Book Reviews

Book Reviews

We take a look at some knitting and crafting books

More Traditional Dutch Ganseys

65 classic sweaters to knit from 55 fishing villages

By Stella Ruhe


IBAN 9781782215080

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With the publication of Stella Ruhe’s book Dutch Ganseys in 2013, a new interest in the traditional jerseys which were an intrinsic part of the identity of the Dutch Fisherman who wore them, was sparked.  A copy of this first book very quickly made its way into my collection and my eldest son has even picked out one of the designs that he would like me to knit for him. Understandably then, I was thrilled to learn that with the discovery of dozens more old photos, a second book has been created.

More Traditional Dutch Ganseys includes 65 brand new gansey patterns, based on original designs from 55 fishing villages. Knitting diagrams, sketches, photographs and guidance on sizing for adults and children accompany each design.

The book begins with an informative historic overview of the origin and use of the gansey, an explanation of Herring fishing and the life of a fisherman at sea.  Chapter two delves further into Fishing Culture, looking at the vessels, crew and what life was like on board.

It’s all about the knitting in chapter three and like its predecessor, More Traditional Dutch Ganseys isn’t a book full of step-by-step instructions.  The designs aren’t set out in the usual style many of us have come to expect from other books and Ravelry. Instead Stella advises you to read this chapter and study the general knitting instructions before casting on.

Traditionally fisherman’s ganseys were knitted in a T-shape and the formula, which is pretty straightforward, is included in the book.  Also included is a wealth of information on yarn types, quantities and swatching.  There is also a helpful close-up of all the different plain and purl patterns used to create your gansey.  For ease of knitting there is a basic size chart, which when used in conjunction with the general knitting instructions, should set you on the right path.

The different styles of gansey have been split into four chapters based on their location: North Sea Coast, Major Rivers, Wadden Sea Coast and Zuiderzee Coast.  Each of the 65 patterns include suggestions for yarns and tension (gauge) and it’s fascinating to see the photos of the original design next to Stella’s contemporary recreation.

All of the examples have been reproduced using a colour palette typical of the traditional gansey; natural beige, grey, blue and black, but of course you can mix things up to suit your personal taste.

Traditional gansey motifs lend themselves well to being incorporated into today’s commercial knitting patterns.  Chapter eight explores how to do this and inspires you to make your own creations.

More Traditional Dutch Ganseys, like it’s older sibling, is a delightful reference book and source of inspiration for those of us that enjoy the possibilities of working with the humble plain and purl stitches.

Girl with a Sewing Machine

The no-fuss guide to making and adapting your own clothes

Jennifer Taylor

Price £12.99

IBAN 9781782214564

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If, like us, you’ve been a massive fan of the Great British Sewing Bee, you’ll already be familiar with Jennifer Taylor, who was one of the contestants in the second series.

A self-taught sewist, Jenni’s addiction to sewing began when she decided to design and make her own wedding dress.  After appearing on GBSB, Jenni was determined to make something of the experience and is now a well-known personality on the sewing scene. Running workshops, presenting on television, featuring in sewing magazines, exhibitions and shows, a book seemed a very natural progression.

Girl with a Sewing Machine is a fantastic resource, perfect for those of us that are new to sewing or in need of a little hand holding.  One of the best things about the book is that because Jenni is self-taught, she has a great way of explaining everything in detail.  Imparting those extra ‘need to know’ snippets of information on every page as handy tips.

Introducing herself at the beginning of the book, Jenni tells us a little about her sewing journey, before highlighting her suggestions for your basic sewing kit.  Jenni’s look at Fabricology is a very interesting section and we think it’s great to see an expert singing the praises of recycling and repurposing fabric, as well as suggesting places to buy it by the metre.

Easing us into getting the hang of sewing gently, Jenni has grouped the projects in the book into three sections.  In Getting Started, they are quick and simple, giving you a great sense of achievement and encouraging you to move on to something a little more involved.

The Customising Clothes chapter is packed full of ideas for those of us that like to experiment, change things up and play around with the garments we already own.  While in Making Clothes from Scratch, Jenni has included instructions to create several very wearable pieces.

All the projects in Girl with a Sewing Machine include a list of suggested materials and detailed instructions, with photographs to help you with anything tricky.  Whilst some sewers might prefer a paper pattern with which to sew with, Jenni encourages you to produce custom fit clothes, created for you.  By learning how to measure yourself properly, you’ll be able to better understand the alterations needed to produce better fitting clothes.

Beautiful Blankets, Afghans and Throws

40 Blocks & Stitch Patterns to Crochet

By Leonie Morgan

Price £12.99 

IBAN – 9781782215431

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A self-taught crocheter Leonie Morgan is a well-known designer and already has three published books under her belt. Her latest, Beautiful Blankets, Afghans & Throws, is as you might expect, something of an ode to colour.

The book contains page after page of technicolour photos and everything we love about crochet.  At the heart of it are the 40 afghan designs, 20 of which are comprised of blocks while the other half are row-by-row patterns. They range in complexity, with something for the beginner or advance maker to enjoy.  Each includes a suggested skill level at the top of every left-hand page.

In addition to being beautifully photographed, each design has been laid out for ease of understanding.  There are both written and charted instructions included for every design, which also include a list of the yarn colours used in the example, plus any additional information with regards to special techniques.

The attention to detail in Leonie’s book is wonderful; at the back of the book there is a particularly helpful chart containing the yarn quantities required to turn the design into one of three sized afghans – Baby Blanket, Throw or Bedspread.

As stunning as the designs are, Leonie understands that every afghan deserves a beautiful edging, so she has included a separate section within the book to showcase 12 separate patterns.

Last but not least, there is a helpful techniques section which provides all the practical advice you’ll need for working the basic stitches, reading crochet patterns and charts, joining the blocks together and adding a border.

Can someone pass me my crochet hook?

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living

By Linnea Dunne

Price – £10.99

IBAN – 978-1856753746


Born and raised in Sweden, Linnea Dunne now lives in Dublin with her husband and two children.  Describing herself as a writer, editor, mother and activist, Linnea’s work has been published by many well-known and notable publications, including The Irish Times and The Guardian.

Her book, Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living, looks at the concept of leading a Lagom life.  Lagom has no equivalent translation in the English language, loosely it means ‘not too much, not too little, but just enough’, something which has me thinking of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Best described as a law for common-sense, Lagom is the ethos that has seen Sweden become known as the 10th happiest country to live in in the world.  Something that really isn’t that surprising when you consider it’s generous welfare state system, equal rights, maternity and paternity pay, and a childcare system that is beyond compare.

Linnea’s delightfully illustrated book explores all aspects of Lagom, providing examples of how to live a more Lagom life every day.  In doing so it is thought that you will live a happier, more balanced life.  The idea that anything more than enough is a waste, can be applied to every aspect of our lives.

Having grown up with the Lagom Law, Linnea is well positioned to offer advice on how to apply Lagom to our day-to-day life.  Improving our work-life balance, freeing our homes from clutter, cherishing relationships, friendships and our community, enjoying food and reducing our environmental impact.  Her book is a delight to dip into, it’s packed full of advice and helpful tips, bundled together with ideas and recipes to enhance your Lagom transformation, all wrapped up in a perfectly formed book, packed with illustrations and photos.

Mittens from Norway

Over 40 Traditional Knitting Patterns Inspired by Norwegian Folk-Art Collections

By Nina Granlund Sæther

Price – £15.99

IBAN – 9781782215400

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Colourwork is big news at the moment within the knitting community.  Towards the end of 2016, we began to see many more stranded knitting designs in magazines, books and on Ravelry.

Mittens are perhaps the easiest and most wearable introduction to stranded knitting.  They serve as a great way to hone your technique, they require very little yarn and there are literally hundreds of designs to choose from.

Mittens from Norway is the eagerly awaited book from the well-known Norwegian designer Nina. Taking us on a journey through Norway’s mountains, rivers and countryside, via the patterns in this book, which have been reconstructed from historical sources or drawn directly from the author’s familiarity with Norwegian pattern knitting.

Not all of the designs in Mittens from Norway include colourwork, there are several which require a single shade of yarn and have no floats on the reverse.  As you might expect though, each design does include a chart, which is the most popular method used for mitten knitting patterns.  Containing 40 individual designs, some have been sized for children while others are for adults and the charts should make it fairly easy to size up or down.  All of the patterns have been written to knit in the round either on DPNs or circular needles and while most of the yarns that feature in the book are Scandinavian, many of them are now easily available online.

As a massive fan of knitted mittens, I must confess to loving each and every design in the book.  If you pressed me to mention just a few though, they would include the Asta Mittens, which are inspired by one of Nina’s good friends. Aasta Olstad, with their plane hand but stranded colourwork cuff, have a very contemporary look to them.  The Simple Baby Mittens from Jӕren with their i-cord ties are perfect.  In a country where it’s cold enough to need mittens for approximately six months of the year, the ties will help ensure babies hands will stay cosy and warm.

My absolute favourite design might just have to be the Heart Brooch Mittens, as seen on the front cover of the book. The mitts are inspired by an elegant heart brooch, like the ones often  used to decorate folk costumes.

If you’re interested in finding out a little more about Nina, her blog here is wonderful. Yes it’s written in Norwegian, but Google Translate does a wonderful job of making it legible.

The Embroidery Stitch Bible

Over 200 Stitches Photographed with Easy-to-Follow Charts

By  Betty Barnden

Price £15.99

IBAN 9781903975473

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Since it was first published in 2003, The Embroidery Stitch Bible has been reprinted 14 times, which should go some way to confirm its essential reference status.

Ring bound, so it sits flat when open, The Embroidery Stitch Bible contains over 200 different stitches. Each has been photographed with easy to follow charts and use easy-to-understand directions.

At the beginning of the book the stitches are referenced as per their use, making it simple to locate the ones fit for purpose.  After this gallery, Betty has then included a whole section for Embroidery Essentials. Here she covers basic equipment, threads, fabrics, designs and working from charts.

Separated into two categories, Stitches for Fabric and Stitches for Canvas, which have been subdivided into the type of stitch, the Stitch Collection contains step-by-step instructions combined with close-up photographs to help you master each one.  Many also include suggested uses and helpful notes to ensure you achieve perfect results.

In the final chapter of the book, Working Practice, Betty looks at the three basic types of embroidery techniques; Counted Thread, Freestyle and Canvas Work and describes the fabrics, threads and stitches most suitable for each.

The Embroidery Stitch Bible is a reference book worthy of a space on any crafters book shelves.  Whether you’re an accomplished embroiderer, new to the craft, or someone who only occasionally uses stitching as a way of embellishing projects.