Publishing companies often send me their books to review, and indeed my book reviews are among my most popular posts. (Other contenders being my Inkscape Schematic Tutorials and muffin recipes, the latter mostly being popular with my family at breakfast time. . . . )
Visit these sites to see trailers for books I will be reviewing later this fall:
The Knitted Slipper Book by Katie Startzman (an adorable video with handmade sets and characters)
Lena Corwin's Made by Hand (showing the variety of projects detailed in the book)
And now, back to knitting!
The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013
What secret does the great cellist Pablo Casals know about swatching? Which knit stitch is like whole-grain bread? And what does Barbara Walker's husband have in common with mine?
Clara Parkes answers all these questions, as well as others you never thought to ask, in her collection of 22 free-standing essays subtitled "My Unexpected Life in Knitting." Parkes runs the popular and useful on-line magazine Knitter's Review and is the author of The Knitter's Book of Socks, The Knitter's Book of Yarn, and The Knitter's Book of Wool---the last two being helpful tomes of use to anyone in the fiber community.
Parkes has a poet's appreciation for the interconnectivity of seemingly disparate aspects of life: an old sweater and a run-down farmhouse, a yarn stash and a flower garden, a sailboat and a Stradivarius. I have a sense of affinity with the metaphors she chooses, which are drawn from music, gardening, baking, and of course knitting. Her language dances and gallops, chuckles and sings.
This book has a lightness to it, an ease. It made me laugh and even filled my eyes with tears once or twice (the Acknowledgments got to me for some reason). And I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader.
Comment on this post by September 30 and say what kind of fiber you would be made of if you were a yarn. I'll use a randomizer to draw the number of one comment and identify the winner on that day's post. The winner will have a week to contact me with shipping information, and I'll send the book.
If I were a yarn, I would be linen. Tough and stringy when working up, but softening with use. I would like to say I'm organic merino, fluffy and elastic, but that would be a lie. Still, linen is beautiful and takes dye well. And my husband loves it.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of The Yarn Whisperer 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 Clara Parkes.
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.
Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham, photography by Adrian Buckmaster, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2005.
This is the first book in the Loop-d-Loop series. I have already reviewed a sequel, Loop-d-Loop Lace. Both books are organized much like the magazine Vogue Knitting, where Teva worked as staff editor for a while. There's a gallery of images at the beginning of each chapter, followed by the patterns.
This method has its drawbacks when the patterns are not accompanied by sufficient photography, but whoever did the layout for these books did an admirable job of ensuring that photos of the most crucial pieces of each design were included for the knitter's reference. Nonetheless, I often found myself flipping to the instructions (the pattern page numbers are included in the gallery by their respective photos) because of something in Teva's provocative text. I do appreciate the ability to glance through each chapter's designs and to see them next to each other, but it's a mixed blessing.
The designs themselves are gorgeous, larger than life, each fully committed to the exploration of one technique. The puff sleeve bolero celebrates the ability of knitters to shape the fabric as they work (as opposed to tailors who must cut and sew). Teva uses at least three different shaping techniques in this virtuosic piece.
I also love the yoke vest, another exercise in shaping. Originally developed for boutique production, its bulky gauge makes for quick knitting and the full-fashioning marks make it obvious that the piece was knit by hand.
Another outstanding design is the bobble u-neck, which features bobbles the size of meatballs.
Those designs and a dozen others are part of the first chapter, "Cycles---Explorations in Circular Knitting: Tubes, Spirals, and Round Shapes." The next chapter, "Planes---Adventures in Texture, Stitch Patterns, and Directional Construction," includes demure sweaters, charming children's clothes, and costumey blouses that somehow look like they all came from the same designer's imagination.
The yarn-over steek vest features a giant uncut wound steek up the front. Many of Teva's designs make use of bulky yarn in engaging ways and would not look the same done at a smaller gauge.
Unfortunately, the use of bulky yarns makes it hard to size up by changing yarn weight, and the given range of sizes is quite limited---most of these sweaters only come in two or three sizes, and only one size for the hats.
Chapter 3 is entitled "Waves---Experiments in Color, Pattern, and Composition," and contains a pattern for the most charming hooded capelet, shaped with yarn-overs.
Instructions for the designs pictured below are also in this chapter: fair isle patterning worked on the bias or with short rows, a color block sweater done with zippers instead of intarsia, and a child's sweater worked from the center out. With these and the other patterns in this chapter, Teva unleashed her imagination from tradition. But her design sensibility kept close watch on its wild scamperings and made sure, for instance, that the sleeves of the fair isle short-row pullover matched the body, though that meant they wouldn't match each other.
Unless you plan to use this solely as a coffee table book (where it would not be out of place), I suggest you download the errata page (depending on which edition you have) since many previous reviewers have found errors in the patterns. There don't seem to be too many errata compared to other recent books, but errors can be frustrating to encounter, especially when unexpected (as they usually are).
With this book, Teva seems to have bridged the gap between high fashion and practical knitwear. Some of the garments which appear to show off too much skin are actually vests.
Most if not all of the models in this book are actually friends and relatives of the designer. Photographer Adrian Buckmaster worked well with stylist Kristin Petliski and hair and makeup artist Angela Huff to make them look like professionals.
This book is an absorbing study of the possibilities of design---of limitation as well as freedom. It's visually stunning and artistically revealing.
I can hardly wait to see what Teva comes up with next.
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed a copy of Loop-d-Loop from her library. 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 Teva Durham.
Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr, photographs by Tyllie Barbosa, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007
This is not a new book, but it contains some new techniques that have been underused since it came out. I guess this is because it purports to be a pattern book.
And it really is a pattern book, filled with 27 "distinctly modern designs" beautifully photographed, and only a few pages of technical information both in the final chapter and sprinkled throughout.
The cover scarf is a lovely example of a simple yet creative, functional yet attractive design. The pattern fits easily on one page, but it encompasses four techniques--two standard and two innovative. Wonderful.
The scarf at right is related to Tricorner and looks a bit like Twisted. Better than either (in my opinion), it's really just ribbing knit in and out on little wings instead of around and around in a tube. Get the book for more details.
But as much as I admire those technique photos (and drool over the technology--I do not have the engineering brain needed to set something like that up), they are trumped by Tyllie Barbosa's ingenious work.
Draping scarves over just about anything you might find in a home (except people), her photos are narratives and Lynne's designs come across as extremely comfortable works of art. The cover photo is one of my favorites. Another is at right.
The waves in that scarf are knit in the round on two sizes of double-pointed needles, but there's more to them than that. Lynne had to work out several more details, yet the result is elegant and not the least bit cerebral or off-putting.
The scarf at left is worked with one continuous strand of yarn. Carumboa is made of interlocked rectangles. Circles reminds me of a motif from Pop Knitting. Peek is knit flat using intarsia yet has a three-dimensional look. Drifting Pleats may sound scary (no stitch numbers and as many as six needles at once) but it's beautiful and has many Ravelry projects, so I think it's probably worth a try.
And there are more, doubtless some you will find so charming that you'll wonder why I didn't feature them in this review. (The answer must be my inferior taste.)
It seems Lynne's main purpose in writing this book was not to put forth gorgeous scarf designs (though she has done that). It was to come up with provocative, inspiring designs that would take us beyond the instructions into the land of What-If.
When I read a novel, I want to be taken somewhere new. It's a joy to find that in any knitting book, let alone a pattern book. Knitting New Scarves gave me that sense.
I strongly recommend this book for any knitter who has not yet encountered Lynne Barr. It gives just a taste of her genius.
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed a copy of Knitting New Scarves from her library. 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 Lynne Barr.
Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan, photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006, 2012.
I have always loved Norah Gaughan's work. It's not that she thinks outside the box. The box is simply irrelevant. She approaches each design in a specific, individual way and accepts it for what it is if it grows up to be something other than what she imagined.
I admire that.
Take the cover photo for this new paperback version. Inspired by the hexagonal forms of slowly cooled lava, Norah constructed a top made solely of hexagons (with some wedges removed for armholes). The result is one of her most flattering garments.
For the skirt at right, she made each row of hexagons a little bigger than the one above it to make an A-line shape. The shapes on a turtle's shell are similarly different sizes. This skirt is knit, then turned inside out to wear. The reverse stockinette stitch looks great, but it's the definition in the hexagons (made from picking up stitches on the knit side) that really sings to me.
The hexagon chapter also includes one of Norah's signature long coats (the Hex Coat) with hexagon trim. It's a simple piece with lovely lines. There's plenty of knitting interest in the front, and the moss stich back is good meditative work.
I just may have to make a vest version of the design at right. Click on the image for a link to its Ravelry projects. Norah envisioned the center panel as leaves and little stems, but it turned out to look like a certain little sea urchin.
Whereas hexagons fit together to create flat surfaces, pentagons make a round construction. Norah crafted a yoke of pentagons for her Swirled Pentagon Pullover, and the entire body of them for the Bubble Pullover---fascinating stuff. I have to say, the project pages for these two were very enlightening. Most of the projects look better than the book photos. The bubble pullovers are very flattering on most people (not so much on the model) and I especially like the swirled pentagon variation without the turtleneck.
The next chapter celebrates spirals. I love the one-page introductions Norah gives each chapter, detailing the various forms these shapes take and how they manifest themselves in nature. This chapter is inspired by the logarithmic spiral such as a seashell or horn which "grows larger and larger at a constant rate as the creature making it grows." For an Archimedean spiral, see Knitting from the Center Out.
The Cowl Pullover, despite its tame name, is a glamorous garment with a giant seashell-like sleeve which becomes a collar at the end of it. This piece is sewn and split for the body opening, leaving the cowl and sleeve whole. Ingenious! I love all the patterns in this chapter---especially the Ram's Horn Jacket, the Shell Tank, and the Cabled Spiral Pullover.
The next chapter is Phyllotaxis. It's basically an arrangement of double spirals with the spirals going opposite ways at different speeds. (Don't worry, Norah explains this very clearly.) My favorites are the Roundabout Leaf Tam, which uses the spiral in its construction, and the Sunflower Tam.
Fractals are featured next, to my great delight.
As well as the Ogee Tunic and the Coastline Camisole and Skirt (which I adore), they inspired such subtle designs as the Branching Aran Guernsey and the Frost Jacket. Another of my favorites is the Serpentine Coat which has a fractal motif around the yoke.
Last up is Waves, with the Vortex Street Pullover and the Turbulence U-Neck as eyecatching examples. But Norah features so many appealing unisex sweaters in this collection, I just had to show you one.
Look closely at the Reflection Aran Pullover and you'll see there are thicker lines and thinner lines. All the lines are 4 stitches long, but the thinner ones are mini cables. Norah constructed a chart so that once a line hits the side of the panel, it bounces off at the same angle as the approach.
The Recommended Reading list includes several books on pattern formation, science, and math, as well as the more common knitting references. I'll have to look some of these up.
Sizes are usually XS - XL with chest sizes around 36 - 52" (although they go as low as 33" and as high as 60") and hip sizes from around 32 - 52". The child's Target Wave Mittens come in 3 sizes, but the Sunflower Tam in only 2 (18" and 20") and the Droplet Hat in only 1 (20"). The lower portion of the tam is in ribbing and stockinette. It would be a simple matter to cast on a different number of stitches and just make sure to end with the right number before the sunflower portion. (This is assuming the head you want to fit has a circumference of less than 38".) Likewise, the Droplet Hat could be adjusted near the brim. And of course there's always the option of knitting at a different gauge.
This book is a beautiful and inspiring ode to patterns in nature. I recommend it for everyone---even if you don't know the first thing about knitting. Norah's clear explanations may just motivate you to find some needles and yarn and get to work!
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of Knitting Nature 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 Norah Gaughan.
Loop-d-Loop Lace by Teva Durham, photographs by Adrian Buckmaster, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011
This is the book to learn lace with. It goes from mesh and eyelets to more complicated designs with bulky yarn for instant gratification, fine yarn for extended pleasure, and some of everything in between.
This is also the book to expand horizons. Interesting pieces worked in fascinating ways in exotic stitches for stunning results. Simple constructions with a twist. Unusual solutions to age-old design problems, like the top-down eyelet shirt that is shaped with specially treated yarnovers.
This is the book, whether you're feeling impressive or uninspired, to keep on your coffee table. Glowing models in gorgeous garments, tidbits of wit and history, and Teva Durham's methodical encouragement. I learn something new every time I pick it up, and I've already read it cover to cover several times.
The first couple chapters contain charming and inventive designs such as a military-style jacket, a leather cord belt, knee socks, pillow covers, and bloomers. But I want to highlight the designs that come next, starting with the Samplers chapter.
The cover sweater, the milanese shower bolero, features four distinct yet related lace patterns. The stitches progress from the Shower Stitch on the lower bodice to the Milanese Stitch on the sleeves and are separated from the Wing Stitch on the upper bodice by a raised line of stitches. The ruffled border is actually a variation of Bear Track lace.
The skirt of the shetland shawl dress is a Shetland shawl placed on the bias. A shawl with spaghetti straps is sure to stay on! I am always looking for other ways to wear the beautiful lace patterns that adorn these shoulder coverings.
The gorgeous tiger and snail folkloric blouse has the makings of a fable in its name, but that is not its only attractive aspect. For one thing, it's red. I love red lace. The sideways snail shell edging is worked first, then stitches are picked up for the body and sleeves. There are cables around the drawstring neckline to act as ruching. Teva was inspired by Eastern European dance costumes when she designed this piece, and it shows both in the shape and the extraordinary level of detail.
The Thistle Bodice below is from the Doily chapter and is a virtuosic reinterpretation of Marianne Kinzel's Balmoral doily. The thistle's calyx is featured several times in the doily and takes center stage in the top, manifesting itself at three major focal points.
The patterns are clearly written and well laid out, with plenty of white space around the charts and clear schematics. Measurements are given only in inches. Although there are two sizes for the sock, there is only one size each for the two hats (17 1/2" and a very stretchy 19"). Skirt sizes go up to 2X (52" hip) and most sweaters go to XL or 2X, with notable exceptions being the eyelet tee which is offered in Girl's 4-5T through Women's Medium and the rose trellis blouse which goes to 5X (60" bust).
Adrian Buckmaster's photography is masterful, capturing both the knitterly details and garment "story." Close-up pictures of swatches are also included throughout.
Most impressive of all is that Teva finished this book after the death of her three month old baby boy. In her words, "I know that it is in the nature of humans to create and invent . . . extraordinary objects despite the limitations and trials of everyday life. This is perhaps our best quality."
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed a copy of Loop-d-Loop Lace from her personal library. 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 Teva Durham.
The Shape of Knitting by Lynne Barr, photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy,
pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013
This book begins with over 25 innovative projects to knit, but (though cute, wearable, and knittable) they are not the meat of the content. Halfway through the book, we realize that the scarves and slippers were merely whetting our appetites for the main course: Techniques.
This last half of the book is devoted to explaining in detail the techniques found in the preceding patterns---and in some cases, their creative origins. Lynne's explanations even of commonly used techniques (such as the long-tailed cast-on) are valuable because they include not merely the how, but the why and the what as well. Information about stretchiness and stability are paired with analyses of the look of the completed procedure.
Lynne deals with cast-ons and bind-offs, decreases and increases (including the wonderfully simple speed increase) in this way. Then it's time for dessert. (Can it be dessert and main course at the same time?)
The first meaty treat (maybe pumpkin pie---that always has enough eggs or tofu in it to count for protein) is the chapter on three-dimensional knitting, as featured in the Dimpled Cowl. In this chapter Lynne covers combining and dividing stitches in a much more thorough way than she was able to do in Reversible Knitting, which was essentially a stitch dictionary.
She details 14 different ways to make a pleat (and gives a couple stitch patterns to use them in), 2 ways to work short rows, and a basic hem or casing with variations.
Then comes the whipped cream.
Lynne has developed a way to knit multiple units with an uninterrupted strand of yarn. She designed Square Arches in one piece, not as separate pieces sewn together or even picked up and knit. The technique is similar to the way you might knit a sideways edging onto a shawl, and she presents several variations.
Speaking of slippers, there are several interesting footwear patterns in this book. They seem just right for wearing on my cold hardwood floors in springtime.
Slippers are an even smaller project than socks, and provide many opportunities for learning new techniques. Another small project is the Fringe Headband (below) which will be one of the very next things I cast on.
I really like this High Profile Top, too. Maybe I'll add some sleeves to it to make the fun last longer.
Along the lines of small projects, there's also a necklace and a pair of mittens, not to mention the two hats, two bags, and two, um, eyeshade patterns. I was actually pretty unhappy to see those eyeshade patterns because I had plans to design some of my own. Now I'll just have to give them an unusual twist.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of The Shape of Knitting 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 Lynne Barr.
Custom Knits Accessories by Wendy Bernard, photography by Joe Budd, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012
This wonderful book is not so much a pattern book---more like a step-by-step guide to building your own designs. Sure, in order to make it an effective guide designer Wendy Bernard had to put in some templates, and as long as she was doing that, she filled them in a little (just to demonstrate, mind you) and ended up with 21 patterns and variations that make it hold its own in the world of pattern books.
These patterns are for berets, bonnets, slouch hats, and headbands; scarves, shawls, stoles, and cowls; gloves, mitts, socks, and legwarmers. Divide the number of designs by the number of pattern types and you'll see there's not more than one or two of each represented. That's because Bernard is leaving room for you to riff off her designs---inspired, perhaps, by the suggestions in the "make it your own" section following each pattern.
For instance, for the Sangria Shawlette she suggests working it in stripes or with a ruffle at the bottom. She also recommends a couple different yarn ideas. (Incidentally, this is the first book I've seen that opens with a section on substituting yarns!)
But if you've read the introduction to its chapter you will also have the tools to change the shape (maybe knitting a full circle instead of a semicircle, or using the sangria lace pattern in a rectangular shawl) or substitute lace patterns (easier if you've also read the section on using stitch dictionaries). Why not do both, and have an original pattern of your own? Bernard even includes step-by-step tutorials on how to determine the amount of yarn your customizations would require, and how to find out whether you might already have enough in those half-used balls you have stuffed in odd corners of your house (or maybe that's just me).
Each design includes a pattern features box which details, um, you know, the pattern's features.
For instance, the Sand Dollar Slouch Hat (photo at left) features top-down construction, simple cables, and simple shaping, whereas the Jacquard Slouch is worked from the brim to the crown. It helps to be able to see these details at a glance instead of having to comb through the pattern for them.
But skimming through the patterns in this book is a breeze. Efficiently phrased instructions (thanks in part to Sue McCain) and generous use of white space prevent eyestrain when searching for construction elements.
All the designs look extremely stylish yet wearable. The socks and mitts come in a variety of sizes, but the hats are only given in one size each (although each has different measurements). I know customization is the point of this book, but why should we big-headed gals be expected to do all the work when big-handed and big-footed knitters don't get the same treatment? Grrrr!
Bernard includes helpful tables for fiber behavior, yardage requirements, and head and hand measurements, as well as diagrams of various shawl and hat shapings. Stitch patterns are both charted and written out. Schematics are rare, but she describes how to make your own---and why you might want to.
She also has a section on converting stitch patterns from working flat to in the round (for hats, mitts, and socks), and several methods for hiding color jogs when working in the round.
This book would be a fabulous addition to a budding designer's library, but it's really written for knitters, timid or fearless, who are ready to launch into improvisatory knitting. Small scale accessories are a pressure-free way to start this journey, and Bernard provides compelling chord changes to solo over.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of Custom Knits Accessories 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 Wendy Bernard.
Knitting from the Center Out by Daniel Yuhas, photography by Jody Rogac, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012.
This book appeared on my doorstep last week, and as you know, when I receive a book for review I don't just flip through it and look at the design photos. But that's what I do first.
I like pretty pictures in my knitting books (and cookbooks, for that matter) because they are inspiring. I can look at a pattern (or recipe) and decide whether it looks good. But it's so much more appealing to look at a shiny photo of a styled item and think, "I would wear/use/eat that."
On that first flip through, I saw that the designs had been beautifully styled and well photographed, that they were appealing but too simple to be interesting for a knitter of my exalted experience.
I have seen reviews of this book which said there was nothing new in it, that it was okay for beginners, but that anyone who knew an increase from a decrease would be yawning by the time they reached the last page. I have seen other reviews which warn that beginning knitters should not even contemplate knitting these designs lest the unwary crafters self-combust.
All I can say is they must not have read the book.
The lovely Geometric Shrug (above and on the cover) is a wonderfully simple way to show off handpainted yarn. The instructions are well written, with separate instructions for left and right (no short-cut "reverse shaping for left side" here) and a clear schematic. But the construction (which I won't give away, like the end of a suspense novel) is simply ingenious.
And indeed, each of the 28 designs in this book has its own clever, fascinating twist---not simply to be clever or fascinating, but to demonstrate the mechanics of a technique or to solve a problem posed by the object itself. For example, the starfish toys on the cover were knit without breaking the yarn. Whee!
But if all this sounds too intense, never fear. Illustrator Sun Young Park has rendered the rough sketches provided by Yuhas as charming and copious diagrams throughout the book. Anyone having difficulty visualizing one of his unusual constructions need only study these and all will be well.
Most of these designs are more interesting than they look and easier than they sound. I mean you don't really need to know about the Fibonacci series or Archimedian spirals to knit the items in this book. (But isn't it fun to read about them in Yuhas's enthusiastic prose?) On the other hand, the necklace at right isn't just a giant striped I-cord looped around and around. Get the book. You'll see.
All the patterns are accompanied by effective charts, sketches, and/or schematics. Yuhas also thought up variations for many of his designs (maybe he just can't stop) and included these at the end of each pattern. Sizing is generous for the most part, and tables or instructions are given for customization of many of the designs where sizing matters.
There's another thing that puzzles me about the other reviews. Most of them tout the starting place of the heel-up socks as unique. Have they forgotten about this by Kathleen Sperling? Her socks put the center at the back of the heel (not the bottom), but they look more like socks. Just had to mention it.
The photography in this book is really fine. I would like to see the back of the leaf-yoke sweater, and I want to see how the hood of the hood-down hoodie looks when it's worn. But these are minor issues. For the most part, models and pieces are well-lit, details easily discerned, and photo tutorials very clear.
I know I haven't gone into quite as much detail as usual about specific designs from this book. They're all amazing and useful. Garments are normal-looking (well, maybe not the cone hats so much) and wearable, yet fascinating to knit (I'll see if this is actually the case when I get around to working one of the patterns). I'm just running into the problem of not wanting to give too much away.
This book is a wonderful resource for designers, beginning through expert knitters, and topologists.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of Knitting from the Center Out 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 Daniel Yuhas.
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