Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Great new book and some Ikea inspiration

I picked up a new book last weekend:

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May B. Langhelle: SikkSakk – sy barneklær av brukte voksenklær (Gyldendal 2010). It’s a collection of patterns and ideas for reusing old clothes to sew children’s clothes. Some particular favourites of mine (and my kids, as you will see):

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A jump suit made from an old duvet cover

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A baby sack and a kimono jacket made from an old woollen sweater

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A sun hat from old linen trousers

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“Monster mittens” – outer protective mittens sewn from an old cotton coat. These were the only items both my kids insisted that I sew for them.

Some weeks ago we took a much-needed trip to IKEA, and this colourful offering caught my eye:
These crocheted flowers are sold in packages of five called “Lusy”, and are 100 % cotton. Now, I could easily crochet most of these myself, but they were so charming (and cost so little, considering they are, of course, handmade!) that I bought a pack.


As soon as we got home, I used one of them to mend an old pair of trousers that are beginning to fall apart at the knees:
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This repair was unusually successful, at least considering the response of my daughter.

I loved the colours of this bumper pack of thread (not the quality of it, though, as the bobbins snag the thread every time I try to use it):

Another, more useful purchase was this table-top ironing board, which means I can iron where I sew, instead of trekking up and down a flight of stairs every time I need to iron down a seam.
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It even has a hanger hook, so it fits in my storage cupboard right next to my new hanging shelf, where I stash clothes to be mended and ongoing sewing projects…
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Recommendation: The Knitter

In the last few months I’ve been really enjoying a relatively new British knitting magazine called The Knitter. Contrary to most British knitting mags, it’s usually packed with stylish, up-to-date knitting fashions and usually has some nice technique articles or designer profiles. They also have a regular column by the Mason-Dixon knitting bloggers. But my favourite bit is the strong thematic profile of every issue. Every issue opens with a mood board illustrating the theme. Here are a couple of examples:

Issue #9, Modern Bohemian:

Issue #5, Natural Selection:

ETA: And if you want it, too (why wouldn’t you? It’s THAT good!) you can subscribe here.


I have a couple of FOs to show off, but no pictures as yet, unfortunately. So right now I’d like to share two new books that have inspired me in the last few weeks

Kathrine Gregersen (Samlaget 2008): Brukt på nytt
This Norwegian book is filled with projects to reuse and recycle materials you have in your home. There are knitting, sewing, paper, wood and metal projects. The projects are very simple and charming, and I find the redesign ideas very useful. This book has me looking at our pile of old bed sheets with a calculating eye. In the top picture is the book, two dishcloths inspired by the book and two balls of rags cut from old t-shirts. I’m currently making this:

A bathmat from t-shirt rags. Actually, this project reminds me a lot of the rag knitting in the first Mason-Dixon book, but the idea is probably not original to either book. The styling in this book, however, makes the projects very appealing.

This book should probably be considered a gateway drug. After I bought it for the knitting projects, I borrowed my mother’s sewing machine to try the sewing patterns. This inexorably, and with a few days, led me to buy this:

Heather Ross (STC Craft 2009) Weekend Sewing

A couple of projects from this book that I would like to make once my sewing improves a little:

Kimono dress with an obi-inspired sash

A bag to hold my whole life

Cotton shirt dress – ideal for work!

And last under the heading of “inspiration”: After realising that I’m about to develop a serious sewing habit, I had to start budgeting. So I visited the home textiles shops and took advantage of the late summer sales. The below fabrics are (on left) two 100 % cotton tablecloths, 150 cm * 220 (i. e. a LOT of fabric), which were discounted down to $4 each, and (on right) two 150cm * 1m pieces of thicker curtain fabrics, also 100 % cotton, which were 70 % off. I’m considering the two curtain fabrics for the bag above.


Book review: The Intentional Spinner

I recently ordered spinning guru Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s new book The Intentional Spinner: A holistic approach to making yarn (Interweave Press, 2009). Even though, on the face of it, the description sounds like many learn-to-spin books, I think this is more of a book for the intermediate/advanced beginner spinner. The first half is devoted to fibre characteristics, but goes into more detail than Maggie Casey or Lee Raven’s excellent introductory texts and has a more scientific approach.

The sections on spinning techniques deals only very briefly with wheel mechanics and fibre preparation, instead going in-depth on the question of drafting methods. She deals with a great variety of yarns and shows in clear pictures how to make them. I find it a little hard to read this book straight through because of the great profusion of pictures and the numbered references to them throughout the text. But whenever I decide to try one of the techniques, I’m sure I will appreciate the abundance of pictures.

This is a great book, which, coupled with Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning, should keep a relatively new spinner happily occupied for a long time. I would not recommend it as a starting book, as it contains too little info on wheel or spindle mechanics and fibre prepping.

Spinning books: An attempt at a comparative review

Whenever I get a new obsession, I go book shopping. My book cases reflect an eclectic mix of intellectual interests going back to junior high, but lately, my crafting book purchases completely dominate. Since good spinning books are so hard to come by here, I buy them whenever I can find them, and as a result I have perhaps not been critical enough in my purchases. The below reviews are written very much from the perspective of someone who only uses drop spindles. Please keep that in mind!

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Maggie Casey: Start spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn (Interweave Press 2008)

Lee Raven: Hands on Spinning (Interweave Press 1987)

I got Raven’s book first, and then when Casey’s book came out I heard so many good things about it that I got that one too, but I could definitely have made do with one of them. These are basic, introductory spinning books. Both cover the drop spindle and the spinning wheel, but both focus heavily on the latter. Raven’s book has mostly black-and-white illustrations, and not all essential steps are fully illustrated. On the other hand, Casey’s book has full-colour photographs showing every step of the process. While the chapter structure in Casey’s book is a little hard to grasp, the material covered in every chapter is very clear and easily understood. Raven’s book has five patterns (knit and weave) for handspun yarn, but the patterns clearly show their 80’s origin. Casey’s book instead has a small chapter devoted to pictures of projects using handspun. No patterns, but plenty of inspiration!

In conclusion: Either of these books would do very well if you want an overview of spinning with an emphasis on the spinning wheel. They’re not nearly as satisfactory for a spindle spinner, but will get you started. The Casey book has better pictures and a cleaner, more modern look, but if you can only find the Raven book it’s a reasonable substitute.

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Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts: High Whorling: A spinner’s guide to an old world skill (Nomad Press 1998)*

Connie Delaney: Spindle Spinning: From novice to expert (Kokovoko Press 1998)

*Please note that the Gibson-Roberts book has recently been updated and republished as a paperback under the title “Spinning in the Old Way”.

I’ve only recently received these books, so my review can’t do them justice, but I will point out that these are much better starting books if you think you will mainly use a spindle for your spinning. As the title suggests, Gibson-Roberts book is solely devoted to the magnificence of high-whorl drop spindles, and a very opinionated book it is, too. I like reading passionate and opinionated books, even if I don’t always agree, but keep that in mind about this book. It is useful for its discussion on spindle anatomy. Delaney’s book covers almost the whole world of spindle spinning: top whorl, bottom whorl, tiny support spindles and the large navajo spindle. Guides to making your own versions of these spindles are in there, as well beginner’s and advanced instructions. I especially appreciate the tips on increasing your spindling speed.

These are both good books for people primarily interested in spinning with drop spindles. They are both older books and cheaply produced, but both contain masses of interesting information and will be useful beyond the rank beginner stage.

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Deb Menz: Color in Spinning (Interweave Press 2005)

WOW! I love this book. The only word for it is exhaustive. I’m not good with colour and have never worked with colour theory before, but after reading the opening chapter in this book I got out my son’s paints and worked up some tints and shades. It covers the theory, the dyeing, the blending and the spinning of yarns for different colour effects. Arguably the best part of the book is the project gallery towards the back, where all the different techniques are displayed with a subtlety that is just stunning. There’s very little, if any, wheel-specific information in the book, and I’ll use it even for non-spinning projects, because of all the general colour theory in the book.

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Diane Varney: Spinning designer yarns (Interweave Press 2003)

I have a feeling I’ll come back to this book again and again as my spinning improves. It is packed with different techniques for making designer yarns, without being crazy novelty yarns like those in Pluckyfluff or Intertwined (not that there’s anything wrong with those yarns, they’re just not my style). While being opinionated, Varney gives a thorough introduction to the different techniques, how they look, what uses they are suited for and how they are executed. Although very inspiring and interesting, this book would have benefited greatly from an aesthetic overhaul with more colour pictures and more lavish illustrations.