Wednesday, 28 September 2016

REVIEW: "A Field Guide to Fabric Design: Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric; Traditional & Digital Techniques; For Quilting, Home Dec & Apparel" by Kim Kight

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

A Field Guide to Fabric Design: Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric; Traditional & Digital Techniques; For Quilting, Home Dec & Apparel
by Kim Kight
C&T Publishing
ISBN: 978-1607053552
Copyright November 2011
Paperback, 160 Pages

This book offers a marvelous and compact crash course to the discipline of fabric design. Perfect for beginner and aspiring fabric designers, the book incorporates practical information and clear instructions organized and optimized for the reader to get started immediately and swiftly on any home-based fabric design project. Filled with illustrative photographs and images that help elucidate the processes discussed, the book is an incredibly useful and straightforward, not to mention fun, guide.

Practicality is the greatest strength of this book. Apart from covering hands-on tutorials, the author discussed the fabric design market and related opportunities in highly applicable ways. The step-by-step tutorials on design and hand printing are particularly commendable—the reader will learn how to design repeats by hand, and through the use of programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator; and also assimilate information from tutorials demonstrating the processes of block printing and screen printing, in addition to adequate explication of for example, block-printing and screen-printing inks.

The book conscientiously includes only the more salient pieces of information deemed to be relevant to the budding fabric designer. The author provided a brief overview of the three biggest markets of retail fabric—quilting, home décor, and fashion, and detailed distinctive characteristics attributable to the respective collections. Quilting cotton collections for example, were noted to have fabric designs that “tend to be more whimsical, trendy, colorful, and thematic than fabrics in other types of collections,” whilst home décor collections tend to have motifs and colors inclining toward “the classic and timeless.”

The book also contains what the author calls the “fabric designers roundtable”—an injection of relevancy and reality into the book by garnering the opinions and perspectives of actual practitioners in the industry. The reader will have the opportunity to read about for example, these fabric designers' individualized and intriguing approaches to and thoughts about color palettes in the context of collections; the proportion and interplay of fabric design against other ancillary revenue sources in their careers and brands; the underlying reasoning for those who opt for digital printing instead of hand printing or design licensing; or even their views on current trends.

The book also consists of morsels of practical advice and helpful tips, including that of offering complementary products such as sewing or quilt patterns, of bolstering one's marketing strategy by displaying sample products incorporating one's fabric designs, or even licensing advice that takes advantage of the knowledge of for example, the relatively higher annual production of quilting collections compared to “any other type of fabric collection.”

The book also covers a range of other pertinent and fundamental material pertaining to the art of fabric designing that are undoubtedly valuable. Concepts such as the fabric labels prepared for dye (PFD) or prepared for printing (PFP); the technology and method of digital textile printing; the three basic methods of traditional volume printing of automated flatbed screen printing, rotary screen printing, and copper roller printing; and even brief coverage of fabric basics including fabric construction, fiber types, and foundational fabric design terminology.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

REVIEW: "The Bread Baker's Apprentice, 15 Anniversary Edition: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread" by Peter Reinhart

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

The Bread Baker's Apprentice, 15 Anniversary Edition: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
by Peter Reinhart
Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 978-1607748656
Copyright September 2016
Hardcover, 336 Pages

The Bread Baker's Apprentice makes a perfect gift for the serious baker. Immensely instructive and practically methodical, this book is an authoritative guide to bread baking. Lucidly written and easily understandable, along with easy-to-follow and clearly presented formulas and instructions, the book will lead both the novice and the more seasoned baker onto the path of an incredible learning experience.

The book contains a multitude of “master formulas” for an eclectic variety of bread. The passionate baker will be thrilled to discern the subtleties in techniques and skills involved in making for example, the visually dramatic Greek celebration bread artos, the delectable and mouth-watering cinnamon buns and sticky buns, the very appetizing Italian breadsticks, the quintessential bagel, the traditional panettone, and certainly, the sourdough bread, otherwise called wild-yeast bread.

The book begins by aptly covering fundamental information pivotal to the baker and reader's optimal assimilation of materials accompanying the bread formulas furnished. Not to mention the information serves as a great supplement to the education of the baking or culinary student. The author for example, purposefully guides the reader through a practical examination of each of the classic 12 stages of baking—including primary fermentation, punching down/degassing, rounding, benching, proofing, and baking.

The author elucidates crucial and fascinating concepts sans unnecessary technicality, describing for example, the antithetical concepts of dough extensibility versus elasticity; explicating the critical processes of starch gelatinization, sugar caramelization, and protein coagulation; distinguishing the sourdough from regular bread; expounding the process of fermentation; explaining the subtleties of degassing; and of course, rationalizing the use of instant yeast over the alternatives of fresh or active dry yeast.

As a reference for both amateur and experienced bakers, the book also includes rudimentary material such as the classifications of bread, concisely presented in a highly structured diagram, or the types of flour. In line with the author's profession and job of being an educator and baking instructor, the book contains valuable wisdom in the form of the occasional pieces of pithy heuristics—for example the cardinal principle of “flavor rules.”

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

REVIEW: "Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California" by Noah Siegel, Christian Schwarz

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California
by Noah Siegel, Christian Schwarz
Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 978-1607748175
Copyright August 2016
Paperback, 608 Pages

This is a decisively extraordinary and authoritative reference to mushroom identification in the region of the Redwood Coast. Unparalleled in quality, and coupled with exceptional comprehensiveness and arresting visual appeal, this book is an absolute treasure—the lovechild and physical embodiment of the authors' expertise, passion, and heart and soul.

The stunning book cover is only a precursor to the myriad of gorgeous and illustrative photographs found throughout the book. A sure strength, the book is richly descriptive and amazingly detailed, with material concisely written and splendidly presented.

This is a highly recommended book for mushroom and fungi lovers, an indispensable and valuable resource for students of mycology and taxonomy, and certainly, a perfect starting point for readers venturing to spice up their lives by pursuing a new, intellectually-gratifying, and enriching hobby.

This book is a great resource for the reader craving to satisfy their curiosities about the intriguing world of exotic and mind-boggling species of mushrooms and fungi. Absolutely unforgettable is the Red Basket Stinkhorn, or Clathrus ruber, which surface of its fruitbody has a pattern of “hexagonal depressions;” rather fascinating would be the “plush, fuzzy blob” or “powdery mass” of the fruitbody of the Powdery Pom Pom Polypore; and curiously alien-looking is the Golden-Gilled Waxy Cap with its opaque or slightly translucent porcelain white stipe. The alluring peculiarities of these constituents of nature seemed limitless. The rather eccentric “baseball-bat shape” of the Pale Candy Coral was certainly eye-catching, or the Horsehair Mushroom with “thick, tough, thin, [and] wiry” stipe.

This book is an excellent resource for the reader to learn and assimilate to the synchronously technical and artistic descriptive terminology for the mushroom species. The book employs such vivid and effective descriptions—for example, mushroom gills characterized as “deeply decurrent, shallow, blunt, and veinlike often forking and with many cross veins;” the partial veil portrayed as “a hanging, membranous, white skirt,” or as “white felty-cobwebby tissue covering gills;” and mushroom caps described respectively as “funnel to vase shaped, often with a ruffled margin,” or one with a surface “smooth, viscid, covered with glutinous slime.”

Catering to culinary and food lovers, the book also aptly contains a brief edibility assessment for each mushroom species. Some ominous species the mushroom hunter is warned never to eat include for example, the Death Cap—Amanita phalloides —and the Deadly Parasol—Lepiota subincarnata; both of which contain amatoxins and are deadly toxic. In line with the rather scientific approach undertaken by the book, the reader will appreciate a supplementary and neatly highlighted column where amatoxins are further elucidated.

For those with a penchant for colors, the book decently delivers on a delectable range of species. There are the eye-catching green to teal colors of the Green Earth Tongue, the vibrant purple colors of the Western Amethyst Laccaria, the “striking golden yellow” of the Flaming Pholiota, and the beautiful scarlet red cap of Rosy Russula. It goes on; the fabulous bluish lilac gills of Phaeocollybia fallax, the distinctive and richly colored Blue-Green Wood Cup, and the burgundy color of the Maroon Madrone Tubaria.

Along with unmistakably interesting and useful pieces of information furnished as well in each of the “comments” section for each species—an example would be further details provided on the Fly Agaric on the presence of “coarse, discrete off-white to yellowish universal veil warts” covering the surface of the mushroom cap—the dedicated and tenacious learner will bound to grow and mature in this field of knowledge to become a pundit of mushrooms and fungi.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

REVIEW: "Wildflowers of New England: Timber Press Field Guide" by Ted Elliman, New England Wild Flower Society

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Wildflowers of New England: Timber Press Field Guide (A Timber Press Field Guide)
by Ted Elliman, New England Wild Flower Society
Timber Press
ISBN: 978-1604694642
Copyright February 2016
Flexibound, 448 Pages

Wildflowers of New England is the ultimate field guide to wildflower identification in New England. Filled with incredibly gorgeous photography, the book is not only exceedingly visually appealing, but also impressively comprehensive. The book is very concisely written, densely packed with information, and strategically structured; every wildflower included in the guide is fittingly featured alongside an exemplifying photograph.

This field guide is no doubt excellent for flower lovers living in New England, or those venturing to the region for a delightful wildflower immersion trip. For flower lovers not in New England, the book nonetheless qualifies as an excellent reference. In the likelihood that the book falls into the hands of those have yet to discover their interest in or fall in love with the earth's glorious nature and its wildflowers, this book could be the critical factor marking the beginning of one's love affair, and even obsession, with flowers. Not to mention that this visually delectable and exhaustive guide also makes it an ideal candidate for a bibliophile's book collection.

The book references an eclectic range of wildflowers, segmented in terms of color. The section on white flowers illustrates for example, the glorious Queen Anne's lace, or Daucus carota which has flowers “clustered in flat umbels;” the artistically symmetrical ladies'-tresses; and aesthetically-pleasing ragged fringed orchid. Especially eye-catching are those peculiarly-shaped—the likes of Dutchman's-breeches, squirrel-corn, and bladder campion—and certainly those undeniably beautiful, such as the unicorn root with flowers sporting an unconventional but nonetheless alluring granular surfaces, or the stunning white meadowsweet.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the “invasive” water chestnut belonging to the Lythraceae family, or for example, the American pokeweed from the Phytolaccaceae family characterized by its toxic fruit, and poisonous stems and leaves.

Wildflowers found in the yellow flower section include for example, the highly distinctive yellow lady's-slipper, a rather appropriately-named bullhead pond-lily, the exquisite roseroot from the Crassulaceae family, or interesting species such as the Canada lily, or Lilium canadense, whose habitats include “floodplains, swamp edges, and wet meadows.”

The book certainly also covers sections of red and blue flowers. Examples of the former include the regally and lusciously gorgeous wild chives of the Alliaceae family, the romantic sweet-scented camphorweed from the Asteraceae family, and the exotic bee-balm, otherwise called Monarda didyma, whilst examples of the latter include the “common selfheal” of the Lamiaceae family whose flowers are ravishingly reminiscent of jellyfish, or lovely flowers such as the blue lobelia, wild lupine, and the sheep's bit.

Concise coverage of fundamentals at the beginning of the book is excellent, and certainly useful to both amateurs and the more experienced. The reader will certainly appreciate distinctions clearly established for example, between the types of inflorescences—panicle, raceme, spike, and umbel—, fruit types—achene, berry, capsule, silicle and more—, between radial and bilateral flowers, or even the different life cycles attributable to different plants; the reader's learning of essentials in the section of which is critical to actually successfully and effectively utilizing the guide.

Living up to its purpose as a field guide, the book aptly contains a rather comprehensive list of plant families, each family denoted along with its scientific name, a brief overview and summary of characteristics of its plants, and list of genera in the family. The relative thoroughness of this section serves as a handy and convenient reference for those educating themselves in the abundance of existing and fascinating plant families. The reader could quickly learn for example, that the aster family, or the Asteraceae, contains genera such as Heliopsis, Mycelis, and Tanacetum, or that the water-lily family is actually known scientifically as Nymphaeaceae.

The reader might even be pleasantly surprised to find certain additional and interesting information furnished at the beginning of the book covering intriguing realms such as the ecological communities in New England, morsels of geological history, and even introductory information on the various wetland habitats of swamps, marshes, and bogs, or even denominations of for example, the spruce-fir forest, or the oak-hickory-hemlock forest.

Whilst the book is mostly flawless, at least one instance in the book however required better illustration of the specific concept discussed. Especially for a beginner to botany newly exposed to the concept of inflorescence—a jargon that seemed daunting at first glance—, compounded with one-sentence descriptions of each type of inflorescence without illustrative photos seemed counter productive. An example of such a descriptive and supposedly self-explanatory sentence went, “A panicle is an elongated, branching inflorescence, roughly pyramidal in shape.”

Especially for a guide as outstanding as this, it appeared unwarranted that exemplifying images were not inserted in this case especially to facilitate learning for the beginner, and in order for one to more effectively contextualize and construe meaning from the otherwise beautifully crafted descriptions.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.