Friday, December 10, 2010

Top Knitting Books of 2010

It's that time of year when "Best of" lists start popping up everywhere. And it's become a December Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat tradition to take a look back over the past knitting year, giving my "best of " picks, or at least hitting the highlights of what happened during the last calendar year. Today I'll start with a look at the new books published this past year -- and if you're scrambling to find a last-minute gift for that special knitter in your life, this list is a good starting point, too.

First off is, for me, a no-brainer: given my girl-crush on Veronik Avery, and my fondness for her design sensibility, it's no surprise that I'd put her latest book, Knitting 24/7: 30 Projects to Knit, Wear, and Enjoy, On the Go and Around the Clock, right at the top of my list. You'll find a lovely projects -- small ones like gloves and bigger ones like sweaters -- with an emphasis on portability, designed to help busy knitters squeeze a little extra knitting time into their day. All the gorgeousness you'd expect from Veronik, shown off to perfection by Stewart Tabori & Chang.

Another book that I thought was full of stylish but wearable fashion came to us from Rowan, by way of PotterCraft. Fresh Fashion Knits contained a nice selection cherrypicked from the pages of Rowan's Studio Magazine, with a variety of gauges and items ranging from long sweater-jackets to vests and wraps. Also worth mentioning is Julie Turjoman's collection of interesting patterns in Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere, a multi-contributor collection inspired by the varied world of knitting blogs. And Sally Melville joined forces with her daughter to bring us Warm Knits, Cool Gifts, another great collection of items from sweaters to Christmas tree ornaments, all with a winter theme.

Sock fans had a good year, with a rich crop of sock pattern books. For toe-up fans, Wendy Johnson's Toe-Up Socks for Every Body provided a selection of beautiful, often intricate sock patterns, all knit from the toe up and with selections sized for the whole family. Overachieving toe-up fans had Melissa Morgan-Oakes' Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks to provide them with a smorgasboard of toe-up socks designed for knitting two at a time. For cuff-down sockknitters, Cookie A, sockmistress extraordinaire, presented her first self-published book, Knit. Sock. Love. Even though a substantial proportion of these sock patterns were published in some form before, the addition of new fabulous Cookie A creations -- not to mention the eye candy aspect of the photography -- makes this a great addition to the sock knitter's bookshelf. And last but not least, Think Outside the Sox: 60+ Winning Designs from the Knitter's Magazine Contest, brought to us by the publishers of Knitter's Magazine, was another worthwhile addition to the bookshelves of the sock-addicted. Lots of choices, lots of innovation, plenty of creativity -- and all the fun of a contest.

Another great development in the knit-publishing world this year was the focus on technique. Entrelac fans hit the lotto with the release of two thorough books devoted to that form of modular knitting: Entree to Entrelac: The Definitive Guide from a Biased Knitter (XRX 2010), by Gwen Bortner, and Rosemary Drysdale's Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting (Sixth & Spring 2010). Nancy Marchant's Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch, demystified this particular stitch, applying it creatively to garments. Margaret Stove's Wrapped in Lace provided lace patterns and instruction for intermediate-to-advanced laceknitters. Shirley Paden's Knitwear Design Workshop provided a tremendous amount of technical information for those interested in designing their own knitwear.

Although it's not entirely "new" -- it's a revised edition of a previously-published book -- fans of aran and Celtic-inspired patterns must have been thrilled to see Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition reissued in its expanded form this year. It's wonderful that knitters so entranced by Starmore's spectacular designs don't have to troll Ebay looking for used copies (and pay jacked-up prices due to their scarcity). I hope we see more of Starmore's work reissued in coming years.

Knitters who love to focus on smaller, accessory projects had two great choices from Sixth & Spring Publishing. First off was 60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats*20 Scarves*20 Mittens in Cascade 220, a paperback book containing 20 patterns for hats, 20 patterns for mittens/gloves and 20 patterns for scarves, all knit in the ubiquitous Cascade 220 worsted-weight wool. And given the popularity of cowls, Cowl Girls: The Neck's Big Thing to Knit, by Cathy Carron, presented an unbelievable array of cowls, from the simple to the complex.

Last but not least, we should give a shout-out to a few books that came from small publishing houses or were self-published; other than Cookie A's book, look for:
  • Mim Felton's Twist and Knit, a booklet with lots of her trademark lace designs;
  • Grace Anna Farrow's The Fine Line, with a selection of lovely shawls and wraps (Grace also "self-published" her latest work, a beautiful baby girl named Edith Agnes -- congrats!!);
  • and Katharine Cobey's Diagonal Knitting devoted to a modular style of knitting which creates diagonal effects (Schoolhouse Press). More a technique book than a pattern book, although a number of patterns are included.

This post is as good a chance as any to respond to some requests I've had to review specific books. As a general rule, I'll only do a full-fledged review of a book if the publisher provides me with a review copy; I don't get paid for these reviews, and it's prohibitively expensive for me to purchase books in order to review them. (It's also not fair to publishers who provide review copies to keep reviewing the books of other large, established publishers who don't send copies.) I will, however, sometimes review self-published books that I've purchased myself, figuring that it's so hard to make any money in this business as a little guy that I can occasionally help out those who have the guts to self-publish by reviewing their stuff.


Anonymous said...

love your reviews - always!!! thanks for doing them Carol.


Anonymous said...

Public libraries are another good source for review copies of books - no direct cost to you, no conflicts of interest! My local branch carries an amazing selection.

Carol said...

You're very lucky. My local library has a very sparse selection of knitting books, and only rarely anything hot off the press.