Books: A Holiday Shindig
Craft books that come out in the fall and winter are always my favorites. I am indiscriminate in my love of knitting books. Patterns, kids books, tips, tricks, stitches? Give them all to me. But winter is also a great time to cozy up on the couch with some hand sewing or embroidery—not that I would ever suggest you should pick up yet another new craft. [Jillian exits stage left whistling innocently.]
The open-book photos in the gallery up top appear in the order the books are listed in the article.
Patty Lyons’ Knitting Bag of Tricks just dips a toe into the sea of Patty’s knitting knowledge. This book may look humble in size, but it will teach you knitting whys as well as hows, leaving you with problems solved and a deeper understanding of your knitting. Bonus points for Patty’s signature jokes and puns, and the charming illustrations by Franklin Habit. (And don’t miss Patty’s column here at MDK: a monthly dose of sass and wisdom.)
Natalie Chanin takes you on the ride of your creative life in this breathtaking book. She tells the history of her company and school, and offers instruction on the basics of sewing by hand and embroidery. In true Alabama Chanin style there are layers—the history and the technique lay the groundwork, but it’s the embellishment, the author’s perspective on creativity and making, and the stunning photography that give this book depth and splendor.
I have been hungry for texture. This book by Meiju K-P hits the spot. There are 22 patterns, mostly for sweaters with a variety of texture, some cables, some lace, some big bold and chunky with bobbles and deep cables, and some of them a little quieter with meandering lines. I would knit and wear every pattern in this book and be a blissfully happy knitter.
There is no better person than Arounna Khounnoraj to guide you into a new skill. She’s done it with punch needle, and mending, and now with botanical embroidery. She explains techniques through words and illustrations, stripping away everything extraneous for absolute clarity. I’m not a beginning stitcher, and I learned quite a bit from this book. Her projects are for those newer to the techniques, but the designs never look like beginner projects. Her designs are simple to stitch, often featuring just a single flower or plant as ornament, but Arounna has shown us again and again that there is beauty in simplicity and in the natural world around us.
Embroidering Her Truth is the life story of Mary, Queen of Scots told through textiles. Clare Hunter, author of Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle, wonderfully intertwines textiles, politics, and history. She examines Mary’s wardrobe, fabrics, and embroideries from her opulent dresses worn at the French court to the secret messages she embroidered into her clothes for her allies while she was imprisoned at the end of her life. You won’t get much knitting done once this book is in your hands; it’s a fascinating way to study history.
Izzy is a knitting whiz except when it comes to sweaters. No matter how many times she tries, she can’t get one quite right. Thanks to her four-legged best friend Max, she comes up with a plan to knit sweaters and share her joy. This book by Laurel Molk is filled with exuberant illustrations and sends a wonderful message about looking for options with the help of friends when things don’t go as planned. I see your side-eye all the way from Kay’s apartment, Olive.
Opening the covers of Close Knit is a creative explosion. Lærke Bagger has a unique and electric approach to knitting. Her design style, her techniques, her color combination all radiate excitement—they are big and bold and feature lots of different yarns combined. These 15 patterns are a canvas for her toolbox of techniques. But it’s her design philosophy and her process that she details in words and through peeks into her sketchbooks and studio that enthralled me. Even if her style isn’t for you, this is the type of book that will shift your perspective about knitting.
The 15 designs in Salt and Timber take their inspiration from the wild Oregon coast. Through silhouette, yarn, color, and stitch pattern, designer Lindsey Fowler captures the rugged landscape and the elements of the Pacific Northwest in her textured and subtly colored patterns. Her patterns remind me of Shaker design with their clean, spare lines and attention to detail—beautiful and easy to wear.
Hats and cowls are some of my favorite things to knit, so it’s no surprise that The Ultimate All-Around Stitch Dictionary has found pride of place under my knitting chair. This is a greatest-hits collection from Wendy Bernard’s first two All-Around Stitch Dictionaries, plus 30 new patterns. There are more than 300 patterns spanning a variety of techniques written (and charted) for knitting flat and in the round, many are also written for top-down knitting. With the stitch multiple index, it’s easy to plug stitches into basic patterns and happily keep your people warm all winter.
Socks + Stitch Dictionary. Wow!
In Juliann Law’s charming tale, Nina in Chile and Chuck in New Zealand are locked in competition for the award of “The World’s Longest Sock.” They quickly learn that a life spent just knitting and competing is not a life they enjoy. They realize that it’s often better to work as a team, two socks, after all, are better than one.
Raise your hand if you need a raccoon you can safely hug. Completely cuddly, and surprisingly lifelike, the 25 animals in Wild and Wooly Knitted Animals by Sara Elizabeth Kellner have a ton of personality and detail. This is more than just an excellent toy pattern book. Each animal has a page of facts with beautiful naturalist illustrations drawn by the designer’s son and daughter.
Circumnavigate Iceland through the history and lore of Iceland’s ubiquitous lopapeysa sweater. This book is textile armchair travel at its best, with Toni Carr and Kyle Cassidy as our guides. It’s packed with profiles of knitters, designers, lopapeysa fans (including an Icelandic rock star), and 12 patterns.
The little books that explore the big world of knitting.
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