Book Reviews

Book Reviews

We take a look at some of the latest knitting, crochet and crafting books available now.

The Wild Dyer

A guide to natural dyes & the art of patchwork & stitch

By Abigail Booth

Photography by Dean Hearne.


IBAN 978-0857833952

Kyle Books

There has definitely been a marked interest in the use of natural dyes over the past few years. The popularity of Ninja Chickens Podcast, The Wild Dyery online course and our very own columnist Jennifer from Apple Oak Works Fibre are indications of a renewed interest in this traditional craft.

Abigail Booth’s book is a fantastic resource for people wanting to give natural dyeing a go and is written from a patchwork and stitching point of view.  The Wild Dyer focuses on creating your own textiles using dye stuffs that you’ve found, gathered or grown and is set out in an easy-to-follow style, accompanied by beautiful photographs.

The book opens with an introduction to Abigail and what she loves about natural dyeing and natural colour. It teaches you the foundations of natural dying and encourages you to explore further; Abigail believes every dyer is different and encourages readers to experiment.

The first section of the book is given over to the tools and equipment the dyer needs, understanding and preparing fabric, mordants, setting up a dye vat and haberdashery and textile care.  This leads nicely on to the three main types of dye plants Abigail looks at in the book; those that are a by-product from your own kitchen, those you can grow and those you can forage. These become the focus of the four chapters of the book.

Each chapter begins with a reference of some of the more readily available dye stuffs. There is a brief description which includes how to obtain the dye, the colours you can expect and is accompanied by beautiful photographs of swatches dyed to demonstrate the different colours you could achieve.

In the first chapter, In the Kitchen, Abigail provides guidance on how best to store the dye stuffs you’ve collected, ensuring that they stay useable and do not rot.

The Dyers Garden, chapter two, looks at the three most well known dyes: Woad, Madder and Weld, but also includes some other popular plants capable of creating beautiful shades.  Did you know Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckianirta) can create a beautiful warm putty brown?

Abigail has included detailed instructions for setting up a Woad vat using the fermentation method and there is also a more in-depth look at dyeing with Madder which is more sensitive to heat and PH than some of the other dyestuffs.

Foraging for dye stuffs will be different depending on the time of year, so Chapters Three and Four look at Summer Foraging and Autumn Foraging respectively.  Think leaves, petals and berries versus nuts, cones and bark.

Many books about natural dyeing stop there, they’ve imparted the basic knowledge on what to gather, how to do so, what colours they produce and how you can alter them, but The Wild Dyer goes a step further.  The book contains 15 beautiful, easy-to-create projects that transform your naturally dyed fabrics into something you’ll love with simple stitch techniques.

The projects include a harvest bag, an apron, cushion covers and our personal favourite, the Gardeners Smock. Towards the back of the book Abigail has included a list of her most favourite and easily accessible dye plants.  The list is broken down by colour and includes the common name, Latin name and the part of the plant you should use.

Stitch Camp

18 Crafty Projects for Kids & Tweens

By Nicole Blunt & Catherine Newnan

Price £14.99

IBAN 978-1612127507

Storey Publishing

We’re all for introducing children and young people to crafting with fibre at as early an age as possible.  Learning these skills is something that was traditionally passed on by an older family member, but nowadays this often isn’t possible.  Busy lives mean less time to teach and we should probably also acknowledge that there are definitely some children that just don’t get it, when they’re shown how to do something by a parent, grandparent or other relative (it’s the truth, says the woman who taught lots of children to knit at her shop).  One of the other biggest stumbling blocks can be that the projects we’re interested in just don’t have the same appeal to the younger generation. Lightbulb moment….. Stitch Camp

Nicole Blum and Catherine Newman have brought together six fibre crafts and given them each their own chapter: Sew, Embroider, Felt, Knit, Crochet and Weave.  Crafty nine to 14 year olds will find Stitch Camp packed full of useful information and creative projects, which include things to wear and practical objects all made from inexpensive or recycled materials.  The chapters include a brief introduction to each craft with a little historical information, suggestions for materials and the required equipment.  Techniques are explored in more detail, with step by step close up photographs, easy-to-read instructions with everything laid out to appeal to young crafters. The book includes a useful glossary of crafty terms as well as suggested books to read in order to expand on the knowledge already learnt.

Stitch Camp has been written to appeal to both boys and girls and there are three projects included within each chapter, which are gender neutral for the most part. Hilariously from our point of view, several of the projects in Stitch Camp are similar to ideas we already have on our list of possible crafty makes.  What this says about us we’re not sure but what it does suggest about Stitch Camp is the general appeal it will have to lots of crafty adults out there.

One thing to note: Stitch Camp has been written for an American audience so there are a couple of things to bear in mind if giving a copy to your young crafter. It includes imperial measurements, but there is a conversion chart in the back. The knit and crochet chapters both include American terminology, while this isn’t really an issue for young knitters, the terminology could catch some newbie crocheters out, especially if they already have a knowledge of crochet using English stitches.

30 Gifts in 30 Days

Create 30 Fun & Fresh Gift Ideas for the Special People in Your Life

By Bendy Carter

Price £8.99 

IBAN – 978-1590128503


The idea of 30 gifts in 30 days is that you’ll be able to crochet a design a day and therefore have a gift ready for any occasion.

Written using American terminology the book contains projects that are quick and easy.  Patterns are clear and easy to read and include helpful notes and special stitches.  There are no charts and only one photo per design, but you can always look them up on Ravelry to see other makers’ project photos.

While you might not be too surprised to discover that the book doesn’t include any sweater patterns, there are designs for some lovely accessories and other useful or gift items.  Everything from baby booties and hats to scarves and a super chunky tweedy cable throw. Some of the more unusual but incredibly thoughtful makes include the Foget-Me-Not Alzheimer’s Charm Bracelet and the Soft Ringlets Chemo Cap.

If you like 30 Gifts in 30 Days, you’ll love the rest of the Annie’s Crochet books. They are a wonderful, reasonably priced resource for crocheters and readily available in most good yarn shops and from the Search Press website.

Gradient Knits

Lessons and Projects Using Ombre, Stranded Colourwork, Slip Stitch and Textures

By Tanis Gray

Price – £12.99

IBAN – 978-1782215691

Search Press

As far as yarn credentials go, Tanis Gray has them sorted. A former yarn editor at Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Knit 1, Yarn Market News and the Debbie Bliss Magazine, Tanis knows her yarn. You can find Tanis designing, teaching Fair Isle classes on Craftsy, or as a regular guest on Knitting Daily TV.

Gradient yarns and sets are attractive to all makers. How many of us have been tempted by a lovely little bundle of minis, only to get them home and realise we haven’t got a clue what to use them in. In Gradient Knits, Tanis’s 9th published book, she explores the versatility of gradients through projects that are perfectly suited to them.

Split into 10 simple lessons, Gradient Knits offers a blend of projects suitable for beginners to advanced knitters. The book is a compendium of patterns from the author and fellow designers, including Kristen Kapur, Hanna Maciejewska, Carina Spencer, Jane Dupuis, Ann Weaver and Mindy Wilkes.

Each lesson builds on the previous one, demonstrating the different effects that can be created when knitting with gradients.  The patterns are all laid out clearly with charts where applicable and several photos per project. At the back of the book, the final chapter is given over to Basic Knitting Techniques, with more advanced stitching is looked at in each of the lessons, where they are more relevant to that project.

As fans of colour, we’d be hard pressed to single out one design from the book as our favourite. Having said that, we really like the Festoon Mittens designed by Jane Dupuis, which are based on traditional Scandinavian styling.  The Moth Socks also designed by Jane with their large palette of fifteen colours and stranded colourwork moth motif are also stunning.

The stand out pattern for us is probably also the most accessible: the Blocket Hat is a perfect, simple way of using a gradient aran weight yarn or mini set to full effect. Designed by Tanis herself, we’d happily make one tomorrow.

You’ll find Tanis on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and she also has her own website, which is full of interesting posts.

Slow Knitting

A Journey from Sheep to Skein to Stitch

By Hannah Thiessen

Price – £21.99

IBAN – 978-1419726682

Abrams Books

Often we power knit our way through a project having set ourselves a deadline and Christmas gift knitting is a prime example. While we probably still revel in the project when it flies off our needles, we may not have thoroughly enjoyed the making part of the process. We rarely immerse ourselves in the beauty of our creativity, or take the time to be mindful of the full process from choosing the yarn to sewing in the ends. So many of us can knit without having to look at our needles and often use it as a way to stay focused on something we’re watching or listening to.

Slow Knitting, like the slow food and slow living movements, encourages knitters to step back, pare down and celebrate the craftsmanship of their work.  A well made, hand knitted garment will last for years and the foundations of slow knitting urge us to spend more time enjoying every step in making it.

Understanding where the fibre originates from and choosing the best quality yarn you can afford.  Embracing your swatch and using it as a tool to achieve the best results.  Taking your time, progressing steadily and paying attention to the details.  All of these practices, when coupled with a great design, will result in rewardingly perfect projects.

The book is a pleasure to experience. Sandwiched between the beautiful photography and thoughtful text are 10 gorgeous patterns. They are created by well known knitwear designers including Pam Allen, Nora Gaughn and Jennifer Wood, each of whom brings something different to the collection.

There are five chapters, each contains stories of the yarn, with garments inspired by the featured fibre. As you might expect, the designs are timeless classics, with something to suit everyone’s tastes and worthy of a place in your ‘slow fashion’ wardrobe.  Patterns include schematics and charts, which due to the dimensions of the book, some people may prefer to get enlarged.

Our love of textured stitches and cables is fulfilled by several of the designs: Grow by Norah Gaughn is our absolute favourite. Knitted in separate pieces, it incorporates a centre cable panel that extends from the bottom band to the neck, with rope work that increases in size as it travels. Knitted in Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter it has a curved hem and flattering A-Line shape.

Design Your Own Crochet Projects

By  Sara Delaney

Price – £14.99

IBAN – 978-1612126586

Storey Publishing

Hands up, neither of us would ever describe ourselves as crocheters, and we both confess to possessing only a very basic knowledge of the craft.  That doesn’t mean that with time and a lot of patience we wouldn’t be able to follow a crochet pattern, but it does mean that neither of us would know where to begin when it comes to designing a crochet pattern.

Design Your Own Crochet Projects, is as far as we know, rather unusual.  There have been a wealth of books published about designing your own knitwear over the years and the same can be said for stitch dictionaries in both knitting and crochet.  However, there aren’t many books available to help when it comes to designing in crochet; in fact we really can’t think of another.

Developing your own crochet patterns might seem a little daunting but Sara Delaney, the book’s author, walks you through the whole process. Designing and writing crochet patterns for over 10 years, Sara also teaches online crochet classes on Craftsy.

Each chapter is set out in an easy-to-follow style, with step-by-step instructions on how to achieve a positive end result.  Helpful tables are included as are formulas to help you calculate yarn quantities and stitch counts. Sara has also provided a template to assist you when it’s time to write up your finished pattern.

Within each chapter, Sara has included a ‘traditional’ crochet pattern. Each serves as an example of how by using the worksheets and formulas in the book, Sara has created her design. By making Sara’s projects you’ll be able to better follow her methods and see them in action.

Design Your Own Crochet Projects looks at creating accessories, scarves, cowls, hats, socks, mittens and gloves and includes 18 standalone, wearable patterns, which is more than can be found in a lot of other books. Sara’s designs are so lovely, that we have to admit that we’re tempted to give a couple of them a go ourselves.  The Greylock Glen Hat in particular, has us contemplating our basic knowledge and who knows, with Sara’s help we might even be able to design our own hats sometime in the future?

It’s a book that has something to offer to all levels of crocheter, whether you’re interested in creating your own designs from scratch, tweaking a favourite make, or just looking for a few new patterns.  Design Your Own Crochet Projects is worthy of a place on your crochet book shelf and we hope that Sara might decide to look at garments in her next book.

Butterflies, Bees and Bugs

Over 50 reusable motifs to iron on and embroider

By Sally McCollin

Price £14.99

IBAN 978-1782213239

Search Press

This collection of 50 plus insect motifs is a great source of inspiration for anyone who loves embroidery. The motifs are quirky and fun – we love the chain of ants – and the book provides detailed advice and suggestions for colours, threads and stitches to use in your own projects.

The book also features a look at some of the more popular embroidery stitches with step-by-step illustrations. It also gives us a look at how to add the insect motifs to various projects from t-shirts to keyrings.

For any budding stitchers, this is a wonderful book to get your creative juices flowing and because the motifs are reusable, you have the option to add your favourite little creepy crawlie into many a project.

Watch this space as we have a little creepy crawlie project of our own on the go, which we’ll be sharing with you in the new year.