Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Twist & Knit

windward-cover-thumb Twist & Knit, by Miriam Felton
Cooperative Press, 2010 (96 pages)
ISBN 978-0-979-20173-8
$20.00 US
Buy from    Ravelry link

Miriam Felton is a pioneer of independent knit design. She was one of the first to self-publish her patterns and sell them direct to knitters, way back in the days B.R. (Before Ravelry). Her lace shawls have been knitted by thousands; the Icarus shawl appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Interweave Knits, and she’s published designs in Knitty, Twist Collective, and several books as well. Her new printed pattern collection, Twist & Knit, is self-published in the same pioneering spirit.

Somewhere between a pattern brochure and a full-scale book, Twist & Knit presents 12 accessory patterns. There are seven of the shawls and stoles Miriam is most known for, plus two lace scarves, one sock design, a cowl and a pair of fingerless mitts. Just one design has been published previously (the Cleite shawl, in Twist Collective’s debut issue). There’s an emphasis on the elegant lacework Miriam is so good at, but there’s also some intricate texture patterning.

Here’s the twist that makes this collection unusual: all the patterns are designed specifically so you can use exactly as much yarn as you happen to have. This book is great for hand spinners and collectors of luxury and/or hand-dyed yarns - small pattern repeats, simple shapes, and flexible gauge possibilities mean you can easily upsize or downsize, shorten or lengthen to make the most of your yarn. Tips are included for figuring out as you go how much yarn you’re using and how much you have left. Most of these adaptable designs are shown in two versions, at different gauges and with different yarns (one commercial, one handspun).

lune-shawl If you were to knit all the shawls in the book, you’d get a good education in the variety of possible ways to shape a shawl. Four are triangular, but shaped in three different ways. Cleite and the Comfy shawl are worked from the center neck outward and downward. Motte is knitted sideways, and Vinca begins with a center-out square and adds wings knitted out from two sides. Lune (at left) is a graceful crescent shape with four swirling increase lines.

The lace stoles and scarves are straightforward oblongs worked from end to end. The Transverse scarf is ultra-simple; Tudor Stole and Dropleaf Wrap have intricate but not difficult lace patterning. The Colonnade scarf begins and ends with a deep sideways border.

The remaining patterns all feature texture more than lace. The Windward cowl, with pretty cable and eyelet patterning, is just the thing for a skein of Bugga! I have in stash; I could get two of them from it. Mmm, cashmere around the neck. Some angora/merino fiber that needs to be spun up would also be lovely for this design. The toe-up Porifera socks are mostly 2 x 2 ribbing, with a band of lozenge lacework around the cuff and, for a bit of whimsy, on the toe. The pattern is written for four different stitch counts – from 32 to 96 – so you can make any size you want at almost any gauge. Last but not least, the Gable mitts feature delicate twisted-stitch patterning and an unusual fingers-to-cuff construction.
Twist & Knit will keep experienced knitters happy, but I think it’s a great collection for newer knitters as well because of the focus on relatively small projects with simple construction, but  interesting stitch patterns and details. About 30 pages of useful information at the front of the book cover chart reading and blocking, and give in-depth photo tutorials for all special techniques used in the patterns. There’s also a handy wraps-per-inch chart that you can compare your yarn to; the patterns give wpi for each yarn used. Sources are listed for all the yarns and fibers as well.

The patterns themselves are well written and well laid out. Each begins with a short description of the construction – a wonderful feature – and notes on how to adapt the pattern for different gauges or yarn amounts. Materials, gauge, and finished size are listed in a sidebar so it’s easy to spot them at a glance. Most knitting books and magazines don’t allow enough space for this kind of layout, but it’s much easier on the reader.

Production values are quite professional.  Miriam  did the book design and all the photography herself – this must have been a huge, complicated project. Text and charts are clear and easy to read; photos are attractive and show the designs well, for the most part. There are no written instructions for the lace stitch patterns; you will need to work from the charts. There are also no schematics, but they’re not needed for these patterns.

You can order the book from for $20; with shipping, you will have paid just over $2.00 per pattern, all told – a good value. For an extra $2.00, you’ll get PDFs of all the patterns except Cleite. If you don’t want all the patterns and won’t miss the supplementary technique material, all designs (except Cleite) are available on Ravelry as individual PDF downloads or in three PDF collections. Collection #1 has the Lune, Vinca, Comfy, and Motte shawls. #2 has the four rectangular lace stoles and scarves. #3 gets you the socks, cowl, and mitts. You can buy the book at your LYS too (or have them order it for you).

Final note: there are minor errata for printed books shipped before August 4 – details here and printable PDF here. If you order the book directly from Miriam after reading this, errata will not be an issue.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happy 100th, EZ

Today would have been Elizabeth Zimmermann’s 100th birthday. I think she’d be pleased at the many thoughtful expressions of thanks directed her way. She’d be glad that her endlessly inventive designs continue to provide challenges and inspiration to new generations of knitters. As for being a trending topic on Twitter – well, that might be a little hard to explain to her!

A few months ago when I launched our EZ & Meg pattern index, I wrote here about what a pleasure it was to work on. I read through every EZ book and pattern. Writing pattern summaries for some of her brain-teaser designs (surprise jacket, for instance) was challenging indeed. Her wry comments made me laugh, her wise ones made me nod in agreement. It would be entertaining to give you a selection of funny quotes here, but she wasn’t just funny. Her Digressions contain much beautiful and thought-provoking writing about the world she lived in. This, for instance, from Knitting Around:
“And finally, what about our new country America? America is not better, but different…Damn these people, whose parents went through untold agonies to come to the New World away from the prejudice and self-importance of the old. They are now just as self-important themselves…Of course it’s a splendid country; of course I love it dearly, but there are other countries no less splendid, or shall we say no less faulty, and their inhabitants love them dearly too. And that is to the credit of all concerned, until it comes to the point of thinking that there can only be one splendid country, namely one's own…”
Thanks, Elizabeth! May we all knit on with your curiosity, intrepidity, and joie de vivre as a model.

I leave you with a peek at some of the 31,000+ EZ-designed projects you’ll find on Ravelry. Click here to browse them in all their glory!