Saturday, 15 January 2011

Knitters Almanac Review

Book Depository Link; Dover Publications Link; Ravelry Link

Types of patterns: Jumpers, cardigans, mittens, socks, hats, shawls

Number of Patterns: Jumper (3); Hat (2); pot-holder (1); Shawl (2); Blanket (1); Baby Cardigan (1); Baby longies(1); mittens (2); tights (1); top (1); christmas ornaments (1); socks (1)

Split of patterns: Patterns cover a wide range of sizing and tend towards the genderless

Size Range: Elizabeth encourages using guage to determine how many stitches to cast on and really only shows a guide rather than concrete patterns

Colour/Black & White: colour photographs black and white illustrations, hand-drawn charts

Schematics: no

Target Audience: I think to get the most out of this book you would need to have at least tackled a few patterns in her Knitting without Tears, a beginner would probably be a little lost with her assumption that you know how to knit, but a lot of patterns are really quite simple, they do need reading a few times to check what needs to be done (buttonholes can be a sticking point here)

How to knit guide: There is an appendix that goes into detail about some techniques but the actual guides to knitting are embedded in the text, the book rewards reading, and her style makes the book quite readable!

Experimental/Classical/Modern: Classical

Comments: This is the Commemorative Edition of a book that hasn't been out of print for a long time. It commemorates her 100th Birthday and the 50th year of the company she founded. Elizabeth Zimmermann is an author who is cited by a lot of authors as someone who made them think about their knitting instead of being a blind follower of knitting (though I do find myself that being a blind follower can be restful, sometimes). The book is laid out in months. The author has a unique style that reads almost like she's talking to you. She talks about her own knitting history and her own life as she talks about the knitting. Her role in the knitting world cannot be underestimated (and she is one of the proponents of the myth of Aran Jumpers, which makes it hard to unhook it from some knitter's psyches!)

The new edition includes a preface by her daughter Meg Swansen; an introduction by Stephanie Pearl McPhee; a frontispiece by Andrew Wyeth; a facsimile of a letter by Barbara Walker and the February Ladies Sweater, an adaptation of the baby sweater from February. It's hardback and the paper quality is quite high. The patterns are in stitches per inch, if you're looking for a more regular guage you should multiply the guage by four.

January: An Aran Jumper, a discussion of Guage, a suggestion to use a hat to check guage when you need (about half the number of stitches for a hat than a sweater), she admits to steeking cardigans.

February: Some Babies things. Where she advocates wool for babies and bright colours, her sneaky way of adding wool in makes me twitch though, there are people who genuinely can't wear wool and it's disingenuous to try to "convert" them. Also if you give a gift, the irritation factor may not be mentioned for politeness sake! This chapter has a double-knit pot-handler; with suggestions how to increase it to make a blanket, a square shawl; a baby sweater on two needles; baby leggings. There is also a suggestion for an adaptation of a baby bonnet.

March talks about buying yarn for a jumper; what to do if you run out of yarn. discusses colour changing, suggests making a sample hat and gives pithy directions for the jumper, which is worked in the round.

April: The Mystery Blanket, a pretty plain knit in the round in modules blanket, where she discusses grafting, and how to create a sampler to practice.

May has mittens for next winter. She believes in making them interchangable and suggests providing three at a time to accomodate losses. She suggests using gloves to experiment with colour, I or Idiot cord is mentioned, as is the thumb trick. There are two patterns, norwegian and mitred patterns.

June: Borders and Hats. She introduces a knitted garter stitch border. The hats are the Maltese Fisherman's Hat; the Ganomy hat and the three-cornered hat.

July has a shawl, with a one-row buttonhole. This is a circular shawl with very regular increases, something she suggests for travel knitting as the pattern is predicable. She talks about unventing and about knitting while travelling. There are a number of suggested laces she has for the shawl.

August has some Christmas Fiddle-Faddle or ornaments, designs a sock-heel and canoes her way through a holiday.

September has Nether Garments, or long-johns. She talks about getting kids into knitting. She talks about how to adjust the pattern for the person they're intended for, knits both footed and unfooted style, she also discusses making them into more trousers than tights, talks about her filming and mistakes, including rowing.

October has an open-collared pullover, which is a short-sleeved top, a polo shirt style design, worked from both the top and the bottom

Novemeber has the Moccasin Socks, where the sole is replacable

December: the Hurry-up last-minute sweater, a jumper knitted in the round with hems. She also talks about adjusting an already-made garment

The book also has an index and a conversion chart between US and metric needle sizes.

Buy/Borrow: It's a good edition of this book, I found her an engaging writer and while you may not like her she is very influential and has jostled a lot of the current generation out of conventional thinking and made them think about their knitting and take charge of it, instead of your knitting being in charge of you. She's regularly cited by people, so knowing a little about her could be useful if you're planning to get into design. Her conversational style doesn't suit everyone, so I'd be inclined to borrow it first and see if it suits you. I would encourage people to read her, even if you're only skimming the actual patterns as she has been so influential to an entire generation of knitters.

Where found: I have my own copy (of both editions! Which I bought out of my own money, direct from Dover Publications) and Dublin City Public Libraries has got a few copies in recently.

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