Monday, October 05, 2009

No-Bull Book Review: One More Skein, by Leigh Radford

I am horrendously overdue on book reviews, and now that the fall season is really underway, new books are being released at a furious pace. I'm going to try to catch up a bit, so let's get started with one of the new releases from Stewart Tabori & Chang: One More Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit by Leigh Radford (MSRP $19.95; available for $13.57 by clicking on the link).

Leigh Radford has already written some must-have books for knitters. I really enjoyed Alterknits (STC 2005) and the sequel, AlterKnits Felt (STC 2008); both were stylish, creative and beautifully presented. Radford's previous small-project book, One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit or Crochet (STC 2006) was extremely popular for its quick-knitting yet fashionable projects that, as the title suggests, only require a single skein of yarn to complete. So it's not a big surprise that Radford chose to write a sequel.

Nash's Garter-Stitch Baby Sweater

One More Skein has a lot in common with its predecessor: thirty projects, all knitting, nearly all for small (meaning no adult sweaters) projects.* But Radford discusses in the introduction how enrollment at art school has changed her design sensibility somewhat:
Early on in my classes I began exploring how I might incorporate knitting into my paintings, for example, by knitting my own canvas out of laceweight linen. And now when I review the collection of projects that I've put together for this book, I clearly see that what I am learning in art class is seeping into and re-energizing my knitting.
Radford notes that while her first book included only projects that could be completed with one skein of yarn, One More Skein takes a less restrictive approach, allowing projects knit with one or two skeins of yarn (again, the single exception is the afghan, which is made from multiple leftover balls of yarn in many colors).

Radford divides the projects into four chapters; let's take a closer look at them.

"Put It On," as the name implies, contains an assortment of adult wearables: the ubiquitous fingerless gloves, an earflap cap, a lightweight linen cap with ribbon embellishment, a felted wool/alpaca cuff or bracelet, a bulky cowl, a smart-looking men's scarf knit in other-way-around rib;

Horizontal Rib Scarf

two versions of a striking "circle and stripe" scarf (a regular scarf and a shorter "cravat" version), and a jewelry set of necklace, braclet and earrings.

"Dress Up Baby" contains six quick-knitting items for babies: knit pants (thank you from the bottom of my heart for not calling them "soakers"; nothing puts me off my breakfast like the image of urine-soaked wool), a charming garter-stitch baby sweater with a tab closure, a cute (if impractical) "capelet", which is a kind of wrap designed to slip over baby's head, without sleeves or other closures,

Sadie's Capelet

another pair of baby pants, a mohair baby kimono, and a pair of "baby legwarmers."

"Take It With You" contains patterns for simple bags: drawstring gift bags, a sling tote or purse,

Summer Satchel

a small accessory bag with a zipper and lining, a felted bag/purse, a silk ribbon clutch, and a felted handbag (my favorite in this chapter).

Connected Squares Felted Handbag

The last chapter, "Make Your House A Home," contains home dec items: a cute nubby felted cat toy (gorgeous cat in the photo, by the way), a hot water bottle cover, a button-cover pillow designed for filling with dried lavender and rice (Radford microwaves hers for an alternative to a heating pad), a patchwork blanket made from leftover balls and odds and ends of worsted weight yarn, pillow covers, a pleated "vase sleeve" (Radford instructs you to slip it over a plain vase for a new look),

Pleated Vase Sleeve

small felted bowls, linen placemats, and a linen serving tray (fabric stiffener is used to make the tray sturdy enough to hold items).

Basic Pillows

As usual, all the technical aspects of the book are top-notch, including lots of lovely yarnie photos by photographer John Mulligan. The book just teems with color and beautiful images of yarn; even the inside covers include full-color yarn pr0n shots. Most projects are shown in more than one photo, and some are shown in different colors and variations (e.g. long and short versions of the fingerless gloves), which isn't always feasible when a book contains highly complex or labor-intensive projects, but is a terrific bonus when the book contains smaller projects. The layout (by Anna Christian) is elegant and coordinates beautifully with the projects. There are a few schematics and charts where appropriate, but most of the projects are small and simple enough not to need them. The back of the book contains a few special techniques, like how to knit I-cord, and instructions for felting.

Circle & Stripe Scarf

Looking at the tallies, you'll find 30 projects, broken down into 6 baby items; 14 items for adults (mostly women); and 10 home dec items. Baby items are mainly sized for tots one year and under. The adult items (no, not THOSE kind of adult items, you perves) vary; the earflap hat is thoughtfully written in a wide range of sizes from XXX-Small to Large (a size for everyone in the family!), the fingerless gloves come in S/M/L, and so on, with many, like scarves, not requiring sizing. The yarns used in the book tend to worsted weight and thicker, and range from workhorse wools like Cascade 220 to luxury ones like Alchemy Bamboo.

So should you buy this book? If your book budget is limited, I'd suggest considering two things. First is the simple question of whether the patterns, lovely as they are, are to your taste. Second, think about the kind of knitter you are. If you want sweater patterns, well, there aren't any in here. If your stash consists of lots of skinny yarns, these patterns won't work unless you alter size or knit your stash double-, even triple-, stranded. If you like really complex or technically challenging knitting, again, that's not what these projects are designed to provide. On the other hand, if you are looking for some simple but elegant ways to knit up your stash, want some inspiration for holiday gift-knitting, and/or like easy and quick-knitting projects, you'll probably be very pleased with One More Skein.

*There is one large project, an afghan designed to use up leftover balls of worsted-weight yarn.


Sarah said...

Thank you for the great review! It can be hard to decide between knitting books, especially when you are shopping online, and a review like this is very helpful.

Karen said...

Great review on a wonderful knitting book.
Just purchased, and glad I did. I'm impressed with the various patterns and want to get started on my holiday knitting right away.