional section that details all the basic sewing and embroidery tools, illustrates the embroidery stitches used in the book and any sewing skills you’ll need for the projects. The templates for most of the sewing patterns are not printed at full size – which is usually an irritation for me – but there’s a link to get them all at full size online, which I’ll take over tracing any day! 🙂 It’s all in here!

The book is called Stitch Love and it’s terrific! Buy it! Make cute things with it! Give them to people you love and make them smile!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Why I Use Wool Felt

Why I Use Wool Felt

This is why I use wool felt.

I designed the pattern for this little gizmo cozy (it’s free here) in February 2011. I’ve been using it to protect my MP3 player in my purse ever since.

That’s 3 1/2 years this little thing has been tumbling around in my purse and look at it! It still looks great!

Why I use wool felt - a side by side comparison

The photo on the left is from the day I finished it in 2011. The photo on the right is from today.

The corners have gotten a little smooshy and rounded. The threads of the embroidery are a bit more embedded in the felt. The edges of the applique aren’t as crisp. The big lazy daisy flower in her hair is definitely looking a little flattened.

But there’s no pilling! If this were made of cheap acrylic felt I would have thrown it away long ago because it would have looked so grubby and terrible.

How do I know this? Because when Jo was little I made her a felt board. Not knowing any better, I used cheap acrylic felt from the craft store. Honestly, I didn’t know there was anything else!

Jo wasn’t any especially grubby or rough kid, but within DAYS those felt pieces started to look terrible. They pilled awfully. They seemed to pick up and grab onto every speck of dirt or dust. And in no time at all they had lost almost all their cling. The feltboard quietly disappeared and I didn’t work with felt again for a long time. Why put a lot of work into a material that’s going to look awful almost right away?

And then I discovered wool felt. Online – of course – because there’s not a single brick and mortar store in my area that carries it. People wrote about how durable it was compared to the acrylic stuff. How it doesn’t pill. They didn’t mention how nice it feels in your hands, and how pretty embroidery looks on it, but I discovered that on my own pretty quickly. 🙂 I fell in love with felt! I couldn’t buy it locally, so I started carrying it in my shop.

I’ve made a lot more felt projects since then – so many things that I had to create a whole section in my shop for felt patterns! But it all started with this little gizmo cozy. 🙂

If you’ve never used wool felt before, give it a try! There are a bunch of free felt patterns here. Enjoy!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

 

 

Zoom Loom Review

I knit. I crochet. I spin. I’ve tatted. I’ve tried almost every needlecraft I’ve ever heard of… except for weaving.

Why the gap in my fiber experience? I’ve always thought weaving was a little bit scary. There’s a warp, a weft and a lot of technique. It all seemed really complicated. And looms are usually big and non-portable.

That’s why I was super excited when I got a chance to try the Zoom Loom.

Schacht Zoom loom

The Zoom Loom is a portable weaving loom. It’s fitted with pins that (along with the instruction manual) tell you exactly how to wind your yarn and where to do the weaving.

Zoom loom progress

Look at me, I’m weaving!

Why I love the Zoom Loom

The instruction booklet that comes with the Zoom Loom is easy to follow, and I was super excited to weave an adorable little square on my first try!

zoom loom finished weaving

Isn’t it pretty?

The great features about the loom are:

  • it is small
  • the pins on the loom show you exactly where/how to do the weaving
  • each square requires a precise amount of yarn, meaning you can wind small balls in advance
  • the instructions are very easy to follow!

But… it’s not a complete substitute for a full loom

I enjoyed making my small square, and The Woolery’s webpage has suggestions for turning these squares into bigger projects.

However, the Zoom Loom isn’t a substitute for a full loom. Some things I noticed:

  • because the pins are fixed, each ‘weave’ is a fixed space apart. My piece made with sock-weight yarn feels a little flimsy, and I suspect a bulky would not fit.
  • if you’re looking for a project to throw into your purse, you might be disappointed. Although more portable than a regular loom, you cannot simply stop in the middle of winding the warp and head out.
  • you are limited to 4″x4″ squares. Although there are project suggestions, every project is composed of small squares.

Get yours!

Sound fun?

Go forth and start weaving!

 

disclaimer

Interview with Heidi Bears!

If you’ve been on Ravelry or Pinterest, you’ve probably seen Heidi Bears‘s gorgeous stuffed animals! She creates totally unique designs using the African Flower Motif.

I’ve been a fan and I’m thrilled that Heidi agreed to come over and have a chat with us!

Hippo by MissWorld

Hippo by Ravelry user, MissWorld

Interview

Stacey: I have to say, your concept of putting the African Flower Hexagon together to make animals is absolutely stunning! When did you first get the idea to experiment with the technique?

Heidi: Thanks Stacey! I think it came about as I was fiddling around with the basic hexagon pattern to see if I could make a pentagon and other polygonal shapes. Some of these were quite different in 3D shape to the hexagon, and while sitting in my kitchen one day, I thought, “Hmmm…. what if I combine this polygon with this polygon, maybe I can make it look like something…”

This led to an enormous amount of testing, crocheting, frogging, re-testing until I finally put together the pattern for Lollo Bear. I had spent several years as a Teddy Bear pattern designer and maker, which I think helped with the ability to “see” how different parts would fit together. Naturally (since I love and collect artist bears), my first design idea was for a teddy bear.

Heidi Bears Lollo

From the time I released Lollo Bear, my day job started demanding much more time, so my designing took a back seat. At the beginning of 2013, I had the opportunity to take a break from my regular job and concentrate solely on designing. At that point the kinds of items made from crochet motifs, seemed to consist of bags, blankets, scarfs and hats with the odd clothing item thrown in.

With so many amazingly talented people in the designing world, it can be extremely hard to produce something completely different, unusual and original when trying to establish a name for oneself as a designer. With the background I had in writing the pattern for Lollo, it appeared that there was nothing else on the Internet that I could find that was similar to my motif toys idea, in my style, so I decided to try and pursue that avenue.

Hippo from Ravelry

Hippo from Ravelry user, SteffiFalun
It took me several months to put together the pattern for Happypotamus, but during this time I learned a lot about polygons and how they act and what works and what doesn’t when putting them together. I like designing toys as they are smallish projects and when made well, appeal to both child and adult alike. I will branch out into other kinds of items when the time comes, but at the moment I still love thinking up ideas for animals, so until that well of inspiration runs dry, toys are it!

Your style is certainly unique… I can’t picture anyone doing a better job of creating an original design niche! What attracted you to the African Flower pattern over other motifs?

I love symmetry and balance in design. I can’t stand seeing a skew picture or lamps that are not symmetrical…the flower is both pretty and appeals to my love for symmetry…

African flower from Heidi Bears

Were you nervous about taking the step of writing up the instructions? I mean, it’s a lot of steps!

Absolutely! My previous profession had nothing to do with my current work, so I had no experience in writing a crochet pattern… I pretty much winged it, hoping more than anything, that I hadn’t left any important bits out.

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My goal was to provide a really detailed newbie’s guide to making Lollo, and from the feedback I have received over the years, it seems to have done the trick. However, I have since developed a much more streamlined approach, which, although it still has all the detail a crocheter may need, doesn’t run to such a big pattern anymore!

Can you tell us a bit about the yarn culture in South Africa? Is crocheting and knitting popular? What are yarn stores like?

Yes, knitting and crocheting are very popular here! Over the last few years, we have seen a wonderful increase in local indie dyers providing us with gorgeous and affordable natural fibre yarns that come in a much bigger range of colors than can sometimes be found in retail lines. I use yarns from two amazingly talented and lovely ladies, who use local merino and other fibres to dye up the full range of colors you see in my animals.

Similarly, there are more “indie” yarn shops popping up. There are a couple of traditional LYS too, but the growth has certainly been in the online indie shops!

I know that you’re also a sock knitter… what’s your favorite method for knitting socks?

Definitely toe-up two-at-a-time with a short row type heel.

toe up sock knitting from Heidi Bears

My favourite is the Sherman heel… hides any holes perfectly! I am experimenting with all kinds of new heels and toes (just for fun), but knitting them in baby sized socks. They are from a wonderful new ebook teaching just that.. sock anatomy and all the variations you can get for heels and toes… learning is growing, so I like to keep trying new techniques!

Tell us a bit about yourself! Hobbies? Family? Pets?

Well, I am very happily married to the most awesome guy… we’ve been married for 20 years and are still best friends. We live in beautiful South Africa. We have two lovely (and adored!) girls and a pitbull, who is, if the truth be told, is more like a cat in many ways. Likes his comforts, worships the girls and gets spoiled waaaay too much.

I love learning new things and over the years have tried pretty much all the different types of hobbies you can find… I quilt, sew, paint, knit, lampwork, make stained glass… at one stage I ran a photographic studio and at one time even tried my hand at carving full sizes rocking horses! I am terrified of being bored, so I like to have loads of stuff on the go at the same time. I love the color pink, use only natural fibre yarns and have a stash that is shameful (except I can claim I neeeeed all that yarn for my work 😉 ).

I hear you… I’m a bit the same way with hobbies! Your new sea turtle is fabulous! What animals are on your brainstorming list?

Heidi Bears Sea turtle

Thank you very much! I have a string of designs all worked out and ready to write up…the problem is the pattern writing takes a tremendous amount of time. I take around 500 photographs for each pattern that I write. I then edit the best ones for colour, focus, composition etc. I then annotate each one. Then I start the actual pattern writing, which also takes a lot of time, so the write-up is essentially the delaying factor.

I am currently writing up the pattern for what I think will be a very popular animal and have also test crocheted two completely new and different bear patterns. I love bears! Everyone loves bears! I had read a comment by someone that a bear is a bear is a bear… this couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s like saying “a human is a human is a human… they all have two arms, two legs and a head…” Obviously people are incredibly different despite having the same basic anatomy, and bears are no different. These bears (plus two other totally different bears which will follow) will be focused on making what would traditionally be called an “artist bear”. The regular crocheted and knitted bears have been seen by some as the “humbler cousin” …something I really want to change. The cleverness of the first two designs is that they are self-shaping. I have purposely created them in such a way that they have a little hump (as bears do), they have fat tummies and shaped limbs…all of which is achieved by simply constructing the bear as directed. The patterns will have a whole section devoted to finishing techniques, which will allow the bear maker to create something unique and of artistic quality. Yes, of course it may just be for a grandchild, but it will be the best bear anyway!

I also have plans to release my first shawl pattern this year. It’s for a really unusual geometric pattern that creates a shallowish triangular shawl. I am very excited about it and have started dyeing and testing up yarns and yarn combinations for it… also there is a secret line of new toys that is in the process of being created. This is something I am sooooo looking forward to seeing as it’s a totally different take on my current line….

Thank you so much for joining us, Heidi! Be sure to check out all of Heidi’s amazing designs on her Blog & Pattern Shop!

All photos courtesy of Heidi, unless otherwise specified.