Thursday, January 20, 2011

Piecework: Short, Addy And Not For Beginners!

The Good: Good photography, Decent concept
The Bad: Short, Expensive, Packed with advertisements
The Basics: A short magazine that features all forms of fabric and needlecraft, Piecework is too addy, too specific and filled with easy-to-find information.

As I wind my way through my local library's collection of magazines to see what is out there and to expand my horizons, I continue to find myself gravely disappointed by the medium. After all, with the prevalence of information available on the Internet these days, I look at anything in print and ask myself whether it justifies pulping a stand of trees for. But while books are essential as permanent milestones of culture and history, magazines tend to be much more dated, trendy and immediate, which makes them tougher sells to me in the long run. After all, if you want quick and you do not necessarily need permanent from your information, the Internet has virtually everything one would need.

I mention this at the outset of my review of Pieceworks because more than anything this magazine is filled with advertisements, which remind me of pop-ups on the Internet. The thin, glossy magazine has great pictures, but is very light on content. Moreover, the content that it does possess is light on anything truly new or extraordinary. This magazine is geared toward those who love to knit, crochet and embroider, which my partner certainly qualifies as. The thing is, as I look for gifts for my partner this holiday season, I picked this magazine up to see if it was something my partner might like. But even without asking her, I could tell this was not something for her, even though she is a professional who does not need advice on the how-to's of working with yarn and string.

Published every two months, Piecework is only forty-eight pages long and is a standard magazine size with glossy pages, each and every one. The most unfortunate aspect of Piecework is that of the forty-eight pages, eleven of the pages are advertisements and a few of the remaining ones are content which seems more like ads, like the Necessities column and the Calendar. The advertisements do target the key demographics of those reading Piecework, but with such a short magazine, each page which is devoted to Knitting Daily TV or the sister magazines to Piecework, takes away from the actual content.

Each month, the magazine is published with regular columns, like the tables of contents, note from the editor, and letters from readers. The letters from readers both discuss prior projects shown in the magazine as well as explain how to do other projects the magazine has not shown. This is followed by a regular column on books having to do with knitting, textiles and the likes. These are basically two hundred word blurbs about the current books in the marketplace that would appeal to readers of the magazine. This section of blurbs is followed by a page of already-made products readers can buy and a calendar of events for those who work with textiles. At the end of the magazine are more thorough articles on upcoming events having to do with art and textiles, which allow those traveling to see fabric artifacts to plan their trips. The final regular column is hardly a column at all; they are classified advertisements for readers trying to sell their wares.

In between the few regular columns, Piecework has features and projects for the readers and the emphasis in the issues I read all were on the features. The projects written about in Piecework" tend to be projects like how to embroider a bookmark or patterns to make one's own lace. They occasionally have something like a simple scarf, though the projects tend to be very detailed, not simple scarves or bookmarks. They are intricate and well-defined.

What Piecework has going for it on the project front is that the step-by-step instructions are very clear and thorough. Readers are shown exactly how to make the projects that are featured, with diagrams and step by step instructions on their creation. As well, each project is accompanied by photographs which show what the final product is intended to be, even if they do not include many pictures of the intermediate steps (though they have diagrams). The writing in the projects section is very clear and descriptive, but it is written for a professional. As a result, Piecework is loaded with jargon very specific to the fabricworking arts. In fact, while the magazine is intended for professionals, it uses many abbreviations and there is a guide in the back which states what the abbreviations throughout the magazine stand for . . . without saying how to do the steps which are abbreviated. So, while readers will appreciate discovering that pwise means purlwise, it does not tell readers what that means; that is the type of jargon that is expected of the reader to know.

As for the features, this is where the magazine failed to impress me. Amid contest winners featured by the magazine, the full articles focus on the history of cloths and textiles, like a six page article on Norwegian ceremonial cloths. The photographs in the articles are vivid and bright with museum-quality pictures of the featured textiles. The writing in this section is interesting, but fascinating only to those who love working with fabric, much the way photographs of on-set actors amuse fans of their favorite television shows. The writing was good, but the subject matter was very dry. Articles are also focused on things like famous quilts and antique cloths, like trades brought to the court of King Louis XVI.

The features are written in a simple style and diction and they are mixed in with the projects, sometimes on the same page. In trying to save space, Piecework often begins new articles in the middle of the page. So, while the photographs and writing are thorough, the magazine appears sloppy in its layout. Moreover, none of the information is particularly exclusive. While things like the information about the textiles brought to Louis XVI is easily found on-line, the photographs are unique. It is not enough to recommend this magazine.

Piecework is a very simple magazine with little that is truly original or vital enough to justify its $6.99 cover price. If it fails, photography magazines could fill the niche of textile pictures that would be lost and there are so many books on how to work with fabrics, yarns and threads, that the projects would not be missed. Given that most of the descriptions of projects are written for advanced readers anyway, the patterns and books that would include projects like these would be a better value than subscribing to this magazine.

For other magazine reviews, please check out my takes on:
Montana Outdoors
New York Archives
Playboy: Women Of Starbucks


For other magazine reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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