Knitting Rules – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I don’t add all my knitting pattern books to this blog, because they are hard to judge on similar merits to a ordinary book. Knitting Rules however is not a pattern book, but a book of advice and observations on knitting.

Not intended for the beginning knitter, it instead advocates moving on in knitting, having confidence in your work and taking the necessary steps to plan as you move to the next level of knitting. What makes this a book to read though is not the good advice, although it is packed full of this, but the humour within that advice. There were several moments when I laughed aloud. Sometimes from the joke, and sometimes from guilt that this applies to me as well.

On a hat that is not working:

“Look for a friend with a bigger head…

Is it possible – and I know this may seem a bit avant-garde – but is it possible that you have, in fact, not knit a hat?”

I am delighted to learn that Pearl-McPhee has a blog, which I am now following. Of course it would be better if I made progress on the shawl I’m knitting for a wedding this year, but I’ve done loads this week! Mostly making a Lego-holder for the little lad, but there’s months to go before the wedding yet!



Knitting Yarns edited by Ann Hood

As well as walking and reading, my main hobbies are fabric crafts: sewing and knitting. I knit whenever I get the chance: on the sofa, on the train, in a corner during my lunch hour and the gradual building up of stitches has gently become how I think about things.

This book was tucked in a corner of the LRB bookshop, an American import without a price in pounds. My aunt, who I was in London with, kindly bought it for me has half of my birthday present (the other half is a book on mathematics which I haven’t yet read).

It is a lovely collection of stories and essays, covering how knitting brings people, mainly women together. From mother-daughter bonding over learning together to a passionate gap year affair. Then there are the serendipitous meetings an conversations, because knitting in public is a way to break down the barriers that stop strangers talking. But mostly it is about how construction of fabric from a ball of string using a pair of sticks is a wonderfully soothing, powerful thing to be able to do.

I did wonder if the non-knitter: Elizabeth Searle’s friend was Suzanne Strempek Shea, as they seemed to describe each other so well, one wanting nothing more than to sit by her knitting friend and watch her produce something from just that ball of string.

My only misgiving about knitting the patterns included is that there are no photos in the book, so no indication as to how they will turn out. But I have Ravelry, so patterns aren’t something I am short of, and photos of the finished projects are never far away

Knitting for Tommy – Lucinda Gosling

One of the things which public libraries excel at is “people’s history”. This is a good of the examples of this type of work: a short piece illustrated with contemporary magazine clippings.

Knitting for Tommy coverKnitting for Tommy is an interesting book on the knitting to support the war effort during World War One. There is some political context included: such as the ration of 3 pairs of socks for every 6 months being bought by the War Office (clearly insufficient), and the wool shortages which were highlighted (of course) by the wool industry. However a lot of the content is simple collation of clippings, advertisements, postcards etc. to illustrate that knitting took place, rather than any critical look at why the War Office couldn’t promote more commercially produced items, a process that would have been much more efficient using mechanical knitting that had popular since the 1590’s. The morale argument is presented, but not the converse, that more men being warm and dry with limited wool supplies may have been more helpful. It is also not made clear how much of the enthusiasm was purely due to advertising and encouragement by the wool companies rather than genuine need.

There is an interesting look at who knitted: from schoolchildren to the elderly and across all social classes. Men were also included, both at home and those in Prisoner of War camps. It was made clear that this was an accessible part of the war effort, which was contributed to despite natural talent or experience. A few patterns or “recipes” are included towards the end, to add to the body of evidence presented in terms of the types of garments and skill level required. Unsurprisingly the skills are basic, tips are included to make socks more hard-wearing or mittens that a solider could shoot a gun in, and the items are generally designed to be produced rapidly in hard-wearing wools. Whilst they are of historical interest, I am unlikely to decide to knit any soon with this year’s knitting already planned.

Knitting for Tommy would be a good secondary source of information for further research, and the author’s access to less widely available collections means this is an interesting peek at material that is not commonly available.

I have now also started off on a path looking at some more local history, so I am likely to raid those shelves next time I visit the library.

Knit The Sky – Lea Redmond

Playful Knitting Projects

When I’m not reading on the train to work, I’m knitting. Currently I’m 95% of the way through a cardigan that I started in early April. Knitting is how I clear my mind, and is much less tiring on days when I’ve done quite enough thinking and reading at work to want more. I’ve noticed through life that I actually read less when there’s a lot going on: I dropped to about a book a month whilst at university, but read two or three books a week when working in a farm shop.

Winter is coming, on train knitting

Redmond’s approach in Knit the Sky is that knitting doesn’t have to be about following a pattern rigidly, but to take what is going on in the world around us and turn that into a knitted item. I love this idea, as I never stick to patterns as it is, and have a tendency to put new ideas in as I go along. She suggests knitting a scarf, one row a day for a year, and picking the colour for that day that best reflects the weather. Or sending a friend a gift with butterflies knitted in, one for each year of your friendship.

At the end she challenges you to invent your own project.

I have decided that the next time I take a seriously long train ride (maybe child-free) I will knit a long narrow scarf/ loose belt, starting with the dark colours when I set off before dawn (its always before dawn) and knitting every row based on the colour outside my window. When that is a down, maybe it will be browns and greys, fields and woods will be greens and open moorland will be back to purples.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgallery in exchange for an honest review