Joy from the Everyday – The Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork System

There is a great temptation sometimes to doubt one's own ability and for many, me included, this is often around design and use of colour. But fear not! Help is at hand.

You may have been lucky enough to have taken one of Felicity (Felix) Ford's classes, and if you have, you will undoubtedly have been filled with her boundless enthusiasm for the potential of just about anything as a source of inspiration for design. We love spending time with Felix (above) because she sees the world differently from us and can communicate how she sees things so clearly that we cannot help but have our eyes opened to the possibilities.

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Book and DVD Review: Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters and 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters

It's a Shetland fiesta here this morning at A-C Knitwear Towers! My love of Shetland and its incredible knitting heritage, along with the wonderful wildlife, has been mentioned a few times here over the years. Today's post covers the new book from the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters Volume 1, and the fantastic DVD, 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters, produced by Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston

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Book review: Coop Knits Socks Yeah! Volume One

There is no way that I can claim to write an unbiased review of this book! I edited the patterns, am very good friends with Rachel, and the book is stocked in our online shop. Unbiased just isn't possible. That said, I still think I would be jumping around shouting about this book, even if I hadn't worked on it, and didn't know Rachel. You'll just have to trust me on that...

This lovely book was released back in October 2016 when we were deep in editing work and kids adjusting to being back at school. Much to my regret I didn't get around to shouting about it at the time, so I'm making up for it now. Clicking on any of the photos in this post will open larger versions in a lightbox so that you can see all the details of these pretty designs.

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A Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book

A few weeks ago, the postman delivered a book from Shetland. Jen remarked, "The Wool Week Annual is bigger this year - that's a bit of a surprise," then opened the package. It wasn't the Shetland Wool Week Annual, but something a little different (the Wool Week Annual arrived a couple of days later and more on that another time!).

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A Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book in Colour consists of reproductions of two notebooks from the second quarter of the 20th Century. These originally belonged to Bill Henry who was in charge of the Hosiery (Knitwear) Department at Anderson & Co. of Lerwick through the middle of the last century. 

Carole Christiansen's introduction gives a great insight into the knitting industry in Shetland and really sets the scene for why what follows is a little special. Usually, if charts were drawn, their purpose was to give the knitter an idea of how the colours should change, rather than which colours to use. What sets these notebooks apart is that they have been fully coloured in, that is directing the knitter to colour choice as well as pattern.

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What fascinates me about this book is the air of mystery over who actually drew the charts and what the purpose of the charts was. Is this a record of Fair Isle motifs that Bill had seen coming in from the local knitters, or were they produced by him, or someone for him, to direct knitters to a particular pattern, or a combination of both? Whatever the truth this is an important record of how external influences affected design through the period of the books, from the inclusion in the earliest pages, and thereafter absence, of swastikas to the appearance of Norwegian styles through the 1940s.

The big draw of this book is obviously the huge number of Shetland colourwork patterns to use within your own knitwear, but I think it is more than just that, so if you have an interest in the development of knitting, or are looking for a reference for colourwork, then this is a must-have book.

A Shetland's Fair Isle Graph Book was produced by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers and is published by The Shetland times. It is available from The Shetland Times bookshop and is priced at £20. 

Disclaimer: We received a review copy of the Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book free of charge from The Shetland Times. We have not received any other payment for this review, and are sharing it because we think it's a great book!

Knitlandia

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If you're of the knitterly persuasion and you haven't yet read Clara ParkesKnitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World, then you've missed something. While it lives up to its billing and follows Clara on her adventures across the globe, meeting, teaching and learning from knitters and yarn producers, this book has far more depth. 

The style of writing is warm and full of fun, even when things are far from ideal. I did wonder what I'd have to do to get Clara to paint me in a bad light, but I rather think the effort would be completely wasted. Her generosity of spirit flows throughout the book, whether dealing with people who are hard work, or comparing the shopping habits of knitters at shows in different places.

What makes Knitlandia more than a travelogue above all is that it is also a first-hand account of how the knitting world has been transformed over the last 15-20 years from someone at the centre of that world. The impact of the internet, social media and Ravelry in particular is an undercurrent through the book as changing attitudes and habits of knitters are marked. I was especially interested in the way that knitters consume has changed. When once print patterns were a means for spinners or dyers to showcase their products, the rise of independent designers and digital downloads have transformed the landscape, to the point that the jobs Jen and I do actually exist. As for how to learn a new technique, there's a fascinating insight into the working model of Craftsy

As someone who has in the past felt like a mere tourist in Knitlandia - the world of the knitters, this book really spoke to me as it viewed exactly the same human interactions through completely different eyes. I hope that Clara continues to travel widely, recording her observations of the world so that in the future she can publish a sequel that I will be eager to read.

Tomorrow, Jen reaches a milestone. Be sure to come back for a special treat!

Jim

Review: Edward's Menagerie

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I got my grubby paws on a copy of Edward's Menagerie by Kerry Lord and I can't get these lovely animal patterns out of my head! I have plans to try to make a small collection for Christmas presents, but I have no idea whether I will actually achieve that plan or not...

From the first moment I picked up this book I was impressed with it. Every aspect of its production has been carefully designed. The animals themselves are brilliant, but I don't think that is what caught my eye the most about the book. What made me exclaim and get excited was the way that every piece of information that I might need, in order to pick up a hook and get going, was right there at my fingertips.

The animals are carefully divided into levels, according to the skills required to complete them. I would definitely need to start with the level 1 animals, which require just one colour, chain, slip stitch and double crochet. These are well within even my basic crochet skills! But I feel confident that when I am ready to attack the level 2 and 3 patterns, all of the information and tutorials I will need are within the book. But don't worry! There aren't pages and pages of dense "How-tos", but rather 10 clearly laid out pages that will take you through everything you need for all the patterns, with excellent walkthrough photos. There's even advice on adding face details and a spread on topknots and tails, complete with fetching photos of the bottoms of all the animals!

Kerry has included 4 simple yarn weight sizing options, with a set of tables to tell you how much yarn, what hook size, finished measurements and tension information. It is touches like these that take this book from cute animals, to "where's my hook, I'm ready to get going"!

All of the designs use gorgeous Toft yarns - 100% British Alpaca yarns from Kerry's family alpaca farm. This gives the animals the feel of a proper collection, and their natural shades sit together beautifully. You could easily substitute other standard weight yarns, but I definitely believe that using the recommended yarn here is going to give you finished animals that are a cut above your average amigurumi. I certainly plan to order Toft yarns to make my own Menagerie... hopefully very soon!

Each of the patterns has a lovely large photo, and an achievably short set of instructions. Even I, who really isn't normally a fan of crochet, am itching to make these. I passed the book around at my local knitting group a few weeks ago - a crowd that are particularly hard to please - and last week someone had already borrowed Edward's Menagerie from the library and made 4 of the animals, and two more were planning to buy their own copies. I can't remember the last time that a book was sound universally liked by our knitting group!

So if you haven't already, do head out and get your grubby hands on a copy of Edward's Menagerie. If you purchase direct from Toft, you will also receive a pdf file with an additional 10 animal patterns (who could resist Frank the Armadillo?!).

Edward's Menagerie by Kerry Lord
David and Charles Publishing
RRP: £15.99 / US $22.99 / CAN $25.50

Disclaimer: I didn't pay for my copy of the book. A friend passed me hers, as she doesn't crochet. I would happily have paid for my copy as I believe it's worth every penny. I've not received any incentive for writing a review - I was just excited about the book!