Bliss is prolific, turning out at least one or two books a year, as well as several smaller booklets that go with her yarns. Her latest offering is Family Knits: 25 Handknits for All Seasons (St. Martin's Press), MSRP $29.95.
Family Knits is a hardcover book featuring really gorgeous photographs. It's got wider pages and more photos than most knitting books; sometimes it seems as though every page has a photo on it. The photography (by Tim Young) is a combination of the artsy -- close-ups of flowers and scenery -- and the practical -- multiple shots of each garment. In that respect, I think Bliss has improved upon prior books, which often showed dramatic shots of part of a garment that didn't give the knitter a good sense of certain of the design elements or overall structure. But in this book, we even see side-by-side shots of some garment, like this lovely cabled jacket:
At times, there are so many photographs, and so many that don't have anything to do with the knitting projects (full-page photographs with no knitting in them?), that it almost seems like too much. But given how lovely the book, and its photography is, that may be a very nit-picky quibble. Schematics are included for each garment, too, also an improvement upon some prior books which did not include schematics.
The patterns are organized into three chapters: Beach, Picnic and Country. These categories seem more editorial, a way to organize, rather than especially stylistic. The Beach section features a child's sweater with a textured sailboat motif; a child's hooded guernsey; this baby jacket with a front zipper:
a men's guernsey (although if you didn't mind the boxiness, it could very well be worn by a woman); a child's striped cardigan with contrasting button bands; a women's zipped jacket with a patterned yoke; a simple striped rollbrim baby cap; and a pretty "patchwork" aran jacket.
Picnic features a baby's ballerina-style wrap top; a child's long jacket; a toddler sun hat with lace brim; a women's rib and cable cardigan; a men's (unisex?) cricket sweater, or what Americans might think of as a tennis sweater; a young child's fair isle cardigan (so fresh and pretty);
a women's wide-necked, buttoned, ribbed cardigan; and an A-line jacket.
The last section, Country, includes an interesting cable and rib sweater (I like the patterning of the ribs and cables in the front);
a cabled/bobble scarf; a child's seed-stitch beret; a men's (unisex?) zipped jacket; an adult fair-isle beanie; a child's seed-stitch jacket with zip and mittens; a lovely long cabled coat;
an aran bag; and a cute pair of lacy socks.
If you like Debbie Bliss's style, you are likely to want to make these patterns. The cabled garments in particular are quite lovely, the pink fair isle jacket is adorable, and the adult garments are a mix of some classic and some more contemporary styles. It's hard for me to be objective about them, since I've always loved Bliss' design sensibility. If I had one major criticism, it's that there is a certain same-i-ness about some of the designs compared with her previous books. Take a look at these two brown seed/moss-stitch sweaters (oh, the poor test knitters! I feel for you, ladies):
(the top one is from a prior book)
The cricket sweater on the bottom is from a previous book.
This may well be a function of owning pretty much every book Debbie Bliss has ever published, or how prolific she is, but I do sometimes feel like I've seen some of these designs or design elements before.
To sum up, the breakdown of patterns is as follows:
- 6 kid's sweaters
- 2 baby sweaters
- 3 men's/unisex sweaters
- 2 child's hats
- 8 women's sweaters
- 1 baby hat
- 4 adult accessories (bag, hat, scarf and socks)
- and a child's mitten pattern.
Sizing is all over the map. A few of the accessories come in one-size-fits-most. The baby sizing is generous, and runs from 3-6 months through 12-18 or 18-24 months. The kids' patterns seem to be divided into preschool patterns (say, 2/4/6 yrs) and a few for elementary-age kids (say, 3-4/5-6/7-8/9-10 yrs). Some of the more complex patterns, like the long cabled jacket, are shown in two size ranges, 32 to 38/40 to46, which will lead to imprecise fit for some people. Others are written in a more traditional range, like 36-38/38-40/40-42/44-46. In the past, some of the Bliss books only went up to around 40 inches, so it's nice to see some more sizes added to make the patterns available to more knitters.
All of the designs are shown in Debbie Bliss yarns, but could easily be substituted.
All in all, I'd say this is a good, solid collection of wearable patterns from a very talented designer. If you -- like me -- are a Bliss fan, you'll want to pick this one up. I've already got my eye on one of the jackets for me...