Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First Crochet Book Review of 2010

I'm turning over a new leaf (so to speak): among my usual designing life posts I'll be sprinkling in a crochet book review here and there for 2010 (I'm not being compensated for this, not even through Amazon). If you've been visiting this blog for long enough to remember my reviews of '70's crochet books, well, thank you for being here over the years!

It's been awhile since I reviewed crochet books here and for CGOA. There was quite a flood of new crochet books, many of them by friends of mine. I didn't want to pick and choose among them and leave someone out! Recently,
Amy O'Neill Houck invited me to join her blog tour with a book review and it feels like a fresh plan for a new year.

Crochet for Bears to Wear by Amy O'Neill Houck, published by Potter Craft, 2010.

I use a formula for reviewing crochet books: I pay attention to how I feel as a crocheter paging through it and how much the author's voice is present (especially if s/he's a friend of mine). I read it cover to cover because I've noticed that the initial impact a crochet book has on me can be very different from the longer-term impact. I also like to let readers know the range of crochet skills, yarn weights, fibers, and techniques covered.

Crochet for Bears to Wear is delightful to flip through. It's lighthearted and whimsical--but of course! it's about crocheting for teddy bears! To see what I'm talking about, check out what Drew said. (He and Robyn appear in the book as guest designers.)

Well, get this: it turns out that this cute book has impressive scope. Crocheting clothes requires a different skill set than crocheting, say, afghans for example. Amy's book makes it so accessible and charming that I expect readers to acquire valuable new skills without even realizing it.

Some of these skills are:
  • how to crochet a Fair-Isle style sweater (stranded jaquard in the round)
  • classic ('70's) modular construction a la Judith Copeland
  • how to construct a raglan garment from the top down, seamlessly
  • side-to-side construction (worked in vertical rows)
  • a dress of lacy motifs the easy way: joined as you go
  • with the aid of handy sidebars, how to customize any of the above (Julie's review elaborates on this nicely; and PlanetJune's in-depth post about it is not to be missed!)
  • pleating....patch pockets....armhole shaping....ribbing....
 Amy's voice shines through in her step-by-steps and in references to life in Alaska. I see her designer sensibilities in yarn and stitch combos. Yarns range from fingering to worsted weights found in yarn shops and craft store chains; a nice range of fibers and blends too--wools, cotton, alpaca, bamboo, soy.
    I salute Amy for the work that must have gone into making the building blocks of fashion crochet this clear, simple, and entertaining. It's a valuable contribution to learning different ways to crochet real clothes that fit.

    p.s. I'm with Natalie at Craftzine on how expensive doll clothes can be. My son orbited the Build-A-Bear phenomenon years ago and I wanted to crochet the accessories I saw in the 'Workshops'.
    p.p.s Free pattern from Crochet for Bears to Wear is at the above Craftzine link.