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Knitting Book Reviews

Teach Yourself Visually Knitting Design: Working from a Master Pattern to Fashion Your Own Knits (Teach Yourself Visually)
by Sharon Turner

Right on the first page, the author tells you exactly what to expect: “Some knitters like to follow patterns down to the last detail, without making any changes. Many other knitters like to alter patterns: they choose a different yarn than a pattern specifies, omit a collar, use an alternate stitch pattern, or add embellishments. This book provides a wealth of modifiable knitting patterns and helps you understand how to create your own unique knit designs."

Part of the excellent “Teach Yourself Visually" series, this book has a lot of what you’d expect–first, and foremost, lots of pictures. Just about every stitch, every method, every step along the way gets a photo or an illustration, so you’re not left guessing as to what, exactly, you need to do to line your knitted bag, or what a sock’s heel flap should look like. As you’d expect, the pictures are clear and basic. Not fancy, “art" shots that wouldn’t really show you the details you need, but simple, bread-and-butter pictures that do the job.

What’s in the book? A little of almost everything. Just check out that Table of Contents, and then think about it. Can you think of a garment type that’s NOT in the list? Sure, there aren’t any housewares like pillows or afghans, but about the only type of garment I can think of that’s been omitted is a skirt or pants. The author says, “Using this book to design your own knits is easy: You simply choose an item and a yarn, and then you select from various master patterns … (which) include instructions for a wide range of sizes and gauges."

Then, of course, there’s the “Teach" part of “Teach Yourself Visually." Not only does the book provide a “Master Pattern" for each type of garment–along with suggested variations for everything from different tops to hats, or necklines for sweaters–but there’s a handy chart for each one, for each possible gauge, to save you from having to reinvent the wheel. “A large part of knitting design is math; this book does most of the math for you, allowing you to focus on the fun of choosing colors, stitch patterns, and embellishments. Once you’ve followed a few of the master patterns through, you’ll have a good understanding of how handknits are designed and constructed."

Now, I haven’t tried to knit anything from this yet, so I can’t tell you for sure how easy all this is, but reading through them, it seems pretty straight-forward. There is more page-turning necessary than in the “Knitters’ Handy book," but it doesn’t seem excessive. The book covers a huge range of knitwear, and skims the surface very well, touching on most things that a knitter would need to know.

The author does say, “It is impossible to cover in one book even a fraction of the possible sweater options," which is entirely true. I’m guessing that that’s why she never even mentions top-down, one-piece sweaters as an option. She doesn’t refer to the two-circular or Magic Loop methods when talking about knitting socks, either. Again, in a single book covering so many different knitting techniques, it’s true that she didn’t have room to go into these in detail, but it surprises me that she didn’t at least mention them. If this were the only knitting book you owned, you wouldn’t even know that they were possibilities, and for a current book–not one that’s decades old–that seems an unnecessary omission. Surely there was room for a sentence or two?

Ultimately, this is a thorough reference book. It’s not “pretty." It doesn’t have that fancy, Madison Avenue, flashy look that some other knitting books have. It reminds me of countless textbooks I had in school–chapters for each new topic, with charts, graphs, pictures, and maps galore. (Okay, there aren’t really any maps, I’m just having Social Studies flashbacks.) The fact remains, though, that it’s a fairly complete book, and a good reference to have in your library. You never know when you’re going to need to know the date of the end of WWII … or how to knit a tassel onto the top of a hat.

Reviewed by Deb Boyken

Deb has been knitting since 1987 and has accumulated quite a collection of knitting books over the years. Her website, Knitting Scholar, can be found at
http://knittingscholar.com .

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