10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza, pub. St. Martin's Griffin, 2012.
This book is not solely a pattern book or an anecdote book or a fiction book or a technique book or a biography, but it is an entertaining mix of all these things.
Each chapter bears the name of one of the 10 Secrets, and begins with an exploration of that gem of wisdom. This means providing a list of "must-have" books, delving into various types of fibers and their characteristics, telling a fable, or (most frequently) profiling a fellow knitter.
The profiles are one-page bios with photos, more laidback human interest stories than cutting edge investigations of methods or approaches. (If you're interested in the latter, I highly recommend Knitting in America.) There are also author commentaries and brief dialogues sprinkled throughout.
And sidebars! The number of irrelevant sidebars was astounding (not to mention distracting) and reminds me of my children's textbooks. St. Martin's Griffin happens to be under the Macmillan umbrella, so this may not be a coincidence.
The quality of the information is magazine-like, just enough information to help you decide whether you really want to dive headlong into the topic. The knitting tips are mostly sound, and more are included in the patterns.
Speaking of the patterns, the Peasant Bread Tunic at left is a simple and charming design, rated at a "dining chair" level to show it requires concentration. The Solvang Weekend Vest is only a rocking chair level but employs a clever construction. The Smoked Jewels Hooded Shawlette is another clever and attractive piece, by well-known designer Sivia Harding.
Many other celebrated knit designers (Rebecca Danger, Kathleen Day, Norah Gaughan, Romi Hill, Daniel Yuhas) contributed to this book, settling in alongside novice and experienced designers.
Garment patterns are usually given in 3 or 4 sizes, the exception being the child's skirt which has 6 sizes from 1 to 10. Most of the designs are quirky, but some are basic. There are delightful pillow, placemat, and monster designs along with the socks, mitts, hats, shawls, and sweaters.
Perhaps the most surprising and offensive thing in the book is the replacement of the standard gauge-check reminder with various supposedly humorous and in some cases downright bullying calls to action ("Go ahead, knit a giant, unwearable sock. Either that, or check your gauge." "You will lose definite cool points if you fail to check your gauge."). Definitely not laidback!
Vicki Stiefel's photography can be gorgeous, but often lacks the sharp focus and clarity of vision I have admired elsewhere. Models sometimes look uncomfortable or blurry. The Jellycat Pig outfits are almost completely lost in shadow, and the Heirloom Motif scarf is lace modeled over a top with a distracting emblem printed on it. This is unfortunate, because it really detracts from the appeal of the book.
If you're looking for an entertaining read or would like an overview of several different aspects of knitting (color, fiber, working without a pattern), you might try this book. If you love several of the designs (as I do), all the better. But if you want a book to help you find relaxation in your knitting (or remember why you used to), flip through before buying. This book is appealing in many ways, but it doesn't exactly have a laidback layout.
Disclosure: St. Martin's Griffin sent Kangath a free copy of 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters 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 St. Martin's Griffin or the authors.
I finished this shawl last week, but am only now getting around to photographing it. It's Anna Dalvi's Fields of Malachite shawl from Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color in Lisa Souza Lace in the Lake Superior colorway. This was the first time I really felt compelled to knit a shawl in the color specified, but I wanted to use this yarn and I wanted to knit that pattern. I photographed it on a green blanket, though---that should count for something.
This pattern was a perfect combination of easy knitting and thoughtful lace. Just when I got tired of stockinette, it was time for the charts. Just when the charts were making my eyes spin, it was time for the last few rows. Wonderful synchronicity of my moods with the design. Thank you, Anna!
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