00P BOOK REVIEW – KNITTING STITCHES AND PATTERNS

A minor setback on the Rogue today. The needle got pulled out of the pocket stitches, probably during an energetic pillow fight last night. No great harm done and I can’t apportion blame as I was a participant, but it was more than judicious picking up with a crochet hook could fix. I ended up raveling back a couple of inches to even everything out. I’m now at exactly the same place I was the day before yesterday. So apologies if you came looking for progress. There ain’t none.

Instead I offer up yet another book review of an older off-the-library-shelf book.

Knitting Stitches and Patterns

This book was written by Diana Biggs, copyright 1972, and published by Octopus in London. Biggs presents a basic knitting course, couched entirely in garment patterns. Her directions are clear and well written, and the book has lots of color photographs. After a knitting skill overview section, she shows the obligatory beginners scarf and other intro patterns, but quickly plunges into shaped garments, starting with a sleeveless vest. Fit is tight by today’s standards, and armholes are cut high, but they are shaped armholes for the most part, not dropped shoulder pieces.

If you want to know what people were REALLY wearing circa 1968-1972, this is a pretty good source. It’s not the most fashion forward representative of its era, but the designs are the sort of thing I remember both my mother knitting, and everybody wearing.

The later chapters include more detailed exploration of traditional styles, with simple Arans, yoke-style Fair Isles, and ganseys. There are also lots of relatively plain but well executed raglans, vee-neck striped pullovers, and short sleeved lacy tops. There are a few very classic looking mens sweaters in the mix.

The accessories and kids garments hold up even better than the mens pieces (mostly because the fit of the adult sleeves is too high). All of the kids garments could be knit and worn today. There are a couple of quite charming kid-size ganseys, plus jumper/pinafore style sleeveless dresses, meant to be worn over a blouse, or in a summer cotton – alone (jumpers if you are in the US, pinafores if you are in the UK). There’s even a side trip into knitting with beads; and a side trip into lace knitting, with patterns for a square and a round lace doily. Other features include some socks, home decor items, and some toys including a knit Gollywog doll that may or may not straddle the cultural line between "quaint" and "in questionable taste," depending on your own background.

One final useful feature – in the back of the book is a chart offering up yarn substitution suggestions for knitters in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. While? not all the yarns in the book are included, and most of the substitutes that are mentioned are long gone, having a big range of suitable yarns makes finding modern subs easier.

This two page spread is of an elongated stitch triangular shawl, done in a glittery yarn (Goldfingering, the glittery yarn used is still widely available) and a silky finish yarn; plus a zip-front tunic top or dress, done in a textured two-tone yarn. Please excuse the poor picture quality. I believe this book was originally a soft-cover. The copy I borrowed from my library has been re-bound with one of those heavy and anonymous green cloth library bindings. It’s very tight and I had a lot of trouble trying to get it to lay flat enough to photograph, even with a book weight.

On the whole, if you run across this in a library, take a peek. If you find it in a second hand shop and are partial to pattern books and are in the market for something to help plan a first or second project, it’s well worth the used book price. I see dozens of copies on line for under $5.00 US – some lower than the price of a single sheet pattern. While even for its time it wasn’t as trendy as the various urban knitter/hip knitter beginners pattern collections today, it does offer a set of useful basic patterns, plus more technical meat than any of them.

And I do note that styles ARE cycling back to fitted armholes and away from drop shoulder boxy things…

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