Friday, June 01, 2007

No-Bull Book Review: Loop-d-Loop Crochet, by Teva Durham

My employer did not ask me to come to TNNA this year, so instead, I will provide you with a new book review: Teva Durham's latest design offering, devoted entirely to crochet.

Let me start with two disclaimers*: first, I have met Teva Durham (I took a knitting workshop from her a few years back) and quite liked her. Second, my knowledge of crochet is rudimentary. Okay, now that I've 'fessed up, let's take a look at Loop-d-Loop Crochet: More than 25 Novel Designs for Crocheters (and Knitters Taking Up the Hook), the brand-spankin' new book by Ms. Durham (Stewart Tabori & Chang; MSRP $27.50).

I really liked the very personal introduction to the book. Durham begins by quoting the many reviewers who used that old "not your grandma's knitting book" chestnut in reviewing her first book, Loop-d-Loop, then debunks the idea that her style is somehow unrelated to the beautiful work her grandmothers did. She also frankly discusses her own preconceived notions about crochet, i.e. that it is the "ugly stepsister" of knitting, and tells how she came to change her mind. But the meat of the book is found in the patterns.

The book is divided into five sections based on the type of crochet stitches used. Each chapter contains a paragraph or two in which Durham describes the design, discusses the inspiration for it, and so on -- an interesting quick peek at some of the creative process. Durham uses a variety of yarns: different weights, different fibers, different textures, including some yarns one might not automatically think of for crochet (linen -- ouch!), and yarns from smaller producers. Sizing is generous, and includes larger sizes of forty-some inches in many cases. I also like the way each pattern contains notes in the beginning describing the method of construction (i.e., "this jacket is knit from the top down") and providing good tips (such as observations on the nature of the yarn and how to best work with it).

The first chapter deals with the most straightforward crochet stitches: Single, Half Double, Triple, and Double Triple (Durham uses the American shorthand for stitches instead of the British). There are five patterns in this section: a belt, boots with fabric soles, a skirt (all for women; the skirt is also sized for girls); a bolero jacket for girls, and a unisex set of tunics for adults and kids.

The second section is devoted to net, mesh and filet stitches, and includes a two-color capelet (cool, innit?),

a mesh dress, lovely gloves, a boatneck top and a skirt, all for adult women.

The third section looks at lacy and pineapple stitches, and features a blouse (one of my favorites, shown below),

purse, top, socks and (of all things) hammock with a pineapple motif (beautifully executed, if not the kind of thing I personally am likely to make).

The fourth section covers spikes, clusters, bobbles and puff stitches, and contains a pullover/wrap, a cape and two sweater/jackets.

The last section is called "Semi-Irish, Freeformish, Granny Style," and contains a pattern for a purse, toy, cardigan and hat combo, a shawl and a long sweater-coat. Take a look at this striking design, evocative of the sweep of a mermaid's tail:

Now I'm never going to wear that to the bus stop, but holy crap, it's a great design.

You can probably tell already that, overall, these patterns are creative and fashion-forward. (Damask boots, anyone?)

Many are constructed in a non-linear way, for example, the girl's bolero that is developed as a series of concentric circles that form the back. Many of the designs feature lacy patterns and/or mesh-like stitches; these are predominantly layering pieces, unless you like showing a whole lot of skin -- or your underpants. The curving lines and body-hugging silhouettes evoke a lush, feminine feel, and indeed, the vast majority of the garments are for adult women.

The book is hardcover, about 144 pages, with color photography throughout and high-quality paper and production values. Like its knitting-related predecessor, Loop-d-Loop Crochet contains lush photography by Adrian Buckminster and the book is filled with photographs. Kudos to the publisher for including not only the usual waifish white chicks, but also women of color, plus-size women and women who have already said good-bye to their mid-twenties. It's nice to see some diversity in the model population.

This is not a how-to-crochet book, and I give Durham and her publisher credit for ditching the twenty pages of basic instruction for more designs.

I found this to be a beautiful and inspirational book, yet another badly-needed addition to the crochet pattern oeuvre featuring contemporary and fresh designs (think Interweave Crochet rather than Crochet Fantasy). For me personally, I'm not sure how many of the garments I would be tempted to make but I think this is more a reflection on my own personal style -- which tends to the more traditional -- than anything about the patterns. If you prefer more traditional, classic, conventional fashion, or are looking for conservative designs to, say, wear to the office, then this may not be your cup of tea: not a value judgment, just an observation. But this is a beautiful book, with fresh design ideas and a lovely sensibility. If like me, you keep meaning to practice your crochet, then this book will tempt you to get out that dusty hook. If you are already a proficient crocheter, you will find much to inspire you.

*Do you laugh at my feeble attempts to maintain some sort of "journalistic" integrity?

Next Etsy update

will be Monday, June 5th in the morning. More sock yarns, including merino/silk, in (mostly) bright colors inspired by the summer-like weather Pennsylvania's been having...


Anonymous said...

I was just going to ask if your friend Kathy Merrick is working on a book of crochet designs--and here you are with this review. It's not Kathy, but it is crochet. Looks lovely. See ya Monday at the BBF Etsy shop. I'm hoping to snag more of that merino/silk.
Donna in Montana

Anonymous said...

I used to crochet tablecloths with thread and steel hooks...just to see if I could do it. So the pineapple motif, I'm not so sure I'd want to put it on my makes me think too much of doilies.

However, that bus-stop baby...WOW. I don't always look at Teva Durham's designs with the thought of actually wearing them, but her shaping sensibility knocks me out. I just love looking at her stuff, even if I'm not cool enough to wear it.

mindy said...

Once again, a very thorough, well thought out review- thanks. Sounds like a wonderful flip-through-the-photos-over-coffee type of book that will probably soon have me doing more than just edgings.

Ooooh, I love updates...

Anonymous said...

Apparently this book goes part of the way toward providing attractive patterns for crocheted garments. IMO, crochet still is most appropriate for afghans and fine lace, but I'll buy the book now that I've read your review.

I'm still blown away by the beautiful BBF sock yarn that arrived yesterday--"Treasure Chest" and "Easter Eggs". Your color sense and dyeing skills are awesome.

Faith said...

As always, I love your reviews! You save me a trip to Borders (Amazon has better prices anyway!). Thanks!

Mona Schmidt said...

No matter how good the review, you won't get me to crochet a sock. Not even with your yarn.

Lisa said...

I completely agree with your review of Teva's new book. I, too, love the long coat. just wish I could wear it!

Liz K. said...

I still can't believe we sat in the Teva Durham class together two years ago and didn't meet until now. Oh, the wasted time.

Julia (MindofWinter) said...

Thanks for the great review! I've been waiting for this to come out and now I'm even more interested.

Shelly said...

Thanks very much for this review. I have the book on reserve at the library, it seems like forever. I usually look at books at the library first, then go out and buy them. I really do wish there were better patterns for crochet, Interweave Crochet is a good step.

Anonymous said...

I happen to be a journalist and book reviewer and I must say that as far as 'journalistic integrity' goes, you've done a smegging amazing job. Your review is thorough, well laid out, includes actual pictures (thankyouthankyou) and imminently readable. You SHOULD be proud!
I was looking for an honest review of this book before purchasing it myself and you more than fulfilled my expectations. And now I've found another wonderful knitting/crafty blog. Yay!
Thanks so much and have a wonderful 2008.

Anonymous said...

Nice book! I need to add it to my favorite books for women list!

Sorka said...

ooooh I think I will have to add this one to my library!! I just started crochet and despite my reservations.. I took to it like a duck to water.. and being a die hard Teva Durham fan.(I just won the design a hat contest for her yarn line!) and having found myself with $200 to spend on Loop d Loop products I think this will have to go on my shopping list!
Thanks for the review!