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Eucalyptus (Panther)
Eucalyptus (Panther)
by Murray Bail
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fairy tale, a love story, 21 July 2012
This review is from: Eucalyptus (Panther) (Paperback)
Holland has planted his land with every variety of eucalyptus he can get his hands on - over five hundred in total. As his daughter reaches marriageable age, he decides that only the man who can correctly name all of his eucalypts will be good enough to take her hand. News of Ellen's beauty and Holland's challenge travel far and wide, but it is only when one suitor shows clear signs that he will accomplish this task that Ellen begins to worry - especially as she has recently met a stranger whose odd stories have somehow got under her skin...

This is, of course, a fairy tale. But the characters are more than archetypes, the landscape lives and breathes, and the story is compelling. Bail's down-to-earth narrative voice provides the necessary omniscient narrative, combining dry wit with a sometimes irritating pomposity, but highlighted with frequent glimpses of unforced poetry: "smooth stones lay under water like pears suspended in syrup."

Although Bail avoids anthropomorphicism, the eucalypts nonetheless play a large part in this book's appeal. You will learn a lot about Australia's native tree but instead of a dry text book, there are vivid character sketches of the numerous varieties, not to mention the tangential starting points they provide for the stranger's often odd or melancholy love stories.

There is an obvious element of unreality to the story, but it is so well told that it is easy to suspend belief. The first half of the book - Holland's marriage, the building of a new life in the outback, with eucalypts - was captivating. If my interest began to wane a little as the suitor progressed through his naming of the trees, and Ellen listened to story upon story from the stranger, this was only a brief lapse on my part, and I soon found my heart was in my mouth as I carried on turning the pages to find out if Ellen would really be forced into marrying a man purely because he could name an extraordinary number of trees.

This is at its core a love story, but if the fairy tale structure is as old as time, the telling itself is as original as can be.


New Crewel: The Motif Collection
New Crewel: The Motif Collection
by Katherine Shaughnessy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New new (old?) crewel, 19 July 2012
The book begins with a series of retro spirograph-style patterns which have a very different feel than the original 'New Crewel' patterns (& indeed the cover of this one) but the cover is not misrepresentative and there is a whole host of abstract seed poddish motifs and more that look like they potentially evolved from the sketch book of the first book. There just doesn't seem to be much development, and there are not as many finishing ideas as in the first book.

If you loved the original 'New Crewel' book, you will probably enjoy this collection, too. There is nothing else like it out there at the moment, so on that strength alone is worth the cover price, although for my money, the book as a whole (& of course by definition) is not quite as original as its predecessor. Overall, though, it is a very good collection of patterns and the fact that it comes with a cd-rom of the patterns helps to expand is adaptability.


The Bargello Book (Hobby Craft)
The Bargello Book (Hobby Craft)
by Frances Salter
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good, basic resource (but not the best), 14 July 2012
Okay, this is not an exciting book. It is not full of beautiful projects; if you have no background in or knowledge of bargello, it is unlikely to float your boat. It isn't even really a creative guide. However, it is a very practical book, essentially a directory of filling patterns. There is a full page colour photo of a stitched sample on each left hand page, and a guide chart with any further instructions on the right. Each pattern is given a difficulty rating of 1-3. I don't know how useful that is, as personally, I would just stitch whichever pattern creates the effect I want, and as a technique, bargello is really pretty straightforward, anyway.

There is also a beginner's introduction to needlepoint/bargello, covering materials and techniques. This is mercifully brief, and I think most people would just skip it, anyway. If you were an absolute newcomer to needlepoint, it could be worse (although there are no diagrams in the intro, which I think would be more useful to a beginner), but I dislike such prescriptive statements as: "Choosing the right yarn for the canvas is quite important. You should use 100% wool." I'm not saying you shouldn't use wool, simply that there is a huge variety of yarns for needlepointing available, and stating wool-only is potentially a little limiting!

But if you do any needlepoint design, or are just looking for a more 'interesting' background for a piece you have stitched, this book really is a handy reference tool. And the thing about bargello patterns is that they are infinitely adaptable, so you can use one of these as a starting point to create your own. This is not my favourite bargello book, nor, in my opinion, the best. However, there is nothing else currently in print, and it is still a good reference & starting-off point, and a solid addition to any stitcher's library.


Freeformations: Design and Projects in Knitting and Crochet (Milner Craft Series)
Freeformations: Design and Projects in Knitting and Crochet (Milner Craft Series)
by Jenny Dowde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to be free!, 14 July 2012
I was very excited about the author's first book on this subject, 'Freeform Knitting and Crochet', but it didn't go quite as far as I had hoped it would. This new volume, however, is far closer to the book I had initially hoped for. There are expanded sections on design and colour theory, and more helpful motifs and versatile principles to adapt according to your own taste. There are still a few projects to follow if you like, but in my opinion, this title is a far more practical guide to freeform knitting and crochet than its predecessor. Together, it would be fair to say they make a winning team!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 10, 2012 11:07 AM GMT


New Canvaswork: Creative Techniques in Needlepoint
New Canvaswork: Creative Techniques in Needlepoint
by Jill Carter
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational but not quite enough detail, 14 July 2012
This beautifully presented book is full of wonderful ideas, starting-off points, and suggestions for using different techniques. I just can't pinpoint what it is about it that doesn't QUITE hit the mark. I'm not saying it isn't a very good book: it is. I have bought it, I will be reading it from cover to cover (unlike many craft books, there is actually quite a lot of text to read, though not densely written), and I have no doubt that it will spark lots of ideas. The canvas-colouring section, for example, has really caught my interest.

I think what stops it being an outstanding book, though, is simply that it skims over lots of interesting areas without going into them in great depth. It is not a project book (good), but nor is it, in my opinion, a techniques book, despite being subtitled 'creative techniques in needlepoint'. It explains lots of different ideas and possibilities but not (in all cases) specifically how-to-do. However, there aren't many books currently available on this subject (especially this side of the Atlantic), so buy this book for inspiration, because it WILL inspire you; use it to gather ideas and then experiment. Although I would prefer greater depth and detail, it is still a very welcome addition to my needlecraft library.

N.B. The cover design is different than shown, and actually far more striking, experimental, and representative of the book's content.


Bargello: A Fresh Approach to Florentine Embroidery
Bargello: A Fresh Approach to Florentine Embroidery
by Brenda Day
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great, creative project book, 14 July 2012
Although in essence a project book, this is also clearly a book that intends to awaken the stitcher's own creativity. Interspersed between projects are double-page spread 'design boards' showing the inspiration by colour and theme for the ensuing projects in full colour photos and sketches, including cards wrapped with threads in co-ordinating colours as demonstration. It is a very effective way of demonstrating how ideas can be developed, and the usefulness of a creative notebook or sketchbook.

The projects further demonstrate the versatility of bargello in design, ranging from the relatively traditional to the simply innovative, wth refreshingly contemporary styling, and a good sense of colour. Each project is clearly charted individually, but an additional glossary of bargello patterns is also provided. Although not as comprehensive as Frances Salter's 'Bargello Book', I find it far more successful in terms of suggesting creative possibilities.

As project books go, this is a very good one, and I'm sad to see it is not currently available.


Needlepoint Decor Bags
Needlepoint Decor Bags
by Diana Parkes
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning projects & ideas, 14 July 2012
This review is from: Needlepoint Decor Bags (Paperback)
This book evolved from classes run by the author, and as such, is refreshingly different in style and content from most project books. There is a good stitch dictionary with clear diagrams (hand-drawn, which is a nice touch), and the most interesting part for me, a good how-to guide for colouring canvas by four different techniques, including pros and cons for each method. There are also blank-lined spaces throughout the book, so that you can make notes on your own samples and experiments as you progress.

For me, the book is a little too project-based, including charts and very comprehensive instructions for making and finishing 9 different bags. However, as project books go, the colours are striking, the designs original and innovative (and easily adaptable, just in case you don't really want to make 9 bags!), and you will feel the arc of the learning curve as you work. A gallery is included of work produced by students, and right at the end, some guidelines for using the book to produce your own needlepoint decor bag, either by adapting the patterns and ideas provided or branching off on your own. I would have preferred slightly more emphasis on this section, but I can also see how the preceding sections of the book can be read as building up to it, if you choose to do so.

All in all, this is a very well produced and presented project book, ideal if you are looking for some slightly challenging pieces of needlepoint, and/or the feel of a workshop-learning environment within the comfort of your own home. Buy the book, take the ideas and run with them!


Liberated Canvas: A Creative Approach to Canvas Embroidery
Liberated Canvas: A Creative Approach to Canvas Embroidery
by Penny Cornell
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberate yourself!, 14 July 2012
At first glance, this is a luscious book, with glossy pages crammed with photo illustrations in striking colours. Having just read the Field & Linsley Canvas Embroidery book, however, my initial feeling was that the first half of Cornell's book was really just an abridged version of theirs, albeit more lavishly presented. I felt the same slight disappointment as with Jill Carter's New Canvaswork book, as though some areas were skimmed over a little too lightly, making it seem more like an overview than a practical guide.

However, the book redeems itself. What raises this title above others of its genre is the gallery of 'experimental samples' and finished needle artworks in the latter half. Of course, the pieces are inspiring in and of themselves: very richly coloured, and representative of different textures and combined techniques. In addition, however, each piece is accompanied by a commentary on the design and sitching processes involved, and this, in many ways, is a lot more interesting, illuminating and useful than any practical guide I have encountered.

Although slightly disappointing at first, this book grew on me dramatically, and the contents did live up to the beautiful presentation. I know I will refer back to it time and again. Although not currently available, this is a book that is really worth seeking out. Good luck!


Kids Weaving: Projects for Kids of Al: Projects for Kids of All Ages
Kids Weaving: Projects for Kids of Al: Projects for Kids of All Ages
by Sarah Swett
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful introduction to weaving, whatever your age, 14 July 2012
Kid or not, as a first (or even second) step in elementary weaving, you can't beat this wonderful value book. Unless you're looking for tips on how to use a rigid heddle or floor loom, read on!

Beginning with the very basics, you are shown the essential principles through weaving with paper - an idea that could easily be adapted using printed/patterned papers for original greetings cards, and here developed as funky paper dolls cut from old maps.

A couple more non-loom ideas are introduced, such as weaving with twigs and sticks for a fence or a hideway, and learning native american fingerweaving for friendship bands; then we move onto the cardboard loom. Please don't be dismissive! It might sound and appear primitive and childish, but even though it is appearing in a book aimed at kids, I guarantee that projects woven on a cardboard loom can be just as sophisticated and impressive as any other woven product. The main differences are simply that the loom is cheaper, quicker and easier to warp, and the weaving is easier to remove and neatly finish!

Instructions are included for a drawstring pouch, a pattern which is easily adaptable for a whole range of bags and purses to suit your needs. From Japanese tradition, you can weave a rag doll warrior - these are very cool, and also beg to be modified and personalised. The ideas are so simple. As the book suggests, great for kids, but also great starting points for anyone with an ounce of creativity. There's even a beginners' guide to creating your own natural dyes to dye and personalise your weaving materials!

The second half of the book is devoted to weaving on a different kind of loom, easily built from plastic tubing and connectors readily available at a DIY store (& clearly modelled on Archie Brennan's original copper pipe loom). Full construction and warping instructions are provided for this great lightweight, portable loom - again, ideal for adult tapestry weavers on the move, not just kids. This loom is a good addition to include in the book as it allows weaving of larger pieces, but it is also free-standing, which gives the weaver greater freedom of movement. Tapestry weaving techniques are introduced in this section, and various other techniques, including working a picture image from a chart.

This is a very well-presented book, with step-by-step instructions throughout. The text is occasionally interspersed with extra information about weaving mythology and traditions (although I thought there could have been more of this), and related skills, such as braiding, dyeing, and winding wool. It is never condescending to the reader, and introduces the correct weaving terminology so that progression to further weaving instruction should not cause any problem.

All in all, this is a wonderful introduction to the principles and possibilities of weaving. In fact, once you've seen the results of weaving on a cardboard loom, and realised the infinite sizing variations possible with a pipe loom, you'll realise this book gives you absolutely everything you need to get started!


Tapestry Weaving (Search Press Classics)
Tapestry Weaving (Search Press Classics)
by Kirsten Glasbrook
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to tapestry weaving, 14 July 2012
Although Tapestry Weaving by Nancy Harvey is widely considered to be the essential text on the subject, I find Glasbrook's text far more accessible and practical, especially for a complete novice. As well as all the basics (warping, preparing weft, transferring a design, removing from frame, finishing etc), Glasbrook gives simple instructions combined with very clear step by step photos for all the simple techniques required to create your own complex patterns and tapestry pictures.

Using a very basic frame loom, the techniques are taught through a series of projects, all very striking and vividly coloured. But if the style doesn't appeal to you, or you just don't want to learn through replication, the book is presented in such a way that it is very easy to extract the lesson to be learned from each section, simply by reading the text and examining the close-up photos of finished pieces and works in progress. Each piece is introduced with an explanation of the inspiration for design, as well as any other thoughts or intentions behind the structure and/or composition.

An additional gallery of larger scale works is included, each using the techniques developed throughout the book, and with notes outlining inspiration and other relevant details. What I found interesting, though, is the number of small scale pieces, reproduced in full size photographs, that show the versatility and detail it is possible to achieve without investing in huge, costly looms. A basic frame loom really is all you need to create your own works of art.

The Nancy Harvey is perhaps more in-depth and goes into greater detail; however Glasbrook's book is by far the best introduction to tapestry weaving, both easier to read and follow, as well as (for me) more stimulating in a creative sense. When you first start out, it's the only reference you'll need.


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