Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Sisters on the Case: Celebrating Twenty Years of Sisters in Crime edited by Sara Paretsky

It’s astonishing to think that not long ago female mystery authors had difficulty staying in print, being purchased for library collections or getting review attention from mainstream media. In response to these disturbing facts, a group of 26 female authors came together in 1986 to found Sisters in Crime, an international organization designed promote female mystery and crime writers. Now, on the 20th anniversary, Sisters on the Case: Celebrating Twenty Years of Sisters in Crime has been published to mark this important milestone and highlight some of the writers integral to the success of the collective.

When faced with 26 short stories, it is difficult to select only a few highlights; however, even in this strong collection there are few stories which stood out from the rest. “Not Just the Facts” by Annette Meyers features an innovative approach to the structure of a short story. Meyers chose to break her story into sections which mirror the segments of a police investigation. Each section begins with a heading to indicate the perspective it provides: The Medical Examiner, The Witness, The Interviews, part I, etc; providing insight into the anatomy of an investigation and encourages readers to see beyond the facts of the case.

“The Whole World is Watching” by Libby Fischer Hellman provides an alternative perspective of the social movement of the late 60s – that of the police rather than the usual viewpoint of the demonstrators. In this story, Fischer Hallman examines the concept of duty through the eyes of Kevin, a police officer assigned to crowd control during one of Martin Luther King’s rallies. Her story is remarkable for the significant growth Kevin achieves in only a few pages without the story ever feeling forced or “off-pace”.

“The People’s Way” by Eve K. Sandstrom stretches the definition of what a “mystery” story is/should be and was the only story in the collection which brought me to tears. “Guardian Angel” by Rochelle Krich deserves a mention for writing which evokes true “creepiness”.

Sisters on the Case is the perfect way to discover new voices while revisiting the work of favourite authors. These sample-size stories will have you saying “just one more” long into the night.

ISBN10: 0451222393
ISBN13: 9780451222398

Mass Market Paperback
352 Pages
Publisher: Obsidian
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Author Website: www.sistersincrime.org


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: No Sheep for You by Amy R. Singer

Amy Singer, editor and founder of Knitty.com, learned to knit at age six and as she puts it “learned she was allergic to wool soon after.” For many years, knitters allergic to wool were stuck knitting with synthetic substitutes that felt too much like plastic or with cotton which bagged or drooped. With the recent explosion of yarn options, non-wool knitters finally have their day in the sun.

No Sheep for You: knit happy with cotton, silk, linen, hemp, bamboo & other delights explores the fabulous options open to the modern non-wool knitter. With her trademark wit and personal understanding of the subject, Singer introduces knitters to the five “families” of non-wool fibers and their characteristics: bast (flax, hemp, linen); seed (cotton); manufactured fibers from natural materials (rayon, bamboo, corn, seacell®, soy fiber); protein (silk); and synthetic (nylon, lycra, acrylic). Understanding the characteristics of each family, the best needles to use for each, appropriate stitch techniques, and how to wash and block the garments is essential if knitters wish to produce garments they’re happy to wear. Perhaps the most important section is on adapting patterns written for wool to non-wool fibers.

The latter part of No Sheep for You is dedicated to the twenty-one patterns designed for non-wool fibers. The patterns, many from designers familiar to regular readers of Knitty.com, are marked with an icon indicating which fiber family is used for the design. Scattered throughout this section are sidebars full of helpful hints (how to wind slippery yarn on a ball winder, finishing steeks) and useful information (why does yarn pill, why does yarn shrink).

Singer, as befits one of the authors of Big Girl Knits, includes a wide range of sizes in No Sheep for You. Women’s patterns range from a finished chest of 31” to 64” (78.5cm to 162.5cm), averaging 34” to 54” (86.5cm to 137cm). Several patterns are included for men, as well as ones for hats, mitts, wraps, socks and bags.

Whether you are allergic to wool or just looking to expand your knitting repertoire, No Sheep for You is an essential addition to any knitter’s library.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1596680121
ISBN13: 9781596680128

Trade Paperback
160 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: April 2007
Author Website: www.knitty.com


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Kaffe Knits Again by Kaffe Fassett

When most knitters hear the name Kaffe Fassett, they immediately think colour. Now known for his bold, graphic designs and innovative use of colour, when Fassett burst on the knitting scene in the early 1980s he was considered a maverick. He changed colours whenever the mood struck, tying off yarn in the middle of a row, and used more than 20 different colours in one design.

Inspired by the colours in the landscape during a visit to a Scottish textile mill; Fassett bought yarn and asked a passenger on the train back to London to teach him to knit. His first knit garment design was featured in Vogue® Knitting and soon Missoni was commissioning his designs.

Many knitters consider colour knitting to be too complicated and pass over Fassett’s exciting designs in favour of “simpler” projects. While I understand the fear of colourwork, I knit his Ribbon sweater as my second project soon after learning to knit (from his first book Glorious Knitting) and over the years have knit several of his designs and returned to his books for refreshers on working with colour.

Kaffe Knits Again: 24 Original Designs Updated for Today's Knitters is his first book in over a decade and here he revisits some of his favourite designs. Some patterns are reworked in less time-consuming projects like shawl or cushion, others use fewer colours per row. Some, like the Big Flower Throw discover new life when reworked in chunky yarn on large needles. Knitters will be delighted to discover favourite designs reworked in modern silhouettes. Whether this is your first introduction to Fassett’s unique take on colour or merely a reintroduction, Kaffe Knits Again is sure to win many converts.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307395383
ISBN13: 9780307395382

144 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Author Website: www.kaffefassett.com


Monday, October 22, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Classic Style by Véronik Avery

“Fashion, as we knew it, is over; people wear now exactly what they feel like wearing.” Mary Quant, quoted in the introduction to Knitting Classic Style: 35 modern designs inspired by fashion’s archives

Véronik Avery had one main goal when creating the patterns in Knitting Classic Style: 35 modern designs inspired by fashion’s archives – to inspire knitters “to knit whatever it is you feel passionate about wearing.” Unlike past fashion periods, today divergent clothing styles are desirable, yet many retail clothing stores offer consumers more of the same. To help fashion individualists find a more personal look, Avery has explored classic designs to create the designs in this volume.

For Knitting Classic Style, Avery has focused on four main themes: Fashion Mavens (women’s wear); Tomboys (menswear); Global Travelers (ethnic costume); and Thrill Seekers (sportswear). For each pattern Avery discusses the fashion history and inspiration behind the design. The Bias Shell pays homage to Madeleine Vionnet, a cutting edge couturière from Paris known for her bias garments. Avery’s Tabi Socks draw inspiration from Japanese hosiery and speculation that samurai may have knit tabi socks (socks with separate big toes) to supplement their income at the end of the Edo period.

Avery has included a wide range of sizes for her designs. Women’s patterns range from a finished chest of 29.5” to 52.75” (75cm to 134cm), averaging 34” to 48” (86.5cm to 122cm). Two girl’s sweaters (size 2 to 8) and three men’s sweaters with a finished chest of 34” to 57.75” (86.5 cm to 147 cm) are included. Accessories round out the pattern offerings with designs for socks, hats, gloves, wraps.

Avery gives her Québec heritage and the Montreal Canadiens a nod with her traditional Montreal Tuque. She reminds knitters to select their colours wisely if knitting for a sports-loving recipient for "in a famous Québécois children's story, The Hockey Sweater, author Roch Carrier recounts his outrage when, as a child, he was forced to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater, received by mistake as a replacement for his beloved but worn-out Canadiens sweaters." Avery recommends knitters research favoured team colours prior to purchasing yarn.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 158479576X
ISBN13: 9781584795766

144 Pages
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: September 1, 2007
Author Website: www.veronikavery.com


Sunday, October 21, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Pretty Knits: 30 designs from loop in London by Susan Cropper

For many years customers have been asking for patterns for the garments displayed in Loop, a hugely popular yarn store in London, England filled with more than 130 different yarns. Usually the clerks have had to disappoint customers, telling them that the designs came from independent designers and there is no pattern available. With the publication of Pretty Knits: 30 designs from Loop in London edited by Loop owner Susan Cropper, many of these coveted designs are available for knitters to enjoy.

The designs in Pretty Knits are divided into four chapters: Flirty Fashionista (garments); Divine Accessories; Beautiful Boudoirs (items for the bedroom); and Feminine Fripperies (accessories for the rest of your home).

Garments range from 30” to 44” (76cm to 112cm) with most falling in the 34” to 40” range (86cm to 102cm). Knitters from every skill level will find something in this volume. Beginners will be tempted by basic patterns with special extras such as the “Bliss” Empire-Line Top by Debbie Bliss which features silk ribbon threaded through eyelet ridge. More experienced knitters will be drawn to patterns such as Kristen Griffin-Grimes “Anisette” Wrap that uses three different lace patterns and highlights the beauty of luxurious Rowan Kidsilk Haze.

Unusual and luxury yarns fill the pages of Pretty Knits. An evening out bag is made with Leigh Radford/Lantern Moon Silk Gelato (a Vietnamese silk cut into strips); bed socks created from Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere; or a runner from Be Sweet Bamboo all contribute to a decadent knitting experience. Yardage requirements are not provided in the instructions so knitters wishing to work these projects in more economical options will need to do a bit of investigation.

The final section of Pretty Knits provides instructions in knitting techniques; three different cast-ons, knitting with beads, working cables, and various finishing methods. As many of these patterns use notions, Cropper has included sources for these as well as the yarns suggested in the patterns. While a trip to London and Loop is not in the cards for most knitters, “this book is a little extension of Loop and those who make it special.”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307383156
ISBN13: 9780307383150

144 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: October 30, 2007
Store Website: www.loop.gb.com


Saturday, October 20, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Ever wondered why your experience of knitting is sometimes one of ambivalence? Clara Parkes suggests that it may be the materials you are using. Curious to understand why yarn had such an impact on her knitting, she quite her high tech job and applied her experience to providing knitters honest and in-depth reviews of yarn. Her search to understand if there was such a thing as “good” and “bad” yarn led to the birth of KnittersReview.com in September 2000.

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: the ultimate guide to choosing, using, and enjoying yarn collects seven years of knowledge that has led Parkes to be considered by some a “yarn whisperer.” Her goal is to help knitters avoid “yarn-related errors” and match the right yarn to the right project, “to hold a skein in our hands, look at it, touch it, listen to it, even smell it, and instinctively know what the yarn wants to become.”

In The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, Parkes explores common fiber types, methods of preparation, spins, and ply combinations. The yarns discussed are meant to serve as examples of type and lead to a better understanding of the yarns in your stash or those found at the local yarn shop. The main body of the volume is called “Ply Me a River,” where Parkes explores the qualities of classic single ply, two-ply, three-ply and four-ply (and more) yarns. Within each section are patterns designed to showcase the best qualities of this type of yarn. Each pattern is by a designer who Parkes admires for “their instinctive love and understanding of yarn.”

The end of this main body is used to explore “modern” yarns; cabled yarns and textured yarns. Parkes also includes information on the “care and feeding” of yarn; that is, how to wash and care for your garments once they are knit. Additional tips are provided on the special handling each fiber requires when it is wet and for removing odors (especially important if you are sensitive to the smell of wet silk). Savvy knitter will reach for The Knitter’s Book of Yarn before their next yarn purchase.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307352161
ISBN13: 9780307352163

256 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: October 16, 2007
Author Website: knittersreview.com


Friday, October 19, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: knitspeak: an A to Z guide to the language of knitting patterns by Andrea Berman Price

Knitspeak def. A combination of words, abbreviations, numbers, and punctuation that is unintelligible to the average human and – unfortunately – to the new knitter.” – from knitspeak

Like any group, culture or trade, knitting possesses its own language, one which to the uninitiated is incomprehensible. New knitters are often prohibited from stretching their knitting muscles by a pattern which makes as much sense as ancient Greek. Andrea Berman Price rides to the rescue with her book knitspeak: an A to Z guide to the language of knitting patterns, a handy volume which translates the symbols, abbreviations, and terms while explaining the logic and structure in which knitting patterns are written.

The first section of knitspeak provides an overview “of how knitting patterns are organized and how to read them effectively.” The second section is organized alphabetically beginning first with symbols. This section, which comprises most of the volume, is much more than just a dictionary. Scattered throughout are detailed illustrations, helpful tips such as choosing the correct decrease method, and longer entries on topics like measuring gauge or choosing a needle size.

The appendix is chock full of helpful information: fixing mistakes, estimating yardage requirements and an “abbreviations at a glance” table. Rounding out this handy volume are three worksheets which Price suggests photocopying and using to track knitting projects; for times so that when you put your knitting down, you have a record. A sound idea - especially for knitters, like myself, who have double digit UFOs (unfinished objects) that may, or may not, be stored with the required instructions.

knitspeak’s compact size means it easily fits into your knitting bag. The next time your pattern calls for LLI, grab knitspeak for a translation (LLI = left lifted increase). As Price suggests: “Never stop knitting again because you don’t understand your instructions!”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584796324
ISBN13: 9781584796329

224 Pages
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: September 1, 2007


Thursday, October 18, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: KnitKnit: Profiles & Projects from Knitting's New Wave by Sabrina Gschwandtner

The Fall 2007 issue of Vogue Knitting (25th Anniversary Issue)featured two articles of particular interest: "Knitting's Old Guard Speaks Out" [an interview with Kaffe Fassett, Alice Starmore, Mari Lynn Patrick and Meg Swanson]; and "Chatting with Knitting's New Guard" [Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Clara Parkes, Debbie Stroller, Shannon Okey and Vickie Howell]. By featuring the “new guard”, Vogue Knitting highlights the influence that knit bloggers and the “next generation” of knitters are having upon the craft. This influence is something which Sabrina Gschwandtner has been capturing for several years in her publication KnitKnit which looks at knitting “as a vehicle for artists” as well as crafters.

In her new book KnitKnit: Profiles & Projects from Knitting’s New Wave Gschwandtner looks at how a new generation of knitters is blurring the boundaries between conceptual art and craft. These unique individuals “whose work reflect[s] knitting’s current ideas, venues, and forms” are in many cases unknown to the average knitter and so Gschwandtner profiles each one, exploring their art, their motivation and how their work has progressed. KnitKnit includes twenty-seven profiles; from Dave Cole who knits with “heavy, toxic, industrial, or otherwise unusual materials”; to Althea Merback who knits knits miniature garments the size of a quarter; to Debbie New who knit a navigable boat.

In addition to their profile, each individual was asked to create something readers could make and the results are as unusual as their creators. The projects included the expected clothing, as well as 14 foot tall fiberglass teddy bears, miniature sweater earrings and room installations which knitters can “wear”. Even the sweaters are often approached in unusual manners; Liz Collins’ Stretchy Stocking top made from nylon stockings and Debbie New’s Scribble Lace Bolero made with labyrinth knitting.

KnitKnit is a perfect coffee table book for the knitter on your holiday shopping list. The artists profiled will help get knitting creativity flowing, the patterns feature unusual construction techniques and this book will spark conversation for knitters and non-knitters alike.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584796316
ISBN13: 9781584796312

176 Pages
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: September 1, 2007
Author Website: www.knitknit.net


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry

Laurie Perry, now best known in knitting circles as “Crazy Aunt Purl,” did not set out to become a blogging superstar. The introverted Southerner transplanted with her husband to L.A. and was stunned when said husband coolly informed her that he was leaving “to get his creativity back.” Left alone with four cats and a penchant for wine as comfort food, Perry quickly finds herself “three minutes from crazy” and grudgingly agrees to join a friend at a knitting class. There she discovers a new best friend - knitting can always be fixed, it helps you keep busy and find your own creativity, and it’s not about to leave you.

As Perry slowly sticks her head out into the world, she finds solace with her new knitting friends and begins to blog about her adventures with a distinctive self-deprecating humour. She quickly gained a loyal following who shared her joys, sorrows, dating mishaps and knitting adventures. Her stories are ones which everyone can relate to and readers love her trademark writing style – her voice just leaps off the computer screen and she immediately feels like a long-lost best friend (as evidenced by the seventeen-hundred condolence messages left on her blog after the death of her beloved cat Roy).

Crazy Aunt Purl’s Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair: the true-life misadventures of a 30-something who learned to knit after he split is much more than simply a self-help book on life after divorce or about learning to knit. Perry has penned a book about heartache and self-discovery and each reader will find something here to which they can relate. Readers will laugh, cry and moan along with Perry as she conquers her wine and cheetos problem, heads out on her first post-divorce date and discovers that life does go on after “he splits.”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0757305911
ISBN13: 9780757305917

Trade Paperback
284 Pages
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.
Publication Date: October 15, 2007
Author Website: www.crazyauntpurl.com


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Inspired Fair Isle Knits by Fiona Ellis

Much of Fiona Ellis’ design philosophy is contained in this statement from her introduction: “Even though many of the techniques we use in knitting have been around for practically forever, there are always new ways of using them to achieve fashionable and contemporary-looking garments.” In Inspired Fair Isle Knits: 20 creative designs inspired by the elements, Ellis explores fair isle knitting, combining traditional with modern to create the unique garments showcased in this collection.

Like her first collection Inspired Cable Knits, Ellis draws inspiration from nature. Each of the four natural elements – earth, air, fire and water – influence her choices in colour palette, design elements and fair isle pattern. While Ellis has provided 20 stimulating and challenging patterns, her hope is that her designs will inspire creativity and new ways of thinking in her audience and to facilitate this she includes design notes and reflections.

Each element is the focus of one section of Inspired Fair Isle Knits and is distinguished by its own colour palette, yarn properties and design elements. For example, the water section is worked in blues, greens and purples with shiny or smooth yarns that “recall water’s reflective properties” and wavy edges brings to mind the movement of water or snowflakes.

Ellis designs for a wide range of sizes with finished chest measurements ranging from 32” – 56”, with the average falling between 38” – 50”. Inspired Fair Isle Knits includes two child’s patterns, as well as designs for two wraps, a pillow cover and a felted bag. Many of the patterns here are geared to advanced or experienced knitters with a few suitable for those starting out in colourwork. Those wishing to explore colour theory further should consult the reading list included at the end of the volume.

Inspired Fair Isle Knits focuses on colour and Ellis has pushed the boundaries with some of her design choices, thus knitters’ personal preferences are more likely to affect their opinions of this volume. Knitters may not like every design but Ellis’ strong writing and clear instructions have produced an instructive volume which showcases her growth as a designer.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307346862
ISBN13: 9780307346865

144 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Author Website: www.fionaellisonline.com


Monday, October 15, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Suss Design Essentials by Suss Cousins

Pulling together designs from Suss Cousins’ runway collections over the past ten years, Suss Design Essentials: the ultimate collection for a classic handknit wardrobe presents a collection sure to delight her many fans. Known for dressing many Hollywood stars, this collection features details commonly seen in high fashion collections: oversized collars, creatively placed closures and asymmetrical design.

Worked in yarns from the Suss collection, Cousins has chosen her top 30 designs which she has broken into five categories: best sweaters; best separates; best dresses; best coats and capes; and best accessories. Each garment is chosen to showcase her design philosophy – creating garments that become wardrobe staples but involve a twist of some sort.

Cousins’ designs fall within quite a small size range, finished chest sizes of 30” – 44”, with only a few falling outside the 36” – 40” range. Each design includes yardage estimates and a yarn substitution guide is included at the back, featuring her substitution suggestions. As well, each pattern includes the standard yarn weight symbol.

While the designs included in Suss Design Essentials will be of interest to Cousin’s fans, plus size knitters would do well to look elsewhere for patterns. These garment designs would require significant reworking to fit the big girl and flatter her frame. The oversized silhouettes and chunky yarns are better suited to a slender body-type and the few accessories included are not worth the price tag.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307346412
ISBN13: 9780307346414

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: September 11, 2007
Author Website: sussdesigns.com


Thursday, October 04, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the Jon Stewart of the knitting world. She skewers us with our own needles, unravels our obsession for the uninitiated and helps us learn to laugh at ourselves. Her fresh, tongue-in-cheek observations about the crazy world of knitting have become wildly popular on her blog, her speaking tours (accompanied by her trademark socks-in-progress) and in her three previous books.

In her newest book Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: the Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting, Pearl-McPhee looks at knitting as a journey and sets off on a whirlwind tour of the land of knitting. Whether a newly arrived visitor, a long-time resident or a tourist seeking understanding of a loved one; Casts Off is an essential guide to the people, customs, tourist attractions and common ailments of this fascinating land.

Divided into the areas of reference commonly expected in a travel guide, Pearl-McPhee investigates packing tips (just how much yarn does one need to take on a trip), consulates & embassies (local yarn stores), politics (the great “acrylic versus natural fibers” debate) and common ailments (the dreaded “Yarnesia” or the debilitating Viral Second Sock Syndrome), treatment and prognosis.

Knitters who have caught the “Harlot” bug will find themselves laughing uncontrollably through Casts Off and most will remain convinced that Pearl-McPhee knows them better than their closest friend. Whether she is commenting on the “four ways knitting is like playing the violin” (both are worked from a chart) or how to cope when bad knits happen to good knitters, knitters respond to Pearl-McPhee because she understands us. She knows our foibles because she shares them and like all good enablers, she helps us explain ourselves the skeptics around us. After all, as Pearl-McPhee reminds us, “We know it looks like yarn, but it’s love…and for this it’s worth giving up all your closet space.”

This knitter recommends regular doses of the Harlot, along with infusions of social knitting and stash diving, to ensure a pleasant and healthy stay in the land of knitting.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1580176585
ISBN13: 9781580176583

Trade Paperback
218 Pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Publication Date: March 22, 2007
Author Website: www.yarnharlot.ca