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Crochetopedia bills itself as the ‘only crochet reference you’ll ever need’ which is indeed a bold claim for a book. It’s 244 pages of stitch diagrams, instructions and patterns but will this book prove to be the last crochet book I ever buy?
The book is split into roughly four sections, an introduction, containing useful life advice about different types of fibre, techniques, which is how to make a variety of crochet stitches, projects and then a stitch directory at the back. There’s roughly 70 pages of techniques and projects each, with 31 different items to make.
In the age of Ravelry and Youtube, printed craft books have a lot of stiff competition. It’s often hard to compete with videos for how to make stitches and the ease of being able to just use a search engine to find guides for any stitches you don’t know how to do.
However, most of the crafters I know still buy printed books and patterns and not because they are technophobes either. There’s a certain joy to being able to flick through a book for inspiration and sometimes it’s nice to unplug, sit away from the computer and craft only with the help of a book. I generally prefer digital patterns but I prefer my reference books in paper format and I do like not having to worry about the battery life of my information.
The book is hardcover but spiral bound, so sits perfectly flat when it’s open on both tables and laps. It’s a little large and heavy to be an easy addition to your craft bag but the advantage of this is that all the stitch diagrams and photographs are huge, so you might not even need to get your reading glasses out to follow them. The matte paper also makes it very easy on the eyes.
The introduction covers the usual range of beginner’s topics, including necessary equipment, a bit of history on the craft and the meaning of different yarn weights. One thing I thought was odd for a book with a section on hairpin lace and filet crochet and a lovely picture of Perle 8 on the previous page is that it makes no mention of different weights of crochet cottons. The tension information and comparison photos of different weights of yarn is very helpful, as well as the hook size recommendations, but that seems like a bit of an oversight.
The section on ‘Yarn labels’ and the substitution guide are particularly thorough and helpful for beginners trying to decipher the hieroglyphics on various types of yarn. There’s some goodies on things like garment construction, with a good explanation of ease and how to make the ease adjustments for doing things like set in sleeves.
I like that in the introduction, the author encourages you to use the stitch directory to ‘create your own one-of-a-kind projects’ and back when I had just started crocheting, I did use the shell stitches and colour changing guide to create a ‘peg bag’. Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite figured out how to keep my rows the same length and there were some interesting increases in random places but my grandmother still managed to feign an emotion that wasn’t abject despair when she received it. (I’m too ashamed to share the photos with you).
The photographs and diagrams are great quality and if you hate following video instructions, the drawn pictures are incredibly informative. There are even a few guides of where to pinch the yarn when you’re making stitches to stop everything flopping around on your hook. All the more complex stitches are explained with both a written guide and a stitch diagrams, which really does help when you’re trying to learn how to read them. With the range of stitches covered, this makes it a particularly good book for beginners, as it even introduces a few more uncommon types of crochet like hairpin lace and Tunisian.
Left handed crocheters though, may feel a little sad. There is one acknowledgement of our existence, suggesting it may be helpful to hold a mirror to the diagrams so they are the ‘correct’ way around. This does mean that all the diagrams are for right handed people.
I would have liked more discussion on the availability of different kinds of crochet hooks and tools for beginners. One common complaint I’ve heard from people trying crochet, particularly with conditions like arthritis, is that holding the hook can be quite uncomfortable. This can often be solved by trying a different style of hook with a different grip. I also know the quality of my own laceweight crochet work improved dramatically when I bought a decent set of small hooks (I am a Tulip Etimo convert now) so more information on the different styles and products available would have been welcome.
The stitch guide, as both a tutorial and a reference for designing, is exceptionally good and the breadth of information might open your eyes to a few new types of crochet (including beads and fringing!) In terms of depth though, the book doesn’t move much beyond beginner level.
The author, Julie OParka, is a pattern designer and owner of the Red Berry Crochet blog and store where she sells her patterns. Some of the patterns from Crochetopedia, such as the Broomstick Lace clutch, are available for free online, so it’s worth having a look to see if her style jibes with yours.
The patterns are grouped by difficulty and there’s a lovely ‘pattern selector’ with thumbnail pictures to help you select what might be of interest. The patterns cover a good range of themes, from bowls to filet thread table runners, berets and phone cosies. There’s two amigurumi pieces as well, including the most terrifying Russian dolls and a honey cat designed with giving children nightmares in mind. A word of warning that all the clothing patterns are aimed at women and children.
Each pattern includes a breakdown of stitches and skills involved, which if you’re ‘self-studying’ crochet is a good way to pick pieces that are going to challenge you and teach you new skills.
One thing I thought was interesting is that none of the patterns give the weight of the recommended yarn, just the name and material. Yes, you can work it out roughly from the yardage and mass of yarn required but it seems like a useful piece of information to include if anyone will need to make substitutions.
The next complaint might be a matter of personal taste but there was honestly nothing I wanted to make in this section. The amigurimi hen is quite amusing but everything else felt a little ‘granny chic.’ I will qualify this with I am a fan of lace and fine crochet, and I generally only like shawls in terms of crocheted garments. The patterns are more at the double knit/worsted weight wools end of the spectrum but I think it’s worth having a look at Julie OParka’s website to see if they will be the type of thing you like.
It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend Crochetopedia as an essential purchase for the craft shelf. On the one hand, the stitch diagrams, reference pictures and construction of the book are excellent, on the other I feel the entire pattern section could have just been removed. My copy was a thoughtful gift from a relative when I started crocheting and that I think is the perfect use for it. There’s a good volume of clear information to keep beginners happy but also to open their eyes to the multitude of crochet techniques and stitches. It has a good shelf life as a stitch reference guide.
For a more complete set of stitches there is Linda P. Schapper’s ‘The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs’, but this lacks any motifs or edging designs. Betty Barden’s ‘Handbook of Crochet Stitches’ offers a more diverse range of stitches but isn’t quite as extensive. I’ve not really settled on my crochet equivalent of ‘The Embroidery Stitch Bible’, which is without a doubt in my most used craft reference books but please share your recommendations in the comments.
Great diagrams with a diverse range of information. Good purchase as a stitch reference for beginners or as a gift. More experienced crocheters might want a more specialised text.
Author: Julie OParka
Publisher: A&C Black Visual Arts
Size: 24.4 x 2.3 x 25.5 cm
Weight: 950 g
Stitch Terminology: UK (does contain reference for converting UK to US)