Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Books/Fiber/Knitting/Patterns: Bags – a Knitter’s Dozen

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 3:39 pm on Friday, August 12, 2005

Title: Bags – a Knitter’s Dozen
Managing Editor: David Xenakis
Publisher: XRX Books
Copyright: 2004

It’s become trendy to knit totes, handbags, purses, and even backpacks. This small (about 8″x8″) volume contains knitting patterns for a dozen bags of all varieties. Skill levels of the projects cover everything from beginners to complex, and the looks vary from Victorian to contemporary.

Instructions seem to be clear, though I haven’t tested any project yet. Rather than specify an exact brand of yarn, they describe the yarns needed in terms of gauge and weight (bulky, fingerweight, etc.). The models shown have the exact name of the yarn that was used alongside the picture.

This looks like an excellent book, and I’m hoping to work some of the projects eventually. My one issue with it is this: I wish they had talked more about what fiber-type to use on each bag! There are no comments offered to that effect – no “this bag works best in a non-stretchy cotton” or “be sure not to use a super-wash wool as it won’t felt properly”. You are left to your own devices to figure out, from the yarn brands listed by the pictures and your own analysis of the photos, what fiber type to use.

So, beginners might want to get some advice from an experienced knitter about yarn choice for these projects. Otherwise, there is little reason for the novice to fear this book, as the instructions are well written, and there’s an excellent section at the back that explains and illustrates the various techniques called for.

A valuable addition to the library of any knitter who wants to go beyond sweaters, socks, and scarves.

Books/Fiber/Knitting/Patterns: Folk Shawls

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Title:Folk Shawls: 25 knitting patterns and tales from around the world
Author: Oberle, Cheryl
Publisher: Interweave Press
Copyright: 2000

Shawls have become one of my favorite types of projects. I have yet to do one as ambitious as the shawls in this book, but it’s a fascinating read nevertheless.

The book begins with a section of instructions in materials and technique, including a guide to the charts used to present many of the patterns. Shawl patterns from 13 different regions of the world are then offered, with brief (very brief) notes about the shawl and knitting traditions in that area.

Patterns range from complex to simple, lace to worsted weight. There are shawls of all shapes; rectangles, squares, diamonds, triangles. I am especially intrigued by the Irish Diamond Shawl (page 33) which has a shape of a square set on point, with a slit from one corner to the center where your neck would be. This lacy-patterned shawl would give full wrap-around for anyone, without any effort.

Shawl patterns are offered in a combination of text instructions and charts. For those who have never worked with charts before, they are an excellent tool for giving a visual representation of a complex stitch pattern. It’s well worth learning how to interpret and read them.

My one gripe with the book is that it presents the folk traditions in such a slight way. Some of the regions have barely two paragraphs to cover their rich cultural significance of knitting and shawls. I felt left wanting for a more in-depth understanding about the histories and social importance of the pieces in the book.

Still, I recommend it for any knitter. The range of patterns, if done from simpler to more complex, would offer a great education to a beginner. And the diversity of styles and patterns will challenge and intrigue an experienced knitter.

Books/Fiber/Knitting/How-To: Knitter’s Handbook

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 8:14 pm on Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Title: Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook
Author: Stanley, Montse
Publisher: Reader’s Digest
Copyright: 1993

Out of Print. Subtitled “A comprehensive guide to the principles and techniques of handknitting”, this book was originally published in Great Britain as The Handknitter’s Handbook. When they say “comprehensive”, they mean comprehensive. If you’re a beginner, this book will teach you everything you could ever want to know about how to knit, how to choose tools and yarns, how to construct a garment, and how to embellish it. If you’re an advanced knitter, you will still benefit, because the coverage of even the most basic elements of knitting is so very thorough.

For casting-on alone, the fundamental start of every knitted piece, there are over 40 methods offered, with explanations of the benefits, illustrations showing how they’re done, and discussion of how to fix it when things go wrong. This amazes me. I knew maybe 3 or 4 cast-ons before this, and I considered myself a reasonably experienced knitter. I don’t think most people know this many methods exist.

The book is worth it for that alone. But then they go into binding off, short rows, working with slip stitch. There are 25 pages on increases and decreases. A section on what they call “special throws” (yarn over, yarn under, cables, among others). Knitting with beads is covered, as well as buttonholes, pockets, pleats, hems, and much, much more. Specialty techniques include knitting ruffles, casting onto and knitting from the edge of a piece of cloth, and creating sculptural knitting.

This may be out of print, but for anyone serious about knitting, it’s well worth the search.

Books/Dollhouses and minatures/Projects: Tiny Treasures

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 11:22 pm on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Title: Tiny Treasures
Author: American Girl Library
Publisher: Pleasant Company Publications
Copyright: 1998

Out of print. Aimed at 4-8 year old girls, this colorful little book offers simple projects to make surprising miniatures using household items. I picked this up at a yard sale – it’s certain to be available from used book dealers as well. Some of my favorite projects include a realistic-looking sandwich made from expanding sponges, rubber bands, and plastic bags, served with french fries cut from toothpicks, a dollop of ketchup (glue with red paint) and a glass of milk (a mix of glue and white paint in a clear makeup tube cap). All of these projects look easy to do, and they produce great results. I’m impressed enough that I’ll probably be trying some of these myself!

Books/Fiber/Knitting/History: No Idle Hands

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 11:10 pm on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Title: No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting
Author: Macdonald, Anne L.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Copyright: 1988

From the flap:

No Idle Hands presents an intriguing view of the role of women in American history, as uniquely represented through the art and craft of knitting. From Colonial times to the present, women have expressed their patriotism, creativity, fashion sense, and personal style in the private practice of this rich and varied practical art form. Historian Anne Macdonald sheds new light on women’s use of knitting as a representation of their changing historical roles, and puts into sharp perspective the fascinating legacy of the womanly art of knitting.”

This is an in-depth study of the subject of knitting throughout American history, replete with period photos, illustrations, and pages from knitting books and magazines from all ages. To give you an idea how thoroughly Ms. Macdonald has covered her subject – the main text of the book is 361 pages long, but there are also 57 pages of notes, and a 38-page bibliography.

I have only skimmed my copy so far, but it looks like a fascinating read. If you’re an avid knitter who also enjoys learning about what forces shape our world, I predict you’ll enjoy this one.

About Folkcat’s Craft Library

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 12:34 pm on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I’ve been meaning to make a catalog of the books and publications in my personal craft library, especially as a reference for my friends to know what I have that they might be able to borrow. I’ve chosen to do this in the form of a blog for gathering the data, but ultimately I’ll use the links to individual posts to create index pages that will sort by various criteria.

The posting format here will be simple. Each post title will contain the full categorization for the book, followed by the title. For example: Dollhouse and miniatures, projects: Tiny Treasures.

I’ll be entering books in no particular order, and I’ll do my best to provide a little commentary about the contents as well. Where possible, the books will also be links by which you can purchase them.

From the Beading Bookshelf

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 9:54 pm on Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My latest bead-related acquisition is a new book, The Art of Beadwork by Valery Hector. This is a feast for the eyes, and a delight to anyone interested in historical, ethnic, or contemporary beadwork.

The Art of Beadwork manages to be simultaneously a historical retrospective, a look at the use of beads in different world cultures, and an examination of the influence these factors have on contemporary bead artists. It is divided by cultural region – Asian Influences, for instance – and categorized by sub-cultures within those regions. There is discussion of the meaning and use of beads in those cultures, with photos of both beaded pieces and the beadworkers, followed by text about a contemporary artist who is inspired by the culture. Most sections then have a project that will help the reader to create, if not a whole piece, at least a sample that gives them a good grounding in the cultural technique and style, as interpreted by the contemporary artist.

One of the unique aspects of this book is the many contemporary bead artists who are featured with projects based on their work – some of them artists from whom we really never see projects for the masses. Joyce Scott, for instance, a Baltimore, Maryland beader whose pieces often depict human figures, often with themes related to African-American history. The example shown of her work is called “‘Til All Are Free, None Are Free”. It is a necklace depicting a black slave being held captive with chains and a strong-looking human arm. The necklace is deliberately made uncomfortably small, to help convey the theme to the wearer.

The representative project for this piece is a pair of earings, in peyote stitch, called “Bound”. One earring depicts a knotted rope such as might tie a slave; the other shows the black slave with hands bound by a similar rope.

A section on Xhosa Beadwork of South Africa shows a picture of Nelson Mandela in the early 1960s, wearing tribal garments that include a Thembu beadwork collar. The accompanying text discusses the trial of Mandela in 1962. We are told how he entered the courtroom to stand trial, “dressed not in the Western-style clothing of his white oppressors, but in the traditional attire of a South African chief.”

The contemporary bead artist inspired by this section is the author herself, Valerie Hector. We are shown details of Xhosa beaded collars created in double-layer scallop stitch. Then, as we turn the page, we see a stunning photo of a model dressed in simple black, wearing Hector’s contemporary interpretation of the double-layer scallop stitch technique – a long, drapey piece down to the knees called “Red Ribbon” Necklace. 3″ wide and 73″ long, it’s stitched with needle and thread using red cylinder beads.

The project we are offered teaches us how to make a sample of the necklace, followed by guidelines for then creating a complete full-size reproduction.

I am in awe of this book. The survey of beadwork through history and across the world is inspiring, and the many techniques and projects are a virtual master-level course in the possibilities of seed beads. I intend to approach this as though I’m taking a series of classes, working my way through the lessons and learning more than I could ever have imagined possible in one book.

In case you couldn’t tell – I highly recommend this book!

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