Tuesday 17 June 2014

Book Review: Edward's Menagerie

Today I'm doing something slightly unusual and reviewing a book that's not even out yet! There is method in my madness though, I promise...

The book is Edward's Menagerie by Kerry Lord, the founder and director of luxury knitwear & yarn company TOFT.

Kerry first learned to crochet when she was pregnant with her son, Edward, and started making him a family of crocheted animal toys. These toys became crochet patterns and kits sold by TOFT... and now they're going to be in a book: Edward's Menagerie, published by David & Charles this July.

I was quite excited to get my hands on a review copy of this book because I'd seen the animals on display at the TOFT stand at the Knitting & Stitching Show last year and thought how adorable they were. It's not often you get to review a craft book where you've already seen, in-person, how nicely the projects turn out!

To celebrate the book launch in July, there's going to be a day of workshops, alpaca treks and cream teas on the alpaca farm where TOFT is based and I've got two pairs of tickets to the launch to give away! Yay! The giveaway will be up on my blog tomorrow, but in the meantime... what's the book like?

Edward's Menagerie contains 40 different animals to crochet (plus a few suggestions for variations). The projects are divided by difficulty into three levels. Level One uses one colour, and chain, slip stitch and double crochet. Level Two introduces basic colour changing. And Level Three involves more complex colour changing plus the loop stitch. (British crochet terms are used throughout the book but there are US conversions in the back). 

Kerry's writing style is clear and easy to follow, and she includes lots of useful tips along the way. She obviously uses TOFT's own yarns to crochet her animals, but she points out that you can use any yarn you like as long as you choose the correct size of crochet hook - and there's a useful spread where one of the designs is shown made up in several different weights of yarn, with charts to help guide your yarn and hook choices.

The colours required for each animal are just listed as Light, Medium and Dark, leaving it open for you to make your own colour choices.


Each animal has a name - Seamus the Alpaca, Angharad the Donkey, Clarence the Bat, Esme the Fox, etc - and a charming little description of their character. The panda is messy, the koala is an eternal backpacker, the rhino is a jet-setter and the giraffe is nosy.


These descriptions are delightfully detailed, less cute characters from kids books (as you might expect from a toy-making book) and more the sort of characters you might have met in your own life. For example, Juno the siamese cat does martial arts and "each night after a heavy training session, or the defeat of yet another opponent, she collapses onto her oversized cream leather sofa and laps up a White Russian and the latest prize-winning novel or two." Fun, huh?

The animal designs are a "family" of patterns, sharing common body shapes and construction techniques. The resulting designs are simple and unfussy but still very cute and clearly recognisable as the animals they're meant to be.


The design of the book is similarly simple-but-stylish with lots of white space, simple fonts, and a few lovely scene-setting on-the-farm photos.

At the end of the book there's a "technicals" section with a photo guide to the techniques and other useful info you'll need to create the animals - counting, marking, recognising the right and wrong side of the fabric, how to do the stitches, stuffing, sewing, adding faces and (a crucial bit of info when it comes to things for kids) how to wash the animals.

Overall, I think this is a really great book. I had ooohed over the animals on display at the TOFT stand but thought to myself "well, I'd never be able to make any of those" but actually even as a beginner crochet-er they feel pretty achievable.

The ten Level One projects alone could keep you busy for a while (and make a lot of small people happy!) and the use of the similar body shapes to construct the animals means once you've learned how to make one it'll be much easier to make the others that are made in the same style.

Edward's Menagerie will be published on 25th July by David & Charles. RRP £15.99.

Rather awesomely, if you pre-order the book directly from TOFT you'll also get a PDF of ten bonus patterns that aren't included in the book: a badger, camel, kangaroo, moose, reindeer, sloth, lemur, skunk, snow leopard and armadillo.

Remember to pop back tomorrow for a chance to win tickets to the book launch!

Please note: I was sent a free digital copy of this book for review.


Manu said...

they all look adorable! I wish I knew how to crochet though :P the alpaca in the first picture is soo cute! and the elephant, too!

Anonymous said...

They are actually rather cute. Many crochet animals especially are rather hard looking. I did nearly buy a cute rabbit once though. Animals are hard to get right, with lots depending on stuffing them well and getting expressions right. Definitely a challenge. One I really should get around to.

ZHOBEYDA said...


Bugs and Fishes said...

Manu - oh, you should definitely learn! It's lots of fun. The key for me was getting a friend to show me how to do the stitches, the diagrams in the books I had were confusing me :)

Sara - yes, small things can really make a big difference to how animals' expressions look! I find that a lot when making things from felt... you put the bead eye in a *slightly* different place and the animal has a totally different character :)