Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book reviews for Cooperative Press

Gayle and I chat a bit about both of these books in Episode 41, but we usually have much more to say than we can fit into the podcast. :)
- Sharlene

What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? Edited by Heather Ordover

This is the second offering in the Madame Defarge series, with knitting patterns based on "classic characters." If you listen to Heather's podcast CraftLit, you are already familiar with her podcast formula sharing a little bit of crafting chat and a little bit of book chat followed by a chapter or two of the current book selection. Knitters, myself included, look forward to knitting time spent with earbuds in place, listening to the current installment of Heather's classic selections.

The Madame Defarge series brings us knitting patterns and essays based on several "classic characters." If you have a favorite classic among those featured in this book, you might find extra inspiration to create one of the patterns while rereading or listening to an old friend. Having spent many past summers reading and rereading Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series I felt that Marilla's Shawl was an old friend and certainly something that the ever-practical Marilla would have thrown over her shoulders while sitting on the porch with Matthew. But if you aren't familiar with the literature that has inspired, you will still find the twenty-eight patterns for shawls, mitts, socks, and other accessories fun to browse. The essays by the pattern designers will give you insight into a significant character or theme from the classic novel that inspired the piece, and may in turn inspire you to read something new or to reread a forgotten favorite.

History on Two Needles by Annie Modesitt

History on Two Needles looks backward in art history to find inspiration. There are patterns here that will work for Renaissance Fair wear to pieces that will fit into a contemporary wardrobe. For each of the seventeen patterns found here, the artwork that influenced the design is pictured. Most of the designs are knitted recreations of the original garment, one exception being the Woodstock Tunic featuring a textured sweater design that is "quartered to reflect the elements of Edward's shield." I think it will be interesting to watch the Ravelry project pages for these pieces and see how knitters mix and match pieces into their contemporary wardrobes.

We reviewed electronic versions of both books and in both cases, I would like to have seen a photo index of the patterns. It is easy to thumb through the pages of a book to quickly find a specific photo or design, but not so easy to do this with an electronic file. This added functionality would be a welcome resource. To view all the patterns in each book before preparing my review, I found it easier to look at the each book's Ravelry entry to see all the pattern images in one place.

If you enjoy classic literature, or art history, or just aspire to these interests, both books are worth taking a look. These books remind us that as knitters and crafters, we can look for inspiration in many other areas of our lives. We are reminded to look back, and to look into history and literature for something new for our contemporary wardrobes.

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