Interview with Nicky Epstein, book review, and giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m really excited to share an interview with Nicky Epstein today.  Nicky is a knit and crochet designer, bestselling author, and teacher.  A few months ago, I received a review copy of one of her books (which I won’t name… yet) and thought it was  “just a knitting book.”  After reading it, I found that it was a book that would be equally beneficial to crocheters and knitters since it dives so completely into the world of felting.  The book is Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting, and I highly recommend it if you’ve always wanted to explore felting – but more about that later.

Nicky can be found online at her website, her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and her Ravelry designer page.

After the interview, I’ll be sharing my review of Knitting Never Felt Better, as well as a giveaway, courtesy of Sixth & Spring Books.


The Interview

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and crocheting?

Nicky: My mother and grandmother taught me at an early age.

Nicky Epstein. (Photo courtesy of Nicky Epstein.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Nicky: I entered a contest for McCall’s Needlecraft magazine and won first prize with my “Unicorn In The Garden” sweater. They asked me for more designs, which they published, and I began to get calls from other needlecraft publications, because I was doing intricate colorwork.

Several versions of the Angel Puff Scarf, one of my favorite patterns from Knitting Never Felt Better.  Photography by Jack Deutsch Studios. Photo copyright © by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

UC: Your book, Knitting Never Felt Better, is an in-depth exploration of felting, which could be used by crocheters as well. I was particularly intrigued by the dimensional felting. How were you introduced to these techniques, and what was it like exploring them for the book?
Nicky: I saw cloth shibori scarves at the American Folk Art Museum in New York and thought “Hey, I can do that with knitting.”  It was so much fun, I couldn’t stop.  And it expanded into the book. I used nuts, marbles, ping pong balls, shells, and more to create the dimensional designs and by the time I finished I had felted all the wool in my apartment and more!!!

UC: What was the design process like for Knitting Never Felt Better?
Nicky: I wanted to make the book a complete guide to felting, so I designed a wide range of pieces using various knitting techniques that lent themselves to felting, including techniques we thought couldn’t be done, like textured stitches and colorwork.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Nicky: From everything I see, from nature to gift wrap designs to vintage fashions. I try to expand the boundaries of knitting in my designs.

Cherries Jubilee Slippers from Knitting Never Felt Better.  Pieces are knitted, then felted, then sewn together.   Photography by Jack Deutsch Studios. Photo copyright © by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

UC: What is your favorite “go to” craft for your personal crafting?
Nicky: Redesigning furniture using fun techniques like decoupage, painting, etc. I also like designing jewelry and buttons, and have designed 4 lines of buttons for JHB Buttons.

Nicky Epstein Alpaca Button. (Image courtesy of JHB International.)

UC: What are some of your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Nicky: Barbara Walker’s books, Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, Harmony Guides, Vogue Knitting – great basics to build on.

UC: Do you have any favorite knitting/crochet/craft/design blogs or websites to share?

Nicky: Pinterest, Ravelry, Etsy, Mary Taylor’s Knitting On Top Of The World, and of course, my own website.  Sadly, I don’t have much time to read most blogs.

UC: What else do you have planned for 2012?
Nicky: My new book, Knitting in Circles: 100 Circular Patterns for Sweaters, Bags, Hats, Afghans, and More, is being release in August by Potter Craft/Random House, and I have very busy teaching and traveling schedule that is listed on my website.

Nicky, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your answers with us!

The Book Review

Sixth & Spring Books recently released a paperback edition of Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting.  If, like me, you missed out on the hardcover edition, I recommend that you check this book out.

Although the patterns inside are geared towards knitters, this book provides a really thorough examination of felting, so I would even recommend it for crocheters.  The book opens with Go Felt Yourself, an overview of felting, which includes general felting instructions, FAQs, a list of ten great yarns to use for felting (as recommended by 60 yarn shop owners), and before and after photos of a 23 stitch stockinette swatch in 19 different yarns.  The chapter closes with two patterns for knitting projects along with felting instructions.

The next chapter, Dimensional Felting, is by far my favorite.  In this chapter, Nicky explores different techniques for creating dimensional projects by attaching marbles, balls, nuts, pebbles, shells, buttons, dowels, and other objects to your finished yarn creation while felting.  She also shows some great examples of textures created by drying felted yarn with binder clips attached.  This section is filled with swatch pictures that include details about how the effect was created, as well as 6 project patterns and 12 stitch patterns.

In A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns, Nicky explores stitch patterns that “still maintain their visual interest” after felting.  This section includes 6 cable stitch patterns, 6 mosaic patterns, 39 color stitch patterns, 2 one-color slip stitch patterns, and 10 lace patterns, as well as one project made from a pattern stitch.

The next chapter, A Variety of Techniques, explores intarsia, stranded colorwork, color blocking, duplicate stitch, surface embroidery, entrelac, drop stitch, beading, and combining natural fibers with synethics.  As in the previous chapter, each stitch is shown before and after, and there are many suggestions for felting with these techniques.  (My favorite tip is to avoid weaving in ends with your intarsia project, and then to cut them off after felting.)  This chapter includes 21 stitch patterns and 3 project patterns.

Appliques, Cords and Bag Handles includes tips for adding “unique adornments” to your projects.  This section includes 8 applique patterns, 6 cord patterns, and 8 designs for bag handles along with two project patterns.

The next chapter, Cut It Out, focuses on cutting up felted fabric (from your own knitting or crocheting, or from upcycled garments) to make a variety of fun projects.  Most of these projects require sewing.  I love the 5-in-1 sweater projects, which shows how to create two hats, a decorative flower, a dog sweater, and a purse from one old sweater, and there are some great bags and toys in this chapter as well.

The next chapter, Sculptural Felting, includes patterns for 13 fruits and vegetables, a fruit bowl, and a covered bowl/gift box.

At the end of the book, there is a techniques section that reviews the pattern abbreviation terms and includes written instructions for some stitches, increases, and decreases.  There are also illustrated instructions for a provisional cast on, three-needle bind off, kitchener stitch, duplicate stitch, and 9 embroidery stitches used in the patterns.   Nicky includes 13 pages of pattern templates for the cut felted patterns.

The book is filled with great suggestions from Nicky’s readers, as well as tips for making and using your felted creations.  Each stitch pattern includes before and after felting pictures, and all of the projects include directions for felting and assembly.  Most patterns use U.S. pattern abbreviations, but many of the colorwork patterns include charts instead.  The layout and photography is attractive, so the book makes great “eye candy.”  As you might expect from Nicky, most of the patterns are women’s accessories, bags, and garments, but there are some items for men, children, and home.  The book includes so many stitch patterns that a knitter can also create their own projects using the stitch patterns and felting techniques included inside.  The introduction to each section also includes details about the type of yarn and needles used for the swatches in that section.

While this book is clearly aimed at knitters, as I’ve mentioned, there is a lot that crocheters can glean from it.  For example, an intermediate crocheter could “translate” the types of color and textured patterns likely to felt well by comparing A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns to a crochet stitch guide.  Similarly, most projects in Cut It Out could easily be made with a crocheted fabric.

To keep the review balanced, I’ll mention a few things that could be improved or that might turn off some readers.  While I think much could be adapted by an intrepid crocheter, I would have loved to see some crochet stitch patterns included in the book.  Some readers will wish that more of the patterns were charted.  Like most paperback books, it doesn’t lay completely flat when you are reading, but there are flaps on both covers that can be used as page markers.  The book is aimed at an intermediate knitter, so there isn’t much review of the “basics.”

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any intermediate knitter who enjoys working with natural fibers.  This book presents a lot of wonderful information about felting in an easily digestible and beautiful form, and there are some wonderful knitting patterns included.  I would also recommend this book to an adventurous intermediate or advanced crocheter who already has the basics of felting down and is interested in exploring dimensional and colorwork options.

Full disclosure: Two free review/giveaway copies of this book were 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.

The Giveaway

The nice folks at Sixth & Spring Books were generous enough to share an additional copy of Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting, so I get to keep my review copy :) .  This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, August 15, 2012.

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