Okay, I have to be one hundred percent up front here...I'm pretty sure I have a crafting crush on Jacey Boggs Faulkner, the publisher and director (amongst other things) of Ply Magazine. What a great journey to what I view is a great, quality publication that adds immensely to the fiber community! This magazine was crowd-sourced by a successful Kickstarter campaign, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself. But "crowd-sourced" does not mean it lacks in any of the polish and refinement of more traditionally funded publications. (And really, what is traditional in the publishing world anymore?) Printed on high quality paper, filled with quality articles that advance the craft of spinning, and beautiful art and photography on every page, this magazine has become an instant favorite of mine.
I think the thing I enjoy the most about this publication is that, while a professional magazine, it still manages to feel like a community endeavor. The small staff that run the show at Ply do a wonderful job preserving the unique voices of those who enjoy spinning. Whether you are new to the craft or a seasoned pro, I feel this magazine is an open invitation for everyone...there is a lot to learn in its glossy, well thought-out pages. They want people to contribute no matter their skill-level because there is something for all of us to give; that is a really wonderful thing.
And you know what, it is interesting. While I love a good how-to book or magazine, and I drool over beautifully photographed weaving and knitwear patterns, this magazine really connects me with the journey of how and why in spinning. It respects, however, that with many ancient handcrafts (and newer ones, too) there are many ways to approach the same thing and that we are artists. With the framework of a common language brought together by this magazine, it is great to see all the different ways people spin...and they are all beautiful.
Bottom Line: If you spin, you should buy a subscription. If you don't spin, you should buy an issue because the sweet siren song presented in its pages might lure you to spin. Either way, you should buy this magazine.
by Hunter Hammersen
Available from Pantsville Press for $21.95
(Both a digital and physical copy are available.)
Curls is a book of 14 patterns. These patterns are for what the author has named "curls," as their unique construction gives them an interesting curved shape. The truly awesome thing about the designs in this book is that it allows you, the knitter, to use any yarn at any gauge for a project of any size. Take a moment to let the sink in...the stash busting possibilities alone are breathtaking. The end project can be as tiny as a cuff, grow larger into a cowl or scarf, or be as large as a full blown shawl. The freedom makes these delightful to knit, as you can knit the same pattern more than once and still be creative. That is my biggest problem with socks...I knit the first sock and it's exciting, I knit the second sock and I'm bored.
I purchased my copy of this book at my local yarn shop. There was a trunk show to accompany the book, so I was able to see the finished products of many of the curls in this book as well as the second volume. It really was amazing to see the affects of all the different yarn choices right there in person. And you know what, none of them looked bad. Of course there are a few patterns that stand out as my favorites, but I am confident any of these patterns would make me happy. I will not divulge any of the secrets of curl making here, you should buy the book for that, but I will say that Hammersen did an excellent job explaining how to create these flexible, versatile delights. There are detailed, color coded charts that show you exactly how to increase the blocks of lace that create the curl as well as a whole section with helpful hints and tips for a successful project.
The beautiful shape really does lend itself well to any body type and can be worn in such a variety of ways with a natural looking drape. Just imagine coupling a curl with a shawl pin or adding some decorative clasps and you would have an absolutely stunning gift. I have one of these curls on needles now, I am working it in a solid color, but I imagine it could be very fun to play with tonals or even use more than one color. Even better, these patterns can be the savior of that lonely ball of yarn you just had to buy that is patiently waiting for you at the back of your stash. And that leads me to my bottom line...
Bottom Line: This book is worth the money if you enjoy making shawls, scarves or cowls. The wonderful thing about each design is that its inherent versatility means you can use the pattern over and over and get vastly different (yet still beautiful and satisfying) results. Having seen many of these curls completed in the trunk show, I can attest to their lovely shape and appealing drape first hand. This was an imaginative idea that is fun in its simplicity and flexibility. You can have a single skein you need to use up, or you can have three skeins you want to apply to this endeavor, the freedom to stop when you need to and knit the gauge that you want is very nice.
Purchase for $19.95:
(You can get a signed copy on Etsy)
I do not know where to begin on this charming book. For me, it was the perfect way to blend my passions and share them with my son. This book contains beautifully illustrated pictures that go with a sweetly told story. Following this is a set of knitting patterns! You can knit little Freddie and his blanket! (The pattern is also available on Ravelry.) There are actually six patterns included in the books. There is Freddie's blanket, a boy platypus with overalls, a girl platypus with a dress, children's overalls, a baby swaddling blanket and a small hammer. All the patterns are adorable, but the platypus is, by far, my favorite.
This was a very fun way to help my youngest son transition to a big boy bed and share my love of knitting with him. While the connection is not readily obvious, it was a stroke of genius the Johnsons had when they wrote this. My sons always love to see what I'm working on and are thrilled when it's something for them. (It also keeps me diligently working because they are always checking to see if I'm "done yet.") Now that I'm working on a character in a book they both enjoy reading, they are beside themselves with giggly glee. It is such a nice idea combining this story with knitting patterns that relate back to the characters. I will post the completed platypus as soon as it's finished, but I am including some of the photos available on the Etsy page as well as the Ravelry page.
Bottom Line: This is such a sweet book that is well worth the money. If you have small children or grandchildren, they will love this very adorable stuffed animal and the story that goes with him. As a side note- if you are interested in classic children's illustrating, Eric Johnson has an excellent class on Craftsy. You can really tell a lot of love and care went in to this book.
Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom: Discover the Full Potential of the Rigid-Heddle Loom, for Beginners and Beyond
by Syne Mitchell
Available at Multiple Retailers
Knit Picks: $20.90
Barnes and Noble: $20.50
I am always a little hesitant to purchase a book for a given craft. This trepidation derives itself from many sources. One source is that often I find I like one or two things in a book and the rest does nothing for me. Also, the limited space in my craft room makes me feel claustrophobic on a good day, I do not want to add tombs that I look at once or twice that then become dust collectors on my all too limited shelf space. However, I occasionally will take the plunge and buy a book, especially one for a new craft or interest. There are very worthwhile books out there- books that fill a gap in the internet knowledge, have valuable information all in one place, are worth reading and/or are a go-to wealth of reference material. If a book does a really good job at one of those things, I'm happy. I am okay sacrificing some shelf space to a good book.
This book is not one of those things, it is ALL of those things. I was so pleasantly surprised. This book was written well, had a wealth of information for, as the title indicates, someone who is just starting out all the way to someone with some experience under their belt. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of my little loom. I had no idea there was so much I could create...I loved my little loom, but I thought of it more as a one trick pony. I am very happy to say I was utterly and completely wrong. I was excited about my loom before, but now I am really pumped. It is rare that I read a tutorial book cover to cover. Usually there is just one section I need or a few projects I'm interested in, but this book had me hooked. Even stuff I knew I enjoyed reading over.
Bottom Line: This book has very clear instructions, lots of photos, a conversational writing style, and projects for each major skill. I would recommend anyone who has recently purchased a rigid-heddle loom, or even someone who maybe has had one for a while but needs some inspiration or a refresh, to purchase this book. It is worth more than the $20 it cost, to be sure.
KnitScene Accessories 2015
Displayed until August 31, 2015
List Price: $14.99
I picked up the special issue KnitScene recently. As it is a rather pricey magazine (justifiably so with the number of patterns), I thought I'd give it a quick review in case you were on the fence. As you can quickly ascertain from the cover, there are 33 patterns for accessories included in these pages. They range from shawls and socks to the more unique hats and clutches. Featured shawl patterns include the designs of Megi Burcl and are very colorful. The article has a lot of good advice on choosing colors for your work. There is also some good advice on sock construction, too. Spoiler alert on the advice...swatching turns out to be important. Who knew? Also, if you've never done bead work, there are a few pages of helpful hints on adding beads as you go, the pre-strung method and beads between stitches. It's quick and dirty but very informational.
Perhaps my favorite accessory in the magazine is the Grace Clutch by Julie LeFrancois. It has officially landed on my project list. It is simple chevron pattern with appealing pleats. It would probably look cute in any contrasting colors you could think of, but the black and white featured with the model is very attractive. I think the most unique item is the hat featured on the cover, the Regina Hat also by Julie LeFrancois. It is an amazing piece of knitwork, very creative, but I am not a huge fan. I feel like it would be very easy for it to not look like the picture in the magazine and/or not look good on the average person. I could be completely wrong. I'll keep my eye on Ravelry and see what projects look like when completed.
For me, there are probably three projects in the magazine I would actually make. However, three patterns pays for the magazine, so I don't feel guilty about the price. There are plenty of interesting accessories, even if I'm not going to make them, they are inspirational. I love accessories. They tend to work up faster and typically do not take a lot of yarn (keeping the price down). I enjoyed this issue of KnitScene and will look at it more than once, which is one of my rules for purchasing knitting magazines.
Booties, Blankets & Bears: 20 irresistible hand knits for your baby
Available on Barnesandnoble.com for $16.40
I purchased this book a few years ago and just recently dusted it off to rediscovered its cute yet extremely functional knit patterns. As stated in the title, there are 20 knit patterns included in the 144 pages of the book. I have made five of the patterns for baby #1 and am now choosing what to make for the little man on the way.
One of the things I like most about this book is that the patterns are varied. It is not a book full of one type of knitwear or toy. There are booties, big bird cushions, memory book covers, hangers, building blocks and blankets (just to name a few). This is a huge selling point for me; there seems to be something new to create every time I take a look through the book. Not only are there great knits for my own children, a lot of the projects are small and work up very quickly and would make excellent shower gifts for friends and family members. (I would particularly recommend the booties, they look very professional in a nice box and people will love the thoughtful handmade gift that looks store bought.)
There are a few things that deserve consideration with this book. First, while many of the patterns do not require much yarn, there are some that require quite a bit and could be pricey if made. A perfect example would be the Big Bird Cushion...super cute but requires 21 balls of 50g Aran weight yarn. Depending on what brand and fiber you chose, that could set you back a pretty penny. Also, pay attention to the finished blanket sizes. Some of the blankets seem quite small and perhaps would only be appropriate for a newborn baby. It would stink to take the time to make a baby blanket and have to use it for a tea towel instead.
Bottom Line: If you have small children, plan on having babies or have lots of friend popping out little ones, this would be a great book for your personal library. It will get a lot of use. However, if you just want a pattern for baby booties (or one specific baby themed project) you would be better off browsing Ravelry for a pattern. This book is definitely worth taking a look at, though, especially for the price.
Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads: A Modern Knitters Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style
Price on barnesandnoble.com : $20.60
This book is a hodgepodge of knit philosophy, advice, and life/style guide. There is a lot of text scattered throughout patterns, with pretty heavy background stories on each of the patterns featured. The photographs are lovely and some of the patterns are very nice. It is nice to have a story for each piece and a start to finish journey about inspiration to finished product. There are a wide variety of yarns and colors used and it is a fun book to look through.
With all of that said, I really wanted to love this book; however, I did not. Not enough to buy it for my personal library. As you might have spied in the photograph, I checked this book out from the public library in town. Usually, if I like a book enough or think I will want to look at it again and again, I purchase it for my own reference stash. (I have a general rule of 75%: If I like 75% of the patterns/designs, I will buy the book for myself.) I would say this book is worth checking out (no pun intended), though. I think the author has a strong narrative voice, it is just not one that spoke to me. So, before you cross it off the list, check to see if it is at your library or thumb through a copy at the bookstore. It is very possible it will speak to you.
Like I said, it is an interesting book with lots of personal thoughts and anecdotes from the author. However, my knitting lifestyle does not match hers nor could it. The impression of her style I got was of a chic New York studio apartment with yarn and knitting integrated as much in her decor as in the waking hours of her day. Part of me envies this artist image, but I cannot recreate it in my own life and it does not make me feel like less of a knitter for admitting it. If you threw in to this bohemian chic lifestyle a toddler, a baby on the way, three dogs in a single family home, then we'd be cooking. I think, however, that might make for a less interesting read.
Bottom Line: I did like a few of the projects included in the book. The first section entitled "Magpies" was great because it had patterns for those guilt yarn buys where you only have 1-3 skeins of some very lovely yarn you knew you shouldn't buy. It is well-written and the photographs are lovely. However, I am not convinced it is a book that I would return to time and time again. It was more of an enjoyable one-time read, so it will be returned to the library with gratitude but not purchased for my collection.