Monday, May 15, 2006

YNot Knit -- a great book for beginner and pro

I mentioned the book, YNot Knit by Jill and Susan Wolcott last week and I was fortunate enough to get a copy.

This is a real gem of a knitting book! The Wolcott sisters do an excellent job of teaching both beginner and experienced knitters how to knit "Continental" -- that is, holding the yarn in your left hand and "picking" the yarn as you knit. As the sisters explain, Continental knitting is more ergonomically useful and helps avoid carpal tunnel (a result of the way many knitters "throw" their yarn with their right hand with English knitting).

I learned to knit Continental at the first TKGA conference, back in 1985. Alice Starmore, just coming to the notice of the American knitting population, taught a class on Fair Isle knitting. She recommended learning to use both hands to knit -- with two-color knitting, this makes the "floats" smoother and the tension more even.

I never even thought to try Continental exclusively. But with the Wolcott book in hand, it seems VERY doable! The illustrations and step-by-step instructions are amazingly clear. From putting the yarn on the needle to cast on all the way through binding off, the directions are clear, concise and in a chatty way. These ladies know how to "talk knitting".

There are interesting tips and trivia sprinkled throughout the book and lots of helpful advice on some of the things many books omit -- how to tuck in ends neatly, the problems with all stockinette (it "rocks and rolls" as Jill explains), how to read directions by translating the exact direction (e.g., "1x1 rib" = "knit one, purl one rib stitch"), and other helpful tips.

All the information in this book is written with the assumption that the reader has never tried to knit before. But the book is just as applicable to an experienced knitter as it clearly defines and describes continental knitting.

The projects scattered through the book are all scarves -- taking the stitch lesson and creating a scarf as simple as the traditional, one-color garter all the way through to a beautiful sampler scarf that makes the most of the stitches described.

I also like the way the sisters describe knitting: "Knitting itself is awesome....As the original binary code (knit, purl vs 0,1) it has exponential possibilities, but is so basic that even a beginner can create cool things," writes Jill in the introduction.

Susan mentions that "It's (continental) ergonomic, efficient and ideal for left-handers like me. I can knit longer, have no overuse discomfort, and my tension is great...many (experienced knitters) find that it can extend the length of time they can knit and that the repetitive use discomfort often experienced with the English method does not occur."

This 5x8, spiral-bound volume is definitely a book that all knitters -- experienced or beginner -- should put on their wish list.

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