Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No-Bull Book Review: Knitting Classic Style, by Véronik Avery

All right, everyone, after an incredibly hectic two months or so, I'm back. I have finished my patterns and garments for the book -- and even got a sneak peek at the cover, which looks amazing -- and I've finished my sweaters for Reynolds, and right now I'm going to fiddle around with finishing some projects that have been lying around for a while, and starting a mindless but long overdue sweater for me, and dyeing until my fingers are rainbow-colored.

But since it's been way too long, let's roll out the new school year with a No-Bull Book Reviewtm of Knitting Classic Style: 35 Modern Designs Inspired by Fashion's Archives by Véronik Avery.

Regular readers know that Véronik Avery is one of my favorite designers and that I have quite the knitting crush on her. Regular readers also know of my admiration for the aesthetic of Melanie Falick, former Interweave Knits editor who is presently in charge of her own imprint of craft books at the publishing house Stewart Tabori and Chang. (We'll just forget Punk Knits ever happened, shall we, Mel?) Every once in a while, the knitting stars fall into the perfect alignment and wonderful things happen: such is Knitting Classic Style, born of Avery's talented design skills and Falick's eagle eye.

Knitting Classic Style is a hardcover, about 144 pages, with a MSRP of $27.50. Although I personally feel the book is worth every penny paying full freight, you can score it for $18.15 by clicking on the above link (at least as of the time of this writing). The book includes about 35 designs, mainly for women but with a handful for men and kids; most are sweaters, with a few accessories. The book contains numerous color photographs, shot with great style (by Sara Cameron) at various sites in and around Montréal. The book has a pleasing aesthetic, with models that are attractive (in the case of a certain actor-gentleman, with a smoldering sensuality) yet evoke a real-person feel. The type is easy to read, the pages sturdy. You'll enjoy leafing through the book as much as you will knitting from it.

The book begins with a charming introduction, paying homage to Avery's love of fashion: "I adore fashion. Costume history, fashion photography, sociological and anthropological works -- everything about fashion fascinates me." Her love of fashion comes through loud and clear, as she draws inspiration from such diverse influences as a Victorian corset cover, Elizabethan ruffled collars and Japanese obi, as well as more traditional sources of knitting inspiration -- Setesdal sweaters, twin sets, fisherman's sweaters -- in creating these contemporary yet classic designs.

As for patterns, the book is divided into four sections. First up is "Fashion Mavens," which draws inspiration from pieces that have, as Avery describes it, "made an impact on women's fashion throughout history." We see a patterned "corset cover" (you can wear it as a tank-type top or like a vest over another shirt);

a shell which uses knitting on the bias for shape and interest; a drawstring silk bag; a lace wrap cardigan; a twinset (with cabled cardigan and short-sleeve turtleneck with a geometric motif); a girl's A-line jacket; and a beret modeled on Basque headgear.

The second section is called "Tomboys," and was inspired by the influence of menswear. This section contains a his-and-her set of cardigans in rib stitches; the cover sweater, an aran knit from the top down with a decidedly untraditional fit; a silk tie; a child's pullover; argyle socks; an argyle vest;

a mohair scarf; and a military-inspired double-breasted jacket.

"Global Travelers" features designs inspired by ethnic and folk traditions around the world. You'll find beaded wristlets, bulky Afghan-inspired slipper-socks (hey, they'd make a great contribution to Afghans for Afghans or Children in Common, though you might not want to give them away), lovely lace socks with a split toe (for wearing sandals or thongs); a lovely shawl inspired by Orenburg lace; a scarf reminiscent of a Japanese obi; a patterned sweater inspired by Faroese fishermen's sweaters; Latvian fingerless mitts (oh, the colors! in 5 shades of Reynolds Whiskey);

long woolen gloves with a patterned cuff; a giant poncho.

Last is "Thrill Seekers," with styles that grew out of twentieth-century sporting attire. This section includes bicycle socks (with multiple versions); a fair isle cardigan (with set-in sleeves! Yahoo!);

a lovely yoked ski sweater-cardigan; a layered top; a hoodie with Setesdal colorwork; a zipped vest; a tuque (a traditional Quebecois hat); and a vest inspired by 1920s knit swimsuits.

Reviewing Avery's book is kind of eerie for me: it seems that all of the factors that I look for she has covered. Clear schematics and charts (in color)? Check. Skipping the "how to knit" pages in favor of more patterns? Check. Gorgeous photography that also clearly shows the garments' shaping and details? Check. Wide range of gauges and fibers? Check. (Everything from fingering weight to chunky, in wool, llama blend, cotton, silk and more.) Generous size ranges? Check. (Some patterns go down to size 32 and one to 29 1/2 inches finished chest; most go beyond 40-42 inches, many extending to 2XL sizes in the 50-odd inch ranges.) Patterns that are interesting to knit and yet very wearable? Check. Patterns featuring more-than-stockinette, including cabling, colorwork and lace? Check.

Holy crap: someone's finally been paying attention to my humble book reviews!

All you who grumble about books devoted Quik-N-EZ Patterns to Whip Out In A Weekend, those who love non-boxy shapes and an eye for color, knitters who regularly find Interweave Knits and Rowan/RYC a favorite source for patterns: Git yer butts to yon bookstore and get this book. I daresay most knitters will find something, and probably several somethings, that they'll want to knit from its lovely pages.

To Véronik, I say "Merci mille fois!"

Now let's get cracking on the sequel.


Stacey said...

this one is going on my library list for sure!

Kathy Merrick said...

Oh, yes. Veronik Avery--chic-est woman on the planet from one of the best cities on earth.
I have been waiting for this one for what seems forever.

I got dibs on the guy in the argyle vest.

Plus que mille fois!

Carol said...

Kath, I would like to see him WITHOUT the vest, too.

Although not in a speedo.

mindy said...

Oh yea, getting this one. Thanks for the review- always very detailed and well thought out.

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

I ran out to buy this and I hardly ever buy knitting books. Love V. Avery and love this book. Yes, a sequel!!

Lynne E. said...

Another terrific review! It's so nice to have a reviewer who gives honest opinions. What is the title of YOUR book? Who is the publisher? I always try to add a designer's first book to my knitting book collection, and I need to know what to look for!

Joan said...

Thank God a new blog entry finally pushed Speedoman off my computer screen. Now, off to Amazon...

fillyjonk said...

Thank you for your review. I'd considered buying the book "sometime" (or actually, putting it on my "I want it for Christmas" list), but after reading your review, I ordered it today.

Especially since it sounds so technically well-done. It bugs me when books don't have schematics and good charts and stuff like that.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing.

Marilyn said...

For the cover sweater alone, I would buy it. I've yet to see a fugly Veronik design and I'll be getting this book asap. Thanks for the review, C. God knows I don't have the patience to do them. And you do them so well.

Steph said...

I bought it sight unseen and just got my copy last week -- love it esp that cover sweater -- definitely at the top of my queue.

Your review is spot-on.

Michelene said...

What do I love about this book? My daughters and I both like many of the sweaters--gotta love the look that can span a 20something gap.
That vest would look great on my son--and he could even wear it over a t-shirt!

mp said...

thanks on helping me decide about this book. I'm definitely heading out to buy it now.

Carol said...

Mine arrived yesterday and I completely agree. I tried not to add everything to my Ravelry queue!

Anonymous said...

Must be something wrong with me, because I found this one of no interest. Almost every pattern in the book reminded me of one I've already seen either in the magazines or on line. None of which shouted, "Knit me now!"

Ann said...

Great book review? Check.

Thanks Carol!

Sherry W said...

Oh gosh, I want the fingerless mitts NOW. It looks liek several other things I'll like as well so I can justify buying it.

I'm not hot on socks with thongs in general, but I realize that is a cultural bias.

Allison K. said...

I have to agree with Penny that I was not as thrilled as I had hoped to be with this book. There are a number of designs I'll put on my list, but none are compelling me to cast on NOW NOW NOW.

Melinda said...

Thanks for the review! I'll be on the lookout for the books!