Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gramma Nancy's Animal Hats Provides All You Need to Know to Create Nineteen Shades of Adorable

The first inkling of the idea that became Nancy Nielsen's GRAMMA NANCY'S ANIMAL HATS was conceived initially as a way to give a small gift to the families of servicemen, through her son in law in the Navy. It became closer to reality when her hats won the Grand Prize in the Vanna's Choice Contest in 2013. It became a book when the editors at Potter Craft encouraged her to get her method down in writing.

Nancy's adorable patterns are based on nineteen variations of two hats (rolled-brim and earflap), two booty and two mitt patterns. Her mitts include a closed thumbless version for babies, fingerless mitts with a thumb for older kits, and even a glove-based fingerless mitt. Her booties are shaped to suit the animal represented on the hat, and are cunningly crafted with or without toes, flippered and clawed and even include a flat-bottomed elephant foot. 
Her critter creations represent jungle animals, farm animals and forest creatures. The textured details on the turtle and toad are very intriguing but the beaver and owl hats might be first on my list. I don't have enough children in my life to use all the patterns that I want to try, thank goodness there is a nearby pediatric hospital who will welcome donations. The hat patterns are written to fit from 13.5 to 22 inches, so those who are children at heart no matter their age can also have their own. The mitts are written to fit from 6 to 8 inches circumference. The booties are in pre-walking size.

GRAMMA NANCY'S ANIMAL HATS (and Booties Too) has an index to help you find your way around and has a very thorough section on how to use Nancy's methods to create the details that make each set very special, as well as a basic but well-illustrated collection of instruction in knitting techniques. About those methods: purists be warned, Nancy suggests styrofoam and hot glue gun among her tools as being a sure and swift way to produce sturdy hats full of character. You can of course use more traditional sewing and embroidery techniques to add features to faces and those cunning paw prints to the booties but after reading her book, I am considering whipping out my dusty glue gun to attach plastic animal eyes to acrylic yarn (hot glue does not work well with animal fiber) as it is much safer and longer lasting than using the standard post eyes in a knitted fabric.

Whether you stick with your tried and true techniques or give Nancy's a try, I highly recommend GRAMMA NANCY'S ANIMAL HATS as an addition to your library. The care she has taken with making each hat represent the animal it is based on is very informative (the grumpy owl construction is sheer genius!) and I will be glad to have this on my shelf as a source of gifts that will be welcomed and loved for years. 

Title: Gramma Nancy's Animal Hats (and Booties Too)
Author: Nancy Nielsen
ISBN:  978-0804185190
Publication Date: October 2014
Publisher: Potter House
Format: Paperback and Ebook
Available From: Amazon
Price: $14.45
Pages: 159
Genre: Crafts, Knitting
Details: Indexed, with basic skill tutorial.

(Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Zippers, Rods, Loops and Lamb's Tails Explode Amidst More Traditionally Knitted Blocks

Nicky Epstein's books range from Knitted Hats back in 1996 (with Marcus Tullis) to felted projects, doll clothes, flowers (both crocheted and knitted) and of course her series of edging books. She has also published geographically-themed knitting books (Knitting on Top of the World and Knitting from Tuscany) and last year (2014)brought an intriguing book called Knitting Reimagined where whimsical shapes and details add extra punch to garment patterns.  In 2010, she published KNITTING BLOCK BY BLOCK where some of those intriguing details are introduced, and some of the sculptural details from the edging books gain another stage on which to shine.

KNITTING BLOCK BY BLOCK has a fairly simple premise: 150 different blocks can form the basis of projects ranging from the expected afghans or bags to shawls, simply constructed garments and even toys.  There are a plethora of stitch dictionaries and block-based knitting books out there; what makes Nicky Epstein's different is the deeply dimensional nature of some of the blocks she presents. This is most often accomplished by knitting embellishments (sometimes as simple as a length of i-cord or as complex as nested curving ruffles) and fastening them to a basic knitted block. She also has a number of more traditionally created blocks using intarsia, stranded knitting or textured stitch patterns.  Although she has traditionally-knitted cable blocks, the blocks with cable effects created by interweaving i-cord into stitch-defying shapes are stunning, and pretty much impossible to achieve by standard cabling methods.

If you are a comfortably prosaic knitter you will find plenty of delightful ideas without unduly challenging your skills  (the Sanquahar block for example is a deliciously stranded expansion of very traditional techniques) but if you seek an edgier knitting experience you will be enthralled by KNITTING BLOCK BY BLOCK.  Nicky Epstein's squares explode with corkscrews, dots and three-dimensional stuffed cherry blossom shapes; zippers rods, loops and lamb's tails.  A quick flip through the book had my fingers itching to pull out my scrap bag and start working some of the embellishments while a more thorough read has ideas for projects of my own based on her seminal patterns cascading through my mind.

Title: Knitting Block by Block: 50 Blocks for Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans, and More
Author: Nicky Epstein
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Potter House
Format: Hardcover, Paperback and Ebook
Available From: Publisher,
Price: $29.99 USD
Pages: 240
Genre: Crafts, Knitting
Details: Indexed, with basic skill tutorial.

(Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)