Make It Your Own

Make it unique. Make it yourself. Make it your own

Book Reviews 21 April, 2007

Here I’ll be posting book reviews of craft books and books on other topics that I’m impressed with. I hope you find this helpful as you choose what to spend your money on

Some of these books have Amazon links just under the title. If you decide to buy the book from Amazon, please, pretty please, access Amazon via the links here when you order it. That way I’ll get a commission and will be able to buy more books to review in future. If you want to buy more than one book that I’ve reviewed, click on the link for one book and save your shopping cart, then click on the link for another book and put that in your cart and so on.

Just click on the link and you’ll be able to see a picture of the book and be able to purchase.

If there is a book you’d like me to review, just ask.

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FOLK KNITTING IN ESTONIA by Nancy Bush, published by Interweave, ISBN 1-883010-43-8.
Folk Knitting in Estonia: A Garland of Symbolism, Tradition and Technique

Here’s the blurb from the back cover: “Folk Knitting in Estonia explores the knitting, history, culture and people of this remarkable country. There’s a library of Estonian knitting patterns and clearly illustrated, step-by-step instructions for 26 gloves, mittens, and socks. Both historic and contemporary, these projects use traditional patterns typical to Estonian knitting.” That pretty much sums it up. I love it. The photos are clear and inspiring and the projects are challenging but not horribly difficult. I enjoyed the introduction to Estonian culture and the significance of knitting. There are plenty of techniques that you won’t find explained in many other books and plenty of inspiration. If you are a jaded knitter who needs a bit of a challenge and something a bit different, this is an excellent choice. The mittens make me wish I lived in a colder climate. I’ve made some of the socks though. There’s enough knitting to keep you going for quite a while and you’ll need to find a good source of fine yarn.

HIP TO KNIT by Judith L. Swartz, published by Interweave, ISBN1-931499-21-7.
Hip to Knit: 18 Contemporary Projects for Today’s Knitter (Hip to . . . Series)

Not long after I first started knitting I bought this book and it was extremely helpful. The first jumper I knitted myself was from a pattern in this book as well as the first pair of socks I knitted. From its colourful, easy to read pages I learnt how to shape a neck, do a three needle cast off, do cables, knit with double pointed needles, turn a heel, pick up stitches for a neck and graft. The instructions for grafting a toe are the best I have ever come across and I have never had that strange fear that some have of grafting. There are also clear instructions for choosing a size, felting, making i-cord, combining yarns, and making buttonholes. Hip To Knit made me want to knit more and taught me plenty. Projects include jumpers, cardigans, scarves, mittens, socks, hat and bags. There are projects for males and females but no kid’s items. I highly recommend it for beginner knitters and to knitters who need a little boost for their courage.

THE CRABAPPLE BAKERY CUPCAKE COOKBOOK by Jennifer Graham, published by Penguin, ISBN 0-14-300494-8 (picture of the cover coming soon)

As you can see from the photo in my post on 10/7/2007, I have been inspired by the beautiful photos in this book to make some cupcakes using the recipes within. It begins with detailed information on the techniques for making excellent cakes, the best ingredients to use and frosting techniques. I found these details very helpful as I made my first batch. Each recipe then has the basic instructions for the cake, the frosting and the decorations. The photos are inspiring and beautiful and clearly show the frostings and decorations so that they can be recreated in your own kitchen. At the back is a comprehensive list of suppliers of the more specialized ingredients. The mouthwatering recipes include Vanilla Daisy Cupcakes, Orange Lattice Cupcakes, Ginger Lover’s Cupcakes, Baci Birthday Cupcakes, Christmastime Cupcakes and Alice in Wonderland Cupcakes. Hours and hours of fun and games and delightful cupcakes to eat. Everyone loves a pretty cupcake.

THE PERMACULTURE HOME GARDEN by Linda Woodrow, published by Viking (Penguin), ISBN 0-670-86599-0 (picture of the cover coming soon)

My copy of the Permaculture Home Garden is 6 years old, is dogeared and yellowing around the edges. A few pages are falling out and there are a few pencil notes here and there. The state of my copy is not due to poor quality production but much use over the years. It is the first gardening book that Matthew and I bought after being married and starting to live together and beginning to think about growing vegetables.

The style of food gardening described is a little different from what you normally encounter. The author strongly encourages readers to use their brains, problem solving skills and pencil and paper to overcome the usual gardening problems such as pests and the drudgery of digging and weeding. Chickens and worms are good at digging the soil in a sensitive way so let them do the digging work. Instead of spreading fertilizer manually, let your chickens live on top of a section of garden for a while and put manure right where it is needed. Do the same with a compost pile and avoid the need for chemical fertilizers and the hard work of shovelling compost. Got too many insects? Instead of using pesticides which kill beneficial insects as well as pesky ones, build up your bird and frog populations buying planting shrubs and building a small pond. Linda Woodrow describes how to do all these things as well as planting to avoid soil compaction, collecting mulch and compost material without going off your normal routes to do it, raising seeds, guild and companion planting and keeping chickens and worms. We used the plan for the mobile chook house and have found it fits our requirements very well. She teaches you how to do it all and feed your family excellent food with the minimum amount of work, all by designing your systems properly before you start. Even if you don’t follow her system exactly (we only sort of follow it), this is still an extremely helpful and inspiring book.

If you are thinking about growing food in your backyard, this is an excellent resource, especially if your garden is in Australia. You can find it in book shops and gardening stores.

DESIGN IT YOURSELF edited by Ellen Lupton, published by Princeton Architectural Press, ISBN 1-56898-552-5 D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself (Design Handbooks)

Since I bought this book, nearly a year ago, I have read it cover to cover twice and have recently been referring to it regularly as I think about things like blogs, business cards, t-shirts, brand names and book proposals. If you want to share yourself, your band, your group or your brand with the world at large, you’ll need to think about who your public is, how good design can help you market your product, how to make sure what you do has your own stamp on it and most of all, how to design things all by yourself.

Design It Yourself begins with a discussion on why it’s good to design stuff yourself and the basics of grass-roots graphic design ans well as a little philosophy to get you inspired. It goes on to describe what you need to know when designing your own stationary, stickers, packaging, business cards, blogs, zines, logos, newsletters, t-shirts, books and websites. There are hints in each chapter about the requirements for various design processes, such as the standard size of a business card and how to decide which process to use, taking into account how many of something you want to make and the relative costs. For instance, in the t-shirt chapter there is information on how to design a pattern to take to a commercial screen printer if you want to make lots of the same t-shirt, how to make a design that can be printed onto a iron-on-transfer paper and how to make a unique t-shirt in a few seconds for little cost. There is advice on the best fonts to use in various situations, which materials are most appropriate in different applications, using found objects to make your designs unique and deciding what your purpose and who your audience are.

This book doesn’t give you details on exactly how to make a book, screen print a shirt or write a blog but it does give you all the tools you’ll need to decide which process is the best for you and offers tonnes of inspiration to get you started on the path to designing your own stuff. A real “Make It Your Own” book. Excellent for artists of any kind, small business owners, desk-top publishers and anyone who wants to escape mass productionism.

200 CROCHET BLOCKS by Jan Eaton, published by Interweave Press, ISBN 1-931499-68-3
200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans: Crochet Squares to Mix and Match

This is possibly the only book on crochet square motifs you will ever need; well, there are 200 of them! If you like to crochet, blankets made from squares are one area where crochet shines. It is the perfect medium for cosy and decorative throws and warmth inducing handcrafts. The variety of square designs range from plain to over-the-top, easy to complex, monotonal to multicoloured and include row and round crochet patterns. Wonderfully inspiring in its colours and presentation, it includes plenty of information on how to put different blocks together and design your own afghan or blanket. Each block pattern comes with suggestions of other blocks in the book that might go well together. There is a little bit of colour theory and some edging designs as well as a techniques chapter. Australian and British buyers beware: the instructions are all in US crochet terms and there is no conversion chart, which is pretty disappointing on the part of Interweave. Check the techniques section to be sure what names are given to the stitches. You could take these squares beyond blankets and use them for ponchos, shawls, bags and even dishcloths. 200 Crochet Blocks represents pretty good value for money since you get a lot of patterns (200 in fact) and plenty of help and inspiration in the one book.

ODD BALL KNITTING by Barbara Albright, published by Potter Craft, ISBN 1-4000-5351-X
Odd Ball Knitting: Creative Ideas for Leftover Yarn

A bright, colourful book, full of ideas for all the yarn knitters and crocheters have in their stashes. There is plenty of practical information regarding storing yarn, substituting, calculating how much yarn you have and even how to say no when people want to give you yarn. (Not something I’ve ever tried but I have been known to give wool to charities if I was sure I wasn’t going to use it.) There are 33 patterns including a whole chapter on scarves. Other patterns include hats, a doll, slippers, a felted bath mat and a giant poncho. My two favourite patterns are a bias knitted scarf and a triangular shawl, both of which look excellent in well matched, odd yarns. I guess the patterns are probably ones you could easily find elsewhere but I like the way they are all presented in one volume and pictured in odd ball yarns. The info at the beginning of the book make it definitely worth buying if you are the sort of person who doesn’t want to let a good half ball of yarn go to waste. Waste not, want not, people!

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