Thursday, 24 April 2014

Book Review: Simple Knitting

Book week continues today with a review of a knitting book...

Simple Knitting: 30 Quick-to-Knit Projects for Stylish Accessories by Ros Badger is one of the books in the "Creative Makers" series that also includes Simple Sewing and Simple Crochet (click the links to read my reviews of those titles). Each book in the series has a different colour spine and they look great sitting together on my bookshelves.

Like the others in the series it's a lovely hardback book with yummy matte paper pages and nice little details like these bicycles at the top of the pages...

Simple Knitting begins with some clear step by step photos showing the different knitting techniques used in the book - I love it when knitting books include photos like this, I find them so much easier to follow than illustrations. It would have been great to have an illustration or two for the bag that needs lining (especially as there is plenty of space on the page) but it's just one project. All the designs are labelled with a difficulty rating - starting out, going further and moving on.

Oh, and there are some some nice photos of yarn dotted throughout the book! Mmm... yarn...

The designs are divided into chapters by type: Wrap Up Warm (scarves), Heads You Win (hats and an earwarmer/headband), Fingers and Toes (gloves, mittens and slippers), Pretty Please (quick projects that are good to give as gifts, like little flower hair clips) and Carry Me (bags and purses plus a coffee cosy and a dog coat).


Ros introduces each project, chatting about her inspiration and suggesting ways you can vary the design (by using different yarns, etc). Some of the designs are inspired by vintage patterns and consequently have a pretty, retro feel to them like this bow scarf:

None of the designs feel super-trendy, they're more what I'd call "modern classics". Practical and simple but without being boring or old-fashioned.

As with most knitting books there are lots of patterns that I'd never make for myself but which would be nice to knit as gifts, but I also found lots in here that I would keep for myself, including this knitted headband...

... this hat...

... and these mittens.

As a not-especially-skilled knitted I was also pleased to see a nice range of projects that look like something I could actually achieve! Woohoo!

This is not a book for fans of super-fashionable, ultra-trendy designs or for anyone after quirky or cute projects, but it is a book that successfully "does what it says on the tin": simple, stylish, quick-to-knit accessories.

Simple Knitting is published by Mitchell Beazley. RRP £16.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links].

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Book Review: Handprint and make your own Bags

Today I'm reviewing Handprint and make your own Bags by Jenny McCabe.

I met Jenny at the Renegade Craft Fair last year (where she was selling some of her lovely handprinted textiles) and said I felt terribly guilty for having not yet reviewed her book on my blog... and here I am, months later, just getting around to it! Tsk tsk.

Handprint and make your own Bags begins with a short guide to "design and inspiration" (designing your own fabric prints) and then has 6 pages of printing techniques: potato printing, lino printing, erasers, foam sheets, stencils, screenprints, photo transfers, leaf printing, sun prints... plus Jenny's top 10 printing tips.

As you might guess from the number of techniques squeezed into 6 pages this is not a super detailed guide to printing your own fabric but instead a basic introduction to some accessible techniques.

Then there are 4 pages of motifs - these do need to be enlarged, but it's great to be able to reproduce the exact designs shown in the book.


The bulk of the book is devoted to the bag-making, with 35 projects divided by the type of printing used to decorate the fabric: carved block printing, constructed block printing, resist printing, and other printing methods.

All the projects have step by step colour illustrations and there's a short guide to sewing techniques included at the back of the book. The projects are all helpfully marked with a skill level, and the guides are charmingly designed to match the print used for that particular bag. I love seeing nice touches like this in craft books! 


Like the motifs, the bag templates do need enlarging (though without a page of pull-out patterns, which is a rare thing to find in a craft book, this is only to be expected when making large projects like bags). There are also a couple of designs included to scan in and print to make photo transfers.


Jenny's designs are so lovely, with mostly nature-inspired motifs but also some fun designs like a space invaders pattern for a kid's bag and a stylish cutlery design to print onto a cutlery roll.

As well as the cutlery roll there are a couple of other "non-bag" projects included - coin purses and a wallet - but most of the book is, as you'd expect from the title, all about bag-making. The designs cover a wide mix of shapes, from a bucket-handled shopper, to a messenger bag, to a diaper bag with lots of useful pockets:

I need to get to grips with my sewing machine (after years of just hand stitching) and I'll definitely be getting this book off the shelf when I do - maybe starting with this bag, which looks lovely and super-useful.

Handprint and make your own Bags is a nice, versatile craft book - a simple introduction to printing but also a useful sewing book with lots of bag and purse patterns. Seeing the great results from the simpler printing techniques is especially inspiring - "ooh, I could totally do that!" is a very good feeling to have when looking through a craft book.

Personally though I think I'd want a more detailed guide to the more complex/advanced printing techniques before I felt confident trying them, so maybe this book would be a good one to pair with a book dedicated to printing techniques so you can learn about the more complicated techniques in more detail then use your knowledge to make bags with your awesome printed fabric.

Handprint and make your own Bags is published by CICO Books. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: CICO Books sent me a free review copy of this book. They also publish my books but I am always honest in my reviews! The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Book Review: Makery

Today I'm reviewing Makery by Kate Smith.

Kate is the co-founder of The Makery, a craft workshop space and shop in Bath (which I really must remember to visit next time I'm there!)


As you might guess from the lovely cover (mmm... yummy colour coordinated craft supplies...) this is a very attractive, stylish book.


It contains 31 projects, divided into 3 sections with a short techniques guide at the end. The projects mostly involve sewing but there's also a mix of other crafts included: upcycling some tins, decoupage, carving rubber stamps and making shrinky dink jewellery.

Section 1 is "Fashion", including a clasp purse, wrist warmers, shoulder bag and tape measure brooch.


Section 2 is "Gifts", including a knitted cup cuff, a make-up roll, a toy truck pincushion and a lunch bag designed to look like a paper bag (such a simple idea but a great one).


Section 3 is "Home", including a fab felt cuckoo clock, embroidered bed linen, a knitted rug, button magnets, a patchwork pouffe and a pair of bookends decorated with text from your chosen book(s). The bookends are a little plain for my taste but I think one would make a great doorstop.


The projects are beginner-intermediate level, nothing too complicated but a nice mix of fun things to make, with a good balance between decorative/fun projects and practical/useful projects.

Kate emphasises the importance of using good quality crafting supplies, saying that "'Makery' is a lot like cookery - if you start with gorgeous, high-quality ingredients, you're well on the way to creating something beautiful." The focus on supplies continues throughout the book, with each project illustrated by one page showing the finished project and another page showing the materials used, all artfully arranged.


These are lovely to look at but I'm not sure how helpful it is give over quite so much space in a craft book to pretty pictures of supplies, especially as it means the instructions get less space so there are only a few step by step illustrations provided.

The book does have some great, useful features though. There are full size fold-out pattern pieces in the back of the book (you will need to trace these as they're printed double-sided and some of the templates overlap). The list of stockists at the back of the book are also helpfully listed by material, making it easy to track down the supplies you need.

Also very helpful is the inclusion of an estimate for how long each project will take, written in a friendly, chatty way rather as an exact time, e.g. "This project can take only a couple of evenings - although I took ages deliberating over what text to use".

Crafters looking for advanced projects or detailed step by step instructions probably won't be fans of this book. But if you fancy some modern, achievable craft projects and a book with a bit of a coffee table "ooh" factor this book will be a lovely addition to the craft section of your bookshelves.

Makery is published by Mitchell Beazley. RRP £14.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.
[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links].


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