Books help needlework lovers read all about it

Posted Dec. 01, 2008, at 8:09 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:41 a.m.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged (to paraphrase Jane Austen) that those who knit, sew and stitch, will, as often as possible, add needlework books to their already bulging libraries.

Sooner or later, most knitters knit in circles using circular needles. Now they can learn to knit in squares with Vivian Hoxbro’s new book, “Knit to be Square: Domino Designs to Knit and Felt.” Projects in the book begin with one small square, which through the technique of modular knitting, grow and become pillows, slippers, caps, afghans and stoles.

Additional squares are worked on top of and adjacent to the first square to form larger blocks that are the foundation of each project.

One section of the book is devoted to incomplete squares, L-shaped motifs knit with the same modular technique to create open-work, latticelike, structures shaped into shawls, scarves and afghans.

One of the appealing things about “Knit to be Square” is the eye-catching color with which Hoxbro designs the projects in the book. Orange carries on a flirtation with red. Lime green and magenta are flung happily together, with a single blue square thrown in to provide a note of whimsy.

Leora Raikin is a native of Cape Town, South Africa, who teaches African folklore embroidery through her business of the same name in Los Angeles. African Folklore Embroidery is affiliated with and supports Kidzpositive, a South African AIDS charity in Cape Town.

Raikin seeks to expand her embroidering audience with her first book, “Safari Through African Folklore Embroidery.” In the book she lays down the rules for doing African embroidery — any color is the right color, it doesn’t have to be perfect, a hoop isn’t necessary, have fun and let the experience teach you something about South Africa and its culture.

Readers will find in the book lots of color photos of Raikin’s designs featuring lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants, hippos and giraffes. Other sections of the book deal with bird, marine and floral design aspects of African embroidery. Diagrams in the book show the basic stitches of embroidery, all that are needed to stitch the designs on black cotton cloth.

One of the drawbacks of the book is that it doesn’t include design transfers or design outlines. However, using the book as a guide, one can devise a design of one’s own to evoke the style without copying it.

Bead embellishment is a part of “Safari Through African Folklore Embroidery” and the book gives instructions for the beadwork.

One of the many charming aspects of the book is the “My Favorite Places to Visit in South Africa.” Raikin provides Web site addresses so one can learn more about ostrich farms, botanical gardens, museums and game preserves in her home country. Safari, anyone?

“Cloth Dolls for Textile Artists” by Ray Slater is the sort of book that makes me want to start piling up vibrantly colored fabrics, multi-hued organza ribbons, ropes of gold and silver metallic cord, and skeins of rayon embroidery thread.

The dolls in Slater’s book are cloth sculptures, intended for display, not as playthings.

Slater offers instructions for making stump dolls, which don’t have legs; wired dolls built on an armature, which can be posed; and stuffed cloth dolls. Many of her dolls resemble wood sprites and pixies. Each has an otherworldly charm from head to foot.

The book offers ideas for painting fabric used in making the dolls, techniques for painting the dolls’ faces, for hairstyles and headdresses, and for embellishing the doll bodies with elaborate and intricate embroidery designs done in simple stitches.

“Cloth Dolls” is a great resource, not only for textile artists, but for doll makers, in general, or anyone wishing to know more about the techniques of fabric embellishment.

Inquire about these books at your local bookstore or library, or Google the titles on the Web.

Snippets

Interweave has launched Stitch magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to the art and craft of sewing. The debut issue, now on newsstands, features 25 projects, including five versions of a skirt, with the skirt patterns included right in the issue. The magazine’s focus is contemporary sewing and each issue will feature interviews with designers, reviews of sewing products, patterns, books, fabric news, trends, updates and a global view of sewing and textiles.

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