two book ideas for easy crafting

I love challenging myself with complicated designs, though I also take great joy in the beauty found within simple patterns. After a long day I don’t always want to knit another garter stitch washcloth, it’s nice to have easy to work patterns on hand. The two books in today’s post fit this basic criteria.

Drop-Dead Easy Knits

by Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Egan, Kirsten Kapur

With this title on your shelf you’ll never be without a knit, from a quick and cozy project when you need something warm to a lightweight item keeping you occupied at the beach after you’ve finished your latest guilty read. With classic designs, Drop Dead Easy Knits will become a good knitting friend that you pull off the shelf again and again.

The designs are grouped by topic, not the expected type of item, but rather the knitting environment. You’ll find items to work confidently while distracted at knit night with the Shandy Headband or you can turn to the joggle scarf when enduring a family get-together. At the seashore sit with your toes in the sand while working up a Searsport Market Bag or warm your toes at the fire as you whip up an instant gift, also known as a Portillo Cowl.

The range of projects suits a variety of knitters, yarns, and situations with the benefit that they really are easy! There are tips and notes in each pattern for if you can engage cruise control, or if success requires paying attention. This is a title I recommend for all bookshelves.

Want to know more? Gale, Mary Lou, and Kirsten filmed a short video with great additional tips:

Crochet One-Skein Wonders for Babies: 101 Projects for Infants & Toddlers

by Judith Durant, Edie Eckman

The eighth book in the One-Skein Wonders series does not disappoint, and even more delightful is that it’s for crocheters! While several earlier titles include a token project or two, this volume celebrates all designs crochet.

The projects are arranged by standard categories: hats, socks, tops, blankets, and numerous types of accessories. In addition to a standard index is one by yarn weight. These are helpful for those situations when you have yarn but aren’t quite sure what you want to make. Many different tips are included to ensure successful projects. Two I like are nice reminders for hats: a larger hat can be grown into, a smaller one is pointless and to keep bonnet tie lengths short. Symbol diagrams are included where feasible. Attention to layout means the symbol key and abbreviation chart are facing each other in the print copy.

If you crochet and wish to expand your repertoire, I recommend this versatile addition to your bookshelf.

I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

3 books for observation & recording

This trio of forthcoming titles provides resources to help you improve your ability to observe and record the world about you. I find inspiration in nature. However, lately I feel that I’m oblivious to much of what’s in front of my nose. I’m not seeing, I’m not sketching, I’m not recording, and I’m definitely not analyzing what I see. I believe these books will help me improve my fluency in these skills, and they can help you as well.

Dare to Sketch: A Guide to Drawing on the Go

by Felix Scheinberger
Ten Speed Press
to be published September 2017

When I was first learning how to use watercolours, I read Scheinberger’s earlier book Urban Watercolor Sketching and found it helpful. While I keep a mini watercolor set in my bag, I rarely pull it out to sketch. This is odd as I have no difficulty pulling out a regular notebook and taking notes anywhere.

I was excited to receive an eARC of this new title and Scheinberger has done it again, he provides useful tips to help one get past the blank page and find freedom in sketching. While I have my own tricks for overcoming the first page in a new notebook, I like the tip of not starting anywhere near the first page and not sketching each page chronologically. This book covers everything: choosing a sketchbook, tool basics, and how to sketch everything from people to time.

While you may not want to learn to emulate Scheinberger’s style, there are many useful tips for developing your own while sketching urban and natural settings. There are tips for how to apply color. There are even ideas for how to incorporate digital media to your sketchbook. I look forward to seeing how this book helps me Dare to Sketch.

The Naturalist’s Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World around You

by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright, Bernd Heinrich
Storey Publishing
to be published October 2017

Are you a citizen scientist who wants to take your observations to the next level? Do you have a little one in your life who wants to be more systematic about what they see? Do you love notebooks? This is a title that belongs in every hand and out in the woods, in parks, and in every back yard. Why? Not only do Wheelwright and Heinrich bring their experiences to explaining how you learn to observe nature, they give you a simple notebook to use to begin immediately to record your observations. Each year I say “this year I’ll write about the birds at the feeder”, however I become overwhelmed by what to write and how to write it, so nothing gets recorded beyond a few photos I post to Instagram.

This title provides useful tips whether you’ve been systematically observing nature for 30 years or are new to taking notice beyond when the first robin appears in your yard. In addition to explanations as to how to grow observational skills, you also learn how to take notes and record observations. There are simple experiment ideas that I believe are a great not only for little ones, but also adults.

The title also includes with a simple 5-year journal to record observations. I this this is a wonderful pairing of topic, form, and function. It is a beautifully laid out book, I love the illustrations, and the journal is begging for me to write what I see. I highly recommend The Naturalist’s Notebook for everyone curious about honing this skill!

A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings: Quirky Collective Nouns of the Animal Kingdom

by Matt Sewell
Ten Speed Press
to be published September 2017

This is an adorable book that gathers collective nouns of the animal kingdom and pairs them with Sewell’s art. While short, it is a fun and whimsical book that would make a cute gift. Additionally, it could help you to describe your natural observations or it provide examples of other styles to sketch.

I received eARCs of these titles from NetGalley in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

resources for pattern writing and modification

I always have my nose in a range of books – each author chooses to arrange words in their own order which often lead the reader to new insights. I read widely to provide a range of material that allows me to draw connections that help others. Today I review five books that can help you bring new skills to your knitting, crochet, and pattern writing.

Sweater Knitting

Amy Herzog is known for her Custom Knit sweater design series. She has three books that tie into the system, Knit to Flatter, Knit Wear Love, and You Can Knit That.
img showing Amy Herzog book cover titles: Knit to Flatter, Knit Wear Love, and You Can Knit That
While I’m of the belief that you should wear clothing that you find comfortable and fitting and not care too much about others’ opinions, there are certain styles that work better on some body shapes over others. Some clothing styles that I love to look at (or knit) are not flattering for me to wear. In her three books, Herzog provides you with the tools to understand body shape and how that relates to knit sweater style.

Do you need all three books? No! Each offers a slightly different viewpoint and while all three could be very useful as part of your sweater knitting tool kit, begin with the one that fits your current needs best.

Brief Overview of the books:

Knit to Flatter introduces the system for analyzing body shape, taking measurements, and applying all of that information to basic sweater patterns. There are tips for choosing which size to knit and advice on modifying. This title goes the deepest into analysis of shape and measurement. If you are unsure where to start and know that you want accurate measurements sooner than later, start here.

Knit Wear Love expands on the first book to provide a mix and match system: eight sweater construction types, eight fashion styles, modification advice, twelve sizes, and three yarn gauges. Chances are you have a style of clothing you love, perhaps it’s sporty or maybe modern; in this title, Herzog explains what those mean and how to apply them to knit sweaters. There are exercises to help you figure out your style if you aren’t sure. After a quick refresher of body shape, taking measurements, and all the parts to a sweater you are taken through different sweater styles to knit the right sweater for your body and yarn choice.

You Can Knit That takes a slightly different approach than the first two books. The sweaters in this title are more forgiving in fit than the tailored patterns Herzog is best known for. If you are intimidated by the thought of knitting a sweater to fit you exactly, this title will help you gain confidence. How? The introductory chapters provide small exercises in key techniques before introducing you to the 24 sweater patterns of all shapes and sizes.

How will I use these books?

When tutoring knitters through a sweater pattern they want to knit these books provide me with resources to help them gain confidence and improve fit. In addition, several years ago, my in-laws gifted me yarn in a weight I don’t often knit and I’ve struggled for years to design the sweater that it wants to be. It was overwhelming. I now have the sketches of that design and confidence that it’s the right design for me with my long torso and short legs.

Crochet Design

book cover for Design your Own Crochet Projects Design Your Own Crochet Projects: Magic Formulas for Creating Custom Scarves, Cowls, Hats, Socks, Mittens & Gloves
by Sara Delaney
I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to many crocheters: after learning how to crochet you curl up with a hook and yarn and the result is a design of your own with no pattern reading necessary.

In Design your Own Crochet Projects, Delaney provides the tools to make your projects less surprising experiments and more well-researched and repeatable designs. While some may feel the accessories are too simple, they provide the reader with the skills to be able to evaluate yarn fibers, weights, stitch patterns, and how they all relate to what’s needed for a successful and repeatable project. The included photographs are clear and informative, adding to the written text. Where this book shines is the clear formulae to estimate yarn requirements and the templates to beat the blank page syndrome preventing a pattern from being written down. I think this title is helpful for anyone looking to be able to recreate what they crochet, either to make again or to write up for others.

How will I use this book?

It’s often helpful to step back and work on simpler designs when working on something more complex. This will help me step back and fine tune my crochet pattern writing skills. It is different from knitting and while I’ve crocheted for a very long time, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to write everything up in a way that makes sense to others. Remember: editing is not the same as writing!

Pattern Writing

Now that you are in possession of all these newly polished skills in modifying patterns and working up simple patterns of your own, what is the next step? One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is what book I recommend for new designers, whether they knit or crochet. My current answer is the same for both crafts: Kate Atherley’s book.

book cover for The Beginner's Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns: Learn to Write Patterns Others Can Knit by Kate AtherleyThe Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns: Learn to Write Patterns Others Can Knit
by Kate Atherley

I purchased a copy of this title when it was first self published, it’s now available through Interweave Press. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Why? Not all types of writing are the same or use the same type of skills. I know this firsthand, it took me a years to master the skills necessary for writing computer technology tutorials. That skill is very different than the one I use when writing knit and crochet patterns. The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns is useful to help me, my technical editing clients, and anyone interested in understanding the pieces necessary for a well written pattern.

Why do well written patterns matter?What’s included (or not)?

First, please remember it’s a beginner’s guide and isn’t exhaustive covering everything under the sun; Atherley provides an extensive resource list and bibliography in the appendix for topics ranging from sample style sheets, submission guidelines, to grading. It also doesn’t explain how to design. It does include the key parts of pattern structure, how language can be tricky, charts, grading, basics to formatting, the process of design, how to sell online, and an introduction to copyright. In short, it provides you with all the information that is necessary to create a well written pattern.

Is there anything for crochet designers?

Right now, this is the most complete resource that I’m aware of for those who wish to improve their pattern writing. Yes, it is knit-centric, and crochet is not the same as knitting, however many of the key topics that Atherley touches on are useful for crocheters. Kim Werker has a series on crochet pattern writing that pairs well with this title.

How do I use this book?

My digital copy is quite dogeared and one day I’ll add a real copy to my bookshelf. I use it both when I’m writing my own patterns and when I edit clients.

five books for your spring bookshelf

It’s officially spring, and my reading pace hasn’t slackened one bit. The “to be reviewed” pile is threatening to overtake one of the “to be read” piles, so here are five titles that recently caught my eye. They are each unique and diverse in topic and skill; I’ve decided their trend is colour. I love colour most during late winter and early spring as I wait for the snow to slowly melt. Without further ado, let’s jump in.


A Garden of Shawls
by Karen Whooley
Review copy provided by the author. I crocheted a sample for the collection.

It’s delightful to finally be able to talk about this collection of twelve crochet shawls by Karen. Karen’s expertise and professionalism is evident in every page of this title from her new imprint, Occhi Blu Press. The patterns are beautifully photographed, schematics are included, and the stitches are provided in both written and diagram form. I had great enjoyment working up the sample for Trellis. Now I need to decide which design I’ll work up for myself, I have a feeling that in time I’ll work through each of the twelve designs.


Coffee with C.C. (and Dami Too) ~ Another 7 Pattern Caffeine Inspired Knitting Collection
by C.C. Almon & Dami Almon
Review copy provided by the author.

When C.C. let it be known she was working on a new collection, once again I almost spilled my coffee in my rush to reply! I very much enjoyed her first title, and this time she is joined by her daughter Dami. Five of the designs are for socks, there’s a brilliant pair of fingerless mitts, and a new wrap to help keep away the chill of your favourite coffee shop. Once again, I love that the sock patterns are written for both toe-up (my personal preference) and cuff-down (many other knitters’ preferred sock knitting technique). While I am not a fan of instant coffee I really like Dami’s Instant Coffee Socks. CC’s 1 Shot, 2 Shots, 3 Shots Fingerless Mitts are brilliant, I am the only person I know able to be holding a hot drink and still sport ice cold hands. The newest 7 designs from the adorable mother/daughter duo of C.C. and Dami Almon is sure to delight.

Mosaic & Lace Knits: 20 Innovative Patterns Combining Slip-Stitch Colorwork and Lace Techniques
by Barbara Benson
Review copy provided by Netgalley/Stackpole Books.

Barbara possesses one of those brilliant, creative, and generous minds that I would love to take out for coffee. She has figured out colourwork lace by building upon Barbara Walker’s Mosaic technique. This melding of brilliant Barbaras has created many new and fascinating possibilities. It has been difficult for me not to tell my schedule to go away and swatch the projects for days on end. Benson takes you through how she created this process, tips for getting started, and things to keep in mind aloncg the way so your mosaic lace projects are successful. The first project is a basic bulky mosaic mitten, without lace, to help you become comfortable with mosaic knitting. From there, the possibilities expand not only to shawls and scarves at various yarn weights, but also hats, a bag, fingerless mitts, and a delightful pillow. Several designs caught and held my eye that I hope some day to find the spare time to work up, including Isochronal Arc, Lacy Pinstripe Cowlette, and Fractured Helix. What will you knit first?


I think that combined these two titles could be quite powerful to helping jumpstart your creativity.

Pattern Studio : A Creative Workbook for Sketching Unique Repeats
Kulik, Shayna.
discovered on the shelves at my local public library

I keep thanking the acquisition librarians at my library for adding titles I don’t think I would otherwise ever encounter. Kulik’s book is one of those rare gems. I’m also thankful I found it while it’s new, it was very tempting to start doodling on the enticing blank pages! This title provides 56 worksheets (6 warm-ups and 50 exercises) that will help you to develop the tools in order to create unique patterns of your own. The second portion of the book offers patterns, bios, and quotes from a diverse group of 50 artists to help you see the infinite creative possibilities. The exercise pages include subtle doodles so that you don’t need to fear the blank page. The exercises range from geometric patterns such as from the soles of your sneakers or the zigzag of a staircase, to patterns of buttons or stacks of books. This is a title that will definitely help direct your creativity and take your pattern and texture creation to new places.

Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking
by Emily K. Neuburger
Review copy provided by Netgalley/Storey Publishing.

I don’t see myself as an art journaler, but I know the value of regular focused practice. I requested a review copy of Journal Sparks with the desire to find ways to improve my doodling and my creative thought process. Neuberger has created a beautiful and thorough book with many different ideas and prompts that will inspire; my notes of the title have many more doodles than I expected. I think this would also be fun to work through with another Storey title, Knit the Sky. The creative possibilities are endless and I have many new ideas to help nudge my creativity when I feel stuck.

library love & book reviews

I am thankful that I can stop by and browse the stacks of the various branches of the Westchester Library System, I often find gems I’d otherwise never encounter. I love that I can take a virtual stroll through the offerings of New York Public Library when insomnia strikes. Without these services, I doubt I’d discover half of the interesting titles that I encounter. It is through these services that I can read to my heart’s content. Please support your public libraries!

Following are a few titles from the library that recently caught my eye. I initially received review copies of the following titles from NetGalley: Cable Left, Cable Right, One-Skein Wonders for Babies, and Crochet One-Skein Wonders® for Babies. Those electronic copies expired a while ago and I checked the titles out from the library in order to write these reviews. The FTC wants you to know.

Cable Left, Cable Right: 94 Knitted CablesCable Left, Cable Right: 94 Knitted Cables
by Judith Durant

While we have many stitch dictionaries available to us, sometimes it’s the little ones that step out from the pack and surprise and delight us. Cable Left, Cable Right is one of those great companion titles. Whether you are new to cables or highly experienced, there is something for you in this book. Over seven chapters we learn the basics and advanced techniques in beautiful clear detail. This is the book I wish existed early in my knitting career when I crossed my first cable, the step-by-step tutorials show attention to detail with helpful photos and accompanying descriptive text. Durant includes general tips for tightening up loose stitches in cables, and other tips when working specific cables throughout the book. After mastering the basics the chapters progress through different styles from simple ropes to curves to braids and pretzels. The final two chapters cover design. In chapter six we learn ways to dress up cables with textured stitches or embellishments. The final chapter covers design considerations whether we need to balance a the cable on fabric or to work on fit based on how cables influence take up and splay. I highly recommend this book if you love to knit cables.

One-Skein Wonders® for Babies: 101 Knitting Projects for Infants & ToddlersOne-Skein Wonders for Babies: 101 Knitting Projects for Infants & Toddlers
by Judith Durant

This is a delightful book, the 7th in the One Skein Wonders series. It includes a few designer names you may recognize and many new ones. There are a range of projects suitable for any baby, with many clothing items designed for a range of sizes beyond newborn/0-3months. While most of the projects call for (what I term) standard baby yarns, at fingering or lace weight yarns, there are a few in dk and worsted. The straightforward designs will help you keep little ones in handknit love. If you are a crocheter do not fear, there is a book for you, Crochet One-Skein Wonders® for Babies (review of that title coming soon, it was published in May 2016)!

The Joy of SpinningThe Joy of Spinning
by Marilyn Kluger

This is a beautifully illustrated (by Nanene Queen Jacobson) surprise from the shelves of my local library. Published in 1971, the story telling is lovely and I think best enjoyed with a cup of tea. It isn’t very useful as a spinning reference or even a learn to spin book, however it wonderfully captures the joy of spinning wool.

Dutch Traditional Ganseys: Sweaters From 40 VillagesDutch Traditional Ganseys: Sweaters From 40 Villages: with 60 knitting patterns
by Stella Ruhe

This was another surprise from the (top) shelf of the library. While I don’t see myself knitting any of the patterns, I found the history and the sweater designs compelling. I enjoyed learning about how many of the included photographs were found. This bookworm took extra delight in tiny details, the front endpapers show a map of the included fishing villages and the back is a picture index of the sweaters.

Finishing Touches for the HandweaverFinishing Touches for the Handweaver
by Virginia M. West

I initially read this title in September 2010 when I was weaving primarily on an inkle loom. At that time while I found this book nice, it was not suitable for my needs. Today I am in a different place with my weaving. Unfortunately it is still not the answer to my finishing questions, however it is very lovely and has provided sparks of inspiration. Based on rereading this title, I now have sketches of ideas that incorporate various hem stitches and simple lace could transform otherwise plain weaves.

Embroidered Landscapes: Hand Embroidery, Layering & Surface StitchingEmbroidered Landscapes: Hand Embroidery, Layering & Surface Stitching
by Judy Wilford

This was sitting in the ‘new books’ area and the cover caught my eye. I was able to resist it for about a week. I no longer have the urge to embroider florals, as I once did, though I still find the embroidery beautiful. I was not disappointed by the gorgeous work found in this title. Wilford’s work is stunning. Her use of layering stitches and fabrics (often silk) create beautiful embroidered landscapes. She leads the reader through how she composes her landscapes, the layers, the colours, the stitches. This book has me contemplating picking up an embroidery needle and untangling my floss collection. Even if you don’t embroider, this is a beautiful book to enjoy.

3 book reviews: practical letters, bath knits, and online presence

It’s snowing and I’d love to be curled up with a good book and my knitting right now, so tonight’s post is to try to catch up with three book reviews.

book cover image for practical letter bookPractical Letter Book
by J. H. Kaemmerer
Dover Publications
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This was initially published in 1911 as Kaemmerer’s Practical Letter Book: Containing Several Hundred Alphabets in 140 Plates; Together with Descriptive Text, For the Use of Sign Painters, Show Card Writers, Decorators, Artists and Craftsmen. While I am none of those professions, I am fascinated by calligraphy and word art. Kaemmerer’s title has stood the test of time and the plates were a delight to look through. This is not a modern how-to guide! The first portion contains specific considerations of the letters and words in different situations while the second contains the beautiful plates. For example, in the case of the English Block Letter: “The M. W. and Y. should be one-third wider than the other letters… These proportions however are by no means arbitrary but must be varied according to the particular word that is being painted. A case where a variation is very necessary is where a sign is to be placed at an elevation and is to be viewed from the ground, for instance, if it is even 10 ft. high it might be necessary to slightly thicken the top and bottom portions of the letter so as to allow for the shortening which comes about from viewing the letters at an angle.” There is a considerable amount of useful information for calligraphers, sign painters, and anyone fascinated by lettering. Some modern readers will be disappointed in this book with its lack of tutorials. However I am thankful this title is republished and available today to a new audience.

book cover image for Bath Knits by Mary Beth TempleBath Knits: 30 Projects Made to Pamper
by Mary Beth Temple
Stackpole Books

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I requested this book with hesitation, I know the author, which would likely bias me to say nice things about the title no matter what. I want to write fair reviews, but as I am more involved in this industry, that isn’t easy. Additionally, last month I read another title from the publisher’s catalog at my library and was incredibly disappointed. My curiosity won out to see if an author’s experience could positively and fundamentally shape the book. That answer? Yes.

I was further curious if a topic that I don’t have much of an opinion or interest in could catch my eye and make me desire to knit a project or two. Again, that answer? Yes.

Mary Beth Temple has created 30 projects that span from quick and easy to clever and pampering. While the page layout is traditional (to me it feels like a magazine), it is definitely clear and easy to navigate. The charts fill the page, something my eyes appreciate! The photos are styled in a way that feels both inspirational (my bathroom is rarely that tidy) and obtainable (it could be). While I don’t think many expect me to work with 10mm needles, the Plush Bathmat looks super squishy and find I want to knit one! I think the lacy mirror is a neat accent idea for any room and would be a perfect to use yarn from a beginning spinner (if I were to put it in the bathroom, I’d stick to a cotton or linen yarn as suggested in the pattern). I found the Cabled Towels a quick and low-cost project that would dress up any bathroom. Don’t worry, if bath knits means washcloths for you, there are several! I like the visual index at the end, we’re visual people and having a featured image of the project next to the name is a nice and appreciated touch.

It pleases me to say that I recommend Bath Knits!

book cover image for: Creating an Online Presence: 2nd Edition by Cat RamboCreating an Online Presence: 2nd Edition
by Cat Rambo
Plunkett Press
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Does this title belong here? Yes. Hear me out. I often am asked by my technology clients what they need in their website. I also receive questions from new designers as I tech edit their patterns.

Cat Rambo is an author I’ve followed for her science fiction and fantasy writing for years. She’s written a no-nonsense guide to both getting started and fine tuning your online presence. There is no fluff. There is no BS. I really appreciate that she tells it how it is. Some of the advice may become dated sooner than others as she talks about specific technologies and software, however overall I think this title will age well.

What is the best part about this book? The notes I scribbled while reading tell it all: backup, backup, backup!!! ♥

Seriously. What I also like, especially in our new reality is that she asks you to stop and think how much time you want to put into your web presence, how separated you want to keep it from you (and your privacy). Additionally, the reminder that while this is an investment of your time into your “brand”, which could improve/influence your sales, don’t get carried away. There’s a fine line between productivity and procrastination. Do not allow this to get into the way of what you really need to do, in her case write, in the case of myself and most of my clients: design/make/craft.

I highly recommend this title for those looking to craft a meaningful online presence without the mess of pointless glitter.

I received ebook review copies of all titles from NetGalley. I also received a hard copy of Bath Knits from Stackpole Books. The FTC wants you to know.