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Crochet Retreat Idea

Editor of Theresa Capuana describes Shanie Jacobs' crochet retreat; book cover design is crocheted.

It’s Day Thirteen of my self-quarantine from the pandemic. One of my favorite ways to use this time is to reduce my large collection of crochet books. As I mentioned recently, my husband and I plan to move. Fewer books will make moving easier.

I discovered an interesting bit in the Foreword of Shanie Jacobs’ Crochet Book published in 1979. I’ve bolded the part that I can’t stop thinking about!

Shanie Jacobs was already an outstanding designer when she first came to my office in 1973 to show me a wonderful bias-striped poncho she had crocheted and which we subsequently presented in our February 1974 issue. She had just returned to New York City after six work-filled months of communal living with two friends and their seven children in an old wood-heated house in upstate New York. The three women had set up a rotating daily schedule that enabled one woman to carry out the household duties and care for the children while the other two crocheted. It was here that Shanie, who had never crocheted before joining the commune, really learned the basis of her craft in an environment of shared experiences where each gave of her specialty.

Theresa Capuana, Needlework and Crafts Editor, Woman’s Day Magazine 1979.

So Many Questions!

Shanie Jacobs, from her website.

I have many questions for Ms. Jacobs! (Unfortunately she recently passed away.) Who were the other two friends and how did this crochet retreat plan come about? It sounds like the other two already knew how to crochet different things. Did Shanie come up with the idea as a way to hone her crochet skills?

What about the seven children: have they stayed in touch with each other? How did they get along? How do they remember those six months? Was anyone else there besides three women friends and seven children? Whose house was it?

A rotating chores schedule among three moms seems workable. I’ve done some long solitary days of marathon crocheting to meet design deadlines for publishers. After crocheting for two days straight, I’d welcome a day of simple routine tasks. What fun to be able to listen in on what the other two crocheters are talking about!

How Did Her Schedule Work?

I’m still thinking this through. Say the three participants are named A, B, and C. A crochets clothing and uses Tunisian and Hairpin lace sometimes; B crochets a lot of motifs and amigurumi and home decor; C is new to crocheting, having only learned how to make rectangle shapes with simple stitches.

A week’s schedule could go like this:

  • Monday: A & B crochet, C doesn’t (she’s doing everything else—cooking, cleaning, shopping, and keeping the kids entertained/homeschools them or takes them to and from school).
  • Tuesday: B & C crochet, A doesn’t.
  • Wednesday: C & A crochet, B doesn’t.
  • Thursday: repeat Monday.
  • Friday: repeat Tuesday.
  • Saturday: repeat Wednesday.
  • Sunday: If everyone takes Sunday off, they can repeat the same work schedule from Monday to Saturday.

For each week, each person has four days of pure crocheting per week, plus two days of chores. Everyone has Sunday as a free day. Every Monday and Thursday, A and B would share what they know about crochet with each other. On every Tuesday and Friday, B would help C learn more about crochet. And on Wednesdays and Saturdays, A would help C with crochet.

Crochet Retreat, 1970’s-Style

After several days of daydreaming and reminiscing about my own (much shorter) crochet retreat experiences, I started noticing the language Ms. Capuana used. She called it a commune and mentioned an old wood-heated house in upstate New York (away from the big city). Just three friends and their kids. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? I wonder if it was.

Six Months Long?

Six months is a long time! Did she plan to take six months? (According to a 1998 profile of her in the Miami New Times, it was three years.) What goals did each of them have and did they meet them? What were the costs and how did they budget and pay for it? Do they think back on that time fondly? Are they still in touch with each other?

Two crochet designers and I met up for a crochet retreat eleven or so years ago. There were no children around and it was nowhere near six months long.

Crochet Retreat 2009 in Longboat Key, Florida: Marty Miller, Vashti Braha, Drew Emborsky
You can see more of my photos of Marty Miller on my Facebook profile for February 4, 2020.

It was heaven! And, as I recall we tended to get restless after a few hours. Maybe the longest we could crochet for was about four hours at a time? I didn’t time it, but I do remember at least one of us getting restless on a given day and coming up with tempting ideas for going out for dinner or visiting a new yarn shop. We all needed to deal with meals every day, and that’s a significant difference from Shanie’s commune, and from crochet conferences. We didn’t do the rotating schedule of one person cooking and shopping for the day.

The Queen of Angora

“The saga of Shanie Jacobs, Miami’s angora queen, is a curious weave of glamour and feminism” –Judy Cantor, Miami New Times (read full 1998 article)

This is how Shanie is described at her website: In 1970 at 30 years of age and a lifetime of unexpressed creativeness inside of her, Shanie learned to crochet. Four years later she took a bundle of original crochet designs to Woman’s Day magazine. Her patterns would repeatedly appear in the magazine for more than a decade.

In issue 88 of my newsletter I wrote, Ever wonder what Shanie Jacobs was up to after she wrote the 1979 Shanie Jacob’s Crochet Book? I Googled her when I dipped into her book for this issue. She was dyeing her own angora yarn to crochet and knit trendy cropped tops for fashion magazines and her website customers!

At her daughter in law’s Facebook page you can scroll through photos of her angora designs and magazine covers. Visit her Etsy shop for angora items and yarns.

If you liked this kind of blog post, I expect there’ll be more of them as I comb through more of my crochet books.

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Delicate Crochet Book Giveaway

Update: I’m so inspired by your comments! Your comment may take a few hours to show because they go into a moderation queue. 

I’m giving away a copy of the new Delicate Crochet book by Sharon Silverman to a randomly chosen commenter on this post. You’re welcome to enter even if you live outside of the USA. If you win and you have a non-USA shipping address, you’ll receive a free downloadable crochet pattern of your choice instead. Scroll down for the book giveaway details.

 

Pattern Riffing

Over the holidays I “riffed” on the patterns I wrote for Delicate Crochet. I’ll explain how, in case you have (OR WIN!!) this book and want to riff too.

Meet Zegue

Tunisian ripple stitch Ziggy Vest with its variation Zegue
Zegue (left) with Delicate Crochet’s Ziggy Vest on the right.

Zegue is a simple wrap version of the Ziggy Vest. I used up scraps of fancy yarns in my stash. In Ziggy’s case the armholes are cut into the self-healing stitch pattern. I omitted that step for Zegue. (I could still add a hole later, such as for a one-sleeve wrap, or for a keyhole scarf style like I did for the pink Mesmer. Or go with my original idea: add a seam at each end of the long sides to create tubes (sleeves) for a shrug.)

Yarn: I had one small ball each of the four Stacy Charles Fine fashion yarns I used. (See Zegue’s project page in Ravelry for the yarn facts.) One of them has sequins so I had to use it. Using a mix of yarns for the Ziggy stitch pattern was really fun! I’ve always wanted to do a stripy scrappy ripple, especially in Tunisian stitches.

Crochet Hook: I used the 7.0 mm Addi Tunisian crochet hook from my shop; the Ziggy Vest calls for a 6.0 mm size. A 6.5 mm for Zegue would probably be just as lacy though you might need a few more rows and additional stitch repeat or two.

Finished Dimensions: 14″ x 57″ (35.6 x 144.8 cm), measured flat and blocked. I like wearing it as a wrap. For a shrug option I might add buttons. It weighs 71 g. and I had about a quarter of the Luna mohair and Crystal left over.

I chose the length of each row to match the length from my wrist over the shoulders and across the back to the other wrist while my arms hang at my sides—an easy measurement (57″/144.8 cm). This is because I thought I was going to turn it into a shrug. I just kept adding rows until my forearm would fit through the sleeve tube if I seamed part of the first and last row together; I’d need a minimum of about 9″ (22.9 cm). I figured the yarn amount would get me at least this far.

Foundation and Row Repeats: You’ll need the Delicate Crochet book for the actual Ziggy pattern (starts on page 140). Here are my changes for Zegue:

  • I chained 178 with Color A (Stella).
  • Row 1 forward pass (FP) is also Stella, and then I changed to Color B (Luna) for the return pass (RP) and the Row 2 FP. Fasten off every time you change yarns.
  • Row 2 RP and Row 3 FP: Change to Color C (Céline).
  • Row 3 RP and Row 4 FP: Change to Color B (Luna).
  • Row 4 RP and Row 5 FP: Change to Colors C+D (Céline & Crystal held together).
  • Repeat the color sequence of B, C, B, C+D for a total of 16 rows; for Row 16 RP change to Stella. Complete Row 17 FP and RP with Stella and then fasten off.
  • Edge Row 17 with a strand of Luna and Crystal held together: Single crochet (sc) in first FP stitch, chain 1, slip stitch (ss) in same sc, sc in same stitch, *chain (ch) 1, sc in next FP stitch, ch 1, sc in next stitch group, ch 1, sc in next FP stitch, [sc, ch 1, ss in same sc, sc] in next FP stitch, repeat from * in each remaining FP stitch of row. Fasten off.
  • Attach Stella to first foundation ch. Working along the other side of the foundation, sc in first ch, ch 1 and skip next ch that was not used by a FP stitch, sc in available loop of next used foundation ch, repeat from * in each remaining stitch of row. Fasten off.
  • Attach Luna and Crystal to first sc of Stella. Edge this row the same way you edged Row 17.

Yvelino the Paneled Ring Scarf

Icelandic wool ring scarf vs DesigningVashti Lotus wrap of Bias-crocheted Tunisian net, surface-crocheted with love knots.
Yvelino Ring (left) with Delicate Crochet‘s Yveline Wrap on the right.

 

For this version of the Yveline Wrap I used four colors of lace weight Icelandic wool, one ball per color. See its project page for the yarn deets. I loved this yarn; it’s very “sticky” and almost bristly or wiry in a way that works great with this airy bias-worked net.

Crochet Hooks: 5.0 mm (H) Tunisian hook; for the surface-crochet I used a regular 3.5 mm (E) crochet hook.

Finished Dimensions: 13″ wide with a 58″ circumference (33 x 147.3 cm). It weighs 100 g. so I used only half of each ball. (I thought I might want to add a lot of surface crochet, so I reserved yarn for that.) Instead, I like the texture contrast zones.

Foundation and Row Repeats: You’ll need the Delicate Crochet book (starting on page 133) for the actual Yveline pattern. Here are my changes for Yvelino:

  • Chain 58 in Color A. Complete 33 rows. Edge the last row with sc.
  • Slip stitch Color B to the bottom right corner foundation chain of the previous panel. Chain 58. At the end of the Row 1 FP, slip stitch in the first FP stitch of Row 1 of the previous panel and then complete the RP as usual.
  • Repeat this join-as-you-go process at the end of every FP until you’ve completed 33 rows. Edge it with sc like the previous panel.
  • Repeat the above with two more panels. For the last panel, also join-as-you-go the first FP stitch of each row to the last FP stitch of the first panel you completed to create a ring. (Or you could seam the first and last panel sides together to for the ring as a separate step.)

Adding the Frills: The only thing different from the book is that I used a 3.5 mm (E) crochet hook, and surface crocheted a column on each side of the joins.

Oh the Resources Buried in Crochet Patterns

I hold onto lots of crochet pattern books and “mine” them for interesting stitch patterns (love those stitch symbols!), shapes (love those schematics!), and construction methods (love the rare assembly diagram!).

The stitch texture combinationscolor contrasts, or styling ideas in pattern books are also inspiring.

Ravelry takes this into account so I know I’m not the only one who uses books this way. (When creating a new project page, there used to be a box you checked if you improvised from an existing pattern. Now you can choose additional patterns if you’ve incorporated elements from them.)

Delicate Crochet offers hours and hours of riffing on its interesting stitch patterns, shapes, and styles, thanks to the range of designers represented—and thanks to all the stitch diagrams and schematics.

Book Giveaway Details!

You could win this! Delicate Crochet by Sharon Silverman with 23 patterns by 10 designers.
  • I’ll use a random number generator no earlier than February 18 (Monday, President’s Day) to choose from among the commenters to this post.
  • There may be two winners: one with a shipping address outside of the USA as well as within it. If the first winner has a non-USA shipping address, the prize will be a free downloadable crochet pattern (winner’s choice). I will then draw a new number randomly until the new winner has a USA address to which I can ship the book.
  • To contact the winner(s) I will do these three things: comment on your comment with the news, and announce the winner’s name (as it appears on your comment) in my Ravelry group, and at my Facebook page. I suggest you opt-in to receive alerts of responses to your comment in case you’re a winner.
  • Your comment may respond to my question, “What crochet book would you like me to write?” (as explained in my newsletter #97), or at least be crochet-related. I reserve the right to remove spammy comments as always.
  • Commenting more than once does not improve your chance of winning.
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Tunisian Crochet Books for Research

At first glance, the materials I use when researching Tunisian crochet (a.k.a. afghan crochet, & including double-ended types) seem the same as for other crochet topics. Besides Tunisian crochet books and online sources that I find by Googling and searching Ravelry, I use sections of other books, notable designs, and antique sources. (Click on on of the thumbnail photos to enlarge.)

Tunisian Crochet Books are Keepers!

Over the years I’ve noticed distinctive differences in the information I can depend on for Tunisian crochet research, compared to other kinds of crochet. The most intensive research I do is for classes, but I also need to for some newsletter topics and when I’m writing a pattern for an unusual design.

100% Tunisian crochet books are special and really pretty rare. Many of them are slim, booklet-like volumes. They tend to be hard to find and to get. Some go out of print quickly, are self-published, or are only in Japanese, for example. I treasure each one. That first book stack you see is my go-to stack.

I’ve found a lot of useful information buried in general books about crochet.”TC” (Tunisian crochet) has long been presented in crochet books as a specialization. This means the TC topic sometimes gets its own thick chapter, and that’s a beautiful thing. Other times, the chapter or section is lean, but can make an important contribution somehow. It may have fresh and original material, or offer well designed instructions, stitch symbols, and other valuable publishing standards.

From my TC perspective, it makes a big, big difference when the book’s production staff, especially the technical editors and illustrators, also understand TC (not just regular crochet). It also matters what is used as a standard, because basic Tunisian crochet publishing standards are still being forged.

The book stack in the second photo shows general crochet books I own that contain TC sections I refer to often. Missing from the photo is A Treasury of Crochet Patterns by Liz Blackwell.

I’ve been thinking about this post topic ever since I did one about the very different kind of book stack I devoured for the Stitch Games class topic. (That stack was mostly written about yarn by and for knitters.) I’m also considering a post about what it has been like to unearth and use every resource I could for classes on love knots (Solomon’s knots) and star stitches over the years.

 

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Knit and Crochet Books: Stitch Games Class

17 knit, crochet, spinning and dyeing books.

Some Crochet Class Research

Back in January I read a stack of crochet books (and many knitting books) as research for my Stitch Games class topic. I welcome doing this, especially in January after the hectic holidays. It’s so cozy.

I take notes as I read them. Then I set it all aside for a few months until I’m ready to look it all over and start writing the class handout.

It wasn’t necessary that I do this kind of research for the other class topics this year (one never knows how time-consuming it’s going to be!). I went through stacks of crochet books about love knots, star stitches, and Tunisian lace methods in earlier years.

Below is the list of seventeen knit and crochet books that helped me in some way. They’re in alphabetical order by title. I starred the ones that I recommend the most (about stitch games/pooling techniques). The list doesn’t include a few articles and websites I also used.

17 Knit and Crochet Books Read

***Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-dyed Yarn by Laura Militzer Bryant XRX Books 2013 ISBN-13: 978-1933064260

Creating Crochet Fabric: Experimenting with Hook, Yarn & Stitch Dora Ohrenstein Lark Books 2010 ISBN-13: 978-1600593314

Crochet the Complete Guide Jane Davis  Krause Publ 2009 ISBN-13: 978-0896896970

Crochet in Color Kathy Merrick Interweave 2009 ISBN-13: 978-1596681125

Crochet Workshop James Walters 1979/1983 (Dover Publications 2014 ISBN-13: 978-0486496207)

*The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques Margaret Radcliffe Storey Publishing, LLC 2015  ISBN-13: 978-1612126623

Exploring Color in Knitting: Techniques, Swatches, and Projects to Expand Your Knit Horizons Sarah HazellEmma King Barron’s Educational Series 2011  ISBN-13: 978-0764147395

**Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques Gail Callahan  Storey Publishing, LLC 2010 ISBN-13: 978-1603424684

*Indie Socks: Knitting Patterns and Dyer Profiles Featuring Hand-Dyed Yarns Chrissy Gardiner Sydwillow Press 2012  ISBN-13: 978-0981966816

*The Knitter’s Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover’s Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime Clara Parkes Potter Craft 2011 ISBN-13: 978-0307586803

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn Clara Parkes Potter Craft 2007 ISBN-13: 978-0307352163

The Knitter’s Guide to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn: Techniques and Projects for Handpainted and Multicolored Yarn Lorna Miser Potter Craft 2010 ISBN-13: 978-0823085521

The Knitter’s Life List: To Do, To Know, To Explore, To Make Gwen W. Steege Storey Publishing, LLC 2011  ISBN-13: 978-1603429962

**Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn Carol Sulcoski Interweave 2009 ISBN-13: 978-1596680982

The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook Lynne Vogel  Interweave 2002 ISBN-13: 978-1931499163

Wrapped in Color: 30 Shawls to Knit in Koigu Handpainted Yarns by Koigu Wool Designs Sixth&Spring Books 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1936096848

The Yarn Lover’s Guide to Hand Dyeing: Beautiful Color and Simple Knits Linda LaBelle Potter Craft 2007 ISBN-13: 978-0307352538

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Hand Chaining, a Straddler of Worlds

Hand chaining is when you crochet chain stitches with your hands and fingers instead of with a crochet hook. It’s also called finger crocheting. Hand chaining is so easy! Kindergartners do it. It’s a popular way to crochet trendy necklace-scarves with fancy yarns in under 30 minutes.

Trendy Hand Chaining Trendy Necklace Scarves long
Love it! “Poseidon Scarf Kit” at loopymango.com

You might have learned hand chaining as a child in kindergarten, at camp, or from a babysitter. It’s often taught as a stand alone activity rather than as an introduction to the larger world of crochet, knot tying, or knitting. I don’t even remember how I learned it. I just already knew how by the time I officially learned how to crochet with a hook at the age of nine.

For the next blog post I viewed several videos that show how to do hand chaining as a crocheter, a knitter, or a knot tyer. It left me with a new way of thinking about the origins of crochet.

Not Just for Beginners

Hand chaining is so fun to do that even experienced crocheters are at risk of getting “hooked” (if they remember to try it). It’s often forgotten as a crochet method even though it offers nuanced control over unusual yarn combinations for edgy, artsy effects. I get new, deeper insights into simple stitches when I hand crochet them, thanks to the intimate, tactile experience of crocheting.

Hand chaining a special subset of crochet that merits a closer look than it usually gets.

Hand Chaining vs. Hook Chaining

Hand chaining (finger crocheting) loosely and tightly in 3 different fibers: sain cord, wool tube yarn, suede lacing.
Hand Chaining loosely vs. tightly. L to R: Satin cord, wool knit tube yarn, suede lacing.

Hand chaining cuts out the middleman (er, the crochet hook). This is perfect for crochet beginners! Learning to use a new tool with yarn loops for the first time takes the focus off of the stitch. Shouldn’t getting to know a stitch be the most important part of learning to crochet? Especially when that stitch—the chain stitch— is the foundational core of all crochet? I think so.

The crochet hook is the one central tool of crochet. When researchers encounter an unfamiliar fabric, they consider the tool used to create it. An item made with a crochet hook is usually classified as crocheted. I wonder how hand-chained items are classified.

Earliest Crochet Roots?

Hand chaining straddles two worlds: Crochet, and Knot Tying. The same basic crochet stitches can be made with hand chaining as with a crochet hook: Chain Stitch, Slip Stitch, and Single Crochet. (Other stitches are more of a struggle without a hook.) The fingers or the whole hand simply take the place of the crochet hook. Perhaps hand chaining came first, at least in some early cultures, and the crochet hook evolved to substitute for hands and fingers.

Among knot tying aficionados, hand chaining is called many other things: Drummer Boy’s Sinnet, Zipper Sinnet, Monkey Braid, Sea Chains, Chain Knots, Caterpillar Sinnet, and Daisy Chains. Boys and men may have encountered hand chaining via knot tying. Some practical uses among knot tyers include:

  1. To quickly neaten long lengths of rope or electrical wire for storage. (To this linked video, a commenter added, “This is used by riggers [who set up e.g. the ceiling on stages for rock concerts] as a cool way of shortening and storing several long ropes in a hurry.”)
  2. Launder climbing rope so that it can be easily machine washed, allowed to dry, and then “unzipped” for use afterwards.
  3. Watch James Dean absent-mindedly finger crochet with a rope while doing an interview in 1955! (Video starts as the camera is about to pan down to the rope he’s holding.)

-:———:-

Even if you already know how to crochet, I think Chain Stitch In Depth and other posts about crochet basics offer some new ways to think about our most basic and important crochet stitch of all, the Chain Stitch.

Updated November 2018. It’s part of an experimental blog post series: Vashti’s How to Crochet Book. Next post: Hand Chaining How-To’s.