Pork in the Trees?

Well, as asomewhat pessimisticfollower of Boston baseball, I had to go out and inspect the tops of the neighborhood oaks. Surely pigs flew last night, andsome might still be up there. But on to needlework.

Not OOP Book Review – Bead Crochet

I’ll break with my pattern of only reviewing long out of print books, and pick on something contemporary. I found Bead Crochet by Bethany Barry in the library (Interweave Press, 2004).

I have to say, I was highly disappointed. Maybe my taste is entirely in my mouth. I do like demonstrative jewelry and embellishment, but aside from a couple pix of historical and contemporary pieces in this book, the contents – especially the projects – left me stone cold.

I was also extremely surprised that any book presenting a capsule history of crochet put out by Interweave can fail to cite Lis Paludan’s wonderfully complete Crochet History and Technique – another Interweave Press publication. The background of crochet given in the Beading book is vague at best, and flat out contradictory at worst. It repeats the old nun’s work saw on crochet’s beginnings, and offers up adisciples-of-Christ origin for shepherd’s knitting. She mentions advanced bead crochet being taught in a Philadelphia academy inthe 1820s (which seems a bit early to me based on other readings), but gives no exact citation for it. There are several exquisite examples of late 19th century beaded crochet in the book. Most of these can be seen in the Amazon peek-inside preview. Unfortunately the rest of the text has nothing to do with them.

O.K., picky historycriticisms aside, as this is clearly not a needlework history book. On to the techniques and projects. You see that large chaotic rope of beads on the cover? All the projects inside look like that. Large ones, small ones, square ones, pouch-style ones, flower shaped ones, ones done with eyelash yarns, and ones done with smooth yarns. If you like the necklace on the cover and want to learn to make lots more encrusted things exactly like that, this is the book for you.

To be fair, there is one project featuringinstruction on how to crochet a basic beaded rope. That’s useful. There are four pages of basic description for simple off-loom needle beading techniques(peyote stitch, brick stitch, square stitch, African herringbone weave) – but these things are described in passing, as adjuncts to the book’s main premise – beaded crochet.

What was I expecting? More substance, perhaps less art. More detailed techniques, dipping into historcial sources for something besides clumps of randomly-encrusted crochet. Maybe I wanted to see a range of things that can be done in bead crochet, and learn some techniques to make them. While the gallery section at the backdoes showa wide range of pieces (some of which I do like), there is no relation between them and the techniques presented earlier.

So to sum up – I’m glad I borrowed this one from the library before buying it. As much as I like crochet and adore embellishment, I won’t be adding this one to my permanent collection.

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