Book Report, Special Holiday Gift Edition: Custom Socks

Hi, guys! I hope you are all doing well! I was just pondering how much selfless crafting I can get done before the holidays arrive when I realized that I hadn’t reviewed this book yet! The timing seems perfect to talk about a book that makes gift giving easier, so here goes. 🙂

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley (Amazon affiliate link here; Indiebound here) is by far the knitting book I’ve used most in my life. I asked for it for my birthday last year, so I’ve had it for just over a year, and I’ve used it to make six pairs of socks for other people (with a seventh pair on my needles right now).

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Marpleridge

The book contains 14 patterns, including a basic toe-up sock, a top-down sock, and a ribbed sock. The not-so-basic sock patterns are all really lovely and cool, and Kate includes instructions for knitting each pattern both top-down and toe-up, so you can pick your favorite (or even knit one each way!). So far I’ve made the basic ribbed socks three times (in three different sizes, for three different people), the plain top down socks twice, and the Marpleridge socks once. I want to try each one of the other patterns in the book, but particularly Carpita, Harcourt, and Man of Aran.

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Carpita

While I like the patterns in the book, its real genius is that it has really simplified making socks in any size with any yarn. The book includes a BOATLOAD of charts that makes this easy- for example, if you know the finished circumference of the sock that you’d like to make, you can look up exactly how many stitches to cast on, how many heel stitches to separate out and how many heel rows to knit, how many stitches to for your heel turn and gussets, and the when and how many toe stitches to decrease depending on the gauge of your yarn. She includes crunches these numbers for sock circumferences from 5″ to 10.5″, at gauges from 4 stitches per inch to 9. Could you sit down and crunch these numbers yourself? Yes, maybe, and no, depending on how advanced your knitting skills are and how good at math you are. As a so-so knitter and a terrible mathematician, I am glad to be able to refer to the charts! You just jot down all the numbers that you need and plug them into the patterns in the book- it’s easy as can be!

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

There are lots of tips for solving sock problems (ha! sock problems! are those really even problems?) that go way over my head, for example, how to do special heel flap decreases to keep your gusset stitches even when you’re knitting colorwork. I’m not sure if I would even know when to use this! But the nice thing about this book is that it offers lots to more advanced knitters, which is not something that every book can do. I also appreciate that Kate includes an entire chapter on fitting what she calls “non-average” feet. This is in-depth knowledge that isn’t easily available online, including things like what to do if your foot circumference is really different from your ankle/leg circumference, and how to account for things like diabetes and other special medical needs. This feels really inclusive and helpful– after all, isn’t it more likely that someone with “non-average” feet might be making their own socks?

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

My favorite use for this book, though, is for gift giving. Kate includes charts that give the average foot and sock circumference, as well as the average foot and finished sock length, for each shoe size (men’s, women’s, and even children’s). So I’ve been able to successfully make socks that fit really well for my dad, my sisters, my brother-in-law, my mom, and Blake, just by plugging their shoe sizes into the chart in this book. The first pair that I made using this technique was a pair of basic ribbed socks for my dad… I held my breath when he tried them on, but they fit like a glove sock! I’ve also used these charts to adapt other sock patterns for gift giving, too- I just altered the stitch and row counts that were included in whatever pattern I was using to match the numbers from the book. This is particularly helpful for simple patterns that only give you one size and just say “knit to desired length” or something like that. I haven’t had a pair not fit the recipient really well yet!

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

All in all, I love this book, if that isn’t clear, and think it would be a great addition to your personal or neighborhood library. It’s made me much more confident that the socks I knit for other people will fit, and as a result, be worn! Now, tell me, are you doing any holiday knitting? What do you like to knit for other people? Any favorite items or patterns? Do tell!

Custom Socks book review | Ginger Makes

Harcourt

Book Report: Vintage Details

Hello friends! Hope you are all well! Are any of you struck with the back-to-school feeling over the last few weeks? I am every year, but this year I’ve actually returned back to school full-time, and my first research assignment sent me into a flurry of excitement as I dug through the library for information about ancient weaving techniques! As I looked through books of textile research, I was reminded that I’d received a review copy of this book some time ago and had totally forgotten to share it with you in the hustle and bustle of packing and moving.

Vintage Details review | Ginger Makes

Vintage Details: A Fashion Sourcebook (Amazon affiliate link here; Indiebound link here) was sent to me by Laurence King Publishing. It’s a bit different from some of the books I’ve received from them- it doesn’t contain any sewing patterns, but it’s not really a textbook, either. What it is, essentially, is a 350-page visual dissection of 20th-century vintage clothing.

Vintage Details review | Ginger Makes

The book begins with a photo index of all the garments that appear in the book. There’s a shot of the front and the back, and a little blurb about the era, fabrication, and country of origin.

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

I chose to feature one of my favorite outfits in this blog post, a linen coat and dress ensemble worn in England around 1927. As you can see in the photo, the page numbers for the detail shots are listed next to the original garment photos so if a garment piques your interest, you can easily find closeups.

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

After the index, detail shots of the garments are arranged by feature (for example, necklines, as seen above), so you can browse by section and look for inspiration all in one place.

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

Isn’t it wild that these motifs are printed? I wonder how common that was in 1927!

Vintage Details review | Ginger Makes

I really enjoy these detailed photographs- it’s a bit like visiting a costume exhibit in a museum, but without feeling too nervous that a guard will yell at you for getting too close to the garments! (Is it just me or are you also struck with a nearly impossible-to-curb desire to touch clothes in a museum???)

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

This dress may be nearly 90 years old, but I could totally wear this today! It’s so timeless!

Vintage Details review | Ginger Makes

Look at the beautiful shape of that sleeve! Drool! The book includes sections on necklines, collars, sleeves, pockets, fastenings & buttonholes, hems, darts, stitching & fitting devices, pleats, frills & flounces, embellishment, surface, and construction.

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

To summarize, if you are a person who loves to look at photos of cool vintage clothes, you’ll love this book. If you’re less inspired by photos and more into line drawings or touching physical objects, you probably won’t. But it seems like a book that would be really inspiring to those of you who enjoy hacking patterns and including unique details- there are plenty of things here to get your creative juices flowing! (I’m still daydreaming about a cream-colored jacket with a bias-cut striped collar… I forgot to take a photo of it and I’ve mislaid my camera, oops!). This also seems like a great book to request for your local library.

Here are a few more details from different garments that really intrigued me:

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

If ever a sleeve was edible, surely this is it!! It is PERFECT.

Vintage Details review | Ginger Makes

I mean… that’s some mod goodness right there! Yes, yes, and yes!

Vintage Details Review | Ginger Makes

I basically want this pocket on ALL of my clothes.

Anybody seen any inspiring vintage clothing lately? Which details stood out to you?

Book Report: Sewing Happiness!

Hi, guys! Hope you are having a lovely weekend! Today I’m pleased to introduce you to a really lovely book by a blogger that I’ve recently gotten to know and admire, Sanae Ishida. I took part in a super fun Secret Valentine’s Exchange hosted by Sanae and by Ute, a really sweet Instagram-based swap where I made a gift for Sanae and received one from Betsy. (I seriously lucked out… my gifts from Betsy were AMAZING). I did lots of snooping on Sanae’s feed to see what sort of gift she might like, and was really smitten with her clean, modern crafting aesthetic and her beautiful drawings. So when I was contacted by her publisher to take part in a blog tour for her book, I was pumped!

Sewing Happiness: A Year of Simple Projects for Living Well (Amazon affiliate link here and Indiebound link here) is a book of sewing projects organized by season and mood- summer (health), fall (creativity), winter (relationships), and spring (letting go). I never would have thought of my life and seasons being organized around themes, but there’s something very resonant about this idea and I can definitely see these threads woven through my sewing output each season, for sure.

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

The projects are simple and straightforward, with no PDFs to download or patterns to trace. They are geared towards beginners, but there’s a fun twist on the projects that make them enjoyable for people who have been sewing longer. They’re frequently inspired by Japanese design and and traditional crafts- origami and sashiko influences are particularly pretty. I am really attracted to this aesthetic and loved the sample projects and photos in the book.

What I really love about the book, though, are Sanae’s essays about her journey from an unhealthy workaholic to a balanced, healthy woman. She writes beautifully about how sewing helped her regain confidence after losing her job, and how crafting, alongside exercise and diet changes, helped her feel much better both physically and emotionally. I often try to explain to others how much joy and health I receive from handmaking, but Sanae is much more eloquent on the topic than I am! So I think this would make a great and inspiring book for the people in our lives who are curious about why we devote so much time and attention to handcrafts. I think this could inspire them to join our cult community!

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

I decided to make a project from the book for this post, and chose to make the cross-back apron. Oddly enough, I actually need an apron for both my jobs (dealing with dusty old furniture and gross decades-old foam at one, wrestling fake fur/fleece/glue at the other) and recently dug through my apartment trying to find my old painting smock without any luck. So I was glad for an excuse to carve out some personal sewing time to whip one up!

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

I was offered fabric from Miss Matatabi for my project, and you’d better believe that I angsted for ages before finally choosing one! Her whole inventory is amazing, and I really struggled to narrow down my choices to just one. In the end, I picked this Kokka Echino linen/cotton canvas… it’s geometric, it’s got animals, AND it’s metallic? Yep! I’ll take it! (UK readers, I saw it pop up on the M is for Make IG feed the other day… here it is!).

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

The apron is a piece of cake to make, but it’s also really clever- the way the straps are attached make it simple to slip over your head, and it stays in place without any annoying ties, something that I’m cautious about since I work with power tools and dangly bits on your clothes aren’t a great idea. I was suspicious that the apron would shuffle around on my body while I worked, but it’s quite comfortable and I don’t notice it at all while I’m working.

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

There are dimensions given for three adult sizes, as well as four kids’ sizes (with a variation included to make the kids’ straps adjustable… smart!). I used the pocket size suggested for my size, but I split it into two pockets, which works well for holding my frequently-used tools. I took the time to match the pattern across the pocket, which always makes me smile. It’s one of those things that sets a homemade project apart from cheap RTW and I do it whenever I can.

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

The only thing I’m unhappy about with this apron is… I don’t want it to get dirty! It’s too cute to wear in the workshop!! I almost want to wear it as a dress! It makes me feel like I’m living my secret fantasy, being an art teacher 🙂

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

Last but not least, I have good news! I have a copy of Sewing Happiness to give away to a reader in the US! To enter, please fill out the form here. Also, I have a Miss Matatabi gift card to give to another reader- international readers welcome! For a chance to win a $45 gift card, leave a comment below telling me your favorite fabric from Miss Matatabi (and make sure there’s a way to contact you, either through your commenting profile or in the comment itself). Contests are open until Saturday 4/30/16 at 12P EST. Good luck!!

Sewing Happiness | Ginger Makes

Bonus pug spam. 🙂

Book Report! Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design

Hello, friends! I hope that you’re all well! In the past I’ve mentioned that I’m now doing upholstery for a furniture designer in Brooklyn, and it seems like many of you makers have an interest in upholstery. So, I’ve decided to share more about that here on the blog, beginning with a review of a book I’ve recommended to everyone who’s told me they want to learn about upholstery!

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When I first started at the workshop, I felt like I was really in over my head. The techniques were all so new to me, and my boss was away quite a bit and often had me work independently. I took tons and tons of notes every time she demonstrated a technique, but I still felt a little panicked when I needed to work through a project on my own. So I looked around online and ordered Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design (Amazon affiliate link or Indiebound) after seeing it positively reviewed. Long story short, I love this book!

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The book is written by Amanda Brown, who runs Spruce Upholstery in Austin, TX (their Instagram account is a fun one: @spruceathome). Her style is so fresh and fun, and it makes the book really inspiring.

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I appreciate that she spends time talking about how she designs a space, starting with an empty room and adding furniture to it. We’re in the process of redoing and replacing some old hand-me-down furniture, so it’s helpful to get a professional’s opinion on how to balance statement pieces with quieter ones (this is a struggle for me!).

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The book walks you through five projects: a Louis chair, a slipper chair, a wingback chair, a three-seater sofa, and a cocktail ottoman. There are tons and tons and TONS of photos, so you can comfortably follow every step yourself. Plus, Amanda shares lots of inspiration images for each style to help get you thinking outside the box with your fabric choices… I loved these images!

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Another clever feature is the color-coded chart pictured below. This shows you where in the book to find instructions for different upholstery features, so you can mix and match them to suit your own needs. Super helpful! Before I had this book I frequently tried to google information when I was stuck, but I didn’t have the proper terminology to find what I needed to know and even when I did, the info didn’t seem to exist online. So this solved that problem most of the time.

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The book is really thorough– it covers everything from calculating how much fabric you’ll need to sewing matching throw pillows. Webbing, foam, tufting, welting… you name it, it’s in there! Many of these techniques I’ve never learned at the shop (since we specialize in midcentury modern furniture, there are some techniques that we just don’t use), so I was excited to see them demonstrated in the book.

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Personally, I think that upholstery is a craft that’s helpful to learn in person, but if you can’t take a class, this book is a great resource for you. It’s also just a nice book to help you think about your furniture in new ways. January always gives me a big ol’ dose of cabin fever, so every year around this time I start looking for ways to jazz up my apartment. If you have to be stuck inside, your home should be as, well, homey as possible!

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If you’re interested in more upholstery-related posts, then I have good news! I picked up a chair on Craigslist last week, and I’ll be documenting my makeover on the blog. If you aren’t interested in upholstery, I’m really sorry, and I may actually have some sewing content soon! I’ve felt so scattered lately that it’s been hard to focus on sewing, but just yesterday I started cutting out a coat, so maybe I’ll have a garment to show you someday soon! 🙂

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Book Report: The Shirtmaking Workbook!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all well! It’s been so long since I last blogged- I’ve missed you guys! Between starting a new job, taking an accelerated summer session class at FIT, and teaching a class at Brooklyn Craft Company, things have been really hectic around here! But even though I haven’t had much time to sew, I’ve been missing that part of my life, and so I was really excited when Creative Publishing offered to send me a copy of David Page Coffin’s new book, The Shirtmaking Workbook. It’s really been enjoyable to read through the book, dreaming about adaptations I can make to my favorite shirt patterns!

I should probably preface this review with the fact that I really love shirts. I love wearing them, and I’ve even come to enjoy making them. I even love making them for other people! There’s just something so satisfying about the process of making a shirt. So I find this book particularly thrilling because it focuses on the details of shirts. I really appreciate this- sewing patterns can be very basic, especially for things like men’s buttondowns, so it’s nice to have a resource to help you customize your handmade garments.

DPC’s (I should probably just refer to him as David, but that doesn’t seem formal enough and also doesn’t make him sound like a rapper) previous book, Shirtmaking, is a very thorough guide to making elegant, professional shirts. I bought it when I first started sewing shirts, a few years ago, after it was recommended on several blogs. I have to confess, though, that as a new sewer, I was overwhelmed by all the detail and wasn’t ready for such a serious book. I need to revisit it now that I have a better understanding of basic shirt construction so I can finesse my techniques a bit!

The Shirtmaking Workbook feels quite different from Shirtmaking, to me. It is very design-oriented, with lots and lots of photos. DPC investigates a number of RTW shirts and compares their details and construction. I love snooping at RTW clothing, particularly higher-end clothing, so it’s really fun to look at these examples. He also looks at vintage shirts, which I found really interesting and I’m guessing many of you would really be into!

DPC’s approach to shirtmaking is to work from blocks and change up the details. This makes sense to me, especially since most people who have been sewing for a while have a shirt pattern that works for them. He discusses blocks and useful sewing techniques, and after that, the final five chapters each deal with options for a particular kind of shirt: the dress shirt block, the sport/work shirt block, the knit shirt block, the folk/rectangular shirt block, and the shirt jacket.

Also included in the book are profiles of several designers. I really enjoyed seeing their work and reading about them. I found them all very inspiring! And at the end of each chapter, there is a section entitled “Resources”. Here DPC suggests further reading, whether in the form of books, blogs, DVDs, or Threads articles, as well as specialized tools and techniques. Yeah, I can definitely google different techniques, but it’s nice to have a vetted list of the best resources!

Hi, Peter! Hi, Jen!

An interesting thing about the book is the online content. The book was released earlier than anticipated, so not all of the online content is available, but what I saw and downloaded was very cool. There is a PDF guide to all of the resources that are available so you can find what you’re looking for in an organized way. There are large photo sets of the different garments that are featured briefly in the book so you can take a closer look at the shirts. There are lots and lots of patterns for different collars, cuffs, plackets, etc. I wondered how you could have patterns for things like this that could be multisized, but the collars are sized by the length of the neck opening (ex: 12″). I haven’t had a chance to use any of the patterns yet, but I’m looking forward to it. There will be interviews with the designers featured in the book (they weren’t ready for download yet when I last checked the website), and there are detailed instructions for some of the techniques that are briefly discussed in the book. Considering that the retail price of the book is $27 and you can get it on Amazon for less than $20USD, even if you only got the online resources that are available right now, you’d be getting a bargain. So I’m looking forward to checking out the additional resources as they become available!

I found this book really interesting and was really inspired by DPC’s approach to shirtmaking. His attitude isn’t “do it like this”, but rather, “try it and see what happens”. For example, he shows you different collars and photographs how they look when you change the shape up slightly. I’m really excited to drape a couple of different collars and see what they look like! I know in the online sewing world, sometimes it feels like there’s a scarcity of books that aren’t aimed at beginners, so it was really refreshing to find a book that (I think) would be inspiring to newbies and advanced sewers alike (and super inspiring to shirt geeks like me)!

Now, I’m going to take a page (ahhhhh pun alert!!) out of DPC’s book (double pun!!! SORRY!) and leave you with some additional resources:

Now tell me- what have you been up to lately? Sewing any shirts? Feeling inspired to sew any shirts? Do tell! 🙂

Book Report + Giveaway: The Practical Guide to Patchwork!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all well! Today I’d like to share a book I picked up recently and really enjoyed… but don’t hate me… it’s a quilting book!

I know.

Guys, I can’t help it! I’m kind of getting into quilting! It’s scary. And weird. But the thing is, planning a quilt project is just so fun! There are so many cool fabrics to choose from, and thinking about all the different shapes and combinations has literally kept me awake at nights lately. I know. It’s crazy.

ANYWAY. After fumbling through Hazel the Hedgehog, I decided that I should probably learn a little bit about the right way to quilt before jumping into my next project! I picked up The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman, the designer of the Hazel the Hedgehog quilt pattern. I really love this book! In my opinion, it’s an ideal book for anyone who wants to dip their toe into modern quilting.

The book starts out with the basics of quilting and answered lots of questions I had, like, what’s a fat quarter? Or, should you pre-wash your fabric?  It lays a good foundation without a lot of boring stuff like “these are scissors”. Elizabeth covers cutting, piecing, quilting (by machine only, but she recommends another resource if you’re interested in hand quilting), and binding.

There are twelve quilt patterns included in the book, and they’re all pretty fun. I like that she also includes an idea for your backing with each pattern… it’s cool that you can experiment on both sides of your quilt!

Something I really like about the book is that Elizabeth gives different ideas for changing up each of the patterns. It’s pretty easy for me to think about a garment pattern and imagine many possibilities for it, but I haven’t developed that eye yet for quilting, so it’s nice to see the potential variations for all these quilt patterns.

The book focuses on modern quilting, which is super interesting. I have mentioned before that my mom quilted lots when I was a kid, but she is a hand quilter who is mainly interested in traditional patterns, so I haven’t really seen these kinds of quilts before. I love the looks of old-fashioned quilt patterns like the drunkard’s path or double wedding ring, but I also really like these bold modern designs.

Isn’t it fun to think about how you can make these styles your own? I would love to play with blocks of bright color for my own Kitchen Windows quilt.

Planetarium just looks super fun to sew! I wanna try it!

Little Leaves teaches you how to applique, which seems pretty free-form and loosey-goosey… what’s not to like about that?

I would like to own a quilt made from this pattern but I would not like to cut, piece, or quilt it. Too many pieces!

But look at these fun variations on the Superstar! I really like the colors she’s got here in the flying geese variation- wouldn’t they look cool in a quilt???

I really like Birdbath! I think it would be fun in hot pinks and greys, maybe. Ooh- and zebra print, just to be wild!

This crazy windmill block looks really cool! I bet there’s a way to create a 3D effect in a monochromatic color scheme… wouldn’t that be awesome?

Alright, guys, I love this book so much that I’d like to give away a copy to one of you! I’ll ship it anywhere in the world (since I’ve found out that Book Depository offers free worldwide shipping, it’s much more affordable for me to do that, yay!!), so if you’re interested, please fill out the Google form below before Monday, April 20th at 11:59PM EST! I’ll draw a winner using random.org. Yay!

Now tell me- which one of these patterns is your favorite??? Do you have a favorite traditional quilt pattern? Any of you convinced to start quilting??? Do tell!

Book Report + Giveaway: Girly Style Wardrobe

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all staying warm if you’re in the northeast and enjoying a lovely holiday weekend if you’re in the States!

Today, I’m sharing a review of “Girly Style Wardrobe” by Yoshiko Tsukiori. Laurence King Publishing asked if I would like a review copy of this book, and even though I don’t have kids, I wanted to check out the book because I was interested to see Tsukiori’s aesthetic applied to children’s clothing (she’s written a couple of popular women’s pattern books). I really like the flowy, fun dresses that Tsukiori designs, but feel like I would look like a little kid in them. So, unsurprisingly, her designs are really nice for kids! This is a new English translation of a book that was published in Japan in 2007, so if the cover looks familiar, you may have seen the Japanese edition somewhere!

OK, so there are 28 patterns in the book, including tops, tunics, dresses, skirts, shorts, pants, a bolero, a smock, a little parka (my favorite!), a slip, a cap, and a purse. A couple of the “patterns” use the same block, but say, shorten the length (dress to tunic) or swap out long sleeves for short, but I think I counted 24 different designs (don’t hold me to that! I’m lousy at keeping track of things!). Like other Japanese pattern books, the patterns need to be traced and the seam allowance needs to be added. The sizing is based on height and fits approximately ages 3 to 10. There are a couple of patterns that you need to draw pieces for, like a tiered skirt that’s made entirely of rectangles.

Construction of these garments seems pretty straightforward. There’s nothing very complicated, but at the same time, the styles aren’t so simple that they’re boring. They include lots of pretty details like lace, gathers, pleats, and pintucks, and are styled in soft florals and pastels (I mean, the book is called “Girly Style Wardrobe”, so it makes sense that it would be a pretty feminine aesthetic). But I think it would be fun to sew these up in mod prints and bold colors.

With the huge caveat that I’m not a parent, this seems like a good investment if you sew for kids. There’s a wide range of styles, and at a retail price of 20USD, they’re a good value (you can even get it for $15 at The Book Depository or Amazon). There are even a few patterns that would totally work for boys, too, so if the little girl in your life has a brother, you could get a little more bang for your buck!

Like you usually see in these books, the instructions are fairly minimal, but there are lots of helpful diagrams. I really like sewing with visual aids like this… it’s easy to figure out how everything goes together, and I feel like I learn a lot just looking at the diagrams!

OK, as usual, I can give away a free copy to a U.S. reader! If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, please fill out the Google form below before Monday, February 23rd at 11:59PM EST and I’ll pick a winner using random.org! Good luck!