So today was a fairly lazy day, full of writing thank-you notes and browsing the web. This afternoon, though, I headed down to the library for the first time in ages. (Incidentally, if you haven’t heard about the Ohio library system getting screwed over by Governor Strickland, go look it up. It’s pretty infuriating.) I got three books, all knitting, and thought “Hey, why not stick them up in the Den?” So here we go.
Note: Links in the book titles take you to the Amazon page for that book. Don’t just buy it from Amazon if you can get it at your local bookstore, though.
Knit with Beads: Beautiful Gifts, Easy Techniques, 18 Beautiful Designs by Scarlet Taylor
I recall picking this book up sometime last year, leafing through it, and then doing nothing with it. Now, though, I’ve seriously looked at it, and it is an excellent book. The techniques are indeed easy (trust me, there are cable and lace patterns FAR more complex than this), and all the designs are gorgeous. She also covers when it is and isn’t appropriate to use beads and what kinds of beads are best for various applications.
The beading techniques fall into two categories: pre-strung, and hook. (She also includes beaded fringe, but to me that’s embellishment, not knitting.) Everything within the pre-strung category is just what you do with the stitch before you move the bead. Then, after teaching you the technique – with lots of pictures – she gives you patterns that apply the method. Pretty much everything is covered, up to and including the “bead knitting” that was so popular in the Victorian era. Yeah, the ones where you knit with beads on every stitch and row of the pattern, so you only see beads, not knit fabric. Very time consuming, with lovely results. But instead of saying “And here’s a vintage clutch pattern to use with this technique!” (which is a personal pet peeve; I mean, does anyone use those?), she comes up with three adorable clutch purses with wooden beads and handles that smack of the tropics. There’s also a pair of socks that look like Leyburn socks with beads at the points, a set of bridal gauntlets with pearls that would be a lovely gift, and a little vintage lace cap with beads hanging from the points. (I’m definitely making this one for myself.)
This book is an excellent teacher; it assumes that you’re smart but just don’t know anything about this topic. (I hate books that “dumb it down”.) The patterns are all, if not astounding, all knittable, excellent applications of beading rather than just slapping beads where they don’t belong. Definitely going on my book list. (And look, there’s another one! Stunning Shawls and Wraps.)
Stardragon’s rating: 10 out of 10 butterscotch candies
Saturday Sweaters: Easy to Knit, Easy to Wear by Doreen L. Marquart
This was another one I’ve browsed through in the past, and, to be honest, it didn’t really grab me the second time around. Don’t get me wrong: the dozen-odd sweaters in there are all wearable, if not extremely grabbing. They would fall into what I call “mindless knitting” – the kind where you just go and go and measure occasionally to see if you’re at the proper length yet. My favorites of the bunch are the Lazy Day tunic (knit seamless in the round after the flaps), the Moss Rib Stitch pullover, and the Faux Heart Cardigan. As for the others… they’re decent, and fairly flattering, and she makes good use of the yarn’s quirks. However, the patterns are all fairly simple, and appear to be the same basic sweater with a different stitch pattern jammed on it. (The last few patterns are actually just the same sweater shown in a different weight yarn, which to me is just insulting and lazy.) Also, there’s absolutely no shaping thrown in, though that’s easy enough to fix; and I have a preference for seamless stuff, which is also easy enough to fix.
My advice? If you’re really new to sweaters, you may want to consider this. It does make a good, basic, bare-bones sweater book. Me, on the other hand – I would just browse through, take notes about gauge, yardage, sizing, measurements, etc. to get a feel for what a basic sweater should look like, and then make my own from there. (I nearly choked when I saw the price on the back. $24.95? Really?) If you have a lot of experience with sweaters, I’d pass.
Stardragon’s rating: 6 out of 10 butterscotch candies
Continuous Cables by Melissa Leapman
I saw the first book by this woman (Cables Untangled) in Barnes & Noble and instantly desired it. Instantly. I am nuts about cables, particularly non-traditional traveling motifs. As I recall, that particular volume was all about long cable panels, such as you might find on Aran sweaters. Even though I practically drooled over it, it was huge and hardback and far beyond my price range. (At the time. If I’d had a gift card I would’ve snatched it up in a heartbeat.)
So when I saw this on the library shelf today, of course I grabbed it. And, as I hoped, the authoress did not disappoint. The book starts off with basic instructions, all geared toward cabling. Specific types of increases, decreases, twists, and “axis cables” (I knew there was a name for them). None of the “this is how you knit. This is how you purl” that is so prevalent and insulting in many knitting books. (If you’re picking up a book chock-full of cable patterns, chances are you already know how to do the basics.) Next is a short lesson on reading charts and symbols and decoding “knitter-ese”. Then she moves on to simple projects, gradually going to women’s sweaters, other things, and finally – the best part – a huge stitch dictionary in the back. Huge. Like 1/3-1/2 of the book size huge. I would buy it for the charts alone, never mind the terrific design tips and patterns.
So whereas Cables Untangled was all about vertical panels (don’t quote me on that, I may be wrong), this one was all about “closed-ring cables”. Meaning cables that have a definite bottom and top that are either curved or pointy, most of which are reminiscent of Celtic motifs. Like the ones I’m planning for my sweaters. Oh yeah, this one’s going on my list. I may renew it a dozen times, or as long as it takes to get to my birthday. (Assuming the library will let me.)
Here’s the thing: I am practically a self-taught knitter. I have never thought anything is difficult, mostly because I’ve never had anyone telling me “This is really tough”. My first cable pattern was a Celtic knot motif going up a pair of knee socks. So to me, this is absolutely luscious material, perhaps a little tedious, but not neccessarily difficult. To someone who’s never done cables, or is intimidated by them, or hates charts (the charts are long enough that typing out verbal instructions is not useful), this might not be the best “first cable book” to buy. For an intermediate, experienced, or greatly daring knitter, heck yeah, buy the book. And unlike Book #2 in this review, this one is well worth the price.
Stardragon’s rating: 10 out of 10 butterscotch candies
That concludes today’s book review! Maybe with summer around (and my upcoming wisdom teeth removal next Tuesday) I’ll actually do some more of these things. (Don’t hold your breath.)