Thursday, February 8, 2018

Review of Teach Yourself Visually Crochet by Cecily Keim & Kim P. Werker

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Crochet is an inaccurate title for this book.  It should be called "Everything you would possibly need to know about crochet briefly described."

This was the first book I picked up on the topic of crochet after taking a class at Joann Stores (see my review here) and taking Edie Eckman's Creativebug beginner crochet classes (see my review here).  I am lucky this is the book I found because it was exactly what I needed.  I was ready and excited to know everything there is to learn about crochet.  Well, let me clarify.  I didn't want to learn, at that moment, everything.  I just wanted to know what I needed to plan to learn in the future, an overview of the breath and depth of what crochet has to offer.  And this is exactly what this book covers.

Why I'm hooked on Teach Yourself VISUALLY Crochet:
1.  # of topics covered:  The shear amount of topics covered in this book is staggering.  It covers everything from yarn care to reading a yarn label to beginner crochet stitches to 15 different stitch variations to following a pattern to understanding gauge to estimating amounts of yarn needed for a project to 15 stitch patterns to Tunisian crochet to free form crochet to crocheting with beads to crocheting with different materials to adding button holes to sewing in zippers to pompoms to fringe to blocking to flowers to corkscrews to 2D shapes to 3D shapes to Granny squares to edging to felting and even includes 19 patterns in the back.  All in 325 pages.  That's insane!!  I literally read this book from cover to cover without stopping it is so exciting!

2.  Advanced stitch descriptions:  The descriptions of the more advanced stitches are very clear and easy to follow.  This book taught me how to increase, decrease, the bobble stitch, and cluster stitch.  As opposed to the beginner stitches (see #1 in what I would unravel below).  As I read other patterns in other books that include advanced stitches I don't know or don't remember, I keep this book next to me for descriptions and photos. 

3.  Great overview of crochet:  This book really clued me into all the things there are to learn about crochet.  Can I pick up tapestry crochet from the one page description?  Probably not.  But did I know it existed before, no.  Do I owe this book for introducing me? Yes!  It introduced me to quite a lot of other topics I had no idea existed like crocheting with beads (I need to try that), free form crochet (another topic I'm definitely going to pick up a book on), and what on earth a granny square is. 

4.  Good for all levels:  As I'm looking at this book again now,  I'm going to have to go back and read it again.  Now that my skills have advanced a bit I see that I can learn an entirely new level of info from a reread.  If you think you know everything about crochet I encourage you to thumb through this book.  I think you'll learn something new.

5.  Great reference book:  As you can see I still have the library's copy of this book.  I've taken it out twice and renewed it 6 times.  But this is a must have reference book.  I think I'll be buying a copy when it's time for this one to go back to the library.

6.  Detailed index:  The index is detailed, organized, and complete making looking up every stitch, term, or whatever else you are looking for easy and quick to find.

What I would unravel about this book:
1.  Beginner stitches too vague: Unfortunately, I don't think you could teach yourself visually crochet starting from 0 with this book.  The pictures in the beginner section are too vague.  But this is a FANTASTIC book for crocheters who know just a little bit of the basics.

2.  Starting to work in the round too vague: When I picked up this book I did not know how to start the first stitches to work in the round and I couldn't figure it out from this book.  Again, too vague.  But once I learned how to make a magic loop from Twinkie Chan's Creativebug class (review coming soon).  I went back to this book and was able to proceed with the instructions to make a cute little round flat shape.  Very exciting!

3.  Crocheting into the turning chain too vague:  If you've read my prior posts you know that I went on a lengthy quest to figure out how to crochet into the turning chain properly.  This book has a close up photo of a hook going into the turning chain but it's a bad angle and I can't make heads or tails of it.  Waaaaaaah!

As a brief description of everything you could possibly need to know on the topic of crochet and a reference for intermediate and advanced techniques I'm giving Teach Yourself VISUALLY Crochet 10 out of 10 stitches.  As a book for beginners to learn the basic stitches of crochet I'm giving it a 0 out of 10.  Ugh, I feel bad about that but I think it's true.  If you know nothing about crochet please take a look at this book and let me know if you can decipher the basic stitches.  I'd love to know in the comments below.  I hope that someone proves me wrong.

Mary Beth Cryan is a professional illustrator and writer of 17 published craft books. She has taken over a hundred art and craft classes in her life including her BFA course work at Syracuse University.  She owns way too many books and crafts supplies.  All photos and content are copyright Mary Beth Cryan.  This post contains affiliate links that I am oh so grateful to you when you use to support my work and keep this blog ad free.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review of Creativebug's beginner crochet classes

Want to learn to crochet online?  Need a refresher course?  Or did you take a class in-person and then get home to realize that you didn't quite remember everything, like I did?  Please let me save you the hours of searching the internet for a decent YouTube video and just tell you that the best resource I've found on the internet for learning how to crochet is, hands down, Creativebug's crochet classes by Edie Eckman.

This is what happened when I got home from Joanns and tried to crochet a square.  Umm, definitely NOT square on those edges.

This is after I took Edie Eckman's class.  Look at the improvement!!  Learning stuff is so much fun!

Why I'm "hooked" on Edie Eckman's classes:
1. Nice short videos:  This lady does not waste time.  She hits the ground running, tells you what you need to know, and then signs off.  Her videos are 2 to 17 minutes long with most of them around 5 minutes.  This is perfect because I only have five minutes until my toddler asks for a refill of goldfish crackers and I have to get up off the couch for the hundredth time in the past hour. 

 2.  High quality video:  Eckman's videos are high quality and she uses thick yarn so you can easily see the stitches.

 3.  Three rows for each stitch:  This is what sets Eckman's videos apart from the videos on YouTube.  When learning a new stitch you need to be taught how to start the first stitch into the chain, crochet the first row into the chain row, crochet the the second row into the first row of stitches, end the row (crochet into the turning the chain), turn, and start the third row.  I got a little obsessed (as I tend to do) on finding this info for myself.  I could not find one video in almost 100 YouTube videos I watched or one diagram in close to 50 books I flipped through in multiple libraries in two states (l live on the border) that showed all this info together.  I searched and searched and searched.  I asked friends, I even went to craft shows and begged the crochet vendors to show me how to crochet into the turning chain, turn, chain, and start the next row but no one had a good explanation... until I found Edie.  THANK YOU EDIE!

4.  Five stitches covered AND how to read patterns: Eckman covers how to work a crochet chain, single crochet, double crochet, half double crochet, treble crochet, AND how to read patterns.  All of the videos are clear.  I had absolutely no idea how to read a pattern and Eckman's class was my first introduction.  I still read a few more books on this topic before I felt completely comfortable.  I'll cover those in another post.  But after watching her video my mindset went from "I'll never learn how to read this crazy foreign crochet language" to "hey I think I can actually learn this."  Oh, and she covers those scary chart thingys too.

 5.  Free videos:  Even though this is a pay per month site you can watch a few classes for free.  Here's how.  Two of Edie's videos are always free.  So you can go see what a genius she is right now! Her "How to work a single crochet" video is free as well as her "How to read a crochet pattern".

 6. Experience:  FYI Edie Eckman is the Mac Mamma of crochet.  I checked her out on Amazon and she has close to 30 crochet books published books.  That's crazy!!  This lady knows her stuff. 

What I would unravel about this class: 

  1.  Slower on the turning chain:  The ONLY thing Eckman could improve on is the part of her videos where she crochets into the turning chain.  She does it quickly and her finger gets in the way a little.  After watching this part of the video about 30 times and pausing and rewinding and trying again (I told you I'm obsessive)  I was PRETTY sure I was doing it right but not 100% confident so my search continued.  I'll save you the suspense and let you know the BEST diagram of how to crochet into the turning chain is in the book "200 Fun Things to Crochet" on page 210.  I'll be doing a review of that book soon too.



  I give Edie Eckman's beginner Creativebug classes 9.5 stitches out of 10 stitches.  If you need a refresher crochet course or are looking for a great online crochet class instead of an in person class then this is the best I've found online!  Have you found any amazing online beginner crochet classes?  Please let me know in the comments below. 

Mary Beth Cryan is a professional illustrator and writer of 17 published craft books. She has taken over a hundred art and craft classes in her life including her BFA course work at Syracuse University.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Review of Joann Store's "Learn to Crochet" Class

Looking to pick up crochet as a hobby?  I highly recommend starting at Joann's  "Learn to Crochet Class"  as I did last October!  Here's why:

Why I'm "hooked" on this class:

1.  Price: When starting a new hobby I like to learn from a real person because I'm going to have a million questions!  That's just the type of person I am.  Of all the resources I found in my area: Michaels' classes, local yarn store classes, and private lessons this was the cheapest and looked like it covered the most material so I gave it a shot.  Since taking this class I've figured out how to get Joann's classes half price!  Keep an eye out for a post on that tip coming up.

2.  Organization, quantity, and quality of info:  This class was three hours long and covered a lot!!  It started right from the beginning, the slip knot and went through creating a chain, single, double, and treble crochet.  The class didn't cover the slip stitch or half double but I was given a lot of hand outs so I would remember all the info.  The handouts included the two missing stitches.  The teacher also covered yarn weights, explained the different types of crochet needle sizing/materials, and gave me a tour of yarn department (in case you're wondering this was NOT a sales pitch by the teacher, just a nice grandma showing me her favorite yarns and hooks).  I've never taken a Michaels' crochet class (although I'm signed up for one next month).  From what I can tell from the website you only learn the slip knot, chain, and single crochet in the beginner class but you do complete a project in the class.  My teacher had a project ready for me to try but I was so slow we never got to it.
This is what I accomplished in class.  My first piece of crochet ever!  I've come a long way baby.

3.  Free supplies:  All the materials were included!  Check out the supply list on the registration page.  If it says, "Free supplies provided by the vendors while they last" then you receive a free skein of Lion yarn, a free crochet hook (plastic), and a free tote bag.  Who doesn't need a free tote bag?

4.  Small class size:  The teacher at this store only allows 4 students per class.  I was the only student in my class so the lesson was private!  Score!  When you go to the website you can see how many available seats are left in the class.  Compare the student count of the class at the time you want to take with a class further in future to see how many students the teacher allows and how many are signed up.

Below is an example I grabbed off the site.  This is from the "Learn to crochet class".  Does this teacher only allow two students?  Maybe.  Let's look at the other classes the same instructor teaches to see the max.
Ah ha!  This "Crocheted Cactus" class that is coming up has 5 available seats.  That might be the max.  So that means the other class has 3 students already signed up because there are only 2 seats left.  Does that make sense?  If you wanted to know definitely you could always call the store.

5.  Ease of signing up online:  The Joann's website is excellent.  It's very easy to navigate the classes.  You can view as a list or you can virtually view their adorable catalog.  It's very easy to see the times and stores where the class is being held.  And I recommend signing up online as opposed to in-store so you receive an email confirmation.

6.  The Class Catalog:  If you go in-store you can pick up their adorable class catalog that comes out every other month.  I think they are so cute I collect them!  You can also pick up a list of classes.  I wish they had this online.  It makes it really easy to see all the classes they are offering for the whole month at one time.

7.  In store display:  The teachers are required to make samples of every project they will be teaching.  So head over to the store if you want to see the projects in person.  I'm going to snap a photo of the display next time I'm there.

8.  Knowledgeable teacher:  My teacher knew everything about crochet, was the sweetest grandma, and crochets tons of items for charity.  Awwww.

What I would unravel about the class:

1.  Website snafu: It's hard to come up with something I didn't like about the class.  Hmm.  The only thing I can come up with is that every time I register for a class the default zip code setting is New Jersey.  I've changed it a million times and it still goes to New Jersey every time.  Why?  I don't know, snafu I guess.  It would be a lot easier to view the classes in my area if I didn't have to put in my zip code every time.

2.  List of all class times in one place:  As I mentioned above it would be nice to have the list view online instead of having to click on each individual class to see when it's offered.  Here's the list that you can pick up in store.


I'm giving this class 10 stitches out of 10 stitches.  If you want to learn to crochet this is the place to start! 

And just so you know, I don't work for Joann Stores and there are no affiliate links in this post.  I just LOVE Joann classes.  In fact, I've taken two more classes at Joann so keep an eye out for those reviews coming up!

Have you taken a great crochet class?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Mary Beth Cryan is a professional illustrator and writer of 17 published craft books. She has taken over a hundred art and craft classes including her BFA course work at Syracuse University. (FYI: I counted the classes. I should make a list! That would be an interesting blog post.)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I beat cancer!

So, what's up with the big hole in my blog of two years?  That's when I had cancer.  But I'm cancer free and pretty much recovered.  So here we go with the blog again!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Is Periscope for you? Is it for me?

First Broadcast

Second Broadcast

Third Broadcast

Well, I tried Periscope for the first time and "WOAH" that is a crazy app.  I did some live drawing and I thought I was going to draw and talk about what I was drawing and people would watch and listen.  Not so!  People are on that app to chat.  And that is why it's so crazy cool.  It's like being at a big cocktail party chatting with new people with similar interests.  And I got really, really great feedback on my art.  That is definitely a big positive.  People are nice and really friendly.  I already have some followers and I've only done it 3 times.  The app is young so everyone on it is excited about it.

My plan was to use the app to do live drawings but now I'm not sure because here's the thing.  I've never drawn and chatted before, like ever.  And it's hard!  I did 3 scopes and my drawings were definitely sloppier than if I had drawn them in solitude.  In the third broadcast I tried drawing over what I drew on the second day but I still felt that the drawing was sloppy (see above drawings).  So that was a negative. 

But here's a very interesting positive, when listening back to my broadcast I thought I really sounded like myself.  I had a strong voice and it was exactly representative of who I am.  I'm kind of funny and make one liners and weird spontaneous subtle jokes.  I laugh at my jokes even when no one else does.  And I ask myself questions.  In addition, I have really interesting informed opinions about the field of art.  My voice definitely came out in a way it never does in my writing... well, maybe in texts to friends but never on this blog or my short descriptions on Instagram.  And it was easy and fun, it didn't feel like a chore.  I'm definitely considering more video at this point.

So the jury is out.  Will I do more periscopes or try to find a different video journaling (vlog) venue?  I'm not sure.  In the meantime, I'm trying to be more spontaneous on social media.  This blog post is an example.  I'm just writing it and tossing it out into the world.  Usually I read, re-read, cross out, and 9 out of 10 decide in the end no one will be interested and delete.  But not this time.  So if Periscope has taught me anything so far it's to be more spontaneous with social media posts because my voice is more authentic that way.  So thanks for the lesson Periscope! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Fashion Designer List

Kenzo SS16 by Mary Beth Cryan

Here is the fashion designer list I referred to in my Periscope broadcast today.

There are so many fashion shows each season that I get overwhelmed trying to decide which to watch and in what order.  Organization is my key to combating overwhelm so I made a list of designers I must watch every season.  I start from the top and work my way down.  This year I'm illustrating the list from the top down.  I just finished Kenzo (pictured above) and I'm currently on Louis Vuitton.  I'm going to continue until I finish the list or until Couture week begins, whichever happens first.

If you'd like to see all of the illustrations as well as other illustrations please check out my instagram here:

If you'd like to see me live drawing and chat with me please check out my Periscope here:

Absolute must sees, not to be missed:
Altuzarra - NY
Anna Sui - NY
Balenciaga - P
Balmain - P
Burberry Prorsum - L
Chanel - P
Commes des Garcons - P
Dolce and Gabbanna - M
Dries Van Noten - P
Duro Olowu - NY - A
Fendi - M
Isabel Marant - P
Issey Miyake - P
Jeremy Scott - NY
Jean Paul Gaultier - P
Kenzo - P
Louis Vuitton - P
Manish Arora - P
Marc Jacobs - NY
Marchesa - NY
Mary Katrantzou - L
Miu Miu  - P
Moschino - M
Moschino Cheap and Chic - M
Paco Rabanne - P
Prabal Gurung - NY
Prada - M
Preen - NY
Proenza Schouler - NY
Rodarte - NY
Thakoon - NY
Thom Browne - NY
Tsumori Chisato P
Victor and Rolf - P

If my eyeballs aren't bleeding after watching all those shows I continue on with this bunch.

Alexander Wang - NY
Alexander McQueen - L
Alice and Olivia - NY
Costume National - P
Creatures of the Wind - NY
Elie Saab - P
Emilio Pucci - M
Emporio Armani - M
Giorgio Armani - M
Givenchy - P
Gucci - M
Helmut Lang - NY
ICB Prabal Gurung - NY
Just Cavalli - M
Lanvin - P
Marc by Mark Jacobs - NY
Meadham Kirchhoff - L
Missoni - M
Oscar De La Renta -NY
Robert Cavalli - M
Stella McCartney -P
Thakoon Addition - NY
Tibi - NY
Valentino - P
Vivienne Westwood - P
Versace - M
The Row - NY
Diesel - NY
Helmet Lang - NY
Badgley Mischka - NY
Dior - P
Donna Karan - NY
Vera Wang - NY
Stella McCartney-P

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fashion Illustration is back and so am I

 Betsey Johnson

It's an exciting time for fashion illustration.  Thanks to Instagram, the genre is making a huge comeback. As you know I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE fashion and may know I used to do quite a bit of fashion illustrating on the side years ago.  So I am for sure, throwing my hat into the ring.

You may be expecting my old vector art style however, I'm back with a colorful, kooky, and hopefully clever colored pencil interpretation of fashion.  I'm adding my own personal spin to the genre with a bit of a newly acquired cavalier attitude.  The illustrations you see here are some of the art I created during New York Fashion Week. If you'd like to see my newest art, minutes after its creation please follow me on Instagram at @marybethcryan.

Speaking of New York Fashion Week did you follow the coverage?  It was an illustration extravaganza! Fashion Illustrators were live drawing at shows, live drawing at parties, live drawing at stores, live drawing backstage, drawing from home, drawing from New York, drawing on the other side of the earth, drawing, drawing, and more DRAWING!!  And people were paying attention.  Here's a list of pretty impressive press from this year to prove it:

Harper's Bazaar 12 Fashion Illustrators To Follow on Instagram
Instyle 10 Fashion Illustrators to Follow on Instagram Right Now
Vanity Fair 5 Must-Follow Illustrators on Instagram
New York Times  Seeing Fashion With a Sketchpad and Markers
Man Repeller Are Illustrators the New Fashion Bloggers?
Who What Wear 5 Mind-Blowing Fashion Illustrators to Follow on Instagram
Fashionista How to Make it as a Fashion Illustrator in 2015

This is crazy people!  When was the last time illustrators got press like this?  It's all very exciting.  I hope this trend picks up steam and continues because I am hoping to hop aboard the wild ride. 
Tommy Hilfiger

Prabal Gurung