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Hayley Cann (Québec, Canada)

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Baby Nouveau™: Stylish Blankets for Baby
Baby Nouveau™: Stylish Blankets for Baby
by Amy Polcyn
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.96

3.0 out of 5 stars Baby "nouveau", different colours, same style., Jan. 10 2015
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It's not terrible value for a book, it has 10 competent designs in a wide array of techniques that still manage to remain accessible to a relatively new knitter.

I did not enjoy it all that much because none of the patterns are really a) gorgeous b) inventive c) original. The designs are alright, and offer a handsome set of possibilities for someone who wants to knit baby blankets direct from pattern and needs yarn requirements. But you don't get anything more. What I mean is a few of the patterns seem pretty trivial. For instance, there is one pattern that's for a reversible blanket, the one on the cover, and the whole of that design is in the admittedly clever stitch pattern. But it's not a new stitch pattern. Apologies if Polcyn is the actual originator of the idea of this stitch pattern for a baby blanket, but we've seen dozens of baby blanket patterns with the same stitch pattern. If you haven't seen it before, then it doesn't remove from your experience, and that's great.

Also, some of the use of technique is not really to my taste. One blanket uses mitered squares, but has one giant miter for half the surface of the blanket and four triangles. Of course, this is something incredibly subjective, and for all I know most readers would love this design, but I thought if you're going to use miters, you might as well make smaller ones because it would look better. I didn't care much for most of the patterns, but YMMV.

On the technical front, the book has decent explanations, and does have a technical section with illustrations. However this is a knitting book, sold to knitters and one of the patterns deemed appropriate for knitting beginners come with a way to assemble squares that has apparent seems, that actually really looks nice, but is explained to be seamed using single crochet. Then when one goes to the crochet technical section, one finds an illustration for single crochet on the first row of chain stitches but no illustration on how to single crochet seam two squares together. Of course the publisher probably didn't have stock illustrations of that, so decided not to include any, but that's pretty lazy. If you label something as adequate for beginners you shouldn't suppose they'll just figure it out by themselves.

Some of the selling points of this book according to the publisher is that the colours used are uncommon, like jewel tones neutrals and bolds, and this book certainly has that, but I can palette swap in my head. It would have been nicer if the designs matched the ambition of renewing the style of baby blankets, because it doesn't really have much in the way of "nouveau".

Knitting from the Center Out: An Introduction to Revolutionary Knitting with 28 Modern Projects
Knitting from the Center Out: An Introduction to Revolutionary Knitting with 28 Modern Projects
by Daniel Yuhas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.57
33 used & new from CDN$ 11.87

4.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for originality, four stars for design., Jan. 8 2015
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This is one of those where you wish you could give half stars because this one is really more than a four stars but not close enough to five stars.

It is a five stars for innovation. The socks and slippers are astounding, and this at a moment when everyone and their grandmother has tried to reconstruct the anatomy of a sock pattern. These ones are not only completely different but they look to me as though the form doesn't detract from function or comfort, which is not always the case with reconstructing patterns. (Case in point, the just as original Half-Moon Mittens seems to just look odd on hands, but YMMV).

The patters are organised like this: I-cord wonders (Two necklaces, two scarves), Hats, Mittens and Socks (5 hats including a sorting hat!, 1 mittens, 1 slippers, 3 pairs of socks), Toys (1 octopus, 1 starfish, 1 teddy bear), Shawls and Blankets (5 blankets, 3 shawls), Sweaters (1 bolero, 1 yoke sweater, 1 hoodie). Most of the designs combine one or more of the basic shapes explained in the introduction (where the math is outlined and described) tube, cone, circle, dome, or ruffle.

Some of the innovations give rise to patterns that don't look all that original like circular shawls and blankets, but even in those cases the designs are at the very least competent. The top down lacy yoke pattern might not seem like new, but at least the design is nice. Other ideas like a center out triangular shawl is more original. There is also a center out teddy bear that doesn't have seaming. If that's not revolutionary, I don't see what is.

The editing of the book is very competent with enough diagrams to illustrate how the teddy bear is worked, (and without those diagrams it would be much harder to understand the how brilliant the design is). There are diagrams for the lace stitch, and those are not even all that complicated. So there is a nice attention to making the process easier to understand to the reader. Also, there are discussions on at least a few of the patterns on how to resize/use different yarns to achieve a different effect. So it's also a generous approach.

I have to say, I didn't think all of the patterns were really beautiful. For instance, even if the construction of the bolero is original, I don't think it looks really nice (it does look ok, but the visual impact of working it in the round doesn't add anything). One of the really good ideas: a circular shawl/faroese shawl hybrid was probably a lot of work to design but again looks trivial once modeled in the book. I don't know if it's the model's fault but it looks like the front end of the shawl is way too long to match the rear end, so that doesn't look very nice, or like a very professional design. I could not see what was special about a toe-up sock pattern, it has been around the block and back again. The really original outweighs the trivial which is why I don't want to nitpick too much (something I'm sometimes too inclined to do), because I'm impressed with the book. Still as far as designs are concerned, it's a four star book.

If you're a knitter looking for inspiration, this is a good book. If you're a knitter looking for a starting point, it's a good book, if you're looking for patterns it has them. So all in all a really good book. I would buy another by the same author.

A Year of Afghans: 52 Projects to Keep You Knitting Every Week of the Year
A Year of Afghans: 52 Projects to Keep You Knitting Every Week of the Year
by DRG Publishing
Edition: Paperback
11 used & new from CDN$ 36.26

3.0 out of 5 stars Good value, delivers as promised, but not very inventive., Jan. 8 2015
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The book delivers on the afghan front. It has the 52 patterns indicated in its subtitle, and because of the number of patterns, you have quite a satisfying diversity of ideas.

The patterns are organised in seven categories: Block Party, (this has colourwork, mittered squares and pieces you will assemble together), Easy Does It, (with designs that either use simple stitches or big yarns), On the Fringe (exactly what that sounds like, the afghans have a fringe), Ripple effect (chevron stitch and the like), Baby Love (12 baby blankets), Tempting Textures (stitches with structural appeal) and Country Living (lots of colourwork and warm colours).

My main criticism is that there is very little that's truly new and exciting. There are 5 afghans I really like in it, 10 that I think were nice, and most of the rest is ordinary and on the verge of being your grandma's afghan. A lot of the patters are definitely old fashioned. The cover design, which let me hope for more from this book, is one of the nicest and most innovative in its use of colour. Lots of the baby blankets are in retro pastel shades. I can't tell if it's because the designs are all made with the cheapest acrylics available (that just doesn't have the poshest colours out there) or if it's an editorial choice.

On some patterns, like the ones made with Lion Brand and Bernat, the pattern states which yarn was used, but on others, the name of the yarn magically disappears. I don't mind if the yarn is discontinued, if I have the name, I can easily find what its caracteristics were and have some sort of an idea for the ideal replacement. It's not enough to know a yarn was considered a worsted weight and had wool and acrylic in it, especially if it's used doubled up with another yarn. I can't get a clear idea of what the spinning was like, brushed or very feathery or almost cabled.

Other than that, the editing is fine, the instructions are nice and clear and include diagrams when appropriate. There are adequate photos to see what the motif was like, and for a book with 52 afghan patterns, the book is a great value when bought at the SRP.

Lovely Knitted Lace: A Geometric Approach to Gorgeous Wearables
Lovely Knitted Lace: A Geometric Approach to Gorgeous Wearables
by Brooke Nico
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.85
34 used & new from CDN$ 10.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle on beginner lace knitters but strong enough for experienced lace knitters, Jan. 6 2015
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Another great lace book. And this one is suitable for lace knitting beginners, as the variety of projects and yarn sizes makes some projects very beginner friendly.

The book has 16 patterns which might seem like a low number, but the patterns are very nice, and rather original. Mostly, the designer doesn't push the envelope too far in terms of lacework, but the shapes are unusual and interesting. The stitch patterns are mostly simple, where most garments have one or two different lace stitches, and not a whole lot of complicated finishing to do.

The result is a bunch of unusual garments with lace, that look original, but are understated enough for untimely elegance. Nico's taste is superb, this book could be opened 10 years from now and the patterns would still look fresh and modern.

The book organises its patterns into four main sections, triangles, rectangles, circles and squares. Each section has four patterns, which range from shawls (4), tunic (1), jacket (2), stoles (2), wrap/shrugs (2), dolman (1), beret (1), a scarf (1), a shirt (1) and a cape/skirt 2 in 1.

There is an introduction section that has a good discussion on lace related topics like which yarn to choose, how to do gauge math, and how to do some of the less common techniques called for in some of the patterns like nupps and short rows. Finally the author gives 5 stitch patterns to be used in triangular shape construction.

It's not the first book on lace, (and neither will it be the last) but it is certainly a good effort and a good enough book to help beginners get started and has patterns that are interesting enough for experienced lace knitters. I think the helpful discussions about shape and shaping will probably help a lot of intermediate and even advanced ones to understand better how to design lace garments.

Twigg Stitch: A New Twist on Reversible Knitting
Twigg Stitch: A New Twist on Reversible Knitting
by Vicki Twigg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.44
29 used & new from CDN$ 19.44

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book on an innovative technique, Jan. 6 2015
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So what is Twigg Stitch? It is the innovation of knitter Vicki Twigg (who named the stitch after herself), and is a variation on double knitting but with two colour rib knitting. It helps me to think of this process as similar (but not the same as) reversible cable which also rely on ribbing to make the reverse identical to the right side of the work. The look of the works presented look a lot like brioche knitting, but is not exactly alike in looks and also differs in technique.

The book is well edited with a short introduction and a section to get the knitter started. The book says the technique is not difficult, that average knitters can attempt it and that's true, but in my opinion the work is complicated, requires good dexterity, good concentration, and a lot of patience!

Chapter 1 is a short section about materials, yarn, notions and needles. Chapter 2 is where the basic (and beyond basic) explanations are given, with special attention to appropriate cast-ons, bind-offs, decreases, increases, selvedge, color switch patterns, picking up stitches, working in rounds, determining gauge and taking measurements, weaving in ends, and last not but least how to correct mistakes. It's hard to find fault with a book where the author/editor seems to have gone through a lot of trouble to think of the smallest detail, like how to weave your ends in the best way to suit this technique. That gives the book a professional aura, and it's well deserved.

Chapter 3 contains patterns to showcase the technique and its possibilities. Some of the patterns are truly gorgeous like the one on the cover. It is not a book that has a great many projects, but they are overall nice to look at and diverse. The patterns are : Collegiate Scarf, Lake Shore Wrap, Möbius Infinity Scarf, Brooke Beret, Buttoned Hat and Fingerless Mitts, Fan Shawl, Mothwing Scarf, Double Diamond Beanie, Snowflake Earflap Hat. As a whole, the patterns are competent achievements in design, none of them are too trivial to belong in this book.

Chapter 4 is a Stitch Dictionary to serve for those inspired to design their own patterns. They are divided like this: Basic Knit-Purl Stitch Patterns, Cable Patterns, 2 x 2 Rib Variation Patterns, Lace Patterns, Entrelac, Patterns with Unbalanced Color Use, Colorwork, Bands and Braids. There are about 30 stitch pattern or so, but the different kinds and their diagrams really helps to see the possibilities for other stitch patterns.

The book doesn't disappoint.

Knitting Masterclass: With Over 20 Technical Workshops and 15 Beautiful Patterns
Knitting Masterclass: With Over 20 Technical Workshops and 15 Beautiful Patterns
by The Knitter
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 20.80

4.0 out of 5 stars Masterclass this and that., Jan. 6 2015
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This book brings a handful of "advanced" techniques with photos and helpful discussions. Not all of the techniques are really complicated, some are not so advanced as all that, just not as widely known or understood.

The techniques covered are these: Choosing and substituting yarn, Different ways to cast on and cast off and how to choose them, A section on different styles of knitting which suggests a different way to purl for more even results in stocking stitch, and also how to knit with two cables and the magic loop. Cables and how to resize cable sweaters (which is not information that you would come across very often), Lace and how to fix the eventual mistake, Fair Isle techniques and how to substitute colours, shaping and fit, steeking, slip stitch colourwork, reversible knits (aka double knitting), stripes in the round and how to make jogless stripes, the kitchener stitch, and short rows shaping.

Some of the technical discussions and explanations are the best I've seen so far, like the discussions on how to resize cable and sweaters which is very detailed, and the discussions on fair isle which is simple but really well done. Most of the explanations come with text and photos and are well explained. However some techniques don't seem all that interesting like the discussion on hybridizing the eastern style of knitting with western knitting to get more even results. It was difficult to see where this one came from, in my personal experience, and I didn't get it. Some of the information I thought was oddly picked like how to knit in the round with the magic loop, I don't think this really fits in a "Knitting Masterclass".

As for the patterns themselves, if memory serves more than a few are reprints of "The Knitter" magazine. It is more popular in the UK, and so for North American knitters less familiar with the magazine this might not be an issue. However fans of the magazine might be disappointed to already own some of the more memorable pieces.

The patterns are these: Sedgemoor Cardigan, Elwood Hat, Nexus Socks, Baird Collar, Cable Cushion Covers, Wheat Lace Shawl, Chic Spring Beret, Carmine V-neck Jumper, Milne Tank Top, Abella Cushion, Cuthbert Scarf and Hat, Scooter Socks, Climbing Mistletoe Socks, Charleston Cushions. The appeal of the projects themselves is interesting, but they're a mismatched bag, mostly there because they're technique specific.

I was disappointed a bit, not because what's there isn't well done, but because I expected a little more from a book named Masterclass. The patterns are very hit or miss, and even though I can't fault it for having patterns to illustrate the discussions, it ends up being half of a technique book and half of a pattern book. Since I was not bowled over by the patterns, I wish it had been a longer technique book. As it is, it's not the definitive book on technique I wanted it to be.

French Girl Knits Accessories: Modern Designs for a Beautiful Life
French Girl Knits Accessories: Modern Designs for a Beautiful Life
by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.60
38 used & new from CDN$ 13.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A step in the wrong direction, does not live up to previous book's expectations., Sept. 25 2014
It is difficult to keep my disappointment down and give this book a fair shake, but I will try. First off, I found there was not a single knock-out pattern in this book. Most of the designs are nice, but nothing screams "inspired" like in the previous book. I did not find one pattern to be absolutely gorgeous or incredibly original. Before I take a leap into the critique itself, here is a list of the contents in this book:

The author's commentary on daily life in France, a section of headwear, (a lacy headscarf, a st st pleated sloppy hat, a lacy cable hat, a slouchy hat, a lacy hat with small earflaps, a striped hat with edging detail (it's on the cover), a slouchy cabled beret; a section on mittens and socks with over the knee cabled socks, lacy mitts with a folded hem, ballerine slippers, lacy anklet socks, buttoned mitts in colourwork; a section on shawls and wraps, with a lacy shrug, a shrug, a lacy shawl (more accurately a short and wide stole), a pleated shrug, a cowl with a hood (which is certainly the most original piece of the book.); and finally a technical section with illustrations of certain techniques.

The editing is also a let down with some patterns that don't have enough pictures taken from different angles. For instance, there is a nice pattern for a shrug with tiny pleats (or large smocks if you prefer) and the two pictures taken show the shrug from the back, so you get a good picture of the shrug from the back and a smaller cut of the same picture flipped the other way (they weren't nice enough to make it a close-up!), but you don't see how the shrug is made up in the front. Combine that with 2 pages of explanations on how to make the tucks and two terse paragraphs on how to seam up the rectangle you've just knitted, (but not one single diagram!) and you can see why I'm peeved. I don't mind reading instructions, but how easy it would have been to help me along on this one. It's all the more frustrating because the shrug is one of the nicest patterns.

On the topic of editing, the book again gives us more of that pseudo social commentary about France littered with coarse spelling mistakes with the French words used (neither the author nor the editor can write "bonne chance" correctly, nor can they write chaussons without mangling it twice in the same page into chassons. A spellcheck wouldn't catch it, but a fluent speaker would in a heartbeat.) It makes all the babbling about French "art de vivre" sound incredibly trite. Talk about sticking out like a tourist. It's really unprofessional. Seriously I would prefer more pictures and diagrams please.

In the words of the author "bon tricot et bon (sic) chance".

The Traitor
The Traitor
by Grace Burrowes
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.50
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.02

4.0 out of 5 stars I don't remember ever being disappointed in a book by Grace Burroughs, Sept. 19 2014
I don't remember ever being disappointed in a book by Grace Burroughs. This one is no exception.

In this Sebastian St-Clair is half English, half French man who was trapped in France after he visited his relatives during the Peace of Amiens. Because of this he is enrolled with the French and ends up as the questioner of every English officer caught without his uniform. When the war is over, Sebastian goes home to his English aunt and claims an old title, but society is not ready to accept him. Worse, many of his former captors challenge him to a number of duels to regain their honour.

Millicent Danforth is a young miss who will do anything to escape her interfering relatives. Even take a post as companion to an old lady who is rumoured to be difficult, and be in the employ of the scandalous traitor baron. Somewhat of an outcast herself, Milly feels indignation at the thought of Sebastian being ostracised for the choices he made during the war. But Sebastian's enemies are many and powerful, and they plot against him. Can Milly and Sebastian overcome the shadows of the past?

the strength of this novel are the characters. Burroughs writes witty characters, with lifelike interactions between them, that seem to relate to one another without being contrived. In this Milly and Sebastian are made for one another. The reader believes there is no one else for either of them, and that this was a one in a million match. It makes the couple worth rooting for. Each of the character unveils him or herself gradually because the other character is the right one to understand them. Picking a traitor and an inquisitor was not an obvious choice, but Burroughs builds up Sebastian in such a way that you do see his point of view, and you do feel for him. Milly's past is eventually made known to us and it explains why she alone gets him. And that's what makes or breaks a romance. So this book has the goods in the emotional conflict.

On the other hand, the pot is wispy. It is substantial enough for a romance, but it is uneven. Some motivations are not well mapped out, so when one reaches the book's climax some of the explanations feel a little cheap. It shouldn't be the focus of the book, but some of the events that propel the plot seem few and far between. When we reach the end, it's as though the plot is not used to its full benefit to give us even more emotional conflict. An event should have been climactic but wasn't. So I thought that even though the book's plot was alright it was not as clever as it might have been.

Finally another thing that I thought was poorly done is that a secondary character is set up for another novel in this book and again, not in the most deft of ways. It's clumsy and uneven, the character is here and there but mostly as a plot device, with rare bursts of usefulness to the characters. It feels as though the book goes out of its way to introduce him and it felt as though him being in the story detracted from the whole.

Once a Rake
Once a Rake
by Eileen Dreyer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.55
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Dreyer never disappoints, Aug. 13 2014
Lady Sarah Clark is holding on by the barest thread to her husband's estate, neither impoverished nor really able to get her head above water. When Col Ian Ferguson stumbles, worse for wear, onto her farm, all she wants is for him to leave, because she can't be caught harboring a traitor. But neither can she turn her back on her best friends' brother. Ian doesn't want to impose on Sarah, but he has to survive to unearth the truth about who really shot at the Duke of Wellington. He needs Sarah's help, but soon it's not her help he needs and Sarah finds out she enjoys the imposition all too much.

First off, I thought this wasn't the most original of premises. But I soon found out that Dreyer can make that old scenario come alive with touching and believable characters, a decent plot and an incredibly poignant relationship between Sarah and Ian. She cranks up the romantic tension, when even though we can safely assume a happy ending, it seems to be impossible right until the end.

And in the same way Ian and Sarah can't let go of one another, it's very hard to put down this book.

by Kristin Cashore
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.63
76 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Not the sharpest plot, or the most original characters, but much more than it looks., July 21 2014
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This review is from: Graceling (Paperback)
I expected cringe worthy prose of girl power, especially since the protagonist is (of course) an assassin (girl power oblige). But, I was pleasantly surprised. There is enough of what will keep the younger reader's mind entertained in this book. Action, emotion, a written in the stars romance with a foreign prince who's the right amount of nice and bad ass.

But it's done in a rather nice way. From other young adult novels you might expect the plot to pretty much showcase protagonist Katsa rather than pit Katsa against obstacles that are actually difficult for her to overcome. And I like that Prince Po (the male protagonist in this book) does have his reasons to fall for her, and to do the things he does. Their leaning on each other makes sense, and their loyalty to one another is earned. I like that the author takes the time to make us like the characters, doesn't assume we'll like them just because they are the protagonists.

The author also introduces her to a world of her creation, a world I would like to see more of. The possibilities for intrigue seem endless. I think where this book doesn't truly shine is that the villains are pretty much just flat, no reason for their villainy. It's true that the infamy of the main villain in this book helps raise the stakes for Katsa and Po, and the reader, but I would have liked a little more insight into why or when. Also, it would be nice for Katsa's uncle to have more complex motivations than lust for power.

Still, a surprising read. The author does well with what starts out as a somewhat not very original premise, and just writes the book with enough skill to win us over.

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