Intertwined: The Art of handspun yarn, Modern Patterns, and Creative Spinning by Lexi Boeger

Honestly, I don’t know what made me pick this book up. I knew from the cover that it was going to be about art yarn (that would be “non-traditional” yarns made from things like plastic bags, cassette tapes, and with stuff like ribbon, beads, gears silk flowers, and scrap fabric thrown in for embellishments), and I neither enjoy looking at art yarns nor using them. But, I haven’t read much about spinning beyond a couple of beginners books I grabbed when I was first starting, and thought it might have some interesting techniques.

“Interesting” is maybe not the right word. It isn’t so much a book of technique as it is of theory. Art theory, to be precise.

Art theory and the people who spout it are the main reason I don’t work in art despite my degree. I forced myself to skim the first fifty or so pages of this 300 page volume before I just started flipping because I just couldn’t take it any more.

The yarns she gives instructions for in this book are neither pleasing to the eye (at least not mine), nor are they practical, and the patterns which make up the second half of the book are more of the same: ill fitting caps made of slubby yarn, scarves that are essentially a dozen strands of “art” yarn tied together into a giant tassel, and felted shoelaces that I suspect would snap the first time you tied them snugly or would go from knotted to felted in the rain.

Needless to say, I’m not fan, but your millage may vary. If nothing else, it’s good for a laugh.

KnotMagick Rating: one out of five skeins.

Vogue Knitting: Spring/Summer 2013

 My first thought about this issue is that the color scheme is fantastic, but I might be biased, since that turquoise blue/green color on the cover? It’s my favorite. That’s the same color as my bedroom.

I love most of the patterns in this issue, especially the cover collection, “Sheer Magic” which focuses on lace. I’m not a lace knitter. I’ve always wanted to learn, but it’s not something that has ever clicked in my head. Still, I might give it another go for some of these sweaters.

I was somewhat neutral on the black and white themed “Optical Illusions” collection, but I’ve never been a fan of the mod, 70s graphics these recall or of color blocking, even when it’s only black and white.

“Parlor Pastels” also features a lot of lace, with a more feminine, almost old fashioned feel. With the exception of a few wayward bobbles, I love most of the patterns in this collection.

As far as the articles are concerned, the highlights for me where an interview with fiber artist Adrienne Sloane. Her work brings to mind the types of things I was doing for my senior thesis show in college, only a little less…craft? And much more fine art. If I’d done my show in her style, my professors would have lapped it up.

The other bit I really liked was a short article on “The Evolution of Invisible or Tubular Cast On and Cast Off,” which is another of those techniques that I’ve been wanting to learn but never actually looked up. The article is clear and concise, just the way I like it, and now I’m trying to find an excuse to use this technique.

Downsides to this issue–I felt that most of the departments were rather bland, like I’d seen them before, so the first twenty or so pages weren’t all that interesting. Things didn’t kick up until I hit the articles and then the patterns. 

KnotMagick Rating: Three and a half skeins.

AlterNation: Transform. Embellish. Customize. by Shannon Okey and Alexandra Underhill

By now everyone probably knows that I’m flat broke, so any time I can recycle old clothes, it’s a good thing–you might remember the courderoy skirt?

I got this book mostly for inspiration, and inspiration it provided. I don’t think I’d make any of the projects exactly as they appear in the book. For starters, many of them (such as the cover skirt, which I adore) would look downright indecent on me (or anyone, really), so I’d be adding linings or just a little more judicious with the use of corset lacing.

Most of the projects I liked in this book were skirts; I like making skirts, though I don’t often get to wear them.

Downsides: Some of these projects just made me go “WTF?”, like the ruffled collar made of ties. Seriously, who would wear that?

Like I said, some of the projects need a little, um, censoring. Because while I might swear up a storm, I am not the kind of girl who goes around flashing her undergarments, or skipping them altogether to make a skirt or dress look better.

Well, we all have to draw the line somewhere.

Also, there were one or two project where you never saw a photo of the entire item. There were lots of close ups, sure, or shots from one side, but not the other.

At any rate, each project’s materials could easily be sourced from one’s own closet or the local thrift store. The instructions are clear, short, and to the point, and I don’t think any project takes more than 3 pages. It’s definitely something that I’d like to have around to flip through when I’m feeling blocked.

KnotMagick Rating: four out of five Skeins

 Designer Bead Embroidery: 150 Patterns and Complete Techniques by Kenneth D. King

The thing that struck me first about this book is how neat and well organized it is. It makes the scientist side of by brain giddy.

I skipped ahead and flipped through the patterns, first. Every single one of them has a great, close up photo, a pattern diagram, macro shots of the beads used as well as a code that corresponds with the index in the back, telling you specifically what bead was used. There’s also a note on what percentage each pattern should be enlarged by in order to match the photo, with completed dimensions, recommended applications, and a brief paragraph on technique.

The bulk of the book is taken up by these designs, and they range from more traditional looking patterns, to retro-inspired, to modern, graphic images.

The first section, though brief, is well illustrated with lots of photos showing tools and materials, and drawings to explain different techniques. The clarity of the instruction is unsurpassed, in my opinion; It’s short and to the point, but also perfect, just like so many of the designs.

KnotMagick Rating: five out of five skeins (or beads?)