August 2010

Mark Frauenfelder, "Made By Hand"

I picked this up expecting it to be profiles of DIYers ("Makers," as Frauenfelder calls them).  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more of an autobiography of Frauenfelder's projects, his successes, and - more to the point - his failures.

Mark Frauenfelder is a big name in the DIY world.  The man behind MAKE and CRAFT magazines, founder of Boing Boing (the original zine and the website), and the Man of A Thousand Hobbies.  I saw Frauenfelder recently on The Colbert Report; he brought on a truly wonderful device, which is a box that turns itself off.  You flip a switch on, and a little hand immediately pops out to flip the switch off. Love it!

Lynne Barr, "Reversible Knitting"

In an interesting and bizarre coincidence, several books on reversible knitting came out at the same time.  This one, by Lynne Barr, is primarily a stitch dictionary.  (The other, "Reversible Knits" is more of a pattern book.)

The entire concept of knitting things in reversible stitches is fantastic.  I can't tell you how many hats I have knit, only to spot them on their new owners months later, being worn inside out.  As long as non-knitters insist on wearing things inside out and backward, you might as well make the "wrong side" look nice!

Nicky Epstein's Signature Scarves

There's something oddly 1990s about this book, nothing that I could specifically point to, but it had me checking the publication date.  (2002.)  Epstein uses a lot of primary colors and novelty yarns in the designs of her scarves, and perhaps it's that emphasis of color and form over technique that strikes me as somewhat outdated.  
Nevertheless, there is enough variety in these Signature Scarves that there is literally a scarf for everyone. 

Even me, with my love of a color palette from "black" to "light gray" and occasionally "brown" or maybe "brownish gray," even I can find something to love!  In this case, the Heathered Leaf Wrap, which looks both snuggly and entertaining to knit.

Deb Stoller, "Son of Stitch 'N Bitch"

Deb Stoller's book Stitch 'N Bitch is considered a seminal work by many knitters.  I can't count the number of knitters who bought Stitch 'N Bitch as their first knitting book.  Many knitters learned how to knit using Stitch 'N Bitch, and while I wasn't one of them, I certainly referred to it constantly.

One of the great strengths of the original Stitch 'N Bitch book was its detailed examination of various techniques.  Just about every knitting book has a section on technique in the back.  Stitch 'N Bitch reversed this formula, putting all the technique stuff up front (expanded, with many helpful illustrations) and the patterns at the back.

Clara Parkes, "The Knitter's Book of Wool"

In a nutshell, all the problems I had with Parkes' previous book (The Knitter's Book of Yarn) have been fixed - and amply so - in The Knitter's Book of Wool.  Her first book was a great overview of yarn, but it lacked the detail that I craved.  This second book delves deep into the topic of wool and wool yarns specifically, and it's just as geeky as your heart could possibly desire.

The Knitter's Book of Wool has three sections.  The first section is about wool - about crimp, and locks, and kemp, and dozens of other specialty terms.  These are things that many spinners have learned, but that most knitters never do.  

Cathy Carron, "Hip Knit Hats"

It was a bit jarring to go from the first two crunchy granola eco-friendly knitting books I checked out to this one.  A startling portion of the hats in Hip Knit Hats are knit unapologetically with novelty yarn.  And more power to them, says I, although they really aren't my thing.

Carron clearly takes the topic of hats very seriously.  The first portion of the book is devoted to hat sizing and construction, and various assorted methods.  Everything is nicely illustrated, including a section on how to make embellishments, from the lazy daisy stitch to felted flowers - including sunflowers, roses, peonies, and more.  

Carron is strongly biased towards top-down hat knitting.  I respect an author with a strong preference, even though I myself am more of a bottom-up hat knitter.  

Joanne Seiff, "Knit Green"

I picked up a trio of ecologically-minded knitting books at the library, and this is definitely the weightiest of the bunch!  Seiff has obviously done her homework, and then some.  This is another knitting book that is more about knitting as a whole than it is a simple collection of patterns.  I love that!

Seiff digs down into what "sustainability" really means, the yarn carbon footprint, and even third and fourth level issues like which vegan yarns are best.  What she uncovers is - unsurprisingly - a lot of confusion and ambiguity, which is often muddled by a combination of good intentions and marketing spin.

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.

Mason-Dixon Knitting: Outside The Lines

This is the second Mason-Dixon Knitting book, the sequel to one of my all-time favorites.  I was worried that the second book wouldn't live up to the first, but it totally did.

Filled with gorgeous photos and all the chatty story-telling content you could want, "Outside the Lines" is an excellent successor to the original.  Both books are a lot like sitting down with a fellow knitter for the evening.  There are patterns, certainly, but they take a back seat to discussion of techniques, style, and the finer points of creating a knitted coat that doesn't sag or look like just a really big sweater.