Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creepy Cute Crochet. Approach with Caution...

Waiting for Christen Haden’s Creepy Cute Crochet to be released I think I was a bit like a kid waiting for their first trip to Disneyland. I built it up so much in my mind that I was bound to be disappointed by the actual product when it arrived. I’ve always been a big fan of Haden, aka NeedleNoodles. It was seeing her Cthulhu on Etsy that inspired me to design my own Cthulhu pattern and from there I’ve gone on to a number of other ambitious projects.

I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad book. It certainly isn’t bad, I just think it might not be what people are expecting. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to browse through the book in store before buying it, I highly recommend you do so.

The book features 21 different creepy critters, but that doesn’t mean you’re actually getting 21 patterns. That’s where I think the product description is a bit misleading. What you’re actually getting is one pattern for a basic head and body shape, and 21 different variations that you can do to this body shape. The variations may include only minor changes of wool colour or whole extra pieces such as hats, vests, or headdresses that you need to crochet. Haden also provides a basic description of how to make fringe hair, clay eyes and props for some of the critters.

I think the main problem that I have with the book is that the way things are done often doesn’t make sense or isn’t the easiest way it could be done. In other places I found the instructions rather vague and it was frustrating to try and figure out what I was supposed to be doing.

Looking at the pictures, the heads on the critters seem perfectly round, but when you actually make them what you end up with is a more oblong, oval shape. Unlike typical amigurumi the increases aren’t done in a basic multiple either, such as starting with a round of 6, then increasing to 12, 18, 24, etc. Instead the increases are random and I find they actually make the head come out a bit lopsided.

I should also note that Haden makes most of the pieces in this book by slip stitching at the end of each round to join and then beginning the next round with a chain 1 and single crochet in the same space. I personally can’t see any reason why the critters couldn’t be done using the more common spiral rounds method that most people use for amigurumi and I found the joining and chaining tedious.

The photos in the book make it feel more like a coffee table book of crochet than a pattern book. I’m not sure who to blame here? The photographer? The publisher? Whoever it is seems more concerned with making an artistic photo than a useful photo that will help the stitcher understand what they’re supposed to be doing. There is one group shot of all the creatures and then each creature gets one large photo at the beginning of its pattern pages.

I would have liked to have seen more pictures from more angles. Especially for the Cthulhu it would have been nice to have a photo of the back so I could see exactly what the wings look like and how to place them.

More pictures or even hand drawn diagrams would have also helped in places where the instructions are hard to understand. For example, in the Corporate Zombie pattern it says “stitch one piece of hair fringe in a zigzag along side of head.” Having made this creature I still have no idea what that means and I ended up improvising. A picture probably could have made that clearer.

Haden includes instructions in both written form and charts and there are directions here for special stitches she uses in the book. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the magic ring outlined in an amigurumi book so points for that! However, I wouldn’t recommend this book for a beginner. I think it’s too complicated and it doesn’t provide instructions for basic stitches such as the single crochet or double crochet. It just assumes you already know that much.

This book would be suitable for an intermediate stitcher. To make these patterns you need to know your basic stitches and have the confidence to improvise when the instructions get confusing. Since it shows a wide variety of designs you can create from one basic body shape it’s probably a nice bridge for people who are ready to go from following other people’s patterns to making their own.

If you’re already an advanced amigurumi maker, and you can design your own head and body shape, then there probably isn’t much you can learn from Creepy Cute Crochet. To give the book a fair review I made my first two critters following the instructions in the book to the letter, but I know that in the future when I refer to it I’ll be improvising as I go; stitching in spiral rounds, changing the head shape slightly and making other alterations so that I can stitch the head and body all as one piece rather than sewing them together later.

Finally, I have to say that even though I have some quibbles about the book, Haden has come up with really awesome designs here. The book truly lives up to its name of creepy cuteness. Out of the 21 critter there are only about 5 here that don’t really appeal to me. I don’t know about you, but it’s not often that I pick up a pattern book and like more than 50 percent of the designs in it.

I’m curious what others think of this book. If you’ve bought it post a comment and let me know what you think.

My other Amigurumi book reviews:

Amigurumi Word. My thoughts...

Mr. Funky's Crochet Elephant

16 comments:

Mrs E said...

I have this book and I completely agree with you, I am still lost on her chthulhu, i have all of the pieces and then its says to "join " in the head holes and I am at a loss. Sigh. The designs are great though, I just some of them were a little bigger.
great review!

Celia Pleete said...

Holy moley, I think I'm in love with these little creatures. I remember in college I had some friends with a Beanie Baby octopus they called Cthulhu, but these are even cuter. A friend of mine came up with an idea of making a Lovecraft-themed mobile for another friend's little boy...I should send him this page.

Arix said...

I have to agree with your review as well. I just received the book as a gift and finally found some time to sit down and take a stab at the monkey. I made the body, then as soon as i started the basic head instructions i was like..."why are we not just doing a spiral, why these chains and slip stitches.?"

So I am already improvising because I want my guys to look cute even if that means tweaking the patterns a bit.

I am probably a beginner-intermediate crocheter and hope to make my own designs in the near future, but I am already pledging to make the best patterns to my ability so that anyone can make my designs :) Great Review

Anonymous said...

If you have trouble with the book then go to her website at NeedleNoodles.com. It shows you how to attach the hair in the Corporate Zombie(with pictures)and it helps you in many patterns like the Grim Reaper and the Cthulhu.Just go to the right side of her homepage and go under "Patterns" to "Patterns Help" and there you will find your solutions.

Brandi said...

I seem to have the same problem. The way the rounds are made seems unnecessarily difficult. I made the cleric and had to make three of these frustrating rounds. It seemed also, as I went to close the head that the holes were rather large, luckily most of the bottom was covered when I attached it. There are some things that I just didn't understand, weird phrasing I guess. Otherwise it's a fun book. I just think I'm going to use my own rounds from now on.

Number IV said...

I bought this book with the idea of crocheting an army for a friend's dorm room, as well as using it for inspiration to make his WoW character. I started with Cthulu, and had - shockingly - no trouble at all with the tentacles (though I made a modification to get the ends neater)! What's sad is that they were the clearest part of the pattern.

I am unsure why the author varies between sensible spiral rounds in the body and these screwy joined rounds in the head. It doesn't take much work to get the same stitch counts in spiral rounds, but every time I tried the pattern as written I always ended up with several stitches too many! Definitely using my own variations now, though I do keep the stitch count the same for the Cthulu head, so that the tentacle holes are in the right places.

I'll keep the book, but as inspiration. I love most of the designs, but I'm a bit surprised that some of the pattern write-up made it to publication. I consider myself an extremely competent crocheter, and I had loads of trouble with some of the write-up. It does not help that the final stitch counts for a round are given seemingly at random. A suggestion of yarn brand/fibre for each product would also be nice.

Overall a cute book, but not for those uncomfortable with taking a whole lot of liberties with a pattern.

Lupita said...

I had no problems with these little creatures. Yeah the hair and head was a bit weird to make but I just kept on following the pattern and it turned out better than I expected! It must've been a weird crochet miracle. Her website did help me understand better though!

Quaisior said...

I bought this book to make Christmas gifts and I'm finding it somewhat confusing. I'm new to crochet- just learned this year- but I've been knitting for several years now, which helps a lot with understanding crochet too. I ended up using the spiral for the heads too, but I'm kind of worried about Cthulu's head when I get to it tonight. I love the little creatures in this book though and they are also great inspiration for future projects.

Heather said...

My mom got this book for me back at the beginning of last summer. It was the first time I had ever attempted amigurumi, and after a few false starts I pumped out 5 Cthulhus to send to friends.

I have since altered the way the Cthulhu wings are formed, converted the head pattern into a spiral that comes out nicer and still proportionate, and also with Cthulhu I make the tentacles seperately and sew them on individually.

I especially love the way these little creatures come together using super bulky yarn and a size N hook (I use Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick or Hometown USA depending on the color I need). I've done Cthulhu and Ninja as the larger versions, and they're huggable and adorable.

The book definitely requires some improvisation in some places, but I am glad I stuck with it. It was an invaluable tool in getting me to love amigurumi.

PugLove888 said...

I picked up this book this past October because the creatures were so adorable! I had never made Amigurumis before, but I've crocheted for several years - mostly scarves and afgans.
That said, not knowing that most amigurumi patterns work in a spiral, I wasn't bothered with the slip stitch & chain method. However, I did wonder why she used one method for the head and the other for the body. ??? I just figured that it was puzzeling to me because I was a novice at Amigurumi! LOL

I realy didn't have a problem with the basic head and body patterns (they always worked out to the proper number of stitches for me) but I did use stitch markers to help.

So far I've just made the Skeleton Bride & Groom as well as the Grim Reaper. (I started out with the easier patterns). The directions on the hood to the Grim Reaper were confusing, but I kept at it and all of a sudden it just "clicked". However, not everyone will be so lucky. (I did notice that she mentioned further instructions and videos on her web site, but this was AFTER I figured out the hood for the Grim Reaper! LOL) So far I am really enjoying this book! In fact, it inspired me to create a few variations on my own ... a bat (I used the head and body patterns in the book and found a pattern that I liked for bat wings on the internet and made my own pattern for ears) and a snowman (again I used the head and body patterns, as well as the top hat pattern from the Skeleton Groom and added a scarf.)

Someone commented on how the author should have recommended yarn type for each creature. She did do that in general at the beginning of the book. She used Lion Brand's "Cotton Ease" yarn, and then for each creature she mentions the particular colors she used. The only difference is that for the little alien sitting in the cupcake pan she used Bernat's Bling yarn in Moulin Rouge color -- but I don't think they make it anymore as I cannot find it. :_(

All in all, I love this book and can't wait to make more of these creatures! Chthulhu was why I just HAD to buy the book in the first place!

Ashe Skyler said...

I bought it a while back strictly for the Cthulhu doll to make a gift for a now ex-boyfriend and later improvised on some of the patterns to make a little knight doll. (Complete with arms, feet, removable armour, and a sword!) Joining the heads was indeed a pain because I prefer to work in only one medium rather than cross crocheting with sewing.

The heads and body came out fairly round for me, but I squished it a good bit to make the shape right.

My mom had taught me the stitches when I was a kid but I'd never seen the written counterparts before, so I had fits with the abbreviations because I couldn't find a translation anywhere. So Cthulhu's wings had a couple of... interesting variations through the experiments.

Jenny said...

I totally agree. I have the book and I find some of the patterns confusing as well. I also improvise and chance the patterns up. Your Cthulhu is so cute. I love the tentacles and the wings. The fact that you show the different angles is a blessing. Happy crocheting :) <3
Jenny

Suzanne Kosek said...

New to your blog. Love it! I bought the book also when it first came out. But, after reading through the directions, I put the book aside and haven't crocheted any of them. I was put off by the stitch diagrams as well as the separate head/body pieces.

Laura K. Curtis said...

You were very diplomatic in your review. I'd be harsher. I really wouldn't recommend anyone spend the money on this book -- you can get much better patterns by buying individual patterns online or even getting the free ones (like your Chtulhu, which is adorable and SO MUCH CLEARER than hers).

That said, if someone is dedicated to making her designs, and they can't figure it out, she does maintain a blog with tips and videos of how she's doing things at http://needlenoodles.com/home/node/151 and that helped me a lot with the tentacles.

bo crystal said...

hey I have Creepy Crochet and need help reading the pattern for Nesfaratu. I can't understand the pattern for his hood: the diagram they use on pg. 58 is confusing to me. Please can someone help me to figure out this hood so I can finish it?
I made 2 Cthulus and had to tweak the pattern to attach the head and body.

bo crystal said...

*I meant the grim reaper, on pg. 58oops.