I wouldn't say I've read a lot of nonfiction stories about knitting. But what I have read has brought me to expect a lot of wit and humor, as well as...moreI wouldn't say I've read a lot of nonfiction stories about knitting. But what I have read has brought me to expect a lot of wit and humor, as well as a point. In contrast to those expectations, many of these personal essays were meandering and barely cohesive. As a book with all professional writers as contributors, I have to say I was rather disappointed in the quality of many of the stories. Many of them (particularly at the beginning of the collection) came off as if they were written for a warm-up writing prompt and then published as-is, with very little editing or refining. The stories were also very arbitrarily arranged in alphabetical order by last name of the contributors, which didn't at all help with the flow of the collection. Lastly, a significant portion of the essays were written by people who wished they could knit. I suspect this book is primarily aimed at a knitting audience. As a knitter, I am much more interested in reading about other knitters, when I read a collection of personal essays about knitting, than about people who wish they could knit. Just pick up a pair of needles and do it already! It's really not that hard.
There were a few hidden gems, including contributions by Andre Dubus III, Martha Frankel, Jessi Hempel, Joyce Maynard, and Taylor M. Polites.(less)
Needles and Artifice is a combo steampunk short story and steampunk knitting patterns. My four stars goes toward the patterns, which I would actually...moreNeedles and Artifice is a combo steampunk short story and steampunk knitting patterns. My four stars goes toward the patterns, which I would actually have granted five stars except the way the patterns are given seems sometimes overly complicated and not streamlined enough (based on my reading the patterns). I haven't tried to knit any of them yet. Though I will! Their claim of "ingenious knitting patterns" is really no exaggeration.
The short story aspect of the book, I would give only two stars, unfortunately. Needles and Artifice begins with Anna--a Lady of Mischief (a band of like-minded lady adventurers and uber fans of tea and knitting) and one-man airship pilot--and Kristoff ("a real gentleman") on Anna's airship when it is attacked by pirates, (view spoiler)[on Kristoff's evil twin brother's dime (hide spoiler)]. We then follow the fledgling not-yet-couple as they gather resources and fellow Ladies of Mischief to seek revenge and put an end to an evil plot against them.
The story was well-polished--which is more than I can say for a lot of self-published books--but not well developed. First, there was one glaring mechanical issue of a very inconsistent viewpoint. The story jumped from the head of one character to the next sometimes within the very same paragraph, making things often rather confusing for the reader. One of the other major issues I had was the fact that the The Ladies of Mischief faced basically no resistance throughout the story. Everything was easy for them. They breezed through every tight situation with nary a scratch to show for it. Also, the personalities of the other Ladies didn't quite come through in the narrative itself (despite the inset character introductions at the beginning of each chapter). I found it hard to tell them apart sometimes, and they served more as filler than actually adding anything to the story itself.
On the other hand, I liked the characters of Anna and Kristoff. Though I would have liked to find out more about their back story. How did they even know each other? How did Anna come to rescue Kristoff from his undesired arranged marriage (the off-stage event that happens before the story, to set the events of Needles and Artifice in motion). I also loved the photography of both the characters, at the beginning of each chapter, and of the knitting patterns. Some of the set photos were fantastic as well, although most of the hand-drawn illustrations or "notes" didn't quite work for me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
There are quite a few very lovely patterns in this book that I hope one day to knit myself. I have already almost finished a re-sized (and modified to...moreThere are quite a few very lovely patterns in this book that I hope one day to knit myself. I have already almost finished a re-sized (and modified to be knit in the round) version of the Buttoned Bag. I particularly like the incorporation of beads and buttons into these patterns.(less)
Free-range knitter contains a collection of personal essays and humorous bits pertaining to her life-long obsession with knitting. Being one of her la...moreFree-range knitter contains a collection of personal essays and humorous bits pertaining to her life-long obsession with knitting. Being one of her later works, this book contains a lot of essays about the latter stages of parental life--once most of her kids of reached their teenage years.
This is the second book I've read by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and I actually found this one a bit disappointing. I particularly found most of the essays about parenting and watching other people knit rather dull and was impatient to get to the next story. Yet she hides little gems even in these more boring stories, so I don't feel like I can skip ahead without potentially missing out on something. (Note to people with kids: you probably won't find the parenting essays so dull. It's just that I don't have children, let alone teenagers, so it really isn't the kind of thing I can sympathize with yet.)
Free-range knitter, as with Pearl-McPhee's other works, offered a few very redeeming stories in it as well. I particularly enjoyed the essay about how she knits while she walks, and the unfortunate elevator incident that results, and her story on how she taught her daughters to knit through osmosis.(less)
This is a very fun and funny collection of anecdotes, accompanied by often humorously-related famous quotes, about knitting. Written for the knitting-...moreThis is a very fun and funny collection of anecdotes, accompanied by often humorously-related famous quotes, about knitting. Written for the knitting-obsessed or simply the knitting hobbyist, this quick read will re-inspire your knitting and make you long for more time with your neglected needles. At Knit's End definitely makes me want to read Pearl-McPhee's other books and her knitting blog.(less)
A phenomenal book for anyone new to the world of knitting. Stitch 'N Bitch explains every stitch and technique in a clear and easily understandable wa...moreA phenomenal book for anyone new to the world of knitting. Stitch 'N Bitch explains every stitch and technique in a clear and easily understandable way. The book is written so that it's actually a fun read at the same time as being extremely informative. I actually just read it cover to cover (aside from the patterns at the back of the book, which I plan to make my way through in due time). The book also includes sections on further on additional knitting reference books and joining knitting communities (real and virtual). As mentioned above, Stitch 'N Bitch also offers a wide variety of awesome patterns, including a helpful skills key so you know what you're getting into and don't actually select a first project where you'd be way in over your head.(less)