Tag Archives: Techniques

Book review: Yarnitecture

YarnitectureI’m often sent books to review, and I find myself thinking ‘nooooo’. Many don’t make it onto Woolwinding; they are either inappropriate or just uninspiring, or maybe they are reinventing a wheel which doesn’t need redevelopment – or maybe they are just dire. But sometimes I open a parcel and find myself doing a little dance round the room. This is one of the latter occasions.

Excuse me. Ahem.

What can I say about this gem by Jillian Moreno? it is a spinning book written, hooray, from a knitter’s perspective. It focuses on spinning ‘a yarn that fulfils a purpose’: one that works its best for whatever knitted project you have in mind.

Once upon a recent time, handspinning was almost an end in itself, and it still can be, of course. Once upon a recent time, it was assumed in books about spinning that the spinners were inevitably dealing exclusively with fleece. Raw fleece. Fleece possibly from their own sheep. And, also of course, some people do work exclusively with fleece (I love it myself, except on days like today when the wind suddenly gets up and blows most of my freshly washed Cheviot x BFL fleece away, possibly taking it as far as England). But many of us are not purists: we buy prepared fibre, maybe hand-dyed, delicious fibre; maybe undyed but fully processed and still delicious fibre. And some people – I know several – actively dislike working with anything else. Very many of us spin fibre in order to knit with it, to produce something unique, something we control from (almost) start to finish. This is our book.

It starts with a basic vision; goes through fibre breeds and the impact choice there can have; explores prep, drafting, plying, working with colour, finishing… and, ta dah, knitting with handspun. It’s beautifully illustrated. And it even has some patterns.

Ok, let’s have a look inside. Take this page: it illustrates the different effects you can get by blending colours at plying or blending those colours before spinning:

colour spinning

It is often good to do things intentionally, instead of accidentally. Intentional, and you can get the same effect again, should you want to do so. Accidental? You might be lucky…

Or take finishing a spun yarn. I almost always whack my finished yarn to set the twist (I find it helpful; I can imagine I am whacking the person at the Fibre Fair who said ‘I could do that, but I wouldn’t want to, it’s so boring’). But what about the alternatives? There’s snapping, swirling it around like a cowboy with a lasso, even fulling it. What difference would a different process make, and what impact would it have on a particular yarn?


Here four different yarns are compared – merino, corriedale, BFL and silk – after having undergone eight different approaches (menaced, incidentally, doesn’t mean you sitting in front of the yarn like Michael Corleone confronting the men who tried to kill his father; it means felting it deliberately).

And how about ply affecting what you want to knit?


That’s covered at length; above focuses on singles, but there are equally detailed examinations of two- and three-ply yarns. It’s excellent, and the ‘knitting with your handspun’ section is invaluable, covering things like ensuring you will have enough yarn (been there), and simply planning a project from a pattern which specifies a commercial yarn.

Finally, there are twelve patterns. There are two cardigans, a moebius cowl / shawl, four more varied but normally constructed shawls (of which this, by Romi, is one),


socks, two sweaters, a necklace and a pair of mitts.

I have been waiting for a book like this – thank you, Jill Moreno!



A new addiction?

Weaving coverGiven the nature of my last two posts, in which I was blown away by the National Wool Museum, perhaps it’s fortuitous that I was sent a great book to review: Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell.

It looked interesting to me, with a great mixture of basic advice and more adventurous techniques, but I’m not a weaver.

OK, I was sent it a bit ago, but I knew we had a weaving day coming up at the Llyn Guild, so I wanted to run it past some of our experts – because, as I say, I’m not a weaver.


As soon as I produced it, several people pounced. One, a great weaver, already had it and pronounced it ‘excellent and inspirational’. The others went through it, checking various techniques, and then agreed. Then they asked that I could kindly donate my copy to the Guild library because, as they pointed out, I’m not a weaver.

We’ll see about that, because somehow it fell open at this:


It could be fate.

My first experience of weaving was at school, where our incredibly hearty RE teacher also taught weaving. (I’ve been trying to remember if she also wore sandals and socks and tie-dyed clothing, but I’m not sure about all of that. Sandals, yes, certainly – because I remember that she had very hairy toes and that I vaguely supposed she might be a hobbit. She also boomed like an ent.) I escaped the RE – my militantly ‘laïque’ father was quite willing to write me any kind of ‘daughter can’t possibly do that, we’e atheists / Jewish / pagans / blue with green spots’ letter that I requested – but was very keen on the weaving. Unfortunately it stopped too soon, almost as soon as the headmistress noticed, in the interests of more academic pursuits.

We did produce scarves, though not any as lovely as these:

and reading this book has made me remember how much I enjoyed the classes, tutorial booming and hairy feet aside. We were disciplined, though, made to weave organised checks or stripes, and improvisation was not allowed. But then, we were learning, so I suppose that’s fair enough. Now, of course, I wouldn’t have to be bound by such constraints. And neither is this book:

wild weaving

I’m open to its influence at the moment, because some of my friends are into Saori weaving and I just love the textures and colours and forms that they achieve. At last year’s Fibre and Fabric Fair in Harlech I was next to Rosie Green of Saorimor in Bangor, and was able to have a go (maybe I’ll be next to her at this year’s Fair too, but I might just give in before the end of July anyway). But something tells me that if I do succumb, I’ll need the pages in this devoted to troubleshooting:

book 3

so it probably won’t end up in the Guild library. But if it doesn’t, they are going to have to get one, because this is good. Very good.

Book reviews: three to think about

I’ve been so busy that a small pile-ette of books to review has built up. Oh, OK, there are three. And I have to say that they are all quite distinct. One is wonderful, one is inspiring, and one is – well, for me, a bit meh. So let’s start with the first one…

IMG_3726The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, by Margaret Radcliffe.

I love Margaret Radcliffe’s books on technique, and have reviewed several of them. When I heard this one was on the cards, I was actually quite excited (I know, times have changed, once it was men, now it’s books about stranded knitting, but I know which has the more lasting impact). And it does not disappoint.

There’s all sorts of general information about colour – differentiating tone and hue, for instance, balancing – or not – colours, and about colour selection.

DPS colour

I find this very useful indeed – as I’ve been messing about with colour selection for a Fair Isle knit this winter, I’ve been debating many of the issues here (with myself, admittedly). It’s good to find them in one place instead of in a variety of sources, and to find them well illustrated.

There’s the usual mix of specific advice and step-by-step help; the very practical section at the back is clear, and there is a wealth of stitch patterns included, thematically arranged (I’m already finding the ‘stripes’ section useful in my preparations for next season’s craft fairs). But for me the stand-out section discusses something I’d not seen covered in such depth before: working with variegated yarns. Fascinating. And there are many colour techniques described too, from the familiar – stranded knitting and intarsia, for example – to the less well known, such as twining and helix knitting. And how about using maths and colour – knitting a fibonacci sequence, for example, or knitting in a colour code…?


Fortunately Color Knitting Techniques is very well bound. It’s going to need to be.

The inspirational book – not that the Radcliffe isn’t; I just suspect that this next one will be looked at more than actually used – is Knitting Fabric Rugs by Karen Tiede.

fabric rugsThese are not, in the classic sense, rag rugs. They are made from strips of fabric (and there are some very clever ways of cutting this to get the maximum lengths, clearly described), and are knitted in garter stitch, not prodded through a backing cloth.

Why garter stitch? Well, the strips are difficult to purl on the large needles (I can vouch for that – tried it, though I’ve to gone so far as to knit more than a couple of rows and cannot vouch for the patterns working or the hands holding out*), but garter stitch also gives a flat fabric. It also, apparently, makes for ‘springier’ rugs – ones that are much more comfortable to walk on.

Again, there’s an emphasis on colour, and on collecting colour (I went to a rag rug workshop where the tutor described herself as ‘being on a mission to save colours’, and I get the impression that this is very much the same). There’s also a strong ethical dimension, which I really like – it’s classic recycling, making do and mending. This makes it sound like a rather brown and gritty, knit your own yoghurt, child of the seventies thing. It’s not.

It’s stylish.

fabric rugs

I’ve already found myself thinking about making one of these for the bathroom – smart stripes of peacock and jade, with perhaps some darker colours to… wonder what else is in my rag bag…

(*Incidentally, Karen Tiede does put an emphasis on comfort – and physical safety – while assembling the materials and knitting these rugs. Among other things, she states that if your hands are beginning to hurt, it’s an indication that the needle size is wrong. And you knit strips and piece them together; you don’t have half a ton of fabric on the needles. Almost, but not quite.)

‘Stylish’ can be said about some of the patterns in the third book. Some.

babyNo, I’m being unfair – we all have different taste, and there’s something in One-Skein Wonders for Babies (edited, as usual in the One Skein series, by Judith Durant) for everybody.

Some of the patterns are highly traditional (I have photographs of myself as a baby wearing things which are more modern), and some are – er, idiosyncratic. Knitted bibs? Masticated rusk and garter stitch?

However, there are also some which are really rather funky, and I have fallen completely in love with a hat (the hat section is good):

hat I want

It’s ‘yarn dependent’ – but I love it. I want it. If that baby had a bigger head, and happened to be in Snowdonia, I’d have that hat off its curly little head.

(I must mention here that whatever I may think of some of the patterns, the photography is excellent.) IMG_3722I also rather liked these ‘sleeveless baby vests’ – the vests are sleeveless, mind, not the babies – though I would never have been able to pull one over the head of most babies I’ve known.

Even more impractical – IMO – is the ruffled ‘bumper’, over-nappy knickers, basically. One of those sudden upwards-and-downwards exploding nappies and this would be dust. Or something. And on another, anyone who knits in Noro for a baby has probably won the lottery, because there’s no way Noro’s going anywhere near a washing machine. Mashed banana a) gets everywhere, even before it’s been through the baby, and b) sticks worse than Agent Orange, and a gentle soak in Euclan will not do the business. I know this. But out of 101 patterns there are bound to be some you don’t like and some you do.

Time to up-size that hat. Now that would work in Noro.
For me.


Life is learning (and sometimes swearing)

One of the kicks I get from knitting is learning something new. Last week, for instance, we had a visitor at our knit and natter (we love having visitors) who showed us a knitting mill – a sort-of hand-powered knitting dolly for producing fine i-cord. I need one, and I need it now. But the big plus for me this week has been the provisional cast on.

OK, I can hear the gales of laughter now. I know, everyone can do this. Yeah, maybe everyone can – but the people I know who could actually show me use a crochet provisional cast on and, as almost everyone on the surface of the planet knows, I do not crochet. OK?

I’ve been knitting cowls for the various fairs and pop-ups I’ve been involved with this summer (it’s a testament to the sort of summer we’ve been having that big cowls have been flying out) and have also developed a little bias-knitted cowl-stroke-necklace which uses one skein of Louisa Harding’s fabulous – and about-to-be discontinued – mulberry silk:

neck warmer

I’ll pop the pattern on Ravelry just as soon as the mad rush is over, and as soon as I’ve come up with a catchy name for it. But the whole point is that even my fine-stitched seam is a little too untidy – for me, that is, nobody else seems (ho ho, did ya see what I did there?) bothered by it. So out came the books, including the wonderful Cast on, Bind Off, and out also came the bad language and the evil temper. But I did glean one thing – use smooth thread, like cotton, which can be pulled out easily.

Or, indeed, frequently.

However, I’ve got it now.

tah dah

Tah, as they say, dah.

This is entirely due to YouTube, though perhaps not quite in the way you’d expect. There are plenty of vids on there of people doing a provional cast on, some of which are clear but which I am too daft to follow, but many are either too fast or too badly filmed to follow (well, for me, anyway). Every time I hit pause in my attempts to flipping follow I dropped my knitting; cue more swearing.

But then I fiddled about and thought about what I was doing, or rather trying to do: wrap live stitches round a string. And I started from exactly the opposite point as the YT vids I’d been watching and the instructional books I found – I began with the working yarn at the bottom as opposed to the top and ZIP! It was like Audrey Hepburn being sung (or rather shouted) at by Rex Harrison playing Professor Higgins: by George, she’s got it!

the start

So here is the working yarn (the orange silk) and a short-but-long-enough length (too much is silly and leads to more bad language) of the waste yarn knotted together like this, with the needle on top of the yarns and in the middle. Oh, and using a circular needle is not easy. I know this. You just end up with a mystery third ‘yarn’ which inexplicably has a needle tip attached, and a lot more swearing.

I then take the needle under the working yarn from the top and lift it over the waste yarn, keeping the two threads to the left of the needle separated by the thumb of my left hand. Then I  take the needle and yarn and pass them under both threads (don’t worry about following this…) and pop them through the middle. Really don’t worry about following this.

ker zap

It looked a bit messy, but as you can see I had achieved live stitches wrapping round string. I went back for the next row and half the stitches fell off, so the next time I did it – after I’d chanted ‘under yarn, over waste, under both, through the gap’ as a mantra several times as I redid the cast on – I knitted into the back of alternate stitches carefully. And it worked!

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d got it. I pulled it out and did it again, still chanting the provisional cast on mantra. It still worked.

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d invented something new, solved a problem that surely must have affected more people than just me, but I did seem to have done so. Now I often have difficulties following knitting etc instructions others take for granted, and I suspect that’s because I am one of those naturally left-handed people whose handedness was changed from babyhood by parents who carefully made me use my right hand all the time – my instincts really came to the fore when I had surgery on my left hand (I’m a left-handed spinner, which is why I damaged that hand through being overenthusiastic/stupid) and found life really difficult, even when it came to simple things like pouring water from a kettle. I’m not alone in this. I know, I thought, such depth of insight for us ‘not actually southpaws but who ought to be’ lot should be on YouTube.

Er, it already is. I should have looked further.

Or possibly I should just have clicked on the first one that came up.

I’d run out of bad words by then, so I just shrugged. But hey, at least it’s there, and nobody will have to look at my nail varnish (or not) instead…

Book reviews: an assortment of goodies

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.

Increase DecreaseA 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

lace increases etc 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.

Knit and crochetI 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.

needle tips

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!

How to block your knitting (without too much mess)

Caution: this is a knitting post. In contrast to a couple of previous posts, there is absolutely nothing here about curing toothache by wrapping a sheep’s ear round your foot (or whatever unlikely combination of ailment and sheepy remedy you can invent) …

Way back when the world was young, my stash was noticeably larger (cough – it’s gone down and, cough cough cough, back up since then), and I had just started this blog*, I wrote a quick post about blocking. Both I and the blog are older now, but I am still being asked about blocking (or dressing’ or ‘finishing’), only now it’s when I’m doing my stint in the wool shop. So I’m going to risk repetition – but with a different garment and bigger pictures. And apologies if you’re a perfect blocker!

(I’m not, but my method works for me.)

Noro 1

This is part of a cardigan in Noro Silk Garden Lite that I have just finished knitting. I am currently in the process of picking up the front bands – well, I am currently in the process of picking up the front bands and swearing a lot because I’ve had to make a lot of corrections to the pattern – again. What is going on? Have people, even ‘big people’, stopped using tech editors and test knitters? Thank heavens I’m an experienced knitter, grumble, grumble…

Ahem. Blocking.

There are, I suppose four different ways to block or finish your work, and in theory the one you use should vary according to what you are doing. I generally use two of these, which I find suit almost everything. And neither involves huge amounts of disruption or the purchase of expensive kit.

shawl blockingThe first of the four is classic blocking, which has increased in popularity (or perhaps that should be prominence) relatively recently here in the UK, as it seems to be much more common in the US. It’s always been used for shawls, though, in one form or another, and often for lace work (though I’ll get onto ‘dressing’ in a mo). Essentially you wet the piece of knitting then pin it out firmly on a pad of towels and rugs (or an old mattress, or whatever), pulling it into shape until you match the measurements on the pattern schematic, and leave it to dry off. If you’re working in the round or creating a seamless garment, it’s not quite as easy (unless you use a frame – see below).

There are perfect blockers, people who do all this, who carefully damp their garment pieces, bit by bit, and pin them out to exactly the measurements of the schematic. I am not that person. I do block shawls and other lacework, but that’s because lacework looks like a pile of desiccated old cobwebs if you don’t. With a shawl, you extend the piece until the lace looks right, pinning it in the same way. You can buy blocking wires for shawls, but I tend to use a selection of glass-headed pins or T-shaped blocking pins.

(Be warned: shawl blocking will probably need redoing if you wash a piece, or just as time goes by. Some yarns are more stable than others, though. I have a Citron shawl in Malabrigo Lace that is now about half the size it was when blocked a couple of years ago – this is west Wales; we have high levels of humidity – but one of my eyelet shawls in Araucania Ranco is almost the same size.)

Shetland dressers

Shetland knitters with garments on dressing frames; courtesy Shetland Museum and Archives

This type of finishing shades into the second one, known as ‘dressing’, generally – though terms for this often seem to be interchangeable, and are also often very local. Fair Isle sweaters are still traditionally dressed on frames, but most of us don’t have access to these (though I’d love one, I must admit).

In places like Shetland, big hap shawls would also be stretched out on a frame, and I was given a great tip there a few years ago. ‘Use substantial cardboard cut to half the length and the full desired width of a lace scarf. Wrap board in many layers of parcel tape. Damp scarf and fold carefully in half with the card in between the halves. Tack the edges together carefully to match, gently stretching the lacework to do so, and leave to dry.’ Boom boom; it works. And sock forms, mitten forms, glove forms – all these are used for dressing smaller items.

The third type of finishing (allegedly, hah, almost finishing off) is one which no one should do because it damages the work you’ve spent ages creating, but which almost everyone has at some point. It’s standard, non steam, direct pressing and I’m still stunned by how many people have problems with their knitting because they’ve blasted it with direct, dry heat. One example I was once shown had even melted. Others have been burned, and the rest look sad and flat and lifeless. Even direct-contact steam ironing can be too much. Better is…

Four: my favourite. Steam pressing. (I’ve been known to steam small items over a kettle, but that doesn’t work for garments. Generally…)

steam pressing

Lay out the piece you need to deal with on an ironing board. Wet a tea towel or piece of calico or something of similar weight, and spread it out over part of the piece, being very careful to unroll any curled edges gently under the cloth. Carefully steam iron the cloth. Work bit by bit, moving the cloth and rewetting it as needed (I start in the middle and work out).

Don’t press too hard, don’t drag the iron over the surface hurriedly, and don’t hold the iron on any one spot for long. Oh, and don’t poke at it with the tip of the iron – quite easy to do when you’re dealing with a rolling edge. You almost need to tease the work out.

If your work is ribbed or cabled or highly textured, this technique will flatten it too much – my mother drummed into me that I should never, ever do this with a rib, and I still don’t. Deal with any curling edges in this way, but you can steam block without the cloth and with the iron held about a centimetre above the piece. I don’t seem to get the same nice finish, except on highly textured knits where steam pressing with a cloth wouldn’t be a good idea. And I don’t find it’s as effective for those edges. In those circumstances, you might also want to use classic blocking (I don’t; I need my floor space).

I realise I could have chosen something more evenly spun than Noro to demonstrate this, but here goes. The one on the left is unblocked, the one on the right is blocked.

And because that’s not 100% clear (I love Noro dearly, but even it isn’t), here are some gloves – sorry about the phantom hand, and pattern to follow, incidentally:

The contrast in the photographs isn’t as marked as it is in reality; the light is a bit difficult at the moment. I’m a huge fan of taking a bit of time to block. I can’t understand why people who don’t block or finish or dress or whatever (and there are many), don’t give it a go and see what a difference it makes. And I really, really want a sweater frame. I’m going to be back in Shetland in June…

*OK, it was only four years ago, but hey. Four years in internet terms is like, several millennia, man. I was revising my work website today and looking up what I’d done in the past when I realised I’d been one of the first people to get their publishers’ books on Amazon UK, in 1998. I went in to the studio early because I was so excited. I know, I know: life, get a….

Book Review – The Knowledgeable Knitter

jacketA little while ago I was sent a great book to review on circular knitting by Margaret Radcliffe, which I really enjoyed and have found useful. I’ve now been asked to look at another book by her, The Knowledgeable Knitter.

I’ve got several basic instructional books, from a battered copy of Mary Thomas which belonged to my mother and possibly to her mother, to June Hemmons Hiatt’s massive and exhaustive Principles of Knitting. What, I wondered, might this new book have to offer that was different? Then I thought again – perhaps, with my somewhat mangled collection, I’m not actually the target audience. Maybe this is designed for relatively new knitters.

And then I opened it and began to work my way through it, and my assumptions were wrong. It will be brilliant for those people who have recently picked up the sticks and string, but it’s got something in there for every knitter. I’m convinced of it, in fact.

But don’t just believe me… time for a look inside.


The comparisons of various approaches to particular situations, as here (looking at corded edges on the left and decreases at the very edge on the right), are particularly useful. It’s not often you get to see options spread out in this way. Come to think of it, short of knitting a shedload of samples, I don’t think I’ve seen it done so well before.

I’m currently working up a pattern for a big cowl knitted in two skeins of Colinette Prism, for instance, and I need a neat edge. I normally always use the very old method on everything – a garter-stitch edge (knitting the first and last stitches of every row). However, I wasn’t sure I wanted the nobbly edge which that produces, so I tried several of the options here. OK, I couldn’t find what I needed when I looked up ‘selvedge’, but I just looked up ‘edges’ instead. Then I went to my other books – and this is by far the clearest.

Let’s try another double page spread, this time part of the section on cast offs (aka bind offs, of course – this is an American book).

page 3

On the left are some suggestions for stretchy cast-offs, including my favourite, the yarn-over cast off (the detailed drawings are at the back of the book, in the appendix, and are very clear). On the right are some embellishments and a look at applied edgings. I have yet to come across an apparently ‘basic’ book that covers this. Hang on, I’m just checking… yup. There’s a bit in Montse Stanley’s brilliant Handknitter’s Handbook from 1986, but I have to say that those are very 70s – tassels, bobbles… The examples here are rather more relevant. And photographic.

Basic? Nah (there’s a section – a good section – on steeking, for instance, and plenty of info on design and adapting patterns).

Some of the best parts for me are those on design and adapting. Here’s a page on circular shaping in pattern stitches, in the section on shaping and fitting.


I know from my own experience that this often confuses even experienced knitters (well, it certainly confuses me sometimes). And the illustrations are wonderful – really clear. The photographs inspire you, and it is so good to see what an end result actually looks like when you are contemplating the technique illustrations at the back. Basic? No, I really don’t think so.

And what about some practical advice on amendments? How about ‘reshaping armholes’? Adjusting sleeve caps? Both recently relevant. And I was very pleased to see a small part on weaving in colours along seams, long a bugbear of mine. Margaret Radcliffe is very methodical, exactly as I was taught to be with Fair Isle – great (I was taught in threes: one along, one across one way, one across the other way; she goes every other stitch, one up and one down, repeated on both sides of the seam for four ends, or for French braiding).

OK, I’m not going to refer to the part about understanding knitting patterns very often – though, having said that, it might help me get over my blind spot about charted cable patterns – but there is a ton of stuff in here for me, and for most of us.