Category Archives: Book Reports

Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters, mystery writer and creator of the indomitable Amelia Peabody, has passed away.  I have read every one of the books in that series several times, as well as a number of titles under her other pseudonyms. A description from the Washington Post of her 85th birthday party last year makes me certain that she was as much of a character as the ones she wrote about.  I am sad that I won’t have any more of her books to look forward to.

Embroidery, &Stitches and more

The latest issue of &Stitches zine is available and I am a contributor! This issue is all about books: embroidery books themselves, book themed patterns, fun contributors (like Aimee Ray and Cate Anevski) and a couple of tutorials for some really neat stitches (Turkey stitch).  It’s a fantastic issue once again.

My project & article is all about teaching embroidery to kids.  I picked one of my favorite projects, “Poetry Pockets” that we have done with several groups of 1st and 2nd graders at the Textile Center and gave some tips for ways to teach embroidery to kids, like picking the right needle and thread.

Threading needles is always the biggest hurdle in teaching kids (or adults) to embroider, so I have a bonus tip for you, which I always show in my beginning embroidery classes: Making your Own Needle Threader.

You can get “needle threaders”, which look like a little bit of metal with a wire loop on the end.  You pass the loop through the eye of the needle, put the thread through the wire loop and them pull it back so the thread goes through the eye.  Great idea, but I can tell you from experience that if you put one of these in the hands of an 8 year old boy it will last about 13.5 seconds before it is completely mangled.

However, you can make your own needle threader for large-eyed needles (embroidery or chenille) out of a tiny slip of paper.  Just cut a piece of scrap paper about 2 inches by 3/16 inches.  Fold it in half.  Lay your thread end in the fold.  Now push the fold of the paper through the eye of the needle.  Easy! (And you can make more when they get mangled.)

Book Review: Write, Publish & Sell Your Crafty Ebook

A while back, I took a class about writing crafty e-books from the lovely Diane Gilleland at  She decided to take all of the information (and more) from the class and turn it into a book.  So, it’s literally an e-book about writing crafty e-books.

What’s an e-book, you say?  In this case it is a .pdf file that makes an 84 page book, with photos and links and more.  Since I had taken the class and chatted with Diane a few times about other geeky things, she asked if I would review the book.  Absolutely!


So, I really liked the e-book publishing class, but I think the book, Write, Publish & Sell Your Crafty E-Book, is even better. The book format appeals more to me because it is so self directed.  I can read, highlight and make notes on the .pdf and have Google open in another window to check things out. I can print it out if I want to.  I can skip ahead or back when I feel like it.  It was also great to see concepts in practice – for example, I could see right away what she was talking about with clickable chapter links or the copyright on the bottom of the page because I had an e-book right in front of me with those very features.


Diane has divided the book up into 4 chapters, which are roughly: Things to Think about, How To Make It, How to Get it to Customers, How to Market it.  You get a sense of Diane’s personality throughout –  friendly with a little humor but professional at the same time – which makes it a really easy read.  I also appreciate that she shares a lot of “things she has figured out the hard way”, real examples to illustrate topics she is talking about and why she makes certain recommendations.


Chapter One has a lot of really great tips to get you thinking about your own e-book project and making a plan.  She encourages you to think in very specific ways about the audience for your book throughout the process.  As crafty people/artists I think it is easy for us to get caught up in the “fun of creating” and forget about everyone else.

Chapter Two is probably my favorite section of the book.  This is the “how to make it” part and is a really thorough list of not only all the parts of your book you should think about, but some basics of design as well.  The beautiful part of this section is that a lot of the design suggestions and concepts could really be applied to all kinds of things you might self publish – single patterns, artist statements, exhibition postcards, class handouts.  Making a really appealing and professional looking publication is a great skill to learn.

Chapter Three and Four are the technical “delivering it to customers” section and marketing.  This is in some ways the most intimidating part of the publishing your own book process, but I think these two chapters are a good foundation with plenty of examples to help you “get it”.  They are also packed with resources (e-books can have live weblinks!) to other places (articles, podcasts) where she has covered a certain concept or topic in more depth.


I am teaching a mini-class on publishing .pdf patterns for a group of the International Old Lace Society in August and I plan to have Diane’s book on my Recommended Reading list.  (I am going to read it myself a couple more times before then.)


Book Review & Give Away: Knit Your Own Cat

The title just makes you smile, doesn’t it?  The lovely people at Black Dog & Leventhal publishers asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the brand new “Knit Your Own Cat” book.  Who can resist a request like that, when it makes you smile?

I have to say first that I love cats, but I wouldn’t consider myself a cat person.  These cats are pretty charming.  The book has 16 different cats – sleeping, sitting, prowling and standing.  There are complete instructions for each one, a small techniques section in the back of the book and several photos of each finished cat.

I decided that the best way to get to know the book was to knit a kitty myself.  I picked the “British Shorthair Curled Up” on page 53.  This was actually my Superbowl knitting project and the girls at the party agreed that the curled up sleepy kitties were the cutest ones.

I didn’t have exactly the yarn called for, but I did have a similar worsted (Patons Classic Wool) in a variegated grey.  I couldn’t find my size 2 needles so I used size 3’s instead.  Other than that I followed directions!

This is Bernadette.

What I liked:

  • Directions were easy to follow, once I got the hang of the abbreviations.
  • The small size.  This went together in about 2 hours.
  • The stitch counts at the end of the row.  This is so helpful when you are doing something different every row to be able to count and see that you are in the right place.  Also nice when you put it down to cheer for your team and then can’t remember what row you were on.
  • I can see how these would be really easy to personalize to make it look like your own cat.  So cute.
  • If I had used smaller needles to get a tighter gauge, this could have easily made a cute toy for one of my nieces.

Things I wondered about:

  • The materials list said I needed straight needles and DPNs.  I did the whole thing on 2 DPN’s no problem.
  • In the short row sections, the stitch count at the end of the row only counted the “after the wrap” stitches and not all the stitches on my needle.  I figured it out, but it was confusing when sometimes it was the full stitch count and sometimes not.

Things that made me grumble:

  • I have made a bunch of knitted stuffed toys and I wish patterns would say things like “You are starting at the nose.”  Sometimes when you get a piece all knit up, you have no idea which end is which or what edge you are supposed to sew to another.  What is obvious to the designer is not always obvious to the hapless knitter.
  • The photos were not very helpful with assembling the kitty.  Wish there were a few clearer details to help with placing parts.  I unstitched several times before I got everything right.
  • The eyes.  I think the embroidered buggy eyes on some of the kitties were just creepy.  I think they would be cuter with little black button eyes or something simple.  (But that’s just my opinion.)

Overall, I think this is a really fun, quirky book.  I think you need a little experience in making stuffed toys, especially when it comes to tweaking and shaping your finished kitty.  (Mine has some extra gathering stitches in several places to help pull some bits in to shape.)  There are lots of options and the colorwork on the Bengal and Tabby are beautiful!  The designers use yarns and yarn combinations very cleverly to create all the different textures.


Are you totally intrigued?  Do you want your very own knitted cat?  You are in luck!  The publishers have very kindly given me a copy to give away to one of my readersJust leave a comment on this post and tell me the name of your own kitty (or your best friend’s cat or just a cat name that you think is awesome.  I have a friend who has a cat named Phyllis.  Phyllis is an awesome cat name.)  On February 20, I will draw a winner at random and send you a copy of the book!

Please also check out the rest of the blog tour “stops” to see what other bloggers have to say:


Review: &Stitches

I just learned about a new e-zine all about embroidery that launched just in the last week or so.  It’s called &Stitches.  I am not really up on all of the embroidery blogs (I am not sure why not!), so I am glad I heard about this!

The blurb on the &Stitches website says:

This issue (the first one!) is all about colour! How to find colour inspiration for your stitchy projects, a bit of colour theory and of course we have patterns too. One pattern is by our guest contributor and first interview-ee, Corinne McHie of SeptemberHouse.

We also asked a few other stitchers where they find their colour inspiration and we also manged to fit in a couple of book reviews.

&Stitches is written by Carina Envoldsen-Harris (Polka & Bloom) and Nicole Vos van Avezathe (Follow the White Bunny), both avid stitchers and embroidery pattern designers.

I was intrigued and so I bought a copy.  (You download it as a .pdf.  Super handy. )

The verdict:  It is beautiful!  The color theory article is worth the price alone.  I know color theory pretty well, but trying to explain to other people is sometimes a challenge and this is a really visual guide.  I am going to add a link to this “Colour” issue to some of my class handouts as a reference.  I also learned a new embroidery stitch that I didn’t know and I really like Corinne’s fishes pattern (but you know I am pretty fond of fish).  I am really looking forward to future issues.

Fabric by Fabric Review – Part Two

I am participating in a blog tour of the book Fabric by Fabric One Yard Wonders. I talked about my projects a few days ago, now it is time to talk about some of my favorite projects in the book.

This book is divided by kind of fabric, so there is a section for flannel, wool, home dec etc. So I want to go through fabric by fabric.

Lightweight Cottons

Must make this Cap Sleeve Bolero (p 28, Rebecca Yaker). Saw it in person at the book launch party and it is adorable. I have a very lightweight piece of honey colored wool that I think would be gorgeous.

Quilting Weight Cottons


This one is actually my husband’s pick. He went with me to the book launch party, saw this and said “Wow, could you make me a garment bag for my tuxedo?” He is a musician, so he wears the tux a lot. Done. It is on my list. (page 78, Lisa Cox)

Home Dec Fabrics


I think the Fold Over Bag is pretty charming. I teach summer camps for teens and this one looks like pretty easy sewing for a cute result. They love oversized slouchy bags and I think this fits the bill. (p 141, Anna Graham)


The Lion with the Flower Petal Mane. Sigh. So adorable. It’s actually called “Liberty Lion & Blankie” on page 193. I think my niece might get one of these for her birthday. (p 193, Sarah Faix)

Woven Pile Fabrics (Velvet & Corduroy)

Pretty sure this will be the first thing I make out of the book. Love that it is a skirt with pockets! So very practical. I have some brown wool tweed that I think will be set aside for this one, although corduroy would be lovely too. A-Line Skirt with Saddle Stitching. (p 229, Lorraine Teigland)

Coated Fabrics

This one just made me smile. Kites do that. This might also be a contender for our summer camp kids – I can see the boys loving this one. And while you are not flying it, a kite makes cute room decoration. We have a huge dragon kite over our desks at work. (p 279, Rachel Theis)



Two words. Bunny Pillow. (page 313, Marlene Gaige). Awesome.



I think it has to be the Cheeky Panty & Cami Set. They are cute and who doesn’t love cute panties? (p 323, Sarah Seitz)  Sorry that photo turned out sort of dark.  They are cute!


Wool is the section that both of my patterns are in, so you know what my favorite is there.


If you are interested in reading what many of the other contributors have to say, you can continue the blog book tour here:

12/13/2011 Craft Buds

12/14/2011 Patch Work Duck Designs

12/15/2011 A Spoonful of Sugar

12/15/2011 Nifty Kidstuff

12/15/2011 Becka’s Project Journal

12/16/2011 Nom Nom Nom Nom

12/16/2011 Quaint and Quirky

12/17/2011 ikatbag

12/17/2011 Two Brown Birds

12/18/2011 Sharon Sews

12/19/2011 LBG Studio

12/19/2011 Carolina Fair Designs

12/19/2011 Under Construction

12/20/2011 Little Blue Cottage

12/21/2011 Craftzine

12/21/2011 Neuroses Galore

12/21/2011 Emily Steffen

12/22/2011 Jenna Lou Loves You

12/23/2011 Spincushion

12/27/2011 One Inch World

12/28/2011 Sew Sew Etc.

January ‘12 Lu Lu Carter

January ’12 Fiberosity

January ’12 Zuhause

January ’12 Obsessively Stiching

And by the way, if you happened to make it all the way to the bottom of this post, I am giving away a copy of the book!  Just visit the “Blog Giveaway Day” post just below and leave a comment.  (Open til December 16)