Stitching in the Stacks: Librarian-Inspired Knits edited by Sarah Barbour, photography by Caro Sheridan, pub. Cooperative Press, 2013.
When I was a little girl, my parents used to threaten to take away my library card if I misbehaved. I must have spent half my waking hours in the library and have many pleasant memories from the various buildings that have housed book collections in the places I have lived.
In some of them, the librarians were for the most part hidden away, with one or two out by circulation. At others, they greet patrons with utmost cheer, recognizing the regulars and inquiring into their latest exploits.
This collection celebrates both bibliothec and bibliophile, as well as the books themselves and even a building or two. Perhaps my favorite design is the Open Book Cardigan by Kristen TenDyke, shown on the cover. I love its long lines, the stitch pattern, the buttons, the color . . . all of it. I am an admirer of Kristen's work, and this cardigan is a fine example of her characteristic thoughtful construction.
This book boasts a wonderful assortment of designs: a coat, a long-sleeved cardigan, a short-sleeved cardigan, a long-sleeved pullover, a short sleeved pullover (to be worn with matching cape--"every librarian needs a cape!"), a man's buttoned vest, a man's pullover vest, a woman's vest, a unisex hooded vest, a hat, a snood, a scarf, two skirts, two shawls, three mitt patterns, a bookmark, bookend covers, book and nook covers, a coffee press cozy, a pencil case, a spectacles case, a bookweight which I almost dropped my deadline work to knit, and of course a bookworm. 28 very varied objects!
The Man of Letters vest by Molly Kent is a tribute to Ben Franklin featuring intarsia letters on the fronts, a textured skeleton key on the back, and all-American yarn. The edges look somewhat raw---an interesting design choice.
The Book Woman jacket by Sarah Barbour is an extremely attractive piece. If I were to make one for myself, I would add some rows of slip stitch to the rear button panel to even it up with the front panel. I would probably also add a jigger (interior button) to further prevent the dreaded rear panel droop.
This pattern has the largest chest measurement of the designs in the book---60.75". I assume this is meant to be 4 to 6" of ease, since it is outerwear. The smallest chest size in the collection is 28", skirts range from 22-46" waist, men's garments from 36-52" chest, most of the mitts come in 3 sizes, but the hat (sigh) only comes in one size.
Karin Wilmoth's stunning Bunny Watson vest is beautifully shaped and sports a button in back. Bunny Watson was a movie character, but there are several designs named for real-life librarians with interesting stories to accompany them.
One of these real-life librarians, Jessamyn West, wrote the preface to the book. It would have been nice to know who she was before I got to the lovely mitts named for her. Her preface doesn't give us a clue that she's striving to bridge the gap between those who have access to technology and those who don't, or that she took a stand against the Patriot Act.
Brenda Castiel named the Nancy Pearl mitts after another real-life librarian. Get the book to find out who she is, even if you're not smitten by these gorgeous hand-coverings. I have never knit a mitt, though patterns for them are a dime a dozen. I may just have to whip up a pair of these, though.
The third mitt pattern is by Sharon Fuller, who provided the book's sole sidebar, "Knitting Typography." This "sidebar" stretches over three pages and is worth the price of the book. It covers most kinds of colorwork, but not textured knitting.
Caro Sheridan's photography was generally beautiful and sadly not trumpeted on the cover or acknowledgements or anywhere but the copyright page. But Theressa Silver's Old Reed skirt was given only a blurry photo (there is a clearer shot on the pattern page) while the Carnegie Vest by James Magee was given two front views for no apparent reason.
Styling was another minor problem. I don't mind all the flyaway hair, but the fold line in the lovely Aurora Teagarden skirt could have used a little steam, and the Man of Letters model's wristwatch is a little distracting.
Patterns are well laid out with plenty of space and great charts (although the illusion knitting chart is unsurprisingly dizzying and the colors won't show when printed in black and white). The schematics by Meghan Jones are worth noting for their beauty and clarity.
I recommend this book for anyone wanting to knit book miscellanea, anyone who needs small gifts for book lovers, and anyone interested in library trivia. Also anyone wanting a short dissertation on working letters in color, complete with a chart for a mosaic-knit alphabet. Great patterns, great reading!
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Stitching in the Stacks 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 designers.
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