Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No-Bull Book Review: More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson

A few years ago, Joelle Hoverson, she of the wonderful NYC yarn shop Purl Soho, brought us the charming Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (STC 2004). This fall, she has written a sequel, called (appropriately enough) More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2010; MSRP $27.50; available as of this writing via the link for $18.15). Let's take a No-Bull peek inside...

More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts is, like its predecessor, a hardback book, full of gorgeous color photos by Anna Williams. Like its predecessor, it contains a selection of projects organized by how much time the project takes to knit (approximately, of course). And like its predecessor, you'll find projects that, generally speaking, are approachable rather than complex, the basic made beautiful by being knit in gorgeous natural yarns like Koigu, Spud & Chloe and Jade Sapphire.

Entrelac Baby Blanket

Hoverson begins with a few introductory notes. She sets out what is essentially the mission statement of the book: "[T]here is nothing more satisfying than creating something beautiful and thoughtful without having to labor over it for an extended period of time." She suggests that knitters use yarn choice as a means to personalize the gift for its recipient, briefly discussing color, fiber, texture and embellishment as ways to do so. The last chapter of the book covers ways to wrap your handknit (and other!) gifts -- using a simple premade pouch, opting for a simple box then using strand after strand of leftover yarn, using buttons on gift tags and as part of the wrapping.

In between these sections are the patterns, a total of 30 (not counting variations). First up are "Less-than-two-hour gifts," six projects that are quick to knit and are certainly good choices for less experienced knitters. You'll find a coffee-cup sleeve; a holiday ornament; a pointy elf hat (conveniently sized for the whole family, so that Mom and Dad can wear an elf cap, too); a pyramid-shaped sachet holder; a seed-stich bracelet with button closure; and a linen-stitch bookmark.

Reusable Coffee-Cup Sleeve

Next are the "Two-to-four-hour gifts," again six of them. These items are a teeny bit more complex than those in the prior chapter, but still fall on the basic side: knitted baskets, a small scarf with an opening for one end to pull through, itty-bitty baby socks; a baby bonnet; a chunky lace scarf; ribbed hats sized for every member of the family.

Big Lace Scarf

The "Four-to-six-hour gifts" -- once again, six projects -- may take a bit longer than previous chapters, but are still pretty basic in skill level: fingerless gloves knit sideways, a set of simple coasters, a stuffed toy house with embellishment; mittens with a brioche-stitch cuff; a seat cushion made of I-cord in bulky yarn; a charming baby cardigan.

Easy Baby Cardigan

"Six-to-eight-hour gifts" features a simple beret; a child's vest with duplicate-stitch initial on the front; fingerless gloves shown in a plain and cabled version; a floaty scarf, knit in the round with mohair yarn; a baby blanket knit from the center out, with colorful nesting squares; and a simple roll-neck pullover sized for the whole family and knit in the round.

Very Pretty Lace Scarf

My favorite projects are definitely found in the "More-than-eight-hour gifts" chapter (you guessed it -- six projects total). The yoke-neck cardigan knit in a delicate shade of Koigu is one of those simple-yet-elegant patterns that beautifully matches the subtle color variations of semi-solid Koigu with clean lines and just enough detailing in the yoke without overwhelming the yarn.

Leah's Lovely Cardigan (designed by Leah Mitchell)

(If I ever have time to knit myself something again, this is at the top of the list.) The trio of cowl patterns combine ribbed patterns with elegant cashmere yarn and the men's zip-up vest is classic enough for a man's taste (although it would look great on women, too). The first pattern in the chapter, an entrelac baby blanket featuring bright colors of Lobster Pot bulky yarn, cheerfully reminds me of geometric quilt motifs. The chapter is rounded out by ribbed toe-up socks and another colorful blanket (this one much larger than baby-sized), knit with vivid stripes in the middle.

Bright Stripes Blanket

For those of you who like statistics, of the 30 patterns, I counted approximately 8 home items; three kid's items; five baby items; one men's garment; three items sized for the whole family; and the remainder (approximately ten items) for women. Of the women's items, the breakdown looks like this:
  • one sweater (the Koigu cardigan)
  • three scarf patterns and the cowl (three variations of it)
  • two fingerless gloves (one with 2 variations) & one pair of mittens
  • one bracelet
  • one beret.

Leah's Lovely Cardigan

The family items include roll-neck sweater, ribbed caps and socks, and possibly the men's zipped vest if you want to wear it as a unisex piece. Kids will make do with the elf hat and pullover vest, while babies can be clad in a bonnet, socks, cardigan or tucked under one of the two blankets.

Sideways Fingerless Gloves

As usual, the book is beautifully produced, with clear and elegant photography by Anna Williams and all the amenities we usually find in a STC book: schematics where necessary, charts where necessary, close-up photos of some of the embellishments & design details; photos that show off stitch patterns as well as give the overall look of an item; a section with how-tos for skills like duplicate stitch.

If I had any quibble with the book, it might be that the projects seem a little too basic but it's hard to tell if that is predominantly a function of me being obsessed by immersed in the knitting world rather than a more casual stitcher. It sounds like Hoverson's target audience for the book includes newer knitters, as well as knitters looking for less-stressful projects that can be completely quickly and with a minimum of agita. In that regard, the projects succeed admirably, and are no more difficult than they have to be.

Huggable House

In sum, then, we've got another good-looking book from our friends at STC, filled with gorgeously-photographed, do-able patterns just in time for you to whip out a few for holiday gifts. These patterns beg to be knit in some of the gorgeous yarns in your stash, so bring on the cashmeres, the handpaints, the uber-soft cottons and the exotic alpacas. After all, there are only 70-some days until Christmas!


Susan said...

I loved the first book--and you are right--most excellent for this novice knitter. Haven't knit a stitch in years, but this review is tempting me to pick it up again (the house! The elf hat! Oh my!)

JelliDonut said...

I love that house!