review: More Modern Top-Down Knitting

More Modern Top-Down Knitting

More Modern Top-Down Knitting: 24 garments based on Barbara G. Walker’s 12 top-down templates by Kristina McGowan

Barbara G. Walker’s Knitting from the Top is one of the classics. Many knitters may not even realize how many patterns they use have been influenced by Walker’s work, but her legacy is far-reaching. Many of the patterns I’ve designed myself were influenced by her work without me even being aware of it, as I developed my skills knitting from top-down patterns that could not have existed without Walker. This book celebrates that legacy and offers 24 patterns, two for each of Walker’s templates. Most are sweaters and two are hats. All of the patterns are written and include a schematic with measurements, and charts are included where needed for intarsia or detail sections. A few special techniques are outlined but for the most part, you’ll want to know how to knit before you start one of these projects.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Capital Area District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and foolproof recipes for your electric pressure cooker by Coco Morante

Instant Pots are all the rage these days! We don’t have one (yet) but since K does virtually all the cooking in our household, it’s up to him to want one enough to actually get one. So I haven’t actually tried these recipes myself, but they look pretty good. The recipes cover a wide variety of things: breakfast dishes, bean and grain-based recipes, soups, meat-specific meals (poultry, pork, and beef), veggies and side dishes, and desserts. It also includes basic info on operating this piece of equipment, troubleshooting for common problems, a list for stocking your pantry for cooking with it, and how the pressure system works. There’s also a chapter on converting other recipes to work with an Instant Pot. The book is divided into chapters by type of dish and is indexed for easy reference.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: The Edible Front Yard

Edible Front Yard

The Edible Front Yard: The mow-less, grow-more plan for a beautiful, bountiful garden by Ivette Soler

I’ve been interested in and working on reducing lawns for years. When we lived downstate, I mulched our entire front yard and made it a native plants garden (RIP, awesome garden, which we had to have sod laid over when we sold the house). Now we’ve replaced some areas of the yard with clover and are working to get rid of the rest of the lawn eventually. We live on a double lot and there is a LOT of lawn to cover, so it’s going to take a while. This book provides plant profiles of ornamental edibles and some plants we don’t usually think of as edible but which can be (sunflowers, lavender). It also contains design guidance for creating curb appeal, a handful of sample designs you could use or adapt, and information about clearing your current lawn and maintaining your new non-lawn garden. The focus here is on creating gardens rather than replacing grass with groundcovers that don’t need mowing.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Chippewa River District Library

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review: The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge

The Knitter's Book of Knowledge

The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge: A complete guide to essential knitting techniques by Debbie Bliss

Looking for a one-stop reference book for knitting? This is it. Bliss brings her legendary expertise and covers pretty much all the things you could think of in an informational knitting book. She includes yarn, needles, the basics of how to knit, understanding the terminology and techniques used in knitting, variations of knitting texture, finishing techniques, knitting design, and entire chapters devoted to color, embellishments, shaping, and knitting in the round. Illustrated throughout with color photographs and hand-drawn diagrams (some of the clearest/easiest-to-parse I’ve seen), this book is beautiful and useful, and is definitely one I’ll be adding to my own personal library.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Baldwin Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: The Joy of Stitching

The Joy of Stitching

The Joy of Stitching: 38 quick and easy embroidery and needlework designs by Nina Granlund Saether

This book focuses on projects, providing instructions for making a finished object (or embellishing an existing piece of clothing) that includes embroidery or needlework, but the motifs could easily be used in other contexts as well. Needlework designs are charted in color and black outline sketches are provided for embroidery designs. The designs here are cute but not super stylized – if you looked at the projects all collected together, it would not necessarily be apparent that they were all designed by one person. This could be seen as a negative (the collection lacks cohesion) but could also be viewed as a positive in that you could create all of the items and not have it be obvious that you got every one of them from the same source.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book form the Kent District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening: Grow up, now out, for more vegetables and flowers in much less space by Derek Fell

Using less space is not really a huge concern for me right now as I try to fill up our yard of lawns with gardens. We’ve got plenty of room! But I do want to include height for interest and to create different garden spaces (or rooms, as seems to be today’s preferred nomenclature), so I’m interested in vertical. Chapters outline types of plants including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental annual and perennial vines, as well as covering types of vertical supports and some gardening basics like seed starting and composting. This book is heavy on information and light on visual inspiration, as it is sadly another book with monotone photos throughout and only a few color pages.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Chippewa River District Library

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review: Color Squared

Color Squared

Color Squared: Color, Dot, Dash, or Stamp Your Way to Pixel Art by Lee Meredith

Coloring books for grown-ups are super popular these days. This is a take on those, but each image is a grid with a number or letter in each square. You fill those squares in using your tool of choice and, gradually, a pixelated image will appear. Instructions are included for using different ways of filling in the squares, such as drawing circles, lines, or dots. A basic monotone image is included for each coloring page, showing what it would look like if you filled each square fully using greyscale.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop

Designer Joi's Fashion Sewing Workshop

Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop: Practical skills for stylish garment design by Joi Mahon

Mahon is a designer and teacher who teaches throughout the US and has created patterns for McCall’s. Here she outlines the processes of designing, sketching, and patternmaking (flat pattern, draping, drafting, and computer-generated). She also devotes a chapter to designing for “the real body” which includes details about taking measurements and modifying commercial patterns. This is an overarching book that contains a lot of information garment sewists will want to know. It is not a source for patterns themselves, but hopefully the reader will be able to construct their own or alter commercially available patterns after reading.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Kent District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Garden Revolution

Garden Revolution

Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher

This title really appealed to me. I am for sure all about designing our garden to support the environment and am always keen to learn more about how to do that. Lucky for me, the ways that Weaner and Christopher recommend doing this fall right in line with my lazy gardening philosophy. There’s lots of surface-sowing, use of native plants, creating/encouraging plant communities, and minimal need for watering and weeding. The focus is on working with what nature wants to do, rather than fighting it. In everything here, the goal is for self-sufficiency, which makes for stronger plants and for reduced workload for the humans. There are also lots of large color photographs, both wide shots and close-ups, which provide inspiration and ideas for things I might do in my own garden. Many of the gardens featured here are expansive prairies and meadows but smaller gardens are also included. Seed lists and resources are provided.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Capital Area District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action: Creative exercises for depicting spatial representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age by David Chelsea

Do you remember sitting in a school hallway drawing lockers to learn how to capture perspective? I can totally recall the big brown drawing surface balanced on my knees and the quiet concentration of a class of middle graders focused on something that seemed like a Very Important Life Skill. This book takes a practical approach and uses sequential art (it looks like a comic book/graphic novel) to take the reader step by step. Many of the panels show not just what’s being drawn but the artist or artist’s hand as well, giving a really easy to follow demonstration of the technique being described. It even has a chapter on motion perspective, so you can draw your own animated gif!

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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