Friday, 3 June 2016

Crochet One-Skein Wonders for Babies - Book Review

"Getting broody, at your time of life?  I think that ship has well and truly sailed, Beaut."  
I put my copy of 'Crochet One-Skein Wonders for Babies' down on the table with a small slam.
"Elinor, there can't be many sheep who can act the total cow quite as well as you.  One of the many glories of 'my time of life' is having kids old enough to shovel in their own food, then wipe it off the other end without my assistance.  I'll have you know Storey Publishing sent me this book to review."
"Mmmoo - dy! Hot flush, is it, dear?"
Although not much interested in babies, I was greatly attracted by the notion of a One-Skein Wonder and had been leafing through the book with something special in mind.  A specially fabulous, multicoloured skein of handspun yarn, bought at WonderWool. Turning the shiny, heavyweight pages, there were plenty of large photos which illustrated the finished objects well, avoiding the temptation to focus too much on cute shots of the tiny models.  The editors, Judith Durant and Edie Eckman, had chosen their 101 patterns from dozens of different designers, which made for a good range of styles to choose from.  Divided into sections entitled Hats + Caps, Tops + Dresses, Bottoms, Bibs + Washcloths, Toys, Blankets + Sacks and finally, Bags + Accessories, the cut edges of the pages are colour coded by section with the name of the pattern on each page, written vertically down the edge.  I can see this would be really helpful, if you came at the book in the natural fashion, with a particular wish to crochet, say, a cardi for your baby.  However, if your starting point is one skein of wool, 100g in weight, with the characterful irregularity of handspun averaging out about worsted/heavy double knitting, then sorting out a project requires a bit more effort than just choosing from the pictures in one section.

As is usual, each pattern is written for a named brand of yarn and although the weight and length of a standard ball is specified, you have to guess from the photo whether a project is likely to be in lace or chunky.  Very useful to find at the back of the book an index to projects by yarn weight, so I was just in the process of flipping to and fro by page number, reviewing all those suitable for worsted.
My companion planted a hoof on The Pinwheel Vest, designed by Lorna Miser.
"Now there's a blast from the past.  Haven't seen a top like that
since the 70s."
"Oh, yeah.  Play that sax, daddio. This project is going to be one hip, hot, diggitty dog."
"Hate to bring you down, man," said Elinor, dryly.  "but it says the one skein you need weighs 200g."
"Drat, drat and double drat.  I'll just do the central motif in the 100g of groovy colours and then spin up some Black Welsh Mountain fleece to crochet the rest."
This pattern is given both round by round and as a chart, clear and simple, I only went wrong once or twice and soon worked out why. 
Though all measurements are given as both Imperial and metric, US crochet notation is used without a conversion table for the UK terms.  The glossary does describe how to do every one of the many stitches included and the book index is truly comprehensive. Despite my gauge working out considerably bigger than stated, I realised with mounting excitement that way more than 50g wool was left after the back wheel was complete.  I carried on, crocheting faster and faster, in order to finish before my 
ball of yarn ran out.  Made it, with about 50cm to spare.  Obviously, it would never take a whole skein to make many of these tiny baby patterns. This book would be very handy for using up leftover yarn of less than a whole skein, if an approximation of the actual yardage needed had been given for each pattern.  Second consideration, how come my Pinwheel Vest turned out nearer age seven size than 18 months? While I am ready to admit my tension is loose and my
judgement of handspun yarn weight is questionable, this is quite a disparity.  To get the crochet gauge correct, I had to go down from 5.5mm to a 4mm hook and use a double knitting weight yarn - well, ok, approximately dk, since this one was handspun too.
It seemed to me a cracking book, well organised and full of functional and pretty items, great for treating the tiny darlings in your life to a really wonderful one skein. Before committing to such a ringing endorsement, I thought I had better crochet another pattern, just to check the tension gauge issue.  These bootees came out exactly the size they should. Crocheting from this book has turned out great fun and I'm actually delighted that the Pinwheel Vest will fit my youngest niece.  She'll be such a hep cat. Had it come out even larger, I'd have worn it myself.  Better not let Elinor see the bootees.  Negative vibes, man.
Crochet One Skein Wonders for Babies
Edited by Judith Durant and Edie Eckman
£12.99 published in the UK May 2016
ISBN 978-1-61212-576-3


  1. ach, baby knits - I've fought with instructions for years, because they make such silly sizes. babies are so different in size that age brackets like 3-6 months etc. are pretty much useless. plus having to convert instructions to handspun = very few patterns actually work out as planned! that's why I prefer instructions in german - they go for fixed sizes. all you have to do is ask the recipient, what size baby or toddler wears now. add two sizes or so - and it should fit by the time knitting is finished:) unless you work like I do sometimes, start a pattern, put it to the side for something else - and realize that baby is in school already, when picking up the discarded knit later:) right now I am in a BSJ fever - several "fresh" babies around to knit for!

    1. I do have half a jumper upstairs, started for a nephew who could possibly now wear it as a hat.