Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts

Friday, 9 November 2018

Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible: A Review

Today on The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done, we're going to have a look the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible: 260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida. Let me start off by saying that the book's title is no exaggeration of its contents. This book is an amazing resource for knitters. It contains 260 different stitch patterns that are positively pornographic for knitting enthusiast to browse through. Dozens of photos follow dozens of photos of beautiful, intricate, creative, elegant stitch patterns, the sight of which had me gasping with amazement, sighing with delight, and breathing heavily to an extent that I was glad I was viewing the book in private. I don't have a way to show you the interior of the book, but I suggest you take a good look at the stitch pattern depicted in the cover photo and imagine stitch design on that level multiplied by 260. And all of these stitch patterns came from a single brain, which blows mine. Hitomi Shida is an extraordinarily talented designer, and she might just have the kind of genius for stitchwork that Kaffe Fassett does for colourwork.

I should probably warn you that, if you're used to standard Western-style knitting pattern instruction conventions, you may find the instructions in this book a slight change of pace. Japanese knitwear designers use the more pictorial style of chart that's only relatively recently begun to come into use in North American knitting publications, in which the knitting chart is intended to be a visual representation of how the completed stitches will look, rather than the more linear charts common in English-language patterns, where each square of chart represents a corresponding stitch in the pattern. There is also not typically a key, as every published Japanese knitting pattern uses the same standardized symbols and knitters are expected to know what the symbols represent. Since the English-speaking knitters this book was translated for don't necessarily know the symbols, explanations have been provided in this book, so it shouldn't be too hard for a knitter who is new to these knitting pattern conventions to learn them and to learn to use a slightly different style of knitting chart, and it will certainly be worth it.

There are only five actual project patterns in the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, so let's have a look at them specifically. They're all simple as to shape, as Hitomi Shida's focus as a designer seems to be almost entirely on stitchwork. A look at her Ravelry portfolio reveals hundreds of project design patterns in wearable, flattering shapes with gorgeous, elegant stitchwork.

Mini-Scarf with Frill. Oooh, very pretty. The little frill adds such a perfect little touch of feminine style without going over the top.

Socks for Warm Feet. A pair of very serviceable and handsome socks.

Hat with Crossed Stitches and Lace.. When I look at the intricate cabling in this one, I get the sense that this is how highly evolved brain matter would look.

Cute Fingerless Mitts. Attractive and wearable.

Elegant Decorative Collar. Oooh, pretty. This will add a special touch to a simple dress or sweater.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Double or Nothing: A Book Review

Today we're going to have a look at a knitting pattern book called Double or Nothing: Reversible Knitting for the Adventurous, by Alasdair Post-Quinn, and published by Fallingblox Designs. I've had very little experience with double knitting -- I'm pretty sure I've made just one double knitted project, and it was merely a pair of slippers -- but this book provides a lot of clear and photo-illustrated instructions throughout, so don't be afraid to tackle its projects if you're a double knitting virgin or near-virgin.

Abaciscus cowl. I'm liking the attractive and contemporary look of this one. The pale blue and mauve combination is pretty, and of course as with all double knitting, this cowl will be extra warm and there's no ugly underside.

Hesperos scarf. I'm very much liking this one. The combination of spirals and chevrons are downright cool, and I'm mentally playing with various colour schemes.

Ranelva mittens. Nice, but I would be inclined to add on a ribbed cuff to these, as they look a little unfinished to me as is.

Waterford Crossing. I'm a little torn on this one, as I can't decide whether it's cool and inventive or a little too much like a surplice for a Druid acolyte... but then again, why is that a bad thing? From the various other photos of it in the book and on Ravelry, I see that it is a versatile piece that can be worn as a wrap or layered under a collarless coat. So, I guess I'm going to come down off the fence on the side of liking this design.

Kontinuum hat. Fun and stripey!

Rustle of Leaves scarf. This one is maybe a little on the fussy side, but wearing it with a simple outfit will balance that out, and it really is an eye-catching piece with an effective play of colour.

Hexworth scarf. This is a handsome piece that will be a good way to showcase two beautiful yarns, and also reminds me of the bubble wrap that was so much fun to systematically pop whenever I got hold of any as a child. What's not to like about that?

Eureka hat. I'm having trouble liking this one, and I think it's the mustard and ketchup colourway that's holding up the show, because otherwise the design is objectively good.

Ferronnerie tam. This tam looks fantastic from the side but so muddled and confused from the top that it's much to the detriment of the whole effect.

Atyria II hat. This cap looks fantastic from all angles.

Twice as Sexy tie. It's difficult to get a knitted tie to look just right (though it can be done) and I'm not sure the author of this book has managed it. It doesn't help that this tie is too long on the model (please tell me men aren't going to start wearing overly long ties and scotch tape instead of tie clips like a certain person) and that the narrow end is showing, though of course the narrow end was displayed on purpose to show the reader how the colour reversed side looks. With those two problems corrected, this tie would look quite decent.

Heartbound Again hat. I like this hat a lot as well. The cabled effect would look well in either a high contrast or more subtle colourway.

Spring Willow cowl. The stitchwork in this is great -- love the combination of the straight and wavy lines over the lace -- but the colour palette (which I will not name as the only comparison I can come up with is pretty rude) is doing this piece no favours.

Adenydd shawl. This shawl is not only quite an inventive and skilled pieces of work, but it is one of the highest impact design I've seen in some time. You couldn't walk by someone who was wearing this and not notice it.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Masterpiece Knits: A Book Review

In February 2016, Dragonfly Fibers (a yarn company that produces hand-dyed yarns and spinning fibres) published Masterpiece Knits: A Modern Collection, a book of designs inspired by famous paintings. I love the concept, but then I tend to love the combination of knitting with anything else I enjoy or think important: knitting and literature, knitting and art, knitting and theatre, knitting and politics, etc. Basically, knitting goes with everything but something like, say, driving a car. Let's have a look at Masterpiece Knits.

Fractal Poppies. This design was inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's "Oriental Poppies". I can definitely see the correlation in the shaping and colours, but I'm not convinced that this shawl would look all that good when worn given its unusual shape.

Blue Morning Glories. This design was inspired by another Georgia O'Keeffe work, "Blue Morning Glories". This is attractively and interestingly detailed, well-shaped, and very wearable, though I'm not thrilled with the edging on the neckline and bottom hem.

Picasso Socks. This pair of socks was inspired by Picasso's Paisaje Mediterraneo. I actually find the socks more pleasing to look at than the painting. Great stitchwork, and the play of colour is awesome.

Klee's Knees. This design is based on Paul Klee's "Fire in the Evening". These are interesting, and they aren't unattractive, but I'm not sure I'd want to wear such a bulky pair of knee socks.

A Golden Landscape Hat & Mitts. These two patterns were based on Gustav Klimt's "Tree of Life". I love the combination of the "tree" stitchwork, the polished shaping, and the beautiful yarn.

Morning at the Tate. This scarf wasn't based on a particular painting but rather was inspired by modern art on the whole (the Tate Modern, of course, is London's museum of modern art) and "combines the movement of an O'Keeffe painting and the boldness of modernism". It does have a very contemporary feel to it and capture the spirit of modern art quite well.

Marilyn in Color. This cowl was inspired by Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe diptych. I would have named the scarf after Andy Warhol, because it seems more expressive of him than it does of Monroe. I love the stitchwork though I'm not that taken with the colourway, which is too crude and loud for my liking.

Sugar Shack Tunic. This design represents Ernie Barnes' "Sugar Shack", and it looks like not only a tribute to the painting but also as though it could be worn by one of the figures in the painting, which is a neat accomplishment. The lines of the tunic are very good, but I'm not sure about the curled edge, which looks too unfinished and takes away from the overall sleekness of the piece.

Rothko Beret. This hat was inspired by Mark Rothko's "Untitled 12". I like the bold colour, and the lacework is attractive.

Earth and Green. This cap was inspired by Mark Rothko's "Earth & Green". I like the hat and the colours in it, though I am not sure how many men would.

Sheaves. This cowl was based on the Matisse cut out, "The Sheaf". I actually don't see much of a correlation between these two pieces, but I do love the cowl -- it's probably my favourite design in the whole book. The shape is perfect and the yarn is gorgeous.

The Laundress. This jacket was inspired by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's painting "The Laundress". Between the frumpy shape and ugly, dreary colour of this one, all I can say is that this does look like the kind of thing one might wear to do the family laundry if one wanted to feel even more oppressed by the task than one already is.

The Laundress Hat. Here's a hat to go with the jacket. Although at least I can say for the hat that the stitchwork and shaping are perfectly good and deserve a better colourway and a better occasion than laundry day.

Modern Lattice. This cowl is another tribute to Paul Klee's "Fire in the Evening". I like this piece, though I would make it in a lighter weight than super bulky, as it looks a little crude as is. Double knitting weight might be my pick, or I might go all the way down to fingering.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Cast Iron, Cast On: A Review

Today we're going to look at Cast Iron, Cast On, written by Becky Herrick and Calley Hastings, and published by Cooperative Press. Cast Iron, Cast On offers a bit of a twist on the usual knitting pattern book by being a combination pattern book and cookbook, and the recipes and patterns are seasonal so that readers can cook and knit their way through the year. And why not? Knitters tend to be multi-crafters who like to make other things from scratch, and we all need to eat. Even though I don't much like to cook (although I can), I am thinking I'll be trying some of these recipes. However, I'll be focusing on reviewing the sweaters in this post, with perhaps a few drive-by comments on the food, as I am neither a food critic nor even a foodie.

Cannella. We begin with December. The recipes are for chocolate bark and deep winter infused holiday vodkas, to which I would not say no. The first knitting pattern for the month is for these lovely little gift bags, which would be such a great way to use up odds and ends of yarn. The idea is to use the gift bags for the chocolate bark, but of course they'd be useful for so many other things: sachets, jewelry, fragile Christmas ornament storage.

Lavandula. The second pattern for December is a hooded wrap. It looks a little long and unwieldy to me, but for the sort of woman who doesn't mind a bit of fussing over her accessories, this might prove a quaint and warm addition.

Bluegold. For January the pattern is for an open front cardigan. It's an attractive, relaxed look on the whole, though I'm not thrilled with the way the collar sits around the neck. The recipe of the month is blueberry jam cobbler, which I must make for my father, a lover of all things blueberry.

Bovinae. A very simple yet pretty pullover for February. I love the yarn combination, and this would be the perfect unfussy sweater for skiing or working around the house. The recipes are for brioche burger buns with curry sunflower seeds and goat cheese stuffed hamburgers. They're making me want lunch, and I just finished my lunch.

Saccharum. I wish I liked the front of the March pattern as much as I love the back. The ribbing and maple tree stitchwork looks fantastic, but the front looks fussy and ill-fitting. The recipe is for maple mini pavlovas, which sound like a great way to use up some of the 5 litre jug of maple syrup currently sitting in my freezer. Why would a single woman living alone have so much maple syrup on hand, you ask? It's an annual gift from my father, who, as my mother puts it, all but drinks maple syrup and thinks everyone else does too.

Taxara. The April pattern is... okay. The lines are good. I think such a simple pattern calls for a more interesting yarn choice than was used here, as this sample looks rather bland, which probably accounts for my general lack of enthusiasm. The recipes are dandelion fritters with chive horseradish sauce and dandelion green, bacon, and radish salad. Perhaps I'll get up my courage to try those sometime. Strangely, although dandelions have always been a very commonplace sight for me, I've never tried a dandelion recipe, perhaps because my mother imbued me with her view of dandelions as the bane of her existence, always spoiling her lawn and garden.

Lactuca. May's pattern is a ruffled skirt. I can't get on board with this one, which looks like an upcycled bedskirt to me. I do think I might like it better if it were in a solid colour and on the right person, namely someone other than me and half my age. The accompanying recipe is for fresh nasturtium and pea shoot salad, which looks... less like a salad than like the aftermath of an earthquake that happened to combine the table's floral arrangement with its garden salad.

Cucurbita. This is quite simple but well designed enough. The recipe for June is for a hearty-looking summer pasta with zucchini, squash, and goat cheese.

Sola. This would make an attractive throw or baby blanket, but I don't think too many people have enough picnics to justify the work that would go into a special purpose knitted picnic blanket. See also: picnic baskets, which so many people get for wedding and bridal shower gifts and which wind up at thrift stores. The napkin version makes a little more sense to me as it could be used to line a bread basket on a dining room table. The recipes for July are garden picnic pockets, which look like an interesting variation on a certain French vegetable pastry recipe I sometimes make, and luscious blackberry oat pancakes.

Sativus. I don't like either the look or the concept of this knitted apron that is the first August pattern. It looks what remained after the original top part wound up in the meat grinder, and that's a lot of work to put into something that's bound to get stained before too long. The first recipe for August is Dukie's cross-cut pickle, which sounds a good bit like the pickle recipe my mother makes, and which in turn reminds me that I've been meaning to have a go at making those for myself pretty soon. I've been trying to make sure that I learn to make all my 77-year-old mother's best recipes, such as her famous Christmas fruit bread, while she's still around to give me the recipe, as well as any advice I might need.

Mentha. The second pattern for August is this little top, which I rather like. The lace detailing at the shoulder and sides is pretty, though I'd consider loosening up the fit a little. This pattern is paired with a collection of infused green summer tea recipes featuring herbal and fruit pairings.

Calais. The first pattern for September is quite a lovely tam and mitts set, which looks both nicely detailed and beautifully draped but also well suited to casual clothes. The reverse colourway is a nice touch. The accompanying recipe is harvest pesto cornbread, which looks as though it would be tastier than the plain, rather dry "Yankee cornbread" recipe I use.

Puncia. The second pattern for September is this absolutely exquisite lace stole. That's definitely the best lace pattern I've seen in some time. The recipes paired with this piece are fall roasted reds with crispy seeds and parmesan, and red quinoa, spinach, and feta salad.

Braeburn. I like this one except for that rather sloppy looking hood and unfinished neckline. The recipe for this October pattern is boiled cider apple dumplings, which look mouth wateringly good.

Cervus. Nice simple sweater with a front panel of textured stitchwork to add some visual interest. This is a very decent basic sweater, but I do dislike the "longer sleeve with thumbhole" look, as that always looks like the arms are both too long and have holes in them to me. This is easy enough to correct if you feel the same. Alternatively, the cuffs can be worn folded back. The recipe for November is hearty mashed potatoes with shiitake mushrooms, and venison steak with a thyme, butter, red wine sauce.

Oleracea. This is a very cute and rather original hat design. Unfortunately I can't quite get away from the unfortunate marriage of this hat with the recipe for Brussel sprouts and cranberries braised in cider. The photo of those little green balls of vileness in the cast iron pan have become inextricably associated with the motifs on the hat, even though they don't look much at all like Brussel sprouts. I will try to forget about the Brussel sprouts and love the hat on its own merits, but it will be hard in the same way as keeping up a friendship with a good friend whose new spouse you simply can't stand is hard.