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.
Sometimes useful things can be found in strange places. I don’t consider used book stores to be particularly strange places, but I’ve found all manner of things there overlooked at the end of the craft book shelves.
Case in point – those multicraft omnibus type books. You know the kind – Needlework 101 with a sagging binding, pix of frumpy looking or laughably outdated garments, and short chapters on everything from plain sewing to macrame, with side trips to knitting and crocheting. The Great Great?Godmother of all of these (though not the first book of this type) is the classic de Dillmont Encyclopedia of Needlework, aka The DMC Encyclopedia of Needlework. That book is still in print, and remains a very valuable resource in spite of the fact that it was first published in the 1890s.
There have been thousands of books of the same general type published since. Many can be found languishing in used book stores, upstaged by their far more popular sisters. But many of these books are more useful than their sad covers, dated projects, and scattershot presentation suggest. Today I’ll look at a couple of these.
First is?Stitch by Stitch:? A Home Library of Sewing, Knitting, Crochet and Needlecraft.? I believe this to be a hardback periodical or installment-bought crafts series, issued in at least 20 volumes by Torstar Books. The copyrights start in 1984 or 1985. I only have Volume I (shown), so I can’t speak to the rest of the series.
Volume I?is a standard exemplar of its type, but it’s better illustrated than many, with the knitting?and crochet?sections stuffed full of?photos showing how to hold the needles or hook, and how to form?the stitches. That’s the kicker in this particular book. It’s got the best illustrations I’ve seen of the pencil grip, throwing/flicking?with the fingertip?knitting style. Volume I just covers the absolute basics – crochet chain, single, double and triple crochet; plus knit, purl, cast on, cast off, and ribbing, arranging the subject matter into six lessons for each craft?that use simple scarves and other projects to teach (some are very dated). There are also sections on needlepoint and plain sewing. ?Now not everyone NEEDS an on-shelf resource showing an alternative way to knit, but I’ve used it to help teach people who were uncomfortable with both Continental/picking, and the more popular methods of holding the yarn for British/American/throwing. Plus there’s a bonus here. Among the patterns is a very nice lacy throw, shown as a baby blanket.
More useful is The Bantam Step by Step Book of Needlecraft by Judy Brittain; New York, Bantam, 1979 (left). This was also published in the UK as The Good Housekeeping Encylopaedia of Needlecraft, (possibly bearing the name of A. Carroll as editor) by Dorling Kindersley, Ltd, 1979. It’s been re-issued under a couple of different covers over the years. Along with a ’40s era Spool Cotton Company "Learn How Book" (right)given to me by my mother this is the book that taught me to knit.
Like Stitch by Stitch, this book covers several crafts and is copiously illustrated with color photos and (sadly dated) projects. It goes into much deeper detail than SbS.?? For example, the knitting section includes a small stitch dictionary, and covers all the basics, plus everything from designing one’s own pattern to gloves, socks, traditional lace shawls and edgings, bead knitting, and fixing mistakes. It describes both throwing and picking?styles, but?after a couple of cursory how to hold the needle?drawings?avoids showing finger placement again, probably to avoid committing to one method or the other.There’s a tremendous amount in there for only 90 pages of text and illustrations combined.
Although briefer, the crochet section is similarly nicely done. The book goes on to cover needlepoint and macrame (it was the ’70s); weaving, tatting, several styles of embroidery; pieced quilting; applique; and plain sewing. I find it a handy reference, even though I’ve got lots of more specialized and more complete books on my shelves.
I still have my mother’s?old green "Learn How Book."? That one is only 65 or so pages. It exists in many, many editions, varying mostly by the projects included at the end. Some editions also vary in the crafts detailed. Mine includes knitting, crochet and tatting, with side trips into embroidery for embellishment. The earlier ones were published by the Spool Cotton Company, which was bought by Clarks some time in the 1940s. Clarks in turn was gobbled up to become part of Coats & Clarks. The booklet continued to be published with updated projects and under the new owners’ names in turn. It’s useful but is now more of a sentimental curiousity than a living resource. I do however buy other editions of the thing when I stumble across them and the price is reasonable. I’ve got four or five now, ranging from the ’40s through the early ’60s.Little to Do With Knitting – Firefly Series on DVD
How did we miss this one?? A very good friend gave us a Firefly?DVD set containing this entire very short lived SF series originally aired on Fox in 2002.
We must have blinked at entirely the wrong nanosecond the half-season this was on the tubus. What an inopportune blink that was. Interesting scenario and stories, strong characters, excellent writing (too witty to have survived on regular TV), and even good acting with compelling and believable chemistry among the cast members.
The only bad thing about the DVD is that there were only 14 episodes, including a two-part pilot. But all is not lost. Sniffing around the web I note that a movie derived from the series is in production right now, scheduled for release in September.
Why does this have little to do with knitting instead of absoutely nothing?? In one of the episodes a particularly lumpen and lurid hand-knit hat makes a cameo appearance. It’s such an incongruously memorable thing that knitting fans of the series have posted patterns for it.
I had the opportunity to hit my local library during the holiday week. It appears that they’re either culling their knitbook collection, or many other people had the same idea at the same time. The shelves were picked over, and even the older, dowdier looking books were in short supply. More investigations are necessary.
In any case, I did find this one: Neighbors, Jane F. Reversible Two-Color Knitting. New York: Scribners, 1974.
Neighbors appears to be a disciple of Barbara Walker (the book mentions her in the acknowledgements). The Walker legacy is also evident in layout and subject matter, both of which are very familiar if you know the Walker stitch treasuries.
Layout is very Treasury-like, with large, clear black and white photos illustrating each stitch. There are 12 pages of color illustrations showing the projects that accompany the stitch pattern directions. With the exception of one chart associated with the most complex project in the book, all directions are in prose.
The reversible techniques covered include
- Simple garter and knit/purl combos – lots of tweedy-looking seed stitch and ribbing variants);
- slip stitch patterns – mostly linen stitch variants, and “chain patterns” -linen stitch or other tweedy textures overlaid by columns of slipped knits that end up looking like embroidered chain stitch
- “Reversible geometrics” – slip stitch patterns that form regular (but different) designs on the front and back. One example of this is a vertical two-tone stripe that reverses to a horizontal two-tone stripe. This section also includes some mosaic-style slip stitch patterns.
- Motifs – Also included under geometrics, these are simple motifs worked in true double knitting to produce a double-thick fabric that shows a stockinette surface on both sides of the work. By necessity, motifs done in this technique swap colors front and back, so a red motif on a white ground would reverse to a white motif on a red ground. The double knit hat I made was done this way. Neighbors also describes stuffing the area created between the two faces of double knit motifs. She calls it Trapunto Knitting, a nod to the venerable quilting technique of the same name and similar method.
Patterns are marked as “true reversible;” “unlike reversible;” “alternate reversible'” and “opposite reversible” depending on the appearance of their flip side. Some but not all of the patterns assigned to the ?latter types are photographed both front and back. These photos are very helpful in understanding what the differences are.
The book also includes several simple projects in reversible knitting. I have to admit I found them uninspiring, but they are well described and would be good learning pieces. The best of the lot are some mittens, a shadow rib pullover, and a very 1970s wall hanging of a labyrinth. The labyrinth (the only charted project in the book) would be exceptional updated as a motif on a sweater, pillow, or throw. The book ends with some solid discussions of project planning, motif mathematics and placement, specialized bind-offs for reversible patterns, and the basics of designing your own reversibles.
Reversible Two-Color Knitting is still in demand. I note that hardcover copies can command quite a premium, and have recently sold in the $80-90 US range. (One optimistic seller has a hardback edition priced at $150.) Paperback copies seem to go for $20-50 US.
Is it worth the premium price? It’s hard to say. Much of the material is available elsewhere. For example, many but not all of the stitches Neighbors shows are covered in the four Walker treasuries. They’re not called out by type of the pattern created on the reverse side, but they’re there. The recently issued Fourth Treasury includes a previously published piece on vertical reversing to horizontal striping. There have also been other books on slip stitch and mosaic knitting of late that plow this ground, too. It’s harder though to find a book that discusses double sided double knitting. There are a couple (most notably Beverly Royce’s Notes on Double Knitting), but they’re also not exactly easy to find.
I don’t own this book, but I think I’d like to add it to my collection. I’ll probably keep an opportunistic eye out for it at local general merchandise used book stores (the appearance of the thing is frumpy enough to languish on the shelves in shops unfamiliar with knitting content). I wouldn’t pay a premium for it though, because while very useful it doesn’t cover enough ground untouched by books I already have to justify a big investment.
Back at station. There’s a giant hole in the world today where a dear friend of mine used to be. "Kinsmen die, cattle die. Every man is mortal, but one thing never dies: the?good name of one who has earned it." Havamal, 75.
My heart aches for his wife, son, family, and household.
As promised, here is the second review of the set – Montse Stanley’s Creating & Knitting Your Own Designs for a Perfect Fit, New York,?Harper and Row, 1982.
In the days before knitting software, books like this one, personal apprenticeship, or trial and error were the ways one learned how to draft out one’s own patterns. Not knowing anyone who was doing designs to ask for help, I relied exclusively on the "books plus making lots of mistakes" scenario for most of what I knit. A couple of books in particular were worth their weight in gold. This was one. The pictures and projects illustrated in C&K are now a bit late ’70s funk/frumpy looking, but the basics of this book are as good as ever.
This book is so good in fact that I have used it in training classes for budding technical and professional writers, to illustrate how a complex set of technical concepts can be conveyed to an audience that includes both the experienced and novices without losing either of those readerships. The blurb says Stanley was an architect. I believe it, and would love to find out what sort of things she designed because the clarity of her thought processes rings from her pages.
It’s a survey course in knit design and technique, packaged up in an amazingly brief 175 pages – including index and custom graph paper. Like Perfect Fit, this book covers taking measurements and turning them into dimensioned schematics. Like PF, it skips over making a sloper – but unlike that book it translates the measurements directly to specific vectors on the garments, rather than to an abstract and idealized shape. Therefore short waisted people end up with garments that start out being custom-fit to that figure type, rather than taking a standard shape and altering it to meet their needs. Stanley goes further, taking the brilliant step of introducing ratio-based graph paper into the garment design. You knit up a swatch, figure out your stitch:row ratio, and select the graph paper that matches the closest. You can then lay out your collar shapings or other details "in real time."? Need a 40-degree angle?? Slap a protractor on the graph paper and draw your line. The graph boxes under it each represent a real stitch, and the rate of increase or decrease needed to achieve that angle are easily seen and counted. The book includes about ten pages of ratio graph paper for photocopying. I don’t know if anyone else wrote a knitting book that advocated the use of ratio-based graph paper before Stanley, but nothing else I’ve found has so clearly explained how to use it.
Stanley didn’t just publish a graph paper book, she includes an extensive section on knitting technique, including finishing, grafting, short rows (darts),? mitering, picking up, and types of increases and decreases. She’s got a stitch dictionary section? (all prose, none graphed); sections on materials and suitability, color, composition, and garment shapes – including a huge array of body, sleeve, closure, neckline, collar, and pocket options. Each garment shape is illustrated with a little line drawing, and has a brief prose description – usually enough to get one started drafting out that option on one’s own. The placement of critical measurements on these little drawings enables seeing how the garment works in relation to body shape/size.
There’s a section on moving beyond combos of these garment shape units; how color, knit direction, motif/texture placement and trim can greatly alter the look of a basic garment. Again this is illustrated with little line drawings, some woefully ’70s in feel. Even though some are out of date, the wealth of them can start the reader’s thought processes ticking.
The book closes out with a section on troubleshooting – what to do to correct styles (too long/short, narrow/wide), miscalculations (messed up texture or colorwork patterns), misplaced openings or buttonholes and the like. Add on some basic size charts, growth allowances charts for kids’ clothing, ease allowance charts, a few other quick calculation look-up charts, some color photos of finished items and discussions of them (but not whole patterns) and you’ve got this book.
I admit that a book like this is less valuable today than it used to be. Knitting design software has enabled a much wider audience to do basic pattern drafting without resorting to calculators, graph paper and pencil. But this book will still be very useful for anyone who wants to move beyond? the "black box" mystery mechanism use of that software. For example, you can start off with a knitting software-generated simple cardigan, then get inspired by this book to turn it into a jacket with an asymmetrical closure slanting from hip to shoulder. Stanley won’t tell you the exact stitch count or formula for that translation, but you will emerge from reading the her brief on that style with enough knowledge to make the change on your own. I suspect that everyone who has written a knitting design software package has?C&K on her or his shelf.
Montse Stanley’s work (in combo with?that of a couple of other authors) has made a tremendous difference in the way I knit, the way I look at and use patterns, and the scope of what I feel is within my own limited competence.One warning – this book IS?hard to come by, and sells used at a premium above cover price. But if you can find it and afford it, and?want the inspiration and enabling it contains, I strongly recommend adding C&K to your library.
Pork in the Trees?
Well, as asomewhat pessimisticfollower of Boston baseball, I had to go out and inspect the tops of the neighborhood oaks. Surely pigs flew last night, andsome might still be up there. But on to needlework.
Not OOP Book Review – Bead Crochet
I’ll break with my pattern of only reviewing long out of print books, and pick on something contemporary. I found Bead Crochet by Bethany Barry in the library (Interweave Press, 2004).
I have to say, I was highly disappointed. Maybe my taste is entirely in my mouth. I do like demonstrative jewelry and embellishment, but aside from a couple pix of historical and contemporary pieces in this book, the contents – especially the projects – left me stone cold.
I was also extremely surprised that any book presenting a capsule history of crochet put out by Interweave can fail to cite Lis Paludan’s wonderfully complete Crochet History and Technique – another Interweave Press publication. The background of crochet given in the Beading book is vague at best, and flat out contradictory at worst. It repeats the old nun’s work saw on crochet’s beginnings, and offers up adisciples-of-Christ origin for shepherd’s knitting. She mentions advanced bead crochet being taught in a Philadelphia academy inthe 1820s (which seems a bit early to me based on other readings), but gives no exact citation for it. There are several exquisite examples of late 19th century beaded crochet in the book. Most of these can be seen in the Amazon peek-inside preview. Unfortunately the rest of the text has nothing to do with them.
O.K., picky historycriticisms aside, as this is clearly not a needlework history book. On to the techniques and projects. You see that large chaotic rope of beads on the cover? All the projects inside look like that. Large ones, small ones, square ones, pouch-style ones, flower shaped ones, ones done with eyelash yarns, and ones done with smooth yarns. If you like the necklace on the cover and want to learn to make lots more encrusted things exactly like that, this is the book for you.
To be fair, there is one project featuringinstruction on how to crochet a basic beaded rope. That’s useful. There are four pages of basic description for simple off-loom needle beading techniques(peyote stitch, brick stitch, square stitch, African herringbone weave) – but these things are described in passing, as adjuncts to the book’s main premise – beaded crochet.
What was I expecting? More substance, perhaps less art. More detailed techniques, dipping into historcial sources for something besides clumps of randomly-encrusted crochet. Maybe I wanted to see a range of things that can be done in bead crochet, and learn some techniques to make them. While the gallery section at the backdoes showa wide range of pieces (some of which I do like), there is no relation between them and the techniques presented earlier.
So to sum up – I’m glad I borrowed this one from the library before buying it. As much as I like crochet and adore embellishment, I won’t be adding this one to my permanent collection.
Still unplying. Nothing much to report that’s interesting on that front, so I turn to an old stand-by. Yet another review of A Knitting Book that Time ForgotTM.
This one is This is Knitting by Ethel Evans. It was published inNew York by Macmillan, and bears a copyright date of 1948. Here’s a typical page.
Evans book is clearly different from the Teenage Knitting book I wrote about earlier this week. For starters, it’s aimed at a general knitting audience, not one that’s mostly high school and college aged. It’s divided more or less in half. The first half presents about 40 knitting patterns for women, plus 20 each for babies, and men. The second half of the book is a stitch dictionary, giving photos and directions for about 80 or so knitting standards, including knit/purl textures, simple cables, basic lace stitches, and even some tweedy linen stitchstyle colorwork. There are no stitches in this collection that aren’t also in either Walker ‘s First or Second Treasury.
Directions are entirely in prose and like the other book, avoid confusing shorthand but are incomplete by modern standards. Finishing directions are rudimentary at best "Press pieces, sew up." Shaping isn’t dealt with well. Some photos of the adult garmentsclearly show more shaping than the pattern pieces as written will yield (perhaps judicious tailoring was done during sewing up, but that isn’t mentioned). Buttonhole placement isn’t described at all, although directions for buttonholes follow some patterns. I-cord trim used on some adult jackets is only hinted at, although it is clearly shown on the photos.
Some other odd things stand out about this book. First, there are no patterns for kids garments between about two years of age and late adolescence (when they can wear grown-up stuff). Second, the rudimentary how-to section is illustrated by flat photos of knitting on knitting needles – no hands holding them or in-process shots. It’s tough to see what is supposed to be happening in those photos. My guess is that the how to section is just preaching to the choir. I don’t think the author ever intended for anyone to actually learn knitting from this book. Maybe to use it as a refresher to remember skills learned long ago, but certainly not as a prime source of knowledge.
That being said, patterns here are more of the classics. Simple cardigans, pullovers, jackets and vests, almost all with shoulder pads. There are a couple of patterns written at worsted gauge (5spi); but most hover around 8spi. Mens patterns are restricted to very conservative vests. Even so, if you like fine gauge retro classic, you’ll find several wide-ribbed, body hugging women’s (and men’s) pieces that might pique your interest.
The two more valuable sections of the book are the baby patterns and the accessory patterns. All of the baby knits are very simple, classic shapes that are wonderfully wearable today.There are several layette sets withmatching hats, sweaters, booties and mittens abound. There is a surplice sweater plus several baby blankets that are particularly nice – the blankets being mostly the center panel in a texture stitch/wide garter or seed stitch border type. All of the baby things are very simple in design, but again like the adult patterns, the write-upsaren’t as detailed as new knitters might like. Still, shapesand techniques arebasic enough for an adventurous newbie to use this book, provided he or she is of the plunge-on-through mindset. Sadly the copy I borrowed had several pages torn from the center of the baby pattern section, including the instructions for both the sweater and blanket I liked best. (Death to the mutilators of library books!)
Accessories can be found throughout the thing. There’s a triangular head scarf that my daughter tells me would pass muster in her high school today. Gloves, socks and mittens are here, too. The glove patterns look especially nice. There’s one pair with triplecabled back I especially like. One shortcoming – the argyle sockpattern in this book is severely simplified, and doesn’t sport those nifty cross-hatchings that distinguish a true argyle from a plain olddiamond pattern – probably because NO charts are used anywhere in the directions and the write-up on where to put all those single-stitch wide lines (or to position them using duplicate stitch) would have driven the copy editor mad.
Like most of these older books anyone trying to duplicate patterns will probably run into yarn substitution problems. Looking at the list of yarns used in the book, my starting (and unswatched)swappingsuggestions would be:
|Knitting Worsted/5-6spi||Modern DK weight wool, like Heirloom Easy Care 8-ply|
|Germantown yarn/5spi||True worsted, like Cascade 220|
|Sport Yarn/7-8spi||Fingering weight wool (too many different styles of item use this in the book to peg it down to just one)|
|Shetland Floss||Light fingering weight wool, like Jamiesons Shetland Spindrift|
|3-ply Saxony/8spi||Easy care fingering weight baby wool. Dale Baby Ull would work.|
|2-ply Saxony/10spi||Lighter weight fingering. Patons Kroy 3-ply? Brown Sheep Wildfoot? Regia 3-Ply?|
|2-Ply Angora/8spi||Fingering weight angora. Austermann Angora Wolle?|
|Sock yarn/8spi||Most modern sock yarns, Regia, Socka, Fortissima|
|Crochet cotton/9 spi knit|
To sum up – not asuseful nor as easy to follow as the Teenage Knitting Book. This is Knitting has some items of note, especially in the baby section and for glove knitters, but other than those, the book is interesting more as a historical document than as a still-living instruction book.
Side question: Do people find these reviews interesting or useful? Does anyone else care about old books found in musty library stacks, or about knitting’s recent history?
Here’s another review of a knitting book that time forgot. This one is The Teenage Knitting Book by Betty Cornell. New York: Prentice Hall, 1953.
Intro to knitting books weren’t invented with Yarn Girl’s Guide to Simple Knitsor any of the other ten thousand beginner books that have recently flooded the market Nor is the retargeting of knitting at a younger group of knitters something new. Yes, books are better illustrated now, yarns are heavier, and the level of knitting skill expected from beginners has decreased somewhat; but the basic idea – writing trendy patterns in a chirpy styleto encourage new knitters and enable them to learn new skills – hasn’t changed.
This book is a case in point. It’s by a woman whose other credits include a large number of girl’s grooming and fashion books. My mother says that her name would have been recognized at the time. She touts all the familiar stuff: knitting is wonderfully relaxing, it’s great to fill up time and/or keep your fingers busy, it presents a grand sense of accomplishment, it fills tactile needs, and it’s fun to get together and knit in groups. As one would expect it also asks "whynot make that ultra-trendy stole in the exact color you want instead of buying what’s available at the store" just likeits recent descendents.
After a brief intro, the book is off and running presenting several dozen patterns for blouses, sweaters, stoles, socks, hats, and dresses. Patterns range from dead simple (a dropped stitch stole flat out identical in concept to the "magic scarf" pattern floating around the Web right now); to severalpullovers that sport some nice shaping and tailored details. Yarns are small. Most pieces are knit in fingering or sport weight yarns. Sizes are also small. Although they’re labeled as being sizes 14-18, those sizes are peggedto finished sizes ranging from 34-36 inches finished chest measurement for the 14 to 36-38 inches finished chest measurement for the 18, depending on how tightly they fit. Remember – this was the sweater girl era, and fit is generally quite sleek, so I’d estimate these as being the equivalent of modern size 8-10-12. In spite of that, there are several pieces in the book that are very interesting. Here’s one of the more unusual:
If you get past the strange yearbook pose and black and white presentation, you’ll see a piece with complex waist shaping, an interesting neckline, and set-in cap sleeves. It could be worn today. Not necessarily with pearls and a Pepsodent smile, but could be quite interesting and depending on the yarn choice – could compliment anything from jeans to velvet.
Here’s another – a classic cable sweater. This one has shoulder pads inside and the model is probably wearing a girdle to create extra waist shaping.
Not a boxy rendition of the standard cable, but a tailored piece featuring two different stitch patterns. Note the push-up sleeves. You don’t get that kind of fit from a bulky yarn. I especially like the way the cables flow down without interruption to the ribbing at the cuff. This piece is knit in fingering weight. Wearable now as a classic? You bet.
There are several cardigan patterns, ranging from little cropped length pearl-button cap sleeve ones to longer stylespaired with knit skirts. Very retro, yet again – wearable today. There are some men’s patterns. The one I like best is a seaman-style sweater with a very long ribbed sections at waist and cuffs – both meant to be worn folded up. It looks like something to be worn ina remake ofOn the Waterfront:
I think that QueerJoe would look killer in this simple piece.
There are also patterns for golf club covers (woefully small for today’s oversized drivers)and a couple of easy tomake afghans. A bonus in all knitting books of this vintage, there are sock, hat, glove and mitten patterns, including a very nice plain anklet, andthe hot, hotmust-have item of the day – the argyle:
The patterns are more completely written up than most patterns of similar vintage. Colorwork is charted, but except for that all instructions are offered in prose. They don’t use the arcane shorthand common to most late 1940s/early 1950s patterns, instead directions areare presented in complete sentences. There are some major assumptions made – like the entire direction on shaping the waist frill in the top photo reads "Block peplum, then face with taffeta leaving approximately 2 inches free at each side seam to allow stretch and tacking top loosely." It may be a beginner knitting book, but some sewing skills here are clearly expected from the knitter.
The book finishes up with an 8-page how to knit and crochet section, illustrated with line drawings. Unlike most American-made books of its time, it shows Continental style instead of throwing. It’s prose-heavy compared to modern how to books, but the info it offers is succinct and well-written, covering all of the basics needed for the preceding pattern sections.
So like many of the knitting books time forgot, this one is interesting and deserves a second look in spite of its dated black and white pix, aged and plain library binding, and 1953 copyright date. Many local public libraries have vintage books that you may have skipped past in your search for newer stuff. Go back and revisit the older volumes. Not only are they knitting history, they’re an excellent source of inspiration for knitters today. Besides, if they sit on the shelf idletoo long the library staff might cull them from the collection, and we’ll lose valuable info that can be supplanted, but can never be replaced.
Here’s the second entry in a sporadic series on Knitting Books that Time Forgot. Many of these are long out of print (OOP), far from glossy, and have the shelf appeal of a trodden trout. But these older decidedly "unsexy" knitting books are sources of surprisingly good info, and can be found hidden on dusty public library shelves. Just because a book isn’t new or written by a contemporary Knitting Diva doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
Today’s poster child is The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting by Ida Riley Duncan. The edition I borrowed from the local library is the Liveright Publishing 1964 edition (the original was put out in 1941). ISBN 61-12134.
This book went through seven printings, and in its day must have been quite popular, judging from the large number of used copies available from various on-line sources. It’s sparsely illustrated with faded black and white photos, but is mostly text and accompanying hand-drafted line drawings.
The author’s premise is that knitting pattern design is mostly an exercise in drafting to gauge, and that a careful explanation of the math involved will make even complex pattern?shaping and design?more accessible to the average knitter. There are materials description and how-to sections, even a section of simple knit texture patterns, but they are cursory. Duncan wasn’t really writing for people totally unfamiliar with knitting, even though she included basics. She was writing for advanced beginners or intermediate level knitters who wanted to expand their skills.
Now,?five years ago this book was less relevant than it is today. The fitted sillouhettes common in the ’40s, ’50s, and early ’60s are making a comeback, and are sparking a change of shape in formerly?boxy hand-knits (think of all the recent patterns with nipped waists). This book is a clear, step by step description of designing those waist-defining, shorter shapes, and in designing fitted/set-in sleeves. There are quite a few books and software packages out now as pattern drafting aids, but they rarely go into detail on these more tailored lines.
Duncan gives directions for taking body measurements and designing a sloper (though she doesn’t use the term); then translating the measurements into a pattern. Of course she stresses the importance of gauge as she explores pullovers, cardigans, raglans, blouses (as distinct from sweaters) and?skirts. She even touches on socks, hats,?and mittens – again from a mathematical base. Several different neckline and sleeve treatments are described. Interestingly enough, she advocates knitting raglans in the round, top down, and skirts in the round bottom up, offering up circle diagrams that look similar to some of the ones?in Knitting Without Tears.
On the down side, garment sizes and gauges are small (5 spi is the largest gauge used, with most of the examples shown illustrated in 7 or 8 spi), but they are appropriate to the garments described and the principles they embody can be scaled up. The tone is a bit "my way or the highway" patronizing (especially the vocations in knitting section at the end) and exclusionary of divergent methods or alternative techniques/approaches. Sort of what you’d expect from a prissy and dictatorial home economics teacher in the early 1960s; but I find tone easy to ignore.The hand drawn diagrams look a bit primitive, but they’re clear, useful, and quite plentiful.
To sum up – this?might be?a useful book if you’re into design, especially designs informed by the aesthetics of past decades. It’s not the best exemplar of its type, but it does cover ground sparsely traversed by more recent publications. If you can find it in your local library it’s worth a look-see; perhaps a used book purchase if you need a leg up on drafting more tailored options.
Everyone knows about the well-known knitting books – everything from Mary Thomas Knitting Patterns to Principles of Knitting but there are not an inconsiderable number of others that either never made the "big time," or made very little splash. Lots of theseexist in library collections and on home bookshelves even though they are out of print (OOP).
While no book is unformly perfect in every way for every reader, many of these older overlooked books do have worth. Don’t turn up your nose at them just because the fashions illustrated are now stale or funky, or because they are lacking in color illustrations.
I recently received a copy of The Knitting Design Book: Using Color, Pattern and Stitch to Create Your Own Unique Sweaters. It was written by ank Bredewold and Anneke Pleiter, and was published by Lark Books in 1991 and 1998. The original was in Dutch: Breinen naar eigen ontwerp, and came out in 1985. It’s a slim paperback volume – under 90 pages, illustrated with both black and white and color photos and drawings.
No patterns are presented, rather this book is meant to be an inspiration and guide to creative thought. There are some general formulae for armscyes and collar shaping, but not in the detail shown in other books dedicated to pattern drafting. There’s also a color composition and motif placement minicourse, delivered from the "rules are meant to be broken" standpoint.
This book is a great snapshot of the styles and thoughts that were rebounding across knitting in the 1980s – mostly in European and Japanese designs. Many of the concepts it explores are current again. These include modular knitting, mixed fiber types and weights in one garment. It also discusses directional knitting (meaning knitting that proceeds in a direction other than bottom-up or top-down, with lots of attention paid to knitting on the bias. Shapes are cropped, many with deep or Dolman or kimono style sleeves. There are even a couple of patterns that play with adaptations of early computer-generated or computer-inspired graphics.
It’s no surprise to note that many of the ideas being touted as new and different right now are reiterations of earlier concepts.Modular knitting is discussed in this book under the heanding "Composite Shapes." The approach is rather free-form. The examples cited are made of triangle units, worked off each other either in in spirals or as more randomly placed motifs. Elongated stitches and mixing very light yarns with heavier, fluffy or textured yarnsare stressed throughout the book.Other ideasthat pop up hereinclude mixing gauges and directions; creating garments from multiple strips or draping pieces from larger units (like making a sleeveless raglan surplice top from several large triangles).
Now I’m not saying that this book was the first to introduce these concepts. Almost all of them appear elsewhere in sources that predate this one. Nor am I saying you should run out and buy this one right away (it is interesting to note that the European used book market valuesthis book more highly than it is in the US). What I am saying is that you can find excellent ideas and resources in these older, overlooked items – many of which are available for free borrowing at public libraries.