Book Review: More Big Girl Knits

Here we are folks, my third of four spring spring/summer knitting book reviews. I have been meaning to complete this mostly-done review for quite some time, and time got away from me. May got sucked up with defense prep/recovery, then I’ve spent June avoiding things requiring Thinking Thoughts, and there you have it. But I’m finding myself ready to re-join the world of people who Think Thoughts, and that means the book reviews can return.

This one’s been out since the beginning of April, and I know many of you out there are already loving it to pieces, and you should keep on loving it to pieces if that’s the case for you. But I’ll be honest with you – I’m having trouble falling deeply in love with More Big Girl Knits. After looking at it for a few weeks and showing it to a few knitting friends, I did a lot of hemming and hawing over what to write in this review. There are some things that I do quite like, but overall this book leaves me wanting more. So, I enlisted a co-reviewer this time.

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For this review I recruited the help of my knitting friend Steph, who is of the ‘big girl’ demographic (well, she said I could refer to her as “resident fat girl knitter”, but I went in a different direction there). Because as much as I feel confident reviewing books, I know that I’m not in the XL and up category, so it felt good to have some support on this one. (As per usual, my photographs here are lo-tech photographs from the book itself, so I apologize for any mediocre quality.)

If you’re familiar with Big Girl Knits, there will be a lot of familiar things for you in More Big Girl Knits – more of the same “boob, butt, and belly” discussion, more patterns, more of the same kind of discussion about knitting to fit and flatter. The book is divided into an opening couple of chapters on this kind of chatter, a chapter for making your own “sweater worksheet”, and then the patterns themselves.

When Steph and I each looked at this we found our opinions overlapped quite a bit. I’ll start with the things we liked. The strengths of this book are in the patterns which create drape, attractive shaping, and classic style. Many of these are also patterns which I’ve seen popping up in my Ravelry friends queues for the last little while, so clearly many of you are in agreement as well. This Susie hoodie? Gorgeous.

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This is a versatile hoodie jacket (which we are both considering making – yes, sometimes even non-big girls do math too) with beautiful cable accent. The cables along the edges work well decoratively and also won’t scare off anyone who’s new to cables, and the worsted/aran weight gauge will also lend you a bit more speed than DK or sport weight would. It also comes with a great deal of shaping, over the hips to a defined waistline. Proportion that out with the hood on top and we’re good to go.

The Susie hoodie is right next to the ‘Bountiful Bohus’ cardigan which is just darned beautiful in Cascade 200 heathers:

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I’d knit that any day of the week, and so would many of my knitting friends. Comfortable, nice bit of flattering colour-work, and upping the challenge with a bit of knitting skills. The ‘No Gap Wrap’ (below) is also a winner. The v-neck is a flattering style and the faux-wrap line creates some shape and styling without too much difficulty. This would be a good pattern for knitters of any skill level.

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Steph registered her confusion over the emphasis on sock patterns in the later part of the book, since she finds that sock patterns are the ones that still fit her regardless of size. (Also, we are confused at the application of the “boob, belly, and butt” labels to the sock patterns…any socks that enhance those parts of your body must be hard working socks indeed…) Still, some are quite nice, including these trellis diamond ones which both Steph and I would knit:

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They’re attractive and a little stretchy because of the lace, and also come in two separate sizes. I like the bright colour, shown here with Lorna’s Laces which is one of my favourite sock yarns. On the other hand, there is another pair of socks in here that Steph and I were not so charitable with. We don’t understand these:

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The sock part itself is lovely, is sized 3 ways and uses cushy soft Fleece Artist merino. But we’re baffled by the small bandana-like tag on top. In such a contrasting colour it seems like something that could cut your leg at a bad angle, depending on the shape of your calf, and we don’t understand how this is a flattering look for any ‘girl’, big or no.

To get right down to it, the selection of patterns is versatile and set at a variety of skill levels, and should please most readers. We’d be surprised if there was nothing in this book that you wanted to knit. There are a lot of good tips in the opening chapters, and we think any knitter can benefit from reminders about ease, proper measurement, and flattering fit. Chapter 4 has a worksheet to construct a ‘plain vanilla’ sweater pattern in aran-weight yarn to help you customize one that fights right for you, and that would be a solid piece of knitting for any wardrobe (although we wonder why it only uses 4 sizes instead of the 5-6 sizes many of the patterns in the book use).

However, it’s these opening pages that caused both me and Steph some ambivalence. They present so many different ‘rules’ for plus size knitting that it made us uncertain which to hold on to first. And, more significantly, the challenge with a book that paints so many broad-stroke themes for ‘big girls’ is that there will always be exceptions to the rules. One such rule is to create vertical lines, never horizontal. Some of the patterns in the book accomplish this well, but other times we were confused, such as with this cardigan:

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We can understand the attempt at creating vertical lines, but the self-striping effect of the Noro Silk Garden seems to cancel that out with many more horizontals in many different colours. Perhaps fit is a problem with the size of this sample here, since the shoulders seem to be falling off of the model. I was very surprised to look more closely at the schematic and discover that this sweater does include waist shaping, because the photographs here don’t reveal this shapeliness at all. This model is beautiful and looks fantastic in so many of the other pieces, but here the shape of her body is hidden by a mishmash of brightly coloured lines running in different directions.

Another truism that the opening chapters rely on is that colour should be used carefully, to contrast and to showcase parts of your body that you want noticed. Cables and texture are treated similarly, with warnings over not to create volume and bulk, but to visually lighten and create lines. As a result, we’re not entirely sure what to do with this pattern:

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On the one hand, I sort of like the open neckline and the friendly tone of the bright green. But it’s a lot of bright green, on a jacket with no defined shape. Then Steph saw all the bobbles and her mind was made up. Then we checked the yardage – even in the smallest size this piece is going to knit up with a minimum of 3,000 yards of wool (almost 50% more than the figure flattering Susie hoodie, for example – or the ‘Hot Cocoa’ jacket, pictured below, which is a beautifully textured piece that is intended to flatter the same kind of body as this Peapod Aran). We believe that the Peapod Aran would be a comfortable piece, but find it hard to believe the wearer will feel flattered or visually lightened while carrying around that over 3 kilometres of wool.

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Our ambivalence with this book comes largely from these opening chapters and their somewhat scattered feel. There are a lot of valid tips in here and they have clearly been assembled with the best of intentions. However, looking back at this book, there is a lack of unifying theme or organization overall, other than ‘more for big girls’. There are so many lists, and so many subsections of tips and tricks, and so many provisos about choosing what works for you if the rules don’t work, that it’s hard to know what to grasp onto first. Do plus size knitters need more knitting patterns? Absolutely. But there are some missed opportunities here.

What about showing us the same piece on several different women, who are differently proportioned? Show us a woman with small hips, big bust, and round shoulders, and support her with some sample worksheet measurements and patterns. How about a woman with tiny shoulders, large bust, and an undefined waist? Will all the ‘boob’ patterns fit the same on her? Steph closed the book and said “I want to see someone who’s a circle”, and that made me stop and think, too.

At the end of the day, we want a knitting vision that promises something more for big girls than overly-fun notes about ‘woo woo’ shawls and ‘motif mania’ and ‘combo platters’, and conflicting messages about loving your body but hiding the parts you don’t love. Rather than a sidebar on how to work with a ‘combo platter’ of more than one ‘B’ (boob, butt, belly) that stands out (and also, how is it helping anyone to compare women’s bodies to food?), what about devoting some attention to real shapes which quite literally embody the issues that ‘big girl’ knitters are working with? There is a chance here to get into real details about body types and body shapes, over and above single-body-part generalizations. Talk to us about whole bodies and not just the ‘Bs’, about why the same rectangular sweater hem can look horrible on one ‘big girl’ and incredible on the ‘big girl’ next to her.

There are many beautiful patterns in this book and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the FOs pop up out there on Ravelry, the blogosphere, and in person. I’ve seen some Susie hoodies out walking around in Toronto, and they are stunning. As a thank you for helping me look at this book, I’m passing on my copy of More Big Girl Knits to Steph, who I know has her eye on a few of the patterns already and has probably been waiting for me to finish typing up the review already. Thank you, Steph!

The fourth and final book I have for review is Tweed, which I’ll aim to look at some time before the end of time. Until then, I have plenty of summer knitting to keep me busy. Hopefully I’ll get enough done to report on that in my next posts.

Happy knitting!

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Book Review: More Big Girl Knits

  1. I fancy myself on the cusp of the “big girl demographic” so I appreaciate the review. I’ll have to take a look myself!

  2. Very good review.

    I am on the cusp of being a big girl and was looking for something different. While there are a couple of projects (Bountiful Bohus and No Gap Wrap) that appealed to me, I was very unsure of several of the others.

    Glad to know my instincts were not off.

    Thank you!

  3. What a great review, thank you Glenna and Steph!
    I do like that Susie Hoodie, the cables are gorgeous, the Bohus and Hot Cocoa are also pretty, those would be my choices…

  4. Jen

    That’s so funny– you picked exactly the patterns that I liked in the book! I was also a bit disappointed with this second book, especially after liking the first so much. And some, like the circus-y striped one you pictured above, and the one with the flowers all around the neck, I find just downright awful. (Many have suggested that the latter begs a comparison to a Triple Crown Winner!) That those two are also “updates” of knitty.com patterns didn’t help in my book. I love what Amy and Jillian are trying to do, but yes– show the same piece on several different body types (and perhaps do this while choosing patterns) so that we can see what will truly flatter.

    Thanks for reviewing the book, though– I am also glad to see that I’m not the only less-than-enthused person out there (though I have already cast on the No-Gap Wrap and have my eye on the Susie…).

  5. I’m definitely not a “big girl,” but all those sweaters you said you liked I’d make for myself! Why not just size all sweaters for everyone? I dunno. I know that larger women have trouble finding nice clothes that fit and look good (my mom is squarely in this category, only she’s got the boobs without the butt, so she has twice as much trouble as most plus-sized women…), but I get tired of hearing about how “real women” have curves and boobs, as if the rest of us aren’t real or complete or something.

    Well, there are obviously lots of body issues we deal with, as knitters and as women, and they can’t all be addressed here.

    (BTW, I think that Noro stripe thing with the ruffles wouldn’t look good on anyone of any size, but maybe that’s just me!)

  6. Good review! I actually ended up returning this book to amazon because I just wasn’t inspired by many of the patterns. I think for the socks section – instead of outright new patterns, I would have been more interested in a discussion of how to modify existing patterns to add calf shaping and that kind of thing.

  7. Great review. Much bettterly written than I could have done. (See what I mean? And I have a Master’s degree…)

    There are some great patterns in there. And I agree with susan, size the patterns for everyone! Then plus size women wouldn’t need special books. We could knit whatever we wanted regardless of our math prowess (or lack there of).

    However, our Susie hoodie-a-long will be fab. And we can work on the math together– or hire one of 3 math-savy people from your family…

  8. Harper

    I am probably going to buy this book because I really love some of the patterns (pretty much the ones you’ve pointed out) but I am frustrated as a really big girl that I will need to do math to increase these to my size — in a big girl book!!! I was particularly disappointed with the limited sizes of the sample sweater. What is up with that? A surprising number of the patterns didn’t even go up in size as much as most knitty.com patterns. I agree with Kim U that a modification discussion would have been more helpful than more sock patterns. It is very funny but, honestly, how many of us are only one B? So read the how to knit for fatties comments only for fun and maybe a few good tips.

    I actually like this one much more than the first book — which I didn’t buy because there weren’t any patterns in it that tempted me.

  9. Doris

    I agree. ome of the paterns are gorgeous, but some are just questionable. The socks by the way…my take is that when you lose your glass slippers, you will be ready with pumpkin feet!

  10. Cyn

    That Noro cardigan confuses me too, and not because of the vertical/horizontal stripe issue. Its very existence confuses me. The idea that it would be flattering on big girls, or small girls, or inflatable novelty-shop fake girls, or adventurous penguins, or ANYONE confuses me. What is going on with that thing? Take a bold coloured self striping yarn, then add a strong striping pattern that makes your eyes go swimmy, and then put green and purple ruffles all over it?

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Yeaaaah. The Susie hoodie really is gorgeous though, as is the sweater on the cover. And the peapod aran would look great if it was child-sized. How cute would that be on a baby?

  11. Sorry to comment twice, but I just can’t stop myself…

    Along with my desire that all knitting patterns be sized for everyone, I wish the knitting mags would have a better variety of models. IK is finally showing some ethnic diversity of late, but all the models are young and thin. I have some older issues (early 2000s) that feature a couple women models who look like they’re in their forties and at least a size 12. They’re beautiful, and they make the sweaters look like they’d be flattering on many people, not just the young and beautiful. And don’t get me started on VK…

  12. ladyoctavia

    Great review!

  13. Kai

    Thanks for the review! I like some of the patterns and can see myself adjusting the sizing for some of the ones you yourself have picked out, but that Noro cardi? I do not get that cardi at all. Why? Why is it seen as flattering to any shape?? *sigh*

    The Bohus Cardi though is stunning… :)

  14. Thanks for the really comprehensive review (and I loved your observation about the inappropriate food/women’s bodies’ comparison!).

    Funnily enough (and considering I don’t like knitting socks), I actually liked those Indian Summer socks, though not in the contrasting colours. I also like the No Gap Wrap, though it’s not enough to make me want to buy the book; I’m not necessarily a ‘big girl’ – it’s just my chest area that I have issues with!

  15. Love this review and all the comments too – I agree that I would rather see more diversity in all books – it is so refreshing to see modelled shots of samples for bigger laydees – I am in love with the Hot Cocoa jacket and I could see myself buying it just for that – though that Noro cardigan might just stop me!

  16. What a fulfilling review! And I agree absolutely with everything you’ve said (how often does that happen in real life, eh?), especially those dang pumpkin socks. I really think that’s what they were going for – pumpkins. Why? Thanks for the effort you’ve put into this; it is much appreciated!

  17. bluekelebek

    Pretty much sums up my feelings about the book. Peapod sweater and the Noro one did make me do a double take. But there were enough things in the book that I decided to buy it. I love the no wrap one and the hot cocoa jacket. I also love the sweater on the cover. I will use the body measuring worksheet for myself.

  18. Great review! I’ve been on the fence about this book. I’ve looked through it at my LYS a couple of times, but left it behind in the end. I love the Susie Hoodie and the Bohus, but not enough to buy the book. Not now anyway. Thanks for the review!

    I can’t wait for Tweed. I have this in my shopping cart at KnitPicks right now. They’re having a 40% sale on all of their books. I have so many in my cart, I have to make some decisions soon. :)

  19. That 3000 yard creature should be called the Bobbled Behemoth!

  20. Thanks for the great and thorough review. I was baffled by the suitability of some of the patterns as well, and wondered about what all those bobbles were doing all over that lovely cardigan, why the cover sweater has that horizontal line of pattern right on the hips, and the hip ruffles as you mentioned. I also wonder if the lovely susie hoodie’s triangle-shaped bias back would make my bum look even bigger than it already is. Maybe a straight line at the back would be more flattering??

  21. Meg

    Anyone else see the Indian Summer socks and think of two ears of Indian Corn?

  22. eileen

    I find your review interesting and have a few comments of my own. I purchased More Big Girl Knits in order to knit the Susie Hoodie – I too loved the way the pattern looked on the model. I was dismayed to find that the chart for the cable portion of the pattern was wrong. I have since purchased another book of cable patterns in order to get the cable pattern correct. After two weeks of working the wrong cable pattern in every conceivable way (thinking that I was doing it wrong) I now have approximately 4 inches of the sweater completed by using the second purchased book. I am disappointed that I paid a considerable amount for the book and then had to buy an additional book in order to start the sweater. I now have lost some of my confidence in the pattern and hope this is the only mistake. I even noticed that the Big Girl Knits was out in paperback sooooo hoped that the pattern would have been corrected in that – unfortunately not. Just sending you my experience so far. My primary reason for making these comments is that someone who does not have my determination may decide to purchase this book and be discouraged as a result of spending a substantial amount of money both for the book and the raw materials and not be able to complete the sweater.

  23. debbie stoehr

    I fell in love with the pink and purple felted bag

    i am trying to make it as we speak

    I cannot find 32 inch circulars needles am now trying to use 2 -24 inch and i guess it wont join

    the pattern did not tellme how many stitches would be on the needles in total
    and why would i do 8 rows before purling my corners
    am i not getting this