Book Reviews

We take a look at some knitting and crafting books

Field Guide to Knitted Birds

Over 40 handmade projects to liven up your roost

By Arne & Carlos

£14.99

IBAN 9781782215394

Search Press

The first time I opened this book, I completely missed the fold-out contents page attached to the inside of the front cover. It contains all 54 knitted birds that feature in the book, and what struck me, was how different each looks, especially as they are predominantly all knit using the one basic pattern.

The Anatomy of Knitted Birds is split into two sections. Chapters 1 to 3 tell how Arne & Carlos first made knitted birds to attach to a Christmas wreath for their front door. Their creativity began working overtime and they went from making birds in a single colour to those that emulate reality, and then on to abstract, designer chicks.

Getting organised to make your birds Arne & Carlos have thought of everything. Their helpful Materials chapter contains information on yarn choices, beads, sequins and feathers, etc. All the birds are knitted using the same basic pattern, which can be found in chapter 1 or as a fold-out section tucked inside the back cover of the book; ideal for when you’re working one of the charts too.

Part two of the book – The Birds – is split into six different chapters and begins with Winter Birds. These birds are knitted in one colour, but bedecked in hats, scarves and even glasses.  They make an easy introduction into creating your flightless friends before moving on to more complicated designs.

Embroidered Birds fill the pages of chapter 5. Knitted again in a solid colour, these little fellows are then decorated with duplicate stitch. There are seven different charted designs to choose from, all of which have been inspired by some Mexican Women’s magazines the duo discovered at an antique market in Mexico City.

In an ode to the natural world, Garden Birds contains 12 lifelike representations of real birds. A little artistic licence means they aren’t completely true to life, but there’s no mistaking some of them. You’d have to be wearing a blindfold not to recognise the little Eurasian Blue Tit or the Black Billed Magpie, with his shiny sequin plumage.

Birds in Traditional Sweaters are the same little basic birds, but knitted in stranded colourwork. There are six different sweaters influenced by traditional motifs and you’ll find another seven different colour worked birds in chapter 8, Spring Birds. These particular designs were inspired by Spring and used as Easter decorations, but will happily nest in your home all year round.

The final chapter of the book is dedicated to Rare Birds of Paradise. Arne & Carlos have taken their basic little bird and given it some serious va, va, voom. With sequins and feathers, the basic pattern for these birds has been ‘tweaked’ slightly and there are additional techniques required to make each of these special birds. Everything has been explained in detail and can be found at the beginning of the chapter.  The birds themselves are smaller, having been made on 1.5mm knitting needles with embroidery thread, but all 10 of them are little treasures to be cherished by their owner.

The creative genius of Arne & Carlos is evident throughout the Field Guide to Knitted Birds, not only in the little feathered friends, but also in the ways the pair have developed for displaying them. The book includes several other knitting patterns for your birds to roost on including a pin cushion and a tea cosy.  Ornamental and decorative, they can be used in a variety of different ways; wedding flower arrangements and mobiles are among some of the other suggestions in the book.

Your pretty feathered friends will look beautiful all year round.

Reclaimed Textiles

Techniques for paper, stitch, plastic and mixed media

Kim Thittichai

Price £19.99

IBAN 9781849941280

Search Press

Kim Thittichai is a renowned textile artist and author based in the West Coast of County Clare. Her experimental work with textiles and mixed media is well known throughout the art and craft community. Having originally trained in wood, metal, ceramics and plastic, Kim’s knowledge is extensive and she is passionate about using recycled materials which she explores in some detail in her fourth book, Reclaimed Textiles.

The first thing you notice about Kim’s latest book is that it’s been covered in material and you’ll find yourself absentmindedly stroking it while you flick through the pages. After a lovely, thought-provoking introduction to her book, Kim launches you straight in to the world of creative textiles. Beginning with a roundup of some basic techniques, Reclaimed Textiles is not your typical ‘How To’ book.  Part inspiration, part tutorial, Kim has gathered together work from some of the best students and artists working in textiles today and used their work to showcase different materials and techniques.

To help you along the way, Kim has included a couple of suggested projects for each chapter. The instructions for each project are well written and include a list of materials, photographs and tips. By studying in more depth the results achieved, Kim aims to get your creative juices flowing and encourages you to take charge by changing the way you look at the everyday objects we recycle.

Sereknity

Peaceful projects to soothe and inspire

By Nikki Van De Car

Price £10.99 

IBAN – 9780762461912

Running Press

Those of you that follow Lora’s blog, will know that Nikki Van De Car is one of her favourite ‘little people’ designers. Lora owns her two previously published books and it was with some excitement that she tracked down her latest release, Sereknity.

Nikki is a blogger, knitter and mother, and in addition to her two published books, she has also had patterns in magazines including Interweave and Ply.

Sereknity is a collection of 25 knitting and crochet patterns (hands up we were confused by the title too). Each of the projects is simple and easy to inspire the maker to be present and engaged in the creative process. Broken down into three parts; Colour, Texture and Structure, each is punctuated by Tips and Meditations.

We were instantly drawn to Mesmer, which is a giant oversized vest knitted in two shades of self-striping yarn. The garment, which is essentially a large rectangle with holes in it, would suit all shapes and sizes and is perfect for keeping out the chill.

The crocheted necklace Leafly is a mini garland of pretty leaves, meant to be worn in layers. Pictured on the model in the book over a basic top with a denim jacket, it’s hard not to want to grab a crochet hook and begin making.

Reclaim, the first pattern in the Texture section of the book is ingenious. It’s a crochet soap holder for all those handmade soaps that are no longer so pretty. This little drawstring pouch, complete with crochet bloom, is pretty and practical and would work up in next to no time.

In the final part of the book, Structure, the knitted cardigan Reach caught our eye. Based on a classic grandpa cardi and worked in one piece, Nikki’s design demonstrates the woolly goodness of Manos del Uruguay Maxima yarn.

The patterns in the book are all clearly laid out with attractive photographs of each project. Schematics for each design have been grouped together at the back of the book, along with a stitch dictionary and list of standard abbreviations.

Felting Fabulous Flowers

30 Stunning Designs

By Gillian Harris

Price – £9.99

IBAN – 9781909397392

Search Press

If you’ve ever searched for felting, felted flowers or pretty much anything to do with felting on Google, chances are you will have discovered Gillian Harris. We’ve been followers of Gillian’s Instagram page for a good while now and Lora looked at stocking Gillian’s felting kits before she closed her shop.

Felting Fabulous Flowers is Gillian’s third published book; her first, Complete Feltmaking was released in 2006, with Carnival of Felting following in 2016. Gillian is a felting wizard and her enthusiasm for felt is infectious. She has an undeniable love of colour – truly evident from her shop and social media account feeds.

Felting Fabulous Flowers has over 30 beautiful designs of blooms and foliage to choose from. With five sections to the book, the flowers have been separated by colour, with a separate chapter for the leaves. Techniques is the final chapter of the book and contains helpful tips and advice on everything from wool tops and equipment to felting techniques and the templates for making your flowers.

On opening the first chapter of the book White, Yellow, Orange we must confess to wanting to stay on this chapter forever; everything we love about flowers is right there on the first page. Lora unashamedly loves daisies, so much so she even contemplated changing her name at one point, so the first flower in Gillian’s book is a beautiful example of everything Lora loves.

Dragging our eyes away and engaging our brains, we began looking through the book and discovered how easy it is to fall in love with all of Gillian’s creations. Each beautifully-created flower has detailed step-by-step instructions including a complete list of materials.  Like any new craft there are degrees of difficulty, and so you don’t run before you can walk, Gillian has graded her flowers by level of skill (the daisy is graded easy – so watch this space)

The photography in the book is lovely and we particularly love the way Gillian has staged each shot as if the blooms were being catalogued in a Victorian wildflower book, complete with Latin names too.

Crocheted Animal Hats

35 Super simple hats to make for babies, kids and the young at heart

By Nicki Trench

Price – £12.99

IBAN – 9781782494270

Cico Books

As we mentioned in our review of Hygge Knits on the blog, Nicki Trench is a well-known contributor to craft magazines with over 20 published books to her name. Crocheted Hats, her latest release, contains 35 simple crochet animal hats, suitable for all skill levels. All you require is a knowledge of the basic stitches and how to crochet in the round.

The book begins with a look at the basic crochet techniques necessary to make any of the designs and includes a section on adding safety eyes and embroidery stitches. The designs in the book have been split into three categories, the first of which is Baby Hats. Sized to fit children aged between 6 and 24 months, thee are 15 different designs, including Herbie the Rabbit, Marcel the Monkey and Pearl the Pig.  All destined to be loved by babies and toddlers, you should have no trouble getting them to keep them on.

Chapter 2, Cool Hats for Kids, includes 13 different designs, sized to fit children aged three to 10. Jaylon the Polar Bear is sure to win the hearts of any child as is Donny the Donkey or Gobbie the Shark, who might just be our favourite. Apologies to Karl the Sheep, but Gobbie has pipped you to the post.

Essentially the designs in the book will work for any sized head as each can easily be adapted to fit. Nicki has included some helpful advice on how to do this.

There are seven designs in the final chapter, For the Young at Heart with adult sizes. We’re not sure if we prefer Mark the Lizard or Mister Wolf, which of course has now left us reciting the children’s rhyme!

Adorable Baby Knits

25 Patterns for boys and girls

ByJody Long

Price – £13.99

IBAN – 9780486807393

Dover Publications

Jody Long has been designing knitwear for over 10 years and his patterns have appeared in some of the most recognisable UK and US knitting magazines.  Some of you might know him from the shopping channel Hochanda.

Adorable Baby Knits is Jody’s second book and is pitched at intermediate to advanced knitters. However, we think a newbie knitter moving on from scarves and blankets would have no trouble trying some of the easier projects, like the Rainbow Hat or Striped Cardigan.

The knits in the book, range in sizes from 0-3 to 12–18 months and include everything from booties and blankets to dresses and cardigans.  The majority of the garments have been designed for double knitting weight yarn, which is fantastic for us knitters on this side of the world.

All the patterns in the book have clearly written-out instructions and include a basic schematic – charts are included where necessary. They are cute and functional, so it’s a difficult job to pick out a few favourites to mention here, but if you twisted our arms then…. the Rainbow Booties, sized 0–3 and 3–6 months look like a great, easy knit.  Made in double knit, they would be quick to make and ideal for boys and girls.  As a big fan of cables, we were instantly drawn to the Cabled Cardigan, which is a classic design, knitted in aran weight yarn, suitable for both sexes.

One for the girls, the Lace and Seed Stitch Cardigan, is a pretty little girl lace cardi with moss stitch bands, great for keeping baby cosy.

Flicking through the book, Lora remembered that she had to knit something for a good friend’s new baby grandson and two of the designs caught her eye. The Nautical Sweater is a trendy little striped boat neck jumper, complete with pockets and an anchor, while the Sheep Sweater is a plain stocking stitch jumper with a moss stitch and intarsia sheep on the front.

Decisions, decisions.

Traditional Fair Isle Knitting

By Sheila McGregor

Price £12.99

IBAN 9780486431079

Dover Publications

Sheila McGregor’s knitting books are classic volumes. They’re long out of print so many knitters may never have even heard about them. When available, copies sell for exorbitant amounts on auction sites, or at least they did, before Dover Publications came to the rescue and reprinted some of her most popular volumes, including Traditional Fair Isle Knitting.

Known as one of the best sources for authentic Fair Isle patterns, it might surprise you to learn that save for the odd colour photo, the majority of the book is in black and white. Traditional Fair Isle Knitting is a reference book to use in conjunction with designing or adapting your own patterns.

The book begins with a look at the history of Fair Isle knitting, looking at the background and origins of the patterns. Moving on in part 2 to look at designing a Fair Isle garment and the techniques favoured by traditional Shetland knitters. These makers favour a knitting belt, which might not be so common in different parts of the world; most of us would be more familiar with circular knitting now than back in the 1980s when this book was first published.

Despite the lack of colour in the book, Sheila does discuss the use of colour in Fair Isle knitting. This leads on seamlessly to the patterns themselves. Page after page of charted Fair Isle patterns – over 70 to be precise.  This book is a treasury of designs that can be used in all your knitwear projects.

Sheila spent many years investigating Fair Isle knitting and while her book probably isn’t an exhaustive list of these patterns it can definitely be described as extensive.