Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Book Review Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

Posey in the Granny Square, my sample from
Robyn Chachula's Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia
Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's books-o-rama. Unlike some reviewers, I actually paid for my books (!), and so patiently waited until they arrived. (I'm certain the authors and publishers are happy about the payment thingy. :) )

First up: Sarah London's Granny Square Love (North Light Books)Australian crocheters seem to have a particular fondness for the granny square (I follow two Aussie granny square designer/bloggers - see my blog roll to the right), and Sarah's book does not disappoint. While geared for a beginning crochet audience (and the wonderful visual granny square tutorial at the beginning of the book will get any crochet newbie up to granny-good speed), the strength of the book rests clearly on Sarah's commanding use of color. This is a grand and glorious explosion of color! If you're into tans and beige, this might not be your cup of tea. However, if you love color and are looking for inspiration (whether or not a crocheter), I'd recommend adding this to your library.

Best use of the granny square goes to Sarah's wonderful pillow designs. There are several, in several sizes, and all of them wonderful. No wonder they grace the book's cover. Most original use of the granny square has to be the granny-covered headboard. Sarah has a particular aesthetic (think romantic English flowers meets groovy 60s) and within that parameter the headboard just works. She also has a great way with the camera, and almost all of the photos show off the designs to their best advantage. One minor hiccup: the placemat photos. There isn't really one that shows it off completely, although the toast looks great, and the requisite Vegemite jar is prominantly displayed.

The pattern directions are both written and charted, using U.S. crochet terms. They are clear and very easy to follow. Additionally, Sarah doesn't really stray too far from the traditional granny square - another plus for new crocheters. Her strength is color, color, color. And in that regard, this is a hands-down winner.

The second review: Robyn Chachula's Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia (Wiley Publishing). Every designer worth their designing salt has several stitch reference books in their personal library, and I am no different. I purposely didn't read any advance press on this book, because I wanted a clean, clear book palate from which to review, although I will say that it was the strength of the author's designing chops that led me to make the purchase. Robyn has a fun, fresh design style, and I like her engineering approach to design (break everything into component parts and then put them back together again).

I was pleasantly surprised with the comprehensive array of stitch patterns across a broad spectrum of crochet techniques included in this encyclopedia. Chachula did her homework and successfully compiled a wide range of stitches not found in other stitch guides. Good on her. The cable stitch section is simply wonderful; the Tunisian stitch patterns section of the book is pure joy (to someone who loves her tunisian crochet hooks). My favorite chapters are 7 and 8 - square and hexagonal granny squares, and flower, snowflake and joining motifs, respectively. It is from these chapters that I worked up the sample (pictured at the top of the post). Even on my scanner bed, the strength of Chachula's motif work shines bright. She brings an almost Venetian lace quality to many of the square motif designs. I find them superb.

While I see the need for an edgings chapter in such a guide, I found the one here so-so. I guess I am spoiled on every other edging attempt in the post-Edie Eckman Around the Corner Crochet Borders world. I wish, instead, some attention might have been spent on hairpin lace.

My biggest beefs with this book are more technical/publishing in nature. Initially, the motif I worked up has a mistake in the written directions. However, the pattern chart set me straight (and all designs are written and charted in this book). While each row of a chart is numbered and in different colors, these charts are not for the faint of heart. They were created for the intermediate/advanced crocheter in mind - and one comfortable with reading charts.

I also found the layout of the book rather blah and lacking in pizazz. The design photos were rather perfunctory and there was far too much white space on most pages (which could have been put to much better use). Again, using Around the Corner Crochet Borders as an example, Eckman's book is half the page size (quite literally), yet each border photo takes up almost an entire page in vivid detail. Not so with Chachula's work, which is really a shame.

Additionally, Crochet Stitches actually feels like an encyclopedia. Wiley's publishing forte is in the technical/text book arena, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Yet I am.  This is also the same Wiley Publishing that put forth Fiber Gathering. A quick comparison of the cover pretty much makes my point:

Overall, I am excited about the design possibilities of Crochet Stitches. Like Nicky Epstein's Block by Block (reviewed here), my creative, designing juices are already flowing. Stay tuned for future projects inspired by this book. Just don't expect a lot of visual bells and whistles should you decide to add this to your personal library.

Ok - now head on over to Andrea's blog for a look-see at what everyone else is whistling about this Fiber Arts Friday. And if we don't meet in the blogosphere again until next Friday, have an awesome Thanksgiving (for every U.S. reader). I can't wait for leftovers.


  1. You have totally inspired me to learn to crochet...again. I have my crochet book and hook so maybe I will gather a bit of patience and try some over the Thanksgiving holiday. Four days of no work means I should be relaxed...right?

  2. Ah, granny squares, sigh, sigh... Thank you for the reviews, I really appreciate your honest opinion.

  3. I learned to make granny squares from Martha Stewart. It was a short instructional article published in one of the "home" magazines, so it was very basic. I still don't crochet much, but every time I pick up the hook I'm always amazed how versatile crochet is, and how productive I can be in a short time.

  4. The sample at the top is quite interesting... not your usual granny square.

    ... must ponder...

  5. Nice reviews, thanks! I WILL be picking up Robyn's book. I've got it in my wish list - perhaps someone will see it there and decide I am worthy for my birthday in January. (I'm dropping hints for my DH.) Prior to that you've now convinced me that I must have Edie's edging book. Can't believe I've waited so long.

  6. Thank you for the great book reviews, it's a good time of year for picking up gift books and this definitely gave me some good ideas!

  7. Oooh I've never seen that spinning book before ...

  8. Denise--Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  9. Ok, now I'm hungry despite the fact that I just ate breakfast two hours ago...that food looks delicious! I find that the cubbies are necessary in an effort to preserve my sanity...the accountant that lives in my head goes crazy and refuses to be creative if things are not organized...I buy them when they're on sale at Target for $39. The skein that caught your eye is a mix of several things...started with Wensleydale and pink/blue Merino at a class that Beth Smith from the Spinning Loft taught at MFF this year and ended with some of my Lilac Jacob. Thank you for noticing it.