Why Jane, you look lovely! Review: AUSTENtatious Crochet

Cap and Muff

A crocheted and felted cap from the how-to book AUSTENtatious Crochet.

Images of the post peak-ocalypse tend toward the grim.

Even when we imagine ourselves earnestly gardening our edible plots and sharing hand tools and home brews with neighbors, in the background we see the haunting specter of mutant zombie bikers.

We also wonder whether there will or can be any aesthetic pleasures in a world made by hand if that world is cobbled together like a MacGyver experiment, all duct tape, bunny ears and twine.

Is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?

But that’s just fear, dear reader, which, we’ll remember, is the only thing “we have to fear.” So fret not and don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.

Instead, pepper your thoughts of the future with the knowledge that the decline of the age of oil brings with it an immense surplus of actual goods that are ripe for re-purposing, raw materials in spades, and plenty of ideas.

A little learning is by no means a dangerous thing

Our centuries-long knowledge bank isn’t going to go away either.

With so many books on our shelves we have a trove of tips and techniques to draw on far into the future as we re-skill our way forward. And, providing we make the preservation of the Internet a priority, our Web hubs will allow us to exchange information and ideas to help us adapt in place most delightfully.

Austentatious Crochet

AUSTENtatious Crochet By Melissa Horozewski, Running Press, 208 pp., $16.00.

To that end, when I read a book like AUSTENtatious Crochet, I relish our past and have hope for our future. Its subtitle, 36 Contemporary Designs from the World of Jane Austen, tells you all you need to know: It’s a book for lovers of literature and handwork who also have a penchant for good looking design.

Why not seize the pleasure at once

Anachronistic to the core (crochet wasn’t even around in Jane Austen’s day) and mingled through with fan fiction-like riffs on Austen’s plots, her characters and their dialogue, author and long time crochet designer Melissa Horozewski has made immense fun of bringing together seemingly disparate elements — magazine-style quizzes, Facebook references, Regency-influenced fashion, hipster mantelets, Austen movie trivia, and real Austen quotes — to craft a book that educates and entertains while prepping you for productivity.

Not that the book has anything to do with peak oil, downturn, or the need rather than the option to practice DIY arts.

Nonetheless, this is exactly the kind of book for fashion designers and crafters to have on the shelf as an essential reference that will help you make goods that are not just functional, but also uniquely beautiful and compelling. (The post-peak will still be competitive, you know, and if you want to make that sale or trade you’d better have a creative differentiator.)

I shall wear two colored gowns

So forget granny squares, however much you may love them.

In AUSTENtatious Crochet you’ll get easy-to-make afghans, several scarf styles, and even a lovely cloak for staying warm in the global warming freeze-out.

But what really makes AUSTENtatious Crochet soar are the practical (a girl’s got to wear something) garments with the über fanciful touches.

Take, for example, the Dreaming of Mr. Knightly Pajama Set. Why, I’m blushing just writing about it. One of the more advanced projects, this night suit of sorts is a sultry mix of saucy and demure, rendered in black and “white” (really more like nude). It’s just the thing to kindle your post-peak passion after a day spent digging beets and making candles.

Jane Bennet Skirt

Jane Bennet Skirt from AUSTENtatious Crochet.

Or what about the Jane Bennet Skirt, a pencil style knee length skirt with contrasting mid-thigh bum ruffle and bow? Tres chic, perfect for walking downtown to sell eggs for credit at the mercantile.

But the Regency-inspired pieces-de-resistances are the Eat Your Heart Out Willoughby and the Ball At Netherfield body-hugging blouses.

The Willoughby offers a deeply scooped neckline, lacy bodice inset and contrasting lace cuffs at the 3/4 length sleeves (pictured on book cover above). A decided flourish without going too far over-the-top.

Ball at Netherfield Blouse, AUSTENtatious Crochet.

The Netherfield is a cap sleeved bodice hearkening back to the fitted stylings of the Regency era with a faux corseted inset that lends utter charm and a bit of a flirt to this casual-ish summer wear. I even think it could be worn as a kind of a vest over a tissue shirt during cooler months.

Each will make you want to improve your basic stitches to reach advanced mastery, if only to flaunt your beauty in such a divine concoction or have it to take to your booth on market days for some fetching lass to acquire.

There is no enjoyment like reading

Horozewski’s designs are remarkable for their simple flair, ample contrasts, and blend of a contemporary feel with an old world touch. Several patterns could be done with a child, and several are designed for a child to wear — the Off To Bath Capelet, Little Jane’s Pinafore, and Summers at Mansfield Park Dress along with the Felted Austen Cap and Muff (pictured at the top of the review) are so old they’re new again, looking utterly contemporary and hip.

Teens and older reader-crafters will delight in playing with the trivia and Austen citations as projects are being worked on.

The book includes a key, full supplies instructions by the pattern, and a glossary of terms as well as photographs of various stitches to help master more complex techniques.

If DIY is your thing, and upping your game is the aim, you’ll love having this book on hand to inspire, amuse and challenge you. And when you’re chilly, you’ll have a trove of designs to choose from — a few classic yet fashionable jackets and various blankets — to keep you stylish and cozy at once.

Mr. Darcy would approve, I’m sure.

–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice

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Comments

  1. Susanne Farrington says

    “boiled wool” is the process of that hat. Wet felting, is more basic, starting with being given sheared wool (or bartering for it), teasing it, layering it over a pattern, rubbing it with soapy, wet hands. Finally, you end up with an object that initially was formless. Look up “wet felting”.

    • says

      Yes! I love felting, by my preferred method is needle felting. But my girls used to do wet felting at their Waldorf School. Kids love getting all gooey like that.

      Best,

      Lindsay

  2. says

    Thank you for this fabulous reminder that a post-carbon society need not be all apocalyptic and morose (though zombie bikers do sounds exciting to a year round bicyclist such as myself). It is so easy to get caught up on the downward spiral and the immanent demise of life as we know it and forget that DIY can be fun, functional, and beautiful, not just necessary.

    • says

      I know what you mean. After over a year of writing dire warning type pieces and analyses of the downturn I’m in need of a little bit more simple, happy, inspiring How-To, from the garden to the kitchen to the craftroom and more.

      Best,

      Lindsay

  3. says

    Nice write-up, Lindsay. as a crocheter who managed to graduate high school without reading Jane Austen, you have made the book sound very appealing. Eager to see it. Keep up the good work.

    • says

      Hannah, your blog is darling! I love Elizabeth’s too, it is so full of soul and wisdom and heart and joy! I really want to re-learn the art of sewing. I hand sew like a fiend, but as you know, that’s so time consuming. I once gave away a vintage 60s Singer with just the basic stitches that ran so reliably — I really need to find its duplicate and get back to sewing on a regular basis. I make very cute Christmas stockings, cat nip toys and herb sachets.

      Thanks for sharing your blog.

      Best,

      Lindsay

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