Thursday, April 19, 2007

Knitting Book Reviews ... finally!

About a week or so ago, I promised to write up some reviews of knitting books which I've been perusing (and some, drooling over) for the past couple of weeks. So, your patience has been rewarded and here are the reviews:

The Joy of Knitting: Texture, Color, Design, and the Global Knitting Circle and The Joy of Knitting Companion: A Knitter’s Handbook by Lisa R. Myers are pretty unassuming volumes by this Pennsylvania yarn-shop owner. Don’t be fooled by the covers – both of these books have lots to offer. The first volume goes through all the aspects of knitting uniqueness – texture (through stitch patternings, yarn choice or needle choice), color (whether traditional ethnic design or random intarsia) and overall design. Myers gives great, clear explanations. The only down-side is that there are no photographs, just drawings of the suggested projects – and we all know that “artist renderings” are a bit more fanciful than the camera’s eye!

The companion book, which I actually read first, is a working notebook – with lots of blank record-keeping forms, graph paper and other helpful tools (including a needle sizer and a gauge ruler “built-into” the cover). Suggestions abound for designing your own – or adapting a have-to-have design to really fit you! I only wish they had bound the book with a spiral (rather than a glued paperback) so that the book could lie flat.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting Projects Illustrated by Barbara Morgenroth is one of those “knitting for dummies” books that I usually don’t like. In fact, if you read the blurb about the author, you find that she has very little knitting experience but instead is a “cookbook and craft book writer”. Now surely, they could have found a KNITTING writer to write this book. That said, I found this book to have GREAT, clear illustrations and instructions, interesting projects and a wealth of information about my favorite activity! The photographs of the finished items could be better, but this would be a wonderful starter book for beginning knitters.

The Knit Kit Book by Sandy Carr, Josie May and Eleanor VanZandt is sadly out-of-print, but well worth the hunt to find a copy. This book teaches all the basics – with great illustrations and directions – as well as a whole section (or really, a second book) on designing basics including measuring, sketching, adapting existing patterns, etc. Hunt for this one – you’ll be well-pleased you did!

Knit it Now! Turn Great Yarns into Great Sweaters by Julie Montanari has some really cool designs. Also, Montanari, who’s been knitting since she was 8 (same as me!), gives ten easy steps for ensuring a good fit of the final sweater. Many of the sweaters, ironically, look like crochet (which I can do but avoid) but are so lovely that I think I’d break down and knit them!

Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave edited by Ann Budd and Anne Merrow is a must-have if you knit (or dream about knitting) socks. Talk about eye candy! This has a collection of the prettiest, coolest, most useful socks I’ve seen in a long time. There are lacy socks, hiking socks, ethnic socks and plain socks. I love Interweave books because they often spiral-bind them inside a hard cover so the books can lay flat; they are also invariably fun to read.

I love ethnic knitting. The next four books are some of the best of this kind of book:

Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel is the definitive book on knitting the heavily knit-purl patterning sweaters from the British Isles. The author does a fabulous job of explaining the history of these sweaters, describing the basics of a traditional sweater and then showing the reader how to make one. She leads the reader through either a sampler sweater (doll size) or a full-size sweater so that you not only learn how to make a gansey, you learn about all the parts of the sweater and why they are made the way they are. This is a classic!

The Complete Book of Traditional Scandinavian Knitting by Sheila McGregor is another classic, this time discussing knitting from Scandinavia. History, how-tos and a plethora of lovely examples make this book one to use again and again to make these lovely hand-knits – sweaters, hats, mittens, and socks.

Simply Socks: 45 Traditional Turkish Patterns to Knit and Magnificent Mittens: The Beauty of Warm Hands are both works of art by Anna Zilboorg. Sadly, these are both OOP, but take time to search for them – you’ll never regret it. Taking the traditional patterns of Turkish knitters (where the yarn is tensioned behind the head and flicked in a very unique manner), Zilboorg has charted these gorgeous multi-colored designs and created simple socks for the sock-knitter. These are amazingly beautiful as is the text which lovingly describes the history of knitting in Turkey. Her mitten book continues this work of amazingly beautiful multi-colored designs and blends the designs in such a way as to create unique works of art. I love the long cuffs that are meant to go over the coat/jacket sleeve to keep the wearer toasty warm. Zilboorg also describes how to do three different thumb treatments on these mittens – thumb with gusset, invisible thumb and sore thumb – which can actually be interchanged on the specific designs. But one thing I like about Zilboorg’s books – she encourages the reader to go beyond her designs and create your own work of art!


Esther said...

Nice blogs Mary! I will be posting your link on my knitting blog.

KC said...

Thanks for the reviews!! It's so hard to decide if a book is a good one.