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More New Books

I recently bought myself Vogue Knitting: Ultimate Sock Book and although I really loved the patterns in there, as a designer, I found that there was much missing from the actual guide to sock knitting at the front of the book. As any sock knitter knows, there is a variation on choice of construction i.e. cuff down or top down, or toe up. However, even within these methods, there are more choices and I did feel the detail was a little lacking and that this book although helpful, could hardly be 'Ultimate' as in all encompassing without the need to refer to other sources. I had heard that there were errata, which I have not checked yet and I wondered if one of these erratum might be in connection with an omission on their wrapping techniques. They show how to wrap i.e. WT, they show how to pick up a wrap i.e. WW on a stocking stitch/right side. But they do not really show how to replicate that on the purl side, and then their generic toe up sock, completely confuses the issue by putting in the instruction WW,WT so therefore introducing an extra wrap and turn after the work wrap, without any explanation (we are to assume that WW refers to connecting the next stitch, already wrapped, and then we must assume that we pick up both wraps to be worked next row??)

As the idea of short rows is actually the most daunting and the most important skill a sock knitter could acquire, I think the explanation is pretty poor.

As it turns out, I have my own weird way of doing and working these wraps, which seems to look better than any other method I have tried, even though I sort of made up what I was doing as I went! Other methods leave me with mismatched sides, or a row of tiny dimples/holes on one side and a slight mess on the other, or a lot of criss crossing if I decide to WW and WT for another time and pick up 2 wraps. Aaaaaak!

I will leave you to decide what you would prefer but it would have been nice to have a slightly more in depth explanation of this and provisional cast on methods in this book.

Another book I have recently received, I just found an absolute joy. I have got
to the stage where I want books to either be purely technique, or to have vast amounts of facts surrounding knitting in them and I rarely buy a book to follow a pattern these days. Amy Singer's No Sheep For You has the best description of materials in yarn composition and how they behave. Obviously, as she is allergic to wool, this is a definitive guide of non fleece products and it is a really good thing to have to hand if you are a designer looking for more interesting options to write patterns with and get readers interested. I am slightly allergic to wool, it depends on the kind and how much of the original grease is in there so I suspect it is a slight lanolin allergy, and I hate acrylic so this book has a good guide. There are some beautiful patterns as well, and true to the house style of Knitty, those designs have interesting or unique features that hold a inspire and give rise to admiration.

My third recent acquisition is a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters and as the title implies it is an emergency guide on how to fix some of the things that might happen when no other source is to hand (like a good knitting buddy on the net perhaps...as they;re all in bed). Now this is a great book for a beginner, but for someone who has been there and done that (as in made lots of mistakes before) I found it a disappointing read because I did know most of the techniques in there, or could have improvised them in dire emergency and I a m not a naturally resourceful type and a keen frogger of things that just ain't right.

However, there are many questions in there that people often ask me, so I can't knock it for a person who hasn't learned to 'read' their own knitting as such. I've always been taught, mainly out of being self sufficient, to understand the structure of my stitches, so that I can go back and fix the odd mistake without frogging but I can also avoid mistakes by being able to recognise exactly what I have just done rather than rely on ticking off rows or writing it down.

Now for people who are at an intermediate stage like me, apart from just learning by experience, it is quite easy to reach a plateau. For instance, I know how to knit lace, I understand patterns, and charts BUT I would really love to be able to design lace. I'm not talking about taking an established stitch pattern form a library or tradition, and then designing a garment fitting those repeats in, I am talking about actually designing lace patterns form scratch, brand new twining knots, or leaves or flowers or anything where I was able to 'draw' with my knitting needles.

I did do this with a lace and bobble pattern, which I wanted to have slanting wheat sheaves in different directions. it does look like a lot of other patterns but I did construct this completely on my own, although it is basic. Now how did someone in our history actually sit down and start to design stitch patterns? Did they experiment, get a total mess and perhaps just one time out of a hundred it worked? What were the processes? Every time I think to enroll on a course, I invariably find that actually, they are teaching the basics in that subject, although that subject be it lace knitting or texture knitting is classed as an advance subject. I was excited for instance, to see that Amy Singer is holding a lace workshop at Loop, but disappointed when I read the details and she was actually going through a pattern in her book, and teaching how to knit that pattern. I thought lace workshop meant making up new stitch patterns of our own, and learning what each little part does and how to use it.

Oh well, I suppose I am back to experimenting on my own. And never really getting anywhere because there is nothing like a workshop to kick you up the behind and do your homework.

So where are all these people who can do these innovative things and pass on to other generations? Or do we all just depend on the existing stitch libraries now in our tradition?

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