Category Archives: Book Review

Jane Austen Embroidery – Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin

Jane Austen Embroidery – Jennie Batchelor and Alison Arkin

This combines two of my favourite things – Jane Austen and Embroidery.

Jennie Batchelor writes about Jane Austen, textile history and The Lady’s Magazine. Alison Arkin designed the projects based on embroidery designs in The Lady’s Magazine.

It’s a beautiful book with lovely designs and illustrations. There are designs for all kinds of things; phone pouch, work bag, table cloth, cushion, clutch. My favourite is the design on an apron (I am not sure if I would ever make an apron, but I like the embroidery).

Work bag, Apron and Illustration

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This Golden Fleece – Esther Rutter

This Golden Fleece – Esther Rutter

I do love a knitting history/essay book and was very keen to get this one. After much stuffing around by amazon, I bought it from the book depository.

Over the course of a year, Esther Rutter – who grew up on a sheep farm in Suffolk, and learned to spin, weave and knit as a child – travels the length of the British Isles, to tell the story of wool’s long history here. She unearths fascinating histories of communities whose lives were shaped by wool, from the mill workers of the Border countries, to the English market towns built on profits of the wool trade, and the Highland communities cleared for sheep farming; and finds tradition and innovation intermingling in today’s knitwear industries. Along the way, she explores wool’s rich culture by knitting and crafting culturally significant garments from our history – among them gloves, a scarf, a baby blanket, socks and a fisherman’s jumper – reminding us of the value of craft and our intimate relationship with wool. This Golden Fleece is at once a meditation on the craft and history of knitting, and a fascinating exploration of wool’s influence on our landscape, history and culture. 

This was a fabulous book – I enjoyed the combination of knitting (she knit a bikini!, history and travel). It is a bit like ‘Julie and Julia’ we follow Esther’s journey we she learns about knitting in various places and attempts to knit the ‘signature’ garment of that place.

Fruity knitting have an interview with Esther and here is a review at The Guardian. And her is a blog review.

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June Sock Project

Swatch for my June Sock

I finished my may sock early, which means I can try something a bit more adventurous for June.

Above is my swatch, which is a bit disappointing. The ball looks like

King Cole Zig Zag Colour Magic

which is quite pretty, but the swatch has large colour blocks (pooling) that I am not so keen on. So I have decided this probably isn’t the yarn for a special project, but is the yarn to practise a special project.

I want to make something historical and have decided on these socks from Knitting Vintage Socks

Evening Stockings for a young lady

The lace pattern requires a multiple of 6 plus 1, so I have decided to cast on 60 and make one in the round before starting the lace – the ribbing is K2P1, so a multiple of 3. It’s not possible to have a multiple of 6 plus 1 and have it be a multiple of 3.

This is different to the pattern, but I think I should be able to use the same heel (Dutch heel) and toe (round) as the pattern.

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This Thing of Paper – Karie Westerman

Cover image of this thing of paper
This Thing of Paper – Karie Westermann

I have had this book since it was published and the fact that it has taken this no long to read is no indication of its quality more a sign of my book piling.

This is from Karie’s website

This Thing of Paper is a knitting book that urges you to make stuff. Karie Westermann was inspired by her lifelong fascination with books and how all her favourite volumes all fit just so in her hands (much like her favourite pair of knitting needles!). Eleven knitting patterns explore the connections between books and knitting, while the accompanying essays take you from medieval monasteries to contemporary libraries.
What does it mean to be a maker? What do handmade things mean to us? Who do we become as we read and knit? All these questions and many more are discussed in a knitting book quite unlike others.
The book comes complete with the patterns written in Karie’s signature style, lush photography shot on location, and bespoke graphic design.

This is a fabulous book if you are interested in knitting, books, and the history of books. The essays are interesting and thought provoking and don’t take long to read. You could dip in and out of this book – just read an essay now and then. I read it from start to finish in a couple of sittings.

I am keen to have a go at a Hap shawl and thought I might attempt the Woodcut Shawl – although I am going to start with a simpler one first. I am doing the Shetland Hap Shawl class at Craftsy.

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Handywoman – Kate Davies

Cover of Handywoman by Kate Davies
Handywoman – Kate Davies

I have bought a few of Kate’s knitting books – Colours of Shetland, Yokes, Inspired by Islay and The West Highland Way – and I am currently knitting Braid Hills Cardigan. I also follow her blog. I was very keen to read this book as I find her knitting essays to be thoughtful and eloquent.

I wasn’t disappointed. This is a very personal memoir of a person who had a stroke and their subsequent rehabilitation and recovery. It is a positive and thought provoking look at illness, feminism, disability, ability, knitting an design. It has made me think about the world and how I move through it with my able body. It has made me think about the design of the objects in my life and how U put up with poor design (because being able-bodied I can). For example, my sewing table is the wrong height and the gap for the chair is in the wrong place, inconvenient but still usable. However, I notice I don’t sew as much as I would like. 

Every chapter was interesting. I kept thinking this is my favourite only to move onto the next one and think ‘no this is my favourite’. It made me think about brain injury and how because it is invisible we might not be as sympathetic or as accommodating as we should be – for example, when we are in a crowded space behind a slow moving person, etc.

It also made me think about community – our local community, our knitting community, etc and the connections we make.

Another review and another.

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The Bayeux Tapestry – Carola Hicks

Cover of Bayeux Tapestry by Carola Hicks

Bayeux Tapestry by Carola Hicks

I have always been fascinated by the Bayeux Tapestry and one day I will get to see it in person. I find it fascinating, but also I want to know about the people who made it. What were there lives like?

Here is the blurb …

The vivid scenes on the Bayeux Tapestry depict the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is one of Europe’s greatest treasures and its own story is full of drama and surprise.

Who commissioned the tapestry? Was it Bishop Odo, William’s ruthless half-brother? Or Harold’s dynamic sister Edith, juggling for a place in the new court? Hicks shows us this world and the miracle of the tapestry’s making: the stitches, dyes and strange details in the margins. For centuries it lay ignored in Bayeux cathedral until its ‘discovery’ in the eighteenth century. It became a symbol of power as well as art: townsfolk saved it during the French Revolution; Napoleon displayed it to promote his own conquest; the Nazis strove to make it their own; and its influence endures today.

This marvelous book, packed with thrilling stories, shows how we remake history in every age and how a great work of art has a life of its own.

It took me a while to read this book – not because it is difficult (It has a chatty accessible style), but there is a lot of information. It is split into 6 sections:

  • Embroidering History
  • Lost and Found
  • Revolutions and Romantics
  • The Gentle Touch
  • The Great Escape
  • Global Image

There is information on the possible patrons, lucky escapes (Napoleon and Himmler), various people who drew it and studied and some even made replicas!

If you are at all interested in textiles and social history, you will find this fascinating.

Another review



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A Stash of One’s Own – Clara Parkes

A Stash of One’s Own – Clara Parkes

I like to read essays on knitting – I own several collections and am always keen to read more.

This is a series of designers and knitters (all the usual suspects) writing about what stash means to them.  Some are sad, some are funny and they are all easy to read. And if you have a particular stance on stash someone in this book will be on your side.

Here is the blurb …

This addictive-to-read anthology celebrates yarn—specifically, the knitter’s reputation for acquiring it in large quantities and storing it away in what’s lovingly referred to as a “stash.” Consider contributions from knitting and teaching luminaries, including:
BUST co-founder Debbie Stoller
Meg Swansen, daughter of master knitter Elizabeth Zimmermann
Knitting blogger and author Susan B. Anderson
alongside offerings from knitting greats Amy Herzog, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and Franklin Habit—plus, stories from a romance novelist, an illustrator, a PhD-wielding feminist publisher, a globetrotting textile artist, a licensed clinical social worker, and the people behind the world’s largest collective online stash, The pieces range from comical to earnest, lighthearted to deeply philosophical as each seeks to answer the question of how the stash a knitter has accumulated over the years reflects his or her place in universe.
The stories in A Stash of One’s Own represent and provide validation for knitters’ wildly varying perspectives on yarn, from holding zero stash, to stash-busting, to stockpiling masses of it—and even including it in estate plans. These tales are for all fiber artists, spinners, dyers, crafters, crocheters, sheep farmers, shop owners, beginning knitters to yarn experts, and everyone who has ever loved a skein too hard to let it go.

If you are a knitter (or you need to buy a gift for a knitter), then this a great book.

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Threading Time – A Cultural History of Threadwork – Dolores Bausum

Threading Time – Dolores Bausum

I can’t remember where I first heard of this – I think it was on Amazon in the people who bought this also bought that section. It combines two of my loves – threadwork and literature. Here is the blurb …

In a ground-breaking survey taken primarily from literary sources, Threading Time reveals the essential link between the human spirit and the art of connecting threads. Whether looking at stories about clothing made in the Garden of Eden, a medieval manuscript, or modern fiction and poetry, the author traces the importance to humankind of a craft that has never ceased since it began at least forty thousand years ago. The author’s conception of threadwork throughout is generic, including all kinds of work done with thread, yarn, or fiber.

In the author’s long-range view, threadwork becomes more than a garment, a rug, or a tapestry on the wall. It is often a bond shared with contemporaries and with ancestors, a link between humans and cultural beliefs, even a tie between humankind and the Divine. This age-old association of interwoven fibers and humanity is found today in a metaphor that is used to convey the concept of shared traditions, values, and beliefs: the fabric of society. A rip in the fabric can be alarming; mending it is necessary to avert instability and even chaos.

Threading Time opens with stories from biblical traditions that continue to influence society. Next come portrayals of threadworkers in Greek and Roman myths and those suggested on the famous marble frieze carved on the Parthenon of Athens. The author then turns to Piers Plowman, Chartres Cathedral’s windows, the Bayeux Tapestry, and other textile evidence from the medieval era; she suggests how threadwork in those centuries became identified with spiritual faith and belief in miracles.

An illustrated French manuscript and the Apocalypse Tapestry highlight a discussion of changes in the lives of cloth workers that occurred during the Renaissance. Works by two Germans—playwright Gerhart Hauptmann and artist Käthe Kollwitz—illustrate labor struggles that persisted for centuries in textile production. Selections of poetry by English poets such as Robert Burns and William Blake provide glimpses of protests made by some against economic forces disrupting the lives of textile workers during the Industrial Revolution.

Novels by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edith Wharton, and D. H. Lawrence suggest that threadwork activity itself may arouse, release, or inhibit strong feelings, even erotic passion, between men and women. These novels also demonstrate that needlework and its products can be used to stigmatize, ostracize, or control an individual. Both fictional and real-life accounts follow in a discussion of works by three nineteenth-century writers—Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, and Mary Boykin Chesnut—who illustrate the power of threadwork during wartime to transform solitary individuals into patriots and lift the morale of civilians who share common beliefs and objectives.

Novels by Edith Gaskell, Edith Wharton, and Theodore Dreiser, as well as several memoirs, offer examples of textile work that individuals have done in peacetime when their daily survival hung by a thread. Finally, the author turns to twentieth-century American authors Margaret Mitchell, Alice Walker, Anna Quindlen, and John Updike for glimpses into families whose members are linked by threadwork. As an original view of threadwork written from a broad chronological perspective, Threading Time will appeal to textile artisans and collectors. It will also interest lay readers of literature, women’s history, and cultural history.

This book is lovely – academic, but not overly so, beautiful illustrations and suggestions for further reading. Many of the novels mentioned I have read (I am now keen to read One True Thing), which made Ms Bausum’s analysis even more interesting.

There are nine chapters

  • A Time to Sew
  • Athena’s Gift
  • Threads ‘Twixt Cloister and Crown’
  • Art of the Loom
  • Ballads of  Harp Weavers
  • With Passion and Thread
  • Battle Yarns
  • Sewing for Bread in Years Gone By
  • Fortunate Daughters and Sons

Each chapter looks at a different period of time and refers to literary texts of the period: the bible, works by Homer, etc. She also references the Bayeux tapestry and the Apocalypse tapestry.

If you are at all interested in textiles, women’s history or literature then I think you will find this book fascinating. In fact, this is the book I would have liked to have written.



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The Subversive Stitch – Rozsika Parker

The Subversive Stitch – Rozsika Parker

This is a fabulous book – not for the faint-hearted as it is quite scholarly, but for anyone interested in history, feminism embroidery and social history it is a must read.

Here is the blurb …

Rozsika Parker’s now classic  re-evaluation of the reciprocal relationship between women and  embroidery has brought stitchery out from the private world of female domesticity into the fine arts, created a major breakthrough in art history and criticism, and fostered the emergence of today’s dynamic and expanding crafts movements.

The Subversive Stitch is now available again with a new Introduction that brings the book up to date with exploration of the stitched art of Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, as well as the work of new young female and male embroiderers.  Rozsika Parker uses household accounts, women’s magazines, letters, novels and the works of art themselves to trace through history how the separation of the craft of embroidery from the fine arts came to be a major force in the marginalisation of women’s work. Beautifully illustrated, her book also discusses the contradictory nature of women’s experience of embroidery: how it has inculcated female subservience while providing an immensely pleasurable source of creativity, forging links between women.

Rozsika Parker, sadly she died in 2010, was an art historian, feminist and pyschotherapist who wrote about women, art and women’s place in the art world.

This is how Parker described this book

By mapping the relationships between the history of embroidery and changing notions of what constituted feminine behaviour from the middle ages to the 20th century, we can see how the art became implicated in the creation of femininity across classes and that the development of ideals and feminine behaviour determined the style and iconography of needlework.

The book is divided into eight chapters

The Creation of Femininity

Eternalising the Feminine

Fertility, Chasity and Power

The Domestication of Embroidery

The Inculcation of Femininity

From Milkmaids to Mothers

Femininity as Feeling

A Naturally Revolutionary Art?

This book is essentially about how needlework and femininity became synonymous and then how needlework was used to train and constrain women. However, it is also about how some women used embroidery in subversive ways to make a statement or to pass on a secret message. They took back something that was meant to be oppressive and made it their own (a bit like the recent pussyhat movement).

I wrote down so many quotes while I was reading this book that I could be here for days typing them out – I think it would be much better if you just read the book yourself. Take your time – there is a lot in it. I read it in 30 minute bursts.

I do have two small complaints – I wish the images were in colour (but that would make the whole thing too expensive) and I wish it was in chronological order rather than thematic.

More reviews …

>The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker



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Mason Dixon Knitting – Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

Mason Dixon Knitting

Mason Dixon Knitting – Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

I found this while in Singapore (at Kinokuniya – well worth a visit if you’re ever in Singapore). I have been reading their blog for ages, but never came across the book in Australia.

I loved this book it was witty and light-hearted and had several projects I would like to try. It is a great mix of projects and knitting observation/lifestyle.

I am super keen on a log cabin blanket …

Log Cabin Blanket

Log Cabin Blanket

I am also quite keen to try the wash clothes – although I find it quite hard to find cotton yarn.


Here are some of the things that made me laugh out loud

As it turns out, however, a sweater doesn’t look exactly the same on a fortysomething mother of two as it does on the leggy twenty-year-old model who is wearing the sweater (and, often, only the sweater) while cavorting on the moody, misty moors of Yorkshire.My beloved Rowenta [an iron] is right up there with my engagement ring and photo albums on the list of things I would try to grab and take with me if the house was burning down.

The television natters on,politely, as British detectives solve another of the violent murders that are such a plague upon the quaint rural towns of England

And now just a nice quote about knitting

[…] you begin to think that knitting for another human being is the best way to express love, concern and solidarity.



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