Thursday 5 April 2012

Book Review: Learn to Crochet

My review copy of Learn to Crochet (by Sue Whiting) has been sitting on my "to review" pile for quite a while. I reviewed a book from the same series - Learn to Quilt - last year and was quite impressed by it. It wasn't an exciting or a fashionable book by any means, but it seemed to me to be a great beginners guide - lots of detail, very clear instructions with lots of images, and a nice variety of simple starter quilting projects.

Learn to Crochet however left me feeling a bit "meh". This is not a very technical term, but I'm sure you know what I mean! I wasn't sure if I was going to review it at all (because if you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, right?) but it made me think about what I look for in a craft book and how  nowadays, with so many crafty how tos available online for free, a book has to have something special about it which makes it worth buying.

Generally, I like my craft books to either be instructional (detailed guides to crafty skills or techniques) or inspirational (creative projects, gorgeously photographed and nicely presented). The best craft books are often a mix of the two, but I find that I'm either drawn to a book for the one reason or the other: it either makes me go "oooh, how lovely, I want to make that!" or it seems to be a great resource for a craft I want to try / want to develop my skills in and I buy it because it looks really "useful".

Learn to Crochet includes introductory info on crochet materials and how to follow patterns and diagrams, and then a series of step by step guides for different stitches and techniques, and 10 simple projects for testing out your new skills. It definitely falls into the "instructional" category - the projects included in it are quite boring, and I could find some much nicer simple crochet projects online with just a few minutes of Googling, and there are some lovely modern crochet books available (like Cute and Easy Crochet which I reviewed last year) so the only reason I'd buy it would be for the "how to" parts... to help me learn crochet and then to give me something to reference if I came across something in the other patterns which I didn't understand.

The step by step guides look great, with lots of photographs but when I was trying to follow them last year when learning crochet for the first time I found them a bit confusing (although this could be a fault on my part not on the part of the author!) and I've read a few complaints about them not being beginner-friendly enough in other reviews online which makes me think that the book wouldn't actually be that useful to me after all.

The 10 beginner projects also take up many more pages of the book than the "how to" sections, and they feel a little padded with photos. I don't have an issue with picture-heavy craft books as long as the photos add something to the experience (e.g. if they're gorgeously styled and inspiring, or if they show lots of different details of a finished piece so you can see how seams etc fit together), but one page worth of simple blanket instructions padded out to four pages with photos like these?

This definitely doesn't feel like value for money to me (especially compared to the quilting book). I feel a bit mean writing a bad review, but I do think it's important to be honest about these things and, being totally honest, if I flicked through this book in a shop I'd put it back on the shelf and look for something else.

What do you guys look for in a craft book? Are there any that you've bought or been given and been disappointed in, and if so, why were they diappointing? I'd love to know your thoughts about this!

Learn to Crochet is published by New Holland, RRP £7.99. In case you've looked at these photos and totally disagree with my thoughts, it's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops  :) 

[Disclaimer: New Holland sent me a free review copy of this book, and the Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links which means if you click on them and then make a purchase I get a very small % as a referral fee.]


JO SOWERBY said...

thank you for another gr8 review. last year's book week i think i bought several books and loved them. u certainly write from a crafter's perspective which is so vital.
personally i like to have a mixture of how to's and also projects. now i have learned to crochet fairly well i am more often looking for books projects in. one of the things i have found problematic is that usa books use different crochet terms than here in the uk and some newbies don't realise this,
can't wait to see some more book reviews,
jo xxxx

Moois van mie said...

When I see the pictures, I can only agree with you. It doesn't look as a very exciting book...
It actually looks as an old one, but in the negative way ( I have a lot of old craftbooks and they are fun too )
My expecttartions are not the same for every craft book .
For instance : I already knwo how to knit, so I don't need the basic information. When I buy a knitting book it must give me some tips I didn't new and have to include some exciting patterns .The patterns must be very easy to understand and must be complete ( I recently bought a book with patterns for shawls and the first - and till now only - pattern I used wasn't complete... ). Some tips sabout materials are also very usefull...

Holly said...

Thank you for your honest review. I get so tired of promotional "blog hop" book reviews that are never actual reviews... people often don't even make something from the book, they just flip through and declare it wonderful. Personally, unless a book is for absolute beginners, I don't like to see a lot of pages devoted to "basic techniques." I always feel like, if you know how to sew, you don't need those pages, and if you don't, you need a lot more than those pages.

~ Laura said...

Craft books these days are competing with the internet and that must be tough!! I know when I check out craft books at the store I'm always thinking if I could find the same information online.

I did buy a crochet book within the last year that was really disappointing. Yet, I have one that I've had for years that I just love!! Go figure!! I do appreciate an honest review like yours because not everything is going to appeal to everyone and that's just reality. :)

sew said...

There is no point in reviewing a book unless you are completely honest and I can see exactly what you mean here. The right sort of book for me makes me want to leave what a ought to be doing and get out some crafty stuff immediately!!(Your super cute felt book soon sent me to photocopy the templates, for example).Have you seen Debbie Stoller's 'Happy Hooker' crochet book? I found this to be a sensible book and a fun read.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Thanks for all your thoughtful replies about this, everyone! I thought long and hard about sharing a "bad" review, I really appreciate all your comments.

Jo - I'm so glad you've found my reviews useful!

"Me" - yup, what you want from different crafts can be really different. I think craft books that try to be a bit "something for everyone" can end up being not as a great / useful as ones which focus on a certain type of crafter (eg a beginner who wants detailed basics vs a more advanced crafter who wants exciting projects and expert tips).

Holly - thankyou! I don't ever have time to make things from the books I review but I always do my best to look at them closely and share my honest feelings about them. I think part of why I felt so mean posting this review is that it's so rare to see critical book reviews in our crafty blogosphere. Maybe people are just not blogging about the books they get sent that they don't 100% love?

Laura - competing with the internet is a HUGE issue for craft publishers nowadays! Hopefully it will mean we'll get more great quality craft books and fewer uninspiring ones that just rehash what we could easily learn from a youtube video etc.

Sew - I'm so glad my book inspired you to get crafty straight away! I've seen Debbie Stoller's book in the past, I must remember to look at a copy again now I've actually started to learn crochet :)