Friday, January 11, 2013

Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

Aha!
I found the book reviews I wrote for this blog-- only apparently I never hit the "Publish" button, so they've just been sitting in limbo all this time.  ("Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"... (g))

I'll go ahead and post them, now, just so they won't have been written "for naught". ;o)

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Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

One of my Christmas gifts (back in 2010, I guess?!) was Edie Eckman's Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs.  I've really enjoyed reading and flipping my way through my copy.  Since it's not exactly a new title (published in 2008, I think), you may already know all about it.  If not, you'll find many reviews on Amazon (etc.).  However, I can't resist making my own little commentary, even if I am late to the party.  ;o)

Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

Things I like:
  • Lots of motifs
    • 144, according to the cover
  • More than just squares
    • Circles, hexagons, triangles, and "unexpected shapes" in addition to squares
    • (...And they're organized by basic shape, which makes perfect sense)
  • Lots of variety in "look" and stitches used
  • Beautiful photos of the motifs
  • Written instructions and diagrams!!!
    • This is a big deal.  If you love reading charts, you're in luck.  If you prefer written patterns, you're in luck.  If you'd like to learn how to read written instructions or charts, this seems like as good a source as any, since there are explicit instructions for both methods, and you have both versions of a pattern on the same page for easy comparison. (There's also a stitch key for the symbols, in the back.)  Every crochet book should be this way.  (IMHO.)
  •  Ample "Crochet Motif Workshop"
    • If you're an experienced crocheter, this might seem like a negative ("wasted" pages on stuff you already know), but most books have some sort of basic "beginner's guide to crochet" in the first few pages, and at least this book seems to do a really good job of it-- better than I've seen before.  While I'm not a very experienced crocheter, I don't consider myself a beginner, but I still learned things I hadn't known-- things I didn't know that I didn't know.  (g)  It also cleared up a few points for me (like the two different ways to start a motif in the round without making a chain ring), and I find it convenient to flip back and check it out every now and then.  There are step-by-step photos as well as written instructions, which is always nice.  
    • Troubleshooting, invisible joins, mechanics of joining motifs (different methods), etc.  (There's a lot of stuff here!  It might be slightly overwhelming to an absolute beginner, but you can go back and learn a lot of nifty tricks once you're more comfortable with the hook.)
  • Spiral-bound
    • Actually, I like this sometimes (because it feels sturdy, lies flat, etc.) and dislike it sometimes (because pages can tend to be a little harder to turn / sometimes get caught in the spiral)-- but in the end, I think it's a well-constructed book.  
  • Polar graphs to help you draw your own symbol charts
    • I'm not quite at the stage where I want to design my own motifs, but I think this book is a good starting-point for someone who is interested in that.  There's certainly plenty of inspiration.  If you study this book, you'll be well on your way to understanding how to put stitches together to make a motif.
Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

Things that could have been different, if not better:
  • Motifs have no names-- only numbers 
    • I've seen this listed as a complaint, but I only kind of agree... I like names, names are easier to remember, to recommend, etc.  However, most of the time, when I go by names in crochet patterns, I end up being disappointed.  Something will have the most evocative name, but when I click the link or turn the page, I'm disappointed.  ("Oh.  Is that all?  That's nothing like my idea of 'Ethereal Echoes of Spring'.  Ho-hum...")  Also, the numbers make it easy to find a particular motif, since the motifs are presented in numerical order. 
  • Only illustrations (no photos) for the "Designing with Motifs" section
    • The illustrations are cute, and it was probably possible to show a lot more potential uses for the motifs this way than using photos... but photos still would've been nice.  However-- This book is not about (and does not purport to be about) projects.  It's a collection of motifs.  A book can't be all things to all people, so it shouldn't even try.  
  • No information on joining circles
    • Maybe it's there and I'm missing it... It's easy enough to see how to join most of the motif shapes.  (The actual joining might be tricky at first, but at least there are straight edges or points that make it obvious how you'd most likely want to put them together.) Circles, though, seem a little more confusing.  (One might even say "daunting", if one were me. (g))  Maybe a page or two about turning circles into easily-"joinable" squares or hexagons (perhaps defeating the purpose of "Beyond the Square"?) or other ideas about how to join a collection of circles into a single fabric would've been helpful.

...And I think that about does it for the "could've been better" section.  The last time I was paging through the book, I felt that it would've been nice if more of the motifs had been fairly "solid".  It seemed like lots of them were very airy / full of "holes".  But that's just a matter of opinion-- and sometimes you need an airy motif.  (Besides, this time I'm glancing through it, I see plenty of solid motifs.)  In any case, with 144 to choose from, you're bound to find something you'll like. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for motifs in a variety of shapes.  It's just so much fun to look through!  I defy any blanket-crocheter, in particular, to not find inspiration in its pages.

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Hi, it's 2013-me again. (g)
I just wanted to add that I've used the book more since I wrote all that (of course), and I stand by my review.  I still find myself reaching for the book when I want to just relax and look at photos of crochet motifs.  The photos and variety of shapes are wonderful inspiration, and I still love the fact that each motif comes with a chart and written instructions.  So long as you understand the universal symbols used in charted crochet, you can still make these patterns even if you can't read a word of English.

An unequivocal recommend!