Review of Norah Gaughan's Forty Timeless Knits

Review of Norah Gaughan's Forty Timeless Knits
The editors at Vogue Knitting have done it again. Just when I think they can’t possibly come up with another ‘best of’ collection, they prove me wrong. The 2018 publication of Norah Gaughan: 40 Timeless Knits is cause for celebration, as Gaughan is easily one of the most proficient and interesting designers currently publishing. You’ll peruse this volume amazed at what one mind can create.

Although the designs reach back to 1987, it’s fascinating that none of them look dated. This is largely because Gaughan for the most part sticks to classic shapes and and a restrained palate. The vast majority of patterns use cable knitting techniques in various iterations, but these are usually kept to rope cables and ribbing. While some patterns use a complicated array of twist stitches or Aran design, these seem tamed by the simplicity of construction. There are a few stranded patterns here, but each restricts itself to six colors or less; there are also designs that use lace in part of the garment, but even here there’s a lot of stockinette to balance things out. Modular knitting? Yes – but for a cropped jacket (thereby balancing the amount of texture), or for garter stitch that makes the best of a muted colorway, or an accessory meant to spice up an otherwise simple outfit. These patterns are stunning, make no mistake, but there’s nothing that looks dated, retro, or otherwise unwearable except by a few.

Aside from a few excerpted articles from issues showcasing Gaughan and an introduction written by the designer herself, the book only offers the forty patterns suggested by the title. At the end of the book, there’s the requisite material on abbreviations, yarn weight, and skill levels, but aside from a half-page tutorial on Kitchener stitch, there’s very little in the way of knitting instruction. The collection is obvious intended for long-time readers of Vogue Knitting who know and love Norah Gaughan, or for experienced knitters first discovering her oeuvre. New knitters will enjoy the eye-candy, but will probably need significant assistance to finish a pattern.

Each pattern lists the original yarn used but also offers a modern update for material choice. Those on a budget should note the reliance on quality yarns and the need for fairly large amounts; very few patterns can be made with less than fifteen hundred yards. Of course, the finished product will be of heirloom quality, but that’s poor consolation for those who simply can’t afford to buy that much yarn at one time.

I personally love this book and am glad to find patterns that I thought I’d lost track of forever. I plan to make a few of the garments; I’m particularly obsessed with the cropped jacket made from joined pentagons. This pattern is rated as ‘intermediate’, but this twenty-year knitting veteran is going to bring the work-in-progress to the local yarn shop and get advice from others all the same. I’ll also probably find a less expensive yarn than what’s suggested in the pattern. There are other patterns that I’m also excited about, some of which seem more doable than others. Even the patterns that simply won’t work for my warm climate are wonderful to study; I feel like I learn a lot every time I peruse this volume.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest appraisal.

Vogue Knitting, Norah Gaughan: 40 Timeless Knits. Sixth and Spring, 2018. ISBN: 978-1640210271

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