Archive for January 26, 2011
It’s no secret that Tunisian crochet is a hot topic these days. One could easily make the argument that this resurgence is due in large part to Sharon Hernes Silverman’s 2009 book, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, which has become a gold-standard reference book for many crocheters. Fortunately, Sharon has just released her latest book, Crochet Pillows With Tunisian & Traditional Techniques, which is equally as inspiring as her past titles.
Crochet Pillows With Tunisian & Traditional Techniques was a joy to read and filled with more of Sharon’s helpful tips and tricks. The pillows run the gamut from fun and funky to classic and elegant. There is something for everyone’s taste and aesthetic in this book. Best of all, it is written in a manner such that beginning crocheters can comfortably stretch their basic skills to the next level using Sharon’s comprehensive stitch guide that is both clear and concise. I am sure that the final portion of the book, filled with information about traditional and Tunisian crochet techniques as well as a list of indispensible resources, will serve as the perfect reference for both novice and seasoned crocheters alike.
Sharon’s love for crochet and understanding of the art form is clear while reading this title, especially in the ease with which she explains both basic and Tunisian crochet methods. “From the time I was age 3 or 4, I loved crafts. I remember making mosaic trays, paper lanterns, even a wooden book-holder in kindergarten! I learned to crochet and cross-stitch from my mother when I was 6 or 7. She taught me to knit, too, but that didn’t seem to stick,” explained Sharon.
“When I was writing my second crochet book, Beyond Basic Crocheting, one of my stitch dictionaries had some Tunisian crochet stitch patterns. I had never heard of it before, and it blew me away! [It was] so much fun to do, so fast, and [created] such interesting results,” she continued. “I included an easy Tunisian crochet scarf in that book, and was inspired to learn more about the technique and the possibilities for using it.” Since then, Sharon has continued to expand her Tunisian crochet skills and begun to share her fascination with Tunisian crochet stitches through her books, patterns, and classes.
From the very beginning, the concept of a book of pillow designs intrigued me. In fact, for crocheters who mostly make garments, it can be a breath of fresh air to try a home décor project. Likewise, pillows are relatively quick to make and are easily portable. When asked to comment on the rationale behind the book, Sharon pointed out, “Look through any design magazine or catalog and you’ll see pillows galore. They are a great way to spruce up your décor quickly and without breaking the bank. Instead of buying mass-produced pillows, why not make your own and get exactly what you want? Pillows make great gifts also, since they don’t have to be sized to fit someone like a garment does—not a whole lot of risk! They are small enough to complete in a reasonable amount of time, yet fun and interesting to make. Another advantage is that because they have two sides, you can create two looks in one project.”
Crochet Pillows With Tunisian & Traditional Techniques includes 20 projects in total – 10 in traditional crochet and 10 in Tunisian crochet. While reading the book, eight designs instantly struck a chord within me. For fun, I decided to list each of my favorite patterns according to a particular category and Sharon was gracious enough to comment on the inspiration behind each one.
The thought of working all of those loops along with the nubbly feeling of the finished product was enough for me to rate this as the design that incorporated the most fun stitch. “I saw this stitch pattern in a dictionary and loved the look! The subtle shadings in the variegated yarn fit well with the pattern too,” Sharon added.
Most Elegant – Cable Columns
I instantly fall in love with any crochet design that includes beautiful cables. It is as if there is a little voice inside saying – “See, we can make cables, too.” Also, the reverse single stitch has become one of my favorite finishing techniques as it results in such a smooth silhouette. However, Sharon’s inspiration for this design was the fiber itself. She explained, “Sometimes yarn is the inspiration for the project, as in this case. The stitch definition of the Lana is excellent—perfect for cables. I hope that people will give crocheted cables a try when they see how nice they look on this pillow. Reverse single crochet seemed like the right kind of tailored edging for this project as well.”
Most Adorable – Spiral Flower
As the mom of two “girly girls,” this pattern grabbed my attention right away. It would be fun to decorate my youngest daughter’s room with several of these pillows in her favorite colors, lavender and pink. “I was fooling around with little shell shapes and arranged them into a circle. They looked so cute that a whimsical accent pillow came to mind. I think this would look adorable hanging from a doorknob,” Sharon chimed in.
“This is another pattern that I found in a stitch dictionary. Usually I shy away from anything leggier than a treble crochet, but I was really intrigued by the three-dimensional aspect of this pattern even though the stitches are quite tall,” Sharon explained. Personally, this stitch is breathtaking. When I first saw it, I experienced one of those wonderful moments in which you are mesmerized by a crochet pattern.
Must Have NOW Design – Red Hot Heart
It is clear why this felted pillow made the cover – it is simply fantastic. “In one of my home design magazines I saw an embellished pillow that got me thinking. I liked the idea of using the same color embellishment in a different texture. I first tried the spiral rope in a traditional heart shape, but the asymmetrical version gives the pillow a big jolt in personality,” remarked Sharon.
For those who are anxious to give felting a try but who still feel a bit apprehensive about the technique, Sharon shared some great advice. “I can understand why felting seems intimidating – you invest a lot of time making something and then aren’t sure how it will look when it comes out of the washing machine. My best advice is to felt your swatch. You may find that it shrinks more in one dimension than in the other, which is important to know,” she cautioned. “You’ll also learn that you can felt something multiple times if it doesn’t get small enough the first time. Fortunately, pillows are very forgiving. You should wait until your project is done before you purchase an insert, so if the felted project comes out a slightly different size than what you expected, it’s not a problem.”
Most Sophisticated – Debonair
“Tunisian net stitch, or full stitch, is very classy. And, of course as far as colors go, it doesn’t get any more sophisticated than black and white! This pillow design reminds me of a tuxedo, with the buttons adding an element of individualism,” she added. I couldn’t agree more and have already starting shopping for the perfect set of buttons.
This pillow would make the perfect baby shower gift. In fact, as Sharon reminded me, the pattern serves as a complement to one of her previous designs. “This pillow goes with the Sweet Dreams Baby Blanket I designed for my previous book, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting. It’s a small project with a lot of impact. I agree that this would make a great gift!”
Perfect Holiday Project – Lovejoy
With St. Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this pillow would make any loved one feel extra special. However, I was fascinated by this design because it serves as a reference to crochet’s historical repertoire. Traditionally, Tunisian crochet was often used as a backdrop for cross-stitch embroidery. In fact, I have many such designs in my antique pattern collection. “Tunisian simple stitch has highly structured horizontal and vertical components, which make it an ideal backdrop for cross-stitch. As you mention, antique patterns often took advantage of this, especially in beautifully embellished afghans,” Sharon added.
Crochet Pillows With Tunisian & Traditional Techniques closes with a befitting discussion on stuffing and closing pillows. Many crocheters turn to fiberfill when packing pillows, however Sharon argues against the use of loose fiberfill in the book and explained to me the other options available for filling pillows. “Maybe it’s the way I stuff my pillows, but when I use fiberfill it always seems to clump up and get lumpy. I would certainly encourage crafters to try whatever pillow filling suits them. I used hypoallergenic synthetic inserts, but something like down could add an element of luxury. You can also have foam pieces cut to size at a craft store. If you are using a prefabricated pillow form, remember that it should be slightly bigger than the outer shell, so that when you stuff your pillow it is nice and full with no floppy areas in the corners or along the sides.”
Crochet Pillows With Tunisian & Traditional Techniques can be purchased online at Amazon or WEBS. To learn more about Sharon as well as her designs and classes, visit www.sharonsilverman.com, or join her on Facebook at Sharon Silverman Contemporary Crochet.