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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Contemporary Celtic Crochet by Bonnie Barker

Welcome to the blog tour for a review of Bonnie’s book today!
Click on these links below to buy a copy :

I met Bonnie back in 2012 during the CGOA Professional Development Day.  She impressed me right away by how quickly she worked up an intricately braided cable square for donation – without looking at a pattern - while she sat next to me.   As we talked we found out we had several things in common besides crochet– we are both Christian homeschool moms and love music!  Since then our friendship has grown over emails and has been a blessing to me.  At this year’s CGOA conference (Knit and Crochet Show) it was great to see Bonnie again and get a sneak preview of her beautiful book.

As you may have guessed, I am always drawn to things labeled “Celtic” and Bonnie’s book is filled to the brim with all kinds of great Celtic designs and photographs.  I love the Celtic Knot graphics along every page along with all of the wonderful photos of Ireland (that Bonnie took herself when she traveled there).  My favorite photo is the one on page 87 of the Cliffs of Moher – stunning cliffs with the deep blue of the ocean next to the bright green of the land– breathtaking!  I also like how Bonnie gave a creative and thoughtful name to each of the projects.

Here are some of my favorite designs:

Hialeah Honey Baby Blanket – pg 62
This design features the Celtic Weave stitch (Bonnie’s invention) and a thick Braided Cable.  I have tried the Celtic Weave (see below) and love how it is much easier than it looks – just a two row repeat!
Knockardakin Wrap – pg 84

Here we see the Honeycomb and Wheat stitches in a Ruana-style wrap.  Looks so warm and beautiful!

Kells Cabled Sweater – pg 112
I have seen the Book of Kells in Dublin – truly amazing piece of artwork, history and scripture.  I love the details of this sweater and how it is named after the book in Dublin.


Celtic Cross Afghan and Pillow – pg 116
Such a clever use of the Celtic Weave stitch to create the cross-shape!

So, after seeing just a few of the projects, aren’t you eager to start making them? Are you apprehensive because you haven’t tried cables before? Well, have no fear, Bonnie provides wonderful step-by-step photos in the beginning of the book that take you through each cable stitch.  She also provides great videos on her website explaining these stitches as well. (www.bonniebaycrochet.com) That is how I first tried out her Celtic Weave stitch shown in this blue swatch below (made with Lion Brand’s Homespun yarn).

And then recently I worked up this green swatch (with Red Heart’s Super Saver) using the explanations in Bonnie’s book  - Tada!
A few things I would have liked to see in the book:  a list of all projects with a small photo of each (and page numbers) somewhere at the beginning of the book;  a similar list/index of all of the stitches (with thumbnail photos and page numbers of the instructions);  and full black and white diagrams of each project showing where each stitch is used (some of this you can tell by the photos but for other projects some parts are hidden).

One of the first projects I hope to make is the Cables Meet Lace Cape on page 64  (see photo at end of post) with metallic and sequined yarn.  Bonnie’s friend and neighbor, Terry, wore a similiar cape in light blue to the banquet during the Knit and Crochet Show – it was stunning! (as you can see below – this design is called, “Channeled Cape” and can be found in the Winter issue of Crochet!) – and Bonnie is wearing the Kells Cabled Sweater in red – beautiful!
I am so glad for my friend, Bonnie, who wrote this excellent book, and that I have a copy in my own crochet library.  Not only is it a great way to learn cables, but it is a great book to leaf through to enjoy the beauty of the designs, the photographs of Ireland and the stories that go with them. Congratulations, Bonnie! This book is a treasure in my collection of crochet books.
Cables Meet Lace Cape



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tunisian Crochet For Baby by Sharon Silverman

Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for Sharon Silverman's newest book:

As I prepared to review this book, I did what everyone does with a new book - I skimmed through it quickly and looked at all of the photos.

WOW! The photographs are wonderful starting with the one shown above which also graces the cover.  I enjoyed seeing the tiny hands, perfect little nose, tender eyelashes and open mouth of this precious baby. It reminded me of my own children and how they stay this small for such a short time. What a treasure to have all the babies photographed so beautifully in this book - All of them are probably walking and talking by now.

I especially enjoyed the photos on pages 31, 32 and 96. The photographers, Tiffany Blackstone and Alan Wycheck, captured sweet moments that one gets to enjoy in the presence of a baby.
I love this cute yawn. The snuggly Cocoon and Hat add to the cuteness.

All of the designs are expertly crocheted and include several advanced elements.  The Christening Gown is beautiful.  The edgings are elegant and I like how Sharon combined solid stitches with a lacy look. It is clever how she incorporated tall stitches so that ribbons can be threaded through.

I love the look of the Checkerboard Blanket and Hat.  The stitch looks very dense and is sure to keep any baby warm.

The Sherbert Stripes Hat (cover photo) and the Thumbless Mittens look as if they could be knitted - a fun benefit of Tunisian crochet - and their shaping is smooth and streamlined (no bunches).

Throughout the book all of the diagrams are large and very clear. Sharon provides a key at the bottom of every page and special instructions for all aspects of the projects.  I also appreciated how each design was shown in a variety of angles and close-ups so you can see how the written instructions match the finished project.  There are also several excellent photos at the end of the book to explain all of the Techniques you need to complete the designs - from elementary crochet stitches to the more complex Tunisian techniques. I like Sharon's use of pink and blue yarn (common nursery colors!) to show the 'ins and outs' of the more difficult stitches.

So, with all of this great instruction, I tried my hand at Tunisian crochet . . . yes, I had only tried it once before and was not successful.  Tunisian crochet looks a lot like knitting but still only uses a hook.  The hook that you use is a very long hook that you 'load' up with loops and then take off every other 'pass'. I thought the washcloths were a great beginner project and I love how the colors looked with the stitches. I decided to just try the Simple Stitch and Knit Stitch to start.
Washcloth Quartet - Pg 65

Here is my swatch - you can see the characteristic vertical bars of the Simple Stitch on the bottom half and the Knit Stitch on the top half.  My stitches were much tighter for the top half which probably would get better with practice.  One thing that was cumbersome for me was to find the instructions for how to work into the foundation chain. For some reason these directions come several pages into the technique section - I was expecting them to be at the beginning since this is how you begin a project. 

When I tried the Knit stitch I had a hard time seeing in the photos where to insert my hook and didn't quite understand the wording - so, I had to check a video on-line to help me with this part.  I think the two-color approach that Sharon used for the more complex stitches would have been helpful here since it is hard to convey 3D concepts in 2D photos.  Sharon also mentions in the beginning that this book is for those who are more experienced Tunisian crocheters (than me) and that if you are a beginner, you should first read her book, "Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting" to get started.

Overall, this is an excellent book - for its photos, diagrams, designs and instructions - and would make a good addition to a crocheter's library, especially if they were looking for some new and innovative baby designs (to replace that same old baby blanket gift they've been making over and over for years!)

** All photos were taken from Sharon Silverman's Ravelry page (here ) where you can see more photos of other designs in the book and those available on her website: www.SharonSilverman.com **