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Review of Northern Knits and New England Knits

Northern Knits Designs Inspired by the Knitting Traditions of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Shetland Isles by Lucinda Guy. The first thing I noticed about the book was that I wanted to make all of the patterns within it. The second thing I noticed was no steeks. Steeks are the traditional way to work Norweigen and Fair Isle knitting.

The knitter knits in the round to the neck and then cuts their knitting to make openings for the armholes and button bands. The fear of cutting your knitting is what keeps many knitters from attempting this type of knitting. The reason for working in the round right up to the neck is so the knitter always has the right side of their knitting facing them. By having the right side always facing the knitter it is easy to see the pattern of the two color work, which is nearly impossible to distinguish on the wrong side with the strands colors being carried along.

Ms. Guy's patterns are lovely and look like traditional Northern Country knits, but with the back and forth knitting from the arm holes up, may make it more appealing to those who have never tried stranded knitting. On the other hand, although there is no need to cut when you work back and forth, a whole other set of problems arise. The inability to see the pattern is one, but even more importantly, the ability to keep a steady tension is harder to do when you are stranding on a purl side. Sarah White, at about.com, gives a great explanation of the problem here. When working in the round and then switching to back and forth knitting your gauge may change dramatically, so be very careful.

If you are one of those knitters who would like to do multi-colored knitting, but have been afraid to because of the whole cutting thing this is your opportunity. If you aren't afraid to steek, this book will still work, but some patten modification is called for. Is that enough to make me wary of recommending this book, maybe. All I can say is to make sure you make a really, really careful gauge swatch and practice stranding across the purl side of your work before starting the sweaters in this book. I am not sure the beauty of the patterns is worth the risk of gauge problems that may arise, and these patterns are beautiful.

Another book about knitting for cold climates is New England Knits by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre. It is a wonderful collection of 25 patterns also suitable for a three season climate. The sweaters are interesting in design and most have some sort of shaping so that they do not just hang off of the wearer like a box. I am not in love with all of the patterns, but that is a matter of personal taste. What I do like are the written instructions interspersed with charts, the freshness of the patterns without being outré, and the variety. Although more than half are tops or sweaters, and there are not patterns for men, each sweater offers something different, there are boat neck sweaters, cowl, and saddle-shouldered items.

Each book that comes across my desk has something different to offer and this book is no exception. It seems to be the first book for these two authors and it shows a lot of promise. Watch for errata at the Interweave Press Site just in case, but I have generally had great luck with Interweave book's patterns.

Disclosure: Review copies of these books were provided by the publisher. For a full explanation of BellaOnline’s ethics and review policy click here.

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