Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hey, what's the Big Idea?

"Books do furnish a room."
                               --Anthony Powell

So maybe you’d like some new knitting books for the holidays, or maybe you’d like to give one to a dearly beloved knitter?  Here are three that recently crossed my desk.  They’re all clever and meritorious, and  I shall rank them in order of technical difficulty.

The easiest, technically, is The Knit Parade, by Rebecca Rymsza (Collins & Brown, 2013). This book’s Big Idea is that you can individualize a generic unisex sweater (crewneck, long sleeves) with graphic intarsia images. Stars, keys, telephone receivers, hearts pierced by lightning, leopard spots—you’ve always dreamed of a sweater decorated with these kinds of motifs, right? Each motif ties in with a pop song—that aspect is way past my realm of consciousness, but perhaps you know a teen-at-heart who’s plugged into this current, and you’re looking to knit her/him something transiently cool and tragically hip. At any rate, the patterns are clean and simple, and offer an encouraging introduction to basic intarsia. Who knew intarsia could be this funky?

Then we have Classic Elite’s Shawls, Wraps & Scarves:  20 Ideas, 3 Ways (Sixth & Spring, 2012). The Big Idea here is, as the title says, multiple garments from a single stitch pattern. Maybe this doesn’t seem earthshaking, but each of the twenty prototype patterns is distinctive, and each is worked up in different yarns to different lengths and different proportions. It’s actually quite magical to see how a master pattern can yield differing results as the variables of yarn, needles, etc. change. The photography is really good, the garments beautiful. This book is my pick of the three, if you want to go with only one. It provides the most bang for the buck, if you think of its contents as really sixty patterns rather than twenty, and in terms of these patterns’ shelf life. They’re classic, elite, and will never go out of style. 

The most interesting of the three is Irish Schreier’s Reversible Knits (Lark, 2013). The Big Idea here is training a knitter to become adept at knitting garments that have no wrong side. It’s an excellent technical primer; there’s a lot of good information about stitch/fabric composition (including a small swatch lexicon that offers painless trialing of the techniques), and about fixing mistakes; and there’s an array of designs, ranked in difficulty from Beginner to Experienced, that combines beauty and technical expansion at every level. This is a book for a dedicated and curious knitter…in fact, I’m probably going to start on one of its patterns very soon!

So there you have it—three very different knitting book possibilities; together they’re fairly representative of what the annual crop of knitting books yields. Attractively designed, interesting to read, gimmicky to varying degrees, and offering solid technical advice, they’re good gifts for any knitter, including you.

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