Cat Lady Embroidery: 380 Ways to Stitch a Cat

cat embroideryAnyone who knows me knows I’m bonkers about cats. My facebook feed is almost entirely devoted to cat pictures, which is so much more entertaining and uplifting than the news cycle. My friends also know that I love handcrafts like knitting sewing, beading and embroidery. Given these factors, it’s easy to understand why I jumped at the chance to review Cat Lady Embroidery: 380 Ways to Stitch a Cat by Applemints. It’s catnip for me.

Let’s start off with the cover. The kitty faces are adorable and are rendered in a nice looking satin stitch. This intrigued me. Most of the needlework books on the market in the past few years have featured cute designs, but limited the stitches to basics like the outline stitch and French knots. Beginner’s books are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but after a certain point, we all want to be challenged. After flipping through the book, I was pleased to see that a good variety of techniques were used and there were projects that would be suitable for both an absolute novice and someone with intermediate skills.

Of the 380 designs, there is an interesting variety of styles. Some of the designs lean toward realism and others lean toward cartoonish. Some have a modern vibe and others evoke a vintage mood. Some cats wear clothes like sailor suits, chefs’ hats, dirndls and leg warmers. Some designs tell stories, while others serve as graphical elements: feline alphabets, kitty corners and borders. Based on the cover, I wasn’t expecting such variety. It was a nice surprise.

cat characters

At the beginning of the book, you can flip through beautiful photos of the fully stitched motifs. Each one is numbered so you can flip to the back of the book where the line art and stitching suggestions are shown. I particularly liked how the number of strands of floss was indicated in the stitching guides and also how suggested colors were provided. If you can’t track down Olympus floss, which was used for the samples, there is a thread conversion chart for DMC, which is widely available in the US.

Toward the end of the book, you will find key information such as tools and materials, basic instructions, and an embroidery stitch guide. The information is well laid-out and clearly explained so even someone who has never picked up a needle and embroidery floss should be able to work their way through the process.

This is a charming book and would make a great gift for the crafty cat person in your life…or you could stitch up something lovely for your favorite ailurophile.

P.S. This shouldn’t be just for the ladies. Men can love cats and needlework too.

P.P.S.  I received a courtesy copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

Knitting Ganseys, Revised and Updated by Beth Brown-Reinsel

ganseys-frontBeth Brown-Reinsel’s book, Knitting Ganseys, has been a classic for 25 years. The first edition impressed knitters with the well-researched history of these garments worn by British and Scottish fishermen in the 19th century; the detailed analysis of the sweaters’ anatomy from decorative cast-on to underarm gusset and neckline variations; and clear instructions for knitting one of your own, either from a pattern or your own unique design.

One thing that many readers loved about the previous edition was the sampler sweater. That’s still a main feature of the book so you can practice the sometimes challenging techniques before embarking on knitting a full-sized sweater. You can also make your teddy bear the best dressed guy on the block.

Ms. Brown-Reisel has updated the book by adding more information to each section, sharing more historic photos and including more patterns. The styling and photos will appeal to modern readers too. Photos are in color, clear and show both the entire garment and important details.

 

The gansey tradition encompasses so many aspects of life: the practicality of clothing your family, the financial aspects of knitting for pay, the broader economic context of supporting fishing industry workers, the social history of knitters who relied on knitting for comfort and pleasure in the off hours after a hard day’s work. That era has passed, and yet, every day I teach I see aspects of this tradition continuing: the bonding between knitters and the creative passion to knit something warm and beautiful for oneself or a loved one.

~ Beth Brown-Reinsel, Knitting Ganseys, Revised & Updated

Both knitters and non-knitters might be fascinated by the history of these sweaters. Ms. Brown-Reisel is careful not to romanticize it. She notes that some of pictures of women knitting while waiting at the port for their husbands to come home might look charming, but they really show exploited people who were “desperate to increase inadequate and irregular incomes.”

While I have not tested out any of the instructions, they appear clear enough to me. Parts are written out using standard abbreviations. Patterns are clearly charted. If you’re not familiar with knitting from a chart, there is a page explaining how to do so. One of the things I like the best are the many, many charts for different patterning. Even if I didn’t want to knit a full-sized sweater, I could add these patterns to other projects like a hat or a cowl.

ganseys-backWhen I was first paging through this book, I wondered, what’s the difference between an aran sweater and a gansey? My question was clearly answered on page 41. The two styles are compared based on provenance, style, construction, gauge, spin of yarn, ply of yarn, color, surface design, special features and purpose.  One of the main differences was that arans feature complex cables while ganseys usually feature knit / purl patterns and a few simple cables.

In fact, any time a question popped into my mind, I only had to flip through a few more pages or skim through the index to find the answers I wanted. How to knit cables without a cable needle? Check. How to adjust fit? Check. How to do a channel-isle cast on? Check.

The complex design process was made as simple as humanly possible. There’s a sample schematic, tables of key measurements in both centimeters and inches, and a worksheet to record your notes in an organized fashion. It makes this process seem completely do-able to me, who usually prefers to knit from a commercial pattern.

In short, this is a fantastic knitting book. It’s an entirely worthy successor to the classic printed 25 years ago. It is going to be a great addition to my knitting library.

N.B. I received a courtesy copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review. The book is due out on July 31, 2018.

Blackbird by L.E. Harrison

Blackbird

Summary:

Ten years ago, Michael left an alternate world where a druid-like tribe worshiped the shape shifting god, Corvus. He sought asylum in Maine. During his exile, he developed a rare disease, which he believed could only be cured by returning home to seek out the magic of his people.

Alena is strongly attracted to Michael from the first moment she sets eyes upon him. Should she heed her instincts or comply with tribal rule, which would have her shun him?

 

What I Liked:

crow Originality

Blackbird puts an original spin on the werewolf/shapeshifter genre that has become so popular these days. In it, you will not find the typical pack full of buff men and lithe women who strut around in the nude all the time because of magically induced wardrobe malfunctions. There is no snarky heroine who is reluctantly brought into the fold. There are power struggles, but not between alphas and betas where fur flies and blood spills. Instead, there are back room deals and betrayals. There’s intimidation and manipulation. Magic is both part of religious worship and oppression.

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