Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Always More Books

I still haven’t given you a review of the two books I got the other day. Maybe I’m having trouble with the fact that I’m similarly disappointed in them both. Even though I actually browsed through one of them in a store before I ordered it online, it could have benefited from a closer look. This is starting to seem as if I’ve been making some errors in ordering books lately. Or my tastes have changed? Or maybe I’m just saturated? Hope not. I’ve got 1 more to come on this order and one just came this morning. (More on that later.) Yes I need to join Bibliophiles Anonymous but I can’t find a local chapter. Chapter — get it? Har-har! I crack me up.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The two recent books are both about crochet. So if you don’t h**k, you can skip this section. First up we have the one where I like the information better than the patterns: “Couture Crochet Workshop” by Lily Chin. If you know about Lily, you know she’s the Fastest Crocheter on Earth (at least the fastest one that’s actually been officially timed) and she also knits. She’s very NY couture stylin’ but her designs have never screamed out at me to make them for some reason. These patterns are mostly what I call “dense” crochet. Some are more lacey/holey but they are still on the dense side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but by nature crochet tends to be thicker and less drapey than an equivalent knit. Designers add holes to lighten it up and give it some movement. The drawback is that can reduce it’s real-world wearability, especially taken to an extreme as in Doris Chan’s “Amazing Crochet Lace” book that I think I reviewed awhile back. Too many holes and it doesn’t cover you up (undergarments become a critical choice) or keep you warm and your fingers and things poke through and catch. On the other extreme, too dense and tight and it’s like wearing armour. The edges curl and the fabric doesn’t move with the body. I think Lily got a nice compromise on many of her crocheted fabrics but is it just me or are they kind of boring? The cover jacket looks the nicest with a slightly fuzzy variegated yarn but again, I don’t trust how the model is standing and holding the front edges. What does it really look like? The schematics say it’s a kimono shape, not fitted as it appears in the photo.

The technical information section is quite detailed. I think this is the part that is worth the price of the book. Lily has a great section on flat patterns and even using your own garments that fit to create them. Also she talks about making fitting muslins from fabric that better mimics crochet. All this could be used for knitwear designing as well as crochet. There is also lots of information on shaping to get better fit and style in your garments with great hints on how to work this around fancy pattern stitches. I think a lot of crocheters (knitters too) can benefit from this approach to fitting that takes its cues from the sewing world.

One last niggle — so how come in all the photos featuring Lily (and she appears everywhere in this book unlike your usual shy retiring designer) she’s wearing a pink knitted sweater? Couldn’t she pull out a crocheted one, just for the occasion? At her speed, I’m sure she could have whipped one up in moments just before the shutter clicked! My conclusion is that I’m still waiting for a really good book on crocheted clothing. Meanwhile I’ll peruse my 1987 copy of The Crochet Sweater Book by the late Sylvia Cosh (out of print and a collector’s item) and try to figure out how to update the styles while retaining the same lovely textures and colours. I still have a sweater in handspun yarn I made from this book, though its batwing style makes it the wrong shape for today.

The other book I’ll review is “The New Granny Square” by Susan Cottrell and Cindy Weloth. As usual, the cover features the best piece, in this case a lovely neutral-toned afghan in large and small medallions. This book is mainly little crocheted motifs in fancy yarns using a very loose tension. Some of them look very funky and interesting, which was what caught my eye in the store. However, the way these motifs are used is mostly disappointing to me. Many of them are merely sewn onto a commercial garment as an appliqué. There’s even a few teasers like a sweater (you can’t see the whole garment in the photo so I can't tell how it’s styled) made from crocheted motifs and embellished with a crochet and beaded butterfly and a bit of edging. The pattern instructions only include the embellishments and not the sweater motif or the garment! There’s also a commercial skirt with some intriguing lace embellishment but it turns out to be recycled from an old piece — no crochet pattern included at all! There’s a poncho, a skirt and some top patterns and a few scarves and bags but they don’t really show what one could do with the motifs. A little shawl out of fluffy flowers is kind of cute and a skinny scarf hints at some potential. Maybe. I still like the “200 Crochet Blocks” book better or for more freeform crochet, any of the books by Prudence Mapstone or Jenny Dowde. Though for those who are of the “refashioning” ilk, the embellishment with crocheted motifs may spark some ideas to make over items already in your closet or from the thrift shop. It’s not my style really.

What I was hoping for was information on working with motifs in garment design. Fitting and shaping with modules that are stitched or crocheted together to create wearable shapes would be really helpful. How to create little infill shapes to smooth out necklines or underarms and how to combine different motifs together into a whole. Kinda like the info in Lily’s book but with motifs instead of row by row. Hmmm…I see another book idea coming on. Something more elaborate than this book but less freeform than Prudence or Jenny’s work. Anybody know someone who could create the book I see in my mind’s eye? No, don’t look at me.

I keep feeling there is some great crochet potential that is not being published anywhere. Something to equal the lovely designs that we’re seeing in knitting. Crochet is definitely not knitting’s poor cousin. It’s very versatile! It just suffers from a lack of quality designs and especially from a standardized charting system. It needs an extreme makeover.

Forgot to mention the other day that I compromised on the extra foam padding for Tori’s backpack. I put the new piece so it flaps over the top of the upright and T-Man gave me another piece that he had in his stash so I could cut out a shape for the area where the bottom of the wheel contacts. So now I have two new pieces of foam so everything should be better protected. It still rattles though and I found out what that is — the footman. There’s nothing holding it tightly in place so it clunks back and forth. I’ll have to remember to pack spinning fibre in there if we’re traveling far together. I don’t really want any more foamy bits to deal with. One other small issue is the black peg that adjusts the scotch tension tends to fall out of its hole when moving things around, packing and unpacking. It’s only pressure fit into place so I just need to press it a little harder in future. This reminds me that I haven’t done much spinning lately.

On the shawl saga, I’ve gotten as far as the pattern suggests but it’s only about the same size as my Swallowtail Shawl and I want it to be a bit bigger. I’ll work another couple of repeats but I’m getting a bit concerned that the edging won’t work out properly then. As far as my calculations work, I think I need to do 5 more repeats to get close to it dividing properly into the right number for the edging. I hope I have enough yarn for that since I’m now also planning to change the edging to one with the same number of rows but a bit wider. It looks like I have lots of yarn but it’s hard to tell. I also realized, now that I’ve gotten 90% of the main triangle done, that I did the edge slip stitch incorrectly. I do it all the time but on a stockinette base. This is garter stitch and it threw me. On the wrong-side rows I should have held the yarn in front while slipping purlwise. Instead I just did it with yarn in back on both right and wrong sides. Sigh. Thought it didn’t look right. I can still pick it up ok though. Shouldn’t show in the end. I hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been really disappointed in the content of most of the "craft" books I've looked at in the past couple of years. I suspect most of them are 'bits of fluff' designed to cash in on the wave of crafting that's taking over the continent rather than offering any new ideas or techniques. There are a couple that I lusted after but was terribly disappointed when I actually got to examine them!! On the other hand, I had a book called "Patchwork Crochet" that I just loved. But I loaned it out. Dammit.