You Can Knit That by Amy Herzog, photography by Karen Pearson, pub. Abrams, 2016
Amy Herzog has done it again---written a book that speaks to beginning and experienced sweater knitters, topped off by a couple dozen wonderful patterns.
Her signature design is a plain sweater with set-in sleeves, knit in pieces. There may be a touch of colorwork here or there, or a sweet bit of lace, or a line of texture or cabling. But her genius is in the fit, and it's such genius that it wants to be displayed rather than hidden by excessive adornment.
In this book she stretches out, displaying that same genius in raglans, circular yokes, drop shoulders, and integrated sleeves. She reveals that the secrets to great fit aren't just in the measurements but also in the yarn.
For instance, anyone who subscribes to the stereotype of drop-shouldered sweaters as boxy and bulky would be surprised by the Cushy Pullover (right). Made with a baby alpaca/merino blend, its fabric has "enough movement and 'crushability' to comfortably lie under the arms." Its modern silhouette feature slimmer sleeves. And though the body is oversized and unshaped, the sides are ribbed to provide a little bit of cling.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The reason for all these construction types is to explain in loving detail the procedure for knitting any kind of sweater. The book's mission, as evidenced by its title, is to demonstrate the accessibility of knitting beautiful, comfortable garments.
The Introduction, written in Amy's amiable prose, explains (among other things) that these sweaters in this book are "lower stakes, fit-wise, than the classic tailored pullover." Chapters 1 - 3 are even lower stakes than the patterns, encouraging practice with swatches, with pencil and paper, and with tape measure and sweaters you actually own.
These chapters are named "Before the Knitting," "During the Knitting," and "After the Knitting." They cover the following:
Herzog's wealth of experience and unique perspective almost guarantee that even if you have heard a particular pointer, you have not heard it put exactly that way. I especially appreciated the sections on fabric, ease, and trim.
Next come the patterns. Divided by construction, they include one "mini" project for each category. Mostly sized for toddlers through 10-year-olds, these projects are intended to familiarize the knitter with new ideas without a huge investment in yarn or time. But they're also darned cute!
Most pattern books have blurbs introducing the pattern. These are usually "romance copy," paragraphs sketching the inspiration for an item, or suggesting where and how it might be worn. This is how Amy romances us on the Entangled Raglan (orange sweater in the upper right corner of the cover):
One of the most exciting things about the raglan construction, from a designer's perspective, is that the raglan lines offer a beautiful chance to show off stitch patterning. In this cardigan, I combined a smooth, lovely wool with beautiful cables that I used to adorn the seams of the garment. Those seams are important for stability (cables are heavy!), as are the buttons at the top of the cardigan. As you knit, make sure your neck edge is strong, since much of the weight of the sweater is supported by it. You'll be rewarded by a stunning garment that's also comfortable to wear.
That's a lot of information for what's often the "fluff" section of the pattern! Occasional "Bonus Lessons" appear in sidebars throughout the book, ensuring that Amy is able to pack in as much content as possible. Whew!
But so we don't have to wade through all the info every time we start a new project, Amy's included a two-page "super-quick guide to super-wearable sweaters" near the back of the book. She thinks of everything!
Karen Pearson's photography is joyful and the styling by Astrid Scannell-Long is creative but not distracting. I'm looking forward to knitting the Heublein Pullover---I'll keep you posted on how it turns out. I'm a little concerned because it's worn by my favorite model and I think that may be swaying my decision. But it fills a gap in my wardrobe and I'd like to test the difference Amy says seams will make in a raglan.
I recommend this book for any and all knitters. Reading it is like sitting down for a meal with a good friend who knows a lot about the things you love. And the patterns are the icing on the cake!
Knit Wear Love by Amy Herzog, photography by Karen Pearson, pub. STC Craft, 2015.
I can't say enough good things about this book. Amy Herzog is one of my favorite knitting voices. I enjoy her non-judgmental word choices and straightforward message: we are all beautiful.
That said, when I first saw this book I looked at the cover and wondered what the publisher was thinking. the sweaters weren't attractive to me, the styling seemed off, the camera angles were unflattering...
The clouds cleared from my attitude when I opened the book and saw what it was. Of course it's not just a collection of patterns! That's not what Amy's about.
She opens with a chapter on identifying your personal style. Proposing no fewer than eight categories, complete with descriptions of fiber, fabric, and color, she gives five exercises to help label your tastes.
This is important because if we articulate what we like to wear, we are less likely to choose to knit something that attracts us for other reasons (for instance, the setting it's worn in).
Chapter Two is a crash course in sweater choice and customization which will guide us through eight meta-patterns, each with three samples worked up in different styles and yarn weights.
Each meta-pattern is written for twelve sizes from 30" to 54" bust. The patterns are brilliantly laid out in chart form, resulting in a surprising clarity, given that there are mix-and-match instructions for three radically different sweaters on the same page. It's like a cross between a knitting book and a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Novel.
The bolero below (in bulky weight yarn) is written with the worsted-weight Avant Garde Bolero and the fingering-weight Romantic Bolero. All three patterns are given in all three weights, with caveats about yarn suitability for special features such as puffed sleeves. They are only broken out by specific styles when necessary (as for the lower edge or the sleeves) otherwise they are written as one pattern. It works.
Knitters can choose to use a different stitch patterns or yarn weights or even change the increase and decrease rates following Amy's instructions. It's liberating, and the possibilities are endless.
I highly recommend this book for knitters who want to be able to customize their sweaters for fit or for style. Also for those who'd like their knitting to fit better (some important information about measuring gauge in Chapter Two), those who want to choose a sweater that flatters their body type, those who are hesitant to knit a sweater in pieces or have trouble with seaming, and those who just plain like Amy Herzog patterns.
Disclosure: The publisher sent Kangath a review copy of this book. Kangath was not otherwise compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in Kangath's reviews are her own.
Knit to Flatter by Amy Herzog, photography by Karen Pearson, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013
Let me just start by saying I love this book. It is an invaluable resource for knitters concerned about fitting and flattering particular figures as well as for designers wanting to target specific body types or maximize versatility of a design.
Herzog begins with a tutorial on finding your body type by drawing lines on photographs of yourself in form-fitting clothing. I admire her non-judgmental language here, her encouragement of camera-shy folks, and the clarity with which she delineates the purpose of these photos. Herzog underlines the fact that people's main perception of you is based on your attitude and speech rather than the size of your [insert name of pet peeve body part here].
She continues with each of the three main body shapes as viewed from the front: top-heavy, bottom-heavy, and proportional. Below are photos of two very different top-heavy models: Ann has broad shoulders and Jackie is busty. But they both look great in the Draper Vest/Cardigan! The long vertical lines of the lapels combined with a little waist shaping are the secrets here.
Herzog doesn't laugh at my bottom-heavy longing for this design, however. She tells me how to modify it to better suit me! Modification ideas are given in a sidebar, with page numbers referencing the instructions to implement them (which are given in a later chapter).
I really don't have to concern myself with all that, though, because in the very next chapter (my chapter) is the captivating Flutter Pullover. I have avoided wide necklines for years because they tend to fall off my "delicate shoulders" (Amy's term for the nearly nonexistent nubs sloping down from my neck to my arms), but she has me convinced to give them another try. When I knit them myself, I can use my own measurements and have more success. Jessica (at right) has narrow shoulders, but the boatneck makes them look wider. Worth a try!
Herzog has some designs in this chapter that she says will flatter non-busty knitters, but none of her bottom-heavy models are in this category, which is a disappointment to me.
Herzog's grasp of figure-flattering features is phenomenal, but not all the photos prove her skill. Pose, camera angle, and styling combine to make the garments below appear less than flattering. Still, I'm not sure the line of lace rippling over the front of the Cypress Cardigan was the best idea for Morgan, or that the Stoker Cowl's sleeve and torso lengths are the best combination for Tessa (though I agree her shoulders do not look at all narrow in this piece).
The next chapter discusses curvy and straight shapes, larger or minimal busts, long and short torsos. Here's Morgan again, looking fantastic in the Enrobed Wrap. This sweater looks sensational on curvy figures, and straighter figures could tie the waist tie more simply, letting the diagonal lines promote the illusion of shaping.
The final chapter is all about modifications---when and where to make them, and what other parts of the garment one particular modification will affect. Herzog fits an enormous amount of information into just a few pages. I know I will use these pages as a reference for years to come.
Photographer Karen Pearson did an excellent job for the most part producing varied and natural looking full-length photos. In a few instances she might have taken a more direct shot rather than from below, but this is just my perception. The nine models are without exception wonderfully vibrant and the styling creative though at times a little risky.
Patterns are given in around ten sizes. Schematics and charts are given where needed and instructions are clear. I don't think of this as a pattern book exactly, but it's great to have well-written examples to follow and modify before tackling designs plucked from the vast unknown.
I've tried not to put any "spoilers" in this review, but you can find out more about Herzog's thinking on her blog and decide for yourself whether to take the plunge. I found this book---and not just "my" chapter---an extremely educational and entertaining read. Highly recommended!
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of Knit to Flatter 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 Amy Herzog.
Hi! I'm Kangath---
knit designer, musician, writer, and mother
Click here to join the Kangath Knits email list
for insider updates and special deals.
Ruth Roland is a top Baton Rouge, LA music lesson instructor on TryMusicLessons.com!
Amy Herzog Designs
Knit and Tonic
The Sexy Knitter
Sheep to Shawl
Trappings and Trinkets
Two Sides of the Same Stitch