Thursday, August 3, 2017

Reading Round-up

Everyone – it is August. August! August. I have already started to see Halloween items in the stores. Man oh man, where has this year gone?

I realized recently that I had not perused any new (or recent) crochet or knit books in quite a while, so I decided to check out a bunch from my local library just to see what was up in book titles.

Initially (of course), my search and perusal was bounded by those titles carried by my local library. While I have an amazingly awesome local public library system, it nevertheless does not carry every knit and crochet title out there. At least on the crochet side of things, they definitely are missing some recent titles from Interweave, as well as the most recent book from Dora Ohrenstein. While I must give honorable mentions to Modern Crochet Mandalas (edited by the in-house Interweave editors) and Vintage Knits by Marine Malak and Geraldine Warner (those old designs have stood the time test), there were two crochet titles that most interested me - the first, I am admittedly a little late on the review (it came out in English last summer), and the second is an updated version of a classic.

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Crochetterie by Molla Mills is, in many ways, the modern anti-crochet design book. Editors spend considerable time and energy trying to curate crochet fabric and designs that fit into knit fabric’s mold, with (some) historically disastrous results (can anyone say overweight crochet cable pullovers?). Ms. Mills takes basic crochet stitches, goes with the grain, that is, the strength of crochet fabrics created and, situating her designs squarely within her native Finland, has produced a book of designs that is equal parts hip, surprising, and aesthetically pleasing.

You will not find one lace crochet shawl in Crochetterie (because you know I was looking). In fact, other than a filet crochet soccer bag, there’s no lace to speak of anywhere in the book. However, if you are looking for unconventional accessories with bold lines and color work, this is absolutely the publication for you. The book is broken into four main design chapters – home, clothes, travels, and equipment – and there are designs in each chapter that jumped out and called my name. I particularly liked the “Do Epic Shit” poster (yes, it says that!) done in stranded black and white double crochet, the Wayfarer jumper (which is modeled by her dad, but can absolutely be a unisex design), bow ties for man and beast, and an amazing Folk Bag are just some of the stellar designs in this compilation. Ms. Mills has also created a “man made” tag in single crochet thread (again, black and white) that can be liberally applied to most any piece in the collection. It looks most awesome on any of the bags or cases in the collection. I particularly liked it on the Lumberjack’s Backpack.

There’s also a section on equipment as well as on self-care, including stretches for the crocheter. What makes this title stand out to me, however, is how much of Ms. Mill’s life is represented in the book – from her tale of losing her design notebook to featuring her family and artistic friends throughout – it is, in many ways, deeply personal and very engaging. Do be aware that, since it was not originally written in English, some of the conventional crochet nomenclature and technical directions are not present. Nevertheless, a seasoned crocheter will have no issue quickly grasping how things are explained.  Makers should also be prepared for a lot of notions use, as well as leather, other mixed media closures, and other non-crochet finishing touches.

Simply stated, I love this book. It will make its way into my personal library, and I’m already working on a few of the designs.

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I have had Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets (shown on the left side in photo at left) in my personal library for, like, ever. It is my go-to book when I have sticky design questions, as the tips and tricks in it are always a great springboard in helping me solve my own particular design dilemma. When I heard that it was being updated, I was fairly thrilled. 350 Crochet Tips, Techniques, and Trade Secrets has just been released, and I managed to get my hands on a library copy. 

Initially, I am not certain exactly where the tips and techniques were increased - there are exactly the same number of pages in the same number of chapters in the book. I compared my old 2007 book with this latest version - page by page - and found only 10 noticeably different pages covering 5 different techniques, and in four of the five instances it was more of a change in book layout and visuals; only in the 'garment shapes" section is there actual content difference (and I, admittedly, do like the updated material here). 

Having said that, if you don't have the previous version of this book in your personal repertoire, I would highly urge you get the updated edition. Eaton is one of our best crochet treasures, with knowledge to spare. Your library will be all the richer for it. If, like me, you already have the initial version of the book ... well ... I think it will still serve you well for many years to come.