by Margaret Hubert
Many of the things I most appreciated in Edie Eckman's Beyond the Square and Around the Corner Crocheted Borders books are also present in this sturdy volume by Margaret Hubert.
If you, like me, love books of crochet motifs (squares only, in this instance), where the emphasis is decidedly on those motifs, as opposed to patterns for garments, etc.-- this is most definitely worth investigation.
The book is a 176-page, hardcover, spiral-bound book. The pages have that satiny finish that is usual for this sort of craft book, and they are of reasonable thickness. It feels like a book that will stand up to years of use.
The first 26 pages include a page of acknowledgements, a table of contents, an introduction, and a fairly comprehensive section on crochet basics. Step-by-step photos accompany detailed instructions of how to make the basic crochet stitches-- and some not-so-basic stitches, such as front post double crochet and reverse single crochet (crab stitch). Next comes a guide for reading written and symbol patterns-- a quick note regarding term conversions (US/UK)-- a chart of abbreviations and diagram symbols-- gauge. Then we find a short section about "granny square techniques"-- which is actually an introduction to working in the round, including the various methods for starting (chain ring, slip knot, adjustable loop), and so on. A few pages on "details and finishing" (invisible join, picking up stitches for borders, seams)-- and you're done.
There's a ton of information packed into those pages. I'd say someone could certainly learn everything needed to begin crocheting from that "intro"-- especially if s/he combined it with some of the free demo videos available online, today.
Pages 27 to 110 are devoted to the "granny square" patterns. (Please note that in this book, the term "granny square" is used to refer to all square-shaped crocheted motifs-- not just the familiar "classic" granny square pattern most of us know so well.)
There are 75 different square motifs in a wide variety of styles. Some of them will look familiar, if you own other collections of crochet motif patterns. That seems to be unavoidable. For whatever reason, they all insist on including the classic granny square, for instance. I guess you can't blame them. The granny square is a staple-- and if this were your only book of motifs, you'd expect to find it in there, somewhere. Familiar motifs aside, though, there's a very nice assortment of squares-- and if you like floral motif squares, you'll be happy to find several of them here.
Some of the simpler squares come with half-square patterns (not counted as part of the total of 75 granny squares), which could be very useful and save you the trouble of figuring out a half pattern for yourself.
The motifs are numbered and named, and each has been assigned a skill level (Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Easy, Intermediate, Experienced). There is a very nice, clear, colorful photo of each motif, along with written instructions and a diagram. (You know how I feel about that arrangement by now, right? It's wonderful!)
The motifs don't seem to be arranged in any particular order, with "Easy" patterns rubbing shoulders with those marked "Experienced".
One complaint I've seen made against this book is that no "finished size" is given for the squares. It's true; you have to use your best judgement, based on the number of rounds and size of stitches used (short sc or tall trc?)-- and then crochet one to see how big it works out to be. Honestly, this doesn't seem like a major issue to me, for the way I generally use these books. It seems more common than not that books of motifs don't bother with measurements.
Apart from a short index at the very end, the remainder of the pages are reserved for patterns for finished objects using some of the squares introduced earlier in the book. There are several projects, including (but not limited to) vests, shawls, bags/backpacks, placemats, pillows, earrings, baby hats, and five afghans/throws.
I haven't tried any of the patterns (for me, the main appeal of the book was the motifs themselves, and I prefer to use them in my own ways), but on a quick glance-through, they appear to be carefully considered and well-written. Many include basic charts indicating how the motifs should be laid out and connected. (There are no detailed symbol-diagrams for the projects or how to assemble the motifs, though, if that's important to you.) All recommend specific brands of yarn, hook sizes, gauge-- and list the finished size and a recommended skill level.
It's a pretty good book!
If you're in search of a book of square crochet motifs, you'll find 75 right here. If you'd like some projects mixed in, too, so much the better. This book gives a variety of full-length, detailed projects, unlike some motif books. Someone who's new to crochet could also use this as an primer-- or it could serve as a refresher course to anyone who needs to brush up on basic techniques.
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I thought it was funny that whoever photographed this afghan (one of the projects in the book) didn't realize that they had the "wrong" side facing up! Even the back is pretty, and I have to admit that I wouldn't have known the difference, either, until I'd been crocheting a while... Still made me laugh, though!
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Here are a couple of the squares from the book that I made for my pink and purple sampler afghan. (Note: I added rounds to both to bring them up to the desired size.)
Whimsy (#73, pg. 108):
Frances Flower (#29, pg. 62):