Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review: 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet AND Book of Wool

As I get older, the knitting books that interest me are pretty much of the technique variety -- the kind of book that speaks to the art of knitting through creative construction, distinctive details, or unique yarns.  Often, I'll check-out the book from the library to make sure I truly want to spend the ever-increasing amount for a printed copy ... and more often than not, I end up not quite excited about the book and put it aside.

But, this week's "library lode" was a different story: two books really stand out from the pack and will be added to my personal library as soon as I can get the bucks to buy 'em.
First, we have 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet: a collection of beautiful blooms for embellishing garments, accessories and more by Lesley Stanfield.  Let me mention at the outset that of the 100 flowers (Stanfield's definition of "flowers" includes leaves, fruits and vegetables as well as flowers), only 40 are knitted.  But the crocheted items could certainly be knit -- just fiddled with a bit to get the same idea as the crocheted version.  This book is definitely "eye candy" for the fiber artist -- lots of beautiful blooms in gorgeous yarns!  Stanfield (and her publisher) did a great job on the layout and design of the book (but why can't book publishers make this style book spiral- or comb-binding to allow for the book to lay flat????).  The directions are clear and quite easy to follow while the beginning technical details (choosing yarns, needle sizes, etc) are quite well-written.  While going through this book I could come up with at least a dozen projects where these embellishments would add so much:  holiday place-settings (set of placemats, napkin rings and place-card holders), little girl sweaters, fun hats, etc, etc.  The designs are done in close-to-realistic shades, but there is certainly no reason why a designer couldn't play with nature and use the flower designs to make white-on-white snowflakes, golden bells from the tulip-shaped flowers, etc.  The creative mind thrives on this kind of book! 

The second book I received for this week's library run sounds super dull -- even the cover is a bit ho-hum.  But the content ... WOW!  The Knitter's Book of Wool: the ultimate guide to understanding, using and loving this most fabulous fiber by Clara Parkes is definitely my next book purchase!  This book, beautifully published by Potter Craft, covers every aspect of wool:  anatomy of the fiber, turning wool into yarn (and each step along the way), specific information about each of the sheep breeds and their characteristics, what blends well (and not so well) with wools, patterns which show wool to their best advantage (some are designed by Parkes but most are other designers' patterns), and a wonderful resource section that includes breeders, processors, recommended further reading and "care and feeding" of wool.  I really like this book -- a great reference for even this veteran knitter who loves different types of wool and now has a better understanding of WHY!  A personal thank you to Potter Craft -- I love how they produce their books on thick, matte paper so that the book is easy to read (no glare), the pictures can be seen in great detail and the overall feel of the book is that Potter Craft, too, believes that this book will become a classic on the shelves of fiber artists!  [BTW, Parkes mentions a book that Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson are working on for Storey: an "encyclopedic fiber reference book"! Cool huh?]
Happy knittin'
Mary C. Gildersleeve
By Hand, With Heart -- hand-knit designs