November 2009

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary, "Volume Two: Cables"

The back of the second Vogue Knitting Stitchionary proclaims it to be "THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF EVERY CABLE IMAGINABLE!" a claim which I find… improbable at best.  As with the first Vogue Knitting Stitchionary (Knit and Purl) the pictures are definitely the best part of the book.  This is the one with swatches in shades of brown, and I'll be honest with you, I love just flipping through and looking at all the swatches.

The contrast and quality photography is the same here as in the first Stitchionary, but I feel that it's most helpful in the first one.  There isn't much that you need to decode visually about a cabled swatch, unlike a swatch in a knit and purl pattern.  It's pretty, though, and it makes the cables very crisp and easy to follow with the eye.

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary, "Volume One: Knit and Purl"

The Vogue Knitting Stitchionary series seems to be aimed at those of us who dig getting all of the books in a series.  How else to explain why they have four gorgeous but slim hardback books, when one slightly larger book would do just fine?

At any rate, I think the first Stitchionary books is the best, probably because it has the simplest purview.  There are so many patterns you can make with knit and purl stitches, and so few ways for that to go wrong.  If Volume One has any failing, it is the same as the other Stitchionary books - more space is devoted to the gorgeous pictures than it really needs, making a lot of this book wasted space.

Michael del Vecchio, "Knitting With Balls"

I'll start by stating the obvious: I am not the target market for this book.  I may be off base, then, in my assessment.  Hard to say!  It's not that I'm not qualified to evaluate it, obviously.  Would you disqualify a male knitter from evaluating a "regular" knitting book?

One of the interesting things about knitting - and to be perfectly frank, as a refugee from the girl-free open source and high tech start up world, one of the most appealing things - is that it is one of the few communities which is almost exclusively women.  This has always struck me personally as being odd, because the first knitter I ever met was a man, who had learned how to knit when he was stationed on Navy submarines for months at a time. Submarines are cold, and boring, and don't offer a lot of hobby equipment or storage space.

Crafts for Thanksgiving

Holidays are always a time for fun crafts in my home with the kids and Thanksgiving is no exception. Crafts for Thanksgiving by Kathy Ross has many fun ideas for kids of all ages to participate in. Everything from turkeys to pilgrims, the book is full of ideas. One of the best things about holiday crafts that your kids do is displaying them again and again every year.


“Whip your knitting into shape” with Jennifer Stafford’s book, Domiknitrix. Given to me as a gift, I was truly worried that it was a hint to make some creations on the more kinky side for the gift giver. After looking through the book, I was greatly relieved. This 256 page book is filled with great ideas and patterns for those that like the more punk and alternative dress style complete with step by step instructions. There are even great ideas and projects for those that are just starting out with their knitting hobby making this book great for everyone at all knitting levels.

Nicky Epstein, "Knitting Over The Edge"

This is the less successful follow up book to Nicky Epstein's smash hit, Knitting On The Edge.   Which was not only a fun play on words, but also a handy resource for things you could do with the edges of garments.  Unfortunately its sequel is not as useful, and is a perfect example of one of the problems with the publishing industry today: it's not making any money.  

Even with non-fiction and instructional reference books like knitting books, the profit margins are shockingly slim.  A "hit" is likely to give the author a reasonable salary for one year, but then what do you do next year?  

Elizabeth Zimmerman, The Opinionated Knitter

This is my favorite Elizabeth Zimmerman book, hands down, even though it has the least amount of knitting in it.  Maybe there is a connection there, because her hard core knitting advice books frustrate me.  You may have read my review of Knitting Without Tears, which is so chock full of information, none of which is organized or cross-referenced or findable at all, that it practically brings me to tears.

Review of Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Knitter's Almanac"

If you have read my earlier review of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears, then you can probably guess what I'm going to say.  Just as with all of her other patterns, Zimmerman's patterns in this book suffer from a surfeit of "pithiness."  In fact, an entire cottage industry has sprung up online devoted to providing more verbose instructions for Zimmerman's patterns.  (How ever did we knit before the internet?)

However, this book is one of the better Zimmerman books, because it has some understandable order imposed upon it.  It contains twelve patterns (one for each month of the year).  Each month has its own chapter.  Each chapter has some anecdotal stories in it, along with a knitting pattern.

Review of "Scarf Style" by Pam Allen

I find it difficult to believe that I've never knit a single scarf from this book, but I have to admit that it's true.  I bought it because I lusted after several of the scarves inside, and I pick it up often and flip through to sigh over the scarves that I love.  But I've never actually had the time, the yarn, and the inclination all together at once to actually cast on for one.  Isn't that sad?  That's sad.

Scarf Style is one in a series of "X Style" books put out by Interweave Press, where X = any given knit item.  We also have Wrap Style, Lace Style, and several others.  I like those books, but not as much as I like Scarf Style.

Teva Durham, "Loop-D-Loop"

I'm just going to flat out say it: this book is completely deranged.  Like, seriously whackadoo.  I don't think there's a single thing I would ever make in here, but I love flipping through it just for inspiration.  Just look at the cover!  The models are wearing scarves which are oversized fuzzy mohair interlocking loops of chain.  What!  That is way too many adjectives to describe any one garment.  

Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, "Mason-Dixon Knitting"

I haven't yet picked up the new Mason-Dixon Knitting book, but I'm eager to do so.  Out of all the knitting books I have ever bought, this is the one that I have worked the most patterns out of.  That counts for a lot, if you ask me!  I would say that at least half of the books I have bought, I haven't worked a single pattern from (yet).  But hey, my knitting bookshelf will come in pretty handy after the zombie apocalypse, when you can't just surf the internet endlessly for hours downloading free knitting patterns.

Claire Crompton, "Knitted Accessories"

This book seems to be part of a series called "The Knitter's Bible," the idea of which intrigues me, even though I don't think I've seen any other books from this series.  I shall have to look more closely at the bookstore!  I like sets of things; knitting books especially.

Knitted Accessories is a deceptively slim volume, only 128 pages from cover to cover.  And yet, it manages to include a ton of odd and useful bits of information.  For example, it has a Troubleshooting section at the back with helpful instructions for more than just the usual "here's how you drop back a stitch to fix a problem."  Among other things, it gives you an illustration and a paragraph of text on how to unravel (tink, or frog) an entire row of knitting.  Information which I could desperately have used when I was a beginning knitter!

Katharina Buss, "Big Book of Knitting"

This is another of those "all in one" compendiums, with a little bit of information about every possible knitting subject, from learning how to cast on, to entrelac techniques.  There are a number of these encyclopedic books on the market, and they all suffer from the same problem: there's simply too much about knitting to put it all into one book.  Which is understandable.  So some sacrifices have to be made.  Which is also understandable.

The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine

This is one big honkin' knitting book, collecting 25 years of the best knitting articles from Vogue Knitting into one massive pink slip-covered edifice.  I would almost call it a coffee table book, except that it makes for some seriously dry reading.

The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine collects a shocking number of articles written by knitting luminaries such as Elizabeth Zimmerman, Meg Swansen, Lily Chin, Nicky Epstein, Norah Gaughin, and more.  The articles are strongly tilted towards technical "how to" information, which is part of why this makes such a lousy coffee table book. When I bought it I sat down to read through it, but I ended up bailing about a third of the way through.  

Elizabeth Zimmerman, "Knitting Without Tears"

Elizabeth Zimmerman is considered something of a canonical saint in the world of knitting, and I don't entirely disagree with this. The woman did amazing things, made knitting accessible to an entire generation of knitters, invented extraordinarily clever patterns, demystified many knitting techniques, and was a wonderful writer and - by all accounts - a very nice woman, to boot.


And you knew there was a "but" coming, right?

Zimmerman specializes in what she calls "pithy" knitting patterns.  Which for modern knitters at least, are simply far too pithy to decode.  I have had success with Zimmerman's knitting patterns only when I have looked up supporting documentation online and on Ravelry.  (For pity's sake, there's an entire flourishing online cottage industry in decoding and expanding upon her Baby Surprise Jacket pattern alone.)