You know a book is a classic when you find it in the collections of two amazing women. I came across this book in my grandmother’s collection after she died, and I took it home with me when we cleaned up her apartment. Two years later, when I moved in with MC, I found another copy in the books he kept to the side after his mother died. (I ended up giving my grandmother’s copy to one of my best friends.)
This book is a great resource because it includes information on so many different needlecrafts, but also because it goes beyond the basics in a way that most contemporary books don’t. There is definitely an assumption that the readers of this book will need these crafts to make garments and home decor items for their families, and as a result, the writers attempt to share the skills needed for designing and finishing great custom items.
The book starts off with a section on embroidery, a craft I love the look of but lack the patience for actually doing.
There are quite a few great embroidery samplers shown, followed by detailed illustrations for making loads of stitches.
I haven’t spent much time looking through the next two sections, Needlepoint and Applique.
The Patchwork section has a lot of beautiful and inspiring pictures, but I’ve mostly avoided it. (As a fairly lazy quilter, I’m partial to newer books with detailed strip piecing instructions.)
The Quilting chapter mostly focuses on hand quilting, but there are some tips for machine quilters, too.
The Knitting chapter is one of my favorites. Some of the highlights include tips for getting neat selvages…
illustrated and written instructions for different types of double increases and decreases…
and the above-mentioned tips for neckline shaping.
There are also some great patterns, like this one for a classic Aran sweater…
and this one for a lovely evening set.
And, naturally, I love the crochet section, too. Like the knitting chapter, it includes a stitch guide…
and sections on quite a few specialized techniques including woven crochet…
and broomstick lace.
And also like the knitting section, there is plenty of information about shaping crochet garments.
After the crochet section, I tend to lose interest since I don’t do any lacework, macrame, or rug-making. But I do like that there are sections on all of these crafts, because you never know when I might pick one of them up!
Publication date: 1983 reprint of a 1979 publication.
Status: Out of print, but available online (sometimes, for exorbitant prices) Update: Thanks to PlanetJune for letting me know that Crochet Workshop will be republished by Dover next year. You can pre-order it on Amazon here.
I first learned about this delightful book from Crochetbug. (You can learn more about James Walters in this post on Crochet Concupiscence.) Unfortunately, the book’s condition is such that it is difficult to enjoy. You see, it reeks of smoke. One day, I hope to air it out enough for me to actually want to read through it, but until then, I am limited to brief moments of picking it up until the smell is unbearable, and then washing my hands profusely.
I did take some time to photograph it so I could share some of it with you.
You can almost immediately feel the sense of whimsy, creativity, and joy that Walters has to offer.
The book includes all kinds of information that you would rarely see in a crochet book today. As a freeform pioneer, Walters shows you how to create your own projects, rather than rely solely on patterns.
There are many great illustrations, and I can’t tell if these are by Walters or someone else. Here is one showing the progression of various spiral crochet pieces
These are part of a section that explains how to construct motifs of different kinds.
There are examples of several freeform garments included in the book…
as well as explorations of specialized techniques, like hairpin lace.
Most of the projects are displayed artfully, rather than functionally.
I really wish I could bear to read through this book, because I am sure I would learn a lot and be completely inspired.
Hopefully, one day it will come back into print (or be available as an ebook) and I will have the chance to read it cover to cover. Until then, does anyone have any tips for removing foul odors from books?
Publication date: 2000 US reprint of a 1991 Australian publication.
Status: Available online ($22 at Lacis, or $80 on Amazon).
Craft: Tunisian Crochet.
I reviewed this book before, but I felt it needed another look as a vintage book. It is delightfully quirky, in a self-published prior to 2005 kind of way.
The book’s subtitle is “Everything you wanted to know about this cross between knitting and crochet which has been given such common names as Afghan Crochet, Scotch Knitting, Fool’s Knitting and Shepherd’s Knitting.” And it definitely covers a lot of ground.
For example, Rebecca shares some of her favorite vintage crochet ads.
She also includes cute stick figure drawings to explain different concepts.
She shares a sizable stitch guide.
Most of the book is in black and white, but you do get to marvel at the color pictures in a few sections.
I suspect Rebecca is a cat lover…
With the revitalized interest in Tunisian crochet in the past several years, this book may not seem as critical. But I applaud Rebecca Jones for putting together this book when she did, and for sharing her love of Tunisian crochet and her sense of whimsy with all of us!
Condition: Very good with protective library-type plastic cover.
The Crochet Sweater Book is the first true crochet fashion design primer that I’m aware of in the modern era. (Notice I qualified that with “that I’m aware of.” Those of you with fantastic vintage collections, please feel free to jump in with suggestions to correct me.) Written by the extremely talented Sylvia Cosh (with, according to the inside but not the cover, James Walters), this book basically translates runway fashions onto your hook. (Ravelry members can see 12 of the designs from the book here.)
In her introduction, Cosh describes crochet as “one of the easiest and most versatile forms of fabric making” and reminds us that it’s “surprisingly easy, and very satisfying, to create different textural effects, unusual color combinations, original stitch patterns or an indvidual garment shape.”
This book highlights Cosh’s favorites from her collection of “hand-dyed crochet sweaters and cardigans…exported to Europe, the United States, and Japan” and shares the patterns in “yarns readily available in the shops.” In addition to her shop fashions, she includes
a range of complimentary, but rather different, designs, to ensure greater variety. However, one of my aims in preparing this book was to offer inspiration and to encourage experimentation… I hope you will use my patterns as a starting point for individual interpretation and eventually for creating your own crochet designs.
A woman after my own heart!
The book begins with a section on Crochet Design, where Cosh describes some of her inspiration from nature and shares how she uses crochet stitches to interpret these themes. She also mentions her preference for “[l]arge batwing sweaters” that “seldom date.” Um, I’m not totally sure I agree with that assessment, but it is good to know what her preferences are! Cosh also explains that her garments are also predominantly made in the round to eliminate the dreaded seaming issue.
The next section, Before You Begin, reviews materials, measurements, and working in the round, and refers you to other section of the book for reference on colors, charts, pattern abbreviations, and techniques. She spends a full page on gauge, and includes a detailed insert on making a gauge swatch.
The next several sections focus on yarn and color section. Selecting Yarn has some great pictures of different weights, types of yarn, and colors. Yarn Texture shows swatches of double crochet and bobbles/dimensional stitches in a variety of textured yarns and explains different fibers and yarn textures. In Selecting Color, Cosh enables all of us stash horders by providing tips for “Building Up a Yarn Collection.” In Sources of Inspiration, Cosh shares pictures of yarn (in balls and wrapped) next to various inspirations including shells, pottery, flowers, mushrooms, and beads. It is a really interesting way to look at yarn colors and textures! For Understanding Color, Cosh provides a basic overview of color theory.
The next chapter, Simple Beginnings, shares four simple patterns, including the Basic Sweater with two variations, Simple Stripes and Color Blocks, and Silver Linings, with a turtleneck and bobbled center panel. Many of the sweaters have a simple shape so the patterns are a page or two at most (including pictures!).
The Bobbles and Diamonds chapter is where Cosh starts exploring her wild textures and colors. The five patterns in this chapter combine yarn and color with stitch texture to create bold projects. My favorites are Hydrangeas, a vest with bobbled floral motifs, and Crunchy Creams, which looks like a totally radical ‘80s fashion fantasy come to life.
In the next chapter, Circles and Stripes, Cosh plays with a Catherine Wheel pattern (the “circle”) as well as stripes. Her Midnight Circles and Stone Circles cardigans and Balloons child sweater use the same stitch pattern with different sleeves and colors for completely different looks. In her Gilded Pinks cardigan, Cosh shares tips for combining many colors for a stashbuster project while avoiding “a rag-bag look.”
The Geometrics chapter is where Cosh uses color blocking, highly contrasting stripes, and charted color changes to create exaggerated color effects.
The Chevrons chapter makes use of ripple or chevron motifs, often with added texture from post stitches.
The final chapter, Celtic Cables, makes use of bold cabled diamonds with encased bobbles.
In the back of the book, Cosh has a Crochet Techniques section with illustrated instructions and/or descriptions for basic crochet stitches, increasing and decreasing, working in the round, joining and working with multiple colors, and finishing. She also has a small gallery of textured stitch swatches.
Throughout the book, you get a sense of Cosh’s warmth and creativity, and you can tell that she is a passionate freeformer. You have a feeling that even if you follow the pattern exactly, you will have a uniquely individual creation each time. I enjoy that feeling of freedom and whimsy that she shares in her writing – it doesn’t seem that you can do anything “wrong” with your crochet when reading this book.
My one gripe about this book is the subtitle. There are exactly 31 designs, and, as I mentioned, several are variations on other designs. Yes, technically over 30 but really right on the line. But this is a relatively minor complaint for a book with so much going for it. The Crochet Sweater Book has great, stylized photography that shows the details of each design. The patterns are frequently charted in addition to the abbreviations. Cosh shares design tips throughout and the layout is easy to follow and attractive to view. And, it’s a hardcover so it lays flat and you can crochet while reading.
Confession time: Way back when, I bought this book online for a few bucks. When it arrived, my inner-teenager had a fashion attack. (Parents/teachers, you know what I mean. You’re trying to show an important image or film from the past, and all the kids can talk about is how stupid everyone’s hair looked back in the day.) I looked through the pictures and many of them screamed ‘80s to me. I decided I would never use this book and ended up selling it to someone else online. Years later, I learned about Cosh and discovered she was a crochet genius so I probably needed to give this book a second chance. I ended up searching for it again and finally brought it back into my collection.
I’m telling you this story because if you were overwhelmed by bright colors or over-sized sweaters in the ‘80s, too, you might have this gut reaction. I urge you to work your way through the book anyway, because what you will find is exactly what Cosh promises in the introduction, a starting point for your own creativity to flourish, aided by her expertise as a designer and teacher. If you can get your hands on a copy, I strongly recommend that you do.
Source: I’m not exactly sure when and how this book came into my collection.
Publication date: 1981
Status: Reprinted by Dover Books in 2012 and widely available.
Condition: Very good.
I’ve previously reviewed this booklet in my granny square pattern book roundup. This is an interesting pattern booklet that recreates popular quilting motifs in crochet. If, like me, you love quilt designs, this booklet will probably call out to you.
The booklet is mostly black and white, with color images of all the motifs inside the front and back covers.
Where the book really shows its age is in the construction of the motifs. All of the motifs are worked flat in rows, and instead of joining colors at different points, almost every color change is worked as a separate piece which is later join.
For example, this Evening Star motif has 13 pieces for each square. I love the motifs, but I would want to reverse engineer them and figure out a way to crochet them with fewer pieces and more use of colorwork techniques.
In addition to the 23 block patterns, the booklet includes instructions for 5 patterns. Besides the obvious (a Log Cabin blanket), there are 4 garment projects. I’m particularly partial to the Log Cabin Pullover (top right). Something about the way this piece is put together and the way the photo styled with the beret is really calling to me. It looks like a fun pullover to wear over a long john shirt in the winter. Perhaps I’ll be motivated to make one with some of my scraps before winter…
Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources. Today’s featured site is Crochet Concupiscence, my favorite source of crochet-related news.
It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing.
It’s because of that combination – Kathryn’s tireless efforts at gathering crochet news along with the quality of her writing – that I find myself returning to her blog again and again. I always discover new blogs through Kathryn’s weekly Crochet Link Love on Saturdays, and I also love her vintage crochet discoveries (which can be found in her new 50 Years of Crochet feature and her series on Edgy 1970s Crochet Designers).
Underground Crafter (UC): What’s your favorite crochet memory?
Kathryn: My sister and I sometimes crochet together when she is here. I remember one time that she came here and we had a fire going in the fireplace and I was working on my crochet work while she was reading out loud to me by the light of the fire. It felt like I was part of an amazing 19th century novel.
UC: What are your favorite types of projects to crochet?
Kathryn: This varies so much depending on my mood. Crochet can serve so many different emotional needs! Lately I’ve been in a complicated emotional space in both my personal and professional lives and as a result I’ve been drawn to really simple, instant gratification projects that offer the opportunity to focus and go inwards. For example, I’ve been crocheting a lot of post stitch and cable stitch crochet hat patterns because I can follow the pattern, focus on the work at hand and kind of let everything else slip away but the project is never so complicated that it feels draining or trying. (UC comment: I love to make granny squares when I’m stressed out, for the same reason!)
UC: What are your favorite crochet websites?
Kathryn: It’s so hard to choose just a few websites. That’s why I do crochet link love every week, to link to all of the best crochet content from around the web because there is so much of it and the sources change from week to week! I like Pinterest for finding crochet inspiration, Ravelry for finding patterns and I’m learning to like the Facebook crochet community although the Facebook platform has taken me some getting used to. (UC comment: Kathryn frequently shares a crochet question of the day on her Facebook page and it’s very fun to play along!) I’m increasingly interested in Twitter chats and hangouts where you can connect with a smaller group of people in real time but there are only a handful of those; I’d like to get more involved in that.
UC: You’re a very organized blogger. Can you share your current blog schedule with us?
Kathryn: My current posting schedule varies depending on what’s in the news but you can usually count on these things:
Designer crochet or crochet fashion posts on Thursdays
Something about crochet health or crocheting for creativity on Fridays
Then throughout the week some of the other things that I feature include crochet news, roundups of crochet pattern links, and info on crochet designers. Occasionally I’ll do crochet book reviews or giveaways. I’ve also just started accepting crochet sponsors on this blog so there are posts introducing the amazing things that they offer and usually featuring a giveaway at some point during the month.
Thanks, Kathryn, for stopping by, and for regularly scouring the web to share such amazing crochet content with your readers!
What’s your favorite online resource for crochet-related news?
Status: Out of print. Available online with prices ranging from “reasonable” to “apply for a line of credit.”
Condition: Damaged dust jacket, but otherwise in very good condition
This is an awesome little gem that I found in my grandmother’s home after she passed away. Although it was first published in 1969, and my version is from 1970, it has more of a ’60s vibe to it. There’s a note in the beginning saying that the yarn was provided by Coats and Clark for the American edition. (I’m assuming the previous edition was published in the U.K.) Most of these yarns no longer exist, but I’m guessing that most were actually threads since steel hooks are used for most of the patterns.
The dust jacket informs potential readers that “Crochet is fun, fascinating and very in-fashion these days. For it’s a versatile fabric — it can be soft, fragile, openwork weave or just a firm, close one. Either way,it holds its shape, and lasts.”
In case that isn’t enough to draw you in, in the introduction, Caroline Horne, a self described “teacher of Fashion Crochet,” tells readers
…once you have mastered the art of holding the crochet hook and the few stitches that there are in Fashion Crochet, everything else begins to fall into place. Soon you will find yourself making attractive chic clothes — a welcome addition to any wardrobe — at a fraction of the price that they would cost in the shops, with the added incentive of being able to have exactly the right color and shape that you want when you want it. Anyone can do Fashion Crochet and there is no time like the present for embarking on this absorbing, creative and constructive craft which is currently enjoying such a vogue in the world of fashion.
I love the fashion illustrations by Yvonne Jones, which give the book a whimsical feeling.
(By the way, the cross hatching on the pants and coat represents crochet.)
I love the pattern names, too.
Caroline provides fairly detailed instructions, and she also offers different color suggestions for most patterns.
I love that the book includes a pattern for stockings.
I can totally imagine someone (who isn’t me) crocheting up a pair of these today!
Like most books from this time period, many patterns are offered in only one size. Some have maybe 3 sizes. I think Caroline hopes you’ll be designing your own projects by the end of the book, though.
Status: Out of print. Available online with prices ranging from “reasonable” to “apply for a line of credit.”
Condition: Very good
Craft(s): Crochet and Tunisian crochet
I previously reviewed this book as part of a compilation of over 20 crochet stitch guides here. But there are a few things that make it stand out for me.
There’s a nice section on Irish crochet, which seems to be coming back into popularity. There is an intro and slightly over a page of illustrated instructions for padding threads, working into base stitches, and making Clones knots. There are also 7 patterns for stitches worked flat, 7 small motif patterns, 11 larger motif patterns, and a curlicue pattern.
All of the patterns in the book, including the Tunisian crochet patterns, are both written and charted. This is the earliest English language book in my collection that uses international stitch symbols. (You can see the Tunisian crochet bobble symbol in the description above.)
The book shows its age primarily through the photographs. Apparently, it used to be fashionable to photograph stitches against black backgrounds. Today, white seems to be more popular.
I’ve been spoiled by my vintage Harmony Guides. I now expect all stitch guides to start with illustrated sections on all the techniques used in the books. This book starts with 7 pages of introduction and then leads into six types of patterns: All-over Patterns, Filet Crochet, Motifs, Irish Style Crochet, Edgings and Trimmings, and Afghan (Tunisian Crochet). Every section, except for the All-over Patterns and the Edgings and Trimmings, also includes about a page of illustrated instructions.
Regular readers may know that I have a sizeable collection of vintage needlecrafts books. (I’m using the Etsy definition of vintage, which includes anything at least 20 years old.) I currently have over 50 vintage books, e-books, and magazines in my collection.
I love looking through older needlecrafts books. While the very old pattern books can be hard to follow because the authors assume a high level of familiarity with construction techniques, shaping, etc., for those of us who like to modify patterns or design our own projects, these books can be an endless source of inspiration. And my inner sociologist is often amazed (or amused) by the cultural snapshot vintage needlecrafts books can provide.
I would love to share my passion for vintage books with my readers, but if I’ve learned one thing since I started blogging, it’s not to over commit. So I make no promises that I’ll review a vintage needlecrafts book each week in 2013, but I certainly will highlight no more than one a week ;).
To kick off this series, I’d like to share my favorite sources for vintage needlecrafts books and e-books on the cheap. (I’ve yet to come across a steady source of vintage magazines, but would love to hear your suggestions in the comments.)
Amazon is a great source for vintage books, but the price range is very broad. Sometimes you will find out-of-print books selling for hundreds of dollars and other times you will find a treasure for $0.01 plus the cost of shipping. I generally search for specific titles, often discovered through Crochet Concupiscence (especially her series on 1970s crochet designers) or Crochetbug. I’ve also found a lot of free vintage e-books for my Kindle.
I periodically search Etsy for vintage pattern books. I find it too difficult to investigate whether or not the seller has the right to sell vintage PDF patterns, so I only buy physical copies.
Half.com is another interesting source for vintage needlecrafts books. You can sort your search by publication date in both directions, so the oldest books will appear first. It is now owned by eBay, so you can easily search there, too. Like Amazon, there can be a wide spread in prices.
Library sales and thrift shops sometimes have great vintage finds for low prices.
PaperBackSwap is a website where you swap books. You earn points for each book you mail to another user and can use those points to “buy” books from other members. Essentially, you pay the cost of shipping a book media mail. I’ve gotten a lot of vintage books here, and even if a book isn’t listed, you can add it to your wishlist so you’re contacted as soon as a member offers it for sale.
What’s your favorite source for vintage needlecrafts books and magazines?
Needlecrafts, handmade creativity, and other good stuff