Knitting Sweaters from the Top Down
by Cathy Carron
I like the idea of this book. Top down has always been like the holy grail of knitting sweaters even though I have never knit one this way. Imagine no seams! Try it on as you go! Make it the length you want! All wonderful, wonderful things so I was excited to examine this book.
This book really stresses designing a sweater to meet your needs and style and some discussion is given over to that. The knitter is urged to knit a sweater to suit the individual with function, form and details. All the designs in the book are all based off of two basic patterns (pullover and cardigan) and the author provides directions for multiple stitch gauges (from 8 sts to 24 sts per 4"). Everything else just shows how easy it is to modify the basic designs. For the neck, you are given rib types, rolled, ruffled, polo, mandarin, cowl and even a hood. The body shape is discussed including where to do shaping and how much before moving on to the hem and sleeves.
All in all, over 30 pages are given over to description of the sweaters before even getting down to the knitty-gritty - the top-down math. It's a decent discussion on it, explaining why things are done one way. I had no problem understanding it but then I am an engineer and am not in any way math challenged. So I am not sure what the average person would think.
The projects are "meh" with some of the sweaters venturing into downright fugly territory. I tend to be very classic in my sweater choices with mostly solid, simple stitch patterns and maybe some fair-isle at the yoke. So I was disappointed with the presence of novelty yarns in some of the projects. Novelty does not belong in a sweater that an adult will wear in my opinion. They render it cheap and chintzy.
Then it's on to "big" town where the bulky sweaters overwhelm the models.
Actually, the models are pretty scary. Too many look either blank eyed or mean. What kind of direction was the photographer giving?!?!
There are some simpler ones which are too bad.
The layout is a bit corny. Hmmm, that's not the right word. I mean young, tacky and not elegant. Most of the projects are given in 4-sizes (sm to xl) with generic yarn requirements. The charts included (in both inches and cm) give dimensions for the different sizes. Pictures are clear with multiple shots.
The section on "Understanding Sizing and Size Charts" is a good inclusion. I think one of the most difficult concepts for a new sweater knitters to grasp is the concept of ease in a fit. When I first started, I thought that the way to know what size to knit is to measure your bust and knit the one whose measurements were closest without being less. I didn't take into account the style of the sweater and my own personal preferences in fit (I like close-fitted without being tight).
I really like the content of this book, I just think the projects used to demonstrate everything are hideous. There is only one that even remotely appealed to me which was probably the simplest of the all. But the author has obviously ruminated quite a bit on this niche construction and explains it thoroughly and well. I also like how she advocates thinking outside the box urging experimentation in color and details. So if the projects don't leave a nasty taste in your mouth or you are really interested in this type of sweater construction, this might be a book for you.
Reviewed by Allison Linehan
Allison's blog, Neophyte Knitter, can be found at http://gumdrop.typepad.com