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!
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.
Hi! I'm Kangath---
knit designer, musician, writer, and mother
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