Yarning with Mad Martha about…Crochet Taxidermy!

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Tally-ho, fellow craft-lovers!  Today’s book is one for those who love crochet, animal parts and ironic home interior trends.  We received a copy of Crochet Taxidermy: 30 Quirky Animal Projects, From Mouse to Moose by Taylor Hart, with great excitement from the publisher via Netgalley.  Unfortunately, time got away from me and despite the best intentions I was unable to actually complete any of the projects in this compendium.  I have had a good old pore over it though and have formed some firm opinions, so here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Crochet Taxidermy puts a new twist on amigurumi, the popular Japanese method of creating considerably cute stuffed animals with oversized heads. In this delightful collection, heads of animals from farm and forest, sea and safari come to life with irresistible details like the drowsy eye (for the shy deer and sleepy octopus) and fuzzy yarn (for the skittery skunk’s stripe and lazy lion’s mane). Step-by-step instructions and adorable photos guide you through these 30 easy crochet patterns. Most require just one skein of yarn, so they’re affordable and quick to crochet!

crochet taxidermy

If you are a crafter with a basic understanding of amigurumi techniques – crocheting in the round, completing a magic circle, attaching limbs etc – this would be a fantastic pick for extending those skills in a way that allows for guilt-free construction of what are, essentially, plushies.  Being an avid maker of amigurumi, I know the internal conflict that arises from wanting desperately to make another cute little plushy, but feeling the guilt of not having an immediate purpose or recipient in mind for said toy.  Attaching the completed product to your wall is a perfect solution!

The book provides a diverse range of cute critters to display around the interior of your abode (or work cubicle!), with projects ranging from the quick and adorable mouse, chicken, owl and cuttlefish designs, to the more substantial moose, cow and hippo. Animals are divided into habitat categories, so if you have a particular decorating theme in mind, you can draw on a whole wall-full of inspiration.  Similarly, the patterns for related animals seem to use standard shapes, so once you have mastered one animal, completing others of its ilk should be a doddle.

I had two main issues of contention with this title though.  The first is that, as a more experienced amigurumi maker, the animals didn’t quite have the quirky facial character I was hoping for.  This is simply an issue of preference however, so I can’t really hold that against the designer.  The second issue however, which can be noticed upon close inspection of the completed photographs of the projects, is one that poked at the frayed nerves of the perfectionist in me.  One of the key features of amigurumi is the use of small, tightly woven stitches, but in the project photos the stuffing is clearly showing on a number of the animals, which means that the stitches are larger than they probably should be – or alternately, that the pieces are too tightly stuffed, stretching the fabric too widely.  This could be related to the fact that some of the projects are quite large and designed to be completed quickly, but it seemed like something that should have been ironed out before the final patterns were made up, to give the finished product a more professional look.

If you are at the beginning of your amigurumi journey though, or someone who needs a watertight excuse to make more cute, quirky plushies, this book really does have everything you need to achieve a successful and jolly faux-taxidermy look for your home.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

Utopirama!: Knit the Sky…

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Welcome to another Utopirama, wherein we stroll in a calming, light breeze through the flowery fields of tomes thatNonfiction 2015 lift our spirits.  Today I have a book that Mad Martha insisted we review, given that it relates to her chosen hobby of needlecraft.  I am also submitting today’s book for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader, in which I am participating, hence the comfy armchair.  We were lucky enough to receive a digital copy of today’s book from the publisher via Netgalley, but we suggest if you’re wanting a copy of this one for yourself, it would be better in print, simply for the tactile nature of the subject matter.

The book is Knit the Sky: A Playful Way of Knitting by Lea Redmond.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Look up from your knitting needles and explore the world around you! That’s the mantra of Lea Redmond, the creative instigator behind Knit the Sky. Challenging herself to capture the changing colors of the sky in her knitting, Redmond loaded up her yarn basket with shades of blue, gray, and white and set out to knit a strip reflecting each day’s shades. In 365 days, she imagines having a one-year weather report in the shape of a scarf. This is just one of 30 adventurous knitting challenges she shares with readers in this whimsical, inspiring collection. These are knitting projects like no other, as the goal is not just to have a finished project but to have a one-of-a-kind piece that tells a story about the knitter’s life experience. Accompanied by basic instructions for all the needed stitches, techniques, and patterns, Knit the Sky is a complete creativity starter kit for any knitter looking for a fresh approach to the craft.

knit the sky

Quick Overview:

The greatest thing about this book is that you can replace the word “Knit” in the title with any crafty word you please and you can still get an enormous amount from the book.  For in Knit the Sky, it’s the process, not the finished product, which is the important thing. Mad Martha doesn’t know how to knit, but I had to listen to her enthuse over the exciting projects in this book and how she could convert them to crochet. There seemed to be only one or two projects in the book that really are specific to knitting – one in which friends cooperate to knit two scarves on one pair of needles springs to mind – but with a bit of creativity, crafty crafters could easily modify these projects to get around that.  Even if you don’t do any crafty endeavour yourself, the book promotes a way of looking at and interacting with the world around you that inspires mindfulness and memory-making.

Another handy thing about the projects here is that the author has suggested numerous variations on each project to inspire you to have a go. For example, with the titular project – knitting a scarf comprised of individual stripes capturing the colour of the sky each day for a year – there’s the ingenious and touching suggestion of instead creating a baby blanket comprised of squares representing the colour of the sky on each day (or near enough to!) of the baby’s time in utero. We experienced a mild thrill of terror at the idea of the “Neighbourhood Cowl” in which the crafter is challenged to go visit all the neighbours on their block and then knit a stripe in the colour of each house, in street order. Then there’s the family projects, like the heirloom idea of beginning a pattern or simple project, and then leaving it safely encased somewhere for future generations to find and complete, and the almost unbearably cutesy idea of the grandparent creating a basket-coloured (or basket-stitched!) woolly hat for themselves, and a berry-coloured woolly hat for each of their grand-offspring!

In all honesty, this book made Mad Martha’s heart sing for the potential it has to promote connection amongst people – family, neighbours, complete strangers – and the flow-on effect of crafting as a means to achieve Utopia.

Utopian Themes:

Knit one, connect one

Crafting positivity

Intergenerational connection

Yarning with strangers

Protective Bubble-o-meter:

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5 out of 5 bubbles for the cosy embrace of a handmade creation

Until next time,

Bruce