Bargello Knits by Patty Nance, pub. Cooperative Press, 2013.
Remember those Bargello needlepoint kits from the 60s and 70s? They were ubiquitous in my hometown craft stores, but I never quite knew what they were. A little research uncovers that Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery that uses simple stitches in mathematical patterns to create motifs.
I love that word, "mathematical."
But no calculations are necessary when working the patterns from this book. Patty lays out the method and the terminology with patience and wit so you can design your own Bargello knits (and I fully intend to do so!), but she also includes 28 fully worked-out patterns. Anyway, with her method, most of the mathematical precision is in the hands of the yarn dyer, so we can admire it without having to work for it.
After detailing the development of Bargello knitting, Patty dives into an explanation of different ways yarn is dyed then launches into the technique itself, stopping along the way to describe helpful tools and useful skills. She includes a section on making changes to Bargello knitting without completely unraveling it (and your sanity). Last in this chapter are 5 pages of photo tutorial.
And then come the designs!
I'm not in love with Patty's Bargello scarves and headbands and mitts, but they serve as a fine introduction to the technique before taking the next step: joining to work in the round.
I absolutely adore these socks. My perfect idea of easy knitting---the dyer chose the colors and their lengths, the only thing for me to do is keep track of four balls of yarn. Intarsia captivates me, so that's a welcome task.
I should mention that the accessory sizing seems to follow industry norms. It's just disappointing because I don't have an industry-sized body.
The yarn called for seems to be widely available for the most part, which is great because yarn substitutions may result in garments with a very different appearance. Patty is careful to specify whether the color sequence should be short- or long-repeat, and whether it should be dyed around or across the hank (and she explains what these terms mean and how to determine them) but differences in the size of the hank itself when dyed and the exact length of each color may show up as sequences of rectangles instead of squares, for instance.
This book is very good about presenting every chart, table, and schematic, any reader could want. The photos by John Doukas and Patty Nance clearly demonstrate every feature of the project or swatch. I don't know whether it's intentional, but the whole book has a slight 60s vibe to it. Appropriate, given that that's when Bargello needlepoint was hugely popular.
Sprinkled throughout the book are valuable tips Patty picked up as a knitter and seamstress, making it a worthwhile investment even for those who only admire one or two of the designs. Click on over to Donna Druchunas's article on How to Read a Knitting Book for more details.
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a free copy of Bargello Knits 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 Cooperative Press or Patty Nance.
I have a confession to make. I cancelled all my knitting magazine subscriptions years ago. Every once in a while I try a new one, but it's always the same story: many cute patterns that I will never have time to knit, a few designs that aren't to my taste, some technique stories that stop just short of being useful, an interview or travel story with landscape photos, and letters from the editor and readers. Actually, I benefitted the most from the ads---the full-page glossy ones and the black-and-white sentence-long ones near the back of the issue.
Now there's Knit Edge. Only eight patterns. But let's face it, who knits all 20 patterns from a magazine? I usually didn't knit any. Maybe one or two from every fourth or fifth issue. Let's examine this issue's designs individually to see what they offer.
Janine LeCras's Maid in Guernsey is a modern version of a sweater using her grandmother's old handwritten notes. It features a special cast-on as well as traditional (and some not-so-traditional) guernsey characteristics. It's a beautiful pattern, but what sells it for me is her four-page essay, "Anatomy of a Guernsey," complete with archived photos. Even if I don't knit this sweater, I'll have learned a boatload.
Next is a scarf from Nicky Epstein's new book. Circular reversible cables! Need I say more?
Crocheters will love Jennifer J. Cirka's Martha Pullover, which is cute worn as a cropped cowl-neck or upside-down as a slim-bodied ballet-neck. Christine Guest's Herringbone Skirt has a slew of interesting techniques including short rows, I-cord, grafting, and zipper insertion. I'll be referencing this one soon. Lara Neel's Square Route Mitts come with both a video tutorial and a photo tutorial on smocking, and my own Moon Mirrors scarf is accompanied by three video tutorials on tapestry knitting.
Sojourner by Talitha Kuomi is the piece I'm most likely to knit from this issue (besides Nicky's scarf---did I mention the circular reversible cables?). The length, the cabling, the collar, even the clasp, all are singing to me to drop everything and come to them.
But my favorite of this issue's offerings is the Watershed "combination shawl" by Jennette Cross, which has a lengthy article about the evolution of this shape and the math behind it.
What else is in Knit Edge? "What's New" and "Top Ten" pages, an article about Aimee Skeers's Abundance Vest, and Daniel Yuhas has a couple pages about his recent voyage into revolution-ary knitting (watch this blog for a review of his new book). Kate Atherly talks about sock needles (circular and double-pointed) and Rosemarie Buchanan details an interesting method for circular beginnings which is new to me and a little startling (it involves scissors). MK Carroll interviews Cassandra Harada who runs a yarn shop in Japan and Elizabeth Green Musselman interviews two Cooperative Press designers about designing for boys. Pithy and informative blurbs for eight books make up the "What We're Reading" section and there's even a page on podcasts (by CraftLit's Heather Ordover). Shannon Okey contributes an article about a Smithsonian fiber art exhibit.
And the ads? A full page Indieshop supporting small fiber businesses. I couldn't be happier.
Cooperative Press celebrated their birthday this month. I'm a little late to the party, but I'm a big fan of their books and their mission.
Founded by Shannon Okey in 2009, this company does small print runs of innovative books and pays better royalties than any other publisher. They produce superior craft-related books which are printed in the United States of America.
To the right you can see Dave the Bear sporting Troche from Fresh Designs: Hats, Fields of Malachite from Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color, and Quadrille from Needles and Artifice. His legs simply weren't long enough for the Amplitude Vertical Stockings (also from Needles and Artifice).
Thanks, CP---and happy birthday!
History on Two Needles: Exploring art history through modern hand knits by Annie Modesitt, pub. Cooperative Press, 2012.
When I first saw this collection of designs, I sincerely admired them. What the author refers to as "a labor of love" resulted in 17 gorgeous and varied patterns inspired by statues, paintings . . . even a helmet and a shield.
After actually reading the book I can appreciate more deeply the construction of these garments, the details that don't appear in photos but make them even more exceptional and useful.
I'll explain that last bit more. But first, here are some of my favorite designs from the collection:
Modesitt has a wonderful, conversational writing style. I don't know her personally, but I can imagine her facial expressions as she puzzles out the purpose of the Minoan Snake Goddess or describes the artistry of Joseph Karl Stieler. In addition to the introductions to the book, each chapter, and each pattern, she includes a helpful page, "Reading the Patterns," which also partially explains her take on pattern writing.
And now for the interesting garment details.
This cape looks like it wouldn't stay put with vigorous movement---it might hike up or fall off. But it actually has ingenious little sleeves built into it so it stays put.
And the Tissot Bolero, below, can be molded to your body as it dries for the perfect fit.
There are several such aspects to the designs in this book, and I suspect we would only discover the full range by making each one. There are three hats, nine tops, two belts, two capes, one scarf, two skirts, and a ruff (okay, that's more than 17, but you can't argue with more), all in a range of sizes and skill levels.
The first one I'm going to knit is the Sutton Hoo Helm (chosen by my son). I'll keep you posted about the clever details of this piece, which comes in a luxurious range of four sizes (my son's head is even bigger than mine).
In the meantime, which one are you going to make?
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of History on Two Needles FREE 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 Cooperative Press or Annie Modesitt.
Needles and Artifice by The Ladies of Mischief, pub. Cooperative Press, 2012.
This book blew me away.
That could be my whole review right there.
But you probably want to know what's so amazing.
Well . . .
And 20 or so other most interesting patterns. And a steampunk novelette. Not to mention tea. (Well, it doesn't actually come with tea, but tea is frequently invoked.)
The book is divided into six parts: Mechanical, Boudoir, Airship, Countryside, High Society, and Mad Science. Each part contains a chapter of the novelette and several patterns. Each pattern involves an intriguing construction and/or stitch. A generous 233 pages, this book is sure to elicit exclamations at every turn.
Personally, I found something I wanted to make for myself in every chapter. Sarra Loew's Resilience Top combines brioche rib with gunshot beading for an appealing look. The unusual construction of Katrina Elsaesser's Revolution Shrug is too tempting to pass up, and her Rivet Spats appear eminently useful in the context of this book.
I simply must knit the Trials and Tribulations Bloomers. The Legacy Frock Coat, with its intriguing construction resulting in a stylish swoop and easy instructions for further customization, is also on my list. The Mountain Lily Scarf by Heidi Kunkel features a fetching Estonian lace stitch. And I just may surprise myself and knit an Abundance Vest. I'm not a vest-wearer, but the flattering drape of this garment will convert me!
I strongly desire the sleeves of Sarra Loew's Cameo Spencer Jacket, though the rest of the piece is not to my taste. The two thigh-high stockings, however, seem eminently wearable. The Amplitude Stockings by Amanda Williams are knit lengthwise and shaped with short rows (gives me goosebumps!). I may end up making just one of those and one of Sarra Loew's Eccentricity Stockings and wearing them together as modeled in the book. I have such a long list of knits now (thanks to the Ladies) that I doubt I'll be able to get a matching pair anytime soon.
Nearly half of these patterns are available in only one size, but instructions for shape customization are given for most of those that aren't scarves or hats. I feel obliged to speak out on behalf of those of us with large heads and request more hat sizing options. I will probably knit the Master and Commander Cap by Aimee Skeers, but will have to either alter the instructions or give it to my daughter. And I probably won't be able to resist the Jen Schripsema's Take Flight Bonnet, though it may be a bit tight on the back of my head without modifications (to the pattern, not my head).
The Quadrille Overbust Corset by Valerie DiPietro is a work of art. I fear this is the first pattern I will knit from this book. I say "fear" because if I knit it I will be obliged to wear it, and as a mother of two who doesn't even wear clothing as restricting as blue jeans, I don't relish a corset-wearing life. I could always have it stuffed. . . .
The Ladies who partake in the "busk-snapping adventure" are loyal, resourceful, and speak in colorful language ("horse bobbles" and "thrice-frogged idiot"). The story itself is a riotous introduction to characters---and airships---I hope to see again.
Photographer Jessica Glein deserves special mention for capturing both the knitterly details and the personality of each piece in a thoroughly engaging manner. The photography alone is worth the price of the book.
Congratulations to the The Ladies of Mischief and Cooperative Press for this resounding success!
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Needles and Artifice FREE 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 Cooperative Press or the Ladies of Mischief.
Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color by Anna Dalvi, pub. Cooperative Press, 2012.
This beautiful book begins with descriptions of the symbolic significance of the six colors used in the Egyptian art of the Old Kingdom: green, red, white, black, yellow and blue.
Not surprisingly, patterns for 12 lace shawls in each of these colors follow, accompanied by summaries of the gods, myths, and places that inspired the designs.
The photos by Caro Sheridan are both lovely and distinct, including images of the shawls laid out flat to reveal every detail. You can tell this photographer is also a knit designer!
Dalvi includes a bibliography for those inclined to delve further into Egyptology for curiosity or inspiration---and indeed, many of the stories piqued my interest. I'm already looking forward to her next book.
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color FREE 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 Cooperative Press or Anna Dalvi.
Fresh Designs: Hats, edited by Shannon Okey, pub. Cooperative Press, 2012.
Editor Shannon Okey has put together a collection of 10 hats, each with a special feature or unexpected twist. They are unified by the color scheme of blues and browns with a punch of red. There is no chit-chat and no advice; they get right to the patterns, and knitters are on their own for any techniques that aren't explained therein. The models are appropriately spunky and the photos by Robert Gladys show (mostly) what I'd like to see.
The first hat in the collection, Left Turn at Albuquerque, has an allover cable pattern which zigs and zags its way through the crown shaping. The Samui Toque uses short rows for beauty and fit (I wish the book included a side view which designer Kendra Nitta made sure got onto the pattern page photos). Tamalpais is a head-sized counterpane (would be nice to see the top of it, which designer Linda Wilgus has thoughtfully posted on Ravelry). Ulaan requires minimal swatching and no purling (although it does require picking up stitches), using a stretchy sideways garter stitch instead of ribbing at the brim.
Half the hat patterns are written for only one size. I have a really big head, so this disappoints me. I know knit fabric tends to be stretchy, but that doesn't always help. Of the one-size patterns, Troche as a pleat in it, Tamalpais is supposed to sit on top of the head, and Tundra is huge with earflaps. So there are really only two troublesome patterns in the collection as far as sizing goes. I have already knit Troche, and I know it fits me, though it does fit differently than in the photos.
The three cable patterns are both charted and written out. The lace pattern is written only.
This is an inspirational collection with many intriguing constructions. I had a hard time deciding which to knit first!
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Fresh Knits: Hats FREE 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 Cooperative Press, Shannon Okey, or the designers.
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