Crochet Classics Book Review: Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet

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Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet

This is one of the first books I bought for my teaching library after becoming a CYC certified crochet teacher and instructor.  The book was published in 2002 and is part of a series of books by Donna Kooler that cover various needlecrafts. I recommend this book for many reasons but there are four elements of this book that really make it stand out as a classic.

  1. It is organized in a “beginner friendly” manner.
  2. It includes both left- and right-handed instructions, with illustrations.
  3. It provides a thorough overview of various techniques and materials.
  4. It allows you to grow from a beginner to an advanced intermediate crocheter within the same book.

The book is organized into five sections: Beginnings, Crochet Basics, Beyond the Basics, Pattern Gallery, and For Your Information.

The Beginnings section has a very interesting history of crochet in Europe and America.  Donna also includes a great photograph in this section with crochet hooks from different time periods.  This section is one that I read with fascination but it could easily be skipped by those who aren’t history nerds ;).

The Crochet Basics section is designed to explain the hows and whys of everything from patterns to materials to basics stitches to a beginner crocheter. One of the best structural aspects of the book is that this section starts with a key to crochet pattern abbreviations and symbols.  In contrast, many crochet books put this information towards the back in an appendix.  If beginner crocheters aren’t accustomed to this formatting, they are immediately turned off to the entire craft!  And why not, since if you don’t know how to translate the abbreviations and symbols, how can you move ahead through the patterns presented in the book?

Donna also explains how to read patterns.  Many books, even those designed for the beginners, provide a list of abbreviations and assume that the reader will know what to do when they see (instructions between parenthesis) or *inside of asterisks.*  These are precisely the aspects of pattern reading which most people find confusing.  Donna discusses gauge in detail, rather than just reminding you to “check your gauge.”  She provides a thorough review of different materials including yarn fibers, caring for your crochet fabric, and the purpose of various notions.  This section includes a lot of information that even some more advanced crocheters may lack (e.g., which fibers are most elastic and things to consider when substituting the yarn for a pattern).

The section continues with illustrated instructions for forming all of the basic stitches of crochet.  As noted above, Kooler includes both right- and left-handed instructions with illustrations.  The end of this section includes several simple patterns by a variety of designers (ok, mostly by Melissa Leapman, but you get the point).

The Beyond the Basics section provides an overview of colors and various colorwork techniques, thread crochet (including filet and motifs), and what Donna calls “specialty crochet” but what I call “the stuff that isn’t usually in the big, expensive crochet books so you have to buy another book to find out about it.”  Here she provides an introduction to bead crochet, wire crochet, and Tunisian crochet, and has a small section on finishing details like pockets.  This section also includes a number of patterns by various designers.  In general, the patterns aren’t really my style, but each one emphasizes specific techniques or skills.  The patterns here are more oriented towards building the skill set of the reader than towards being extremely fashionable.

The Crochet Pattern Gallery section is my favorite.  This is basically a stitch guide.  The stitches are crocheted in attractive colors and photographed clearly.  The patterns include both abbreviations and symbols.  And, as if those things weren’t enough, Donna includes alternate names for stitches, when appropriate, and variations of the stitches.  The stitches are organized as:

  • Simple Combinations,
  • Fans & Shells,
  • Lace Patterns,
  • Waves, Ripples & Chevrons,
  • Angled Patterns,
  • Spiked & Crossed,
  • Post Stitches,
  • Bobbles, Popcorns & Puffs,
  • Tapestry, Jacquard & Mosaic,
  • Net, Mesh & Trellis,
  • Motifs,
  • Filet Crochet,
  • Edges, Edgings & Insertions, and
  • Tunisian Crochet.

The final section, called For Your Information, includes a resource list which is obviously outdated, footnotes, an excellent bibliography, a standard index, and a pattern index.  The pattern index is quite detailed – for example, cluster stitches are listed by name and under cluster stitches as well.

To keep my review balanced, I will mention a few things that make it less than perfect (egads!):

  • This is a classic, not a trendy book.  The patterns are conservative and not all of them are “current” styles.
  • It doesn’t provide much detail on designing your own projects, particularly clothing, which is something that many crocheters are looking for today.
  • It doesn’t use a binding which allows you to lay it flat when reading.
  • While the illustrations are better than those in most crochet books, most beginners would probably find it helpful if there were more photographs in the Crochet Basics section.

Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet really is a stand out as an all around reference book for crochet. It has excellent photographs and clear illustrations.  It is a softcover, which allows you to carry it around without throwing out your back.  I highly recommend it for the library of any beginner through advanced intermediate crocheter.

Updated 8/10/2014

Encyclopedia of Crochet revised

This book is now available as an ebook, and there is a revised edition (pictured above) available in print and as an ebook.

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