Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong, "Aware Knits"

Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong, "Aware Knits"

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I like a knitting book that's more than just a collection of patterns.  I like a book with a little meat on its bones, so to speak.  And Aware Knits is a very meaty book indeed!

Okay wait, I kind of grossed myself out there. 

But you get the picture:  there's a lot of text, a lot of thought, a lot of intelligent discussion happening on the pages of Aware Knits.  If I had to choose one thing that sets this book apart from the other "eco-friendly knitting" books on the market, it's that it acknowledges that these issues are COMPLICATED.

A lot of books are happy to be all like "BAMBOO YARN YAY!" and leave it at that.  But Howell and Armstrong have clearly put a lot of thought and research into it, and they openly acknowledge that every fiber has problems.  Everything's a trade-off.  In the case of bamboo, there are a lot of eco-friendly aspects to the yarn.  But shipping the raw materials all the way from China, not to mention the energy expended in the processing, means that bamboo is not the be-all-end-all of eco-friendliness.

In some cases, you may actually get a bigger benefit by buying a locally produced "conventional" fiber like merino wool.  I bet the overall ecological footprint of a yarn like Beaverslide is better than some of the mass market bamboo yarns.

I read this book cover to cover, which isn't something you'd be interested in doing with a lot of knitting books.  I was curious to learn about the yarns they chose, and why, and some of the alternate techniques that they broached.  I was intrigued to see what they would make out of recycled sweater yarn, t-shirt yarn (tarn), and plastic bag yarn (plarn).

All of these projects turned out looking pretty nice, and I particularly liked the market tote bag crocheted out of plarn.   A lot of plarn tote bags end up looking lumpy and "recycled," but the Alter Eco bag looks really nice.  And the project they chose for t-shirt yarn, a gigantic toy basket, is pretty awesome!

I'm going to take a crazy guess that half the people who read the book will wish it had more of the wacky avante-garde patterns (like the framed swatch) and half will wish it had more conventional patterns.  I'm definitely in the first group.  If I want a cardigan pattern, trust me, I can find one.  I love books like this for the inspiriation they provide, the wacky possibilities inherent in two sticks (or one hook) and a bit of string.

 If I have any complaint about the projects in the book, it's that the conventional patterns could have used a little more care in the design process.   The seed stitch portion of the fingerless mitts looks baggy, while the bottom hem on the Camisoul is just moments away from rolling all the way up to the model's armpits.  And I question the wisdom of making hiking socks out of a mohair/wool/silk blend.  (Just the thought of mohair yarn + sweaty feet makes me twiddle my toes uncomfortably.

That being said, this is a great book for existing or aspiring eco-minded knitters and crocheters!

Models: Aware Knits earns an F for its models, 100% of whom appear to be white.