Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Arm Knitting by Mary Beth Temple

Arm Knitting

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I’ll admit that I was a bit leery of the arm knitting craze when it first started. One of my students, who suffers from a medical condition that includes hand and wrist pain, found arm knitting and was able to continue knitting even when she was having a flare up, so I considered giving it another chance.

And then, Mary Beth Temple came out with Arm Knitting: How to Make a 30-Minute Infinity Scarf and Other Great Projects, and all my fears were laid to rest. This is an incredible little booklet. It opens with a 15 page Getting Started section that includes written instructions and large, clear progress photos. This section explains how to cast on; form the plain, twisted, and knotted stitches; bind off; seam; weave in ends; change colors with vertical or horizontal stripes or color blocking; increase; decrease; align patterned yarns (a great tip for any project)!; and finish projects with details like necklines, fringe, and pom-poms. The combination of the written instructions, tips, and photos make all the steps really clear.

The booklet then moves on into 15 patterns (most of which can be seen on the booklet’s Ravelry source page here). While the booklet includes the plain, chunky cowls and scarves you’d expect from arm knitting, there are unexpected arm knitting projects, like a wrap, shaped shawl, cape, and capelet, and projects featuring interesting color changes.

The patterns are written very clearly, with no abbreviations, and are perfect for beginners. At the same time, they allow for customization by more advanced arm knitters and include tips for variations. Each project also has multiple large photographs – including pictures both on and off models.

Pattern difficulty is rated on a scale of one to three. The booklet includes 6 level one, 6 level two, and 3 level 3 patterns. The final page of the book includes a pattern index with a list of pages where the pattern and its images appear as well as the type and quantity of yarn used and the number of stitches to cast on. I should also mention that the opening table of contents has thumbnails of each pattern, so they are easy to find.

By the way, you can also find a whole companion series of instructional videos on the Arm-Knitting website.

I’m giving this book 5 stars for being so clear and easy to follow, and for providing such great instructions. I was honestly surprised by the capabilities of arm knitting, but I guess I should have known what to expect from Mary Beth! (You can read my interview with her here.)

As we slide into the holiday season, this book becomes even more timely. Each of the projects could be finished really quickly for a last minute holiday gift. The booklet would also make a great gift for a young crafter in your life, or someone who has expressed interest in arm knitting.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Arm Knitting: How to Make a 30-Minute Infinity Scarf and Other Great Projects was provided by Design Originals. 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.
NaBloPoMo
I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

Crochet Book Reviews on the CGOA Blog

As my longtime readers know, I’m a volunteer book reviewer for the Crochet Guild of America. I recently had four crochet book reviews published on the CGOA blog. I’m sharing the links today, in case you are on the hunt for new books to add to your crochet collection!

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Crochet Stitch Dictionary

Crochet Stitch Dictionary: 200 Essential Stitches with Step-by-Step Photos by Sarah Hazell (link to book review)

Go-To Book for Irish Crochet Motifs

The Go-To Book for Irish Crochet Motifs by Kathryn White (link to book review)

Open Weave Fashions

Open Weave Fashions by Tammy Hildebrand (link to book review)

Beautiful Baby Boutique II

Beautiful Baby Boutique II by Rebecca Leigh (link to book review)

And, in other news, I decided to challenge myself to participate in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily this month.

NaBloPoMoI’ve done a few blog challenges in the past, including Blogtoberfest in 2011 and 2012, and a self-imposed challenge to blog daily during National Crochet Month in 2013, but I’ve never participated in NaBloPoMo before.

I’m looking forward to see what I share. I decided to be more spontaneous than planned about this challenge.

Are you participating in NaBloPoMo (as a blogger or a reader)? Let me know in the comments!

Blog Tour: Crochet for Baby All Year book review

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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.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

And now for the giveaway! 

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

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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 this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Book Review: Modern Baby Crochet

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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 electronic review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.