Good Reads

Welcome to WAFTA’s Book Review

here you’ll find books WAFTA members, as fibre artists and artisans, find both interesting and useful.

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Coat RouteThe Coat Route
Craft, Luxury, and Obsession
on the trail of a $50,000 coat
Review by Margaret Ford –

I’d heard of this book before but hadn’t got around to getting a copy. On the eve of my recent trip to Timor to look at West Timorese culture and textiles, my friend and fellow WAFTA member, Louise Wells, presented me with a copy to read on the plane.

It was ideal for plane and hotel reading. This is not a difficult read. No dense explanatory text. In fact, imagine asking author Meg Lukens Noonan to tell you about the making of a most luxurious coat. Then imagine sitting in front of a fire with her, sharing a bottle of wine while she tells you about it.

First, let’s be clear. This is not the story of just any coat. It’s the story of the creation of “the overcoat to end all overcoats”.

Meg weaves a magic tale. She sought out, and interviewed, everyone associated with the making of a bespoke vicuna coat in Sydney in the early years of this century, when “bespoke” is a word uncommon in current usage.

The result is a magic tale of how a coat of the finest cut and the finest materials is made. We learn about horn buttons, about gold labels, about the weaving of fabric. We are taken to where the animals that yield vicuna live (Peru). We hear (or read) about the training that all the master crafts people who contributed their talents to the coat received. We grieve with them about the likelihood that each of these master craftspeople will be the last generation to be employed this way.

In the process we absorb details of the changes in approaches to tailoring: from bespoke to tailor made ….to today’s ”fast fashion”, as practised in economies like China that supply Australia with its disposable “fashion” clothes that don’t last more than a season and are not expected to do so. We are encouraged to think about “consumerism” as it affects the materials, processes and durability of the textiles we buy.

We travel from Sydney to London to Italy and to Peru and places between. We are prompted to consider our personal approach to the “disposable culture” of clothing. It’s not heavy though. It’s a ball! A ball with a message it you want to take it in. Or just an interesting story if that’s all your holiday reading is intended to give you!

Title: The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, and Obsession on the trail of a $50,000 coat
Author: Meg Lukens Noonan
ISBN #; ISBN 978-1-922070432
Subject/category; 1. Luxury 2. Custom made clothing
Publisher: Scribe Publications Pty Ltd
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Published/Edition: 2013

Prudence Mapstone freeform_book_thumbnailFreeform:  Serendipitous Design Techniques for Knitting & Crochet by Prudence Mapstone;

Review by Margaret Ford –

I’ve been doing workshops with Prudence Mapstone for several years, both in Australia (at WAFTA) and overseas (on tours organized by Prudence and her husband Stephen).  Before I ever met Prudence, however, I’d used her books to get the essentials of her technique.

Freeform:  Serendipitous Design Techniques for Knitting & Crochet is now out of print so I’m using my 1st edition (2002) copy to do this review.  The 2nd Edition version includes the same text but it has been updated with a fresh design and beautiful new photographs.  It is now available as an 88 page PDF eBook on Prudence Mapstone’s website on her Tutorials, Patterns & Booklets page.

In Prudence’s own words, her “style of freeform usually involves combining small pieces of knitting and crochet into patches (scrumbles), which can later be joined together to form a unique and extremely tactile fabric.   Freeform doesn’t follow a written or charted pattern, although templates (in the form of paper patterns) could be used to obtain a good fit when using freeform patches to create garments.  Freeforming enables you to create as little or as much as you want in any one sitting. Freeformed fabrics can be full of texture and colour and can be used to make a wide range of items such as clothing, handbags, hats & jewellery.”

I don’t now use the technique for clothing but incorporate it in mixed media and three-dimensional pieces.  It’s a versatile and, as the book’s title says, serendipitous technique which you can take as far as you like.

The book gives lots of instruction on making the basic knitting and crochet stitches, various attractive and/or useful patterns and edgings, finding the right yarns, choosing colours, and about making small scrumbles and putting them together.  It’s Packed with hints for making a small or large piece of freeform knitting and/or crochet.

By the way, all Prudence’s instructions are given in English and American needle and hook sizes and basic stitch names.  This is not only helpful if you learned knitting and crochet elsewhere but also helps you read American patterns in the future.

For anyone wanting to start out exploring the potential of all the yummy yarns now available in Australia and online from overseas, I highly recommend  Freeform: Serendipitous Design Techniques for Knitting & Crochet.

Maybe you’ll see it in the WAFTA library catalogue soon!

ISBN #; ISBN 978-0-9580443-3-2
Subject/category; Freeform knitting and crochet
Publisher; Prudence Mapstone; Brisbane, Australia
Date Published/Edition; 2nd Edition, 2006

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