Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The times, they are a-changin'

Conversation at lunch, during an extensive discussion of The Little Mermaid:

G: I like Prince Eric's dog.
Mommy: Oh yeah, the big hairy one. What's his name again?
G: I don't know. [looks downcast]
Mommy: Don't worry, hon, we can find out the dog's name.
G: [emoting] How, Mama, how? How can we find out his name?
N: I know how to find out his name. Google it.

My five-year-old son has grasped something that has eluded eighty percent of the adult members of any message board on the Internet.

God, I love my kids.

Next post: Blog Contest Winners

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm a little late (and maybe a little sappy?)

For all of those who've been discriminated against
Who have been bullied or teased by other kids
Who have to go to a different jurisdiction to marry the love of their life
Who have to keep their family and romantic life secret
Who are whispered about and speculated upon
Who are denied access to health care and deprived of legal decisionmaking for their partner
Who have been told they are going to hell
Who have been rejected by their or their partner's relatives or friends
Who have been stereotyped
Who have been the victim of violence and/or emotional abuse
Who have to adopt their own kids
Who've lost a job or an apartment or a church or a friend
Just because of who they are...

I'm sorry.
And I'm proud to be on your side.

Happy Gay Pride Weekend.

(Thanks to
Ted for the reminder.)

Friday, June 22, 2007

No-Bull Book Review: Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls, by Alison Jeppson Hyde

I hadn't heard that another lace shawls book was coming out until I saw a preview for Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls, by Alison Jeppson Hyde, while surfing the internet.

I will confess that I am not familiar with Hyde's work. Her blog is here but despite some Googling, I haven't found any specific information about her prior designs. (There are some free patterns on Hyde's blog/website, if you are interested.) Wrapped in Comfort is hot off the presses; it is a paperback, MSRP $24.95 (available at the time of this writing between $18 and $19 via the link), color, and approximately 80 pages. The book is published by Martingale Press.

I'll get straight to the point: this book contains 12 patterns for circular lace shawls and 4 patterns for rectangular lacy scarves.

All of the shawls are shaped as nearly full circles, with an opening for the head and a slit down the front for wrapping, like so:

(as opposed to the kind that are a true circle and draped or folded when worn). So if you don't care to knit circular lace shawls, be aware that's all you're going to find (with the exception of the four scarves) in this book.*

If you love circular shawls, then you'll definitely want to take a look. The shawls are done in yarns that range from sportweight to laceweight. Several of the patterns are done in an alpaca from a small northwestern alpaca farm and were dyed or overdyed by Hyde. If you like to use exactly the same kind and color of yarn as the sample, this will present a bit of a problem for you. Me, I think it is extremely easy to substitute yarns, particularly for a shawl where gauge and exact fit is less of a concern. There are many, many yarns from sport- to laceweight out there that are more easily obtainable and would be perfect for these patterns, but I mention this in case it's a nonstarter for some.

I will be honest and say that it's very difficult for me to make more specific comments about the designs; yes, there is a repetitiveness to the fact that they are all shaped exactly the same way, but on the other hand, it's the nature of a very specific type of garment. I don't feel like I have the extensive laceknitting experience needed to accurately comment about, for example, whether an average knitter will find these challenging or easy, or whether a die-hard laceknitter will find these original or not. I recognized one variant of Feather and Fan, and some other stitch patterns from Barbara Walker's treasuries (and don't worry, intellectual property-heads; they were attributed in the book). Maybe some of my esteemed readers can help me out if they become familiar with the specific patterns.

One of the other significant things about this book is its very anecdotal nature -- folksy, one might say. The book begins with a page titled "My Story," containing autobiographical information in a chatty, personal style. Each pattern is preceded by a full-page explanation of how the item was inspired, for whom it was knit, and why. So here's your second caveat: if you like folksy, conversational books with lots of personal anecdotes about the designer's inspiration and loved ones, you'll find a lot to enjoy. If you don't, it's easy enough to skip those pages, focusing on the patterns.

Finally, it's also worth mentioning that the book features a brief tips section for laceknitting, discussing blocking, shape, diagramming yarnovers and decreases, and a paragraph or two on designing one's own circular shawls.

Wrapped in Comfort
is typical of Martingale books: full color, paperback binding, lots of charts, clear printing, styling and models that seem more girl-next-door than fashion model. The sensibility isn't as contemporary or urban as, say, Teva Durham's recent book. There are lots of color photos, including an overview of each shawl, blocked and spread out so you can see the overall effect of the lace; there are also inset photos that show close-ups of the pattern stitches. Kudos for both of those thoughtful touches. Each design is given in both chart and written-out form, also a thoughtful touch so that no matter which you prefer, conversion is unnecessary. The patterns are also graded by skill level to help the knitter choose and joy of joys! because they are shawls, sizing is not necessary (although Hyde does suggest that a shawl's size can be increased by using thicker yarn).

You might complain that a MSRP of twenty-five bucks is a bit steep for only 16 designs and eighty pages, but considering the amount of work involved in the design and knitting process, I think that would be ungracious. These are time-intensive to design, knit and proofread, and so I don't think the price is at all unreasonable.

All in all, a tentative thumbs-up for Wrapped in Comfort: A thumbs-up because these are technically challenging or interesting patterns; they were labor-intensive to design and knit; and the author has created lovely lacy works, eschewing the fast and easy; tentative only because the appeal of the book largely depends on how you feel about circular lace shawls, and whether you'll like these particular ones.

*Given the small number of scarves, and their relative lack of complexity, I wouldn't suggest buying the book for the scarves alone.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New knitting friends -- and some helpful hints (one knitting, one not)

I have never really belonged to a knitting group. Mostly because my commitments -- first a time-intensive job, then labor-intensive kids -- have made it hard for me to consistently attend. And I love the folks at Rosie's knitting circle, but just can't get into the city by 6 p.m. on a weeknight to go there on a regular basis.

So when Liz asked me to come to the knitting group founded by the inimitable Anne Marie in Philly, I was excited. Now, those of you who don't know me, and even some of you who do, may be surprised to know I have a teeny touch of social phobia. [stop the snickering] I find myself a bit nervous meeting a group of new people, self-conscious, and all that. What made meeting this group such a pleasure was that I immediately felt very comfortable and at home with them. This is my shout-out to them, thanking y'all for welcoming me to your group. I hope it will become "our" group soon...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

The projects that I'm working on right now -- one knitting, one home -- have inspired me to share with you two helpful hints. The first is knitting-related: blocking is a gift from the gods. Many of you already know this, but if there are any new knitters out there, trust me on this one: you need to block your stuff. There are many tutorials and how-tos both on-line and in the knitting literature (Mar's Blocking for Blockheads is my fave) so I won't waste time telling you how. But every time I block, it's like another little miracle. I am blocking some sweater pieces and assembling them, and the before and after is amazing. I recently obtained a set of blocking wires, which I had been procrastinating about getting, and they are a huge help. Put them on your knitter's Christmas (Hannukah, Eid, Winter Solstice) wish list. And block, dammit!

My non-knitting helpful hint involves stripping wallpaper. Yes, it's a wretched job, isn't it? We are converting what used to be the twins' shared bedroom into one for N. and the one next door for G. The wallpaper is suitable for babies but not kids who proudly tell you that they are not merely five, but five and a half. Having steamed many, many walls of wallpaper -- when we bought it, our house had been untouched since the Nixon administration -- I have discovered the best way to steam wallpaper is to get a cheap warm-mist vaporizer (less than ten bucks at Target) and direct the flow of the steam onto the paper. You have to move it around the room slowly, and elevate it on boxes to get the steam up high, but after about 20 minutes of steam you'll be able to peel the wallpaper right off, with most of the glue. It's better than trying to razor it off, it's better than those gel or liquid glue removers, it's better than painting over it and it isn't as messy. And it's not stinky or chemical-y.

Now I'm off to sneak a whole bunch of outgrown toys to the twins' nursery school for a donation. Nothing more excellent than getting rid of stuff you don't need on the first day of summer. (Or winter, if you're M-H.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Add another project to the queue

I got invited to a baby shower yesterday. Normally, I love the idea of a new baby in the world -- it's a vote for the future, as T.'s dad often says -- but this baby is, sadly, being born under a bit of a shadow. The father (putative father?) is a good-hearted soul but one of those excessively unmotivated people. The mother is, um, well, let's just say that she is not what you dream of for your son's baby-mommy. The baby wasn't planned.

In fact, this whole thing would be a perfect scenario for a How I Really Feel card: [cover with baby rattle] Congratulations on your new baby! [Inside] Mind giving the infant a paternity test? or [cover with baby basinette] Wishing you well on the birth of your son! [inside] In his honor, I have bought fifty shares in the Trojan corporation. or [cover with baby bottle] A new baby! [inside] Now will you get your tubes tied?

Looking at the bright side, this does present a wee baby to knit for. And my heart aches for this baby, being brought into a world that is already fucked up, to one parent who doesn't particularly want a baby and another who looks at the baby as a way to prevent her boyfriend from dumping her. Babies deserve to be born into families that want them for their own sake, into a stable and loving environment.

So I've really got to knit this kid something.

This presents a bit of a dilemma, given that the shower is in a couple of weeks and I'm cutting it really close as it is for my June 30th deadlines. It's gotta be something quick -- really quick -- yet cute, and it's gotta be in Encore.

Just keep your fingers crossed I don't throw a pack of baby-blue-colored condoms into the Wishing Well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A message for my kids

Dear Kids:

Today is Father's Day and so I am going to tell you a little bit about your dad. You may think you know all about him, but you don't, not really. You probably don't realize yet what a wonderful father he is, but I hope you will someday. I don't have a great relationship with my dad: he has a lot of problems that he's never worked out and it stopped him from being the best dad he could be. It makes me more happy than you can understand to know that you are experiencing a completely different kind of fatherhood than I did.

Before Daddy and I got married, I wasn't even sure I wanted to have kids. I didn't know how I was going to combine having kids and being a lawyer, and I wasn't sure I would be able to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. Daddy and I talked about it, and he said, "Of course we have to have kids. What else is there?" And he said, "You'll be a great mom. Anybody who loves their cat as much as you do can't help but be a great mom." His complete certainty and confidence about it helped me work through my doubts.

You probably have heard me talk about hard it was for me to get pregnant. Daddy and I went to the doctor a lot to find out if they could help us. Daddy never complained, even when they did icky tests and took blood. He went with me when I had icky tests and had to give blood. And when we went through the second round of tests after J. was born, he would make sure he was around to take J. to school or pick him up, even though he has a demanding job, in order to make sure I didn't have to worry about it. Once again, when I had doubts and wondered if things would ever work out, Daddy's quiet confidence made me feel better.

And now you are here. You don't realize it yet, but your dad is an amazing father. He was there when you were born and even when the doctors took ultrasound pictures of you before you were born. He has changed your diapers, cleaned up your puke, fed you, hugged you, read to you, and regularly gets down on the floor to play with you. He plays pretend games with stuffed animals and talks in a high squeaky voice to make you laugh. He teaches you things, like letters and how to pet the bunny gently, and yells at you when you do stuff wrong to make you a better person. He believes you can do anything in the world you want to. He goes to your Little League games and your school conferences. He insists on having holidays at our house so we can make them happy, stress-free times. He nags you to brush your teeth and wash your face so you don't have cavities and zits. He works long hours at a job that doesn't thrill him sometimes, so you can live in a nice house and go to a good school and have all things you need and most of the things you want. Sometimes he comes home from work in time to have dinner with us, only to go upstairs and work into the wee hours at night, because he'd rather work upstairs after you're asleep than stay late at the office and miss putting you to bed each night. He doesn't complain (much) about how little sleep he gets, or how little time to himself he gets, or how we don't travel very often, or how he can't buy expensive stuff for himself the way he used to.

Today is Father's Day, and I wanted to try to make you understand how special a dad you have. I hope when you get older you will be able to, and I hope when you get older you will be parents that are as kind, attentive, gentle and there (physically and emotionally) as your dad is. So let him sleep in today. Give him extra hugs and kisses and tell him you love him.

Because he's one in a million gazillion.

Friday, June 15, 2007

My new time-sucking vampire

Have you discovered Ravelry yet? It's a website currently in beta testing designed for and by knitters. If you've ever thought "God, I really need to figure out what's in my stash" or tried to set up a database to list projects you want to try, Ravelry is amazing. You start a "notebook," with separate sections for keeping track of projects (you can designate them works in progress or finished, and post photographs of them), organizing stash (how many skeins, a photo, notes) and a "queue" for listing project ideas, whether patterns or yarns. You can also surf other people's notebooks to see what they are making and thinking about making. Right now, the website is by invitation only, so you have to email the makers and ask to be put on the list for an invite. This looks to be a very promising addition to the on-line knitting community if you are computer-savvy and/or like the inspiration of looking at other folks' work. My user name is "Black Bunny," in case you want to marvel at my stash. (Only a portion of which is on there.)

In the meantime, I have been flooded with entries for the How I Really Feel contest. So many good ones, in fact, that it's going to be hard to decide. I'm going to have to give a variety of awards to reflect the variety and quality of responses.

Next Etsy update is Monday, around 12:30 in the afternoon. Sock yarns, of course, and roving for the spinners, along with a new yarn that I'm trying out.

Only three batches until I see if it sells and what the reaction is.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The death of shame, or a meditation upon Paris Hilton, Alberto Gonzalez and various others

When I was little, my grandmother used to respond to anything that was off-color on the teevee (e.g., a boob joke on Hee-Haw) by saying "They have no shame." I didn't really get what she meant until I was much older. Today I mourn the death of shame.

When I use the word "shame," I am not talking about feeling guilty or embarrassed about things beyond one's control (such as appearance, or background, or having experienced abuse, say). I am instead referring to "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety." [Merriam-Webster's definition] Shame requires first, an awareness that one has done something wrong or improper; then an appreciation that the shameful act was within the person's control; and that the person experiencing shame feels sorrow over that, knows s/he can or should do better, and (one hopes) resolves not to repeat the same mistake in the future.

Where has all the shame gone?

This notion is fresh in my mind because this morning, I read that Paris Hilton's father is planning a huge party to celebrate her release from jail. Where I come from, having your kid go to jail -- no matter what the charge -- is not something to brag about, and certainly is not a reason to throw a party (even if the kid is going to be paroled). Going to jail was regarded as a sign to parents that something went wrong, and maybe that something had to do with the way the kid was raised. Maybe; everyone has free will and so it could just be the kid screwed up notwithstanding a respectable upbringing, but I think the crucial point is that the parents at least considered the possibility that they had missed something or screwed up. They didn't laugh it off or plan an expensive party. Instead, they were ashamed.

I don't want to sound like the crusty old man who blathers on about walking to school ten miles each way in the snow -- without shoes. ("And we liked it that way!") Nor do I want to sound like the hypocritical right-wing zealots that I loathe. But lately it seems to me that no one has any shame any more, and that this isn't a good development for our society. Consider:
  • Man is diagnosed with virulent TB, and is cautioned against traveling, but ignores public health concerns and flies all over the world, subjecting hundreds (including his closest friends and family) to potential infection with a drug-resistant strain of TB. No shame.
  • Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez nearly faces a Senate no-confidence vote after a humiliating performance testifying before Congress in which he basically demonstrates that he is either lying through his teeth or so inept and forgetful he can't remember an important decision from a year ago. He is unashamed, nay, indignant.
  • Teen and young adult girls flash their breasts for TV cameras in exchange for a T-shirt, knowing that DVDs of their nekkid titties will be sold and whacked off to by men all over the country. Not merely a lack of shame, but a lack of self-respect.
  • Man serves wife with divorce papers when she lies in hospital fighting cancer. He calls up second wife on the phone and tells her he wants a divorce because he is having an affair with an aide 23 years his junior. Shame? Nope; he is running for president on the "family values" platform.
I'm not advocating widespread guilt, people beating themselves up endlessly over mistakes. But it would be nice if, once in a while, people would look at what they've done in the past and instead of dismissing it or justifying it, just admitted that it was wrong or stupid, and felt some shame.

Because, as Pascal once said, "the only shame is to have none."

Monday, June 11, 2007

The most exciting thing I did this weekend

was extract this king-sized hairball from the exhaust pipe to our clothes dryer. Pay no attention to the paint stirrer, or the unopened container of paint that is supposed to cover the bathroom walls. (I think it needs to ripen a little more; three years isn't nearly enough.) The dryer is working really, really well now.

Now off to mull over the bizarro ending to The Sopranos. If only I weren't still humming "Don't Stop Believin'." (And if I see another stupid teevee critic describe it as "the ultimate power ballad of the 1980s," I will scream.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Blog Contest

I've never had a full-fledged, official Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat Blog Contest before, so here goes.

A long time ago, I came up with this great idea for a brand-new line of greeting cards. The line is called "How I Really Feel" TM and instead of sappy poems that sound like "Duh DA duh da DAH dah, duh DA duh da DAH" they feature pithy messages for real-world relationships. My idea was born out of frustration when shopping for greeting cards for certain, er., difficult family members. I hated buying them cards with inapt sentimental messages that made me feel like a hypocrite. On Father's Day, for example, I was faced with rack upon rack of cards saying "You're the best dad ever!" and "You're more than my pop, you're my best friend!" [gag] What I was really looking for was something like this:

[front of card featuring mallard flying over pond] "Happy Father's Day to my favorite abusive alcoholic!"
[inside of card] "You always sucked as a dad, but you are the only one I'll ever have."

My idea caught on (in my twisted little mind) like wildfire. MIL's birthday?

[front of card featuring pretty vase of flowers] "Even though you threatened to call Child Protective Services on me for no reason when my first child was an infant, I'm still wishing you a happy birthday!
[inside] Because if nothing else, you gave birth to my dear husband."

And for that special sister-in-law:

[front of card with balloons and confetti] "Congrats on your 1000th day without another psychotic break!"
[inside] "You do realize, however, that you'd be much better off if you didn't discontinue the meds against doctor's orders?"

Your mission is clear: email me (at goknitinyourhat [A%T]att[D*OT]net -- you know to take out the extra symbols, right?) with your proposed additions to the "How I Really Feel" TM line, including your email address. I will select one grand winner and a couple of honorable mentions. There will be prizes: for the knitters, some BBF yarn or a good knitting book (I have some extra copies of stuff I got from TNNA last year), and for the non-knitters, erm, I'll think of something. Chocolate, maybe.

Deadline is June 25th at midnight. Only submissions that do NOT appear in the comments will be considered. And when you email me your submission, you agree that I can reproduce it on this blog should I deem it clever enough. There is no limit to the number you can send in, so long as they are original and funny.

Go to it, wags!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

May Book Report

1. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham. The disheartening story of Ron Williamson, a man wrongfully convicted of murder, who spent years on death row before being vindicated by DNA evidence. Everything about this story is depressing: the behavior of the police and prosecutors, the fact that the real killer went free for so long, the suffering and death of the victim, Williamson's narcissism, alcoholism and untreated mental illness, and so on. I'm not a big fan of Grisham. This book tells a compelling story but isn't exceptionally written and could have used a couple more edits. In particular, Grisham included a lot of information about a different crime and different defendants wrongfully accused, and this was confusing and extraneous.

2. Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story by Ann Kerschner, is the author's investigation into her mother's experiences in a forced-labor camp run by the Nazis. Kerschner didn't know much about her mother's experiences until shortly before her mother had surgery and turned over a box of memoribilia to Kerschner. Kerschner found over 300 precious letters that her mother had sent and received during the war, carefully hidden from her captors (discovery of such keepsakes could have been a death sentence) and saved through the years. Moving.

3. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankel, a mystery featuring a Swedish cop named Kurt Wallender. It always amazes me when a book that has been translated into English retains so much of its power. If you like Ian Rankin, you might want to give this one a try.

4. While perusing the Scandinavian mystery genre, I happened upon Karin Fossum, and read Don't Look Back, part of a series featuring Inspector Sejer. Also a good mystery, similar in style and tone to Faceless Killers. Mysteries are my escapist reading.

Feel free to post in the comments books you highly recommend. I'm always looking for good stuff to read.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday catch-up

Etsy Update

is live.

Go get 'em.

A nice little find

On Saturday morning, after an exciting Little League game, the Indifferent Outfielder and I went to our local library. Unbeknownst to us, it was the day of the semi-annual Book Sale.

Now, sending me to a library book sale is dangerous, certain to necessitate at least one trip to a MAC machine. I tried to exercise great restraint, and looked mostly for the kids. I scored with some princess-themed Little Golden Books and some transportation stuff for the twins. Elvis the Eldest found some back issues of National Geographic Kids (shut up, he is NOT a nerd) at ten cents an issue. My only personal score was this:

Isn't it the coolest? It's from the 1930s, according to the copyright page. The introduction immediately won my heart by stating:

Beauty in construction and originality are equally essential factors, and there is no more adaptable craft than hand-knitting for the introduction and display of these qualities.

Unfortunately, far too many knitters rely upon stereotyped directions and designs, and copy slavishly these printed directions. As there is so much difference between the work of one knitter and another, two garments knitted to the same instructions seldom come out to the same size. These stereotyped instructions, given in knitting books, do not always work out to the required measurements, and, what is more, leave no scope for originality.

[It is the author's aim to] enabl[e] all hand-knitters to make jumpers, cardigans, babies' woollies, etc., to their own measurements , and to their own designs, thereby converting the monotonous and parrot-wise method of knitting into a really creative art.
Peonies courtesy of my yard.

[Please don't send me nasty-grams telling me how you knit as a hobby and to relax and so you don't care if you ever design your own patterns. I understand that is true for many people. But even if you never design your own garment, learning about fit and how to tweak garments to the measurements of the individual who is going to wear it is a wonderful skill and will make your knitting less frustrating, and therefore, even more relaxing.]

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...