Generations of knitters have been inspired by Walker's work, including NYC resident and knitting designer Kristy McGowan. When McGowan finally immersed herself in "Knitting from the Top," after years of putting it off based on her belief that it was too difficult, she describes the profound effect it had on her knitting:
I quickly discovered that not only were no elaborate skills required, but the ideas were exciting and revelatory, forcing me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about garment construction.McGowan wrote a letter to Walker, and eventually found herself visiting Walker at her Florida home, looking at photographs of Walker's knitted projects and discussing knitting. McGowan channeled her enthusiasm for Walker's work into a design approach, and spent much time, as she herself puts it, "mining Walker's book for ideas" using the top-down approach. McGowan presents the fruits of her labor, 26 projects inspired by Walker's work in Modern Top-Down Knitting: Sweaters, Dresses, Skirts & Accessories Inspired by the Techniques of Barbara G. Walker (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2010). I'm pleased to be part of the Modern Top-Down Knitting Blog Tour today.
The overall message was an empowering one: measure yourself, dive in, look at your work, think as you go, and take control of your knitting. All of this was new to me and made great sense.
McGowan begins with about 10 pages of introductory material, discussing the methodology of her top-down projects. All but one of the sweaters is worked using Walker's seamless set-in sleeve template, and McGowan describes the benefits of this approach. Next she illustrates the provisional cast-on (necessary for this type of garment structure), covers the basics of short rows (in particular, using them to create shoulder shaping), and gives some tips for creating set-in sleeves using her approach. There are lots of photographs to help the knitter decipher these techniques.
Next up is the project section. And since this is the meat of the book -- over 100 pages -- let's take a good look. The projects are all contained in one large section, so perhaps it makes sense to look at them in categories. For those of you keeping track, the breakdown of projects looks like this:
- 6 dresses
- 2 tunics
- 2 sets of armwarmers
- 2 jackets/cardigans
- 2 pullovers
- 2 skirts
- 1 cowl
- 1 wrap
- 1 belt
- 1 set of knitted jewelry.
The Feather Dress features a wide v neckline and poufy 3/4 length sleeves, there's a wrap dress in luscious gray Shelridge Farm wool,
while the beige dress shown on the cover features crochet embellishment to mimic the look of seams (ironic that in a book devoted to seamless knitting, the dress uses fake seams as a design element, no?).
The Cafe Tunic is a piece that could be worn as a long sweater over pants or the dreaded "jeggings," or as a dress with tights or even legwarmers. The Seaport Skirt, one of two skirts, features a cabled pattern reminiscent of fish scales (or mermaid tails...),
while the Chrysler Skirt features a chevron motif (ah, to be young and free of cellulite enough to wear knitted skirts).
There are four sweaters in the book (excluding the tunics and dresses), two of which are pullovers,
and two of which are jackets or cardigans:
Of the remaining projects -- nearly all accessories -- my favorite is the Keffiyeh Wrap, which uses a striking color combination and an interesting stitch pattern (though not really a knit-in-the-round item):
Other options include the Accordion Cowl
the Mulberry Hat,
slippers, and knitted "jewelry."
The pattern section is followed by a ten-page section on finishing, and the book closes with abbreviations, yarn sources, glossary and so on.
When it comes to technical stuff, you'll find all the usuals from our friends at STC: lots of clear yet stylish color photos by Gudrun Georges that capture the urban sensibility of the garments perfectly, schematics, generous size ranges running from XS or 2XL through (in most cases for the sized garments) 2XL, lovely layouts, and a variety of high-quality natural fibers shown for the samples. This is a hardback book, approximately 160 pages long, retailing for $27.50 and available for $18.10 as of this writing, through the link above.
Summing up: Modern Top-Down Knitting is a great choice for fans of knitting-in-the-round, and those who love knitting top-down with its ability to try on as you go -- especially knitters who are interested in experimenting with this technique, but would rather follow a pattern than crunch the numbers themselves. Fans of Barbara Walker's work may also enjoy seeing an assortment of patterns, large and small, inspired by her work. Dress-lovers will rejoice at the number of knitted dresses and tunics in Modern Top-Down Knitting, while fans of McGowan's pared-down urban style will find appealing accessories and other garments.
Win a copy of Modern Top-Down Knitting!
Thanks to the generosity of Stewart Tabori & Chang, I have a copy of Modern Top-Down Knits to give away to a lucky reader! Just leave a comment and I'll pick a random commenter to win a free copy of the book. (I moderate comments to avoid spam, so if you don't see your comment appear immediately, be patient!) I'll draw the name Wednesday, Dec. 1st at noon EST.
Next stop on the blog tour: Visit the lovely Narrating Life, November 30th, link here. Or for full details on all the blog tour stops, check out the STC blog here.