Vix Knits… and crochets and sews…

My adventures in the wonderful world of arts and crafts

A couple of exciting new books!

Just a quick post for today, firstly because I’m actually posting from my new tablet (an Acer Iconia) and secondly because I’m rather tired.
Onto our main business, with my first pay packet I’ve bought myself a couple of new and unusual (for me) books.
The first is called Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar, it looks at the rise of so-called retro crafts and a move back towards simpler living and attachment parenting and the like. I finished it yesterday and will post a full review soon.
The other is Handmade Glamping which I’ve been drooling over for months. I love the layout and the projects but I have been a little disappointed when reading through the instructions for my favourite projects. Again, I’ll do a full review another time.
I was hoping to link to the Amazon pages like I normally would but I’m struggling a bit to get used to the tab so I’ll leave things there for now and go and watch The Apprentice

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Tasty Knits book review

Tasty Knits by Susan Penny and Susie Johns brings together pieces from some of the Twenty to Make series from Search Press.

Containing a whopping 43 projects, Tasty Knits features lots of tasty foods from corn on the cob to lemon slices to sandwiches to burgers to cakes and biscuits.

All of the pieces are brilliantly designed and amazingly life-like. Perhaps the cleverest piece is the banana which is made with a zip in the skin so you can actually unzip it and take out the fruit!

The doughnuts are also very well done, knitted in one piece and attached around the outside.

The projects are quick and fun to knit and make great children’s toys or decorations.

So far I’ve made two pizza slices, a banana, a large apple, a small apple and a doughnut and I plan to make loads more!

I have to say though, I have (as usual) adapted some of the patterns, mostly on the pizza slice, and I did notice a bit of a mistake on the apple pattern (it calls for needles in the pattern that aren’t listed previously)

I also noticed that some pieces aren’t as big as you might think. The pizza slice, the banana and the doughnut came out life-size but the apples are quite dinky and the sandwich that I started yesterday was looking tiny (I’m afraid to say I took it out and scrubbed it off the ‘to do’ list)

The only bad thing I can think of is that the book definitely focuses on sweet things, 25 of the patterns are sweet treats compared to 14 ‘meals’,  three pieces of fruit and ONE vegetable!

All-in-all, though, I love it and the projects are perfect as ‘fillers’ in between other things as they can mostly be completed in an evening. I’ll just have to go and buy Twenty to Make Knitted Fruit and Knitted Vegetables (and maybe Knitted Fast Food) to complete my knitted food collection!

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The Knitting and Crochet Bible book review

The Knitting and Crochet Bible by Claire Crompton and Sue Whiting brings together The Knitter’s Bible and The Crochet Bible in one glorious volume.

Ideal for any level of crafter, the books covers the basics of knitting and crochet as well as more advanced techniques and stitches. The book is filled with concise instructions and brilliantly clear illustrations.

Most of the techniques are linked to projects in the book so that, when you learn a new technique, you can out it into practice.

The knitting section is broken down into five ‘chapters’ which are colour-coded down the edge of the pages.

The crochet sections has four chapters with tabs down the edge of the pages.

Both sections have stitch libraries with pictures and instructions for basic and advanced stitches.

Both sections also have extensive information on yarns: the types of fibres that are used; the different ‘weights’ of yarn; and which yarns are considered the most suitable for certain projects.

I have to say, I found the knitting section much better than the crochet section: the information is more extensive and the colour coded chapters make the section much easier to navigate through.

The stitch library, for example, accounts for 40 pages of the knitting sections whereas the crochet section only has 18.

The one irritating feature is that the knitting section appears to be American but the English (where different) is added in brackets, so you get sentences like: “Shown here are truly rustic fisherman (aran), bulky (chunky) and worsted (DK) weight yarns in tweeds and soft greens, a soft sport (4ply) 100 per cent alpaca yarn, traditional shetland wool sweater yarn and tapestry wools equivalent to worsted (DK) weight.”

After a while it gets very tiresome, especially if you’ve already become accustomed to switching between the two.

The crochet section is better because it’s written in English terms, although American readers may struggle as there doesn’t appear to be a conversion chart for terms and abbreviations.

I really love the ‘knit something now’ feature but the crochet section’s ‘make this now’ feature is quite poor. The first project it recommends is a cardigan with flower detailing but the only things you’ve been shown are how to hold the hook and yarn and how to make a slipknot!

I also prefer the projects in the knitting section but I suppose this comes down to personal taste more than anything. I will say, however, that the photos of the crochet projects are a bit useless, I’ve struggled to get a really good idea of what the finished pieces are supposed to look like.

With regards to price, this is a really good buy. The separate books RRP at £14.99 whereas this is only £19.99 (and I got money off mine, bonus!) so, even if you currently only crochet or knit, I’d definitely recommend this over the separate versions.

Currently on my list of knitting things to try are: Continental knitting; entrelac, mitred squares; fair isle (hopefully aided by the Continental knitting); and some more complicated cables.

I didn’t find anything in the crochet section that really screamed ‘I’m the new challenge you’re looking for!’ but there are some cute projects that I’d like to make for myself and as gifts.

Overall, I’m very glad I finally decided to buy this book, it really is an invaluable addition to my craft library.

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Knitting Vintage book review

Knitting Vintage by Claire Montgomerie contains 30 patterns inspired by previous decades, from the twenties to the eighties, updated for modern living.

Montgomerie has also included some details about the eras and a mood board for each decade.

I’ve been eyeing this book up for ages (mostly because I wanted the Lacy Collar pattern) and was lucky enough to find it in a discount bookshop on a day that I had both a craving and the cash for some new goodies.

There are very few patterns in the book that I don’t like and a few in particular that I simply must make!

The problem is that the sizes don’t quite go up big enough. I’m a fairly standard UK size but the biggest in the book is generally 10cm too small!

After my initial disappointment, I’ve decided to view this as a challenge. After all, 10cm is a nice even amount and the size of a standard tension square so increasing the size should be fairly simple.

Figuring out the shaping will be a bit more tricky… but not impossible I think (especially with Custom Knits to help me – see yesterday’s post)

Another oddity I found was that some of the photographs show more than one piece of knitwear but are only attached to one pattern with the other appearing nowhere.

Compared to the joy of the actual patterns, though, this is a minor inconvenience.

I’d say the book is suitable even for beginners because there are some basic patterns and plenty of opportunities for learning and growth.

So, if you’re a fan of vintage and/or retro clothes or just looking for something a bit different, I’d definitely check this out.

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Custom Knits book review

The first of a series of books by Wendy Bernard (also the author of the popular Knit and Tonic blog), Custom Knits contains over twenty amazing projects as well as comprehensive instructions for designing and altering patterns.

Each project has a ‘make it your own’ box which gives suggestions and instructions for altering the garment.

Bernard gives instructions for making a body form so you can more easily check measurements and try on and adapt garments.

She also looks at six classic alterations before moving on to the ‘starting from scratch’ section.

I’ve only made one piece from the book so far (Mina’s Tuxedo Vest) but there are plenty more I’d like to try out.

I’m also finding the design instructions really helpful while I’m starting out on my own design journey.

The pattern I followed did have some anomalies but, let’s face it, this is not a book for beginners so it was still easy to follow.

I found the book as a whole quite refreshing. Top down knitting isn’t that popular here in the UK (for some unfathomable reason) so these patterns and design ideas really take away a lot of the trial and error.

The ability to knit the sleeves onto the garment and the abundance of garments knitted in the round make this book even more valuable to me.

I’d looked at a lot of design books before deciding on this one and I think I’ve made a really good choice. One of the others I looked at focused on making paper patterns (often using existing garments for reference) and knitting up the pattern but Bernard uses a more improvisational technique and some simple calculations. I find this much more appealing!

Frankly, it’s a struggle to decide whether to knit (and alter, obviously) something else from the book or try my hand at some serious designing

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to most intermediate/advanced knitters. There are some great patterns, invaluable tips for altering and designing and some advanced techniques to be learnt.

Wendy Bernard has also written Custom Knits 2 and Custom Knits Accessories.

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AUSTENtatious Crochet book review

AUSTENtatious Crochet by Melissa Horozewski contains 36 designs, inspired by the world of Jane Austen but with a modern twist.

The designs are rated in difficulty from one to three crochet hooks and are stitched using a variety of yarns and hook sizes.

Being an American book, the terminology is different than UK readers are used to but once you get used to it, it’s not much of an issue.

Most of the designs are really beautiful and you can almost picture them on the set of a Regency period drama.

Some of the designs, however, are a bit too modern. The Regency Hat and Handbag, for example, aren’t really like anything that Jane Austen would have been familiar with.

I’ve tried out three designs from the book and had problems with all of them. I’ve written about my issues with the jacket, called Anne’s Spencer (see Current projects; Problems, problems, problems; And more problems!)

Before that, I stitched the Regency Handbag. It all went smoothly until it was fully stitched and I was trying to work out the pleating. The schematic shows the bag after the pleats have been put in but the pattern contains little help for actually doing it.

Now all I need to do is sew the lining and put it all together!

The first pattern I tried was one of the main reasons I bought the book – Emma’s Hood.

I mentioned before about being disappointed and eventually giving up (I tried the stitch again last night but even the tension swatch comes out wonky) but here’s the full story.

I think, to begin with, I was working the stitch wrong but I watched the online video and tried again and it worked a little better.

Unfortunately, after this, the work was still ending up the wrong shape! The first few rows are okay because there is limited shaping but when it comes to the edge shaping, one side appears to be fine while the other is sloping in the wrong direction.

I contacted Melissa and she was really very helpful to start with and even uploaded a new video about the stitch pattern and sent me link. Considering the time difference, as well, she got back to me really quickly and even half suggested we meet up to fix it (such a shame I’m across the pond)

But when I told her I was in the UK, she seemed to lose interest in my problem, stopped e-mailing and seemingly gave up.

I was so disappointed.

There are so many other designs in the book that I would like to make, for myself and as gifts, but I’m reluctant to try any of them now. I even considered selling the book on to save myself the stress…

Unfortunately, I’m rather stubborn so I’m hatching a plan to make myself the hood after all!

So, all in all, I found the book very much of a mixed bag. I wouldn’t recommend it to those new to the craft and would advise experienced stitchers to choose their patterns wisely.

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