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.
75 Birds, Butterflies, & little beasts to knit and crochet by Lesley Stanfield, pub. St. Martin's Griffin, 2011.
This charming book is mainly a pattern book, with some tips at the beginning and project ideas at the back. The tips are wise but simply put, and the project ideas are clever and adorable. But the heart of the book is the varied collection of animals and their habitats.
The knit patterns are separated from the crochet pieces. Many of the crochet patterns are accompanied by delightful charts. I have not worked much in crochet, but I chose a simple pattern and had no problem working it from the chart. I'm looking forward to the more challenging pieces!
The assorted creatures are arranged in tableaux by category (Spring Things, Hedgerow Flowers, Leaf Fall, Bugs and Beasties, Butterflies, Rock Pool, Fruit Bowl, Vegetable Basket, Woodland Walk, and Midwinter) and include some very creative choices.
Diagrams are offered for precise direction as to leg or wing placement, and templates are given when necessary. Stanfield addresses all the details before we think to ask.
I recommend this book for anyone in need of a quick project, anyone who wants to hone embellishing skills, anyone in need of a cute fix, or anyone who has been saying for ages that she (me) should learn to crochet. Need I say more?
Disclosure: St. Martin's Griffin sent Kangath a free copy of 75 Birds, Butterflies, & little beasts to knit and crochet 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 Lesley Stanfield or St. Martin's Griffin.
10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza, pub. St. Martin's Griffin, 2012.
This book is not solely a pattern book or an anecdote book or a fiction book or a technique book or a biography, but it is an entertaining mix of all these things.
Each chapter bears the name of one of the 10 Secrets, and begins with an exploration of that gem of wisdom. This means providing a list of "must-have" books, delving into various types of fibers and their characteristics, telling a fable, or (most frequently) profiling a fellow knitter.
The profiles are one-page bios with photos, more laidback human interest stories than cutting edge investigations of methods or approaches. (If you're interested in the latter, I highly recommend Knitting in America.) There are also author commentaries and brief dialogues sprinkled throughout.
And sidebars! The number of irrelevant sidebars was astounding (not to mention distracting) and reminds me of my children's textbooks. St. Martin's Griffin happens to be under the Macmillan umbrella, so this may not be a coincidence.
The quality of the information is magazine-like, just enough information to help you decide whether you really want to dive headlong into the topic. The knitting tips are mostly sound, and more are included in the patterns.
Speaking of the patterns, the Peasant Bread Tunic at left is a simple and charming design, rated at a "dining chair" level to show it requires concentration. The Solvang Weekend Vest is only a rocking chair level but employs a clever construction. The Smoked Jewels Hooded Shawlette is another clever and attractive piece, by well-known designer Sivia Harding.
Many other celebrated knit designers (Rebecca Danger, Kathleen Day, Norah Gaughan, Romi Hill, Daniel Yuhas) contributed to this book, settling in alongside novice and experienced designers.
Garment patterns are usually given in 3 or 4 sizes, the exception being the child's skirt which has 6 sizes from 1 to 10. Most of the designs are quirky, but some are basic. There are delightful pillow, placemat, and monster designs along with the socks, mitts, hats, shawls, and sweaters.
Perhaps the most surprising and offensive thing in the book is the replacement of the standard gauge-check reminder with various supposedly humorous and in some cases downright bullying calls to action ("Go ahead, knit a giant, unwearable sock. Either that, or check your gauge." "You will lose definite cool points if you fail to check your gauge."). Definitely not laidback!
Vicki Stiefel's photography can be gorgeous, but often lacks the sharp focus and clarity of vision I have admired elsewhere. Models sometimes look uncomfortable or blurry. The Jellycat Pig outfits are almost completely lost in shadow, and the Heirloom Motif scarf is lace modeled over a top with a distracting emblem printed on it. This is unfortunate, because it really detracts from the appeal of the book.
If you're looking for an entertaining read or would like an overview of several different aspects of knitting (color, fiber, working without a pattern), you might try this book. If you love several of the designs (as I do), all the better. But if you want a book to help you find relaxation in your knitting (or remember why you used to), flip through before buying. This book is appealing in many ways, but it doesn't exactly have a laidback layout.
Disclosure: St. Martin's Griffin sent Kangath a free copy of 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters 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 St. Martin's Griffin or the authors.
Aran Knits by Martin Storey, photography by John Heseltine, pub. St. Martin's Griffin, 2012.
This book contains 23 patterns for cabled garments with contemporary twists. Since the book has very little accompanying text, this review will follow suit and jump right into the patterns.
The cover features Isla, whose collar and waistband are all in one piece. The rectangular sleeves require no shaping, but the body is shaped. I might do a sleeve first if I were working this piece, to get used to the pattern.
The first pattern in the book is Morag, a cute, cropped, short sleeved sweater. All the patterns in this book (with the exception of the 5 Berry patterns) are named after people (loosely speaking) or places. Morag is a creature who inhabits Loch Morar, similar to Nessie of Loch Ness. This piece is knit from the bottom up, with arms emerging from the body after extra stitches are cast on each side.
The patterns are often shown next to mood-setting photos, perhaps even photos of the very objects which inspired the design. This scarf is Moira, whose cables have extensions which are tied in knots at each crossing.
Murray is another scarf, not quite as long as Moira, but still over 5 feet long. It's one gigantic horseshoe cable done in chunky yarn, so it's the perfect quick knit for a new cabler.
Bonnie is an open beaded vest with a simple yet unusual collar. It would be a good alternative to a shawl for cool evenings.
At left is Cora, one of my favorite pieces from this book. I particularly like the organic way in which the collar corners are formed.
Women's garments are sized to fit a 32 to 42 or 46" chest, and Men's garments to fit 36 or 38 to 46 or 58". All hats are given in one size, "to fit an average size head" (you know how I feel about that). The mitts and socks are both given in two sizes.
Schematics with minimal measurements are given for each garment, neck and armhole measurements being the most conspicuous omissions.
The Fiona hat is a sideways cable tam with a tassel. Wonderful! I'd also like to mention Adair, whose wide border does triple duty as fronts, collar, and waistband, and Lara, an appealing, understated piece whose cabling is limited to trim on the cuffs, waistband, buttonband, and pockets, and a single strip on each sleeve.
Skye (below) is a pretty little piece, with front sections which can be tied, draped, wrapped, or pinned. Another good alternative to a shawl for those of us who have trouble keeping them on.
There are no charts to be found in this book, but the written instructions seem clear and the definitions are thorough. The lovely photographs show the items from many angles.
This book is a good one for knitters new to cabling, or anyone who appreciates good design with classic cables. The designs have just enough creativity to make them interesting.
Martin Storey worked for the trendsetting knit design team known as Artwork before moving to Rowan, so he has a good feel for blending innovation with tradition. I look forward to his next project.
Disclosure: St. Martin's Griffin sent Kangath a free copy of Aran Knits 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 St. Martin's Griffin or Martin Storey.
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