Friday, June 29, 2012

No-Bull Book Review: Knit Red by Laura Zander

I am working on a post giving you my recap of TNNA, the yarn and needlepoint industry's trade show, but in the meantime, let's take a look at a lovely book that was featured at the show. Knit Red: Stitching for Women's Heart Health (Sixth and Spring 2012; hardcover; 130 pages; MSRP $19.95 but available for $12.49 through the link) is a great knitting book for a great cause.

 Last year, I was wandering around the TNNA show floor when I ran into Laura Zander, proprietress of the amazing Jimmy Bean's Wool. Laura was talking about writing a book that would help raise money and awareness of women's heart health. I thought it was a fantastic idea then and now, just a year later, with the gorgeous book in my hands, I still think it's a fantastic idea. The statistics on women's heart health are astonishing: for example, more women have fatal heart attacks than men. One in four women who die in the U.S. each year die due to heart disease. Yet so many of us envision heart disease as something men are more likely to have.

Knit Red aims to combat those statistics, enticing us with lovely knitting patterns, but also informing us about the dangers of heart disease and suggesting simple, do-able changes we can make to lower our risk. Let's start with the fun stuff, first, and take a look at some of the patterns.

There are so many gorgeous projects in this book, and among my favorites are Iris Schreier's capelet, above. I also am grooving on this delicate lace stole by Kieran Foley, below:

 I love the flirty eyelet socks by MMO:

 Norah Gaughan's cabled cardigan:

 and Deborah Newton's beautifully-designed tunic.

Many other of my favorite designers are featured here, such as my BFF Martin Storey, who designed a great cardigan with seed stitch panels and heart motifs, with a cute cropped fit:

my love Sarah Hatton, who contributed an easy-to-knit twist-front top reminiscent of a ballet wrap:

Maie Landra contributed this amazing modular dress (this is really an exquisite piece of knitwear, with modern lines but a vintage feel -- and I'm not just saying that because I heart Koigu so much):

Another nice thing about the book is that it includes both easier and more advanced designs. Cecily Glowik MacDonald's cardigan is stylish but uses only stockinette and garter stitches, and is knit in one piece to minimize finishing:

and Diane Soucy's hooded cardigan has simple elegance (knit in Universal's Cashmere Fleur de Lys)

 while Andrea Jurgrau's lace shawl is a bit more challenging, with its fantastic beaded edging,

but no matter what you're looking for, there are options.  Like cables? Try Brooklyn Tweed's lovely mittens:

In the mood to use some luxurious yarns? Check out Daniela Johannsenova's Mondrian-like tunic, using several different yarns and multiple shades of red (and purple!).

Want to let some skin peek through? Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton allows you to channel your inner minx with her off-the-shoulder mesh top:

If you want to embellish, look no further than Nicky Epstein's chenille shrug, with roses around the collar:

Feel like a home dec item?  Michelle Rose Orne has designed a lovely linen-stitch blanket:

For my statisticians, the books contains 31 patterns, in the following categories:
  • 5 pullover sweaters; 4 cardigans; and 1 button-front vest, all for women
  • 1 dress
  • 2 cowls
  • 1 tote
  • 2 hats (one beret, one earflap style)
  • 1 shrug
  • 4 stoles/shawls
  • 1 blanket
  • 3 sets of handgear (1 mitten, 2 fingerless gloves)
  • a spa set (washcloth and suchlike)
  • 2 pair of socks
  • 1 cape.
All the items are shown in red yarn, but the manufacturers and gauges vary from laceweight to chunky, from luxury yarns like ArtYarns and Koigu to more affordable choices like Deborah Norville's Soft Worsted and Deb Stoller's Stitch Nation yarns. Sizes are a bit more limited than usual; a few of the sweaters go up to 48 to 53-inch finished circumference but most have their largest size in the 40s and one or two have more limited ranges than that, so check sizing if you have your eye on a particular sweater.  Of course many of the projects, like the lovely stoles and shawls, are one size fits all. You'll find schematics and chart as usual with a Vogue publication. All the patterns are for women with one or two home items -- nothing for men or kids here, since the focus is on women's heart health.

One aspect of the book that I find charming are mini-profiles of the individual designers, in which they tell how heart disease has affected them and their families, and include tips for improving heart health. The pattern section is followed by facts about how common heart issues are (for example, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States); what the symptoms of a heart attack are; exercise and cooking tips; even heart-healthy recipes. There's also a section of knitting tips and techniques used in the patterns.

My family has been decimated by heart-related disease:  my father had pentuple by-pass surgery, my grandfather died of complications from a heart attack, and as amateur genealogist, I've been amazed at the number of relatives who have cardiac issues of some kind listed on their death certificates.  The women in my family have suffered, too: My grandmother had heart problems

My grandmother

and my dear cousin Francie died at a shockingly young age from heart disease, to name just a few. So I am proud to heartily (pun intended) recommend this book, a great selection of stylish patterns along with timely reminders about taking care of our hearts.


AudKnits said...

What a lovely review. The book has so many appealing projects, and with a great unifying theme. I'll be looking for this one!

paulineknit said...

A superb review. I've bought this book and it is fantastic. Itching to start the Eyelet Shawl.

Anonymous said...

There's better stuff in here than I thought! Thanks, Carol.