Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Retrospective: Best Books of the Year

It's that time again: the end of the year, when I take a moment to look back over the past year in the dog-eat-dog world of yarn.  Let's start our retrospective with a look at some notable knitting books published in 2011.

We start off with Clara Parkes' excellent The Knitter's Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover's Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime (Potter Craft), the third in her "Knitter's Book" series. Clara does a great job explaining the technical requirements of a good sock yarn, then presents a beautiful selection of sock patterns from top designers, including Melissa Morgan-Oakes, Cat Bhordi and Ann Budd.

While we're on the topic of socks, Barb Brown's Knitting Knee-Highs: Sock Styles from Classic to Contemporary (Krause) presents a knockout selection of patterns for knee-highs (with pattern variations showing the socks in ankle- and/or crew-length, too).  Lots of beautiful stranded knitting, texture, cables, and lace make for a lovely collection for the sock-knitter. Sock knitters will also want to check out Ann Budd's Sock Knitting Master Class: Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers (Interweave).

Did someone say lace?  Three standout lace books made their debut this year, each with its own sensibility.  Wendy Johnson's Wendy Knits Lace: Essential Techniques and Patterns for Irresistible Everyday Lace (Potter Craft) presents clear technical instructions for the beginner, and a terrific selection of patterns using fingering-weight and heavier yarns.  The talented Teva Durham presented her own lace collection with a trendier edge; in  Loop-d-Loop Lace: More Than 30 Novel Lace Designs for Knitters (STC) she riffs on standard lace techniques and creates some really interesting and gorgeous garments.  I haven't seen The Haapsalu Scarf yet, but based on Siiri Reiman and Aime Edasi's previous book on Haapsalu shawls, I feel confident this one's just as good.

I'm a big fan of Connie Chang Chinchio, and her first book Textured Stitches: Knitted Sweaters and Accessories with Smart Details (Interweave) is hot off the presses. I like the way Connie combines classic, elegant silhouettes with interesting details, and you'll find some great, wearable and stylish choices here. Wendy Bernard's second book, Custom Knits 2: More Top-Down and Improvisational Techniques (STC), presents another good-looking collection of sweaters knit in the round from the top down, along with technical information to help adapt patterns for a more customized fit.

Noro fans, rejoice:  two gorgeous books devoted to all-Noro designs were published this year by Sixth and Spring.  Knit Noro: 30 Designs in Living Color contained a mix of items from sweaters to accessories, and  Knit Noro: Accessories: 30 Colorful Little Knits is devoted entirely to smaller items. Both contain terrific selections of patterns that make the most of Noro's self-striping and vivid color combinations, and both are elegant enough to serve as coffee table books.

It was a dream of Elizabeth Zimmerman's to publish a book devoted to garter stitch. Even though EZ is no longer with us, her daughter Meg Swanson was able to compile a selection of patterns in garter stitch from Elizabeth's notes.  Knit One Knit All (Schoolhouse Press) contains the kind of creative and fun projects that EZ is known for. Meg Swanson and Amy Detjen also have a book on stranded knitting that has just gone on sale, and although I haven't seen it yet, I expect it to also be a winner.

Knitters hungry for technical instruction had some great choices, including Extreme Double Knitting by Alasdair Post-Quinn (Cooperative Press), which explores in great detail the technique of double-knitting; Judy Becker's Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures With Judy's Magic Cast-On uses Judy's Magic Cast-on as a jumping point for designs; and Mary Jane Mucklestone's 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory (Interweave), provides a comprehensive collection of traditional fair isle motifs. Back in print: Alice Starmore's Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting: New and Expanded Edition (Dover).

For newer knitters, Melissa Morgan-Oakes' Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting (Wiley) provides plenty of photographs and step-by-step instruction on how to knit tubes rather than flat pieces. Once you've been knitting for a while, it's easy to forget how confusing knitting in the round can seem to a newbie, so this book would be extremely helpful for a relatively new knitter.

Last but not least is Anna Hrachovec's Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi: More Than 40 Itty-Bitty Minis to Knit, Wear, and Give (Potter Craft), a whimsical collection of tiny little knitted objects -- everything from volcanoes to robots to armadillos.

With all the concern about the longevity of traditional publishing, it was good to see a strong crop of knitting books released during the past year (and I've only mentioned a handful of the ones that were publishedin 2011). I was happy to see that treasured old titles are being reprinted and in some cases updated (in addition to some of the Alice Starmore titles, look for Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt in early 2012, and a revised edition of Folk Socks by Nancy Bush is expected out any minute now).  There seems to be a growing trend of creating knitting books tailored to a specific yarn, such as the Noro and Cascade books, and the renewed emphasis on techniques is also encouraging.

Next up: a look at yarns we said hello and good-bye to this year.....

1 comment:

Connie Chang said...

Thanks, Carol, for the review of my new book. I've always considered us kindred spirits with our shared love of fine gauge yarn and knitting. I loved your book too -- Knit So Fine. We'll convert the rest of the knitting world someday! :)