Book Review: Pretty Knits

My blog fodder is stretched pretty thin this week. I have things I keep thinking I’d have posted about now but they’re not done yet. I am plotting a 3rd Venezia swatch, as for example (just to make sure I give the blue/green palette a fair shake), and then I have a couple of wee small projects on the go but they’re not ready yet. (Stupid finishing). I have 1 ball of SWS waiting to be a matching hat for my Clapotis but, oops, haven’t gotten to it yet either. Thank goodness for book reviews!

This review selection is Pretty Knits by Susan Cropper, of London’s yarn store Loop.

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I’ve had this book for about a month, and I keep looking at it, and pondering, and looking at it some more, and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. Are the designs pretty? Yes. The book lives up to its title. Is it an accessible selection of patterns? Yes. There is a variety of skill level required and there are a few pages at the back with discussion of technique and photos for support. Is there a range of yarns used? Yes. Everything from wool to bamboo and back again, sport-weight on up to bulky.

One thing that I can’t reconcile, though, is the sizing. No matter how many pattern collections have come before this one that only fit up to bust size 38″, a book published in the year 2007 should freaking well include pattern sizing for more than 3 sizes per garment, and should go beyond bust size 38/40. What, only skinny people get to be pretty? BAH.

Perhaps my reluctance also has to do with the concept – we’ve had no shortage of pattern books in the last couple of years which profess to be glamorous or sensual or pretty or romantic or [insert feminine adjective here]. So in that respect, each new book of that genre has a reputation to live up to. Overlooking this skepticism and the ‘detail’ of the sizing, I will say that there are some very nicely designed patterns here. Unlike some other possible glam patterns, these ones don’t just limit the “pretty” to appliques and extra finishing with buttons and sequins, but use the yarns in creative ways that achieve the intended look. The wrap on the cover, for example, combines three different yarns in a panelled effect with an attractive drape. (It also uses ribbon yarn in an attractive way – I am always intrigued when people figure out how to do that).

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There are 30 patterns to choose from, about evenly split between home items and garments. Although there are some patterns I don’t want to give a 2nd glance to (the knitted bows necklace is one), some are quite lovely (pics of my choices below). There’s a cabled water bottle cozy that you could probably make in an afternoon, on up to a bedspread with rose appliques that is more ambitious. I call the pattern selection a win, generally speaking. These are divided into four categories – fashionista, accessoires, fripperies, and the boudoir. There are blankets and cozies and pillows, but I’ll focus on the garments because those are generally what I look for.

The beaded camisole top by Leslie Scanlon and the empire waist top by Debbie Bliss, above, are two of my favourites. They look comfortable and classic, and could be mixed with a variety of skirts or slacks or capris, depending on the season or occasion.

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This chevron top by Louisa Harding was a pleasant surprise. The colour selection and off-shoulder styling really appeals to me, and once again it looks like an eminently comfortable and wearable knit. The Anisette wrap by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes is one that didn’t grab me at first but it did grab my sister, who despite some skepticism over the ‘only 2 balls of Kidsilk Haze’ requirement, has been happily working away at it for the last few weeks. It also comes in a scarf version, which I think is a fantastic idea.

I reported above that I’m still not sure where to land with this book. The patterns are attractive, but there is one thing still holding me back, and while I don’t know who to fault for it – the editor? the publisher? the tech copy writer? – it’s still bothering me several weeks later. While the patterns tell you which yarn to use, and how many skeins you’ll need, there is absolutely no detail provided on yardage, weight, or fibre composition. They tell you about gauge, yes, but that magical list of yarns and their details is nowhere to be found. So if you want to know if Yarn Z is a wool or a wool-blend, a sport-weight or fingering, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. In a knitting age when yarn substitution is queen and fibre content can make all the difference for many knitters, this is a disappointment. I am left to conclude that either this is a significant and unintended error of omission (I hope that this is the case), or that the editor really wants you to use only the yarns they’re telling you to use.

So, thumbs up for the pretty, thumbs down on the sizing and lack of yarn specs. I think it’s worth a look, but savvy knitters will arm themselves with a bit of yarny research or pattern modification to help them make the most of this book.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Book Review: Pretty Knits

  1. I read a similar review somewhere else. I think I’ll just wait for my library to get it… :)

  2. Thanks for your balanced review of this book! With all the new knitting books out there now, it is good to save for the ones that really stand out and, as your last commenter stated, wait until th rest reach the library shelves.

  3. Thanks for the honest review! I think I’ll pass on this book.

  4. Em

    lolz — I literally *just* read a review for this very same book over at Go Knit In Your Hat. It seems like both of you weren’t quite sure what to make of this book; it’s pretty, yes, but seems to have missed the mark on something. Thanks for the review!

  5. I wish you could review every knitting book in the world – you cover everything I want to know so well. I love the look of the patterns here but the sizing issue is a big one for me as I am a big one :O)

    Great blog fodder. Thank you.

  6. good review – thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    as for the sizing and lack of yarn detail — i’m wondering if the book was sponsored by a yarn company (or maybe a few). a lot of the british books seem to have ties with rowan or db.

  7. Great review – I like it when people write in-depth and useful instead of ‘go buy this cause they sent us a free copy..’ you know what I mean.

    I’ll be interested to see your blue/green colourway, and I have to say I agree with you on the second blue in the first swatch below. But if the rust is calling to you maybe it’s a sign ;-) I’ve sometimes wondered whether just because there’s no lime green in my wardrobe it doesn’t mean I should never use it!