In Alterknit, Andrea Rangel has written both a primer on stranded knitting and a stitch dictionary, as well as a call for bringing this type of knitting out of the realm of nostalgia. The subtitle of this tome, “200 Modern Knitting Motifs” is the reader’s first clue that these patterns are not based on traditional, northern European or South American designs; rather, they use elements of sheer playfulness. Would you like to add a row of skulls above the ribbing of a cap? Or perhaps a series of swirls on the hands of a pair of mittens? Or might you prefer something representational? How about sea turtles for a beach cover-up? These are the kinds of stitch patterns that you’ll find here – unusual, cheeky, and definitely fun.
Rangel begins the book with a stranded knitting tutorial that de-mystifies the technique. From choosing yarn and colors, to how to work with multiple strands at a time, to catching longer floats – each of these is discussed in detail. She then goes on to explain color dominance and the use of steeking for larger projects. This section ends with a miscellany of tips.
The meat of the book, of course, are the two hundred knitting patterns, provided in chart form and with a color photograph. The charts range in size, with some small enough to be usable as a border and others large enough to fill the front of a sweater. As mentioned earlier, the designs lean towards the geometric, but there are some stylized animals and plants as well.
Five patterns are offered at the end of the book. Whether or not one wants to actually knit up these designs, this section is well worth reading because of the way in which Rangel explains her design process. Rangel delineates the mathematics of adding a motif to an existing pattern, including considerations for placement and ideas for bordering or completing a design (stripes add movement to bicycles, discrete objects can be spaced closer or farther apart, partial patterns can be added, etc.) Readers interested in designing their own garments will find themselves reading and re-reading this section.
Those with traditional tastes may not find all of the motifs to their liking, and the hardback book is a bit heavy to carry around for a travel project. At $27.99, it’s definitely not an impulse buy. However, these caveats aside, this book remains a well-designed stitch dictionary and a solid addition to the personal library of any stranded knitter.
Rangel, Andrea. Alterknit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs. Interweave Books, Blue Ash, Ohio. ISBN: 978-63250-553-8
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Andrea Rangel or with Interweave Publishing. I purchased this book with my own funds.