Do you love the look of colorful handknits but prefer the ease of crocheting? If so, you won’t want to miss out on a new book called Fair Isle Tunisian Crochet: Step-By-Step Instructions and 16 Colorful Cowls, Sweaters and More by Brenda Bourg.
You might or might not already be familiar with Tunisian crochet, a technique that results in beautiful and intriguing fabrics that can sometimes resemble knitting. If you’ve spent time learning this technique already, you’re likely aware that it’s easy, versatile and interesting to do.
With a few exceptions, most Tunisian crochet projects I’ve encountered fall into one or the other of two categories:
- Solid-colored projects or multicolored projects that result from only one yarn being used throughout — either a solid-colored yarn or a variegated yarn featuring multiple colors; or
- Colorful projects that result from the Tunisian crochet work being done in one yarn color and then cross stitch or other embroidery stitches being added overtop of the crochet work to create coloful embellishments.
But these two scenarios are not the only possibilities. Did you know you can create spectacular stranded colorwork designs in Tunisian crochet that resemble Fair Isle knitting designs? If this is news to you, I think you are going to be really excited to check out this book.
This is both a crochet pattern book and a technique instruction manual. From its pages you’ll learn the basics of yarn substitution, how to read charts, how to change colors, how to work with multiple yarn colors, how to “lock” the color you’re carrying, how to choose your own color combinations and more. The book includes a full-page color wheel for reference, so you won’t need to buy a separate color theory book to apply what you learn here from Brenda. You also get step-by-step photo tutorials for several Tunisian crochet stitches including Tunisian knit stitch, Tunisian purl stitch, Tunisian increase stitch, Tunisian seed stitch and ribbing. After you’re comfortable with these basics, you’ll be ready to tackle the variety of colorful, beautiful projects Brenda has shared in this book.
More Book Details:
Publisher: Stackpole Books
Copyright Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 978-0-8117-1538-6
This book is available in the following formats:
- Softcover With Perfect Binding
- Digital download: Kindle e-book edition
Number of Pages: 102
Cover Price: $21.95 US dollars / $29.95 Canadian dollars / £15.99 in the UK
Skill Level: The team at Stackpole Books has rated some of these patterns as being suitable for beginners; others are marked as being intermediate and advanced level patterns.
It appears to me that the patterns have been rated in relationship to each other rather than having been rated according to the Craft Yarn Council’s standard guidelines for crochet patterns. Most or all of these projects are suitable for crochet enthusiasts who are familiar with the basic crochet stitches and techniques but are beginners to the Fair Isle Tunisian crochet technique.
I personally wouldn’t recommend any of these crochet patterns as being ideal for a brand new crocheter’s first project ever; I’d recommend working a solid-colored Tunisian crochet pattern first in order to get comfortable working Tunisian crochet stitches at an even tension before you throw the added challenge of color changes into the mix. Once you’ve passed that milestone, this book is exactly what you need to get up and running with making colorful Tunisian crochet projects. The tutorials and patterns in the book are ideal for helping you learn how to do the Fair Isle Tunisian crochet technique.
The Best Things About This Book
The timing of this book is outstanding considering that Fair Isle designs top the list of hot fashion trends for winter 2017. While Fair Isle patterns are always in style, right now they’re hogging the limelight. Top fashion designers have been featuring Fair Isle knits in their collections, and these delightful garments are making appearances on runways and catwalks worldwide.
Scandinavian design is another top trend, and this book incorporates traditionally inspired Scandinavian style knitwear motifs into many of the pattern designs.
Despite the trend-conscious styles presented in the book, these projects are also classics that will continue to be wearable far into the future. This combination of on-trend designs plus classic sensibility makes the book an ideal choice for investing in.
There’s another interesting aspect to this book that many crocheters are likely to appreciate. Lately there’s been a trend towards craft books that also double as armchair travel books. While this book isn’t overtly about traveling to the Colorado Rockies, the destination in which it was written, the photos do give you fascinating glimpses at an historic Colorado property known as the Clear Creek History Park. If seeing the book’s photos arouses your curiosity about this locale, you’re likely to enjoy the author’s notes that give you more insights about it.
The book includes lots more wonderful details including attractive color photography and a helpful visual project index. The text of the book and the charts are printed large enough that I can read them easily despite my three years out-of-date eyeglasses prescription. The book is organized logically and intuitively.
Crochet Projects Included in This Book:
Here’s a breakdown of the types of projects you’ll find in this book:
- 2 blankets
- 2 ladies’ sweaters
- 2 pairs of mitts
- 3 headbands
- 3 cowl-style neck scarves
- 2 pairs of boot cuffs
- 1 jar cozy
- 1 crochet or knitting project bag
Here’s a more detailed project list, including a description of each crochet project you’ll find in the book:
1. Emma Tunisian Crochet Afghan
This pretty afghan gives you a new interpretation of the classic Scandinavian snowflake motif. Snowflakes are configured into striped panels that repeat endlessly across the design.
2. Elisha Tunisian Crochet Afghan
This afghan gives you another new twist on the classic Scandinavian snowflake motif. This time it’s repeated out in squares that sort of resemble two color quilt blocks.
3. Annabel Tunisian Crochet Bag
This bag is designed in a nostalgic, hipster-ish style reminiscent of bags you’d see around in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It’s retro yet also right on-trend for 2017.
4. Cora Tunisian Crochet Sweater
Cora is a classic cardigan sweater trimmed with an interesting faux knit ribbing stitch around the edges. The style includes three quarter length sleeves. The sweater is worked in a two-color charted design with allover patterning featuring Scandinavian snowflake motifs and geometric shapes. This is an advanced design. The sweater is graded for sizes S – 3X, with the smallest bust size measuring 37 inches and the largest measuring 57 inches. Schematics are included, which is helpful in case you want to make tweaks to customize the pattern.
5. Laleh Tunisian Crochet Sweater
Laleh is another two-color sweater pattern with a skill level rating of advanced. The pattern is graded for sizes S through 3X in a range of bust sizes from 37 1/2 inches through 57 1/2 inches.
6. Reena Tunisian Crochet Headband
This headband features a two-color motif that resembles an ultra-simple snowflake.
7. Eliza Tunisian Crochet Headband
The focal point of this headband is the interesting two-color geometric motif pattern.
8. Emily Tunisian Crochet Headband
Intertwined hearts embellish this classic two-color headband design.
9. Ivana Tunisian Crochet Mitts
This chart utilizes 3 colors arranged in a classic diagonal grid pattern. The end result is a pair of warm fingerless gloves that will allow you to text or surf the internet on your phone easily without having to remove them.
10. Adisa Tunisian Crochet Mitts
This fun pattern pushes the limits of what you can do with only two yarn colors.
11. Jelena Tunisian Crochet Cowl
The motif used to create this cowl reads like a simple two-color knitted medallion — although of course the project isn’t knitted; it’s crocheted.
12. Sabela Tunisian Crochet Cowl
If a flower motif and a simple tile motif could get married and have kids, the motif featured in this cowl is one possibility for what the children might look like.
13. Merryn Tunisian Crochet Cowl
The classic Scandinavian snowflake motif makes an appearance on this wintry cowl. It’s a two-color design featuring bold diagonal lines and lots of eye appeal.
14. Adanna Tunisian Crochet Boot Cuffs
The chart for crocheting these boot cuffs is a simple, versatile two-color design.
15. Hanna Tunisian Crochet Boot Cuffs
This is another simple two-color boot cuff design. This chart features some strong diagonal lines that catch the eye and have a vaguely preppie, early 80s-ish vibe about them. If I were going to crochet these, I’d probably choose pastels to make them look even more 80s inspired.
16. Aveline Tunisian Crochet Jar Cozy
If you want to get comfortable working with bunches of different yarn colors in the same design, this pattern is a great choice for giving it a try. This pattern incorporates a whopping four colors all together. If you use a colorful variegated yarn for one of the colors like Brenda did in her sample project, the results are even more colorful and interesting.
Other Observations About This Book
I give a big thumbs up to almost everything about this book. Overall, I think it’s an outstanding reference, and I’ve already begun recommending it to other crafters.
However, there’s one thing about this book that I can’t, in good conscience, put my stamp of approval on: the encouragement to steam block projects made using synthetic yarns.
Brenda mentions in the book that she is unable to use animal fibers, so all the projects in the book are crocheted with man-made yarns. She also correctly explains that steam blocking animal fibers is easier than blocking synthetics, a point where she and I are in agreement. She then gives helpful, detailed step-by-step instructions for how to steam block your projects.
I think her blocking instructions are excellent, but I don’t recommend using them on synthetic fibers. I take issue with steam blocking synthetic fibers due to concerns over their toxicity. This is an issue I’ve only recently become aware of, and I have changed my own recommendations accordingly. There was a time in the past when I, like Brenda, also recommended steam blocking synthetic yarns.
Since acrylic yarns are used in multiple projects in the book, let’s take acrylic as an example. The US Federal Trade Commission defines acrylic as being a manufactured fiber that’s comprised of at least 85% acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile is a toxic liquid chemical. Experts from the US Environmental Protection agency report that acrylonitrile is likely to cause cancer and other health problems.
Most crochet enthusiasts who use acrylic are blissfully unaware of its toxic nature. It’s unclear to what degree the acrylic might retain its toxicity once the initial manufacturing process has been completed. When you heat acrylic yarn, there is a substantial risk of accidentally melting it, and acrylic in its liquid state is definitely something you want to avoid.
My opinion is that safeguarding your health should take priority over having a beautifully finished crochet project. Whether you agree with me or not is your business; what you do with this information is up to you, but my conscience is clear for having warned you about the potential risks.
That’s my one and only major concern with this book. I’d also be a bad reviewer if I didn’t point out that exclamation points are overused in this book, a minor gripe which hopefully wouldn’t be a deal breaker for anyone interested in this type of material.
Fair Isle Tunisian Crochet is a lovely and groundbreaking book, and I’m delighted to recommend it to other crochet enthusiasts.
I think this book is an excellent value for its cover price of $21.95 US dollars, but you are likely to be able to find this book on sale for a lower price. The retailers I’ve linked to below often sell books at discounted prices, so be sure to check their websites for current pricing information.
Where to Buy This Book:
In addition to the actual book I’m reviewing, I used the following resources for reference when writing this review:
From the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry Toxic Substances Portal: Acrylonitrile
From the Federal Trade Commission’s Website: The rules and regulations under the textile fiber products identification act
From the Environmental Protection Agency’s Website: Acrylonitrile Hazard Summary 107-13-1 — IRIS Toxicological Review of Acrylonitrile
J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science
Allen C. Cohen
Fairchild Publications, New York
Textiles: Fiber to Fabric
Dr. Bernard P. Corbman
McGraw-Hill Book Company
Similar Crochet Books and Related Resources
Karen Ratto-Whooley wrote a book called Fair Isle to Crochet that includes patterns for 5 colorful afghans, all of which are worked in the tapestry crochet technique. Karen’s book is different in that it is a shorter leaflet style book, and it does not cover the Tunisian crochet technique at all.
Sharon Hernes Silverman wrote a book called Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets that includes one Tunisian crochet stranded colorwork pattern plus additional patterns that use other types of Tunisian crochet stitches.
Having said that, Brenda Bourg’s Fair Isle Tunisian Crochet book is in a class by itself in that it is the most comprehensive resource I’ve yet come across covering this particular Tunisian crochet technique. If this is a technique that interests you, Brenda’s book is well worth owning.
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