I’m a terrible collector of books. Mind you, I’ve spent most of my life around books and words and print, so that’s not surprising, and sometimes I’m asked to review books on here. Generally, I say no because I don’t like the books – dissing things is easy, and I’m not into that… though if something is truly bad, then it can be quite entertaining. But for something to stay in my library it has to be worth it.
A while ago I reviewed Cast On Bind Off, which I found fantastically useful (in fact, I just had to go searching for it, and found it under a pile of knitting on the dining table – I know, I know). Now we have Increase Decrease in the same format, this time by Judith Durant. As you can probably tell from the photo – I could not persuade it to lie flat and be photographed nicely – I’ve already had a good go at this one. Fascinating.
Like its companion, it’s an American book and at first I thought there was a giant elephant missing from the room – the S1, K1, psso decrease so common in UK knitting patterns. But it is there, just abbreviated differently: SKP (slip, knit, pass, I suppose). But I’d never really thought about it, never really given much attention to left- and right-leaning decreases – just, by and large, done what the pattern said. Except when the pattern said something which just didn’t look right – and then I had to improvise.
Did you realise, for instance, that the reason S1, K1, psso was normally matched with K2tog in a UK pattern was that one leaned left and the other leaned right? Oh, all right, you most likely did. But did you think about it? Many of us have now encountered the common US decrease, SSK, which is often paired with K2tog as a left-leaning alternative to it:
but did you realise that there was an alternative to the K2tog which made a better match? I must have come across it, but I can’t really remember, and this book makes it clear. It pairs SSK and K2tog, and SKP (S1, K1, psso) with KSP, or K1, S1, psso. They go together better. They really do – I’ve tried it.
One of the most significant parts of this book comes when it looks at increases and decreases in lace knitting. Increases and decreases are essentially how lace is created, and it is so vital to keep tabs on what you’re doing. I’ve knitted a lot of lace, plus I’m knit-picking (see what I did there?) and, as my father said once, a ‘natural mathematician even though you made a complete mess of your exams’, and it doesn’t faze me any more, but I know from helping people on Ravelry forums that it can sometimes cause confusion and strangely shaped garments.
Often UK patterns say something like ‘continue, taking increased stitches into pattern’, and they do this even if the lace pattern is charted. This little book helps, with some clear examples at the back
illustrating how to make sure this happens properly.
So, basically, yes, this is definitely staying in the library – oh, and it’s helpfully colour-coded, with the increases on a pale cream background, the decreases on blue, and the ‘combinations and special circumstances’ section (lace, in effect) on grey – useful.
I was also sent two other books, one on crochet (which I don’t), and one on knitting – The Crochet Answer Book and The Knitting Answer Book. The latter is by Margaret Radcliffe, and I am a huge fan of her instructional books – indeed, I’ve reviewed her Circular Knitting Workshop and The Knowledgeable Knitter here in the past. At first I thought ‘oh, this is going to be really basic, this is for people who are new to knitting’, but I’m wrong.
There are questions and answers on things like fitting, for example – amending the fit of garments after you’ve sewn them together (cough, cough). And I never thought much about things like needle tips, for example: I knew what I liked, but I didn’t really know why I liked it, and why I sometimes ended up in severe pain and plasters.
Knitting with inappropriate tips for the job in hand, that’s why. And I’ve some beloved wooden needles that have got a bit rough; I didn’t want to take sandpaper to them, and now I’ve found a solution. An emery board. Thanks, Margaret Radcliffe!
(And I’m assured that the crochet book is equally useful. But I’m still not a convert.)
Incidentally, the reason why so many knitting books emanate from the States is quite simple: the sheer size of the market makes them economic to produce. Just thought I’d add that after several people said to me ‘why do so many of these books have to be American?’. Economics and the book trade. Agh, I’m having a flashback!