Custom Knits Accessories by Wendy Bernard, photography by Joe Budd, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012
This wonderful book is not so much a pattern book---more like a step-by-step guide to building your own designs. Sure, in order to make it an effective guide designer Wendy Bernard had to put in some templates, and as long as she was doing that, she filled them in a little (just to demonstrate, mind you) and ended up with 21 patterns and variations that make it hold its own in the world of pattern books.
These patterns are for berets, bonnets, slouch hats, and headbands; scarves, shawls, stoles, and cowls; gloves, mitts, socks, and legwarmers. Divide the number of designs by the number of pattern types and you'll see there's not more than one or two of each represented. That's because Bernard is leaving room for you to riff off her designs---inspired, perhaps, by the suggestions in the "make it your own" section following each pattern.
For instance, for the Sangria Shawlette she suggests working it in stripes or with a ruffle at the bottom. She also recommends a couple different yarn ideas. (Incidentally, this is the first book I've seen that opens with a section on substituting yarns!)
But if you've read the introduction to its chapter you will also have the tools to change the shape (maybe knitting a full circle instead of a semicircle, or using the sangria lace pattern in a rectangular shawl) or substitute lace patterns (easier if you've also read the section on using stitch dictionaries). Why not do both, and have an original pattern of your own? Bernard even includes step-by-step tutorials on how to determine the amount of yarn your customizations would require, and how to find out whether you might already have enough in those half-used balls you have stuffed in odd corners of your house (or maybe that's just me).
Each design includes a pattern features box which details, um, you know, the pattern's features.
For instance, the Sand Dollar Slouch Hat (photo at left) features top-down construction, simple cables, and simple shaping, whereas the Jacquard Slouch is worked from the brim to the crown. It helps to be able to see these details at a glance instead of having to comb through the pattern for them.
But skimming through the patterns in this book is a breeze. Efficiently phrased instructions (thanks in part to Sue McCain) and generous use of white space prevent eyestrain when searching for construction elements.
All the designs look extremely stylish yet wearable. The socks and mitts come in a variety of sizes, but the hats are only given in one size each (although each has different measurements). I know customization is the point of this book, but why should we big-headed gals be expected to do all the work when big-handed and big-footed knitters don't get the same treatment? Grrrr!
Bernard includes helpful tables for fiber behavior, yardage requirements, and head and hand measurements, as well as diagrams of various shawl and hat shapings. Stitch patterns are both charted and written out. Schematics are rare, but she describes how to make your own---and why you might want to.
She also has a section on converting stitch patterns from working flat to in the round (for hats, mitts, and socks), and several methods for hiding color jogs when working in the round.
This book would be a fabulous addition to a budding designer's library, but it's really written for knitters, timid or fearless, who are ready to launch into improvisatory knitting. Small scale accessories are a pressure-free way to start this journey, and Bernard provides compelling chord changes to solo over.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of Custom Knits Accessories for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Stewart, Tabori & Chang or Wendy Bernard.
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