Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yarniana: let the games begin!

For the past year or so I've been the happy recipient of review copies of knitting books, so it seems proper to dedicate some space here, maybe once a month, to telling y'all what's riding the latest incoming wave. Some of these volumes will be familiar to you, or at least their authors will, and others will be novel and amazing. I shall offer my humble opinions, and feel free to agree or not. (Full disclosure:  I prefer to review only books that have what I define as merit. Life is too short to read, or review, unappealing work.) Since summer approaches, I'm going to start by reviewing books that offer heat-friendly knitting, inasmuch as they're dedicated to small or lightweight projects.

So here it is, The Vogue Knitting Ultimate Hat Book (Sixth & Spring Press, 2012)

Maybe the grandest thing about this compendium of designs that have appeared previously in Vogue Knitting magazine, is its educational value. If a knitter were to make each one of the fifty (50!) hat patterns here, s/he would come away with a very full knowledge of knitting technique and knitting propriety, by which I mean that the designs are perfectly suited to the kinds of yarn required. (For example, one would not be advised to make the Double-Knit Hat designed by Elli Stubenrauch in a yarn heavier or less elastic than the fingering-weight called for, as that would most likely doom it to failure.)

One side of the Double-Knit Hat, designed by Elli Stubenrauch.

So, if you followed the directions as written, you'd practice (and perhaps learn for the first time) double knitting (i.e. reversible!) and intarsia. And you'd come away with a clever and useful little cap. Though I'm generally not a big fan of pictorial knitting, I must admit that I find this design, called "bird on a wire," very adorable.

The other side.

The designs are prefaced by short sections on the history of hats, anatomy of hats, and types--the latter offers useful images of basic hat shapes--and there's a mercifully brief boilerplate discussion of basic techniques. (At least there is no seemingly-obligatory section on "how to knit," which most knitting books, no matter how advanced, compulsively repeat.) The patterns themselves reflect a range of designers, from well-known (Deborah Newton, Pam Allen, Norah Gaughan) to up-and-coming (Jacqueline van Dillen, Mari Tobita, Anna Al). The fifty designs as a whole reflect the delightful way that modern knitting incorporates the textile heritage of Europe, Asia, and the Americas through technique, motif, color, and style. 

Does it have any limitations at all? Yes--these are designs intended for women, though some, like the chullos, trapper, beanie-style, and aviator hats could easily be adapted to fit those of the male persuasion. But apart from that, it really is, as the title claims, an ultimate compendium. Great photography, clear layout, instructions, charts, and timeless designs--it's really one of the best knitting books I've found, and the list price of $24.95 (obviously even less if you buy through a discounter) is quite modest considering what's included.

Isn't this pilbox by Mari Tobita elegant? And just think what a good cabler you'd be if you knitted it!

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