(And yes, there will be more about nålbinding in a future post…)
In the meantime, shall we have a book review? Sixth & Spring has just published Finishing School, A Master Class For Knitters, by Deborah Newton. Yes, I was given this book for free, so clearly you can’t trust a word I say. But whilst I turn down most of the books I’m offered for review (it’s tough, being a yarny blogger), I jumped at this one because it plays to one of my biggest weaknesses.
Finishing is not my strong point, as a knitter. I’ll put any amount of care into designing, choosing yarns, knitting and crocheting, but by the time it comes to sewing up or weaving in, I’ve usually seen enough of the wretched thing, so I end up callously stabbing at it with needle and thread. I know I need to up my game.
Deborah Newton started out sewing rather than knitting, so perhaps her interest in seams and edges is no coincidence. The two people I know in real life who take most care with finishing are both sewers at heart. It makes sense. When you sew, someone has already created the fabric you’re using, so the joining together of the pieces is a rather crucial component of the business. In my case, it’s all about the knitting or crochet – creating the fabric in the first place, preferably with as much ornamentation and as little need for joining as possible. Finishing is an afterthought.
So I knew that I ought to read this book. “There is nothing worse than a bumpy, uneven seam”, Newton states on page nine, and already I’m fidgeting in my seat, hoping she doesn’t notice the cardigan I’m wearing. “I am very opinionated about shoulder seams”, she continues on page 40. I sense that she has never sewn up the pieces of a jumper in a gloomy pub after three glasses of wine.
But despite her strong views, Newton’s book comprises a range of ideas borne of her experience, rather than a prescriptive list of instructions. (This is a good thing.)
Then comes a surprise: she’s not a particular advocate of blocking (and she mentions this numerous times in the book, just to leave the reader in Absolutely No Doubt Whatsoever). Instead, she likes to create garments so perfect that they don’t need to be soggily stretched to shape on a board. (Even when she does discuss wet-blocking, I don’t entirely agree with her. She gives the garment a quick dunking, whereas I would leave it for 15 minutes or so to give the water time to fully penetrate the fibres.) Anyway, let’s move on.
Wisely, she thinks about finishing right from the start of her knitting. Her gauge swatches incorporate aspects of finishing, such as a ribbed edging down one side, and this is perhaps the most helpful tip I’ll take away from the book. She also advocates carrying your swatch around with you for a while, tugging at it occasionally and generally giving it the life experiences that the actual garment is likely to encounter. Good idea.
There is advice on seaming a variety of parts in a variety of garments (capped sleeves on a jumper, and so on). And there is specific advice on techniques such as adding a zip, embroidering on your knitting, steeking, and creating buttonholes. Useful stuff.
It’s not just about the sewing up itself, however. Newton has included plenty of information about the behaviour of different types of knitting (cables, stranded work, etc), so that you can plan how to work with them in your edgings.
There are patterns, too – 15 of them – predominantly jumpers and cardigans for adult women. I’m going to be brutal and say that I wasn’t keen on any of them, but of course that’s merely my opinion and you may love them. Some of the garments and the photography did look dated, which contrasted with the stylish cover and layout of this book.
Finally, this may suit you or it may irritate you or you may not care either way: this is very much an American book. From phrases such as ‘dime store’ to the use of ‘color’, you’re left in absolutely no doubt about where it was written. Just sayin’.
So should you part with your hard-earned/borrowed/stolen cash? You’ll love this book if:-
- You like to modify or create knitting patterns to suit your own needs.
- You enjoy experimenting to see what works best.
- You’re a perfectionist and a planner.
- You enjoy sewing.
- You’re a process-knitter rather than a product-knitter.
- You dislike blocking.
- You’re quite an experienced knitter.
You’ll possibly be less keen if:-
- You like to make seamless, all-in-one items.
- You’re completely new to knitting.
- You just want a bunch of easy patterns without having to THINK about stuff!
- You regard blocking as an essential tool to mask a multitude of knitting sins.
Finishing School is available now, published by Sixth & Spring. 🙂