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.
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.
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