This week I had the opportunity to review a brand new book called Crochet Tops: 26 Simple Patterns for First-Time Sweaters, Shrugs, Ponchos & More by Salena Baca. Not only did I have an opportunity to review the title, I got a chance to interview the author so we can learn more about her and her new book. Salena has also given us a copy of Crochet Tops to give away to one lucky winner so keep reading to learn how to enter to win a copy for yourself.
This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review.
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Ashley: When and how did you learn to crochet?
Salena: I learned in kindergarten when I was about 5 years old. I attended a Waldorf style school and crochet was part of the curriculum. We all learned by making props for our first school play (goat horns, for the Three Billy Goats Gruff).
Ashley: How many other books have you written to date?
Salena: I’m currently working on my 8th book! 6 are currently available or on pre-order, and the other 2 should be out in 2022. You can view them all (including individual patterns) on ravelry, here: https://ravel.me/4f7rdf
Ashley: Where did your inspiration for this book come from?
Salena: From my own desire to learn how to crochet clothes. As a crocheter, this meant I had to have a better understanding of yarn, fabric, tension, drape, style, fit, stitches, and techniques. As my crochet clothing style developed, so did my crochet skills. And so, the idea to compile a skill-building crochet book featuring clothes seemed like a great resource to make and share.
Ashley: How long does it take to complete a book like this?
Salena: Every book is different, but the range is typically 18-30 months. My portion (from conception through project production) takes about 12 months. Post production (editing, proofing, layout), takes about 8 months.
Ashley: What’s your favourite design in the book and why?
Salena: That’s really hard to say! But, the ones I’ve continued to wear are the Tweed Sweater (it’s comfortable, and flattering), Hock Poncho (the yarn is gorgeous and I always get compliments), Sprightly Vest (it’s so fashionable, and easy to wear in the summer).
Ashley: What is the process like when you design a pattern?
Salena: When I design clothing, I always start with a style concept that I want to add to my wardrobe. I might get inspired by a new style from a magazine or clothing store, and think about how I can create something similar in crochet. Fit and style are important, because the fabric you’re creating is with those in mind (that’s where an understanding of yarn, gauge and drape come in). Pairing a yarn and stitch pattern together is crucial, and many times I have to try a few yarn types before I get the right match for a design. Next, I create samples in my own size, so that I can get a feel for how they work, and decide what the size range can be (not everything translates to smaller or larger sizes). When I’m finally ready to write instructions, I find spreadsheets are helpful with grading and double-checking my equations. Designing clothes, especially in various sizes, is a complex job!
Ashley: How would you say your crochet or designing has changed since you first began writing/design crochet books?
Salena: I’m far more technical now that I was before my first book! Design work takes creativity, but the real artistry, for me, is in seeing crochet patterns like math equations. This not only helps my process, but it gives me a sense of accuracy and precision that I find very satisfying. I’ve never seen myself as a designer, and I actually shy away from that term in this industry; I’m a technical writer!
Ashley: What do you hope the biggest take away for makers will be from your book?
Salena: I hope this book helps to provide a skill-building in crochet, and empowers more crocheters to make things that they love wearing.
Ashley: Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?
Salena: Yes! I teach at the American Crochet Association, and one of my favorite courses is about pattern writing, here: https://www.americancrochetassociation.com/p/crochet-pattern-writing
My goal is to help crocheters to help themselves, so that crochet can be passed through the generations in better hands than we found it.
Crochet Tops Review
As the title of Crochet Tops suggests, this book contains 26 patterns for crochet tops. The book is laid out in a way that the tops work in progressive difficulty levels, building on skills used in earlier top patterns. The beginning of the book discusses this fact and walks through swatching, matching gauge, blocking and yarn substitutions. I think it’s great that a section on yarn substitution is included as this is something that can be confusing for makers and getting the substitution right in a crochet garment can make or break your project. The tops are created using basic shapes and stitches and work into different techniques like motifs and more involved stitch patterns and added panels.
The garments in Crochet Tops are pretty and offer a variety of styles. There are sleeveless tops, cardigans, vests, tees, sweaters and lots of ponchos. In fact, 8 of the 26 patterns in Crochet Tops are ponchos. All the yarns in the book are available from most big-box stores that sell yarn or online so I like that fact as I think it makes the book more accessible than others that use specialty/hard to find yarns.
The sizes included in the book vary from small to XXL. One thing that I thought was missing from this book that would have really taken it to the next level is a section on sizing, measuring your body and selecting the appropriate size for you. If you’re spending the time making yourself a garment, you want to make sure that the hours spent doing so, are going to yeild results that you’re happy with. Some of the patterns include bust sizes, while others include just panel sizes. Missing this component could cause some confusion for first time garment makers that may think that the sizes provided in the book will be the same as their standard retail sizing and/or, don’t know how to measure themselves properly to ensure you’re making the correct size. I did this with my very first garment I ever made. I made a garment in a 2XL and it ended up being HUGE. I didn’t have a proper bust measurement to compare against the pattern and after spending hours making it, I was disappointed. Not understanding ease and the difference between your bust measurement and the finished bust measurement could also cause some frustration with a first time garment. If the top you’re making is meant to be oversized and flowy but you pick a size with a finished bust measurement that matches your actual bust measurement, you’re not going to get the intended fit. So if you’re checking out this book and this is your first garment make sure you really pay attention to the sizing provided in the book, specifically those finished measurements that are provided to ensure you’re picking the right size for yourself. If you want to learn more about ease and measuring yourself, check out this guide from the Craft Yarn Council.
The patterns in the book are clear and easy to understand. The resource section in the back of the book covers abbreviations and written instructions for stitches but lacks images to support the stitches. There is also a section that provides sources for online learning and direct support from the designer. This is so nice to see in a book. I get a lot of requests from readers for pattern support on books I’ve reviewed and sometimes tracking down the authors to assist readers can be troublesome since some don’t have social media profiles or contact information that’s easily located. I think providing that to readers right in the book is really great and shows that even if you find something tricky, the author is ready and willing to support you even after your purchase.
I think this book is best suited to experienced crocheters that are looking to either start their first garment or is looking for a collection of crochet tops to reference in order to build their own handmade wardrobe.
If you’re interested in checking out Crochet Tops: 26 Simple Patterns for First-Time Sweaters, Shrugs, Ponchos & More by Salena Baca you can purchase copies HERE.
If you enjoy crochet pattern books, you can check out some more of my crochet book reviews on my blog:
- Farmhouse Mug Mats Review
- The Ultimate Granny Square Sourcebook Review
- Mini Amigurumi Animals by Sarah Abbondio
- Stylish Succulents to Crochet by Sarah Abbondio
- Crochet Iconic Women Book Review
- You can find all my crochet book reviews HERE.
Crochet Tops Book Giveaway
Thanks to the author, we’re giving away a copy of the Crochet Tops: 26 Simple Patterns for First-Time Sweaters, Shrugs, Ponchos & More by Salena Baca. to giveaway to one lucky winner!
This pattern giveaway on The Loopy Lamb is open to U.S. participants only(except where void by law) and ends Friday, March 19th, 2021 at 11:45pm Eastern Standard time.
To enter, use the King Sumo form below. If you are on mobile and have difficulty entering, please use a desktop computer to enter. Only the Email option is mandatory – all other tasks are optional, for bonus entries only. Please note that by entering your email below, you are subscribing to The Loopy Lamb email list. We will not send you spam, just notifications about new free crochet patterns, news and giveaways.