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For a long time now, knitting and crochet have been held in the United States to be Non-Kissing Cousins. They are separated, in many minds, by an imaginary and absurd border wall that preserves Textile Purity. Should you engage in both crafts with equal fluency, you may well become an object of curiosity and comment at guild meetings. Some blame this on outmoded social stereotypes (encapsulated in the old maxim, “Employers knit, servants crochet,”); but whatever the reason, it’s patently ridiculous.

As one who prefers the nineteenth-century point of view–use knitting when your purpose is best served by knitting, use crochet when it is best served by crochet–I am delighted to see crochet’s profile rising in the knitting community. Clever designers and excellent teachers are knocking down the silly stereotypes: that crochet is inherently ugly, that it does not drape, that it cannot be stylish, that it is less versatile than knitting, and so forth.

If you love to play with yarn, why not play with yarn any way you possibly can?

Japanese Knitting

Tuttle Publishing continues their noble campaign to bring Japanese craft titles to English-speaking audiences with Michiyo’s Japanese Knitting: Patterns for Sweaters, Scarves, and More. It’s a sneaky title. The cover project, Pullover G, is knitted, yes; but the collection is a sweet, fun mix of knitting and crochet. In Japan, you see, crochet and knitting never stopped kissing.

The looks are for the woman (there are no men’s patterns) who gets fluttery at the sight of chipped china and worn paint. Details lean to quiet romance: little bits of faux fur, basket weave textures, color motifs drawn from cold climates (Shetland, Iceland, Scandinavia) worked in muted shades.

The fit throughout is relaxed, even oversized. Cuddly. Cardigan C and Cardigan F (the patterns are all identified by letter) slouch agreeably and make a handy comparison of the effects that crochet (C) and knitting (F) achieve in similar silhouettes. Vest J (which borders on becoming a cloak) may be an eye-opener for knitters who have always believed a crocheted garment cannot be graceful.

Cardigan C.

Translator (and needlework authority) Gale Roehm, who worked with Tuttle on the smash hit English edition of Hitomi Shida’s The Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, has rendered the instructions with characteristic clarity; and those who have never experienced the joy of working from Japanese-style patterns–charted, with concise explanations and standardized symbols–should consider this as a point of entry.

I note that an unusually large number of the projects in this collection have dual identities. Cardigan F, mentioned above, can also be worn as a poncho. Pattern P is a tunic or a stole. L is a bolero or a scarf. Your personal level of sartorial boldness must decide whether this is more value for your money, or rather too reminiscent of Little Edie Beale.

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By Rowan

Crochet Kaleidoscope

Fresh from Interweave, we have Sandra Eng’s Crochet Kaleidoscope: Shifting Shapes and Shades Across 100 Motifs. The release is timely. Eng’s book focuses on the sort of motif that has driven the surge of interest in crochet: quickly made, wildly varied, infinitely variable.

Lately my dull gray mood has me longing for color, and this book was a kiss on the eyes. The one hundred motifs are divided, as expected, by shape: circle, square, hexagon, triangles and miscellanea. The instructions are clear, and offered as both text and charts. I made two without encountering errors, which bodes well.

But the author’s emphasis is less on construction than on color. She presents a neat little tour of color theory in the first section; then offers inspiration for mixing up your own combinations throughout. Alternate colors for many motifs are listed (and shown) alongside the instructions. Eng doesn’t just tell you to experiment, she shows you what you might try. It’s helpful.

If you’re in the mood to choose colors but follow a full pattern, there are five: a rug, a shawl, a pillow, a blanket, and a table runner. These are dynamite. Crochet is supremely good at evoking a sort of twilit bohemian garden party world–as in the Mod Flower Shawl and Zinnia Table Runner. And it can also knock you out with boldness–as in both iterations of the Solstice Pillow, which I think I have to make right now.

The Crochet Answer Book

You may be reading this and longing to join in, but wondering how to learn which end of the hook is the business end. If so, among the many beginner’s books a longtime favorite is Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book (Storey Publishing).

Mind you, this is not only a beginner’s book. As the title says, this is the book with the answers in it. Yet it fits into a project bag, and can be there for you when you reach a point of crisis (I did, you will) and need to get yourself past it (I did, you will).

The technical illustrations are excellent, and Eckman’s explanations and advice have been honed through years of teaching grateful students (including, as it happens, me).

I could prattle on for ten thousand words about other crochet books newly arrived on the scene; but I’ll stop here so you can go give these a try. Look for notes on more crochet titles in the coming months.

Resistance is futile. You will be joined with a slip stitch into a ring.

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • Oh, dear! here in the South of America we have always crocheted and knitted according to our preferences or/and skills. No one ever thinks of making a knitted washcloth, when crochet is eas more sturdier, fast an durable! Also, baby blankets in-a-hurry, are easily achieved by a giant multicoloured, destashing Granny Square and the recipient looks great in it.

  • The Crochet Answer book has been my go to when I get stuck for more or less forever. I completely agree about combining knitting and crochet together. I have never ventured far beyond substituting a crocheted edging in a knitted garment (often using a pattern from one of Eckman’s border books ) but I have never really understood why the two communities are so separate. There are places in knitting where I often consider inserting crochet but my courage fails me. I may get Michiyo’s new book to help me with this. I had looked at this online when the book came out but none of the descriptions mentioned the incorporation of both needle arts in the patterns – thank you for your very helpful review.

  • Love the outpouring of Things Japanese in needlework.
    Once upon a time, I stumbled upon a blog by a young woman in (Taiwan, Hong Kong? Someplace with a strong emphasis in English literacy), who unfortunately stopped it too soon, but who gave a glimpse into a very elegant world. A lot of her patterns, modelled very charmingly by herself, came from Nippon Vogue. And she went on vacation to Tokyo, and published photos of their big yarn and fabric stores, OMG. These patterns remind me of Vogue Japan, and I’d love to see them on Ravelry, as the mags are way too hard to find and pricey.

  • Yay Franklin! As someone who has always been both a crocheter and a knitter, I’m really hoping more people will help tear down this wall.

    I’ve also said for years, and it’s true…bistitchuals have more fun. 😉

  • Thank you for this article! I so want to learn how to crochet and have no one around to show me. I’m ordering Eckman’s book today!

    • Ellen Gormley has an excellent learn to crochet class on the Annie’s Online website. I took it and I was very satisfied.

  • It seems sad to me that more knitters don’t crochet. Need a quick colorful baby blanket? Crochet is absolutely the way to go. Want to go crazy with color? I feel more free about color mixing in crochet than knitting (and in general, it’s easier). I went through a hardcore amigurumi toy phase when my stepkids were little, and I could crank out colorful adorable crochet toys for them in no time. Handmade Christmas miracles!

    I am guilty of the whole ‘knitted finished fabric drapes better’ and I mostly knit for wearables, but crochet is my happy, easier, more colorful place. Freeform seems more doable with crochet, mistakes also seem more forgiving, to me. And of course, there are crocheters out there making amazing fabrics – Doris Chan and Sophie Digard, anyone??

    • I have been knitting since 1969 and crocheting since 1970 – except I didn’t crochet between 1972 and 2014. This has a lot to do with the availability of patterns you would actually want to wear in the different media. I crochet mostly washcloths, blankets and shawls and knit everything else. I bought the Japanese Knitting Book above and had been planing to crochet Cardigan C as shown. Maybe lengthen the sleeves. Japanese Crochet patterns really are great but the tiny sizes and my inability to follow the universal language the patterns are written in has kept me from using them. The charts are great.

  • Dear Kay,
    I sat across from you in the granny square mini workshop at the Shakerag Retreat last month, struggling to make my first granny square and it was a delight to watch you bumbling as well! Well now I see this post and wonder if you are doing more with the hook. I just finished my first granny square afghan and it includes the square I made that day. Now I have ordered the crochet answer book Franklin mentions in the blog, so hooks away!
    Janet Clawson

  • Wonderful piece. I knit and crochet and love doing both. Crochet is so wonderful for blankets … sturdy, light on the hands (since you don’t have a million stitches hanging from a needle) and more forgiving of the spontaneous creative impulse that I tend to indulge with blankets. But, for garments, I mostly knit. I did just buy a crochet cardi pattern that I am currently swatching for.

    The funny thing is that the crochet bias still surfaces from knitters. Not too long ago I posted my most recent blanket, and a commenter came on and said something to the effect of “you know, you could knit that instead”. Like it was some sort of compromise to have chosen to crochet it. 😉

  • I have a question. Why does tht model look so deeply, mournfully unhappy? That look is the definition of sad, if not despair. I want to pat her on the back and say, ‘there, there, I’m sure it will get better’ and give her a cup of tea, or maybe some Xanax. It doesn’t inspire me to make that sweater.

    I used to do a lot of crochet – many blankets – when I was younger. I don’t crochet much anymore because I find it harder on my hands and now that I use more expensive yarn it makes each pattern a bit more expensive. Also I was taught by an Englishwoman, so my brain is always fighting between what ‘single crochet’ in an American pattern is supposed to mean. I suppose if I crocheted all the time this would sort itself out.

    Most people I know who only crochet or only knit, do it because it was easier for them to learn or they just preferred it.I don’t think it’s a character flaw or a prejudice or a class distinction. I don’t weave either, because i know that with my short attention span I wouldn’t get past the setup before abandoning the project.

    It’s good to encourage people to try something new, but a guilt trip doesn’t need to be part of it.

  • Wonderful, Franklin! Thank you! Can you use your cache to get that fab sounding Japanese Knitting book in the Ravelry database?

    Oddly enough as a young’un I happily did both knitting and crochet, the latter thanks to a neighbor. But now, I stay away from crochet because I don’t want to add to my paraphernalia! But you may have convinced me it that I could succeed with my small inherited cache of hooks. ?

  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! As an experienced crocheted seeking out friends, I have sat at many a stitching table feeling “less than” because I hooked with one needle instead of knitting with two. Instead of letting that deter me I have started two weekly groups where all are welcome and discovered a few fellow “bistitchuals”! But the prejudice is real. And it puzzles me, since crochet offers so many more mathematical and sculptural applications. Why dont more educators know this? Ihave that Crochet Kaleidoscope book in my sights now, and the Japanese patterns look lovely.

    • The anti-crochet thing seems so irrational to me that I have always found it hard to believe anyone seriously thinks that way. It seems like a joke, but I know that it’s not. People! Get a grip! Embrace all the needle arts!

      • I knit and crochet, both, but have always found crochet easier, which is why I knit (I like a challenge). It’s always baffled me, then, when knitting friends say “Oh, I can’t crochet, it’s too hard.” Or “Wow, it’s cool you know how to crochet, it’s always looked too complicated.” So it’s not simply prejudice (though that’s certainly part of it) but a bit of fear and lack of familiarity that keeps people from crocheting. Once it comes back into fashion a bit more I imagine that will change.

  • My aunt taught me to crochet when I was quite young. This was after my mother tried to teach me to knit and I could not keep a square a square; my gauge was always inconsistent. I became something of a wiz at crochet and graduated from layette sets to detailed doilies from Japanese pattern books. As I got older, I had trouble finding crochet garment patterns that I wanted to wear so tried knitting again and this time succeeded. Now I am equally adept at crochet and knitting.

    Michiyo’s book will help me combine both skills and Eng’s book will help with both color theory and crochet motifs beyond granny squares. While I think my crochet skills are quite good, I am sure that I can learn more via Eckman’s book

    Thanks for these reviews, Franklin.

  • *Gayle Roehm* (not Gale)

  • I am a long time crocheter, taught by my grandmother. I taught myself to knit about 20 years ago. The results of crochet are usually faster. Most local yarn shops that I have been to cater to knitting. When I tell them I also crochet, I get some puzzled looks. I usually use the “good” yarn for knitting projects and save the other yarn for crochet.

  • Thank you, Franklin, for your beautiful comments on crochet. I learned to crochet and knit from library books in the same year (about 35 years ago) and I still do both. I appreciate each craft for what I feel it does best. I will never crochet another sock, for example, and I don’t knit dish cloths either. Recently I’ve been knitting shawls (and socks) and crocheting summer tops out of fingering-weight cotton (Scheepjes Whirl). I’m thinking your words are probably the absolute best I’ve ever heard from a knitter.

    I have one bi-craftual project under my belt: my daughter’s wedding dress. The skirt was knitted, about a half-million stockinette stitches in lace-weight mohair, and the bodice was crocheted (of lace-weight mohair and Berroco Zen together) to fit like a glove. My magnum opus. 🙂

    • We’re not worthy!!!! 🙂

  • Happy to see the crochet phase once again ….it was my fascination with kaleidescopes as a child that stirred my interest to learn crochet and make beautiful circular doilies, but the Soltice pillow looks like fun!

  • Wish i had all your books

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