Would you like to share a peek at a brand spanking new knitting book?
Sarah E. White got in touch and offered to send me a copy of her latest publication: Colorwork Knitting for review, as it’s just this nanosecond been published. With a book title like that, I was pretty much powerless to resist, although this will be the one and only time I ever spell colourwork without the reassuringly British presence of a ‘u’.
Sarah’s previous books have been about knitwear for babies and felting your knitting. This time, she’s produced 110 happy pages covering five major colourwork techniques in knitting: stripes, self-striping yarns, slip-stitch knitting, stranded knitting, and
shudders intarsia. She provides a range of patterns for each technique, all of them garments, with an adult female bias. She’s heavy on the accessories, so if you’re averse to knitting gloves or hats etc, look away now. But I do think it’s rather splendid that she’s included slip-stitch knitting, as it’s a much-neglected colourwork technique.
The best thing about this book is the explanations of how and why each technique works. I’ve seen a lot of authors/bloggers attempt to explain what on earth is going on with – for example – yarn dominance in stranded knitting, or with jogless stripes, and frankly some writers are better at doing this, whilst others have apparently forgotten what it’s like to be sitting with two needles, an unholy tangle of yarn, a brain filled with, “Huh?” and an inclination to abuse neat gin. Sarah White’s explanations and occasional illustrative photographs on the other hand, are clear and logical, and I recommend them.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Reading this book, I thought that it would suit someone who has got all that beginner knitting confusion out of the way, and who now wants to expand their repertoire of techniques and figure out what sort of colourwork they like the most.
Not intarsia. Please not intarsia. All those dozens of tangled bobbins…. please just make it stop. Oops, did I type that out loud? I reckon it’d appeal most to process knitters who are keen to learn as wide a range of methods as possible and reflect on the whys and wherefores of what they’re doing, as opposed to product knitters who are thinking, “I need a hat. Just gimme the pattern for the goddam hat already, yeah?” And no, I’m not casting any silly value judgements there re. process vs product knitters. I’m just saying that this book is a good place to come and ponder the how and the why.
So, do you want to see some of the projects?
There are 25 of them: hats, scarves, socks, and gloves, with a smattering of jumpers (the latter with rather smaller necks than I would ever wear, but that’s just me).
I played around with a few swatches, and the instructions were clear and logical. But know-ye that if you’re a fellow non-north-American like me, you’ll need to do a spot of mental conversion of the yarn weight instructions.
I don’t knit many accessories as a rule, but I did rather like the look of the brick stitch scarf, and slip-stitch work is an oft-neglected colourwork technique that deserves more attention. The scarf is coming out a little narrow (partly my bad for using slightly finer yarn and needles than recommended) but the pattern is pretty and eye-catching. One thing you can’t really see from the picture below is the pronounced, 3-d nature of brick stitch. ‘Tis lovely. I might just treble the width of the scarf if I make it again, though, and possibly subvert the medium by adding a couple of windows in amongst those bricks…
The patterns are not revolutionary but that isn’t the point: they’re not-too-taxing designs to showcase colourwork techniques for knitters who are venturing into new territory.
One thing I will say – and it’s not a criticism, but I suppose it might irk some people – is that if you want a super-glossy, professionally-styled/shot, mega-budget, coffee-table-tome, this isn’t it. There are some unflattering shots of the finished garments laid out on white backgrounds (and there’s a puzzling photo of someone apparently plucking an apple from a shrub that looks about as unlike an apple tree as you could imagine, but that’s just me getting really nit-picky). But as a friend said when I showed her, it’s refreshing to see a book with real knitting in, ie projects that look a little wonky in places until you put them on.
So where does that leave us?
You’ll like this book if you:-
- Are starting out on colourwork, having mastered the knitting basics.
- Are a process knitter. Value understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing.
- Like to knit accessories and garments for adults, including fairly quick knits.
- Love colour. Lots and lots of colour.
This might not be your favourite book if:-
- You have enough hats/scarves/gloves already, and want to knit something unconventional and radical.
- Monochrome is your thing. (Friend, you’ve really come to the wrong place.)
- You’re a product knitter and just want patterns, without all this explanation malarkey.
- You want Euro-centric instructions.
- You want to learn about traditional fairisle.
Thank you for your honest review. As a Brit living in Canada, I too take issue with colour spelt without the U! However I’m now used to North American instructions, yarn weights etc. Some of those patterns look like things I’d want to make so I’ll check it out at the library.
Spanky socks there Ms Twisted and that short sleeved er… jerkin?! reminds me of “5 go mad in Dorsett”. With you on the lack of the “u” and would have to smack my own right hand if I bought it, to stop me from scribbling in the missing “u” in red crayon on the cover.
All of that knitting jargon from this point on lost me. I guess that makes me neither a “product” or a “process” knitter, but puts me fair smack bang in the middle of the unmentionable kind of knitter, the “fringe dweller” who can almost “knit” and most of the time manages a “purl” and who hovers around the tempting glow of other people’s lofty creations reveling in their smugness and living vicariously through their socks. We are drawn like moths to the flame, and alas, like moths, we tend to knock ourselves out in the metaphorical windowpanes of “skill” and “technique” between us and that glorious “in” club of knitting ability.
Just read the “You will like” and the “might not be your favourite” and have decided to sit on the fence. I might just have to resort to paying talented friends to knit me some socks I reckon 😉
Katie Writes Stuff says
This sounds like a book I should investigate! I don’t do much colourwork (or, you know, any) but that’s not because I don’t want to. Plus, I’m a firm believer in having as many scarves, hats and gloves as you can lay hands (and necks and heads) on, so I’m extra tempted. Thanks for the review.
Katie Writes Stuff says
So the missing bit from that second sentence should be something like this: …but I’d really like to learn and understand more about it.
thanks for your input
Very fair and well balanced review. Agree with you on the neckline ‘issue’. The book reminds me of ones from the 70’s, (showing my advanced age as per… lol), but could be useful, as you say, for process knitters.