I recently had the opportunity to review Karen Whooley’s new book, A Garden of Shawls. [Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the digital version.] Many of you will be familiar with Karen’s other titles, primarily for Leisure Arts and Annie’s Attic. Karen is also a crochet instructor. I took her Fair Isle online course through Craftsy and enjoyed it very much.
In her new, self-published volume, Karen presents a dozen lacy shawls in a variety of colors and styles. Karen describes her inspirations as coming from the Italian lace of her grandmother, the Pacific Northwest where she lives, and the yarn she uses. When Karen spots something that triggers a design idea, she keeps a picture and writes down some notes. She has even been known to use a magnifying class to look at the stitches in pictures to understand how something was made.
Karen also stays open to letting the yarn direct her choice of project. (In Harry Potter, “the wand chooses the wizard.” I like to think of the fiber equivalent as “the yarn chooses the project.”) For example, Karen says, “I have a beautiful skein of fingering weight yarn that just arrived in the mail. I originally got it to make socks, but as I sit here with it in front if me it is telling me that it needs to be a cowl or a scarf/shawlette of some sort.” It’s important for designers to let the yarn lead them, and Karen does exactly that.
I tested the “Ecliptic” shawl and found the pattern easy to understand. There were no mistakes. The symbol chart was very helpful. Karen gives the stitch totals for every row; it’s so helpful to know what to expect!
Of the dozen shawls, three are rated Easy and nine are Intermediate. All dozen shawls are nice projects for crocheters looking for pretty, lightweight wraps. Some, like Palisade, have interesting edgings. Each comes with symbol charts and a schematic. The book also contains clear, concise blocking instructions and helpful information about sourcing yarn. For me, the most impressive part of Karen’s book is how well the patterns are written. It’s one thing to whip up a finished object, and a whole different thing to explain it in a way that other people understand. Karen’s instructions ensure that crocheters will be successful with the patterns.
My one (very trivial) hiccup was Karen’s use of the word “model” to mean “sample” and also “person wearing the sample.” For example, her statement that “The shawl will be bulker than what the models look like” threw me for a second, until I realized she meant that with heavier yarn, the finished project would look bulkier than the sample finished project, not the lovely woman photographed wearing it!
Karen keeps busy releasing patterns via her newsletter every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, collaborating with yarn companies, teaching, doing events, and updating her website. She has a lot of exciting things going on! I admire Karen's energy and her discipline in keeping up with her newsletter and pattern releases. A good role model for designers to follow.
As a special deal, Karen is offering a signed print copy and a free eBook through her website, here. Otherwise the versions are sold separately through the usual outlets.
A Garden of Shawls
Occhi Blu Press
Paperback: 92 pages, retail price US $21.95. 7 x 10 inches; eBook: retail price US $16.99; pdf: retail price US $21.95