Tag Archives: book review

Blog Tour: Crochet for Baby All Year book review

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Today, I’m pleased to be a part of Tammy Hildebrand’s blog tour for her latest book, Crochet for Baby All Year: Easy-to-Make Outfits for Every Month. (I interviewed Tammy back in January about her other book, Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, which I also reviewed on the CGOA Now! blog here). I’m sharing a book review along with a giveaway. Read on for details!

Crochet for Baby All Year

Crochet for Baby All Year is a collection of 39 crochet patterns for baby/infant wearables with accessories. In the introduction,Tammy shares that she was inspired to crochet great baby items after learning she was going to become a first-time grandmother in 2012. Although her grandbaby was a girl, Tammy aims for an equal opportunity book by sharing theme patterns for boys and girls organized around the calendar.

The book is arranged in chapters by month. Each chapter opens with a large (nearly full page) photograph of an adorable infant boy or girl (or, frequently, both) wearing that month’s outfits with accessories. Each month’s patterns are either unisex or include variations for both boys and girls. Tammy describes the holiday or seasonal activity that inspired the outfit, and then the chapter continues with the patterns. Each pattern includes more photographs of the projects on the cute little models, the skill level, special stitches, and schematics when appropriate. Garments are generally available in 3-5 sizes from newborn through 18 months. Most of the patterns are considered easy, with one intermediate and one experienced pattern included in the book. The patterns are written with US crochet terminology.

The project breakdown is as follows:

  • Hats and bonnets: 14
  • Cardigans/sweater/jersey: 5
  • Dresses: 4
  • Booties and sandals: 3
  • Sleeveless tops: 3
  • Headbands: 2
  • Christening gowns: 2
  • Bikini/swim trunks: 2
  • Rompers: 2
  • Pants: 1
  • Bow tie: 1
  • Costume: 1

The book ends with a heartfelt acknowledgements page, information about the yarns used in the book, a glossary of pattern abbreviations, and thumbnails of each project for a quick visual reference.

Like all pattern books, your enjoyment will be increased by the number of projects you actually want to make! (My personal favorites are the Stanley or Stella the Stegasaurus Costume; the Fall Festival Cardigan, Hat, and Booties set; and the Varsity Cheerleader Girl Dress and Headband.) You can see pictures of each project in Stackpole’s lookbook here.

There are no tutorials or stitch illustrations included, so this book is geared towards an advanced beginner or intermediate crocheter who has their basic skills down and is comfortable with reading US pattern abbreviations.

I would recommend Crochet for Baby All Year to an advanced beginner crocheter who enjoys making projects for babies and infants and prefers reading pattern abbreviations. A more advanced crocheter might wish for more complex patterns, and a crocheter who prefers international stitch symbols won’t find them in this book.

And now for the giveaway! Please note that my blog is still having difficulty accepting comments, so blog comments WILL NOT count as giveaway entries (since I won’t be able to read them!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of  Crochet for Baby All Year: Easy-to-Make Outfits for Every Month was provided by Stackpole Books. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Blog tour book review: Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler

Today, I’m excited to participate in the blog tour for The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Artists by Gwen Blakley Kinsler. I had the pleasure of meeting Gwen online in 2011 when I interviewed her as part of my blog series, Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, and have since learned more about her many contributions to the crochet community (including founding the Crochet Guild of America). Gwen’s latest book is another way of sharing her love and support of the crochet community.

Fine Art of Crochet

The Fine Art of Crochet is an exploration of crochet’s role in contemporary fiber art. Gwen opens the book with an introduction exploring the development of art crochet since the 1960s. The book then continues with profiles of twenty contemporary artists:

The profiles, typically 3-5 pages long, generally include a brief biography, large pictures of several representative works featuring crochet, and quotes from the artist. Quotes from the artists may discuss the creative process, the significance or interpretation of particular pieces, inspiration, and/or crochet as a medium.

The book ends with a reference list of articles, books, and websites on crochet art, freeform crochet, and crochet history, as well as a note about Gwen and some pictures of her art crochet.

In The Fine Art of Crochet, Gwen does a great job of sharing her excitement about crochet in all forms along with insights about some of today’s most innovative crochet artists. The background information and quotes from the artists are delightful.

On the other hand, the formatting is a bit challenging. Sometimes, due to the relative font size, it’s difficult to distinguish clearly between caption and narrative text. Additionally, some of the text could have used another round of editing to help smooth out the transitions between the artists’ quotes, historical information, and Gwen’s analysis. While it’s great to have a more affordable book, a hardcover option would have been wonderful for those of us who are looking for the ultimate crochet art coffee table book.

Overall, I would highly recommend Gwen’s book. It’s the only book of it’s kind currently on the market, and the enthusiasm Gwen and the artists share for crochet is infectious. It’s wonderful to see all the possibilities of crochet that many of us who typically create functional pieces may want to explore, too.

 

 

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of The Fine Art of Crochet was provided by AuthorHouse.  Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Review: Modern Baby Crochet

I’m continuing my celebration of National Crochet Month with a review of a new book by one of my favorite crochet personalities, Stacey Trock. (You can find my interview with Stacey here, as part of her blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from around the World, and a mini interview here, as part of last year’s NatCroMo festivities.)

 

modern-baby-crochet

Modern Baby Crochet: Patterns for Decorating, Playing, and Snuggling by Stacey Trock is a book of patterns featuring contemporary colors and designs for baby decor.

Stacey opens the book with an Introduction that explains her approach.

I focused on the hub of baby life: the nursery. I wanted to create a book of baby designs that would suit any modern nursery, whimsical and adorable, both with a chic twist.

She moves on to the Getting Started section. Here, Stacey explores how to choose an appropriate yarn for a baby project, how to properly measure gauge (and why you should), finding the right crochet hook for you, and the other supplies needed for projects in this book.  In this section, she introduces several inset boxes with tips that are featured throughout the book.

The next section, Anatomy of a Stitch, identifies the major components of crochet stitches (front and back loop and post) with illustrations and swatches showing the different looks created when you crochet into different parts of the stitch.  The Crochet Stitches section includes written and illustrated instructions for the slip knot, chain, slip stitch, single crochet, double crochet, front and back post double crochet, and several decreases.  Stacey also includes her instructions for a bobble that doesn’t leave a hole in the crochet fabric.

The Additional Techniques section includes written and illustrated instructions for several other important techniques used in the patterns: changing colors, working in the round, surface crochet, finishing off, weaving in ends, and 3 different assembling methods.

The book then moves onto the patterns, which are organized into color themes: Bold and Bright, Pretty In Pastel, and Naturally Neutral.  Each theme includes 5-7 patterns.

The book includes 21 patterns in total.

  • Skill level: 3 beginner, 13 easy, 4 intermediate, 1 experienced.
  • Project types: 7 blankets, 4 toys, 3 pillows, 2 floor mats/rugs, 2 mobiles, and 1 pouf, 1 bunting, and 1 set of bookends.

The patterns are clearly written and include explicit assembly instructions, including how to stuff and join toys and how to line rugs and mats.  My favorite patterns are the Mondrian-Inspired Afghan, the Funky Argyle Afghan,  the Asymmetrical Circles Blanket, and the Colorful Wiggle Pillow.

The next section, Finishing and Care, thoroughly explains the advantages of blocking, and provides instructions on how and when in the project’s life it should be blocked.  (This section is also referred to in the instructions for any pattern that is meant to be blocked.)  It also discusses appropriate cleaning of the various project types in the book.  Useful Information includes a chart of standard yarn weights, skill level descriptions, and metric conversions.  Abbreviations and Glossary provides a list of the US crochet abbreviation terminology used in the book and a list of links to resources including yarns, hooks, and notions used in the various projects.  The book ends with acknowledgements and more information about Stacey.

The book includes only US pattern abbreviations with no stitch symbols.  I reviewed an e-reader preview of the book, but it is available in paperback, too.  It focuses on illustrations rather than photo tutorials for explaining stitches and other techniques, which some crocheters may find harder to follow.

Overall, I think Stacey achieved her goal of creating patterns that would provide contemporary and whimsical feel for a nursery.  Many of the patterns can be used in other settings, as well.  Most of the patterns are simple enough for an advanced beginner, and the detailed instructions would help a patient beginner to work through the more complex patterns.  Many of the projects would interest more advanced crocheters as well.  However, as with all pattern collections, your enjoyment will be based on whether you can find enough patterns to suit your style.  Ravelry members can see all of the patterns on the book’s source page, here, and Stacey also has a video trailer of the projects available here.

I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who enjoys making projects for baby, or crocheters who are looking for home decor projects in contemporary colors.

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Modern Baby Crochet was provided by Martingale & Co.  Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Review: Crochet Red

Today is National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association‘s annual event to bring attention to women’s heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.  This year, Jimmy Beans Wool founder Laura Zander is bringing her Stitch Red campaign to crochet, with Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health, a collection of 31 patterns. Since I don’t have much red in my wardrobe, I thought I’d spread awareness by reviewing Crochet Red, instead.  (A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to support The Heart Truth campaign.)

crochet red

The book opens with a stunning image of a stack of red crocheted items, and then shares a thumbnail of each of the designs in the table of contents.  Not surprisingly, the book then launches into a series of notes, forewords, and prefaces (by the director of the Heart Truth, Deborah Norville, Vanna White, and Laura Zander), each of which discusses women’s heart health.

The next section of the book, Projects and Profiles, includes 30 patterns.  Each pattern includes a designer profile.  In many of these, the designer shares their own story related to heart health.  Most patterns also include a health tip from the designer, such as their favorite heart healthy foods or exercise.  Most patterns, especially the wearables, include multiple views of the project.  The exceptions are the two wraps, neither of which is shown on a model, and the smaller projects, like the mitts, which just include one picture.  The garment patterns also include schematics (in red, naturally).  All patterns are written in U.S. crochet abbreviations, and five patterns also include international stitch symbols.

The next section, Heart-Healthy Living, includes a variety of information about heart health, such as self test, exercise recommendations, tips for staying motivated about healthy lifestyle changes, and nine recipes.

The Crochet Know-How section shares the standard “back of book” information like a glossary of abbreviations, hook sizes, yarn weights, and a US to UK abbreviation conversion chart.  It also includes short photo tutorials of the basic crochet stitches (chain, single, slip stitch, half double, and double crochet) and the adjustable ring for crocheting in the round.  The book ends with a bonus pattern, a list of yarn suppliers, and an index.

Throughout the book, images of mountains of red yarn, piles of red crocheted fabric, and models in red garments are presented against mostly white backgrounds.  The contrast creates a really beautiful effect and you just want to keep flipping through the book.  The layout is particularly helpful in the Heart-Healthy Living section because it contains a lot of text.  The contrasting colors and the images break up the wall of text and keep the book visually interesting.

Overall, the book includes 31 patterns.

Pattern Type

  • Women’s top (cardigans, tunics, shrugs, pullover, etc.): 9
  • Women’s coat or jacket: 4
  • 3 each: cowls, scarves, bags
  • 2 each: hats, blankets, wraps
  • 1 each: pillow, mitts, sachet

 

Difficulty Rating

  • 13 easy,
  • 13 intermediate, and
  • 4 experienced.

 

Three of the designs – the Tunisian Chevron Scarf by Sharon Silverman, the Tunisian Shrug by Kristin Omdahl, and the Vintage Tunisian Shell by Rohn Strong – are Tunisian crochet patterns.

My favorite designs are the Flower Garland Cowl by Robyn Chachula, the Gingham Afghan by Tanis Galik, the Heart Shaped Coat by Nicky Epstein, the Petal Cabled Hat by Linda Permann, the Slouchy Cowl by Edie Eckman, and the Sweater with Cowl by Marly Bird. Ravelry members can see the 30 main patterns on the book’s source page here.  (The bonus pattern, Kristin Nicholas‘ Heart Sachet, is visible on the book’s front cover.)

Although this book has a stunning layout and a great collection of patterns by many of today’s most popular designers, there are a few things I wish were done differently.  I would have liked to see the wraps on models, particularly since they can be challenging to style.  I think many crocheters would want to see more patterns with international stitch symbols.  Most of the garment patterns are in 3-4 sizes and some crocheters will be looking for more.  The Heart-Healthy Living chapter is a bit lost at the end – putting it up front would have made everyone look through it and would probably have a greater impact on awareness.  I wish there was more information about how much of the proceeds were going to The Heart Truth.  (Is it a percentage?  A fixed amount per book?  Is there a maximum donation? etc.)

This is a surprisingly affordable collection of patterns, particularly since there are so many garments.  I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who likes pattern collections and who enjoys crocheting projects for women.

 

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Crochet Red was provided by Sixth & Spring Books. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Reviews on CGOA Now!

Two of my crochet booklet reviews were posted on the Crochet Guild of America blog last week.  Both booklets are published by Leisure Arts.

 

Add-on Crochet Cables
Add-On Crochet Cables by Frances Burks teaches an interesting new method for crocheting cables.  (Reviewed here.)

 

Make in a Weekend Shawls

 

Make in a Weekend Shawls is a collection of 12 shawls crocheted in medium and bulky weight yarns.  (Reviewed here.)

 

Check out the reviews if you’re considering either title.

Book Review and Giveaway: Curvy Girl Crochet by Mary Beth Temple

Today, I’m excited to review Curvy Girl Crochet by Mary Beth Temple.  I actually received a review copy of this book from Taunton before I interviewed Mary Beth at Vogue Knitting Live last January (egads!) but life got in the way of me finishing the book and writing the review.  To reward you for the long delay, I’m also offering a giveaway today!

Book Review

Curvy Girl Crochet

In Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter, Mary Beth Temple takes a two-pronged approach to crocheting for the plus-sized woman.  In her introduction and the first two chapters, she shares the information you need to find, alter, and crochet garments that fit.  In the last three chapters, she shares 25 patterns (designed by Mary Beth and 5 other designers) that are developed with the curvy woman in mind.

Mary Beth opens the book by explaining that

[i]f you put 50 plus-sized women in a room, no two of them will be plus-sized in quite the same way.

I worried about this when I began creating this book – how would I come up with patterns that would suit everyone?  In the end, I decided this was a wonderful opportunity to create flattering garments for all sorts of different body types.  Not every piece will suit every body, but everybody will find something within these pages that will satisfy their need to create and to express their individual styles.

In Chapter 1: Projects that Fit and Flatter, Mary Beth suggests readers explore what flatters them in the ready-to-wear world before choosing patterns to crochet for themselves.  She also shares tips for taking accurate measurements and for selecting an appropriate yarn for a garment project.  In Chapter 2: Finding Your Fit, Mary Beth discusses how to modify your crochet garment.  She deeply explores gauge (critical for crocheting garments), how to assess the pattern, decide on the size and amount of ease to select, and adapting hemlines, waist shaping, and sleeves.  She walks us through a sample project, describing how and where all the modifications could be made.  And Mary Beth reminds us that a strong finish – with blocking, seaming, and details like buttons – can really make a crocheted garment outstanding.  While both chapters are chock full of information, the clear writing and the formatting make them easy to read.

Chapter 3: Pullovers, Tunics, and Tank Tops, includes 9 patterns (5 are easy and the other 4 are intermediate level).  My favorite patterns in this section are Verdant Pullover and the Progressive Tunic.  The Essential Pullover is a simple pattern that will ease a newbie garment crocheter into their first sweater and which can be modified easily.

In Chapter 4: Cardigans, Coats, and Jackets, there are 7 outerwear designs (1 beginner, 3 easy, and 3 intermediate level).  Again, Mary Beth includes an Essential Cardigan pattern that is simple to crochet and easy to modify.  It also has delightful details, like the picot edging.  My favorite patterns in this section are the Intertwined Poncho (available as a free download from Lion Brand here) and the Peacoat for Rule Breakers.

Chapter 5: Wraps, Bags, and Accessories, includes 9 patterns (5 easy and 4 intermediate level).  My favorites here are the Sensible Shawl, Charles Voth‘s Coalesce Wrap, and Andee GravesSkirt the Issue.  (You can check out my interview with Charles here.)

Each pattern in Chapter 3 and 4 includes multiple pictures of the garment on a plus-sized model, and, true to Mary Beth’s introduction, there are quite a few different shapes represented by the models.  Additionally, there are clear schematics and the major stitch pattern is also included in international stitch symbols, while the full pattern is written with U.S. pattern abbreviations.  All garment patterns are written for six sizes (L, XL, 2X, 3X, 4X, and 5X).  In Chapter 5, some of the projects are only shown in one photo, but since they aren’t garments, it isn’t a problem.  (Ravelry members can see all the patterns from the book on its source page.)

The Appendix includes “a little extra how-to information” such as tips for pattern reading, creating linked stitches, beading, the crab stitch, and blocking.  There are no illustrations here – the book assumes you already have the crochet basics down – but the written explanations could be helpful to an intermediate crocheter.  This section also includes an explanation of the skill levels, a key to the stitch symbols and U.S. crochet abbreviations, a sizing chart, information about yarn weights and hook sizes, a metric equivalency chart, and information about the yarns used in the samples.  The book ends with a project index with a thumbnail of each pattern for easy reference, a detailed index, and designer bios.

While, as Mary Beth notes in the introduction, a crocheter may not like all of the designs in this book (or find them flattering for her figure), overall the book includes a lot of great information for a plus-sized woman who wants to crochet her own flattering projects that fit. The target market for this book is quite specific, so it isn’t for everyone.  It also isn’t a beginner book – you really must have the basics down or expect to seek help elsewhere.  And, like all paperback books, it doesn’t lay flat so you can read while crocheting.   For all curvy ladies who are eager to dive into garment crocheting but afraid of being disappointed with ill-fitting results, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Giveaway

Are you ready to win your copy of Curvy Girl Crochet, courtesy of Taunton Press? This giveaway is open to all readers with a shipping address in the United States.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, January 18, 2014.

To enter:

  • Leave a comment letting me know about your experiences with fit when crocheting garments.
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter or Pinterest, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Curvy Girl Crochet was provided by Taunton. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Review: 75 Floral Blocks to Knit by Lesley Stanfield

75 Floral Blocks to Knit

75 Floral Blocks to Knit: Beautiful Patterns to Mix & Match for Throws, Accessories, Baby Blankets & More by Lesley Stanfield opens with a foreword from the author and an “About This Book” section to orient its readers.  The twelve page directory is a quick reference with a thumbnail of each block along with its page number.

Chapter 1: Useful Techniques includes 16 pages of information about needles, yarn, and notions, along with a guide to reading U.S. pattern abbreviations and charts.  Color illustrations and instructions provide a refresher of several cast on methods, knitting in the round, and the crochet stitches used at the center of some blocks and for joins, as well as tips on stranding and intarsia, creating i-cord, embellishments such as duplicate stitch and French knots, and ideas for finishing, blocking (called pressing in the book), assembly, and joining.

The block patterns are then divided into three sections in Chapter 2: Instructions: Traditional designs, Textured designs, and Pictorial designs.  Most of the designs are knit flat, with about 15% knit in the round.  5 blocks include crochet details.  32 blocks include charted instructions.  Most of the blocks are squares (including a few designed on point and others that are 4 triangles joined together), but there are also 3 unusual shapes, 3 octagons, 2 hexagons, and 2 circles.  Quite a few of the squares are a plain stockinette background with flowers appliqued on top.  The appliques could also be used to embellish other projects.  Each pattern includes a clear photo and indicates the number of needles to use (a pair, or a set of DPNs).  Special abbreviations and chart keys are provided on the same page of the pattern, so you don’t have to flip back and forth while knitting.

Chapter 3: Projects includes instructions for 7 projects based on motif patterns from the book, including a hat, a cushion, a greeting card, a birdcage cover, a blanket, a potholder, and a bag.  The book ends with a thorough index.

The book has the type of clean layout you would expect from a St. Martin’s Griffin knitting book.  Most of the squares are quite lovely, and if you actually made all of them, you would use quite a range of knitting techniques.  I wish that the patterns included difficulty levels so a newish knitter would have an easier time figuring out which to start with, and it would be helpful if more of the patterns in the Pictorial designs section included a reminder about whether to use stranding or intarsia (or both, and at which parts) for a newbie color knitter.  Like all paperback books, it’s difficult to keep open while knitting.

If you’re an intermediate knitter who enjoys motifs and modular projects, this would be a solid addition to your pattern book collection.  Although there are some illustrated instructions at the beginning, the book notes that “[t]his section is not a lesson in knitting.”  (A confident and adventurous beginner could tackle quite a few of the patterns and grow into the rest, though.)   If you enjoy adding floral embellishments to your projects, you would also find some great ideas inside to adorn your creations.  If you don’t like working with small motifs, frequent color changes, and/or if you want all of your motifs to be the same size for easy joining, then you might not find this to be the perfect match for your collection.

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of 75 Floral Blocks to Knit was provided by St. Martin’s. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Review: Knit Stitch Guide by Rita Weiss

Knit Stitch Guide

Knit Stitch Guide by Rita Weiss of the Creative Partners is a pattern booklet featuring 96 knit stitch patterns.

The booklet is arranged into six chapters. The first five, Simple Knit & Purl Stitches, Ribbings, Embossed Stitches, Multi-Color Stitches, and Eyelets & Cables, include stitch patterns. Each stitch pattern includes a color photograph (about 1/4 to 1/2 of the page size) of a sample in Red Heart Luster Sheen (a fine weight yarn) photographed on a black background; a stitch guide including any terms (outside of the standards like CO, k, p, BO) used in the pattern; and stitch pattern instructions written in U.S. pattern abbreviations. Most patterns take one page, but there are a few that are only half the page (with smaller pictures). Because the stitches are organized into types, it is easier to find a favorite later on. The last section, General Instructions, includes a list of pattern abbreviations and tips for pattern reading.

This booklet is one of the new pocket sized guides published by Leisure Arts. At about 5 inches by 8 inches and 96 pages, this booklet is small enough to carry around in your knitting bag. I see the portable size as the main strength of this book. For those of you that never know what you want to knit when traveling, this book will give you 96 options. Because of the small size, the booklet lacks a lot of the features I prefer in a complete stitch guide, such as illustrated tutorials of basic stitches or unusual techniques. Therefore, it really isn’t suitable for a beginning knitter because you would already need to know the basic stitches and have some understanding of pattern reading.

I would recommend this booklet to knitters who enjoy creating spontaneous projects on the go, or emerging designers who knit during their commute or travel time. A stitch guide collector will find that many of the stitches are already represented in their other books.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this booklet was provided by Leisure Arts. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Review: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sample Afghan by Laurinda Reddig


Rowan Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan

Laurinda Reddig‘s ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan is a booklet containing tutorials and patterns for beginning crocheters.  The subtitle of the booklet, “A Complete Class to Learn Crochet Including 4 Easy Baby Blankets & a Hat,” clarifies its purpose.  Laurinda published this 74 page booklet in 2012 using CreateSpace, and it is available in both right-handed and left-handed editions.  Although it is a paperback, you can probably press it flat without much effort (though I haven’t tried it) if you want to crochet and read at the same time.

The booklet opens with a two page introduction.  If you are familiar with Laurinda’s blog, you may already know about her daughter Rowan, and this booklet is dedicated to her memory.  The introduction shares some of Laurinda’s experiences and talks about how she used crochet to heal.  The next section, How to Use This Book, explains the formatting.

Chapter One: Getting Started includes information about yarn and tools.  Laurinda then moves on to tutorials for making a slip knot, holding your hook, yarning over, chaining, working into the chain and into stitches, finishing off, and gauge.  Laurinda includes an explanatory paragraph along with process photos with brief notes for each new skill.  The photos are clear and the print quality is good.  The booklet uses a matte rather than glossy paper, but there aren’t any bleeds through from the other side of the page.  One point of confusion is that Laurinda stresses the importance of using the thumb rest for a beginner, but also uses a hand carved hook with no thumb rest for all of the booklet’s photos.

The booklet then moves on to Chapter Two: Basic Stitches, which includes 4 square patterns and the Lovely Lilly Blanket pattern, alongside tutorials for the single, double, and half double crochet stitches, along with two versions of a double crochet shell stitch.  Laurinda’s pattern formatting is very consistent, and whenever a new stitch is introduced throughout the booklet, it is first written out in italics (with the U.S. pattern abbreviation in parenthesis) along with a reference to the tutorial.  In other books, I’ve seen the tutorials precede the projects, but since her formatting is so consistent and the tutorial is generally on the next page, this isn’t a major downside.

In Chapter Three: Combining Stitches, Laurinda includes 4 square patterns, 5 tutorials, and the Treya’s Treasure Blanket pattern.  Chapter Four: Easy as XYZ also has 4 square patterns and 5 tutorials, along with the Rey of Sunshine Blanket pattern.  Chapter Five: Textured Stitches, has 4 square patterns, 6 tutorials, and the Daring Dorian Blanket pattern.

Chapter Six: Putting It All Together goes through all of the steps needed for finishing a blanket made from squares, including blocking and joining, with tutorials for both single crochet and whip stitch joins.  (You can see completed versions of the sampler blanket here on Ravelry.)  Chapter Seven: Working in the Round explores the technique of crocheting in the round because, “A class in Learning to Crochet would not be complete without learning the basics of how to Crochet in the Round.”  Rather than just show how to crochet the blanket edging in the round, Laurinda includes a full tutorial with an additional pattern, the Simple Newborn Hat with Flower. She shares tutorials on both working into a chain circle or ring, and the magic loop.  Laurinda’s magic loop method is new to me, but she has been teaching it for over a decade.  She also includes a final tutorial for decreasing.

The booklet ends with three appendices which include a glossary of U.S. and U.K. pattern abbreviations, online resources for crocheters, and an index of stitches and tutorials.

Laurinda’s booklet illustrates perfectly the advantages and challenges of reading self-published craft books.  As a reader, you are wrapped in Laurinda’s “voice.”  Her unique take on crochet is evident on every page, through her chatty, conversational tone; the information she shares about her personal life; her layout; and even in the photographs, where you can see that she enjoys using hand carved hooks.  Unlike reading a typical mass market crochet book, you feel as though you are spending time with Laurinda (in a class or charity crochet group) while reading.  On the other hand, a more conventional layout where tutorials preceded the patterns might have benefitted some readers.  Although the book is both copy and tech edited, there are some unconventional uses of capitalizations and grammar.  Additionally, while in general the photos are clear and the printing quality is surprisingly good, the process photos may have benefitted from a light colored or white background, and some of the project photos (taken by sample makers/testers) are not as clear or neatly styled as those you would normally see in a book.  

As a crochet teacher myself, I’m a big fan of using samplers for teaching, and I think this booklet fills in the gaps for self- or internet-taught crocheters by sharing many tips and tricks along with the patterns and tutorials.  Overall, I would recommend this booklet to newish crocheters looking to expand their skills (or, crocheters returning to pattern reading after a long absence).  It would also be a good booklet for crochet teachers working with beginners, since there are alternative explanations and interesting beginner projects.  A group that does charity crochet for babies might enjoy using this booklet also, as the patterns are designed with babies in mind and don’t have many holes that fingers can get caught in.  I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars for those audiences.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan was provided by Laurinda Reddig. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book review: Sweater 101 by Cheryl Brunette

Last June, I had the great pleasure of taking a series of Bruges crochet classes with designer Tatyana Mirer at Knit-a-Way.  Tatyana had some stunning sample garments, and I asked her about her favorite resources for sizing.  She brought me over the bookshelf and pulled out Cheryl Brunette‘s Sweater 101: How to Plan Sweaters That Fit… and Organize Your Knitting Life At the Same Time.  Though the price tag on the book was high, I decided to buy it.  I figured that I was supporting two small businesses (the LYS and the author/publisher) with my purchase.

sweater101

The book sat on my shelf for a while, mostly unread, but I did look through the charts in the back.  I even brought it several times to the knitting classes I teach when students asked about sweaters.  But I only finally got around to finishing reading it last month.

Cheryl has a wonderfully conversational (but not overly chatty) writing style that makes it easy for you to follow along.  Her introduction reminds us of the complexities of contemporary knitting, which for most of us is about an abundance of choice (in yarns, needles, and notions).  The downside of this abundance is that each project is a completely new adventure in tension, gauge, the habits of the yarn before and after washing, etc.  This contrasts with the past, when most knitters used the same needles and the same yarns predictably for most of their knitting lives.  As a result, knitting a sweater today is different than it was when my grandmother made one.

The next chapter, Basic Sweater Styles, provides detailed explanations with illustrations of the differences between drop shoulder, raglan, and set-in sleeve styles.  A Couple of Math Skills, the third chapter, provides an excellent tutorial for using your calculator memory to use your tension to calculate stitch and row counts.  Cheryl also shares what she describes as the “More-or-Less Right Formula,” a series of steps for increasing and decreasing (e.g., for sleeves).    The fourth chapter, Finding Your Gauge, goes into that zone that oh so many knitters dread – swatching.  In thorough but enjoyable detail, Cheryl outlines the process for swatching so that you can obtain useful information for perfectly fitted sweaters.

How to Size a Sweater to Get the Fit You Really Want is the chapter that many knitters will be drawn to (but I encourage you to read the book in order, nonethless!).  Cheryl describes several techniques for identifying the right bust size and length for a sweater pattern.  She also cautions readers not to follow her fashion advice (or anyone else’s, really) and to stick with “colors and styles that make you feel beautiful.”  Perhaps my favorite chapter is the one that comes next, How to Take Body Measurements.  Using delightful vintage illustrations, clear text, and some directional lines, Cheryl explains what to measure for different sweater types as well as how to measure it.

The next three chapters are really the core of Cheryl’s method.  In How to Assign Pattern Measurements, and Filling in a Picture Pattern, she explains where all of those measurements you just took fit into the picture patterns she encourages you to make.  Essentially, she suggests using an annotated “picture pattern” (similar to a schematic) to help you design your sweater projects.  These chapters help you match the measurements to different parts of the pictures and make calculations for knitting the sweaters flat.  After walking you through the process for creating your own picture pattern, Cheryl also shares sample written patterns of all three sweater types, matched with annotated picture patterns.  The final chapter, Beyond the Basics, provides a written explanation of how to vary necklines and sleeves and create vest and cardigan patterns.

Her appendices are what brought me to the book to begin with: schematics for 30 standard sizes, from 6 months to men’s size 50, for all three sweater types.  While measuring the intended wearer of your sweater would be ideal, it isn’t always possible, and these schematics will help you create sweaters for all of your loved ones.  (Or, if you are a designer or maker of finished sweaters, for your clients.)  The second appendix includes worksheets you can copy and use to plan and track your own sweater designs.

I haven’t provided a lot of detail on the Cheryl’s methods (you’ll have to buy the book for that), but I will say that Cheryl succeeds in sparking your enthusiasm for knitting a sweater of your own design while explanation (and then simplifying) the math involved.  Her method is clearly developed, understandable, and a wonderful start.  I can honestly say this is the only book I’ve ever read that really has made me say, “Wow, I want to knit a sweater” (and I’ve read a lot of sweater design books).  The hardcover version is spiral bound, which allows you to easily knit and read at the same time.  She offers an ebook version on her website, which is cheaper and interactive – you can fill in the worksheets before printing.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone who has wanted to take the leap into making a sweater.  While the book is clearly targeted at knitters, there are many elements (the process, the worksheets, etc.) that could be used by crocheters.  This would also be a wonderful book for an emerging designer looking for help with sizing sweater patterns.  Other than the price (which makes sense, as it is published by a small company), there are truly no downsides to this book.