Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Gentle Art of Knitting Review




Impressions: Apparently her blog Yarnstorm (the posts about yarn/knitting) is quite popular, it now appears to be more about photography and food than knitting.  Her philosophy of Gentle knitting is mostly mindless knitting, the kind of knitting that you can put your brain in idle for.  And sometimes that's perfect knitting.  It's the knitting you do when your brain is working overtime and needs to focus on what it's thinking of rather than knitting but the knitting helps keep you distracted.  On the other hand, it's also an easy place to stay and not stretch your wings occasionally.  She talks about unfinished objects sitting in black plastic bags in her attic that are wrong, this can happen and I've sometimes thought in despair about never knitting another garment but if you don't learn from your mistakes then they're wasted energy, learning is what's important.

This is a 102 book, or maybe a 201 book (101 being basic starter stuff); some of these patterns would be some challenge for a beginner but many of them are pretty basic.  The bibliography, though is quite good.  It's scattered throughout the book and often related to the text.  Also note that measurments throughout are in cm.

Types of patterns: mostly accessories

Colour/Black & White: Colour photographs, colour charts, no charting for anything else.

Schematics: no

Target Audience: Intermediate to almost intermediate knitters

How to knit guide: No

Experimental/Classical/Modern: Fairly classical.

Comments on patterns:

Red Wine and port socks are socks with cables running down the leg and along the top of the foot, the heel is a plain knit heel.  They're not bad socks.  Knit in Madeline Tosh "Tosh Sock" on 2.75mm needles

Plaited Bread Cables - 3 pieces a Blanket knit in a chunky yarn with blanket stitch edging this is a nice piece and fairly fun.  Knit in Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky with a contrast edging, with 15mm needles.  A Rug knit in Cascade Magnum with a 15mm needle and lastly a cushion, knit in Cascade Magnum too with 12mm needles.

Big Woolly Jumper is a ragland shaped jumper  knit in pieces with a reverse stocking stitch bottom edge and cuffs and a floppy neck.  Knit in Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Chunky and not worn in the book.  I'm not sure about the Collar, I'd knit it in the round, actually I'd knit the whole thing in the round, possibly from the top down.  Seams? Who needs them for this sort of thing.  This has a lot of ease.  A friend pointed out that in fact this isn't designed by her, it's designed by an unnamed friend.

Simple Squishy slouchy hats two hats, knit flat with seams, one with a single reverse stocking stitch detail the other with 10 rows each of stocking stich and reverse stocking stitch.  Both in Blue Sky Alpacas Melange with 3.75mm needles.

Literary Hotties  Inspired by vintage Penguin Paperbacks these are hot-water bottle covers. Knit in Aran (Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran) with 6mm needles.

Buttercup and mustardseed fluted rib scarves  The scarves are basically the same scarf but with a minor variation, using a small amount of contrast yarn to edge and then a double sided pattern one with 35 stitches and another with 43 stitches.  Knit with 5mm  or 6mm needles.

Simple, plain dishcloth - a garter stitch dishcloth started and finished with a contrast yarn.  DK cotton yarn with 4mm needles.

Soft facecloths - 5mm needles and garter stitch with stripes make this up, originals knit in Blue Sky ALpacas Worsted Cotton in two colours.

Natural Linen Aprons:Striped Apron Checked Apron  Using linen yarn for the striped apron (Euroflax Linen) with 3.25mm needles with a moss stitch border for stability, this is pretty nice.  The Checked Apron is in Rowan Cotton Glace in 3.25mm with a broken checkered stripe.  Could be adapted. I'd make sure it's in washable yarn.

Toothpaste and toothbrush washbag with Blusher and Mascara Bag.  Small bags for holding whatever, knit in DK Cotton (Debbie Bliss Cotton DK) with 3.75mm needles in a variety of sizes, seamed along the side.

Floral Tea Cosy and Tea Cosy hat - The Tea cosy is knit in Aran-weight yarn, with 4.5mm needles. The hat is a Brioche Stitch hat that almost looks like a tea cosy but is knit with only one seam to be fully closed.  I would be inclined to knit the hat in the round.

Five stripy Tea Cosies the traditional style of the three-d ribbed style with dark contrast, the smaller ones are done with just a garter stitch stripe.

Faberge Egg Cosies - decorated with beads, this is a ribbed cosy, and could be used for the Innocent Smoothies! DK or 4ply weight yarn with 3.25 or 4mm needles.

Green and blue finger gloves - the only real difference is the decoration.  Knit with Cashmerino with 3mm and 3.25mm needles.

Wheel of colour cushion - using short rows to create wedges and with a contrast yarn between each wedge this is a DK yarn and knit with 3.25 and 3.75mm needles.  You could use a variety of yarns to make it.

Covered clothes hangers - two diferent covers, one in garter stitch  and another with a fancier pattern that would be nice with lingerie.  Knit in DK yarn with 4mm needles.

Bunting pennants made and connected with a ric-rac ribbon.  Dk yarn with 4mm needles.

Stripy socks Using self-striped yarn, back of heel knitted plain, top down, with tapered toe and three-needle bind-off.  Knit in sock weight yarn with 2.5mm needles. To be honest this isn't really colourwork, this is using already coloured yarn in a plain pattern, nothing wrong with this, but nothing earthshaking and readily available online.

Sea Glass Chevron scarf (she has another Sea Glass Scarf on Ravelry that isn't this pattern) - knit a chevron pattern with DK yarn with 4 rows of a neutral yarn and 2 of a different colour, the original is in shades of blue for the stripes and cream background.

Planets cushion uses hand-painted yarn against a contrasting yarn to create splashes of colour, based on her earlier jelly-bean cushion pattern.  This is knit in DK yarn with 4mm needles.

Crochet starburst flower square Crochet squares with a variety of colours, aran weight yarn and a 5mm hook, you could probably use left-overs and build it over time, provided you got a lot of the edge colour

School colours scarf and blanket, by knitting scarves, you would eventually knit enough of them to knit a blanket worth.  Knit in Double Moss Stitch in Aran weight or DK weight with 4.5 or 4mm needles. Has a bobble edging.

Art deco crochet blanket - chevron patterned, aran weight with 4.5mm needles. You could make it with different widths but you could vary this depending on your yarn.

String of purls cushion using ususual pattern to create some unusual patterning without having any yarn carrying over.  Buttoned in the back.

Life on the open wave scarves using an openwork pattern to create an interesting pattern.  Drapy yarns suggested.  Using a 4.5mm needle or 5mm needle depending on the yarn used, original yarns were Habu Lamb/Linen or Tilli Thomas Disco Lights.

Moss stitch scarf a moss stitch and stripes biased scarf. in Aran Weight yarn with 5mm needles or DK with 4mm

Chanel-Style Bag a moss stich aran (used double) or chunky yarn used together with Kidsilk Haze with 6.5mm needles and a moss sitch pattern.  Small bag using plastic needles

Buy/Borrow: It's a particular aesthetic, and not a bad book for beginners or intermediate knitters, nothing is all that complicated but I have other books that have pretty much the same patterns, so it wouldn't be a useful addition to my library, your mileage may vary.

I've been talking about it with some friends, there are a few issues that I didn't really think about when I was reviewing it.  Thinking back part of my "not for me" was her lifestyle assumptions.  Needled's review struck a nerve and I have to say that yes, sometimes reading books like this make me break out in a feeling of being not quite female/womanly/domestic/content enough.  


I suppose it's an attitude of mind that leads to this.  I'm an advocate of sometimes allowing yourself to read/knit/cook where your brain is mostly in idle.  But sometimes you also need to break yourself out of the comfort zone and try something that makes you twitch, swear and break complacency.  You should be asking yourself why your knitted garments don't fit instead of allowing yourself to ignore it as a problem.

Where found: Dublin City Public Libraries has copies.

I have updated this post, please see the bold and italicised text as updated text today 27th November 2011.

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