Manga Cross-stitch: Make Your Own Graphic Art Needlework Hardcover – Jun 22 2009
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About the Author
Helen McCarthy has written seven books and countless articles about Japanese animation and comics. She travels the world lecturing on anime and manga and is often seen on TV documentaries, at film festivals, and at fan conventions. She learned to cross-stitch when she was four years old. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
To begin with, the stitching instructions are clear and cover materials and techniques for a beginner, (although nothing can compare to taking a class from a live instructor, which I would recommend for anyone starting this hobby). There are 6 pages dedicated to fabrics and includes a nice example of a design stitched on 3 different thread count fabrics to illustrate the change in size of the finished pattern depending upon the fabric used. Another 8 pages are dedicated to stitching techniques and include 2 techniques for starting a row and how to bury your thread at the end of a row. 6 pages then cover more advanced stitches used in some of the patterns supplied in the book. Following this, there is one page on mounting a finished project and one page on choosing colors.
The next 60 pages cover a variety of manga styles from little animals to fighting schoolgirls, brooding Ronin to giant robots. Something for everybody! The next chapters cover patterns for filling in spaces or backgrounds, adding expression and action to your designs, and 10 pages of lettering and alphabets. The book ends with a bibliography, a glossary and a chart index. If the book ended there it would be just fine. But it doesn't!
Included with the book is a CD with cross-stitch pattern creation software (Windows AND Mac!) and all the patterns from the book. So you can use the patterns from the book to make your own designs and then print them out in 5 different formats (colors or symbols) and generate stitch counts with thread requirements. The program is a 'Lite' version, so some options are disabled, but it does have links to purchase the full version at a discount.
The book itself is sturdy and very colorful, printed on heavy gloss paper with designs that really pop off the page.
This book is a great resource for any manga / anime fan who wants to display their hobby in a different fashion. Or, for a stitcher who wants to create a very unique gift for a manga fan. But for a new stitcher - it can't take the place of a class or a mentor and hands on experience.
One criticism is that the book doesn't give many examples of other things that can be done with a finished design other than framing and hanging it on a wall. Some examples of other uses for a finished project would certainly be inspiring for the novice stitcher. I'm thinking manga theme stitched Christmas tree ornaments this year!
On one hand, the book itself is quite good. It teaches basic stitches and technique clearly and covers proper mounting technique. The charts are more detailed than I expected -- they really do look like manga art, and even though I picked up this book to adapt the patterns to knitting, looking it over made me want to pick up cross stitch again.
The book itself puts focus on design. It gives you figures and encourages you to combine them in your own ways -- many of the charts in the book are not of completed projects, but rather of elements that can be combined into completed projects. That might not be for everyone, but I like the ability to put my own stamp on my work.
The included software, Stitch 2008, is quite good. It has options to stretch patterns for knitting (you input stitch and row counts) and even tunisian crochet.
So that's the good. Now the bad.
First of all, the software is a demo, and many of the features are disabled. You can load and print out the charts that they provide, but you can't make any alterations or work up your own designs unless you pay $60 for the full version, something that I don't think was made quite clear enough on the product page. The inability to alter the charts without buying the full version seems to defeat the purpose of the book, and I came away feeling as though the book was nothing more than an ad for the software. To make matters worse, you -need- to use the software; the charts in the book are far too small to work from.
The book advertises more than 100 charts, but that's not strictly true. Many of the charts included are the same chart executed in different ways (one with color, one as a simple line drawing, etc). Again, not very impressive.
In the end, I think this book would be good for someone who really wants to do manga cross stitch and is willing to go to some extra trouble to make the charts work for them. But it doesn't live up to many of the promises that it makes.
The CD that is included is worth the whole price of the book. All of the designs, including the screentones that I just mentioned are on the CD and can be printed out from the demo version. What really was a nice surprise for me is that there are about 10 designs that are completely different from this style of stitching included on the CD. There is a sampler, a couple Christmas designs, a victorian house and part of the Birth of Venus. I was really happy to see those included. The full version is $40.00 and I would imagine anyone who is interested in trying their hand at designing their own cross stitch would want to buy it. I looked around the program quite a bit and it looks like you can do anything you want with it.
And only when she showed me the sampler of syllables did I see that there is no chart for them! There are 2 almost identical graphs (what's up with that?) for 4 characters with the final project enlarged. But even though I have a good eye, I couldn't chart out the characters myself. There are several charts in the beginning of the book and a few sprinkled later. But it's awful: for example, on pages 84-5, there is a cool female warrior, Samurai Chara. There is a microscopic chart of this 120 by 200 stitch figure but it's only in black and white! No shading! And I count at least 20 colors in the picture.
Sharon's laptop won't accommodate the CD and I have to have my son show me how to access the CD here--I fear I'll be purchasing it accidentally...it is FAR from understandable.
Nowhere on either cover--including the CD itself which as you can see on the product image--is there any indication that the CD is demo only. It is extremely deceptive to entitle a book "Make Your Own" and then have a bait-'n'-switch for you to shell out $60 for the contents of the CD.
The only rays of hope for this very inexpensive book are:
--excellent close-up color photos showing the materials you need to make a project
--really good stitch guides for cross stitch, double cross stitch, Rhodes, chain stitch, double running (Holbein), backstitch, brick stitch, tent stitch French knots, and laid Oriental stitch (couching)
--also good ideas for how to mount finished projects
--history of anime and manga
--and the projects really are cute
I do find it inspiring to be creative. When you open a page, you'll see the same character shown 6 or 7 times in different colors, with different backgrounds, and close-ups of the head or face. Finally, I give this item 4 stars instead of 2 for a unique reason: I really enjoy blackwork and pages 98-9 show 35 different patterns of blackwork, here, for the purpose of being the background for the picture you cross stitch. The graphs are tiny but they would be easy to replicate.
I just feel like I let Sharon down....
I love cross stitch - I've been cross stitching most of my life - and I've recently discovered a love for anime movies. Since I often cross stitch *while* watching anime, this book seemed like the next logical step - cross stitching anime while watching anime!
Unfortunately, this book - while a great idea - is balanced by absolutely terrible execution. First of all, the entire book is geared towards first-time cross stitchers, which isn't a terrible thing - there's a lot of interesting stitch techniques explained from a beginner's perspective. However, the author seems strangely intent on making cross stitching sound incredibly hard and intimidating when it is, in my opinion, one of the most "beginner friendly" of the fabric crafts. Bizarrely inflated estimates of "how long" certain charts will take to stitch sit alongside frequent instructions regarding when, how, how often, and in what manner to rip all your seams up in case of a mistake. After awhile you begin to feel like the book doesn't *want* you to cross stitch.
Frustratingly, there's not as many patterns here as I'd like. There's a lot of interesting discussion of anime and manga, but that's not what you're buying the book for. There are maybe 5-10 patterns per chapter (with the inevitable slight variations to inflate the numbers), but there will probably be only one or two matching the taste of the reader. After all, manga and anime are extremely varied art styles! For example, there's some mecha-type stuff, some low-quality pocket monster-style stuff, some chibi/deformed characters, a school girl trio, a samurai lady, and a lot of blocky monochromatic patterns. A random example - a large-eyed lovely in a solid-color kimono - is replicated four times (original, portrait, mirrored, and palette swap) in lieu of creating actual, varied content. The overall effect of this sparse material is frustrating - I'd like more variety than this. A lot of the text seems geared instead towards telling the reader to make their own patterns, which they're certainly not going to be able to do with the *demo* software included.
Which segues me nicely into the horrible, awful, infuriatingly terrible "software" included with this book. The book, you see, has no actual pattern charts - all the patterns are stored on the included CD, in a proprietary format that only the included program can read. I am not at all amused to note that the program included is a "demo" program only - and of the most annoying kind: each and every *single* time you open a chart (for instance if you're trying to open all the charts to see what's included on the CD), you have to click through a series of demo windows before you can use the actual program. Because it's a demo program, you can really only print the included patterns - you can't make your own or modify the included patterns in any significant manner. But most infuriatingly is that the print function is fundamentally broken - which means you can't even access the book patterns!
There's no way to select the printer you want to use, so if you have more than one printers hooked up to your computer (like, say, a color printer and a black-and-white printer), the program either selects one at random to communicate with or gets confused and cancels out the print entirely. The print function allows you to resize the chart, but there's no preview function for you to SEE what your choices will yield, so if you didn't want to waste ink and paper, then you're going to be very disappointed. And while you can change the chart *view* from, say, 'color blocks' to 'color blocks with symbols' to 'black and white symbols', you can't apparently carry those views changes over to the printed chart. In the end, the only way I could print these patterns out was to take *screenshots* of my computer screen and print THOSE out from MS Paint, not my idea of a user friendly program.
I would strongly encourage the author that any future versions of this book include a few more patterns, and include them in an easily accessible and printable format - either in a completely usable program or in a static printable format like Adobe PDF. Because otherwise, the whole effort just feels like a transparent attempt to force the user to buy a sub-standard program to get access to the patterns that they already paid for.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll