Off the Shelf–Recent Reads and Reviews

Alrighty, here’s a roundup of my recent reads:

 

Nonfiction–Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

I really enjoyed Paperback Crush. It’s a deep dive retrospective of the teen fiction novels I devoured in the ’80s and ’90s. Divided up into a thematic approach, it explores the evolution of popular teen fiction and the history of the most iconic series. While it primarily focuses on the titular decades, the author has done her research and mentions how certain themes can be tracked back through the decades. Just browsing the classic artwork brought back memories, and the author’s humorous and sometimes wry tone made it a fun read.

Overall, pure nostalgia made me buy it, but I’m glad I did. Series like The Baby-Sitters Club and Fear Street made me catch the reading bug, which I still have today.

Nonfiction–Hooked by Sutton Foster

This book is basically a memoir from Broadway and television star Sutton Foster. It follows her extensive career and travels as a rising stage talent to mother and TV star, while also describing the tumultuous relationship with her problematic agoraphobic mother. While she does incorporate how her crafting projects served as touchstones throughout her personal journey, this book is still very much a memoir at its core, with crafting as thematic tool for the stories. Overall, it was a good read, but I was already familiar with and a fan of the author. Because it’s mainly a memoir with crafting as an ancillary topic, it could be misleading if you don’t read the jacket or reviews.

Nonfiction–Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off

I’d say this book is solidly for knitters. It’s a fun, whimsical and funny look at the knitting community, including how specifically diverse, strange, and neurotic we can be. As a prolific knitter who fits many of the author’s descriptions, I found it to be an entertaining, lighthearted read. So, if you are a knitter, it’s great. If not, it’s not for you (unless you live with a knitter and need a guidebook to our world).

Fiction–The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This novel brings together a diverse cast of characters as they take a cooking class at a local restaurant. The chapters focus on their backstories, while weaving together the lessons from the class into their personal journeys and future goals. It’s beautifully descriptive, and a short, easy read if you like novels with food/cooking as a backdrop to the story. I will say that, while I enjoyed this one, I was slow to finish it. I appreciated it as a whole, but it was more of a pickup-putdown read for me.

So, there’s the recap (excluding the trashy romance novels that get me through carpool). That puts a respectable start to my embarrassingly tall TBR pile, I hope.

Yarnbox Versus Knitcrate–Which One I Like and Why

******UPDATE MARCH 2018*******

Hey Y’all. I am going to leave the below post as is, but I wanted to update and let you know that, unfortunately, I have become unhappy with the direction Yarnbox has taken over the past few months and am cancelling my subscription. There’s been a lot of changes in the company (under newer management), their practices, customer interactions, and Ravelry community culture. They also have consistent logistical problems with the site and shipping. I’m not going to go into particulars, but there is extensive discussions about these issues in a few Ravelry groups. My decision to cancel comes from the recent trend of populating new boxes with their overstock from previous months or their other subscriptions. I wanted to update you, because if you are researching a yarn club treat for yourself, I can no longer recommend Yarnbox at this time. I hope they get past the hiccups they are experiencing. In the meantime, I may reconsider giving Knitcrate another try, but if you have a yarn subscription you’d recommend, I’d love to hear about it. Remember, my opinions are my own, no one pays me or gives me free stuff, and I got no skin in the yarn business game. I just want to update you that, for now, me and Yarnbox are breaking up.

So, earlier this year, the husband and the Heathens gifted me a 3-month subscription to Yarnbox, which is a monthly box subscription for knitters/crocheters. I love yarn, and I love getting packages, so this was the absolute perfect gift. After my three months was up, I wanted to branch out and see if other subscriptions were just as satisfying, so I gave Knitcrate a try for a couple of months. Ultimately, I cancelled that one and went back to Yarnbox.

(Note, I subscribe to Yarnbox classic, and since cancelling my Knitcrate, they have changed their plans so my old subscription would now be considered the Artisan crate, which looks like it has come down in price since then.)

So, what’s the appeal of a yarn subscription? I get to try new yarns that are not typically at my LYS, and discover something new every month. However, before I go into why I favor the Yarnbox, here’s the points of comparison I started with because all of us fiber geeks are as diverse in preference as it gets:

The Yarn–I want to see quality and quantity for the price, and I think Yarnbox wins out (see below). I like variety as well. Yarnbox lets you set some preferences about colors, yarn weights, etc., so you can better tailor what you will get to your taste. For example, you can say “never send me brown yarn,” if you have a hate on for brown. To my knowledge, Knitcrate does not let you set any preferences, but this could have changed since I cancelled. I believe both boxes sell any leftovers so you can snag an extra hank if you love something and want a bigger project’s worth of yarn.

Patterns–Both boxes come with a couple of patterns. For some, this is part of the value, but not for me. I am super picky about patterns, and I don’t waste time knitting a pattern I’m lukewarm about. Ravelry is my playground when it comes to pattern hunting. If you place a big emphasis on the patterns that come in these boxes, you should check out their respective groups on Ravelry to get a feel for them.

Extras–Knitcrate Artisan came with a small extra or two each month. Yarnbox typically does not, though they did include a Soak sample (wool wash) in last month’s box.

Cost/Value–They are about the same (now, not when I had Knitcrate), though Yarnbox offers discounts for pre-purchased subscriptions, rather than month-to-month, but this is immaterial to me since I do month-to-month.

So, let’s take a look at some of my Yarnboxes:

These are just a few, but each month, I feel like I’m getting introduced to new yarns, new companies, and the quality and yardage for the cost is great. I’ve only been disappointed one month out of about seven, but that was more about my personal taste. Also, I get lots of colors but never anything I hate.

My first month of Knitcrate came with a cute keychain charm, a wooden llama needle gauge, and here was the yarn:

Don’t let the picture fool you, these are pretty small hanks, though they are of good quality, (for comparison, this Knitcrate provided 340 yards of sport weight yarn, while the above Yarnbox with the purple Sugar Bush Bliss was 525 yards of sport weight ). Also, they come from a very well-known company with wide distribution. The next month seemed more promising with two bigger hanks and…scissors. But dear lort, the color:

Trust me, it’s a lot brighter than the picture looks, and just not me. However, I was happy with the quality and discovering a new yarn brand that wasn’t such a big player, so it definitely was more of what I expected than the first month.

So, after a couple of months, I realized I was underwhelmed by my Knitcrates. I think the notions idea is cute, but in reality, it’s stuff I don’t need. I have 25 pairs of scissors and about 10 needle gauges (especially since all my interchangeable needles have one included). I’d rather put those dollars toward more yarn than on the chance of really redundant accessories.

Remember, patterns are not on my priority list, so both boxes are equal in that aspect. What sealed the deal was the chance that I would be paying for yarn that was just too far outside of my preferences. Also, at the time, my Knitcrate Artisan was about 10 bucks more a month than my Yarnbox, but I think they have since lowered the price, so take that for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, I think Yarnbox appeals to me because I feel like I get great new yarns, learn about new companies/indie operations, and I get to have some preferences while maintaining the surprise. So, take my opinion with a grain of salt, and I’m going to get back to my knitting.

***The usual disclaimer: Neither of these companies know me, because I’m just not that cool. My opinions here are all my own, and nobody gave me free stuff, or solicited my blog, or promised me a cameo in the next Kanye video. I just like talking about yarn…and food…and my abject hate for warm weather in November.***