BY HAND

Books to accompany you through the holidays

Posted Nov. 07, 2011, at 9:03 p.m.

With the holiday season looming large on the immediate horizon, it’s time to start factoring gift-giving into the end-of-year equation. As usual, I have more than a few books to let readers know about. I’ll start with these:

• “55 Christmas Balls to Knit” by Arne and Carlos (that would be Arne Nerjordet and Carlos Zachrison, trafalgarbooks.com, 800-423-4525). The authors, who live in a rural town in Norway, are knitwear designers who got started knitting tree decorations when they received a commission for Christmas sweaters, hats and scarves from fashion design house Comme des Garcons located in Tokyo and Paris. The duo also included knitted Christmas balls they had knit. And rest, as they say, is history culminating in a book — authored by two men, which struck me as refreshing since most of the needlecraft books that end up on my desk are by women.

The designs for the Christmas balls are drawn from the traditional Scandinavian patterns knit in two colors — red and white, and black and white. Some of the motifs are embellished with crystal beads or sequins. The basic pattern consists of 41 rows knit on double-point needles, which works up quickly. Knitters will delight in charted tree, star, reindeer, heart, bird and 50 other patterns.

The book contains instructions for stuffing the balls, making hangers for them and offers ideas for knitting the balls with novelty yarns.

• “Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns” by Tanis Gray, sixthandspringbooks.com. Maine is amply represented in the Northeast section of the book, including Quince and Co., established by Pam Allen, Carrie Bostick Hoge and Bob Rice in Portland last year; Swans Island Yarns, established by Bill Laurita in Northport in 2009; and Knit One, Crochet Two owned by Helene Rush of Windham. The author gives information about each company, and a pattern using that company’s yarn is included.

Other Maine companies mentioned in the book as a source for locally grown or processed yarn are Acker’s Acres Angoras in New Gloucester, Bartlett Yarn in Harmony, Hilltop Handspun in Lovell, Hope Spinnery in Hope and Meadowcraft Farm in Washington.

The other sections of the book — South, Midwest and West — are equally rich with yarn company information and patterns. I was pleased to see that Brown Sheep Company, located in Mitchell, Neb., was included in the Midwest section. I discovered that company’s yarn in the 1990s when I lived for a time in Lincoln, Neb.

Patterns in the book include hats, mittens, socks, shawls, scarves and sweaters.

What “Knit Local” makes possible is plumping up one’s stash with yarn from Maine to California, a move sure to benefit small businesses and local economies.

• “Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 Inspired Projects for Year-Round Celebrations,” ( crownpublishing.com or pottercraft.com) has so much in it that readers will be stunned by possibilities. I’d start with the love-knot bracelets and the embroidered valentines, and move on to the button-embellished cards, sea glass jewelry, batik-style table linens, jar-o’-lanterns, rickrack gift bags and winter wonderland snow globes.

This book has all we have come to expect from all things “Martha” — cleverness, elegance, a sense of humor, simplicity and beauty. It is the perfect reference for families who enjoy crafting together — casually or seriously — for organizations that sponsor craft fairs or for anyone who wants to put a personal touch into gift-giving and decorating for celebrations such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. Or use the book as a source of ideas to create your own riff on the projects presented in the book.

Each craft project is illustrated with drawings and-or photos and includes easy-to-follow instructions, usually on one page, making the book user-friendly.

• “Knit Accessories,” published by Soho Publishing Company, offers knitters 15 projects, including hats, scarves, shawls and bags. One of the neat things about this publication is that the table of contents features small photos of each project with the project name and page number listed below. The projects are rated from beginner to experienced making it easy to select the one that is right for one’s level of knitting expertise. Experienced knitters will love the Lace Wrap shawl and beginners will enjoy making the Bamboo Scarf.

To learn more about these books, check with your local bookstore or look for them on the Internet.

Snippets

Designing Women, a nonprofit volunteer corporation that works directly with organizations that benefit women and girls in local communities, will hold its seventh annual Freeport show 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at The Merriconeag Waldorf School and Community Center, 57 Desert Road in Freeport.

The event will feature 24 women artisans and craftswomen. An admission fee of $2 will support Women, Work and Community. Taking part in the show will be several artists who have exhibited and taught nationally including Jo Diggs, Michelle Henning and Stephanie Sersich. Also exhibiting will be Stephanie Crossman of Gram J’s Nets who was recognized by Martha Stewart.

Original pieces on display will include glass, porcelain, polymer, silver and gold jewelry, handwoven and stitched apparel, textile and leather handbags, hand-built stoneware pottery, pastels, batik paintings and watercolors, hand-loomed rugs, applique quilts and felted and applique wall pieces, hand-bound books, artisanal body care and more. A large gift basket filled with unique products, made and donated by the show’s exhibitors will be raffled, also to benefit Women, Work and Community. For information, call Michelle Henning at 833-5556 or visit designingwomen.org.

The Gifted Hand fine art, craft and gift show, will take place 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Ramada Inn, 215 High St., in Ellsworth. the show will feature 70 nationally and locally recognized Maine artisans. Light meals and snacks available. A

silent auction will benefit Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium. Admission is $2, free to children under 12. For information, visit GiftedHandShow.com.

The Center for Maine Craft has re-opened its seasonal store in the Bangor Mall, near the Sears entrance. It will be open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 31.

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