Silk Knits is a paperback, 95 pages long, with lots of color photos and twenty patterns.* The retail price -- $27.95 – seems high to me, but at this writing, you could score it on Amazon for less than twenty dollars. (I wonder if the pumping-up of the MSRP, which I've noticed often lately, is a way to compensate for the discounts that retailers like Amazon.com regularly provide.)
I was charmed by the dedication, which features a vintage photograph of the author, her mother and her grandmother (all named Elaine). I liked the first section – though it was brief, less than ten pages of text – which talks about silk: its characteristics, a brief history of silk, how to swatch with silk, explanations of the various types of silk. This section contains some good, practical tips for working with silk yarns.
The remainder of the book consists of twenty patterns, which for the most part, did not appeal to me. The table of contents suggests that the patterns are divided according to seasons, but they are (oddly, I think) not presented in four separate chapters, but rather randomly, with small icons in the bottom corner to tell you that, say, the sleeveless top is for summer. The patterns consist of two shells, three cardigans (one with a rolled neck, one knit side-to-side to form vertical stripes (the cover pattern), the third oversized), four vests (a rib vest knit circularly thus forming a huge bull’s-eye on the back -- oh, the Lyme Disease rash flashbacks;
a ribbon-yarn vest worn like a shell, a slip-stitch vest and a textured vest); four pullovers (one yoked, two textured, one with an asymmetric tab closure), a simple stole (not knitted in lace), a shrug, a poncho, a mobius scarf/neckwarmer, a lace shawl and a scarf/hat combination.
In the introduction, the author writes “I don’t believe in complicated knitting,” and to be quite frank, it shows. Simple isn't necessarily bad, but very little about these patterns was unique or interesting to me (with the exception of the circularly-knit rib vest, which is creative). You’ll see a fair bit of dropped shoulders, not a lot of shaping, and so on; for example, here's the oversized cardigan, which doesn't have anything particularly unique about it and adds visual pounds.
I liked the use of the eyelets in the yoke of this sweater
and this is a lovely lace shawl -- by far the most complex and original pattern in the book.
The sensibility is directed, I think, toward a certain demographic of middle-aged women, and I think younger and more fashion-conscious knitters will find few "must-make" garments.
The yarn selection is odd: I had hoped for more attention devoted to knitting pure or mostly silk yarns and tapes that challenge knitters with their slipperiness and potential for sagging. But many of the designs are done in yarns that merely have silk content: for example, Garnestudio’s Silke Tweed (about half silk, half lambswool) – and some of the yarns used have less than a third silk content. If the book is devoted to the challenges and joys of knitting with silk, I’m not sure it adds anything to include, say, a pattern in Noro’s
When it comes to sizing, the finished bust measurement for the patterns varies from a minimum of 33 inches to a maximum of 60 inches (for the oversized cardigan), a very generous range, but not all designs include all sizes. There are schematics, a few charts, and some helpful text boxes with tips (like doing an intarsia join). There are lots of color photographs, including some good clear shots of each design. The patterns themselves are remarkably short and (except for the lace shawl) quite simple and direct. You know what I always say: when it comes to patterns, it all comes down to your taste. These patterns weren't mine, but they may be yours.
Silk can be a tough fiber to knit with, although its sheen, softness and drape are superlative. Those who haven't worked much with pure silks may find the introductory sections helpful, but I would not buy this book sight unseen; you'll need to judge for yourself whether you like the patterns enough to invest in it.
*Eskesen did not design all the patterns; the work of several other designers is featured, too.