Book Reviews

Book Reviews

We take a look at some of the latest knitting, crochet and crafting books available now.

Plain & Simple

11 knits to wear every day

By Pam Allen


Quince & Co.

Available in print and pdf form

Pam Allen is an accomplished knitwear designer and the founder of yarn company Quince & Co.  Her latest book, Plain & Simple, is a collection of 11 wearable knitwear designs from which you’ll want to own one of everything.

Pam designed the collection using Quince & Co’s worsted weight yarn Owl, a blend of 50% American Wool and 50% Alpaca, and while the yarn can be easily substituted, there is something very beautiful about the combination of light, lofty softness and Pam’s classic designs.

Despite there being 22 shades available in Owl, Pam has chosen a natural palette for the samples in the book, which have photographed well and create a charming aesthetic.

Of the 11 designs featured in the book nine are garments and two are accessories. Classic cardigans and pullovers perfect for every day which can be worn by women of all ages and simple shapes with interesting design elements to keep us knitters more than happy.

In truth, it’s not very often that we can say we’d happily own one of everything, but with Plain & Simple this is most definitely the case.  Not only that, we can see how adaptable the pieces are to suit women with different styles.  Of the 11 designs there are several that stand out immediately to us.

Ash, which is the pattern that led to the creation of the collection, is an oversized pullover.  Worked from the bottom up the jumper features a deep half brioche hem with cosy pockets.  A reverse stocking stitch body is joined using a three needle bind off at the shoulders with exposed seams to add extra interest.

In contrast, Oak is a more fitted dolman style jumper, knitted from the bottom up in reverse stocking stitch and embellished with a single pocket. Oak is a wardrobe staple that could take you from day to night with nothing more than a change of accessories.

As we all know stranded colourwork is bang on trend and Plain & Simple includes two garments that feature this technique.  Aspen, has the barest smattering of stranded knitting while Birch fully embraces a deep round yoke, knitted in two colours Birch is a cool hybrid of both bottom up and top down knitting.  The body of the jumper is knitted from the bottom up, while the sleeves are knitted from the yoke down, making it easy to adjust the lengths as you go.

Pam’s fascination with the dolman/drop shoulder construction is also evident in the classic cardigan Walnut. A deep half brioche split hem blends into a reverse stocking stitch body with the same exposed shoulder seams as in the Ash pullover.

All the patterns featured in the book are written clearly and feature schematics and diagrams where necessary.  All garments include a generous range of sizes, between five and 10 depending on which design it is.  A stitches and techniques section at the back of the book rounds off everything nicely.


By Marie Wallin

Price £17.99

IBAN 9780992797881

Well-known knitwear designer Marie Wallin has collaborated with Jamieson’s of Shetland for her latest book, Shetland.  Inspired by the people and the wild beauty of the most northerly part of Scotland, Shetland is a collection of eight garments and four accessories knit in Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift yarn.

Perhaps most well known for her colourwork designs, Marie has captured the many hues of the island beautifully in the palette she has chosen.  Beautifully photographed, every detail of each design has been captured so you can better see what they really look like from every angle.  The patterns include basic schematics and colourwork charts, but one thing to note is that the charts are in black and white, with symbols used in place of colours.  To make things easier when knitting, we would encourage you to enlarge the required charts and consider colouring them in with your chosen yarn colours to help you better see the design.

Several of Marie’s designs have been in Lora’s ‘dream knitting’ journal for some time now, so it comes as no surprise to her that several of the designs in Shetland appeal too.

The Feltar Scarf is an attractive project because it’s absolutely gorgeous and Marie recommends it as the perfect pattern for the novice Fairisle knitter.

Muckley Roe is a relaxed jumper, knitted in the round using only two colours. In a switch to the usual stranded colourwork yoke and plain body of many designs, the stranded colourwork band stretches around the bottom of the body and the sleeves of the jumper, while from the waist up the rest of the jumper is knitted in only one of the colours.  The result is a very wearable garment, that’s a little different.

The Scalloway Tam has a traditional striped rib band leading to rounds of colourwork patterns that seamlessly merge into the one after.  If you love Fairisle knitting, but aren’t sure if you’d wear a full sweater, the Scalloway Tam might be an accessible way of testing the waters.

Of all the designs in the book, Unst is our absolute favourite. A fitted cardigan that is knitted in the round and then steaked, Unst is a showcase piece.

We couldn’t talk about Marie’s Shetland book without mentioning her promotion of Northern Irish designer Aisling Doonan’s shawls.  It is uplifting to see an established designer encouraging a new designer.  Promoting Aisling’s work and giving her a space in Shetland to showcase two of her designs is heart-warming.

Mini Crochet Creatures

30 Amigurumi animals to make

By Lauren Bergstrom

Price £14.99 

IBAN – 9781784943899

If you’re a bit prone to squealing at the site of little baby animals, then this book should come with a bit of a warning.  Mini Crochet Creatures is packed with the cutest, most adorable little characters, and if you like one you’ll like them all.

Having learnt to crochet over 20 years ago, Lauren Bergstrom rediscovered her love of the craft through amigurumi.  A prolific maker of little things, in 2011 while completing her degree in music, Lauren set up where she sold her amigurumi toys and patterns.

Mini Crochet Creatures contains 30 different characters which have been divided into six categories; Farm, Small, Woodland, Peat, Sea and Zoo.  Each is created with a simple, roundish body shape with crocheted details and embroidery features.  Photographs of the little creatures are everywhere, adding to the cuteness overload.

The designs, while written to be made with a 3.5mm/US E/4hook, are easily adaptable and can be successfully worked in any weight of yarn providing you change your hook size when appropriate.  In fact, if you’re unsure about working the characters to scale, Lauren suggests you begin by trying them out with heavier yarn until you get used to the techniques.

We couldn’t possibly pick just a handful of favourites from the book.  Let’s see, there’s the Penguin, the Bunny, the Honey Bee, the Sheep, the Owl, the Bear, the Seal, the Pig, wait did I already mention the Pig?  Seriously we want them all.

I Knit New York: Volume 1

By – One More Row Press

Price – $30

IBAN – 9780692997772

I Knit New York is the first book to be published by One More Row Press, a small publishing house co-founded by Kathleen Dames and Alice O’Reilly.  Kathleen is a knitwear  designer, host of The Sweater with Kathleen Dames and co-editor of Filament. Alice is the talented dyer behind indie yarn company, Backyard Fiberworks.

I Knit New York isn’t just your average knitting pattern book, it’s much more of a guide for the knitter in New York.  Whether you’ve lived there all your life, or are just visiting, the book will have something for you.

Kathleen and Alice have enlisted the help of several New York based knitters and designers to create I Knit New York.  There are 10 patterns from five well known designers; Kirsten Kapur, Xandy Peters, Brittney Bailey, Lars Raine and Kathleen Dames herself.  In addition to their creations, each designer has shared their New York secrets, from must-see landmarks and places to eat to recommended reads or films to watch.

As ‘Knit Yorkers’ Kay Gardiner takes us on a trip down memory lane in ‘Knitting in ‘old’ New York’. We’re whisked away on a New York Yarn Crawl with Lisa Chamoff, and Kathleen Dames takes us on a button hunt through the garment district and beyond.

Knitting pattern wise, I Knit New York has something for everyone – garments and accessories.  The two pieces that jump out the most to us are the Audrey Hepburn inspired jumper Go Lightly, designed by Brittney Bailey. It’s a stylish boatneck raglan jumper, with simple, but classic lines.  Knitted in Terrain, which is a sport weight superwash Merino, the slightly relaxed fit of the jumper gives it a flattering silhouette.

And Opal Clock by Kathleen Dames. A beautiful, cabled rectangular wrap inspired by the Opal Clock that sits atop the information booth in the Main Hall at Grand Central Terminal in the city.  Knitted in aran weight Homestead yarn it looks perfect for keeping out the New York Winter chill.

I Knit New York is the only guide book a visiting knitter to the city will need.

Cute Crochet Animals

By Emma Varnam

Price – £12.99

IBAN – 9781784942014

Cute Crochet Animals is one of those books that really makes us wish our crochet skills were a little more refined.  The most recently published book by knitting and crochet designer Emma Varnam, has a host of charactera that look almost ready to jump out of the pages to play.

There are three sections within the book; the Animals, the Wardrobe and the Basics.  The Basics can be found at the back of the book and in this helpful chapter Emma shares all the necessary information to crochet the characters, including how to get started, finishing touches and embroidery stitches.

The stars of the show however can be found at the beginning of the book. Ten adorable chums, five pairs, one male and one female; The Rabbits, The Mice, The Bears, The Cats and The Foxes.  Each of the 10 softies has their very own wardrobe but Emma has created additional garments and accessories which can be swapped and shared among all the animal friends.  Their wardrobe is quite enviable and contains any number of outfits including an aran jumper, tank top, poncho, dungarees and shorts.  Let’s not forget the accessories either; there are boots, shoes, handbags, hats, scarves and even a rugby ball.  Emma has thought of everything.

We can’t single out one favoured character because they’re all equally charming.  Personally, we think owners of this book will likely end up making all 10 animals along with their extended wardrobe of clothes and then find it extremely difficult to part with any of them.

Mittens of Latvia

By Maruta Grasmane

Price – £25.99

IBAN – 9789934855511

You can’t have failed to have noticed the rising interest in stranded colourwork mittens?  We ourselves have reviewed several publications in previous issues and happily the trend looks set to continue.

What’s particularly lovely about this movement is the interest in traditional and historical mitten designs.  As a result, several books are receiving a renewed interest.  The books are historical references and contain charts for the mittens, so can still be followed by a knitter, but the history might well be lost.  Sadly, there are a couple that are unlikely to be translated, but one, Mittens of Latvia (Latvieša Cimdi), originally published by the National Costume Center of Latvia SENĀ KLĒTS in 2012, is currently available in five languages; German, Japanese, English, Latvian and Norwegian and is soon to be published in German, French and Estonian.

The book’s author Maruta Grasmane has devoted more than 50 years to collecting and systemising materials about Latvian Traditional Costume and is well respected.  Her book, Latvian Mittens, is both a historical encyclopaedia and a practical knitting pattern book.

Mittens of Latvia is a tome of book, containing 178 different mittens which are authentic copies of mittens found in the museums of Latvia.  The mittens in the book have been grouped together according to the main region of Latvia; Vidzeme, Latgale, Augšzeme (Selonia), Zemgale and Kurzeme.  The number of exaples in each section reflects the number of examples Maruta discovered in the museums.

Each regional section begins with a brief introduction about the most popular colours of yarn and designs found in the mittens associated with that area.  The layout for each mitten is the same for all 178 designs.  The colourwork chart is on the left page, while the right depicts a photograph of the actual mitten.  Directions for thumbs are not included, but there is some helpful information on placement, pattern and shaping in the final chapter of the book.  Here you can also find advice on sizing and cuffs.

Each mitten has its name and reference number attached to it, showing which Latvian museum the original can be found in.  The key can also be found at the back of the book.

Selecting favourites to share with you is difficult, not least because all of the designs, even the ones we’re not too keen on are striking.  Taurupe, the first mitten design in the book, uses three colours, two in an all-over, repeating geometric star pattern, with the third used for a single centre stitch in each star.

Zaļenieki uses four colours in total and has a repeating three colour pattern across the hand with a contrasting cuff that uses all four colours.

One of the last designs in the book Rucava, is a beautifully ornate mitten predominantly knitted in three colours but with a fourth used to accentuate the bottom of the cuff.  It is reminiscent of the beautiful hand-woven tapestries and rugs you see in stately homes.

Helpful Information:  There is a Ravelry Group: Knit Like a Latvian for knitters taking on the challenge of Latvian Mittens, which might be of interest.

Vogue Knitting

The Ultimate Knitting Book (Completely Revised & Updated)

By The Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine

Price $39.95

IBAN 978-1942021698

The original Vogue Knitting book was first published in 1989. Created by the Vogue Knitting Magazine Editors, it took three years to compile in a world where technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now.

The book was an invaluable reference both for knitters and knitwear designers and was justifiably one of the best-selling knitting books published.  Exploring every aspect of knitting in clear concise language with step-by-step visuals.  In 2002 the book received a bit of a makeover; out-dated material was dropped and fashion photographs were changed and replaced, ensuring Vogue Knitting remained a top seller.

The latest edition embraces the knitting boom of the 2000s and has been thoroughly revised and updated.  The use of the internet by knitters has caused an explosion of knitting, with knowledge being shared globally.  The world has opened up dramatically to new influences and techniques.  There are new fibres and changes in yarn construction as well as improvements in needles and other tools.  Knitting is big news and the editors at Vogue Knitting have spent over two years working on updating their popular reference book.

Much of the information contained in the original book is still as relevant today as it was back in the 1980s.  Some of the photography and illustrations remain and the editors have gone to great lengths to ensure that the new material blends seamlessly with the old.  There are more than 70 additional pages in the latest version of the book.

Vogue Knitting is the ultimate reference tool and in these days of YouTube ad online tutorials it’s still incredibly helpful to be able to sit down and try something out yourself first. Or to be able to check what an abbreviation means or discover what your swatch is telling you. Anything and everything knitting is covered in this indispensable guide, with new sections on Hat, Glove and Mitten Design & Construction, Shawl Shapes & Construction, Mosaic Knitting, Brioche, Entrelac, Double Knitting, Lace Knitting and Directional Knitting.

Having been a knitter for over 30 years (ouch!) and a yarn shop owner for 10 of those, I can express my love for my dog-eared 2002 copy.  It was my ‘go to’ reference book while I had the shop and lived under my counter, so I could grab it when needed.  In my opinion, it’s a book that every knitter should own and I’m thoroughly looking forward to spending some time reading through this version and learning something new.

One thing to note:  Unfortunately, this latest version isn’t currently available in the UK or Ireland, however, there are many international stockists who are happy to ship the book over.  If you are unable to find a stockist you can always contact the publishers Sixth and Spring directly via the Contact Form on their website here.