Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard, photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy, pub. Stewart, Tabori and Chang (STC Craft), 2014.
I love stitch dictionaries. I read them like novels. My husband often looks up after I sigh, gasp, or even giggle, wondering what I'm reading.
I lift my chin, trying not to look embarrassed, and reveal my weakness---yes, I am reading an encyclopedic list of stitch patterns. And I don't just look at the beautiful swatch photos, I read the pattern to discover what tricks are employed in the lace, the cable, the ruffle, the pleat.
But the swatch photos are indeed beautiful. Stitches stand out, lace patterns are clearly visible, texture is true. I had the good fortune to see a digital copy of a late draft of this book and witness the superior care that went into its editing---comments calling for increased detail in a photo or correction of a swatch's shadow placement were not uncommon. This is an example of the kind of attention that makes STC Craft books outshine others in their category.
What makes this dictionary special is that each stitch pattern comes with multiple sets of instructions. Directions are given for knitting flat and in the round, and patterns that are asymmetrical along the horizontal axis have directions for knitting top-down and bottom-up. Each pattern is presented with an accompanying swatch photo and, if applicable, a chart or charts. The format is extremely readable and it's easy to associate the photo with the instructions.
Although this is a stitch dictionary, we are treated to one complete design in each chapter plus an entire section of the appendix on designing from scratch.
Garments are given in a generous range of sizes, but the hat and sock patterns do not include sizes I could wear. That's okay, since I can easily substitute stitch patterns that will result in sizes to fit my big head and small feet. If I run into any trouble with this, the appendix will help.
The swatches are color coded in tonal families, delineating each chapter without making them look monotonous. The chapters are knits and purls; ribs; textured, slipped, and fancy stitches; yarnovers and eyelets; cables; lace; color work; hems and edgings; and projects.
Little things, like the charting symbols that decorate the spine and the page footers, help make this book exceptional. The coated spiral binding allows the open book to lie flat without presenting a danger to knitting fingers.
Books such as the Barbara Walker Treasuries contain hundreds more patterns but often have ancient black and white photos. Up, Down, All-Around is a wonderful supplement to these, enabling us to not only work the patterns in different directions, but (with a little imagination) to mentally enhance the dated photos.
I recommend this dictionary for folks interested in the mechanics of transformation as well as knitters looking to personalize (or improvise!) a garment or accessory.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of this book for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are solely the blog author's.
Reversible Knitting by Lynne Barr, pub. Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 2009
Lynne Barr's dictionary of 50 new reversible stitches is a showcase for the virtuoso knit designer. In the first section of the book, chapter titles reveal her thought processes: Faux Crochet, Rows Within Rows, and Divide and Combine are just a few. 20 thrilling patterns by designers such as Lily Chin, Teva Durham, and Nora Gaughan fill the second section. The clear, detailed photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy makes everything appealing.
I have already used these stitch patterns in my work, and I long to cast on for Lynne Barr's Folded Mini Dress and Debbie New's Double Wrap Stockings (right).
While some of the stitch patterns have 20 or more lines of instructions, this is no different from many interesting cable or lace patterns. And several, such as Linked Discs (below) need only 2!
Barr also suggests many places for knitters to branch away from her ideas and create their own motifs. The Special Techniques section at the back of the book is revelatory, including several new skills to master and an in-depth look at how to chart double-knits with completely different patterns on each side.
Stunning book, clear instructions, great photos. Just my thing!
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed her personal copy of Reversible Knitting. 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 either Stewart, Tabori, & Chang or Lynne Barr.
Pop Knitting by Britt-Marie Christoffersson, pub. Interweave Press, 2012
I couldn't wait for this book to arrive, and when it finally did it exceeded my expectations. The stitch patterns are gorgeous and wacky and delightful.
With chapter titles such as Slipped Stitches to Form Welts, Patterns on Bind-Off Rows, and Patterns with Buttonholes, Christoffersson has reached beyond flat colorwork, cables, and lace into an exciting world rich with color, texture, and dimension.
The introductions at the beginning of each chapter give the reader not only an idea of what they will find in the pages ahead, but a glimpse into Christoffersson's personality and creative processes. For instance, the introduction to Holes and Holes with Borders begins, "Lace knitting is not my cup of tea. Lace can be exciting to knit but the result is often too sweet and romantic for my geometrically inclined taste. Nonetheless, twenty years ago I sat down and thought deeply about how I might improve upon the technique."
The patterns themselves are clear, but sometimes written in fill-in-the-blanks style. From Holes and Holes with Borders #1: "Shape bottom edge by binding off. Shape one side and then the other. . . . When the fabric with holes has been completed, use the dpn to pick up stitches around the hole. The number of stitches to pick up should match the gauge of the background knitting. . . ."
The pattern does not explain how the sides are to be shaped, or how to determine the number of stitches to pick up (the border is in stockinette, the background in garter stitch; are we meant to pick up the circumference of the garter hole in the garter gauge or stockinette gauge?), and the accompanying chart if numbered as if one square = one row, but the text above it says one square = two rows.
This is fine with me, and I really don't know how she could explain it much better without specifying gauge and constraining the knitter more than is warranted in a stitch dictionary. Frankly, there are enough other beautiful patterns in this book written with specific details to satisfy even the most timid knitter. Such a knitter could choose some of them to work, then apply some of the variations found in photographs on following pages. For instance, there are eleven variations of Casting On and Binding Off within a Row 1. After this, the (now somewhat braver) knitter may be tempted to try a trickier pattern involving surface motifs or different directions. Finally, our hero may be ready to venture into the merely described patterns such as Holes.
The photography by Thomas Harrysson deserves special mention and is worth the price of the book. The many full-page photos of single stitch patterns and the "variations" photo pages show the stitches in full detail.
This is a wonderful book, and I'm excited to try the stitches described within.
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed her personal copy of Swedish Sweaters. 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 Interweave Press or Britt-Marie Christoffersson.
Last week I treated myself to a new book: Pop Knitting by Britt-Marie Christoffersson. It is essentially a stitch dictionary, with vivid new stitches, and full page photos of three-dimensional motifs in comic book colors.
There are examples of these stitches used in garments, and a template to follow should you want to imitate them, but no patterns. I am mulling over a design for my daughter using three colors of Universal Yarn's Garden 3 cotton. I'm pretty excited about this garment, but it has to be top secret for now. In fact, you should probably destroy this post after reading.
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