Book Review: Tweed

There are times when I get books for review and can’t wait to tell you about them. A Fine Fleece and The Knitter’s Book of Yarn are a couple of recent examples of this. Not only did I drool over them as I flipped through the pages but they are two books that still take up occasional residence on my nightstand for project planning and stash shopping.

And then there are other times when I get a book and am so mystified as to what to write about it, that it just sits there on my desk for months as I endlessly say “I’ll get to that review next week.” Tweed is one of these books. I’ll admit that this isn’t my favourite knitting book I’ve received, but the thing is it does have a few strong points, and it deserves to be written about just like any other book that comes across my desk.

Photobucket

I’m going to start out with what I think are this book’s flaws, because I think they are fairly significant and hard to ignore. The first is that the patterns are, essentially, a big enormous advertisement for Takhi/Stacy Charles Yarns. All of the projects use yarns by this company, most predominantly Takhi Donegal Tweed and Takhi Soho Tweed. Now, these are lovely yarns to be sure, and I know it’s not uncommon for books to favour certain yarn purveyors in a single collection. But in this case the book promises its scope to be about tweed yarns, which don’t belong to one single company. It’s true that Donegal tweed carries much of the historical legacy of tweed, but many yarns now achieve or imitate the tweed effect, and it would be refreshing to be able to compare the different looks of different yarn companies’ versions of tweed. Heck, when even priced-to-own labels like Patons, Elann, and Knit Picks now all offer tweed versions of their popular yarns, it’s safe to say that tweed is no longer the domain of one company. There’s a big missed opportunity here to compare and contrast.

My second gripe with this book is the way it uses tweed yarns in combination with each other, specifically the way the patterns combine different colours. Maybe I’m missing something, and if these are patterns y’all would make happily then please correct me if I’m wrong – but something’s not working for me in a few of these samples:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Folks, I just don’t know about these. With this many colours used in combination in a single piece, how is it possible to still celebrate the tweedy qualities of any single one? It seems to me that in a piece like the Hebrides Sampler Throw (middle), a more muted colour range would do more to show off an individual yarn’s texture and stitch quality.

But the thing is, I just can’t deep-six this book altogether, in fact I think I’ll be passing it on to a friend of mine who is a relatively new knitter, and there are two big high points that explain why. The first is that the opening chapters really do provide a concise and interesting history of what ‘tweed’ really is – in both fabric and yarns. Did you know, for example, that the little colourful flecks are also called “nepps” or “burrs”? and that they were originally inspired by the bright colours found in the natural landscape, to provide contrast to the naturally gray, brown and off-white shades of the sheepswool? Call me a knitting geek, but that kind of information is sort of cool.

Photobucket

Aside from a bit of knitting history, the book approaches knitting and working with yarn in general from a perspective that would be very useful for a new knitter. There are explanations of how to care for woolen yarns, how to felt, and how to substitute yarns. All of the projects make use of yarns which are worsted, aran, or bulky weight, which makes it pretty darned easy to find substitute yarns for the projects involved, in case your pocketbook or local selection can’t supply the prescribed Takhi collection.

My favourite knitting medium is sweaters, and there are few in here that I love. They are simple but interesting, modern enough to fit into your current wardrobe, and not too intimidating for someone new to cables. The Moss Cabled Cardigan and Scottish Isles Pullover are two examples:

Photobucket Photobucket

I also rather like the ‘Kilt Bag’ knitting bag pattern (above), which would be pretty useful as a project for small quantities of similarly weighted yarns.

So all in all I think this book comes down to personal preference – whether or not you like the patterns, and whether your tweed love is enough to make the history pieces worthwhile. For me, some of the patterns do have merit and practicality, and tend to include a wide range from 36-50″ bust size of the finished garments, which is a non-negligible plus. But I was disappointed not to see more variety of yarns in the samples, and for a book which promises to hold “contemporary designs to knit”, I’d like to call for a review of some of the more questionable ones, above. Contemporary does not automatically mean ‘colourful’.

This book has been on the market for a few months, so I’d be curious to hear from anyone else who has used it or read it.

What knitting books are on your bedside table right now?

About these ads

10 Comments

Filed under book review

10 responses to “Book Review: Tweed

  1. thanks for the review. i don’t care for the way they combined those colors in the first several projects you illustrated, either, though the bag is not so bad. thought the solid pieces were fine though. sadly, i have no knitting books on my bedside table. but hope to soon!

  2. Jen

    I was also disappointed by this book, mostly by the patterns like the ones that you show– they are really not my cup of tea. And I LOVE tweeds, so I thought it would be so much more! Also, I think Nancy Thomas works for TSC, so it’s more like buying a Rowan book than just a typical pattern book. It’s really more like pattern support…

  3. I see that Jen already beat me to the punch, but I was going to say that Nancy Thomas is the Creative Director at Tahki, that’s why all the patterns use their yarns!

    I think there are several very knitable patterns in there, but nothing that blows my sock off or differentiates this from the many other mid-range knitting books hitting the market these days . . .

    Although I have to say that TSC’s patterns are some of the best-written in the industry, and that’s a huge plus — I’ve knit quite a bit from their pattern books and I have literally NEVER found an error. Assuming they used the same team to edit this book (and why wouldn’t they?), one can expect the same level of care and accuracy in the instructions. And we all know you can’t take that for granted, ever! =)

  4. I do like that little bag and I think in part due to there being a more balanced feel with the colours. cute… I really DO like it.
    Ditto with the cardi and pullover but the rest shown, not so much.
    I wouldn’t purchase this book but I’d certainly check it out of the library given that it’s in the system.

    EZ is always at my bedside. always.

  5. Elinor

    What a good review! I admire you for being willing to identify both the product placement and the fug. We need more of that kind of honesty about patterns and yarns.

  6. kateohkatie

    Thanks for hte awesome review! Love the last two sweaters, but everything else leaves me pretty cold. Looks like a book to pick up if it’s on sale (and if I think of it, while it’s on sale).

  7. Moggle

    I’m not a fan of the multi-coloured tweed projects – ew. The red jumper is quite nice though.

  8. Huh – a good honest review though – greatly appreciated as I had thought about getting this book as I loooove tweed!

  9. barb

    I enoyed the beginning of the book a lot………..but I’m having more than alittle difficulty finding the yarn.

  10. Pingback: Recent Links Tagged With "hebrides" - JabberTags