by Helen McCarthy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Manga Cross Stitch / 978-0-7407-7965-7
I love cross stitch - I've been cross stitching most of my life - and I've recently discovered a love for anime movies. Since I often cross stitch *while* watching anime, this book seemed like the next logical step - cross stitching anime while watching anime!
Unfortunately, this book - while a great idea - is balanced by absolutely terrible execution. First of all, the entire book is geared towards first-time cross stitchers, which isn't a terrible thing - there's a lot of interesting stitch techniques explained from a beginner's perspective. However, the author seems strangely intent on making cross stitching sound incredibly hard and intimidating when it is, in my opinion, one of the most "beginner friendly" of the fabric crafts. Bizarrely inflated estimates of "how long" certain charts will take to stitch sit alongside frequent instructions regarding when, how, how often, and in what manner to rip all your seams up in case of a mistake. After awhile you begin to feel like the book doesn't *want* you to cross stitch.
Frustratingly, there's not as many patterns here as I'd like. There's a lot of interesting discussion of anime and manga, but that's not what you're buying the book for. There are maybe 5-10 patterns per chapter (with the inevitable slight variations to inflate the numbers), but there will probably be only one or two matching the taste of the reader. After all, manga and anime are extremely varied art styles! For example, there's some mecha-type stuff, some low-quality pocket monster-style stuff, some chibi/deformed characters, a school girl trio, a samurai lady, and a lot of blocky monochromatic patterns. A random example - a large-eyed lovely in a solid-color kimono - is replicated four times (original, portrait, mirrored, and palette swap) in lieu of creating actual, varied content. The overall effect of this sparse material is frustrating - I'd like more variety than this. A lot of the text seems geared instead towards telling the reader to make their own patterns, which they're certainly not going to be able to do with the *demo* software included.
Which segues me nicely into the horrible, awful, infuriatingly terrible "software" included with this book. The book, you see, has no actual pattern charts - all the patterns are stored on the included CD, in a proprietary format that only the included program can read. I am not at all amused to note that the program included is a "demo" program only - and of the most annoying kind: each and every *single* time you open a chart (for instance if you're trying to open all the charts to see what's included on the CD), you have to click through a series of demo windows before you can use the actual program. Because it's a demo program, you can really only print the included patterns - you can't make your own or modify the included patterns in any significant manner. But most infuriatingly is that the print function is fundamentally broken - which means you can't even access the book patterns!
There's no way to select the printer you want to use, so if you have more than one printers hooked up to your computer (like, say, a color printer and a black-and-white printer), the program either selects one at random to communicate with or gets confused and cancels out the print entirely. The print function allows you to resize the chart, but there's no preview function for you to SEE what your choices will yield, so if you didn't want to waste ink and paper, then you're going to be very disappointed. And while you can change the chart *view* from, say, 'color blocks' to 'color blocks with symbols' to 'black and white symbols', you can't apparently carry those views changes over to the printed chart. In the end, the only way I could print these patterns out was to take *screenshots* of my computer screen and print THOSE out from MS Paint, not my idea of a user friendly program.
I would strongly encourage the author that any future versions of this book include a few more patterns, and include them in an easily accessible and printable format - either in a completely usable program or in a static printable format like Adobe PDF. Because otherwise, the whole effort just feels like a transparent attempt to force the user to buy a sub-standard program to get access to the patterns that they already paid for.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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