I have a bit of a craft book habit. I like going to the bookstore and browsing the craft book section almost as much as I actually like crafting. Part of the reason I prefer looking at books before buying is because I'm picky - I have tons of informal rules about what I look for in a craft book. Things I look for: quality photography, concise directions, charts (ie for knitting lace and cables), lots of projects that I'm interested in making. Another big rule (for knitting books at least): sweater and top sizes need to go up to my size. If I'm going to pay for a book, I don't want to fiddle with sizing the garments up. I'm not saying that every single top needs to be in my size. Trust me, I understand that some styles just don't look good on my size. I just find it irritating when books don't include larger sizes in patterns that would look great on larger sizes.
I generally don't talk about books that I decide I don't like unless it's due to poor pattern directions or that kind of thing. Some books just don't "click" with me and I end up returning them or selling them. Recent examples: Knitting New Scarves (too much work for a scarf), How to Knit in the Woods (no projects that really grabbed my interest), and More Big Girl Knits (ditto). There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those books; I just didn't find anything I wanted to knit in them in the end. I often end up checking books out of the surprisingly good craft book collection at the Nashville Public Library to take them for a test drive first. The same thing is true with cookbooks, another one of my book obsessions.
All of that said, I've come across some really excellent crafting books recently that I want to review here on the blog over the next few weeks. Today, I'm going to kick of the reviews with a book that actually breaks some of my informal rules, Closely Knit by Hannah Fettig. This book came out in March and I passed it over at first glance. I wasn't familiar with any of Hannah's past designs and the concept of the book didn't seem that exciting. The subtitle is "Handmade Gifts for the Ones You Love" and, honestly, I'm not a big gift knitter. I came across the book at amazon by chance again a couple of weeks ago, linked to some other book I was looking at. I took a closer look this time and ended up deciding to give the book a chance.
Closely Knit is organized into six "gift giving" sections: Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Men in Our Lives, Wee Ones, and Friends. Of course, most of the projects could fit under any of these categories, so the categories seem a bit artificial. There's an impressive 31 projects in total, ranging from really simple hats to vests with intarsia and sweaters for adults. Nothing seems terribly complex, but some of the patterns could be a bit challenging and there are definitely some nice simple gift ideas that look more complicated than they really are, always a plus when gift knitting :)
My favorite pattern in the book is the Kangaroo Vest, a children's size intarsia project featuring (obviously) a kangaroo. The book gives the good advice that you could use the chart for other projects, like a baby blanket. I've got visions of cute matchy-matchy baby gifts for friends. My other favorite is the cashmere ruffled scarf. I love the striking red of the scarf in the book. I'm usually not a big super colorful accessories person, but this one really appeals to me.
Rule breaking alert: Remember when I mentioned my rule about how the patterns need to go up to my size? This book is a huge rule breaker in this area. There's a super cute Cabled Cardigan that I'd love to make but it only goes up to bust size 40". I almost sent the book back when I got to that sweater, but I kept paging through the patterns and there were so many other interesting projects that I decided to keep it.Overall, Closely Knit has multiple patterns that I'm interested in knitting and it's definitely a keeper. If you're looking for some fun but not too time consuming projects to knit for yourself or as gifts, check it out!