Stitch 'n Bitch Nationby Debbie Stoller
Workman, 192 pp., $15.95 (paper)
The Starving Artist's Way
by Nava Lubelski
Three River's Press, 288 pp., $14 (paper)
I have to admit that before I picked this book up, I thought the trend of knitting had gone the way of pogs. Stitch 'n Bitch Nation a follow-up to last year's excellent primer, Stitch 'n Bitch suggests that the granny craft's reincarnation as a hipster hobby was far from a fleeting trend. The new book picks up where the last left off, and improves on its predecessor quite a bit. Though there are a few too many ponchos for this modernist's taste, the book more than compensates with a surfeit of both timely and timeless projects. Even if the recipient doesn't know how to knit, chances are they'll want to after seeing the book's spot-on Joey Ramone doll. That said, how-tos are a bit skimpy, as the original covered all the basics. It might also be a disappointment for male knitters: The book is very clearly written for a female audience, and the only sweater pattern designed for a man is, well, ugly as sin. Still, the book is an excellent gift for the craftster in your life, and if you really luck out, you just might get a Joey Ramone doll next holiday season.
For less dexterous artsy types, The Starving Artist's Way offers a more varied array of projects, with an emphasis on living a cozy bohemian lifestyle on a crappy bohemian salary. Unfortunately, the author tends to reach a bit far in attempting to bring esoteric modern art references into every project. For example, do we really need to discuss the Fluxus movement while making peanut butter curry? If you can ignore the Modern Art for Dummies-like artist bios on every page, there are a fair amount of worthwhile projects to undertake. A few are a bit nutty (I can think of few people who'd collect pet hair to make felt), but you have to respect the originality of her projects. Many craft books are guilty of stealing projects wholesale from ReadyMade magazine, and this isn't one of them. The book also remains faithful to working with a small budget, including such ideas as how to construct and use a silkscreen for pennies. Add recipes cheap and simple enough for even a "starving artist," and you have a gift that says, "Good luck with that grant application, sucker!" Or, you know, happy holidays.