Enter Martin Storey's new book, Nordic Knits: 29 Stylish Small Projects (St. Martin's Griffin 2010; MSRP $24.99, available via the link for $16.45 as of the time of this writing). Martin Storey is one of my favorites, part of that prolific yet always elegant set of designers who work with Rowan Yarns. In Nordic Knits, Storey focuses on projects inspired by the great knitting traditions of northern Europe. Storey notes in the introduction that his love of Nordic knitting, which he defines as knitting inspired by the traditions of Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Baltic countries, and Great Britain and the islands surrounding it, is based on:
firstly their inherent love of good-quality natural yarns, and secondly their abiding interest in textural stitch patterns, along with a great appreciation of wonderful rich yet soft colors.
Storey then goes on to briefly discuss stranded colorwork and cabled knitting, both hallmarks of the Nordic tradition (these are brief overviews, not how-to sections.) The book then moves right on to the patterns. A two-page section at the end illustrates the basics of colorwork knitting, and the book concludes with two pages of miscellaneous information (sizing, gauge, abbreviations and the like).
What about the patterns, you say? Well, the patterns are all presented together, rather than divided into categories or sections. There are 29 total, and as the title promises, most are smaller items -- accessories, some vests, but no long-sleeved cardigans or pullovers (except for one cropped shrug).
First up is a set of four coordinating patterns; I say "coordinating" because they all use the same or similar bands of stranded patterning. The Astrid hat, legwarmers, scarf and vest are all knit with Rowan Felted Tweed, with an emphasis on the warm red and lovely blue-green used as main colors.
Next is a set of four coordinating patterns featuring cablework. Mitten, scarf, hat and socks are all knit in creamy off-white Rowan Wool-Cotton.
The remaining patterns are about evenly divided, with half of them home dec items: including a large textured floor cushion, a two-color stranded hot water bottle cover, 2 cushions, coffee cup covers, coordinating placemats, table runner and coasters with a snowflake theme, and another cushion.
The other half are garments and accessories, including a simple shrug in Kidsilk Haze, two colorwork bags, a stole with heart motifs, a stranded vest (Mr. Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat likes this one),
a coordinating pair of slouchy socks and a snood (or circular scarf/wimple), a very traditional-looking poncho or wrap, a messenger-style bag, a pair of stranded socks, a second pair of legwarmers (these in one color, with textural detail), and a scarf.
For those of you keeping track, there's only one pattern that specifically is called a man's pattern (the vest), but some of the other garments are shown being worn by both male and female models, like the Astrid accessories. That leaves open the possibility that male knitters could make and wear a few patterns other than the vest. Nine patterns are for home items, with the rest for the ladies. (Sorry parents: no kid stuff, either.)
Sizing for the Astrid vest goes from small (finished circumference of 35.5 inches) to large (finished circumference 43.5 inches); the shrug goes from small (35 inches finished bust) to extra-large (52 inches finished bust) and the men's vest ranges from 44.5 to 53.5 inches finished chest. The remaining garments are less size-conscious, either one-size-fits-most accessories or home items that don't require sizing.
The projects are all shown in lovely Rowan yarns, with the vast majority in Felted Tweed (and a few in Wool-Cotton), both of which are worsted-to-dk gauge; there's one item knit in fingering weight yarn (the stole), one in Kid Silk Haze (the shrug); and two patterns in Felted Tweed Chunky and one in Felted Tweed Aran.
You'll find schematics for the garments; black and white charts for the stranded colorwork; lots of enticing photographs (shot by John Heseltine); and an attractive layout that suits the Nordic theme.
Summing up, then, Nordic Knits is a very attractive book inspired by both the stranded and cable traditions of northern Europe -- and, it seems, by the rich colors and gentle flecks of Rowan Felted Tweed. You'll find smaller accessories and lots of home items here; not much joy if you want to knit full-size sweaters, knit lots of stuff for men, or are looking for children's items. But if stranded patterning, tweedy cables and small projects entice you, you'll want to take a look.
If you're in the mood for yarn, I've just listed a new base at the BBF shop: a luscious blend of 55% superwash blue-faced leicester and 45% silk -- fingering weight, with each skein a generous 430 yds/100g. Here are some teasers: