Book Review: Drop Dead Easy Knits

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 26 June 2017 at 2:27 pm

Drop-Dead Easy Knits by Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Egan, and Kirsten Kapur was published by Clarkson Potter in 2016. It retails for $16.99 in the US and $22.99 in Canada and includes 29 knitting projects.

Admittedly, after I flipped through this book when I first received it, I was put off by the claim of “dead drop easy” in the title. Of course – disclaimer – I’m a beginning knitter who continues to struggle through every knitting project, even the simplest. I do enjoy knitting, but it has never been intuitive for me like crochet has been. So, the definition of “easy” clearly varies depending on your own knitting experience.

I read through the introduction because I wanted to know why these patterns would be considered easy, and there I discovered the idea behind this book. The authors, all seasoned knitters, created projects that had large repeated areas in the patterns. This repetition of stitches is where the idea of being easy comes in because experienced knitters will probably find these patterns easy. As further proof that this book is not for new knitters or beginners, there is very little “how-to” information in the book. This is not meant to be a criticism of the book. I just wanted to be clear that my review indicates this is book of “easy” knitting projects for people who are already at least intermediate level knitters.

The 29 projects in this book are organized into chapters such as “The Waiting Game,” which has projects that are good for working on while you might be waiting on the phone for example. All the projects are divided up into three levels of difficulty: mindless, relaxed, and attentive.

As far as the projects in this book – and I have to say 29 is a generous amount – there are some really beautiful ones, and I plan to forward this book to a friend of mine who I think will be able to rock some of them. Sweaters, shawls, hats, scarves, baby clothes, even toys provide a huge variety to choose from. So for experienced knitters, I recommend they consider this book for their personal knitting library.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for review.

Book Review: Sereknity

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Tuesday 23 May 2017 at 2:51 pm

SereKNITy: Peaceful Projects to Soothe and Inspire ($15.99 US; $20.99 Canada; L10.99 UK) is published by Running Press and written by Nikki Van De Car. The theme of the book is serenity, and most yarn crafters will agree that knitting and crochet are both wonderful ways to relax.

One unusual aspect to this book is that there are both crochet projects and knitting projects, something you don’t see that often together in one book. It is good to see some of both since many of us yarn crafters do both. Also, most of the projects are not overly large so that they are portable, which means lots of accessories. Some of my favorite projects include adho mukha (a triangular crochet scarf); manipura (a knitted mug cozy); portland (knitted fingerless gloves); and faire (a crochet hat). Besides accessories, there are a few blanket projects and also home decor items as well.

While there are explanations and information throughout the book about techniques, you will not find super detailed how-to instructions for knitting or crochet basics. However, a novice could still use this book along with supplements because many of the projects are beginning level.

I see a number of projects I’m interested in trying, but I do have one issue in general with this book, photographs. I want more, and I like photographs that show the entire finished piece. Sometimes, the projects are photographed just fine in this book, but other times, they seem to be more “beauty” type photos that do not show the entire finished object. For example, the rustica (a knitted shawl) looks promising, but you only see a portion of it. Granted this portion shows details of the stitching, but I want that plus a photo of the entire shawl.

Considering there are 27 projects in this book, I think the price is reasonable. Small projects that you can bring with you to work on wherever you go are always appreciated, and if you are the type that both knits and crochets, then you’ll like that there are a mix of projects.

Book Review: Natural Color

Blogged under Fiber Fun,Good Books by Tammy on Monday 16 January 2017 at 1:57 pm

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe is written by Sasha Duerr, an artist and professor at the California College of the Arts. It is published by Watson-Guptill Publications in hardcover form and retails in the US for $30 and Canada for $40.

First, I have to begin by saying that this is such a “pretty” book. The layout and photographs are top notch. Plus, while the print text isn’t huge, it is nice to see a book that I can easily read the text without sitting under a massive overhead light. They weren’t stingy with the ink for a change, which is see much too often in books lately.

Now for the meat of the book, which focuses on using plants to die fiber for make-it type projects, really interesting, though I’m not sure how many people would be up for doing all this work. Not that it wouldn’t be fun work, but there is a lot to it. And the book is very thorough in covering the information. It reads a lot like an encyclopedia. There’s information on plants and the seasons they are available. This is followed by details about the type of colors you can dye with and their pros and cons. Then there are recipes for dying items like bedding, bags, and clothing. A short techniques section in the back of the book demonstrates four different dye techniques.

The beginning of the book explains how to set yourself up to make the dye and also collect the materials and process them. A list of tools and equipment is included. None of those listed where super expensive or difficult to find. It was a pretty long list, so you would need a lot to do this and a good space to attempt it, however.

Anyone who has ever thought about dying fiber, from textiles to yarn, would find this book immensely helpful. It is packed full of information. The casual reader might find it overwhelming, but I think it would become a useful reference book for anyone interested in fiber arts as well.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters

Blogged under crochet and knitting,Good Books by Tammy on Monday 16 January 2017 at 1:23 pm

Melissa Leapman’s Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters: 200 Stitch Patterns in Words and Symbols includes 200 stitch patters in words and symbols. This is a softback book of 170+ pages published by Quarto, which released it in May 2016. In the US, it retails for $24.99; Canada $29.99; and UK L16.99.

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for stitch dictionaries, and this book did not change that at all. I love to be able to cruise through a stitching book like this and pick out stitch patterns to try, especially when I want to make a simple, no-brainer afghan. The way these stitches are organized works well with coming up with blanket patterns. Section One of the book divides the stitches into the following: Simple Sold Patterns; Shell and Fan Stitch Patterns; Openwork and Lace Patterns; Textured Patterns, Colorwork Patterns; and Edgings.

Each stitch pattern is show first with a color swatch. Under that is the pattern shown in a chart with crochet symbols. Then this is followed by the instructions in text. Between the three, I find this very easy to use. When learning a new stitch, I like to go back and forth from a chart to text. I have seen more and more books including both charts and text, so this is not anything necessarily new to crochet books. Still, it’s nice to see and would make a difference for me in whether I used a book or not. Even if you aren’t the type to design your own patterns, this book is useful for using when you’re trying to figure out a pattern and need extra help.

You don’t need to be an expert crocheter to to find Leapman’s book useful. However, anyone who crochets on a regular basis should have a stitch dictionary in his/her craft book library, and this is one I recommend.

Book Review: Crochetterie

Blogged under crochet and knitting,Good Books by Tammy on Monday 16 January 2017 at 1:03 pm

Crochetterie: Cool Contemporary Crochet for the Creatively-minded is written by Molla Mills and published by Quarto. It’s a hardcover book that retails in the US for $29.99; Canada $38.99; and UK L20.00. Thirty projects are included in the book. There are crochet patterns along with lots of extra how-to information and wonderful photography.

Mills is a Finnish designer and has a very unique approach in this book, and in the introduction she explains that one goal of hers was to create projects that would appeal to men. This means not just making projects men might want to use but also want to make, and she points out that in her country it is a common hobby pursued by boys.

The projects are broken up into categories: home, clothes, travels, and equipment. There are basic instructions in the back, in chapter 5, that provide clear photographs for mastering stitches.

One small brain teaser for using these instructions and the patterns is that both American and English versions of stitches are presented, which is good and bad. It’s good, obviously, because no matter which you’ve learned, you can still complete the instructions without having to make any of your own alterations to the patterns. Of course, the bad is that you have to pay attention and remember that differences, such as a US single crochet is a UK double crochet stitch. US terms are included after the English term in parenthesis. For example, a pattern will say something like this: “crochet 10 dc (sc).” If you use English terms, then you ignore the information in parenthesis. If you use American terms, then you need to remember to use the parenthetical information and not the other.

One big plus for this book is that the projects are so different than any I have seen in a book for a long time. And, yes, they tend to be a little more masculine, no doilies for sure! There’s even a how-to in the back of the book for carving your own crochet hook out of wood. As far as crochet projects go, the “Yarn Chain” is a chunky crocheted chain that looks like a thick metal chain, only made with yarn. A similar idea is used in making a “Utility Strap,” which is shown connected to a skateboard. There’s a “Bow Tie” project and various rug projects. The author also has some projects that use other materials like using old t-shirts cut and sewn together (no crochet needed) to make a hip looking scarf.

So, my final thoughts are this is for the adventurous crocheter who wants modern and unique unisex accessories and decor items. Be prepared to learn new skills and work with other materials besides yarn such as leather and canvas. Put your need for immediate gratification on hold, but the finished projects look well worth it.

Book Review: Cross-Stitch with Attitude

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Friday 23 December 2016 at 2:20 pm

When I used to be heavily involved in cross stitching, one issue was finding interesting patterns that weren’t overly cute all of the time. Not that there is anything wrong with “cute” cross stitch, but it can get old. Plus, if you want to make gifts for people, than having a broader selection is helpful. I Got 99 Problems but a Stitch Aint One: Cross stitch with attitude to liven up your home by Genevieve Brading adds new dimensions to cross stitch projects with her off the wall says incorporated into patterns. The book is hardcover and came out in September of 2016. It retails in the US for $12.99; UK $11L; and Canada $14.99 and includes twenty projects.

All of the projects are pretty simple, so this would be a good beginner’s book or for someone who wants relatively fast projects. If you are uncomfortable with “colorful” language, then this would not be for you; however, if you want some spice added to your cross stitch crafting, then this is a book to consider.

Along with the projects, the front matter of the book has some basic how-to for beginners, about 15 pages worth. While this information is not super in-depth, it looks like enough to get you started. I especially like the photographs that illustrate when to get started by locating the center of the pattern and working out from there.

Book Review: Homes Sewn

Blogged under Good Books,Sew Simple by Tammy on Monday 15 August 2016 at 9:09 am

Home Sewn: Projects and Inspiration for Every Room by Cassandra Ellis is published by Potter and retails for $24.99 US and $32.99 Canadian. Surprisingly, it is a hard cover book. The 159 page book is full of beautiful color photographs, most showing the finished pieces in a “staged” situation and a few showing some “how-to” elements.

As with many books I review, some of the print is too light for my poor old eyes, but oddly enough, some of the print in this book is dark and some light. For example, the Cotton Block-Print Pillowcases project has dark (I say dark but I mean more normal colored) text for the introduction. Then the print lightens up for the list of materials.Then it gets dark again for the step-by-step information. It seem like a small item to think about, but if you really want to read and use a book, this print design of the book I find to be irritating.

Most of the projects look simply enough as far as sewing skills. There are a variety of projects that require basically sewing a straight line, so that is nice to see. That said, I would still warn totally new sewers to be prepared to be challenged somewhat because the instructions are not as broken down as they could be. For experienced sewers, that should not be a problem though. Plus, there are some projects that require very little sewing. The Linen Bulletin Board, for example, only requires you to cut, staple, and glue fabric to a board.

If you have a small amount of sewing experience and enjoy the shabby – chic look, then you will find some very simple, fun, and useful items to make for your home in this book. There is a lot of use of cotton, linen, and canvas fabrics. If you want to work with fabric and try some projects like the bulletin board I mentioned and a few others that don’t really require stitching or require just hemming around the ends of something  (a lamp shade and canvas table cloth), then you will find these here too. I could also see some nice gift ideas to consider making such as tea towels and storage containers.

It is a very pretty book, too, one that I could see me sitting down and just enjoy flipping through the pages now and then while I sip some tea.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: I Draw on Cats

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Sunday 3 July 2016 at 9:25 am

I Draw on Cats: A Connect-the-Dots Activity Book is published by Potter Style, and the author/photographer is A.R. Coffelt. The book retails for $9.99 in the US and $12.99 in Canada is called an activity book because it is meant for the reader (user) to write inside of the book.

The concept sounds a little crazy, and it is, but I think it is pretty fun too. It’s 48 pages long and is full of color photographs of cats. The photos have drawings superimposed on top of them, and then there are connect the dots that are numbered so that you can also draw on top of the photo and finish off the final image.

I have to admit that my old eyes have a little trouble reading the numbers on some of the photographs, but I see this more as a book for a child to play with. I think it would be especially appealing for anyone who is homeschooling and working on the idea of numbers and patterns. This would help with learning numbers and also have a layer of hand-eye coordination and tactile learning involved as well.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 20 June 2016 at 8:50 am

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is one of the books I received for review as part of Crown Publishing’s Blogging for Books program. Bloggers agree to post reviews of books they select through the program in return for a free copy of the book. This, of course, can be kind of fun sometimes if you really like the book, or it can be awkward when you don’t like that book. That is my story with The Little Paris Bookshop. I really, really want to like this book, but I’m just not getting into it like I thought I would.

The premise of the book sounded really promising to me. The protagonist operates a book store in Paris. Not only is it in Paris, France, but the shop is inside a boat floating on the Seine. That was enough to get me interested, but it got better. The proprietor of the shop, Monsieur Perdu,  prescribes books to patrons as if he is dispensing medication. He feels their emotional stress and knows the perfect story to help them out.

It sounds enchanting! However, I kept putting it down. First of all, I actually didn’t really like Perdu. He seems pathetic and overly dramatic to the point I couldn’t really buy into his character. That was really enough to put me off because I have a thing about characters in novels. If I don’t at least like them, I have to care about them enough to keep reading. I finally stopped around page 80 of this 390 page book. When I was in graduate school, I had to force myself to read a lot of work I did not like, and at my age, I now feel life is too short to read a book you don’t want to read when you don’t have to read it.

I did go surf around for other reviews of this book because I was curious if I was just off the mark on this book since it sounded so promising, and most seem to have a similar reaction to mine. Though, a few say that you need to push through to some place in the book where the protagonist and other characters take off on a trip and sail on the book shop/boat.

So, the book is still on my shelf with the bookmark placed in the spot I left off, and maybe, I will pick it up again some day. But, I am making no promises.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: Crocheted Abode A La Mode

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 9 May 2016 at 10:17 am

Twinkie Chan’s Crocheted Abode a la Mode: 20 Yummy Crochet Projects for Your Home is published by Quarto Knows, and the designer and author for this book is Twinkie Chan. It retails for $21.99 in the US; L12.99 in the UK; and $25.99 in Canada and came out in 2016. I’ve provided the Amazon link in an image below for those interested in a discounted price.

The 20 projects are organized by areas of the home, such as the kitchen, bedroom, and so on. As you can image by the title and the hilarious crocheted banana split shown on the book’s cover, the projects are all funny and whimsical. If you don’t have a sense of humor, then this book won’t be for you. However, while crochet tends to have a sort of weird kitschy reputation sometimes, and not in a good way, I didn’t get that feeling with this book. There is such a thing as kitschy-cute and then there is kitschy-weird, and this book definitely is more in the “cute” category.

There are a lot of really large projects in this book, which may be a little bit large for some people to take on, but at the same time, there are small projects as well. For example, there is the Strawberry Shortcake Stand-Mixer Cover, full of details from the strawberries and whipped cream at the top to even sprinkles, but then there are also more manageable Grocery Fridge Magnets, Little Cherry Zipper Pulls, and Carnival Pen Cozies. So you can go big or go small.

I could imagine some of these are really unique gifts for that person who has everything or also a fun way to decorate a bedroom or small apartment. I just could not help but smile as I read through the book.

Note: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, but my opinions are my own.

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