Reviews

The Best of Interweave Crochet

by Linda Permann

 

 www.lindamade.com

 

This well rounded collection of designs is a must have for those who may have missed early issues of Interweave Crochet, which initially launched in 2004. The book features 23 designs from popular designers like Kristin Omdahl, Doris Chan, Robyn Chachula and Kim Guzman. Whether you like to crochet clothing, accessories, or décor, you'll find something to love inside. All of the classic favorites that come to mind when I think of Interweave Crochet are included here, such as Kathy Merrick's Babette Blanket and Boteh Scarf, Lily Chin's Lace Dress, and Julia Vaconsin's Northern Dreams Pullover.

 

The patterns are clear and concise, and those originally published with diagrams include them here as well. Patterns span a range of yarn weights and styles, with several offerings in lace and sock weight, on up to DK and worsted weight yarns. With design elements ranging from lace and cables to mock fair-isle stitches, Tunisian and tapestry crochet, each project offers its own challenge and skill-building opportunity for intermediate crocheters.

 

In addition to wonderful patterns, the book is peppered with articles and advice from well-known designers. "Back to Basics" pages elaborate on techniques most books gloss over, like how to change colors and weave in ends. Likewise, "Beyond the Basics" articles explore the more complex techniques of Foundation Stitches, Tunisian Crochet, Seaming, and more. Even seasoned crocheters will find useful advice within.

 

Interweave is known for pushing the crochet envelope, with designs that continue to inspire the exploration of what can be accomplished with a hook and string—and this book is no exception. The Best of Interweave Crochet is not just a collection of the magazine's favorite patterns, but a celebration of how far crochet has come in the last ten years.

 

Linda Permann

Author, Little Crochet and Crochet Adorned


 

Granny Square Love

by Dora Ohrenstein

What more can be done with the Granny Square than what's been done before?  Of course, in recent seasons, the fashion runway has been showing grannies in all their glory, from the muted tones of Christopher Kane to the traditional black and brights sported by Cate Blanchett.  

 

Sarah London's appealing new book Granny Square Love cleverly re-imagines the granny with an array of items for the home. She uses them in traditional ways, for afghans and pillow covers, and more inventively, to cover lampshades and ottomans, and as decorative appliques and borders. One important element that lets us see grannies anew is the size of the squares.  Check out the photo here, where none of the grannies are the typical size seen in afghans.  The squares on the wall hanging in the background are medium large, with two colors, the one in the throw on the bed are larger yet, with a multicolored border of uneven stripes, and the pillow is a giant square mysteriously inscribed by an X created by the two-color composition.  In another design, traditional sized Grannies cover a lamp, irresistably cute and perfect for a kids' room. Others float on a curtain, and yet others wrap themselves around a teapot with a curved spout.

 

What transports Sarah's designs to another level is her piquant, even daring, use of color; the vibrant combos put her work right over the top.  The book includes fun tips on how to work with color, and you can read more about Sarah's color ideas in our interview of her in this issue: http://crochetinsider.com/interview/sarah-londons-granny-square-love

 

Granny Square Love has playful, inviting graphics, with large stitch diagrams.  There are clear, well-illustrated sections on basic stitches and techniques -- making this book excellent for the beginning crocheter.  It would also be a fine source of inspiration for anyone with lots of colorful bits in their stash.

 

Curvy Crochet: 8 Fashion is Sizes Large - 4X

 

Marly Bird is a terrific designer whose super positive energy has won her many fans in the industry.  As a luscious-sized gal herself, she knows how to design for the full figured woman.  Together with Jill Wright, she's created the best plus sized book I've yet seen in crochet! The designs are unfailingly flattering, with beautiful stitch patterns and body-conscious styling details.  Leisure Arts has outdone themselves by including schematics for every sweater, and allowing finer yarns to be used.  Getting away from worsteds is key for most garments, and especially for the plus-sized  woman, where bulk is a negative in a garment.  Marly and Jill understand that open necks and subtle shaping at the waist make for truly elegant fit. There is a beautiful pullover with a cowl neck, a peasant-style lace blouse, a motif bolero, a long vest and a long buttoned tunic, and another tunic that ties in back.  The sweaters are fully shaped, with set in or raglan sleeves.  In addition to 6 sweaters and vests, there is a pretty scarf and a felted bag. The model in all photos is lovely, and the garments are also shown on a dummy, a very helpful addition that allows readers to see the garment's shape on or off a body. Instructions are thorough and easy to read. If you've been waiting a long time for a really good-looking sweater book for the ample woman, this is it!

 

Knit, Swirl

 

Though it's not a crochet book, I'm reviewing Sandra McIver's book "Knit, Swirl!" because it is very special, and one of the best self-published books I've seen.

 

Why would an author decide to self-publish rather than have an established publisher do a book? Certainly in Sandra's case, the quality of the work would have landed such a contract if she'd wanted it. The knitted swirl is a very cool concept that many a publisher would jump on.

 

But working with a publisher is always, to some degree, a compromise:  they control not only the images and graphics, but also have substantial input on content. Though I am totally speculating here, I can imagine that Sandra went the self-publishing route because she had a very strong vision of something quite particular to accomplish, and wanted to approach it with single-mindedness and devotion. It's quite possible that a publisher would have gotten in her way, thinking the book was almost too focused.  To me, the in-depth quality of Sandra's work is very intriguing.

 

Sandra has worked out four different -- though similar -- shapes to use in the Swirl: Centered Circle, Off-Center Circle, Centered Oval, Off-Center Oval.  These are presented with great photos and detailed explanations at the beginning. Then comes a technique primer as you get ready to make a Swirl.  Then 18 stunning Swirls, each with detailed diagrams and stitch counts.

 

Not only are the swirl shapes similar, but the knit stitches used are similar on all the designs.  Sandra uses welts -- stitches that pop out of the fabric -- to create textured stripes. which are enhanced or muted in the various designs. The effect of these stripes brings out beautiful qualities in the yarns, and also adds lots of visual "swirliness" to the Swirl. In designs where it's combined with changing colors, the effect is highly dramatic. In fact, all the Swirls have that quality of "making a statement."  Great ingenuity is shown in the folding and clasping of Swirls to get a variety of collars, front closures and garment lengths.

 

This is a case where a designer "controlled" several variables -- the basic shape and the look  of the fabric -- so that they are similar throughout.  Within this framework, she is able to explore a single idea and technique in depth, showing how shaping details influence the fit and flow of a garment, and showcasing the qualities of different yarns, fibers and colors.  Given Sandra's very fine artistic sense and strong technical skills, the format allows her to hone in on and share her discoveries. It's a totally designer driven concept that a publisher might not sufficiently appreciate.  

 

As for publishing know-how, Sandra shows great panache here too -- the book is beautiful, clean and attractively laid out, with fine photos and graphics by Zoe Lonergan.

 

As a fellow designer, I feel liberated by a book like this. It shows me how worthwhile it is to give free reign to a creative impulse and mine it for all its nourishment.  The Swirls are gorgeous, tempting both in beauty and intelligence, would be fun to make, and divine to wear.  I think Swirls will find many fans.

 

 

Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook: 50 motifs, 10 projects, 1 of a kind results

Reviewed by Kathy North

The attractive cover on this enclosed spiral-bound volume provides an introductory hint of the interesting content inside. The focus of the book is creating “on the go” (portable) motifs in basic shapes (squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, octagons) to use as fundamental building blocks in larger projects, specifically afghans. There is enough design inspiration here to keep one enthused and occupied with hours of creative and stimulating crochet work.

 

The author, a popular, prolific and frequently published designer, possesses extensive expertise in the area of crochet afghan design. She conveys her knowledge in a matter-of-fact presentation that is enjoyable to read and easy to understand. Her friendly tone invites and encourages crocheters to try any or all of the 50 motif ideas (ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced) in suggested color combinations, or to venture into the realm of “design-your-own.”

 

There is a logical progression to the order of the material presented. The author begins by providing excellent information about fiber choices, tools, and how to use the instructions in the book. Colorful photographs and precise stitch diagrams and illustrations support the written word with clarity. Along with some insight into how she goes about creating an original design, the author provides tips on color theory (the crocheted color wheel is a refreshing and novel visual aid), layout, assembly and edging choices for afghan-making. 

 

Following the educational introductory pages are patterns for 50 unique and original motifs. Each motif is given its own page which includes: skill level, finished measurement, a color photograph of the motif, a charted version of the motif, and “mix & match” suggestions for how each motif works with others. Design inspiration notes, a “getting started” materials list and written instructions are also included (the only negative about the presentation on the motif pattern pages is that the font size in the “getting started” materials list is very small and difficult to read compared to the clear print throughout the rest of the book.)

 

The author has created 10 stunning afghans incorporating the original motifs she has designed. There are lovely closeup shots of the finished afghans in various color combinations, attractively draped on furniture pieces. What catches the eye are the “flat” photos of the completed afghans: when viewed from this perspective they resemble intricate, vintage patchwork quilts!  The overall effect of complexity belies their ease of construction from small motifs made with just a few rounds of crochet.

 

One can tell that this book was truly a labor of love. I can’t imagine the hours that went in to creating 50 individual motif designs, not to mention the time spent in assembling 10 beautiful afghans which are destined to become heirlooms. My favorite motifs in each category are “Pick a Posie” (square), “Neapolitan” (rectangle), “Off Center” (triangle), “Brilliant” (hexagon), and “Rose Octagon” (octagon).

 

This book is highly recommended for any crocheter who enjoys colorplay, ease and portability of projects, or inspiration for stepping up to the next level of creativity. “Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook” provides choices: one can follow the patterns as written, in the color schemes suggested, or step out on one’s own, adapting the multitude of ideas to creating adventurous projects. The lay-flat spiral binding format makes it easy to concentrate on working the patterns without need to hold pages down while wrangling hook and yarn.

 

As stated on the back cover, after seeing this book stitchers will definitely want to “… choose your favorite motif, grab your hook and yarn, and Go Crochet!”

Review by Kathy North, Designs by KN

 www.designsbykn.com

On Ravelry: dbkn5

 

150 Knit and Crochet Motifs

By Denise J. Lavoie

Heather Lodinsky, an industry professional with many designing years under her belt, has ventured into the motif world to create this compendium of knit and crochet motifs. Let me say, right up front, that in this genre of crochet instruction book, I am a huge Edie Eckman fan. Her Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs book (reviewed by CI here: http://www.crochetinsider.com/bookreview/beyond-square-crochet-motifs) is one I go to again and again – not only for the great motif visuals – but also for the clear and complete instructions concerning charts, gauge, joining tips, and a host of other process-related subjects.

 

Having said that, Lodinsky has compiled a solid, if somewhat predictable, array of knit and crochet motifs. A real strength of the book is its layout. It starts with a directory of motifs by shape. She does not separate the crochet and knit motifs into distinct sections. I found this a good thing for people like me who both knit and crochet. Having motifs in both disciplines side-by-side allows crafters to potentially harness double the creative possibilities. 

 

Additionally, I loved the snowflake and connectors sections. These contained some novel motifs – particularly the connectors section. Connector shapes are not always a focus in motif books, but have useful design implications. Lodinsky also provides nifty symbols to let the crafter know each motif’s difficulty level, as well as whether the motif is worked in rows or in a circular manner.

 

The book also includes a projects and techniques section at the end. While I found most of this section perfunctory, the discussion of working motifs in either a smaller or larger size, or creating a half or quarter of a particular motif, was very unique and helpful. As anyone who has done any motif work can attest, customizing motifs and projects are a big part of the motif appeal - as well as, of course, their portable nature. An ability to see the possibilities of a portion of a motif, and then have guidance on how to realize that possibility is a welcomed part of Lodinsky’s approach.

 

The subtitle of the book proclaims “anything-but-square shapes for garments, accessories, afghans, and throws.” Of course, there are square motif shapes in the book and, unfortunately, many of the other shapes and designs are, as mentioned earlier, fairly predictable. There isn’t much new ground covered in this aspect of the book.

 

Nevertheless, for anyone who loves motifs and motif work, this can be a handy reference to have at one’s fingertips.

 

More Crocheted Socks

 

by Dora Ohrenstein

 

This is a wonderful book all about crocheted socks, with terrific designs to stimulate the sock-maker in you.  Janet Rehfeldt's solid introduction covers the topic of sock construction very thoroughly and clearly, analyzing each section of the sock. Several different methods are used to make the  designs in the book: from the toe up and from the cuff down, and cuffs  are made using both horizontal and vertical rows.  Three different heel constructions are used:  heel flap with gusset shaping, short-row heel and "afterthought heel." Foot measurements and making socks that fit well are also well explained. In other words, everything you need to build your technical skills as a sock maker is here.

 

 

Each sock design is adorable and brimming with creativity.  Janet and her colleagues have created a truly delectable collection of socks. The cuffs sport cables, ribs, modified basketweave, lace, beads and tiny colored buttons.  There are dainty socks, socks for hiking, toeless socks, toe only socks (didn't we used to call these "peds?"), and one with a separate big toe you can wear with flip flops.  A variety of interesting stitch patterns are used that create sufficient solidity in the fabric yet also have drape. The yarn and color selections are adventurous and fun. Most are self-patterning sock yarns, and they look so great that I believe they put to rest the arguments that such yarns don't work in crochet.  

 

The socks are well-photographed in outdoor settings on pretty feet, with close-ups that show the stitches and constructions clearly. Martingale's no frills layout is clean and open.  Instructions are very clear and attention is given to exactly where to place the hook, counting stitches and other small but important details.

 

Anyone who loves crochet socks will enjoy this book immensely. If you haven't tried them before, the books will inspire you to do so.  I must admit I have never made a crochet sock, and now I really want to!  With this fine new book, I have all the information I need.  

 

Crochet Pillows with Tunisian & Traditional Techniques

 

Sharon Silverman's new book, Crochet Pillows, is a collection of beautiful patterns.  There are twenty designs altogether, 10 using regular crochet and 10 in Tunisian crochet.  The designs feature a very welcome emphasis on color and texture.  Sharon makes inventive use of classic crochet techniques to create striking modern designs.  Among the techniques she employs are woven crochet, cables, mitred squares, spike stitches, super tall stitches, post stitches, felting, beading and other embellishments, and cross-stitch embroidery.  There's a loopy pillow that's so vintage it will always be in style, suitably photographed on a leopardskin chair.

 

In addition to exciting designs, the strength of this book is Sharon's commitment to clarity of instructions.  Large photos, accompanied by written instructions, break down every step, showing exactly how to make stitches which may be unfamiliar.  It's almost like having a teacher in the room with you as you work through the various maneuvers with yarn and hook.

 

Photographer Alan Wycheck has a fine eye, and the photos are good-looking. I would have loved to see even more eye-candy in the book.  The striking design on the book's cover, Red Hot Heart, is a felted project. The heart is created from a simple hyperbolic ruffle made of 4 dc in each chain of a row, which is then felted and sewn into the shape of a heart on the pillow.  The instructions on felting and assembly are excellent.

 

These pillows will dress up any home, and make great gifts.  What's more, crocheters can learn a lot from the projects.  In my imaginary world, yarn shops would have many copies of this book  and would hold classes on each of the techniques in it.  My hope is that Sharon will be touring the land doing just that!

 

Little Crochet: modern designs for babies and toddlers

By Charles Voth

The crocheter who buys the book Little Crochet: modern designs for babies and toddlers, by Linda Permann is likely to experience intense eagerness to make many or even all  the items within its covers. The patterns in this book include accessories for the nursery, toys, one-skein time-is-of-essence projects, and garments for infants to just beyond the toddler years. The projects are contemporary in style, with the occasional nod to timeless classics as well. The contents of the book go well beyond cute designs, with a balance of illustrated aids for stitches, tips and tricks, a comprehensive list of resources, and more.

 

Congratulations are in order for Linda’s editorial team from Potter Craft. The photography and styling by Heather Weston are very well done. The photos include close-ups and full profile shots of the crocheted pieces, and the lighting and styling make it easy to see the details. The little photogenic boys and girls show off the designs very well. Woolypear, the book’s designer, has captured the modern spirit of Linda’s designs and parallels it impeccably in the page and book layout. The typefaces are modern and well defined, legible, and add to the feeling of fun as you turn each page. The colors used in the book’s design complement the crochet very well. The stitch chart designer, the illustrator, and the tech editor round out the strengths of this team.

 

Linda’s planning and thoroughness is quite evident throughout the book. She knows her readers will be novices through pros, and there is something there for everyone.  She seems to have premonitions about what crocheters may want to know and she explains away any doubts or concerns in a timely way. Topics covered include sizing, hooks, yarn and substitutions, abbreviations, symbol charts, and gauge. There are a great many tips and suggestions for ways to modify the designs, an element that every contemporary crochet book should have.

 

The patterns. They are fabulous. As a father to two boys, I am most impressed by the balance between girl and boy garments, accessories, and toys, and Linda includes some unisex pieces that can go either way depending on your color choices. She also prepares the crocheter to take accurate measurements. This book features 4 blanket designs, each one celebrating a different strength of crocheted fabric: motifs, lace, texture and structure. The nursery accessory is a sweet soft mobile to suspend over the crib. There are several toys that can be tossed around, squeezed, and leaned on for comfort. For the boys, there are several pullover tops with design features that ensure little to no struggle for dressing or undressing the little wrigglers. I wish I had had that vest pattern when my guys were little. There is also a cardigan that can be styled for both boys and girls, as well as a boat-neck pullover. For girls, there are two stylish dresses, a romantic riding cape, and a with-the-times swing cardigan. There is a fantastic pair of leggings for your toddler to wear with you to yoga, dance, the park, or even the mud puddle? There is a pattern for pants, and tips on modifying it to crochet soakers, shorts, Capri-pants and more. Some cute bibs, bonnets, beanies and booties fill in the gaps. If you are multi-craftual, there is an opportunity to sew a simple tunic which is elegantly finished with crocheted motifs, and a touch of embroidery adds personality to some of the other designs. This book contains a remarkable scope and depth of patterns, and I am confident that most crocheters would easily want to make 75% of the patterns or more.

 

The palette of colors Linda has chosen is very contemporary and refreshing, with a nice balance of bright and soft hues that today’s parents like to dress their kids in. Many designs have a “tip” box with alternate colour suggestions in swatch format.

Yarnophiles, be ready to enjoy the wide range of yarns that Linda has selected. I am pleased to see that yarns available online and at big box stores are included, but the majority can be purchased at your local yarn store (LYS).

 

Little Crochet reads easily. Linda’s voice is clear, kind, and informative. She uses inclusive language and crafts her sentences so that the new crocheter will not get lost, but the advanced one will not feel patronized. It is evident that she knows her audience and how to teach. It is clear that she loves being part of the greater community of crocheters and she invites the reader to connect with her online and to share photos of finished projects.  I enjoyed reading this book and my wife has already placed some orders for me to make. I know of two more baby showers on the horizon.

 

The Beaded Age

The beautiful beaded crochet edgings in this book are derived from the Turkish tradition of oya.  Oya began as intricate needlework edgings and evolved into a very delicate  type of crochet. There are some stunning examples of this technique, but they are hard to come by outside of Turkey.  Midori Nishida took a keen interest in Turkish oya and devoted several years of study to it, eventually developing this beaded version.  It is absolutely gorgeous!  The whole book is infused with a Japanese aesthetic I find tremendously appealing:  work of great delicacy, modern color palette, beautifully organized and presented.  In addition to edgings on jeans, Tee-shirts, shawls, gloves, bags curtains and tablecloths, there are some fine jewelry pieces, and even trims for bowls and glasses. A very classy and unusual book!

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