Knit to Flatter.

After a few months on backorder, Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter has arrived at the shop.

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Knit to Flatter is a book about knitting sweaters that fit exactly how you want them to fit. Herzog begins by identifying different body types–top-heavy, bottom-heavy, and proportional–and offers patterns for each, along with a few suggestions about what shapes and design features flatter those body types and why.

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I appreciate that Herzog doesn’t give strict do’s and don’ts for different body shapes, but instead stresses that “beauty is in the eye of the wearer,” and that whatever shape, size, and type of sweater makes you feel great is exactly the sweater you should knit. Whether you know what those shapes, sizes, and types are, or whether you’re looking for figure-flattering suggestions, Knit to Flatter can be a helpful resource in creating sweaters you love to wear.

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Before you start knitting, Herzog has you take your measurements, not only the usual bust, waist, and hip measurements, but also from hip to waist, from waist to underarm, neckline depth, and upper torso circumference, along with various sleeve lengths.

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From there, she discusses positive and negative ease, and has you compare your own measurements against the measurements on the schematic of whatever pattern you’ve chosen. Where there are differences, you’ll want to make modifications to the pattern, and Chapter 6 covers that in depth. I found this table especially helpful; it lists various modifications along with how difficult they are and what other pieces of the sweater they affect.

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I’ve been working on a sweater for a few weeks now using Herzog’s book as a guide in making modifications to the pattern. I was giddy at the thought of starting a new project, eager to cast on, but before I did, I sat down with my pattern, pencil and paper, measuring tape, and Knit to Flatter. I spent a few hours figuring out what modifications I wanted to make, how to make them, and made notes on the pattern where my own knitting would depart from the instructions. I lowered the neckline, shortened the body, which meant recalculating the waist shaping, and added bust darts. It was a little intimidating, but Knit to Flatter kept it from being overwhelming, and now that I’ve made all my changes to the pattern, I can sit back and knit. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.

Come by the shop to take a closer look at Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter, and get it at 15% off during our Annual Inventory Sale!

Botanical Knits.

For the past few months, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the newest collection of patterns by Alana Dakos, the West coast half of Coastal Knits. We’d previewed the patterns on Ravelry, admired the twelve designs that make up the new book, and tried to be patient until it was published and we could hold it in our hands. Now, it’s here: Botanical Knits, by Alana Dakos.

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Just like Coastal Knits before it, Botanical Knits is beautiful both as a collection of knitting patterns and as a book.

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The layout and photography are as inviting as the patterns themselves, each one inspired by foliage of one kind or another. Tiny knitted leaves are scattered throughout the book, made in each yarn Dakos used in the collection, and at the end, there’s a pattern showing how to knit leaves of your own.

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I was even charmed by the schematics, which use tiny photos of the garments to show their measurements instead of the typical line drawings.

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Come by the shop to see this gorgeous pattern collection, and to plan a botanical knit of your own. See you there!

Two books for every knitter.

We’ve ordered and reordered these two books several times in the past few months, and with good reason. Charts Made Simple and Cast On, Bind Off are the kinds of knitting books that any knitter can use. Rather than tempting you with pretty patterns and project ideas, they give you the information you need to tackle whatever pretty projects you’ve already picked. I mentioned them briefly on the blog in August, but thought they deserved a closer review, as well.

JC Briar’s Charts Made Simple teaches how to read knitting charts, which are often used in cable, lace, and colorwork patterns. Charts are used in place of (or sometimes alongside) written directions because many knitters find them faster and easier to read, and because they give a sense of how the knitted fabric will look as you’re creating it. Many knitters are intimidated by charts, though, and don’t find them intuitive at all. This book gives all kinds of useful hints for chart-reading, and explains how to do it in plain language, giving examples along the way that illustrate the concept. I’ve been slowly reading through it over the past few months in an attempt to become a more competent, confident reader of knitting charts. I have no doubt that this book, along with some practice and knitting, can get me there. Check it out if you’d like to do the same.

Leslie Ann Bestor’s Cast On, Bind Off is perhaps even more useful for the every-knitter. It covers, as its straightforward title suggests, a wide range of cast-ons and bind-offs, showing how to do them with photos and text. Most helpfully, the cast-ons and bind-offs are sorted by kind, helping you to decide when and how to use them. Not only is this knitting-bag-sized book good for looking up an unfamiliar technique, it’s also good for making changes to a pattern, or designing your own. You know you want your cast-on edge to be stretchy, and you can easily flip to the Stretchy  section to select one. Handy, no?

Come by the shop to find these two excellent knitting resources on the teacart.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters.

Interweave has just published a new book by Ann Budd, The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges, and a stack of them arrived at the shop last week. After studying it during several quiet moments at the shop, I decided it had to be part of my personal knitting library. Read on to learn why it might make a good addition to yours, as well.

Ann Budd is the author of a great many knitting resources, including but not limited to Sock Knitting Master Class, The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, and The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. As I’ve written here before, we’re also quite fond of her Handy Guides to Yarn Requirements for knitting and crochet.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is the latest in her series of Handy Books which give instructions for simple garments in a wide range of gauges and sizes. This collection, as the title makes plain, is full of seamlessly-constructed sweaters that begin at the neck, working from the top down.

Some knitters begin a new project by falling in love with a pattern, then hunting for just the right yarn to match the gauge that the pattern asks for. Some knitters begin by falling in love with a skein of yarn, then go looking for a pattern to match. Ann Budd’s Handy Books can work either way, I think, but do a real service for the second group. For each basic top-down sweater shape, Budd gives instructions for range of sizes, from children to adults, and a range of gauges. Whether you’ve fallen in love with a sport weight yarn or an aran weight yarn, you can choose from any pattern in the book and follow the directions in your chosen size and gauge. Budd also gives yarn requirements for every size and gauge, so once you’ve fallen in love with that yarn, you’ll know how much to get.

The book is divided into four sections, by the sweater’s yoke shape: seamless yoke, raglan, set-in sleeve, and saddle-shoulder. For each shape, along with the general instructions are three good-looking patterns. Some are designed by Ann Budd, and others by guest designers Jared Flood, Veronik Avery, Pam Allen, and Anne Hanson.

 Budd also includes plenty of information on modifying her general instructions, making it easy to add color or texture patterns, and create different kinds of neckbands, collars, button bands, waist shaping, and edgings.

I’ve knit very few sweaters from the top down, having grown accustomed to using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Percentage System (EPS) to knit unique sweaters from the bottom up. While EPS makes sweater design into a doable math problem, Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is like the teacher’s edition–a series of sweater math problems shown with every possible answer. For knitters who love to knit seamless sweaters and make them their own using whatever yarn they’ve fallen in love with, this is the ultimate resource. Come by the shop to take a closer look at The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters!

Knitting with Two Colors.

Back in November, I wrote about two of my favorite new colorwork resources: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs. I remember the feeling of contentment I had in placing those two on my bookshelf at home, thinking, “This completes my colorwork library.” That, however, was before Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors appeared. Now, having seen this new book from Schoolhouse Press, gaps appear in my colorwork library where none existed before. Where was the technical detail on preparing for and cutting steeks? The guidance on altering existing colorwork patterns, and designing your own? Ways to incorporate shaping into a colorwork sweater without completely confusing the patterning? The hows, whys, and whether-or-nots of various hems, borders, and necklines? Why, here they are, calmly and clearly explained by these two most experienced colorwork knitters, Swansen and Detjen.

Knitting with Two Colors is neither a book of sweater patterns nor a book of colorwork charts, but truly a book of techniques, a slim paperback volume that is absolutely bursting with information. I can imagine no better companion to Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting or Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs than Swansen and Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors. Colorwork enthusiasts, and anyone else who’s curious, should take a look at this book, and take home a copy if there’s an ambitious colorwork project in your future. Find it on the teacart.

Two new colorwork resources.

It seems we’ve been getting tons of exciting new books this fall, one right after another. I confess, I’ve added about four new knitting books to my collection at home in the past month alone. Two of those have already been carefully reviewed here on the blog, but the other two have not yet had their moment in the sun. Given my proclivity towards stranded colorwork, it may come as no surprise that these two new titles focus on that technique in particular.

Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting is exactly what it sounds like: a book of charts. Not a book of sweater or hat patterns with charts, just a book of charts. Starmore begins with a chapter on designing simply shaped, drop-shoulder colorwork sweaters, and ends with “A Word on Colour,” but in between, she leaves the knitter alone with pages upon pages of charts. The charts are organized by place of origin, so that in flipping through the book, one can glimpse the color-knitting culture of Norway, then Sweden, then Russia, then South America, and onward. In addition, Starmore also offers charts she’s adapted from ancient manuscripts, architecture, carpets, jewelry, and stonework, and encourages knitters to do the same. Colorwork charts are easily invented, after all–graph paper and a little color knitting experience is all that’s needed.

Mary Jane Mucklestone’s new 200 Fair Isle Motifs is similar to Starmore’s Charts, but focused on the particular Scottish colorwork tradition for which it is named. The book begins with clear tutorials on all kinds of techniques used in Fair Isle knitting, from swatching to steeking to correcting mistakes. For those overwhelmed by the endless possible color combinations (all of us?), there is a little tutorial on color theory. Then come the 200 motifs. Mucklestone has organized these motifs by the number of rows and stitches in each pattern repeat, making it easy to find a pattern that divides evenly into the number of stitches you’re working with on any given project–hat, socks, sweater, etc. Each chart is shown not only in the traditional black-dots-on-a-white-grid style, but also in a color photograph, a color variation, and an all-over version, giving the knitter a jump start on adapting these patterns for many uses.

These two books have me itching to cast on for something new. I am utterly overwhelmed by the number of half-formed knitting ideas rushing around in my mind, which is, by the way, a most pleasant experience. I am so excited by these two books, which complement one another beautifully. Until I figure out exactly what my next colorwork project will be, I’m enjoying simply poring over Starmore’s black and white charts and Mucklestone’s brightly colored motifs, inundated with ideas.

The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

Clara Parkes has done it again, and by “done it again,” I mean “provided a practical, beautiful, fascinating, rigorous resource for knitters.” From the author of Knitter’s Review, the woman who brought us The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and The Knitter’s Book of Wool, here’s The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

If you’re a sock knitter, this is an indispensable book. If you’re an aspiring sock knitter, this book may be a good place to start. While many of the patterns include cables, lace, or colorwork, the first is an introductory-level sock with a simple texture pattern, using worsted weight yarn. Once you’ve worked up a pair of those, you’ll likely be ready and eager to dip your toes into some of the more complicated patterns. Also: those of you who are worried that your knitted socks will be too baggy or too tight, not stretchy enough, or that they’ll fall apart after one wear will be encouraged and emboldened by The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Parkes spends entire chapters on the effects of various fibers, twists, plies, and stitch patterns on the structure of a sock, giving knitters the information they need to avoid the potential pitfalls that may concern them.

The patterns come from an astounding group of designers, using all kinds of techniques to make socks in a wide range of styles. Cat Bordhi, Lucy Neatby, Ann Budd, Norah Gaughan, Nancy Bush, Cookie A, and Jared Flood all make appearances, as does a favorite new yarn of ours: the Swans Island Organic Merino, in fingering-weight.

I’m almost halfway through a sweater using this yarn, and had never considered it for socks, as it’s hand-wash only. Then I came upon Parkes’ ode to hand-washing hand-knit socks, which made the task sound more pleasant than inconvenient. Having just accidentally felted a pair of colorwork socks, I’m ready to make the switch to hand-washing, and it sounds like my socks will look better and last longer that way. Suffice it to say, I’m reconsidering putting that beautiful Swans Island yarn on my feet, and I have no doubt that The Knitter’s Book of Socks will change the way I pair yarns and sock patterns, making me a better, more educated sock knitter. Come by the shop to peruse this new book, and plan your next pair of socks!

The Knitter’s Book of Wool.

Though I breezed right past it in last week’s round up of the shop’s newest books, there is one book in particular that I am really excited about: The Knitter’s Book of Wool, by Clara Parkes. I flipped through it once or twice at the shop, and quickly realized it was the kind of serious resource I’d have to take home to add to my own knitter’s library. I spent the better part of a Sunday with this book, learning more about yarn in general and wool in particular than ever before in one sitting. Though I am a serious and devoted lover of wool, and though I consider it by far my favorite fiber for knitting, I realized as soon as I began reading that I actually don’t know as much about it as I thought I did. Different spinning and dyeing processes, different breeds of sheep and respectively different qualities of wool, the variety of ways and reasons to combine wool with other fibers–all of these pieces of the puzzle I had only a vague understanding of.



The Knitter’s Book of Wool brings specificity and clarity to these issues, which only makes sense, given the author. Clara Parkes is the author of The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, a similar tome which tackles fibers of all kinds, and of Knitter’s Review, a weekly e-newsletter where she reviews yarns, knitting books, needles, and other knitter’s tools. For each yarn reviewed, she describes not only the experience of knitting, but also the washing and wearing, making sense of the fiber content and best uses for the yarn along the way. Parkes brings this same thoroughness to every aspect of wool, from sheep to skein, in this book. And then there are patterns, of course, from well-known designers like Cat Bordhi, Pam Allen, and Nancy Bush, for sweaters, mittens, shawls, and scarves, among other things. The patterns, too, are full of helpful information regarding the behavior of wool yarns.

I reached for The Knitter’s Book of Wool because I wanted to know more about wool, and now I do, of course, but what really excited me about it is that it made me aware of how very much more there is to know about wool, and how much can be gained from looking more closely at each skein. It is the kind of book that makes you want to read more books, and I know I’ll return to it regularly, for information as well as inspiration.

Come to the shop to peruse Clara Parkes’ books for yourself, and in doing so, become a more informed lover of fiber.