Thursday, July 16, 2009

Books: Designing tips from a pro

No, I didn't write this one ... altho I wish I had.

Debbie Bliss has just published design it, knit it: secrets from the designer's studio.

I really like this book. But then, I really like Bliss' designs ... I'm definitely an anglo-phile when it comes to anything knitterly and Bliss is one of the best! I'm entranced by her palette of subtle, soft colors and her Aran-inspired designs are gorgeous. Besides, she has her own yarn company -- how cool is that?

But, back to the book review. Bliss used the "tools" of the designer as her chapter breaks:

  • body shape -- both making the most of it and hiding what you don't like
  • color -- what works and what doesn't and how to tell before spending lots of time!
  • texture -- using stitches to 3-d your knitting
  • kids -- the special details you must include when designing for the little ones
  • details -- finishing and embellishments that don't overwhelm.

  • As she points out, these are each tools that can be manipulated -- either together or individually to design a hand-knit garment. Sometimes, the tool of color is the focus -- and shape, texture and details follow from the chosen color. Other times, it might be that the shape and texture work together and the color is chosen to highlight those.

    She includes a workbook at the end -- with pattern silhouettes (with one filled-in so you can see how to play with these), knitters' graph paper in 6st x 8r gauge, and a stitch gauge that you can use in the book or take out and keep in your knitting bag. The workbook pages -- the silhouettes and the graph paper -- are clearly labeled "photocopying permitted" so that you can take them to your printshop and have copies made with no copyright issues.

    I also love that sixth and spring books did a hidden spiral binding and used paper with a slight matte finish so glare on the photographs and pages is minimized. The palette of colors used throughout the book is beautiful and very inspiring to me.

    Bliss has included 15 original designs, three in each chapter, that serve to illustrate her design tips and guidelines. A few of these designs are worth the price of the book alone! I love the simplicity of the "Button Detail Top" and the simply sophisticated "Gater Stitch Jacket with Vent" and especially, the "Bobble and Cable Sweater"! Wow!

    However, there is one thing that drives me nuts with these gorgeous, famous-designer books -- when the garments shown are just simply wrong!

    For instance, the "Fair Isle Cardigan" is a work of art -- until you look at the full picture on page 48 -- the stripes (and therefore, the bands) don't line up! AND, the sweater doesn't fit the model. Or, the baby jacket on page 84 -- the rolled hems are cute, but the rolled closure looks messy and unfinished. The "Cabled Band Cardigan" on page 111 is a beautiful sweater -- but again, the buttons don't line up properly and there are gaps and the hem looks uneven. Finally, the "Cardigan with Ribbed Sleeves" (page 121) doesn't have enough of a front band to keep the edge from curling back -- a very messy finish (especially as this sweater is one of the designs in the "detail" chapter!). These photos are taken by professional photographers of items designed by a pro, knitted (assumingly) by a pro, "styled" by pro stylists ... and we still have this?

    Bottom line -- I really like this book. But, and maybe this is why I'm a designer, I would have to change a few of her designs to make them up ... larger bands, neater buttons/buttonhole placement, etc. Also, a caveat that Bliss omitted on her "Garter Stitch Coat" (which I so want to make for myself ... if I ever get the time to knit for me!) .... garter stitch grows ... and grows ... and grows. This coat needs to be knit at a fairly firm gauge (or tension, for my British readers) and I think I'd even stabilize the neck and shoulders with a bit of ribbon or single-crochet along the seams.

    Have you read this one yet? What are your thoughts or comments? Let me know in the comments below.

    Happy knittin'
    Mary C. Gildersleeve
    By Hand, With Heart -- hand-knit designs