Daily Archives: October 28, 2010

Book Review: Stitch n’ Bitch Superstar Knitting

Spoiler alert: I think this book is awesome.

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I took up knitting not long after the first Stitch n’ Bitch manual was published, so all of my knitting life has been in the contemporary landscape that includes this series of books. Knitters have no shortage opinions about them – something that Debbie Stoller address directly in her introduction to this new addition to the series. Many people reacted to the heavily modernized and youthful trappings of the craft as presented in these manuals, others celebrated them as a revival. And I don’t know whether it’s possible to say whether the Stitch n’ Bitch books were responsible for the resurgence in the popular profile of knitting in the last decade, but the books have certainly happened alongside it.

Truth be told, I’ve been a bit ambivalent about the series myself. I’ve knitted one or two things from the earlier volumes but never spent a great deal of time with them because once my knitting ambitions took to things like cables and design and socks and colour-work and so forth, there wasn’t as much in the early books to tempt me. However, I still refer to the original Stitch n’ Bitch as a solid source for general knitting technical know-how, especially for new knitters. These are not just pattern books. If you’re on the look out for a solid, non-web-based, can-read-it-whenever-wherever-you-want set of pages on basic knitting steps and don’t want to pay a fortune for it, it’s a pretty great option. This, in essence, is how I feel about this latest volume, Stitch n’ Bitch Superstar Knitting, but applied to advanced techniques – like cables, colour-work, beading, intarsia, lace, bobbles, and more.

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Let’s take steeks, for example. (You know, when you cut up your knitting on purpose. If steeking is new to you and need to go ahead and look that word up to check, I’ll wait.) I’ve had the chance to teach a few local classes on steeking, and it’s a pretty fun and empowering thing to know how to do. When I teach it I work with swatches, have people practice cutting steeks using 3 different methods of reinforcement (or un-reinforcement, as the case may be), and talk about the difference fiber content makes.

And then, at the end, I refer people to a collection of approximately eleventy thousand books, reference manuals, web tutorials and video clips on where to go for more help. It’s not that any one of these things is wrong – it’s just that it’s rare to find a comprehensive set of this information contained in the same location. This is partly because different sources tend to choose a specific focus, and others fill gaps as they become apparent. This is also because knitting, as a collection of knowledge, is constantly changing, which is the reason why you won’t find decades-old knitting manuals that tell you how to do things like a crochet steek reinforcement.

Stitch n’ Bitch Superstar Knitting, I dare say, makes a pretty good attempt at being a comprehensive technical manual, for many many different skills. When I got my review copy of this, I looked through it and had few expectations, but the more I flipped through it I kept thinking, “you know, this is a really good book.” And when I dropped by the local yarn shop and showed it to Bridget, she looked through it and said the same thing. Not only does it cover a lot of advanced techniques, but it covers each one well, in comfortable and accessible language.

It explains not just how to cable, but how to cable without a cable needle, something which is new enough not to be usually seen in printed books. It explains intarsia and how to work with different colours while working flat or in the round, and does such a thorough job at this that I might actually consider knitting something in intarsia. And then, because all the technical stuff isn’t enough, it goes on to a section explaining pattern construction and basic design elements – again, something that can be hard to find accessible support sources for – and then a collection of patterns to practice everything you’ve learned.

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The patterns are substantial. There are a lot of sweaters, which I love to see, as well as a variety of accessories like gloves, socks, and bags – even a dog coat. All of the projects use one or more of the skills addressed in the technical section. I think it’s worth having a flip through – it’s likely some of the patterns will depend on your own personal tastes, but there is incredible variety, and most of the patterns are worked in yarns that are widely available.

This is a super neat book. It’s on the side of knitting, knowledge, skill, and encouragement, and I can get behind all of these things.

I may yet offer this book up as a blog giveaway, but that will have to wait. I’ve got a few other book reviews coming up in the next month, and since my postage budget can only stretch so far, I may have to choose randomly.

In any case, happy knitting this Thursday! Catch you next time.

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