Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ten books of 2005 that I really like

One complaint that the irony-impaired often have about snide and sarcastic writing is how "mean" it all is. I can't give a better explanation of snide than Franklin's recent one (check his archives), but let me throw out there that the reason that I am snide and sarcastic is because I care. You can only get worked up about something if you care about the topic or some aspect of it; otherwise, you'd ignore it.

And because I care (aren't I special?), I do feel it's important to give credit where credit is due. There are a lot of knitting-related things out there that have given me great pleasure the past year, new books and yarns and designers and experiences. So let's start with some of the books released in 2005 that I have really enjoyed.

1. Loop-d-Loop, by Teva Durham. My knitting library consists, roughly, of three kinds of books: (1) books that explain techniques (say, Katharina Buss's Big Book of Knitting); (2) books containing patterns that I someday might make (pattern books by Debbie Bliss or Elsebeth Lavold, for example); and (3) books that give me some kind of inspiration, whether because of their use of color, interesting designs or whatever. Loop de Loop falls primarily into the third category, although I haven't ruled out trying some of the less trendoid, less revealing designs. Look at this wonderful asymmetrical fair isle:

This is not knitting that's fuzzy or fast or simple, to quote (or misquote) frequent flyer Michelene. But it is a pleasure to come across a designer who sees things in a different way, who refreshes and energizes her knitting and thereby inspires me to do the same.

2. Handknit Holidays, by Melanie Falick. I'm a huge Melanie Falick fan (even though she keeps rejecting book proposals from me, which I don't hold against her one bit but God, would it kill her to put one lousy pattern of mine in one of her frickin' books?). Handknit Holidays is a delightful book, one to savor. I love the endpapers that look like holiday wrapping paper, I love the wide variety of projects, I love the photography, I like the mix of well-known and less-well-known designers. And I really love the bohus-inspired sweater by Veronik Avery (who I've heard has a book coming out in 2007 - excellent news).

3. Vintage Socks, by Nancy Bush. Is all this gushing frightening you? Well, put on your hipwaders, because I really, really like Nancy Bush. I love the way she takes inspiration from ethnic and folk knitting, and now, vintage patterns. I love that her books are now spiral-bound. I love that her patterns are technically interesting. I love that she uses fine quality yarns and that her knitting isn't always fast or easy but always lovely.

4. Alter Knits, by Leigh Radford. This is a book that straddles the inspirational category and the pattern category. Gorgeous production values (it's that Melanie Falick again) and beautiful photography. Am I ever going to knit a crepe paper party crown? Nope. But I just might make the cream-colored scarf/wrap, the velvet-trimmed raglan or the mohair sweater. And I like the way the book encourages knitters to be creative, to play with their knitting, to use "mixed media" and to strike out a little on their own.

5. Hats Gloves Scarves by Louisa Harding. A nice collection of accessories, interesting (for the most part) without being so challenging I'll never get around to making them. Here's a nice pair of long gloves

and a colorful fair isle hat:

6. Sensational Socks, by Charlene Schurch. If this is the first sock-knitting book you buy, you might not buy another one for a long time. A wide variety of patterns sized for multiple gauges.

7. The Opinionated Knitter, by Elizabeth Zimmerman. So many people rave about Elizabeth Zimmerman, and this book shows you why. EZ had a way of writing that sounded like she was speaking to you, frank, self-deprecating, amusing. I remember the first time I read "Knitting Without Tears" and feeling a surge of happiness that someone else felt as passionately about knitting as I do. Some of her patterns look a bit dowdy,

and some of the styling details need updating, but her writing is a pleasure. And she knew a hell of a lot about knitting.

8. Wrap Style, by Pam Allen & Ann Budd. Another winner from the Interweave Knits folks. A true sign of a good design book: even though I'm sick to death of ponchos, ponchettes, capelets, shrugs, and any other chopped-off, sleeve-impaired garment, I still enjoy seeing patterns like this:

9. Modular Knits, by Iris Schreier. This book has instructions for all sorts of modular knitting. I'm not sure I'll make any of the patterns, some of which are hideous (or am I swayed by the model's bizarro haircut? and WTF is up with those Mr. Spock eyebrows? do you think she has pointed ears under that hair? but I digress)

and some of which are less than hideous, but I'm interested in playing with some of the techniques and adding them to my knitting arsenal.

10. Museum Quilts, by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy.

I don't quilt, or at least not well, but this book sure makes me want to try. (Maybe when the kids are older...) Regardless of my lack of quilting prowess, this book is inspirational because of its glorious use of color and design. Just leafing through the pages makes we want to play with color and texture. (And if you really want a jones for fabric, go to Liza's website. Yowsa!)

You know, there's still time to send your doofus of a brother or your long-suffering-but-perhaps-not-quite-adequately-appreciative-of-all-you-do spouse out to pick up one or two of these before Christmas or Hannukah or Festivus (for the rest of us) is over...


Anonymous said...

I thank you for the nice plug but the Fassett book that I think belongs on your list is Kaffe's Pattern Library. I LOVE IT. I get quilt color inspiration from that book. It is a compilation of 20 + years of Kaffe's repeat patterns and colorways.
Happy Festivus

Unknown said...

Yes, yes, yes. Liza is so right. As much as I love their quilt books, there's nothing more apropos for color and knitting inspiration than Kaffe's Pattern Library.

I tend to shy away from books that are strictly design-oriented because I prefer technical books. I don't need all those patterns. However, I love Nancy Bush's books. Don't own any of the others and won't buy 'em either, other than perhaps Teva Durham's book. I like that Fair Isle. Can't wait for Veronik's book. Now that will be a good one.

Festivus sounds like a putrifying wound.

Unknown said...

To clarify what I said above, since upon re-reading it, it sounds contradictory: I don't generally buy books with garment designs.

There. Now it's clearer. More coffee. I need more coffee.

Ann said...

I see a few books from my library, a few books from my Amazon wish list and some new books that I need to explore. Living out in the middle of BFE there aren't many large bookstores nearby to browse some of these books before buying.

Maybe Santa has an Amazon gift certificate to tuck in my stocking this year. I have been a very good girl--well, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. There are no actual photos of my adventures unless you count the ivory zulu queen photos!



Susan (ZenKnit) said...

Great list and my checkbook is happy to say that I have almost all of them. The Hats, Scarves, Gloves is new to me. Have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

EZ's last name is spelled Zimmermann -- I see it spelled wrong a lot, even in published knitting books, so you're hardly the first or last to think it's -man instead of -mann. :)