Monday, 7 November 2011

Book Review: 55 Christmas Balls to Knit

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55 Christmas Balls to Knit: Colourful Festive Ornaments * Tree Decorations * Centrepieces * Wreaths * Window Decorations
by Arne & Carlos
Search Press 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84448-781-3

This book was first published in Norway in 2010 and was a huge hit. Under the title Julekuler it sold 37 000 copies, and was on the Norwegian bestseller list for four months. To follow up this success, versions of the book are now (October 2011) available in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, France, UK and USA. So, what's the appeal?

The concept is very simple. The book contains just one pattern - the shape of a knitted ball to use as a Christmas decoration - presented as written directions. Then there are 55 different stranded knitting motifs that can be worked on the basic shape. These appear in charts, which also show the basic shape. This simplicity hints a one aspect of the phenomenon - people get hooked. You make your first ball, then just have to get started on another one with a slightly different design.

The way the book is presented also adds to the enjoyment. We meet Arne and Carlos, a pair of knitwear designers who live and work in the Norwegian mountains (this video is worth a look). The book is full of photographs of their knitted balls artfully arranged around their home, or together with related items. I especially like the photo on p115. I thought a first they'd made a very large ball - but it turned out to be a normal sized ball inside a dolls house. As well as photographs, there are quotes from seasonal poems and even a little story from Arne's grandmother.

The introductory material assumes some experience with knitting in the round and stranded colour work, but includes instructions on how to increase and decrease and how to stuff and finish your ball. Then the different motifs are presented. They have been arranged into 16 chapters of related designs, e.g. "Reindeer" and "Hearts", and many are traditional designs. Most of the motifs are accompanied by a comment on the source of inspiration or a little seasonal reminiscence.

Arne and Carlos note that they could have come up with more variations, but chose to stop at 55. Clearly they recognise that once people have worked a few of these they'll be coming up with their own designs - there's an empty chart at the back of the book, ready for when inspiration strikes!

I've made one ball from the book - so far! The instructions were clear, it was easy to knit and took just a couple of evenings (faster knitters can produce two or three a day). The yarn used in the book is a sport weight (100 m to 50 g) yarn, but any yarn can be tried - the ball will come out smaller or bigger. Just choose a needle size to give a tight fabric so the stuffing doesn't leak out.

So. Avoid the book if you just want to knit a Christmas ball - other patterns are available. But get a copy if you like the tactile pleasure of books, great photography, traditional designs, winter scenery and the charm of something just that little bit different.

I loved it.

Disclosure: I purchased this book. My review is of the Search Press paperback edition.

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