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Book Review: Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace by Denise LaVoie

I will get right to the point: run, don’t walk to buy this book! If you want to understand the thoughts, emotions, and excitement that brought me to this unusual book review introduction, carry on!

I could hardly wait to get started reading about the famous and incredibly capable female aviatrixes from whom Denise derived the inspiration for her new book, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace! As I began, my first instinct was to search among all the pilots' portraits for a photograph of Denise herself! She is, indeed, a very capable woman, standing tall among the women she has written about. Denise has set the bar very high for anyone who is contemplating a self-publishing journey for their crochet designs!

Combining her artistic talent and extreme creativity, Denise has brought us seventeen delightful crochet and knit designs, as well as a good read about twelve women pilots who lived during the timeframes between 1831 through 1975. Some are well-known like Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman; but they all blazed trails in the world of aviation and their stories are both heartwarming and educational. In keeping with the aviation theme, Denise has also included highlights about the Women’s Air Derby (1929) and The Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (1942-44).  

Earhart Stole
I am a big fan of crochet theme-books and have blogged about others . After over 40 years of twisting fibers with a hook, my heart races when a designer, like Denise, gives us a book that is something new under the sun! My life is inextricably linked to my crochet passion and the belief that crochet every day is good for the soul, so a book like this keeps me inspired and hooking right along! 

Denise says in her book that she has been contemplating “the elements that animate her: stories, textiles, airplanes, history, feminism, color, and form,” her entire life.” I asked her how she settled on the aviation theme for this book, and this is what she had to say:  “I've always been fascinated with flying and I would love to learn how  When I read an article on Harriet Quimby and her unfortunate historical timing, I started to gather bits and pieces about female pilots.” In her book, Denise has expressed her personality and her soul to provide for us an incredible legacy as well as a creative springboard.

Nichols Cardigan
Besides the interesting history of these aviatrixes, you will certainly find several designs that go right to the top of your to-do list! Denise has taken great care to help any and all skill levels to follow her instructions with ease. Cleverly designed “wings” throughout indicate “flying altitude” or “skill levels” instead of the customary stars or numbers. Lavish photos showing up-close and overall views are helpful and inspiring. Each design is named for the aviatrix that inspired it. 

Aviatrix Cap
Denise continues her narrative to describe tidbits that brought the design to fruition with each pattern . Pattern notes, special stitch descriptions and schematics are abundant. You’ll enjoy the journey from the first loop on your hook to the finished product!

Cracked Glass Cowl
For example, in the Cracked Glass Cowl pattern, Denise writes, "The name originated from the look of the interplay of lace patterns. It's also an apt tribute for the first licensed female pilot (Baroness Raymonde de la Roche). 

As I looked at the book, the design titles as well as the pilots’ name plates drew my attention, and I ask Denise if she had designed them with stamp art. Here is her reply: “These aren’t stamp art as you thought, but an intentional font choice. It is called Soul Mission which I thought appropriate, and I wanted to use it to infer memory because of its uneven quality (memory can be like that).”

This is not your typical pattern book, but a monumental work of art! Down to the last detail, it is evident that Denise has had an intimate relationship with each step leading to its completion. I had to know more about the interesting portraits of each pilot and I asked Denise to elaborate on the process. 

She explained: “I applied a multi-layered process to each portrait on 5 x 7 canvas board. (1) Each board was covered in various stationary with writing; I then applied gesso with white gesso placed on the sweet spot which allows the portrait to be the focus. 2) I found the female portraits I wanted to use, and then created a charcoal rendering. 3)Fixative was used to set the charcoal, and I then cut out each face to apply it to the canvas board backgrounds with Mod Podge. (4) I then applied a light color wash to each, staying with the palette I had chosen for the book as well as each aviatrix's personality; and then, using a dry brush, added a border around each of pearlized powder. (6) I used markers to highlight/outline/define areas on each portrait. (6) Finally, I applied a top coat of clear gel medium and gloss acrylic spray. (7) after drying, I scanned each portrait into my computer as jpegs and, after any cropping I did, applied a final digital filter. Denise’s respect and admiration for our aviation foremothers is evident in the artful layout of the book, which showcases her great talents as well as those of the women she writes about.

"Comic Denise"
By the end of the book, I still hadn't found a photo or portrait of Denise. I requested that she provide her self-portrait so that all of us can feel like we know this special woman of our time! Self-published under the imprint, Tough As Lace, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace is available at Denise's online store for $24.99. Enjoy! Do you want to enter to win a copy of Denise's book? Just leave a comment here with your email adress so I can notify you. Additionally, due to Denise's generosity, you will also be entered to win some yarn to make one of the patterns in the book!


Jenni said…
This really is pretty much the best crochet book ever! When I heard about it, I knew I had to have it for my library. I'm a third generation female veteran, so the idea of a pattern book that included stories of these brave, independent, trail-blazing women sounded almost like it was made just for me! I've already made several projects from the book (some twice!) and I plan on making many, many more.

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