Knitting Ephemera: a compendium of articles, useful and otherwise, for the edification and amusement of the handknitter by Carol J. Sulcoski
Knitters will likely recognize Sulcoski’s name from her many books and articles, hand-dyed yarns, and speaking and teaching engagements. This is one of those cute little books that makes a great gift and can be enjoyed by dipping in here and there to read one or more of the short entries. These entries are provided in no stated order and include a biography of the patron saint of knitting (oops! there isn’t one, but a few possibilities are detailed), knitting-related world records, a list of knitting acronyms, definitions of yarn color effects terms, facts about knitwear through the ages, and many more. This would be a lovely book for a coffee table, waiting room, or other spot where someone is likely to pick it up for a few minutes and enjoy the facts they happen upon.
All New Square Foot Gardening: The revolutionary way to grow more in less space by Mel Bartholomew
Growing more edibles in a smaller space – who doesn’t want to know more about that? The SFG system, updated in 2013, aims to allow gardeners to make the most of the cultivated area and get more produce for their hopefully reduced efforts. All the designs here fit into a 4×4′ square, so you have a growing bed where you can still reach everything but never have to walk on the soil. The 4×4′ square is then divided up into 16 squares using a grid overlaying the soil. There are instructions here for the whole process: building garden boxes, planning what to plant and how much you’ll be able to harvest, creating an ideal planting mix (soil), seed starting, growing, and harvesting. The lengthy appendix also has a handy chart of types of plants and their basic stats (height, spacing, weeks from seed to harvest, and more), planting schedules for continuous harvesting, and plant profiles. My raised bed has gone from mostly full sun to now being partly shaded by a maple that is expanding in that direction, so I’m going to need to move it next year. I think instead of just moving the 8×8′ bed I have now, I’ll use this method to create a couple of 4×4′ beds instead.
Many artists work in series and art quilters are no exception. Barton offers examples of the things that can tie a series of art quilts together, using some of her own quilts as well as those by other well-known quilt artists. These examples are meant to provide inspiration and the accompanying information a guide to developing one’s own style. Barton also shares some of her own creative process, such as taking a photograph, making it into a tracing, and then piecing a quilt based on that outline (just one of many possibilities explored here). General artistic techniques and information are also provided, such as positive and negative space, color theory, value, and creating the illusion of depth. This book is a good choice for those wishing to learn as well as those just looking for inspiration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A small garden is not really the challenge I’m facing these days (my issue is how to turn our huge lawn into a big garden) but there is a lot of great info here that applies regardless of your space. Much of this book is devoted to the part of gardening that happens before you actually do any gardening: planning. There is much encouragement for letting go of preconceived notions and using other gardens as inspiration, as well as finding creative ways to achieve goals like creating privacy, growing food, and many others. Willburn’s friendly, conspiratorial tone invites the reader to connect with the ideas and images – just as Willburn tells us “why garden porn is good,” the photos here provide inspiration and ideas for the reader’s own space. This book is fun to read as well as informational.
This book offers ideas and inspiration for embroidery on paper (and cardstock, etc) in the form of cards, ornaments, folders, notebooks, frame-able art, and more. The first half of the book consists of color photographs showing the many projects and the second half, the motifs. The motif templates include some basic stitch instruction (the Olympus 25 embroidery thread color number, the number of threads, and type of stitch used) along with (if applicable) instructions for assembling the item. The feel of the whole book is sweet and will be familiar to fans of Japanese culture. The designs include abstract designs as well as letters and numbers, creatures and items from nature, and an assortment of other types of cute things.