Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Inspiring Hooky Books

I have recently acquired two inspirational hooky books. One is this:

It was just too beautiful not to buy it, I am afraid. Obviously the patterns in it are designed for using Noro yarn - the incredibly beautiful (but also incredibly expensive) Japanese variegated yarn of the gods. But there is nothing to stop you making substitutions and there are a lot of beautiful and much cheaper variegated yarns out there to experiment with. 

I am drawn like a moth to a flame by the allure of variegated yarn - I find it magical and provocative. It is also rather unpredictable and what you hold in your hand in the skein may, or may not, give an impression of what will happen when you work it up.  You never quite know how the colour will "pool", whether beautiful, variegated stripes will appear, as if by magic, or whether you will get a bit of a mish-mash of random colours. I find that unpredictability and "hiddenness" exciting and although I've had one or two unsuccessful attempts using variegated yarn that have definitely resulted in the mish-mash, random category, when it works, it really is beautiful.

Because my hooky moth wings have been singed so to speak, by my less successful experiments on occasion, I began cautiously, in response to this book, by buying just two skeins of Noro Silk Garden Lite yarn to make the Bobbled Mitts designed by Karen Garlinghouse. You could probably get away with just one skein, in terms of the amount of yarn used, but of course if you want your mitts to match you've got to start the colour gradations at the same point, which means buying two. As it was, I only originally bought one and had to buy another from a different source, which (of course) wasn't from the same batch so the colour run wasn't identical. This means my mitts are almost, but not quite, a pair. The discrepancy is only in the cuff and I quite like that, actually.

The pattern was very clear and I liked the idea of stretching my skill set a bit and making the ribbed cuffs for the base and the bobbled, textured fabric for the body of the mitts. Because the Noro Silk Garden Lite does not unravel easily, once crocheted, without snagging and breaking, I made a dummy cuff first in some ordinary acrylic yarn to get the hang of the Front Post Double Crochet and was pleased I did, as it ironed out a few glitches which would have been difficult to undo in the more temperamental Noro. My experiences of trying to knit ribbing as a child had put me right off any pattern requiring ribbing - I found / find the K1, P1 thing tedious and tricksy. Hooky ribbing however, I found a breeze and I love the almost knitted effect the cuffs have. 

The bobbles were very easy indeed - no special stitch required, just taller stitches interspersed among shorter ones which have the effect of concertinaing and buckling outwards as subsequent rows are added giving the textured, bobble effect. 

Leaving on one side the happy texture they have, it's the colours that make these wrist warmer mitts instantly among my favourite garments. 

 No mish-mash effect here. Just beautiful, vibrant shades blending and contrasting with one another in perfect harmony. 

Other tempting patterns in the book include this very beautiful Chrysanthemum Shawl designed by Anna Al ...

... the Flower Blossom Purse designed by Yoko Hatta

... these gorgeous, scalloped variegated Nesting Bowls designed by Jacqueline van Dillen

... and this Felted Tote bag designed by Marty Miller

Of course, all these will use a lot of yarn so unless I substitute something cheaper for the Noro yarn, a lot of saving must be done before I can start on any of them, but give me time!

The other book I have acquired is this one:

I saw this at the Knitting and Stitching Show back in the autumn last year but didn't buy it. But you know how it is, an idea is sown and germinates and begins to take root and before you know it, you are wishing you had not passed up the opportunity to acquire the book which tells you how to grow the  ideas that are now spindly seedlings, requiring potting out! Fortunately the book is obtainable on Amazon here

I've been toying with the idea of making a crocheted shawl for a while. A good bit smaller than a blanket but with many of the feel-good factors that blankets have. The book is an eye-opener. Partly because it is filled with a wonderful and varied range of shawl patterns for all skill levels but more significantly because of the movement, originating in the US, behind the book. These shawls are not just any old shawls, they are "prayer shawls" that come from individuals and groups, making shawls to give away with the specific intention to communicate blessing and comfort to the recipients. The making of them is intended to be, and clearly is, a spiritual experience in which the maker's prayers are woven along with the yarn into the finished article. Understandably this has a profound effect on both maker and recipient even if the recipient is not specifically known to the maker. Did you know that there are whole "prayer shawl ministries" out there? I didn't. 

Well, Lent is coming up. Instead of the whole giving up chocolate / alcohol etc saga which seems to me is often more about losing weight and accruing a few health benefits than anything else, I'm going to make a few of these and give them away. 

Like the wrist warmers, the patterns will stretch my hooky capabilities a bit and introduce me to new stitches (V stitch, flower stitch, crown stitch, crossed stitch, etc) and even beading, as in this lovely bobbled shawl by Jan Bass that was made for someone partially sighted and therefore includes lots of texture in the shawl fabric and different-shaped beads and charms at the edges to major on feel-appeal rather than just visual effect.

Some are more complicated than others but there's plenty to choose from, for every skill level. They are mostly worked up on quite a big hook and chunkier yarn than I normally use which means they should work up fairly quickly. Bring on Lent, I can't wait to start! 

I love this variegated pink clover leaf version edged in green designed by talented crochet designer, Robyn Chachula

... and this one in deep, variegated blues with pockets by Sheila MacNeil

... as well as this lighter, lacier version, hooked in double strands of fine, lace-weight, gossamer mohair by designer, Donna Hulka.

The book also contains a fascinating commentary about the significance of different types of stitch, pattern and colour so that at every level a shawl "speaks" with symbolic significance a bit like the Victorian language of flowers where a purple pansy, for example, was not just a pansy, but a conveyor of the message "You fill my thoughts". Not to be confused with a mixed purple-and-yellow pansy, which meant "Don't forget me."!

The Crocheted Prayer Shawl Companion is obviously written from the perspective which gave rise to it. You may not find that perspective very familiar or even congenial, especially here in the UK, but don't let that put you off either the patterns or the beautiful idea of making something like this to send someone a tangible hug who needs it and perhaps experiencing something profoundly spiritual yourself, in the process. Although in origin the "prayer shawl ministry" idea is Christian, I defy any compassionate human being not to find something here that resonates, whether you share a Christian faith perspective, another faith perspective, or none.

Now where is my chunky hook and some nice, soft chunky yarn?! I think I might just start Lent early this year.

Anyone else recently come across any inspiring hooky books they'd recommend? A girl can never have too many of them (like bags and shoes!)

Ed to add: there's a lovely new hooky book about to come out, written by the super-talented Sue Pinner of "the 8th gem" fame. The book is called "Granny Squares - 20 Crochet Projects With A Vintage Vibe". It's not published until May but you can pre-order a copy from Amazon here. If the book is anywhere as inspirational as Sue's blog we are in for a treat!


  1. What a great book and what a great twist on Lent!

    That flower blossom purse is so pretty.

    Thanks for stopping by my place. :-)

  2. Oh those mitts are fabulous. I'm going to have to get that book, thanks for the review.

  3. Serendipity! I've just bought the Noro Crochet book too - at the moment I'm too inexperienced to do much in it but in time to come hopefully I'll get there - I love the mini skirt pattern and the flower throw - also thought the chrysanthemum shawl might be manageable for me. I'm also making progress with my shawl - I started about 5 different ones before I found a pattern that I really love and can remember without the book. I can crochet it up whenever I've got five minutes to spare - for me this is a real milestone in my crochet abilities. The Prayer Shawl book looks lovely - will be interested to see some of you creations. I'm glad that I've got someone to 'shawl-along' with! Love Judy.

  4. This is such an exciting inspiring post Elizabeth, the books are lovely and I especially love the idea of the prayer shawl.........so many new skills to be learned, I have always wanted to incorporate beading into my knitting.

    I did once try some knitting with Noro yarn, I think I must have been a little heavy handed, because the yarn kept breaking........I still have the ball of yarn somewhere, perhaps I should try again, your Bobbled Mitts are beautiful.

    I'm not sure why, but your new posts don't seem to be updating to my dashboard, I shall have to look into that one.

    kim x

  5. That Noro book is simply delicious! Your mitts are lovely. And prayer shawls are a great idea...

  6. Lovely :) I am currently saving for 201 crochet motifs by melody griffiths!! But I have to admit to enjoying the love.....crochet book, I have made so many pairs of the extra long gloves in there I can almost do them in my sleep!! I love reading your blog, thank you for sharing x

  7. The mittens are gorgeous. Who cares if they "match"; they look unique and pretty. Don't you love Noro yarn?

    The books show up beautifully and know you will get lots of use from them.

  8. The mitts are beautiful !
    The book about prayer shawls seems very interesting, with beautiful patterns (but exeeding my crochet skills, I'm afraid...).
    I usually pray for the recipient of my knitting and, with Lent coming, may be it's time to begin a new project ! Thank you for this great idea !

  9. Lovely inspiring pictures - Noro yarn always seems to look good but I haven't used it myself yet. Just peeked at your other projects - what a treat - I'm inspired to go off and get my crochet - right NOW! x

  10. The first time I saw Noro yarn I fell in love with the texture and colors. I am making a long Noro vest right now (thanks to Christmas gift certificates from my husband and niece), along with finishing up some other projects(including your froggy purse--which might travel to the UK in my suitcase). I love Noro books, too, and your photographs make me want to run out and buy yarn to make the flowered purse. (I'm on a yarn fast right now, though, in order to save up for summer travels.)

    Your gloves turned out great. I know I'll have similar problems matching the front and back of my vest, as I found a knot and a subsequent abrupt color change in one skein I used to make the front and had to do some creative cutting and rejoining of yarn, but I hope my project turns out as well as yours.

    I like your idea of Lenten crocheting, too. I've been a bit overwhelmed lately with work, but maybe I can do some stash knitting for others this spring--I certainly won't have any shortage of supplies.

  11. I had not heard of Noro yarn before but those mitts are beautiful. I can certainly see the appeal. I also love those nesting bowls featured in the book. What a delight it must be to leaf through those pages!

    I did a cross stitch with some variegated embroidery threads last year and fell in love with the effect they produced - the little images had more depth and texture somehow.

    Gillian x

  12. Hi giving it a go on iPad lol.
    Thanks for the mention crossing everything
    Hugs x

  13. hello,
    great books. your mitts are gorgeous!!! love noro yarn,too!
    wishing you a nice weekend,
    love regina

  14. What a great books.Really your design is so beautiful. Its very helpful for me keep it up.
    The Equation

  15. Loved the article. There are several prayer shawl books out there for both knit and crochet on various levels. Some people call them comfort, healing or friendship shawls. In any case the message is the same. The comfort stitched into the shawl. Lends itself to any spiritual tradition.

  16. Loved the article. There are several prayer shawl books out there for both knit and crochet on various levels. Some people call them comfort, healing or friendship shawls. In any case the message is the same. The comfort stitched into the shawl. Lends itself to any spiritual tradition.

  17. I used an inexpensive acrylic variegated yarn (Bernat Mosaics line) to make my bag. I haven't blogged about it yet because I still need to make a lining (shame on me!). I did love using it, It was the closest I could come to a Noro-esque feel in a heavier weight yarn. It may not be right for clothing, but it's just fine for something a little more utilitarian. I think I ordered it from Fabric.com. Your mitts turned out lovely:)

  18. Ooh, this is such an interesting idea!
    I've recently been involved with the Woollyhugs group, which started as a group on Mumsnet making huge blankets together for Mumsnetters who had lost family members and has now expanded to include making Little Hugs, small blankets for children sick in hospital. It's not a religious group at all, but just as you described the blankets are infused with the care and thoughts of others.
    I then found myself wanting to send comfort to a friend undergoing horrible treatment for cancer and so I've made her a hug from me - it's probably shawl sized, as it's a bit small to be a proper grown-up blanket.
    I'm hoping she will feel the love that's gone into making it x x x


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