Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Color by Kristin

Yesterday, I received an order from Amazon (UPS loves me!) with this latest book from color-expert Kristin NicholasColor by Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits is a feast for the eyes and gets my knitting thoughts going.   This is the kind of book I would love to write ... where I can play with color and create gorgeous masterpieces and help others do the same.

Yep, that's what Nicholas has accomplished in this 170+ page book.

Ever since I was little, I've loved knitting with multiple colors.  Even with the early, plastic-y acrylics (that were in colors not exactly from the natural world), I would knit COLOR!  Partially this was due to my need to reuse/recycle from not having a lot of the "ready" to buy fresh yarn.  For me, the process was the thing ... knitting or crocheting the item and then ripping to make something else were pretty standard procedure for me back then.

Now that I can afford to buy fresh yarn ... and even the natural "real" stuff ... I find that I am still using up bits from past projects, adding the spectrum to an otherwise dull design, creating beauty from the tints and tones available now.  Nicholas' book and knitting philosophy fits right in with this.  She loves color and rarely uses black or white as those make a design "too neutral".  She embellishes her two-color-per-row designs with simple embroidery stitches (often using duplicate stitch) to give greater depth and zing to the item.

And boy, does she do it well!

The book starts out with a chapter on the "Joy of Color", giving a brief description of the color-wheel (using yarn as the colors to help the knitter link the usually flat color wheel to real yarn), where to find color combinations (nature is one of the best and cheapest ways), and finally, the importance of swatching to test the colors.  This chapter gives the reader all she/he needs to begin exploring color.

Nicholas than goes on to explain two-stranded knitting in the round (many call it "Fair Isle" altho the technique transcends that small Scottish island), steeking and "dressing" (blocking and finishing treatments).  Starting on something small ... like a draft-blocker or child's sampler sweater will give the knitter the confidence to do a bigger project or even design their own 2-color pattern blocks.... which is where the third chapter comes in:  designing fair isle knits explains symmetry, graphing, simple to complex designs, etc.  There is a "designer sourcebook" in the back of the book, broken into stitch-multiples to get your graphing skills jump-started.

Next come the projects ... 25+ projects, otherwise known as knitter's eye-candy!

I'm not a direction-follower and rarely would do a pattern exactly from another designer.  That's just not in me.  But Nicholas' designs have me re-thinking that philosophy a bit.  Her designs are gorgeous but I can make them as described and STILL make them my own (by changing the color-stitch design ... or colorway ... or adding/deleting the embroidery embellishment).  And she has tips throughout these gorgeous items to get you designing on your own.

I especially like that Nicholas' designs are not limited to knit-wear ... she has pillows, chill-stoppers, and even an ottoman cover.  Photographed at her farm in Massachusetts, you can see that Nicholas designs what she loves and uses .... and that comes through in her writing, too.  If you love what you do, your enthusiasm transcends the page to reach the heart of the reader!

Now, I'm off to start collecting colors ... swatching ... and first, deciding which item I'm going to try first:  the over-the-top shawl ... slipper socks ... knitter's tote ... java jacket ... best friends pullovers ... laptop cozy ... southwest style sleeved wrap ... marrakesh market pillows ....

So much knitting ... so little time!  But GREAT Christmas gift ideas.

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