Crochet Know-How - CICO books

It's weird to have a book with no author on the cover at all, but there you go. Tiny writing on the inside claims it was edited by Marie Clayton, if you care.

Me reading a book like this is usually an indication that I'm back on the craftwork, and indeed I am (blog post to follow, I'm sure). Mildly ironically, I'm still doing amigurumi, which entails a very limited, structured set of stitches, while this book covers an extremely large range, to be honest much more suitable for the traditional quilts, cushion covers, clothes and so on, in weird colour combinations and covered with flowers.

The obvious question is "Is a book even useful nowadays, given the internet and in particular tutorial videos?" I'll admit the equation has changed substantially over the years, and in some cases a video can't be beaten for an unambiguous, step-by-step illustration of a technique. Having said that, there's definitely room for describing techniques through high-quality, clear illustrations, backed up by good quality text, and that's what this book is in a position to deliver.

This book is really just a reference. It brings together a good set of techniques, along with useful peripheral knowledge (e.g. hook/wool sizes, notation etc.). This is pretty useful to have in book form, since a pattern may call for stitches that aren't in your working set, and a quick look in a book is a much more efficient way to get back into practice than most of the rather slow videos you see on YouTube.

However, there's a bit of a missed opportunity in making it just a reference. There are approximately zero patterns in the book. The most you can say is that it provides examples of patterns, but they're certainly not interesting or inspiring. I understand that CICO press publishes a whole pile of craftwork books, and there will be plenty of patterns in those, but being patternless significantly reduces the attractiveness of the book over "look it up on the 'net".

Also, strangely, they've foregone the opportunity to make it an "introduction and reference". This is not a good book to learn crochet from. Techniques are grouped logically, in a way that makes learning to crochet a basic piece an exercise in flipping back and forth. Starting/finishing a piece of work is in one section, stitches are in another, and increases/decreases are in yet another. Again, a neat, organised getting started guide would provide considerable value to a beginner, beyond "search for a specific technique on YouTube".

Ok, so there are some missed opportunities. How does it stand up as a reference? The illustrations are universally excellent. My own experience trying to look at a piece of crochet and work out where to insert the hook next suggests that a big pile of tangled wool is hard to interpret. Yet the illustrations manage to both match what I see in my work, and be intelligible and logical.

The accompanying text is somewhat variable. Reading the instructions for the stitches, they're clear and perhaps even pedantic. Explaining two, three, four, five and seven treble clusters separately seems excessive once the pattern becomes obvious. At the same time, I've had problems with literal edge cases: the explanations for starting, finishing, and handling the edges of rows and ends of rounds gloss over things I find far from obvious. I muddle through, and any mistakes I make don't matter too much for the patterns I use and the level I work at. Still, not great.

After knitting for a while, the structure, the logic behind knitting became clear to me. I must admit, for a long time crochet has been a technique that "just works" without understanding why the stitches are constucted the way they are. However, by reading through this book, and seeing technique after technique after technique, the underlying patterns are now a lot clearer to me. It's not explicitly talked about in the book, but it's good to know it's there.

Is this book any good? It does what it says on the tin, and it does so in an unexceptional, workmanlike way. Am I happy I got this book? Yes. Of course, this is partly because I like to get a book on any hobby I take up. I know that about myself. Still, I think it's provided real value to me. Partly, it is more convenient to read up a technique here than to interminably wind through internet videos. Second, it's actually quite inspiring. Seeing all the techniques laid out makes me want to try them! Probably nothing fancy, but maybe a few test swatches at least.

Posted 2024-02-22.