Thursday, October 25, 2007

I know, I know...

I know, I said I'd be right back, but I haven't gotten around to it. I totally blame the flu shot. I have Arm-Flu and I think it's bent my brain a little. Or at least that's the excuse I am giving this week.
OK, so before I left I had word that I'd be receiving copies of three books from Potter Craft to review. I love books. I almost cried in delight when I found out one of those books was to be Clara Parkes new tome on yarny goodness. Joy! And the nice thing about getting books from publishers not my own is that I can be honest without risking my next book contract. I might be risking contract 4 or 5, but 2 and 3 are safe. Well, I've been home for a few days and I've spent some time with the books so I figured I'd tell you what I think.

First up is Doris Chan's Everyday Crochet. My initial reaction to this book was not strong and not positive. As I flipped pages I saw shells and more shells, each pattern an adaptation of the one before it. But on closer inspection and a closer read I find MUCH more to love. Yes, the book focuses on the use of shell patterns to get drape. But some of the patterns really are lovely and need to be made up. And there is a lovely section in the front of the book on customizing crochet patterns to fit the individual and a brief "I Told You So" which reminds readers that they are responsible for their work - gauge needs to be accurate, for example. It's very much a learning experience, and makes you think about your crochet. Substitutions for yarns given in the book are encouraged, which I also love to see. The Cameo tank is adorable, but tanks are hard for me. Curvy people need substantial support garments, and skinny straps and low-cut necklines don't work well with power-bras. Turn the page, and there's Sweet Tea, with a wider shoulder strap and a higher neckline, perfect! Then there are a couple of cute pullovers, and we move into my personal favorites, the cardigans. The first, Cinnabar, is a delightful tweedy jacket, with a single hook closure that gives it great shape that's right up my alley. Clean lines, simple style, shells add interest (I think I am going to make mine in Williamstown). Then there are a few vests, and then long coats. I fell madly for the one that would look the most insane on my petite personage. It's called Outta Sight, and is a long duster length jacket, open in front, very 70's, very adorable, and very cute-as-all-get-out. I totally love it and need someone I know to make it just so I can see it on them. The book finishes with some neat belts. Things that make this book worth it: adjustable patterns up to 52" bust or 54" hip, adaptable designs that can be dressed up or down and funked up or down depending on the crocheter and their reckless enjoyment of yarn substitution as a hobby. Utterly worthwhile variations on a theme.
Next Kaffe's book just made me drool, from the cover on in. I could not, for the longest time, stop ogling the blanket on the cover. I am pretty sure that there was
drooling I blamed on the cat (he does that when he's happy, like the true dog he is). Thank heaven Kaffe Knits Again. This appears to be a rehash of older designs, but since I own no Kaffe books, how would I ever know? If you don't own any, get this one. If you do own some, get this one. "Updated colors" reflect modern trends, but some of these patterns are just eye candy and should be knitted and I don't care which decades colors you use! From the slightly psychedelic Moody Blues Pillow to the Gridlock throw and cushion, from the Houses bag to the Puzzle cardigan, it's a feast for the eyes. Color, color everywhere, in garments and accessories and home furnishings for those who fear to head out in public in garments that make a loud statement (this is, after all, New England where our puritanical roots often show in our color choices). This isn't just knitting - it's art. It's knitted art. Knit some today! (I am starting with that Moody Blues cushion; it's all I've got time for.)
And last - can you guess? Did I save the best for last?? You bet your sweet bippy I did. Un. Real. There is no other way to describe...well, that’s a lie because I'll come up with more. But my first impression of The Knitter's Book of Yarn? Un. Real. I open the hardcover to reveal a fiber family tree. Smitten. Smitten on the spot. A big sweater and hat and mittens form the "trunk" of the fiber family tree. Around them swirl yarny branches - cellulosic, synthetic, cellulose (not the same as cellulosic!), protein - and from those branches families appear. Right here I am hooked. But it gets better. The first chapter, Fiber Foundations, deals with the four basic branches of the fiber family as illustrated on the inside covers. But detail, here, we're talking details you never knew about, yarny insights, facts and figures. Like this "Wool in yarn is like restaurants in San Francisco. You could knit a different blend every day for a year without using the same yarn twice." Or this: "Hygroscopic means that the fiber is able to absorb up to 30% of it's weight in moisture while still feeling warm and dry...." (Guess what fiber that applies to? EZ knows...). This book is, without a doubt, everything you ever wanted to know not just about fiber but were afraid to ask. It does not, however, solve for my husband the mystery of reproduction of fiber stashed for long periods in bins. That, I fear, is a secret we'll never fully reach the depths of. OK, so I travel through this book, reading and skimming along - fiber fiber fiber. How it's spun. How it's dyed. How it takes dye. Where it comes from. Enough knowledge to last anyone a good long time. And suddenly I find myself looking at patterns. Patterns designed my some pretty famous folks, and designed not for specific yarns, but for specific types of yarn. Single ply projects. 2-ply projects. 3 and 4 ply projects, cabled yarn projects, textured, boucle, brushed yarn and felting projects. And not just plain-old projects either. There's Norwegian Snail Mittens, lace shawls with great detail, a stranded knitting hat and mitten set, fingerless gloves, cardigans (Norah's Cabled Swing Cardi really makes me squirm with anticipation!), socks, catnip toys, bags - heck, you could dress yourself for years just on this one book. This is absolutely a MUST HAVE book, and I don't say that often. But a book that brings together an amazing amount of relevant fiber info AND an amazing grouping of patterns designed by some impressive knitters (short list - Cat Bordhi, Teva Durham, Tara Jon Manning, Eleanor Lynn, etc)?? Lead me on. My only regret - it didn't come in time for me to schlep it to Rhinebeck for Clara to sign. Ah, well, maybe next time! Buy one, one for a friend. Put it on your Christmas list. But make sure you get a copy, because this is a book that will be on your shelf forever and ever.
So that's about all of that for now. Maybe more next week.


Persnickety Knitter said...

Great reviews. I'll have to check out that Book of Yarn when a store around here gets it. Or maybe at Webs next weekend when I'm at that I-cord class with my mother in law.

Persnickety Knitter said...

Oh, and what exactly are the symptoms of "Arm-Flu?" A runny elbow? ;)