OOP BOOK REVIEW – PATCHWORK KNITTING

Yes, there is more than one book by this name. In addition to the more recent Horst Schulz work on modular knitting, there’s also Patchwork Knitting by Gail Selfridge (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1977).

Like the later book, this is an exploration in making garments and home decor items predicated on smaller, geometric units. Unlike recent domino/modular knitting books, these motifs are all knit indvidually and later seamed together, there’s no directional knitting mentioned nor are the modules knit onto each other, saving seams. ? Instead this book explores the use of basic squares, ranging from four to eight inches across. Simple striping and Intarsia is used to emulate pieced patchwork style nine patch, twelve-patch, pinwheel, and log cabin modules, plus some simple figural motifs like hearts and stars. These modules are then assembled into mittens, scarves, sweaters, blankets, and other items.

While the styles shown betray its 1970s-origin, and there are now less labor-intensive explorations into the modular concept, this book isn’t entirely passe. It is one of the first that introduced the aesthetics and geometry of pieced quilting into knitting. While we’re used to seeing some of its concepts more or less regularly (like the log cabin quilt block reinterpreted in knitting) – there is still depth here to explore.
It also does a good job of explaining how to trick out an array of basic squares into a (more or less) shaped garment. Selfridge adds gussets and ribbings to bring some fit into what would otherwise be drop-shouldered, cubical pullovers and cardigans. The adapt-a-square instructions even cover adding thumbs and rounded ends to squares to make mittens, and adding limbs to squares to make toys. It’s this latter group of small projects, including scarves and hats plus the blanket layouts, that might be the most useful.

For example, I’ve got two Little Kid Knitters here in the house. Their attention span doesn’t extend to blankets or even whole pullovers, but they are both taken with the thought of making small squares that can be turned into teddy bears, hats, scarves, and mittens. Even if I have to do the thumb shaping or bear ears for them, the ideas shown in this book are a welcome addition to my store of "What can I make next?"responses.

I note that this book sells on the used market for a wide range of prices. While I certainly don’t think there’s enough here to merit the premium end of that spectrum, if you stumble across it at a reasonable cost it might be worthwhile, especially if you’re teaching kids.

I also note that this book is very widely held in regional library networks. You can probably find a copy near you. I’d like to shamelessly plug local libraries here. They may not always be able to afford The Latest Thing anymore, but they are treasure troves – especially if they participate in a regional reciprocal loan program. Get out there and explore their holdings. Borrow something. Books – including knitting books – are more likely to be remaindered or discarded if they languish on the shelves. Help keep the stock of these older, still useful books available by letting your library know they are still desired and appreciated. And while you’re at it, let the staff know that THEY’RE still appreciated, too.

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