Book Review: Cast On, Bind Off

We all get terribly stuck in ruts, so I was very pleased to be sent a book for review: Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods by Leslie Ann Bestor. I’m hoping it might broaden my horizons…

That’s because my own particular rut is a very emphatic one. I cast on in one way, have done for years, and – rather daringly – have just added a second cast off (I can’t quite bring myself to call it a ‘bind off’) to the one I usually use. I know, it’s ridiculous.

Let’s tackle the cast-on question first. My mother taught me to do what I believe is a version of the long-tail, thumb, cast-on and I’ve passed it on to other people, but that’s it. I can’t be doing with anything else. Oh, I know: it’s not universally appropriate, but I like it and it does me. I don’t need to change, no way… Only, of course, I often do.

It’s a good cast-on, it’s a neat cast-on – once you come to terms with the fact that your first row of knitting will be a wrong-side row – but there are so many variations on a theme, so many which are more appropriate in some circumstances. This neat little book has made me realise just how narrow I have been. And it’s not just about the purely functional: choosing a tight or loose cast on according to what I’m knitting (they’re divided into functional groups for ease of use). It’s also about some really interesting decorative possibilities.

I am a complete numpty when it comes to following instructions (as the members of my knitting group can attest after the trauma of the Dreadful Crochet Instruction evening, which left everyone horribly scarred). But I can follow these, and there’s a great incentive, especially when it comes to multicoloured cast-ons:

How cute is that? And it really works, too.

The range is eclectic, and covers some regional variants such as the Channel Islands cast-on (in the first dps above), which is made with an extra strand of yarn and holds up well. There are some really clear instructions for a moebius cast-on, and I’ve managed that too: another thing I’d had a wild but unsatisfactory stab at until now.

The bind-offs (oh, I give up) are equally excellent, and I’ve been playing around with the picot ones. It’s taken me some time to get them right, but I cracked it in the end; as you can tell, the illustrations are excellent. And even this numpty can follow them.

Ah yes, that brings me to another book I’ve been sent. I’m going to have to pass this one on to one of my friends for feedback because the Dreadful Crochet Instruction evening was a complete disaster as well as dreadful. I can’t crochet. Having seen this, though, I’m more motivated to learn. It’s by Edie Eckman, and some of these motifs are absolutely gorgeous.

The only problem is that if I dare to mention that I might vaguely, possibly, just perhaps like to have another go at learning to crochet, all my friends will leave the country. It’ll be like the mass Boxing-Day-swim scenes on our beach, only they won’t stop to change their clothes first.

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: Cast On, Bind Off

  1. ohdebs

    Believe it or not I just got that book! Its great! In fact I ordered one for me and one for my knitting friend for Christmas. I hope she doesn’t see this or if she does I hope she at least reads the comments and doesn’t buy it too! One year we both bought each other the same books. So, Anne, if you are reading this don’t buy this book.

    That said, I almost always used the slingshot/long tail cast on but I am going to try all of them. The other night I finished a sock and used one of the stretchier bind-offs and it worked great. I also like how it is a small, spiral-bound and has great photos instead of incomprehensible drawings.

    And as for crocheting…I can only do the very basics so I would stand on the shore with you and wave to all those swimmers! I don’t quite get complicated crochet. I have a friend who makes things up as she goes along and creates the most awesome creatures like winged dragons out of fine crochet cotton an a tiny hook. Baffling.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Hah! Isn’t it good?

      I still have to do things really slowly – I just have terrible physical memory; ask me to remember an exercise (I have some to do for my vertigo) and I’ll need showing about 58,000,000 times; ask me to remember an eleven-digit number and I won’t need telling twice, and will recall it for years – but the pics are so clear that it really helps.

      Crochet – hmm, I can’t even do the basics…. the dragons sound spectacular but I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of most I see around me. There seems to be something about crochet that inspires many people to use pastel-pink acrylic.

      Reply
      1. ohdebs

        Oh Kate. We are so much alike. I have to be shown things a million times too yet remember the oddest details of certain things. I don’t do well with knitting patterns and am afraid to do anything that has a chart although I did make a fair isle vest for my son when he was 2 (he’s 30 now) and don’t even remember how I did it. I tend to make things up as I go rather than follow a complicated pattern. I like to call it freestyle knitting. And I am with you on the crochet front all the way. The only things I will crochet have afghans (not pink acrylic) and I am currently crocheting a wig base for a waldorf doll I am making for my granddaughter. That is it. My mother used to crochet weird stuff like toilet paper roll covers and tea cozies and the most awful granny square blankets out of scraps—and yes, those were bright acrylic. I think that is what turned me away from crochet. That and the hand cramp I get when I hold a hook longer than it takes to fix a knitting boo boo.

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          I’m fine with patterns, and charts as well – I suppose it goes with the ‘remembering numbers’ thing. I do improvise around patterns and sometimes make my own up, but I don’t think I’d be as brave as you and go for the freestyle thing!

          You have absolutely summed up my problem with crochet, but I can’t blame my mother. She was a crochetphobe too… What was that thing with toilet roll covers? And where are they all now? I think they were actually outriders for an alien invasion, and they gave up having discovered we had very little style…

  2. hasretnakislari

    I bought the book just a few weeks ago and have not been disappointed. What I really like about it is to have all the different techniques in one book, so no more searching all your other books, notes or websites. The spiral binding is very practical but a few pages stuck together where all those holes for the binding are (it was still ok, I had much more problems with another spiral bound book).

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I didn’t have that problem, but I agree – I think it’s just something to do with the spiral binding (I’ve had it before with spiral-bound books) and it’s easy to sort. I really like the binding because you can fold the book back fully – and it’s small enough to have on your knee…

      Reply
  3. ohdebs

    Another friend travels a lot and bought the Kindle version which sounds like a brilliant idea to me…always with you if you happen to have a digital reader. I only have my iPhone for that and I fear it would be too small on that.

    Reply
  4. karibu57

    I have had this book for a while and totally agree, it’s quite fantastic! It comes in very handy for my workshops and the Kindle version is brilliant for workshops on the road and showing others.
    Hope you are not floaded xx

    Reply
  5. lindsay

    Hmm, always used the excuse of being a basic knitter to stick with just one cast on and off but i am thinking this book could be a Very Good Idea, especially with those multicoloured cast-ons. Too tempting. Yup, on the Christmas list, I think!

    Reply
  6. knitsofacto

    Now I have a book called Cast On Bind Off and it isn’t this one! Methinks my knitting library needs to grow a little more!

    We are sisters I tell you … the whole crochet thing … the tales I could tell, but ! don’t want to frighten you!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Oh how strange – I didn’t know about another… this one is good, definitely…

      Nothing can frighten me about crochet. I’ve been to the edge and looked into the Gulf. Scary.

      Reply

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