Book Review: Vest Bets

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Friday 27 February 2015 at 5:46 pm

During a recent video podcast, I mentioned that I had a number of book reviews coming up, and well. here you go! Vest Bets: 30 Designs to Knit for Now Featuring 220 Superwash® Aran from Cascade Yarns (The Modern Knit Mix) is published by Sixth and Spring books and retails for $17.95 in the US and $19.95 in Canada. As the title explains, it include 30 knitted vest designs all using 220 Superwach Cascade yarn in an aran weight, so these are generally on the chunky side.

I particularly like the look of the vest selected for the cover. It has wonderfully defined cables and represents a classic style of vest that would get a lot of wear. The use of the thicker yarn combined with making vests (versus full sweaters) means you get the look of a sweater (just layer) without the time needed to make one. There are other classic styles throughout (like the “Miss Woodford,” a houndstooth-check pattern), but then there are also some more contemporary (such as “Dahlia,” which has a leaf section that extends past the bottom). In other words, the 30 patterns vary from classics to contemporary, so there’s a little something for everyone.

Other pluses of this book is the fact that most patterns have a good variety of size ranges from extra small up to large, and some even have extra large sizes. All patterns include full color photos of the finished items plus close up details photos, and some include diagrams for helping to piece areas that must be stitched together.

I did not see any patterns that seemed to be fit for a very new knitter, but experienced and intermediate level knitters will find some alternatives to knitting big hunking sweater here.

Book Review: Modern Courntry Knits

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Saturday 14 February 2015 at 2:39 pm


Modern Country Knits: 30 Designs from Juniper Moon Farm is authored by Susan Gibbs, owner of Juniper Moon Farm, and published (2014) by Sixth and Spring Books. It retails in the US for $19.95 and in Canada for $22.95. The cover provides a pretty good indication that this is full of a variety of knitting patterns from sweaters to accessories.The thirty patterns are designed by a group of designers such as Tabetha Hedrick, Yoko Hatta, Melissa Leapman, and Adrienne Ku. All the yarns used for the projects are from the author’s yarn company and include an assortment of weights (from lace to to chunky) and wonderful luxury blends like merino and silk; cotton, merino and llama; and alpaca and silk.

I really liked that there was such a large selection of projects to pick from and many are wearable items, meaning you would really wear these on a regular basis. There were not any “out there” kind of pieces that were more artwork than functional pieces. That said, functionality does not mean they aren’t pretty. Many of the shawls are trimmed with some lacework. There are cables in sweaters and hats to enjoy.

The photography is excellent, really giving you a feel for the finished product because it includes images of detail elements as well as a photo of the entire piece. There are also some great shots that include super cute farm animals like sheep and goats. Each project includes a key showing the skill level suggested, from beginner to experienced. However, I did not see any that were beginner. There are some that are considered “easy,” but there also a fair number that require an “experienced” level knitter.

Book Review: Beading All-Stars

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 26 January 2015 at 6:59 am


Beading All-Stars: 20 Jewelry Projects from Your Favorite Designers (Lark Jewelry & Beading) is published by Lark and came out in September 2014, so it’s relatively new. Retail cost in the US is $27.95 and in Canada $30.95. It is called “all-stars” because the publisher selected what they consider to be “superstar” beaders (not surprisingly who have been published by Lark as well) to design the 20 jewelry projects in the book. Experienced bead weavers will recognize names such as Sherry Serafini, Jamie Cloud Eakin, and Amy Katz for example.

The book is organized with a section for each designer, and in these sections are projects followed by a mini-gallery of her work. The instructions for the projects are very detailed and include colored illustrations, photographs of the finished jewelry pieces, and in some cases design variations. In the back of the book is a nine page techniques section that covers stitch instructions and lots of basic information.

Most of the projects are fairly complex. However, you could easily take parts of some of the projects and use them in different ways. For example, you could take a beaded focal point from a bracelet or necklace and turn it into a pendant and just add a chain or bead strung necklace strand.

For seasoned bead weavers, there is a lot to offer here, and most will be able to settle right into the projects. Adventurous intermediate beaders, I think, will also be able to work through most of the projects. Complete newbies will be inspired by the intricate and beautiful beadwork, but I would hesitate to suggest this as a first-timer’s introduction to bead weaving. It will definitely be something to aspire to though!

Book Review: Nicky Epstein Knitting Block by Block

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Saturday 24 January 2015 at 4:48 pm



Nicky Epstein Knitting Block by Block came out in 2010 and is published by Potter Craft. It is a chunky hardback book of 240 pages and retails for $29.99 in the US and $34.00 in Canada. The concept of the book is that you can design and create various types of finished knits by simply arranging and stitching knitted blocks.

The book includes 150 block patterns, so there is a lot of technique-type information provided, including graphs and step by step instructions for each block pattern. In the back, there is also a visual glossary of all the blocks with the idea that you could copy the page, cut out the block photos, and arrange them to help you create your own designs. At the very least, you could obviously use the blocks to create a wide assortment of afghan patterns. However, there are projects as well for those who may not be ready to design.

The first few pages of the book include a photo gallery of projects, and then the instructions for thirteen projects are in the last portion of the book. While there are some projects for blankets, the projects also include scarves, sweaters, a tote, and even a few cute toys. Most of the projects are a little on the bulky side, perfect for very cold weather, but I have to admit I was disappointed to see one project, Winter Solstice Hooded Scarf, use yarn fur, real fur, not faux. As I am anti-fur, this bothered me.

Experienced knitters and those who either design already or are thinking of trying to design will find the technical section, which makes up  the majority of the text, interesting and helpful.

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

Book Review: Charms: 20 Beading Projects

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Tuesday 13 January 2015 at 5:55 am


Simply Charms: 20 Beading Projects (Simply Pamphlet) is published by Lark Crafts and is a 64 page paperback-style book. As the subtitle indicates, it has 20 projects, and it retails in the US for $9.95 and Canada for $11.95. Considering the number of projects compared to the price point, this book is well-priced. It is a slim volume though, not overly full of technique instructions, which is just 5 pages. However, the projects included are pretty simple, good for jewelry making beginners.

The projects were designed by a variety of jewelry designers, and I am guessing most projects were reprinted from a collection of previously published books. This is just something to keep in mind. I see a pretty good amount of jewelry books on a regular basis, and I can’t say that I recognized any of the designs.

One other possible issue is that some project use very specific materials that not everyone may be able to acquire that easily. For example, there is a really cute bracelet that includes souvenir penny charms. I did a brief search online to see if I could quickly find vendors that sell these and had no luck. I would guess with more time and effort you may be able to find somewhere to purchase these, but they are not supplies you could find at most craft stores for example.

For beginning jewelry makers who like charms and want an economical book to help you with basic techniques for using them as well as design ideas, this book is definitely worth considering.

Book Review: Gramma Nancy’s Animal Hats (and Booties Too!)

Blogged under Fiber Fun, Good Books by Tammy on Sunday 11 January 2015 at 6:31 am

Gramma Nancy’s Animal Hats (and Booties, Too!): Knitted Gifts for Babies and Children is published by Potter Crafts and written by Nancy Nielsen. It retails for $18.99 in the US and $21.99 in Canada. Though you will find a few booties and some little mitten sprinkled throughout this book, its main focus is animal hats for babies and children. And, yes, this has a major “cute” factor going for it!

The designs are based on a rolled-brim hat and an ear flap hat, which are the first two projects in the book. From there, all the various type of animals hats included additions two either of these two patterns. So for example, if you are making the bunny hat, you will add ears and a snout. In the techniques area before the projects, it covers the different additions you would make to add the animal face to the different hats. There are a total of 19 different animals created with the hat designs, such as birds, frog, turtle, monkey, and so on.

Though there are technique instructions, you need to either have some experience or are ready to learn how to knit in the round with both circular needles as well as double pointed needles. Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice yarn is used for all the projects, so that means you will be using worsted weight yarn. The variety of animals are both girl and boy friendly, and they range in size from new born to child size (prob around 6 years old).

I can’t wait to attempt one of these adorable hats!

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

Book Review: Dancing on the Head of a Pen

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 29 December 2014 at 4:09 pm


Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson is about writing and not writing and trying to write, basically how the life of a writer is challenging and rewarding at the same time. There is an obvious spiritual tone to the book, and when I looked up the author’s biography this made some sense as he has written about faith related topics before writing this book.

As someone who writer, or attempts to even if means just jotting down book reviews on this weblog, I could not help be feel a connection to many of the points made throughout the book. It reads like a series of essays covering various issues related to writing. Benson provides many anecdotes from his own experience as a professional writer and also weaves in bits of advice from what he has learned throughout his writing career.

Aside from what you will find inside the book, one point I liked about it (and I get that this won’t appeal to everyone) is the compact size of the book. It’s about 170 pages in a hard copy form, 5×7.5 inches, perfect to tuck into a purse or bag and carry with you. Plus the short essays are individual “quick reads” that you can take in small amounts.

For anyone who wants, tried, wishes, or attempts to write, this little book is a wonderful companion.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books to review.

Book Review: Beaded Bracelets

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 24 November 2014 at 5:45 am

Beaded Bracelets: 25 Dazzling Handcrafted Projects is published by Running Press and written by Claudine McCormack Jalajas. In the US, the book retails for $18, in the UK L11.99, and in Canada $21.00, and it was published in 2014. Regular readers/viewers will remember that I did a giveaway for this book this past year and also mentioned it during one of my bi-weekly video podcasts. As promised, though, here is a little more detail on the book.

It is nice to see someone paying attention to bracelets for a change. So often, necklaces are the main focus of many jewelry making and beading books that I review. And, I have to say, I love all the designs in this book. There is even a few gallery type pages in the front of book so that you can see them all together without having to flip through, and each photo includes a page reference.

While you will find a fair amount of crystal beads and other components in the book, the projects primarily focus on using seed beads and bead weaving techniques such as peyote, herringbone, and right angle weave. Seasoned bead weavers will be able to pick this book up and “go” very easily. The step by step instructions include color-coded illustrations. However, though there is information on materials and the illustrations are very detailed, I suggest totally new bead weavers be prepared to supplement the instructions. For example, check on YouTube for some basics when it comes to some of the stitches used.

Book Review: Pretty Quilled Cards

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Sunday 23 November 2014 at 1:24 pm

Lark Books-Pretty Quilled Cards by Cecelia Louie has been on my “to review” stack for awhile. It came out in March 2014 and is published by Lark. Retails price in the US is $17.95.

Its subtitles describes basically what you will find inside: 25 + Creative Designs for Greetings and Celebrations. All but six of the twenty-five projects are greetings cards, but that is what actually made me think of picking this up right now. With the holiday season here, it seems like the perfect time to get your creative paper-arts juices going and create hand-crafted cards.

The book’s front matter explains the basic tools and supplies you will need, which surprising isn’t that much, and then the techniques area breaks down basic paper scrolled forms that are later referenced in each of the projects. As an added bonus to this book, many of the cards include templates that you can color photocopy and use so that you are able to duplicate exact projects from the book.

There is a lot of detail in this book. I mean that in a a few ways. First, the instructions are detailed nicely so that you have a very clear understanding of how to complete the projects. But, also, the projects and actually the technique of quilling is pretty detailed too. This could be good or bad, depending on the type of crafter you are. If you enjoy intricate, though not necessarily difficult, craft projects, then this type of crafting will appeal to you. If you don’t like to to have to be too exacting, then it probably won’t. Given how beautiful the finished results are as shown throughout the book’s photographs, paper-art lovers will be drawn to this book.

Ch. 3 of Bored By Back Stitch!

Blogged under Good Books, Jewelry Designing by Tammy on Sunday 12 October 2014 at 6:03 am



Cyndi Lavin’s bead embroidery followers will be happy to know that the third chapter of her latest bead e-book, Bored by Back Stitch, is finally available. Like her other chapters, this one is priced at a bargain, $3! It continues on the journey of bead embroidery and includes four new bracelet projects. Mixed media folks will also find this third chapter very interesting because she includes information on using unique foundation surfaces using pleated silk ribbon, metal mesh ribbon, soutache braid, and chocolate bags.

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