Book Review and Giveaway: The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This post contains affiliate links.

new tunisian crochetIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Tunisian crochet, and I’m thrilled to see it regaining popularity.  Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, is one of several recent crochet publications that explore the versatility of Tunisian crochet.  I recently received a review copy from Interweave/F+W Media.  Though it pains me to part with such an awesome book, I will be giving away my review copy, so read on for details.

The New Tunisian Crochet opens just as anyone familiar with Dora’s writings at Crochet Insider and elsewhere would expect: with a history lesson.  The first chapter, What is Tunisian Crochet?, reviews the appearance Tunisian crochet stitches in needlecrafts publications in the 1850s and discusses the possible origins of the craft.  This section will delight your inner history nerd and will also appeal to your intelligence.  Dora’s writing style assumes her readers have brains and she doesn’t feel the need to talk down.  She sites her references and even includes a reading list.  Dora also mentions some of the contemporary Tunisian crochet designers, such as Carolyn Christmas and Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, who have helped to re-popularize and reinvigorate the craft.

In the next chapter, Tunisian Crochet Techniques, Dora writes in a conversational tone and provides tips and explanations that are useful even to an experienced Tunisian crocheter.  The book includes illustrations along with descriptions of the basic Tunisian crochet stitches.  In general, I don’t find Interweave’s illustrations helpful and it is hard for me to tell where the yarn and hook are placed.  I wish that these illustrations made use of multiple colors (as most of the Japanese stitch guides do) so that it would be easier for me to identify the difference between the previous rows and the current stitch.  In many ways, the illustrations are in keeping with the general tone of this book, which assumes a level of knowledge of the basics of crochet and Tunisian crochet.  More experienced crocheters will find this lack of review refreshing, but Tunisian newbies may need to consult other resources for more support.

Chapter 3, Tools for Tunisian Crochet, reviews the various available hooks and tools for blocking.  Dora includes a list of web resources.

The next chapter, Special Techniques and Effects, is where things start to get very interesting.  Dora covers a myriad of Tunisian techniques here, including basic double-ended crochet, short rows for circles, stranded colorwork, and entrelac.  Each technique includes a small project or pattern and you will want to pull your hooks out right away and get swatching.

For all you stitch guide junkies, Chapter 5, Stitch Dictionary, is for you.  This section includes 33 Tunisian stitch patterns organized into five sections: Basic, Intermediate, Lace, Textured, and Tunisian and Standard Crochet.  Each pattern includes US abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

The final chapter, Projects, includes 12 project patterns.  The project breakdown is

  • Women’s Accessories – 6 (a shawl, a hat, mittens, a scarf, a bag, and slippers)
  • Garments – 4 (a cardigan, a pullover, and a skirt for women, and a vest for men)
  • Home Decor – 2 (a sampler throw and a rug)

This section features patterns by many talented designers, including Dora herself.  My favorites from this section are actually the first four patterns: the Marisol Cardigan by Andrea Graciarena, the Mago Vest by Charles Voth (interviewed by me here), the Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha (interviewed by me here), and the Shantay Skirt by Doris Chan.  I also like the Sierra Bag by Margaret Hubert (interviewed by me here), which changes up the typical entrelac pattern by including different sizes.  I can also imagine myself trying out some of the stitch patterns from the Ariadne Sampler Throw by Lisa Daehlin.  (Ravelry members can see all of the book’s designs on its source page.)

The book closes with a reference section in the back, which includes a key to the stitch symbols used throughout the book and a glossary of US pattern abbreviations.  It also includes illustrated and written instructions for all of the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches.  Finally, a bio of each contributor is included.

Overall, this is a great book for a crocheter interested in going beyond the basics of Tunisian crochet.  In addition to the wonderful tips and tricks, stitch guide, and history lesson, the book includes many great projects – several of which highlight or teach a specific Tunisian crochet skill.  The stitch guide and the patterns use both US pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The downside to this book is that the illustrations assume prior knowledge and are really just there to trigger your memory of particular stitches.  Also, it is a softcover and it doesn’t stay open when flat.  If you are a true Tunisian crochet newbie, you may need to supplement this book with something else (I would recommend Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet).  I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars for any crocheter interested in learning more about Tunisian crochet.

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway 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.

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 31, 2013.

Book Review and Giveaway: Crochet with Color

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of Crochet with Color by Kazuko Ryokai, courtesy of North Light Books.

This post contains affiliate links.

Crochet with Color

I recently received a review copy of Crochet With Color: 25 Contemporary Projects for the Yarn Lover by Kazuko Ryokai from North Light Books.  This is the English translation of a Japanese book published in 2008.  If you have had access to Japanese crochet pattern books, the basic format of Crochet with Color will be familiar to you.

The book opens with a 40+ page project gallery.   Each project layout is two pages and includes a picture of the full project displayed along with close ups of several project details.  The projects are organized into two sections: Domestic Bliss Crochet (home decor) and Out and About (accessories for women and children).

The next section, Crochet Techniques and Instructions, features information such as tips for reading symbol patterns, different methods for starting a project in the round, and joining motifs.  The rest of the book focuses on the patterns for each project.  There is a small photo of each project (so you don’t need to flip back to the project gallery), a list of materials, and general instructions about construction.  Then patterns are shown through crochet stitch symbols.  The materials list is general – e.g., “49 yards (20 g) of aran-weight (#4 medium) merino yarn in purple for grapes” – so you can easily identify appropriate yarns for each project.

This book, like most of the Japanese crochet books I’ve seen, is delightful and inspiring to look through.  The color palette is bright and cheery, the photo styling is wonderful, and the projects, while not overly complex, are more interesting than what you might find in most American advanced beginner project books.  Kazuko’s designs make great use of crocheted adornments like flowers.  Ravelry members can see several projects from the Japanese edition of the book here.  My favorite projects are the Basketweave Pillows, the Daisy Throw, the Garland Scarf (called Lariat on Ravelry), and the English Garden Scarf.

On the downside, as a small yet thick paperback, it is difficult to keep the book open while crocheting.  Those who don’t like stitch symbols will have a hard time following along as written pattern abbreviations are not included.

Crochet with Color is a great book for an advanced beginner crocheter who has the basic stitches down but is able to read crochet stitch symbols (or willing to learn how).  Working through these projects will introduce new stitches and colorplay.  More advanced crocheters might find the patterns too simple, but would still enjoy looking through this book for ideas for adding color to their projects, displaying their projects around the house, and using crochet adornments to add a finishing touch to a project.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway 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.

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Crochet With Color: 25 Contemporary Projects for the Yarn Lover by Kazuko Ryokai, courtesy of North Light Books/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: The Harmony Guide to 100’s More Crochet Stitches

This week’s pick:The Harmony Guide to 100’s More Crochet Stitches (Harmony guides)

Source: Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles online store

Publication date: 1992

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.

They don’t make ’em like they used to!

 

Book Review and Giveaway: 75 Floral Blocks to Crochet

This post contains affiliate links.

Today I’m sharing my review of 75 Floral Blocks to Crochet: Beautiful Patterns to Mix and Match for Afghans, Throws, Baby Blankets, and More by bestselling British needlecrafts author Betty Barnden.  St. Martin’s Press generously provided me with two copies of this collection of crochet motifs inspired by flowers, so I can keep my review copy and host a giveaway!

In the introduction, Betty explains that her love of gardening inspired her to create floral blocks.  Some of the patterns are modifications of traditional motif patterns with abstract floral influences, while others are complex designs that attempt to literally capture the look of different flowers.  The book features motifs of different shapes (circles, diamonds, hexagons, squares, and triangles), but blocks of the same shape are made the same size so they can be easily combined.  The samples in the book are made with DK (sport weight) yarn and a size E crochet hook and measure between 5-6 inches.

The book starts with a 20-page section called Useful Techniques.  This includes a review of yarn and hooks, an overview of US pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols (including a thorough explanation of the significance of different arrangements of symbols and tips for reading charts in the round or in rows), tips for making stunning motifs (including techniques for invisible finishes, weaving in ends, and starting in the round), and a chart that explains the care symbols on yarn ball bands.  There are also tips for arranging blocks, blocking, joining motifs, and planning block projects.  The section on edgings includes tips for working around the sides and corners as well as 6 patterns for edgings.

The next section is a 20-page Directory of Blocks which includes a photograph of each block, arranged thematically by color/garden inspiration.  Each block includes the pattern name and page number where the pattern appears.

The Instructions section is the meat of the book, and includes instructions for 78 motif patterns arranged by shape.  Each pattern includes the difficulty level and the method of construction, a large photo, and a pattern written with US pattern abbreviations and stitch symbols.  There is a key to stitch symbols at the beginning of each pattern, making this a great book for those new to stitch symbols.

The pattern breakdown for the 78 motifs is:

Motif types: 13 triangles, 26 squares, 6 diamonds, 20 hexagons, and 13 circles.

Skill levels: 33 Easy projects, 34 Intermediate projects, and 11 advanced projects.

Construction methods: 64 in rounds, 4 in rows, 1 diagonally, 2 decreasing in rows, and 7 combining two construction methods.

The final section, Projects, includes assembly instructions for four projects made with the motif patterns from the book: a hexagon throw; lined, frame purses using different shaped blocks; a cushion made from squares; and a triangle motif scarf.

75 Floral Blocks to Crochet includes blocks in a variety of shapes.  In spite of the floral inspiration, many are abstract enough to make unisex designs with different color choices.  The book is the only major compendium of motif patterns I’ve seen that includes blocks constructed in decreasing rows or diagonally.  The use of both written abbreviations and stitch symbols, the range of skill levels included in the patterns, and the technique tips shared makes this book a great choice for a broad range of crocheters.  This book would appeal to crocheters who love motifs or portable projects, those who want to learn to read stitch symbols, and crocheters who enjoy working with color.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars for crocheters who love to make motif projects. But the rating is because this book is much more than just a pattern book.  The tips for reading stitch symbols and for making successful motif projects are very helpful.

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.

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, St. Martin’s Press has shared an additional giveaway copy of  75 Floral Blocks to Crochet, which is good for you all since I already planned to keep my review copy. (So far, I’ve made 4 motifs from this book.  You can see them hereherehere, and here.)

This giveaway is open to all readers with a U.S. address.  (Sorry international readers, but postage costs are just too high for me right now!)  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, January 21, 2013. 

Non-yarn haul: Knitty City

Although I’ve been participating in Surmount the Stash all year and have been fairly good about avoiding new yarn purchases, the siren song of my favorite local yarn shop, Knitty City, began calling to me last night.

The start of my yarn craving was receiving an email update about another local yarn shop that is closing because the owner is relocating to Philadelphia.  I was feeling very good about the fact that I deleted the email and didn’t ride up there to start buying yarn I don’t need because “it’s on sale.”

I’ve also been working on some design submissions, and when that happens I often get the craving for a new color or brand of yarn.  I’ve wanted to try Sweet Georgia Yarns for a while now, and they happen to be the yarn of the month at Knitty City, and as such, are 10% off.

And, this weekend I was actually supposed to teach at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival, but when my classes didn’t fill, I decided to stay home rather than take the long trip up to teach a small class.  I’m sure I would have had a lot of fun anyway, since last year was so wonderful, but I needed the rest and saving the money didn’t hurt either.

While all of these things were influential, in truth, like most Americans, I partake in retail therapy from time to time.  (I’ve been working on curbing that, too, after participating in the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge through Frugally Sustainable along with one of my best friends, OB.)  The past month at work have been remarkably taxing, and I’ve been in the office about 60-70 hours a week while also trying to keep up with my various part-time jobs.  Since I had already budgeted for yarn shopping at the Festival, I decided to stop by Knitty City instead.

I did check out the Sweet Georgia yarns, and they were as beautiful as I remembered, but I didn’t immediately have a project in mind so I decided not to buy any yarn.  (I consider this a small victory.)

Then I saw the sign mentioning a 20% of sale on books.  I immediately headed right over to the Japanese book section.  Since those tend to be more expensive and are harder to find in the States, it seemed like the wisest choice.

I fell in love with the top swatch.

Although I have a reasonably sized collection of Japanese crochet and Tunisian crochet books, Knitting Patterns 500 is my very first Japanese knitting book purchase.  I’m not as familiar with knitting stitch symbols, so I look forward to that new challenge.

I also discovered two other books that went onto my wishlist for a future time, 1000 Knitting Patterns Book and 100 Aran Patterns.  I’m really looking forward to decoding the knitting symbol patterns and coming up with some fun designs using this book!