Made by Hand by Lena Corwin, photographs by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, pub. STC Craft, 2013.
For crafters (or would-be crafters) seeking to branch out from their usual medium, this book contains a treasure trove of projects. Most of them are simple, many of them are charming, and all are laid out clearly with carefully worded instructions.
The projects included cover rotary printing, screen printing, machine sewing, hand sewing, knitting, crochet, tea dyeing, tie-dyeing, batik, marbling, appliqué, soap making, fabric painting, rag rugs (crocheted and braided), embroidery, fabric origami, brass and silk jewelry making, beading, candle making, weaving, stuffed toy making, and basketry coiling. That's a lot to pack into one book, but Corwin does a fabulous job orchestrating and unifying them.
These adorable children's leggings are hand painted. The project's intro describes how the designer, Caitlin Mociun, sewed the original adult version. Lena suggests using premade leggings, and even recommends fabric content. The instructions describe how to make leg inserts to keep the fabric taut and prevent bleed-through, how to make guide-lines with water-soluble ink before painting, and how to practice strokes on an old T-shirt. Then come the instructions for painting the leggings and drying the paint, along with tips for washing out some of the pigment if the color is too bright or saturated.
Fabric origami is a thrilling idea and full of possibilities. I am inspired to try not only these butterflies, but several other origami creatures. These instructions begin with recommendations for the size of your work space and continue with tips on how to obtain a perfect square. Starting with a light coat of spray starch, ironing each fold, and finishing the butterfly with a few stitches with needle and thread, the steps are clearly laid out with accompanying photographs.
When I dyed curtains for my study, I signed up for the Dharma Trading Company mailing list. Their variety of silk scarves and other items as well as colors of fabric paint is eye-boggling. To make a marbled handkerchief like the one at left, the steps are simple (though an extra pair of hands is helpful for larger scarves). This would make a wonderful party project for adults or teenagers.
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.
75 Floral Blocks to Knit by Lesley Stanfield, photos by Philip Wilkins and Nicki Dowey, pub. St. Martin's Griffin, 2013.
This collection of squares, hexagons, octagons, and botanical shapes uses many inventive techniques to fashion flower and leaf modules for use in such projects from blankets and bags to birdcage covers and greeting cards.
Disclosure: Kangath received a review copy of this book. No other compensation was provided. The opinions expressed in all Kangath's reviews are her own.
I'm excited to tackle a large-scale crochet project and can hardly wait to start!
Disclosure: Martingale & Company sent Kangath a free copy of Amigurumi at Home 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 Ana Paula Rimoli.
The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers: A Guide to Making Unbelievably Realistic Paper Blooms by Livia Cetti, photographs by Addie Juell, pub. Stewart, Tabori and Chang (STC Craft), 2014.
When I was trying to review this book, my daughter kept stealing it away every time I put it down. Now she's pestering me to take her to buy supplies to make flowers.
They're mostly inexpensive (like tissue paper and floral tape) and tools we can use for other crafts (like a glue gun and fringing shears), so I don't mind. Besides, I love these flowers as much as she does!
Livia's calm, supportive tone carries from the introduction through the instructions as she explains how to create each bloom. For the delicate muscari, tissue paper is wrapped around a pencil to form the blossoms. Other flowers have pointed or shaggy petals. The Matilija poppy (below, center photo) is over a foot in diameter.
I don't have room to feature all the lovely creations here. The book's image gallery has a few more, but still no orchids or lilies, cactus flowers or foxgloves, fritillaria or filler fluff. There are instructions for all these in the book, using surprisingly simple techniques.
Part 1 covers the basics of flower making: tools, materials, and techniques. After an overview of paper types and an explanation of grain, this section includes photo tutorials of techniques such as dip-dyeing, tie-dyeing, painting, and taping.
Part 2 gives step-by-step instructions for making 26 different flowers, and Part 3 contains 18 project ideas for mobiles, head wreaths, cake decorations, and other arrangements to wear or display. Throughout, Livia directs us toward achieving a natural look, which usually coincides with the least fussy method.
Addie Juell's photography is perfect. Using backdrops of paper (what else?), she captures the essence of each individual species. The projects are mostly easy, but some require practice and others require stamina. This gorgeous book is a wonderful resource for anyone who likes to smarten gifts, cakes, houses, hair, or life in general with pretty little touches.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of this book for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are solely the blog author's.
Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard, photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy, pub. Stewart, Tabori and Chang (STC Craft), 2014.
I love stitch dictionaries. I read them like novels. My husband often looks up after I sigh, gasp, or even giggle, wondering what I'm reading.
I lift my chin, trying not to look embarrassed, and reveal my weakness---yes, I am reading an encyclopedic list of stitch patterns. And I don't just look at the beautiful swatch photos, I read the pattern to discover what tricks are employed in the lace, the cable, the ruffle, the pleat.
But the swatch photos are indeed beautiful. Stitches stand out, lace patterns are clearly visible, texture is true. I had the good fortune to see a digital copy of a late draft of this book and witness the superior care that went into its editing---comments calling for increased detail in a photo or correction of a swatch's shadow placement were not uncommon. This is an example of the kind of attention that makes STC Craft books outshine others in their category.
What makes this dictionary special is that each stitch pattern comes with multiple sets of instructions. Directions are given for knitting flat and in the round, and patterns that are asymmetrical along the horizontal axis have directions for knitting top-down and bottom-up. Each pattern is presented with an accompanying swatch photo and, if applicable, a chart or charts. The format is extremely readable and it's easy to associate the photo with the instructions.
Although this is a stitch dictionary, we are treated to one complete design in each chapter plus an entire section of the appendix on designing from scratch.
Garments are given in a generous range of sizes, but the hat and sock patterns do not include sizes I could wear. That's okay, since I can easily substitute stitch patterns that will result in sizes to fit my big head and small feet. If I run into any trouble with this, the appendix will help.
The swatches are color coded in tonal families, delineating each chapter without making them look monotonous. The chapters are knits and purls; ribs; textured, slipped, and fancy stitches; yarnovers and eyelets; cables; lace; color work; hems and edgings; and projects.
Little things, like the charting symbols that decorate the spine and the page footers, help make this book exceptional. The coated spiral binding allows the open book to lie flat without presenting a danger to knitting fingers.
Books such as the Barbara Walker Treasuries contain hundreds more patterns but often have ancient black and white photos. Up, Down, All-Around is a wonderful supplement to these, enabling us to not only work the patterns in different directions, but (with a little imagination) to mentally enhance the dated photos.
I recommend this dictionary for folks interested in the mechanics of transformation as well as knitters looking to personalize (or improvise!) a garment or accessory.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of this book for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are solely the blog author's.
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.
Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Stephannie Tallent, photographs by Nick Murway, pub. Cooperative Press, 2013.
This book contains 29 knitting patterns by 27 designers. Mostly shawls and sweaters, with a handful of glove and mitt patterns and a few sock and hat patterns, the designs are inspired by the fashions of the various time periods as well as the graphics of Saul Bass.
Despite the inclusion of several strong designs, Hitch disappointed me: the book design, the photos, and the supplementary text.
I wanted the cover to be more reminiscent of Saul Bass---perhaps arranging the circle insets differently or substituting a solid color background for the trees would help. I love the strips of film which show up behind the table of contents, but putting them behind the italicized pattern intros makes the text difficult to read.
The photos are uneven. This is perhaps my biggest problem with the book. Some of them hit the mark: the model poses in a way that seems to be lifted from Hitchcock films, while details of the knitted item are clearly visible. But in many of these photos, the background is too close to the model or otherwise distractingly present, and the image quality leaves something to be desired. In the least ideal photos, important design features (such as the lace pattern of the Miss Fremont Shawl) become nearly invisible due to poor styling and/or lighting.
A couple of the projects and even one of the dresses donated by Deering Vintage are wrinkled. This amateur mistake is easy to avoid. The project photos set the tone of any pattern book, but inadequate photos are particularly disappointing in a book inspired by film.
Hitch is a pattern book, after all (although many of my favorite pattern books can double as coffee table books), so I'll discuss individual designs.
Dani Berg's Alicia Tam and Mitts, shown in one of the most successful project photos at right, make a lovely set. Stephannie Tallent's Exacta Hat is a clever, customizable take on Rear Window. All the hat and hand covering patterns in the book are sized for two or three sizes, which is excellent.
I had a tough time deciding whether to feature Stefanie Pollmeier's fetching Rio Gloves with their slip stitch ridges or Katherine Vaughan's Stella Gloves, (below right)---I admire both designs. The Stellas have a visually irritating jog on the palm, but the stitch pattern and the buttons are cute as can be, and there wasn't a photo I liked of the Rios.
The sweaters are all generously sized---many in seven or eight sizes, with a span of 27.75" - 60.25". But I had a hard time finding one I wanted to feature. Three Second Kiss features a Bohus-inspired color work band which to my eye just looks messy. Cypress Point and Greenwich Village don't fit the model well (look at Linda's photos on the pattern page for contrast) and the Eleven Hundred Dollars sweater is not shown at the most flattering angles.
Brenda Castiel's Riviera Nights Stole is lovely and simple, though I think more care might have been taken to avoid that weird bump at the bottom between the two halves of the shawl. I looked at the pattern but I can't tell what causes it exactly. It looks bigger than the one row of Color A called for.
Still, this piece deserved much better photography!
I loved the "Wear it like Grace Kelly" scarf-tying tutorial, and I wanted more of that kind of thing throughout the book. A filmography listing the ten films referenced in the book is the only other added attraction. I was sad. I wanted more. Nobody knits all the designs in a book, so we rely on these little tidbits to sustain us.
Barring that, the patterns could have been organized so as to tell a story. For instance, the Madeleine Gloves and the Judy Henley might have been placed next to each other. And the text for the Annie Pullover contains a shameless spoiler for The Birds. If we've seen the film the spoiler doesn't add anything, and if we haven't, well, it ruins part of the suspense.
Stephannie's Thornhill Cowl (right) is my absolute favorite piece in the book. There were several good designs besides the ones I named in this review, and the charts and generously sized schematics are all clearly done. But the photography was a low point, and the lack of supplementary material about Hitchcock and his films disappointed me.
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Hitch free 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 Cooperative Press or the designers.
The giveaway is now closed. Enjoy the review!
When Mari Chiba asked me to be a part of the blog tour for this collection, I said yes right away. This warm- and transitional-weather collection has 11 designs, all with delicate knitterly touches.
My favorite design in this collection is Ballson by Mari Chiba. The deep square neckline has just the right amount of cling and just the right amount of lace. The shaping is worked a little way in from the sides for an even more flattering look.
The short sleeves make this a sweater I could wear year-round down here in Louisiana, if it were small enough. The smallest size is 33" chest, and although there is no ease specification I think to fit me well I would need a 28 or 30. Not many of the pieces in this collection are that small (sizes for the entire collection are on Ravelry), but I'm not afraid of a little arithmetic and Ballson doesn't look too hard to size down.
As with many of the tops in this breezy collection, care should be taken when choosing foundation garments. In some photos, the model's camisole shows, which means bra straps could be visible sometimes.
Another great design is Anne Podlesak's Camulet. I'm a big fan of Anne's aesthetic, and this henly doesn't disappoint. Many of the pieces in this collection have the same name as cities, but I wasn't able to find Ballson or Camulet. Or Blaeberry, a sweet stole by lace goddess Susanna IC (in slightly different versions) for fingering or lace weight yarn.
The other shawl in this collection is Sheyenne, a deep crescent inspired by the ferns of Southern California. Designed by Laura Patterson of Fiber Dreams, the pattern requires simple chart reading and sock-heel short-rows: a fun piece for timid knitters to expand their horizons while keeping it interesting for the more adventurous of us.
Another wonderful top is Karen Marlatt's Selway. This lace piece requires only minimal finishing. This collection also includes two tank tops and a cardigan, as well as the designs pictured below.
These patterns are presented in clear two-column format with great schematics. A feature I particularly like is the inclusion of the yarn label information on the pattern itself.
Caro Sheridan's photography represents this fun and relaxed collection well, and the flowers are an appropriate springtime touch.
And now, the giveaway: I'll send one ball of Louet Gems Sport---enough for the contrast trim of Ballson---to one commenter chosen at random on February 15. Simply say which design from this collection is your favorite, and why. Check back to see who the winner is---if nobody's claimed the prize by February 22, I'll choose an alternate. Good luck!
Universal Yarn just came out with this lovely collection of idiosyncratic wraps, Contrarian Shawls.
Amy Gunderson's cover shawl, Southwest Suns, is crocheted in a yarn I have yet to sample: Good Earth. Besides sharing a name with the Minnesota restaurant where I first had dinner with my now-husband, this yarn attracts me for another reason. I have liked everything else in the Fibra Natura line, and I admire their tendency toward natural, organic fibers (although I notice the organic yarns have been discontinued).
This shawl is contrarian because of its construction: the motifs are worked first, then the border around them, then the shawl body upward, decreasing to form a semicircle. Also the pale stripes are not equally spaced throughout the semicircle, but perfectly balance the motifs at the lower edge.
Holly Priestly's contribution to the booklet is the rollicking Sailor Stripe, with which she claims to have engaged in a few arm-wrestling matches (as if the skipper was proving its contrarianism).
The red triangle is worked first, with a rippling lace detail. Stitches are then picked up along one side of it and worked on the bias with red stripes for flair.
I love this piece. It has an interesting construction and a fun, effortless look.
The last shawl I'd like to showcase is the Forest Floor Stole. I don't normally feature my own designs in my reviews, but this one is special. It works up quickly in dreamy Llamalini and it's extremely enjoyable to watch the leaves pile up. The swinging shape of the heap of leaves is the perfect foil to the plain stockinette end, which you can make as short or as long as you like. I love the way it knits, the way it looks, and the way it wears.
There are eight other designs in this collection, each with its own little quirks. Much as I would like to spotlight them, I need the space to talk about the patterns themselves. Lovingly tech edited by Amy Gunderson, they are in an easily readable three-column format with both charts and written instructions provided for lace patterns.
Shane Baskin of Blackbox Studios contributes her usual proficient photography, with both wrapped and extended images of each shawl modeled by Emma Claris in attractive, natural poses.
This is a unique collection and I'm pleased to be a part of it. Buy the individual patterns or the entire eBook from the Universal Yarn website, Craftsy, or Ravelry.
Doomsday Knits: Projects for the Apocalypse and After edited by Alex Tinsley, photographs by Vivian Aubrey, pub. Cooperative Press, 2014.
The year is 3015… The polar ice caps have melted and the deserts expanded, leaving the Earth a seared, crusty Hell. Meanwhile, nuclear fallout has blocked out the sun, plunging the world into a new ice age (yes, at the same time.) The question on your mind?
“What should I knit?!”
Don't be alarmed! With chapters such as Global Warming, Nuclear Winter, Kill All Humans (You just HAD to have the newest iPhone.), Miscellaneous Mayhem, and Rising from the Ashes, this book provides knitting patterns for every scenario plus recovery.
Doomsday Knits begins with an "Identify Your Apocalypse" flow chart drawn by Lee DeVito. Starting with a question about the weather and ending (no pun intended) with such catastrophes as Famine, Bio-engineering Disaster, and Twilight Apocalypse (Grab all the quality literature you can carry and run.), it provides a foolproof method for labeling the particular calamity you have experienced (including the possibility that you're just out of Girl Scout cookies).
The designs, from Amy Manning's baby blanket to Alex Tinsley's dread falls, all contain clever little details to separate you from the zombies.
Sharon Fuller's Fennec (below) is a burnoose with a long tail that goes over the shoulder to help keep the garment on. Bulletproof (left), by Alexandra Virgiel, features zippers with unusual placement and a "don't-tread-on-me" vibe.
Grom-mitts are Brenda K. B. Anderson's apocalyptic answer to fancy jewelry. And Lunar Progression is the way Theressa Silver plans to keep track of time.
Garments are written in a generous number of sizes (most fit 28 - 62" busts) with measurements given in both inches and centimeters. Suggested ease is provided for most wearables.
Four of the mitt/mitten designs and all three hat designs (grr!) come in a single size, but most claim to be stretchy. And SpillyJane's Circuit Mittens would be pretty darn difficult to size, given their allover stranded color work of chakra symbols within and Egyptian-style cartouche surrounded by a circuit board.
Two of the mitt patterns and one sock pattern are written in two sizes, and there are four sizes each for Sarah Burghardt's Rattlebone Mitts and Katherine Vaughan's Long Road Ahead socks.
The patterns themselves are very readable, in three columns with adequate white space, and only headers in the character font (still legible).
And if that's not enough, the book is aerated with lists of recommended reading, viewing, listening, and gaming---and tips for fighting creatures known to populate the end times. The designer bios are worth a closer look, too.
I prescribe this book for anyone who thinks the world may have ended (the introductory flow chart alone will be worth the price of the book), for knitters or designers who may or may not need rejuvenation (some of the techniques in this book are pretty inspiring), and for people who just like pretty pictures of disaster-ridden lands, blank spaces, and brick shelters.
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Doomsday Knits free 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 Cooperative Press or the designers.
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