Sunday, 23 October 2011

Book Review: Northern Knits

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Northern Knits. Designs inspired by the knitting traditions of scandinavia, iceland, and the shetland isles
by Lucinda Guy
Interweave Press 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59668-171-2




Lucinda Guy has written a number of books focused on designs for children, but this book, published in 2010, is very grown up. The content is inspired by traditional designs and techniques associated with the north European regions of the subtitle, and the whole book has a cool colour scheme and stylish layout to match.

The book is divided into four main chapters on Iceland, Shetland, Norway and Sweden.  Each chapter contains four or five patterns, and starts with a two page introduction to the history of knitting in that region.    The designs are worked in yarn from the relevant country, with URLs supplied for the original manufacturers, which should allow readers from around the world to identify a suitable stockist. These are designs that will benefit from using the specified yarn, or something very carefully chosen as a substitute.  I can imagine only disappointment resulting from any attempt to substitute with acrylic!

The patterns include eight pullovers and tops, two cardigans and jackets, two shawls, three gloves/mitts/mittens, two socks, two hats and a bag. 

My experience with Icelandic yarn and patterns dates back some 25 years.  I made a few jumpers then, one or two in traditional style and one in a sideways-knitted 1980s design that I still love.  However I rarely wear them as they are so incredibly warm.  It is notable that although the Iceland chapter does include a thick Lopi jumper (Unnur), there is also a beautiful thinner pullover (Hulda) knitted using a laceweight yarn.  This would be worn more than once a year!  My favourite design in the book is the Yrsa Laceweight mitts, which have a calm and subtle colour scheme.

I also like the Sweden chapter.  This includes the cover pullover (Pia) which is another laceweight garment worked on 3 mm needles.  This chapter also includes designs that use the "twined" technique, and though neither of these designs appeals to me particularly, the notes about the technique here would make it easier to work a twined pattern from elsewhere.

The Shetland chapter includes designs using both Shetland lace patterns and Fair Isle colourwork.  There is a cap (Nell) that would be a good pattern for the novice Fair Isle knitter.  The designs in the Norway chapter all include folk patterns that you'll either love or hate.  Notable here is the long knitted cap (think Wee Willie Winkie), which I can see being worn happily in a ski resort, if not in the local railway station (Inger).

The book contains charts for the colour work designs and for most of the lace work;  where charts are given, these are not duplicated with written instructions.

This book will be appreciated by intermediate to expert knitters interested in the knitting traditions and the special yarns of these northern lands, but perhaps not yet wedded to one tradition in particular.  It is more likely to appeal to those who like to thumb through knitting books, without necessarily following more than a pattern or two.


Disclosure: I received this book from a magazine as a free gift when I took out a magazine subscription at a show. I suspect it was the magazine's review copy.

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