Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blog Tour/Book Review: Reversible Knitting by Lynne Barr

UPDATE: See the entire blog tour schedule, with links here, and enter to win a free copy of Reversible Knitting... Wednesday's post by Grumperina is here.

I'm very happy to be a part of the Reversible Knitting blog tour, and it's nice to be able to tell you about a lovely hardcover book, with interesting techniques and designs, available just in time for the gift-giving season. Reversible Knitting: 50 Brand-New, Groundbreaking Stitch Patterns by Lynne Barr, with photographs by Thayer Allyson Gowdy (STC 2009), just arrived at a bookstore or yarn shop near you (or at Amazon.com, for $18.48 via the link as of the time of this writing; MSRP $29.99).

You might remember that Lynne Barr wrote Knitting New Scarves: 27 Distinctly Modern Designs just about two years ago; although I don't think I got a chance to review the book, I really liked the way that it presented some interesting and novel variations on the humble scarf. So I was pleased to see that Barr has published a second book. Reversible Knitting is quite different in several ways from Knitting New Scarves; it's bigger, for starters; instead of focusing on just one specific type of garment, it focuses on a knitting technique; it features both stitch patterns and patterns for finished designs; and it features the work of multiple designers, in addition to the original patterns of Barr herself.

Folded Scarf, designed by Lynne Barr

Why reversible? and why present both stitches and patterns for finished garments in this format?

Barr explains in her Introduction:

[W]hen my editor mentioned the possibility of creating a book of new reversible stitch patterns and projects, I was intrigued. Certainly I had thought about reversibility while I was working on the scarf book since reversibility is a relevant issue when creating scarves, but I wondered at first if I could come up with enough reversible stitch patterns to fill a book without relying on those that already appeared in other places. . . . Ultimately, my goal in writing this book is to add something different to the stitch pattern references that many knitters may already own, and offer exciting new patterns with a reversible twist. And as with Knitting New Scarves, I hope that what I offer here are some new ways of looking at knitting that will inspire you to explore and create unique designs of your own.
You'll find that Reversible Knitting is sensibly constructed to help you achieve these goals. The book begins, after the brief introduction, with a large variety of reversible stitch patterns -- fifty in all. The stitches are organized loosely into several sections, based on their structure: Faux Crochet (stitches that mimic the look of crochet stitches); Rows Within Rows (motifs that build vertically before moving to another motif or row in the pattern); Openwork; Divide & Combine (stitches are worked onto separate needles, then worked separately before the stitches are combined again onto the same needle); Picked Up (using picked-up stitches for decorative, rather than functional, purposes); and Double Knitting (creating colorwork patterns simultaneously on front and back sides). There are lots of clear, close-up photos of swatches, most showing both sides of the swatch, and additional charts & photos where necessary to illustrate a technique.

The remaining portion of the book is devoted to designs, a total of twenty, including designs by Barr herself, but also a cross-section of interesting designers: Pam Allen, Véronik Avery, Cat Bordhi, Teva Durham, Norah Gaughan and others. Reversible or two-sided stitchwork lends itself naturally to items like scarves and stoles, where either side may show in the wearing, yet you'll find only two scarf patterns and one wrap-shrug-type garment. Here are some of my favorites: the elegant simplicity of Véronik's reversible cardigan:

Lice Jacket

Norah Gaughan's funky & striking reversible cardigan;

Reverse Me

Eric Robinson's cap;

Flip Your Lid

and Teva Durham's Geometric Dress, a knockout for those with the figure to wear it (she said wistfully).

Geometric Dress

Other designs feature cut-out panels and other unique design elements, like these sock-thing-a-majigs:

The total breakdown of patterns is:
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 wrap/shrug
  • 4 cardigans/sweaters
  • 1 belt/sash
  • 1 hairband
  • 2 socks and 1 pr. thigh-high stockings
  • 1 bag
  • 3 vests
  • 2 sleeveless mini-dresses
  • and 2 caps.

All of the patterns are for adult women -- no kids', men's or home dec patterns here. Yarns mainly fall into the chunky and worsted range, along with wool/nylon/elastic sockweight yarn (used for all 3 footwear patterns), a lighter mohair blend, one sportweight, and some polar-weight. Sizing varies depending on the garment; scarves are obviously one size, but the bigger garments range from S/M/L to XS to XXL, with the size range depending in part on the method of construction, but several garments have sizes up through the mid-40s finished bust, with one of the dresses (not shown here) going up to a size with a 52.75" chest.

Two-Tone Vest, by Lynne Barr

The book itself is high quality: hardcover, lovely photographs (as usual, Gowdy does a great job creating photos that show the garments clearly and without a lot of distraction, beautifully lit, illuminating the textures and stitchwork of the various yarns and patterns), simple but classic styling, a nice section of additional techniques in the back that will help newer knitters, all the amenities we've come to rely upon with a STC book.

Double-Wrap Stockings by Debbie New

So if you're an adventurous knitter, or are seeking to expend your repertoire or play with some new techniques, Reversible Knitting is a worthwhile addition to your knitting library. It's not a typical pattern book, since it contains unusual methods of construction and less conventional designs, and it's not a typical stitch dictionary, since it focuses on some novel and admittedly more fiddly techniques. But the marriage of technique with some patterns illustrating them, with the ultimate aim of inspiring the knitter's creativity, works well. I'm glad there are designers like Lynne Barr out there willing to take us in new directions, and I'm glad that there are publishing companies willing to put out books that are a little different, that push the knitted envelope a bit.

All photos copyright 2009 Thayer Allyson Gowdy.

For more info on Reversible Knitting, see the STC blog.


Carol said...

This book is such a knockout! I love the Winding Path sweater too. I'm hoping to get the yarn for xmas...

Franklin said...

I'm waiting for this one to arrive chez moi. No patterns in it for me - but I am rabid to dig into the how-to. Thanks for your usual, brilliant overview.

soknitpicky said...

This book is amazing! I love the stitch patterns, and I'm *this* close to finishing the Winding Path sweater

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for yet another helpful book review. I might have thought this wasn't a book for me, but this will make me seek it out.
- Beth