Cozy Toes for Baby by Chantal Garceau and Mary J. King, photography by Brent Kane, pub. Martingale, 2014.
This book features 7 patterns for the most darling felted baby booties imaginable, plus a basic pattern without decoration. The shoes are crocheted, felted, and fitted with leather soles. They come in 5 sizes, from newborn (4") to 24 months (5 3/4").
Proceeds from the sale of this book benefit the Imani Project, aiding Kenyan children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Chantal also has a business, Chantal's Little Shoes. The company sells shoes from the book in addition to other shoes (my favorite is the Berry Delicious which looks like a strawberry with a little blossom on top) and custom-designed shoes for businesses.
First, Chantal provides a little introduction explaining the genesis of the book and a call to all crafters and artists to make an impact on the world.
Then she rolls up her sleeves and plunges into the materials needed to make the shoes. She covers yarn, trim, and satin ribbon, but my favorite tips come from the section on leather.
All the shoes feature leather soles. I made a pair for a newborn and simply left the soles off. There are stickers and paint you can use to make the slippers grip the floor without leather. But leather (and as a vegetarian I hate to admit this) is really the best option for little foot bottoms.
Chantal recommends recycling leather, whether from one of your own garments or handbags or from a thrift store find. She even gives hints as to where to look in the thrift store and other ways to find just enough sole for one pair.
"Tools and Supplies" is just what it sounds like, but contains references to other parts of the book as well as lists of necessities.
Then comes the Basic Shoe Pattern. It's lovely that this section starts with the Gauge Swatch. Details are provided for crocheting and measuring, and adjusting hook size if the swatch doesn't measure up.
Throughout the Basic Shoe Pattern there are sidebars with hints for how to work the beginnings of rows and how to tell which side is the right side. These valuable tips are sprinkled throughout the book with more advanced techniques. There's even a chart in color showing the shape of each shoe before felting. Photos of each step give crafters a sense of security.
The sections at the end of the book, "Felting" and "Soles" are just as well thought out and generously supported by photos.
The photography is capable, but without real babies it's hard to know how the shoes would fit. A photo of an actual baby modeling the Silly Monkey Shoes is on page 45. I wasn't confident that the newborn I was shoeing would have equally fat ankles, so I added a cuff in machine-washable sock yarn.
The patterns are well written. There is, however, no assistance in what to do with the main color when working the contrasting color faces (such as in Ollie Owl and the Ladybugs). Are we expected to use separate yarn bundles? Cut the yarn in between? Strand across the back? In a book where everything else is made clear, that really stands out.
Each shoe has a special touch that makes it different from the others---seeds and a precious cuff on Fresh Watermelon, clever yet simple eyeballs on Froggy, and Ollie Owl's virtuosic face mask.
Chantal even includes a gift card to print or photocopy which details wearing and washing instructions.
But the best part, to me, is the fact that the proceeds are donated to the Imani Project. What a worthwhile way to use enterprise and creativity!
These projects are wonderful for the budding crocheter because felting hides uneven stitches. Chantal also offers individual kits in her shop---and none of the kit patterns are duplicated in the book. Please support her work!
Disclosure: The publisher sent Kangath a review copy of this book. Kangath was not otherwise compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are her own.
Bathtime Buddies by Megan Kreiner, photographs by Brent Kane, pub. Martingale, 2014.
When a well thought out book crosses my desk, my approval becomes increasingly audible with as I encounter each new feature.
By the end of this book, I was shouting and clapping my hands.
Okay, the projects in this book are beyond adorable. DreamWorks artist and animator Kreiner has designed bath toys which are soft and safe, appealing and useful. But there's more.
The "Tools and Materials" chapter says it's for readers just getting started in crochet, but since its content is from a bath toy perspective, it's good for even experienced crocheters.
Kreiner covers appropriate fibers both for the tub and dry land, considering issues such as cleaning and expense as well as organic content. Most of the toys in the book are made with 125 yards or less of worsted weight yarn.
She gives no gauge specifications since there is quite a variance in thickness between individual worsted weight yarns. She does however give instructions for adjusting hook size and the templates (for fabric pieces to sew on to the toys for bellies, etc.) if your toy ends up to be a significantly different size than hers.
The important thing is to keep the stitches tight enough so the stuffing doesn't peep through.
Speaking of stuffing, Kreiner outlines several options, including inserting rattles, squeakers, and bells into the (non-bath) toys.
The "Finishing Touches" chapter covers, among other things, tips for ensuring each creature's eyes and body parts are in the right spot, several methods for template use (one of which involves Glad Press'n Seal), and a neat trick for double-threading a needle which leaves nothing to knot or fasten off at the beginning.
The last section before the projects is "Caring for Your Toys," which covers washing, sanitizing, and drying your captivating creations.
The projects are small to medium sized---about 1 - 4" by 3 - 10". Three illustrators (including Kreiner) contribute to the crochet and embroidery sections at the beginning of the book and to the patterns here.
I heartily appreciate Kreiner's clear instructions and helpful illustrations for assembly, as well as Kane's thoughtful photography of every angle of every project (the underbelly of the jellyfish is pictured on page 34). She explains in detail how to make adjustments which may seem minor yet make a great difference to the finished toy.
The projects are systematically ordered from Beginner to Intermediate level, making it easy to work within your comfort level. Each is introduced with an interesting fact about the animal or a cute way to customize your project---sometimes both.
I won't spoil the entire book for you, but I will reveal a few of the ways to make your project individual. The guppies (see cover) come with mix-and-match fins and tail, resulting in over 150 combinations.
The manatee (which is suspected to have prompted the first tales of mermaids) can be decked out with long flowing hair and a seashell bra.
The angler fish has a lure dangling in front of its mouth (guess why). In real life the tip of the lure glows from bioluminescent bacteria. Kreiner suggests installing an LED in the lure to make a cool reading light.
Bathtime Buddies is a wonder-filled book. I highly recommend it!
Disclosure: Kangath received a review copy of this book from the publisher. No other compensation was provided. The opinions expressed in all Kangath's reviews are her own.
Cast On, Bind Off by Cap Sease, photographs by Brent Kane, pub. Martingale & Company, 2012.
This useful and inspiring book, now available in paperback, is destined to become a frequent reference in my library. I usually stick with the basic long-tail cast on or a provisional cast on, but there are a couple others, like the German Twisted and Judy's Magic, that I use on special occasions. The standard bind off and Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy bind off are pretty much the only ones I have tried, not counting the occasional edging, picot, or sewn methods.
I guess when I list them all it looks like quite a variety---but it's nothing compared to the 211 ways Cap lists in her book. (There is another book by the same name which lists 54 ways. I have yet to review that book.)
Laurel Strand and Robin Strobel have done a fine job of drawing each procedure in a way that can be easily seen and understood. Brent Kane's photography shows every detail. And Cap herself outlines each step in clear prose.
I learned the cast on at left as the Italian Tubular cast on. That alias is not given in the book, but Cap gives alternate names when she knows them (which is often). Many times different procedures are known by the same name. Cap eases this problem by referring to a procedure by the name most frequently used for it (according to her research) and listing its pseudonyms afterward in italics.
The procedures are outlined in steps with two columns on each page. Sometimes more than one procedure is given on a page. When the second procedure starts at the bottom of a page it can be a little disorienting. But on the whole it doesn't bother me.
Also, each type of procedure (long-tail cast on, decorative bind off, etc.) is shown in its own yarn color, making it easier to find something that caught your eye when casually flipping through the book.
Cap includes an extremely useful table near the front of the book which gives important traits of cast ons and bind offs (such as durability and elasticity) and then lists the names (and page numbers) of procedures which have those traits. Another table associates look-alike cast ons and bind offs to create matching edges.
I can't wait to try some of the procedures in this book, which I strongly recommend for both designers and sample knitters for publication. But any knitter would benefit from the range of techniques---many of them simple---given in this volume.
Disclosure: Martingale & Company sent Kangath a free copy of Cast On, Bind Off for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Martingale & Company or Cap Sease.
The Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger, photographs by Brent Kane, pub. Martingale & Company, 2011.
This book contains patterns for 20 monsters, many of whom appear on the cover. I think the ones that didn't make it to the cover were at one of Tony's toy box parties, but I'm not sure.
Any of these designs would be perfect for a beginning knitter. There are no slick tricks like short rows---all shaping is done with the simplest of increases (knitting into the front and back of a stitch) and decreases (knitting two stitches together), plus some expert stuffing (which Danger explains in detail).
The stories (only a sentence or two long) that accompany the designs are charming and provide hints to each monster's personality. These hints, should you choose to accept them, aid in feature placement and monster placement (since each monster has its own room preferences).
The patterns are presented in a very readable format, with clear and creative photos of the creatures they will create.
The monsters above have legs worked as part of their bodies (instead of sewn on afterwards) and the ones at right have pockets to hold their children in. Other monsters have spots on their backs or around one eye, compelling ear shapes, knots on the tops of their heads, or mouths delineated by picked up stitches.
Yarns used are widely available, and substitutions are actually encouraged. Most monsters are knit multiple times to show variations in yarn weight and type.
Harold has toes, which really attracts me to him. Demonstration photos are given each time a new skill is required---not just for the first monster it's used on. Danger understands that knitters don't tend to knit the patterns in the presented sequence, and the photos don't take up too much space. Harold's demo photos include the lineup of toes ready to be joined into a foot, picking up stitches, and releasing stitches from waste yarn to knit the leg upward. See why I find him so alluring?
This is a charming book, and I look forward to reviewing the sequel!
Disclosure: Martingale & Company sent Kangath a free copy of The Big Book of Knitted Monsters for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Martingale & Company or Rebecca Danger.
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