Book Title: Unexpected Afghans: Innovative Crochet Designs With Traditional Techniques
Author: Robyn Chacula; there are also contributions from 24 other crochet designers.
Publisher: Interweave Press
Copyright Date: 2012
Format: Softcover -- Trade Paperback
Number of Pages: 159
Cover Price: $22.95 US dollars
Crochet Skill Level: Skill level is not stated in any of the patterns. However, in my estimation, this book is not ideal for beginners, despite an attempt to include many tips and hints. I'm thinking that advanced crocheters will get the most mileage out of this book, and there are also patterns appropriate for intermediate crocheters. A patient and determined advanced beginner could do some of these patterns, but they aren't good starter patterns for someone who is brand new and just learning crochet.
This book purports to be a collection of crocheted afghans, all of which use traditional crochet techniques in unexpected ways.
When I first cracked open this book, I was happily turning pages and admiring the pictures until my smart-aleck husband asked, "What's so unexpected about some granny square afghans?"
I had to chuckle. "Nothing, really," I answered him.
A few moments later, I added, "But, so what?"
He has a point. I'm not sure the book lives up to its title. Nevertheless I think this is an outstanding collection of afghan patterns.
Most of the afghans in the book aren't granny afghans anyway. The ones that are, in my opinion, are outstanding examples.
My Favorite Pattern in the Book: The Kaleidoscope Afghan
I fell in love with the "Kaleidoscope" afghan pattern by Tammy Hildebrand. This afghan consists of two basic granny-style motif patterns -- a kaleidoscope motif and a filler motif -- that are joined together to make a repeating pattern that does, indeed, resemble the sort of design you'd see when you look into a kaleidoscope.
There's also a partial motif pattern given that's used for filling in around the edges.
I think this is simply a genius pattern.
The kaleidoscope motif inspired me so much that I crocheted it a couple of times using bits of scrap yarn I had hanging around in my yarn stash. The colors I used are not as nice as the colors used in the book's original project photos, and my picture doesn't really do justice to the design.
If you work this pattern, in several of the rounds, you'll be crocheting stitches under a previous round, or working stitches from two different rounds together. That layered / overlapping activity explains the interesting colorwork effects. When you look at the finished project, it looks as if two colors were used in some rounds, but they weren't. That's only a clever illusion.
I worked from the written instructions in the book, mostly so I could give you an idea of how accurate they are. I thought the instructions were clear and concise, and I think any knowledgeable crocheter should do just fine with them. Symbol crochet charts and diagrams are also included in the book, which is definitely a plus; once you understand how to use these, I think they are much easier than working from written instructions.
Besides granny-style afghans, the book also includes cabled afghan patterns, Tunisian crochet afghan patterns, lace crochet afghan patterns, colorwork afghan patterns, and several pillow patterns.
Overall, the projects in the book range from mediocre to outstanding.
Please note that I got a review copy of this book free from the publisher. I don't buy many contemporary crochet books; most of my crochet money gets spent on yarn and vintage patterns. But I have to say that, if I lost my copy of this book, I'd pay to buy it again.
For me, the things that are most interesting about the book:
- The symbol crochet charts. Even the Tunisian crochet designs are charted out. This is fantastic! That alone is more valuable than the cover price, in my estimation.
- There are some really exciting stitches presented in the book.
- I find the photography and the styling choices inspiring.
- There's an amazing amount of variety; with so many different designers contributing patterns, there are bunches of interesting pattern choices.
- Every pattern has something noteworthy about it. Even though quite a few of the patterns are not to my taste, there are interesting things to be learned and observed in all of them.
- I find many of the color choices to be inspiring and delightful!
- I think the tips are valuable, and I appreciate having such a great collection of insights collected from all these expert designers.
This book doesn't have many cons, but since I feel obligated to give you the whole truth and nothing but the truth, here they are:
- No skill level ratings are given. You get to guess if a particular pattern is beyond your skill level or not. In all honesty, I'm not always entirely comfortable with assigning skill level ratings to patterns either; I tend to think that, if you think you can do a pattern, you can -- and if you don't think you can do it, you can't. In that regard, any stated skill level rating is irrelevant anyway. But, even so, I'm finding that many crocheters do like to have an idea of what they're getting themselves into, and how much frustration they might be in for with any particular pattern. With this book, you're on your own.
- A few of these patterns, I'd have to think carefully about whether they'd be worth the yarn investment, and whether they'd be worth the effort to make.
I'm thrilled to recommend this book to intermediate and experienced crocheters, and also to other crocheters who are willing to wander a bit out of their comfort zones. I'd cautiously recommend it to newer crocheters who are serious about improving their skills.
For crocheters who haven't yet reached intermediate level, I think this book could be excellent inspiration, and maybe even a good motivator, as long as you have realistic expectations and you're willing to invest some effort in getting to the point where you can work these patterns.