There have been all kinds of books published, obviously, since my last little Books Lately post in October, but there are 3 that have come into my possession this spring (all of them hardcover) that simply must be noted—
I first mentioned Susan Crawford’s The Vintage Shetland Project back in 2015, when she had completed the garments and patterns and photography for this epic book and was beginning a crowdfunding campaign for the printing. Not long after, she was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer, and I think a lot of us held our breath both for her and for this incredible work-in-progress. Thankfully now she and the book have both come out the other side. This is a project — and thus a book — like nothing else. I don’t know how to summarize without doing it a disservice, but the elevator-pitch version is that Susan made it her life’s work to study garments and accessories in the Shetland Museum, to learn from them, and to recreate 27 of them in pattern form. The garments she chose are all from the first half of the 20th century (an epic era), knitted by for-hire knitters but who made these garments mostly for themselves or loved ones, from their own imaginations, employing techniques and details that wouldn’t be conducive to either commercial knitting or pattern writing. Think about it: To recreate them, Susan had to literally study every tiny stitch (of Fair Isle colorwork and lace), build charts from the fabric in front of her, and even create yarns in weights and types and colors to match the scale and fabric and palettes of these garments. And then to write usable, graded patterns for them — it’s mind-boggling. And then she photographed it all on the windswept isle of Vaila! But beyond all that, the book she has written melds fashion history and knitting history and the individual histories of these garments. It’s truly remarkable — and mammoth in scale — and I’m so happy it exists. Thank you for sending it to me, Susan; it’s a treasure. (The link above goes directly to Susan’s webshop, but note that she is in the UK. I’m not sure how widely available it is in US yarn stores or whatever. If you can’t find it at your LYS, Mason-Dixon is stocking it.)
When I was learning to knit six years ago, I picked up multiple encyclopedic how-to-knit books, but Vogue Knitting’s “Ultimate Knitting Book” was not among them. And those I did buy, I consulted in piecemeal fashion — looking up how each author suggested I pick up along a neckline or whatever. I’ve still never seen the original (1989) or previously updated (2002) editions of this book, but if I had had this edition — which is “completely revised and updated” — I would have sat down on my couch with it and read it from cover to cover, and saved myself lord knows how much trial-and-error anguish and googling and trauma. This books start at yarn — weights, fiber types, etc — walks through every conceivable how to from cast-ons to cables to colorwork, and heads straight into how to design for yourself. It’s only 350 pages (which seems slender compared to the other big knitting bible on my shelf) and packed full of illustrations and photos, and yet it manages to provide at least introductory level info on literally everything. I don’t know how they did that. But I might still sit down on my couch and read it cover to cover.
The world is full of stitch dictionaries, but the latest one from Wendy Bernard, “Japanese Stitches Unraveled,” has a couple of interesting things about it. First, it’s a compilation of stitch patterns she’s found in obscure Japanese stitch dictionaries and has named and re-charted to make them more accessible. But she’s also gone so far as to chart each of them up to four different ways, depending on whether there are distinctions to be made if you’re knitting bottom-up or top-down, flat or in-the-round. And she also offers guidance in the front of the book for how to go about incorporating them into your knitting projects. Each section of the book ends with a pattern, ranging from garments to home goods.
Of course, the book I’m most dying to get my hands on right now is Jen Hewett’s “Print, Pattern, Sew.” Jen and I are teaching together at Squam next week (and we’ll both have tables at the Art Fair) so I’m definitely coming home with that!
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