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Review: Romantic Hand Knits

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 1:27 pm on Thursday, August 23, 2007

Romantic Hand Knits by Annie ModesittLet’s just start by saying that I’m always going to have a built-in bias when I review knitting books that mostly contain garment patterns.

I’m a large woman. No, I mean it – really large. Let’s just say that my bust measurement is 57 inches, and the waist and hip measurements aren’t far off that. I’m the definitive example of the apple-shaped physique.

How’s that for an honest beginning? Not many people would admit to those dimensions, but they’re mine, and they are a significant factor if I’m going to consider a book of garment patterns. Not many designers create for much larger than a 40″ chest. Which puts them over two feet short of hitting a home run with me.

And so, it’s a size-biased eye that I turn to the first of this week’s knitting book reviews: Annie Modesitt’s Romantic Hand Knits. The burning question is: how does it measure up to my needs?

The answer is surprisingly well! A cursory glance through the patterns revealed that a fair number of them are sized up to at least a 56 inch bust, meaning that modifications for an extra inch would either be easy, or completely unnecessary, depending on the ease of the fit. There are even a number of sweaters I might consider knitting for myself.

As other reviews I’ve seen have mentioned, Annie does a magnificent job of both designing an attractive, complex-looking knit, and writing a pattern that explains it so clearly you feel like you could, actually, knit it.

Full sizing information is given, making it easy to see how much ease is designed in, and what the end results should be. Materials call out specific yarns by brand and color, giving exact quantities in both English and metric measurements, but they also specify the weight of the yarn if you want to substitute (and we all do that!).

Where there are fancy stitch patterns, both text and chart instructions are given. Some like one, some like the other – I prefer to have both, because the text can serve as a proof for the chart, and vice-versa.

Special techniques, such as embroidery or millinery, are described in sections near their first use in the book, making them easy to find and reference.

All of this adds up to making this a good book for either experienced knitters, or adventurous beginners who aren’t afraid to trust the instructions. Either would find they could create awe-inspiring projects from this book with little trouble.

But on to the projects I liked, the ones I might actually consider knitting. Please forgive the slightly elongated look of the photos. I find it easier to take a picture of the pages, rather than scanning them.

Romantic Hand Knits - The Heiress
The Heiress

This one comes in sizes up to a 56″ bust (58 3/4″ finished measurement). Fairly tight ease, but adjusting up for a 57″ bust should be easy – just the slightest change in gauge, and I’m golden. I don’t normally wear anything this frilly, but at it’s roots, this is a very nice ribbed cardigan. I could leave off the lacy edgings and embroidery and have a good everyday sweater. Or I could do the lace in the same color as the sweater, adding a slight, but less obvious, frill. Or I could go for broke, and make the fully frilled version as shown, which would help me bust down a few walls in my usual style choices.

Two For The Road
Two For The Road

This one’s a little short-waisted for me, but it should be easier to just knit the body longer. The pattern sizes up to a 54″ bust, with a 60″ finished measurement. If I don’t mind less ease than designed, I could knit it as is, or, again, it should be easy to size up just a skootch.

The really clever thing about this pattern is that the sweater is knit with two sportweight yarns held together – a solid, and a handpaint. Then, when you get to the collar, each is used separately to create a lacy, ruffly, layered effect, with the solid highlighting the neck and face nicely.

There’s a lot of potential in this idea, even if I don’t knit this sweater.

The Bishop's Wife
The Bishop’s Wife

Here’s one that I don’t think I’d wind up knitting, but I think it’s beautiful and classic. (I just don’t wear dresses often enough to justify the time involved.) Not many people think in terms of knitting such a dress these days, but I hope Annie convinces some of them otherwise with The Bishop’s Wife.

There are many nice accessories in the book, too. Scarves, shawls, hats, mitts.

Gigi
Gigi

Gigi looks like a lovely, quick to knit scarf. Lightly lacy, with an undulating wide rib, this looks like it has a nice drape. Sadly, the photo above is the only one in the book – I would love to have seen this all stretched out to display the pattern better.

The Wavy Lace stitch that’s used, as with all other stitch patterns in the book, is given in both text and chart instructions. As well, Annie promises that “after the first few rows you’ll memorize the pattern and find it much easier than you might think!” Looks like this would be a great project for a beginner who wants to dip their toes in the lace pool, or a quick knit for anyone to give as a gift.

One place where Annie really stretches the knitting envelope is with hats. Yes, hats! She gives two patterns for lovely, tea party dressy hats. I liked Gone With The Wind, with its wide brim and classic black and white striping, combined with a lacy brim.

Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind

It’s another project I’m not likely to make for myself. Though I must remember that it’s only last year I was hoping to find a knitting pattern for a sunhat to give to a friend! Something like Gone With The Wind, combined with Annie’s excellent millinery instructions, would have answered that call brilliantly.

Romantic Hand Knits is my first significant exposure to Annie’s design sensibility (I don’t read the magazines), and I have to say, I’m thoroughly impressed with the woman’s eye. And her talent at writing a good pattern, too. It’s one thing to be able to create a jaw-dropping sweater or dress, it’s another altogether to be able to explain how you did it in a way that any brave knitter can replicate. Kudos to Annie!

Coming Tomorrow:

My review of The Yarn Girls Guide to Knits for All Seasons. How do they measure up to my standards? I’ll let you know.

I’ll also announce the giveaway – what’s at stake, and how you can enter. Be sure to come back!

7 Comments

Comment by Carol

August 23, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

I have to say I wasn’t sure I wanted this book. But the more I see around blogland, the more I like it. I love the Heiress and the hat looks like a neat idea. *sound of money evapourating*

Comment by Elspeth

August 23, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

Sounds like a great book! I’m going to get it, I think. The dress is my favorite. Now that you’re done, if you’re bored, feel free to complete the meme I was just tagged for! (You’re tagged too, I mean.)

Comment by sarebear

August 24, 2007 @ 12:09 am

Great review! I certainly hope more publishers realize they need to have a wider range of sizes, like this one does at least on the upper end.

THAT was a pleasant surprise!

I’d like to see that scarf displayed to show off the pattern best, too. It looks nice though.

Depending on how hard the millinery aspects are, I’d make that hat. I likes it!

I like the top cardigan, with the lace stuff (although I’d want to change the shape of the stuff around the neck, though)

Comment by Singular Stitches

August 24, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

I’m a smidge more voluptuous than some of the largest sizes. I’m also thrown off by some patterns because I don’t think that some patterns would be flattering on my body if larger sizes directions were included.

This was a book that looked interesting, but I was going to pass it by, but now that I’ve read your review, it’s back on my list. Thanks! :o)

Pingback by Crafting Jen » Review: The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons; and, a Giveaway!

August 25, 2007 @ 10:09 am

[…] Of course, this only works if the patterns fit you, or if you’re skilled enough to size them up. I mentioned yesterday that I am a large sized woman. Clearly, Knits for All Seasons didn’t have me in mind when creating their patterns – most of the women’s garments only knit to 42″ or less at the chest. When you consider that’s the finished measurement of the garment, and you must allow for ease as well….we’re talking about projects that, at best, I would have to size up by over fifty percent to wear. Might as well design my own from scratch at that point! […]

Pingback by Shopping Jen » Review: The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons; and, a Giveaway!

September 3, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

[…] Of course, this only works if the patterns fit you, or if you’re skilled enough to size them up. I mentioned yesterday that I am a large sized woman. Clearly, Knits for All Seasons didn’t have me in mind when creating their patterns – most of the women’s garments only knit to 42″ or less at the chest. When you consider that’s the finished measurement of the garment, and you must allow for ease as well….we’re talking about projects that, at best, I would have to size up by over fifty percent to wear. Might as well design my own from scratch at that point! […]

Comment by Renaissance Austin

May 28, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

This sounds really great that they can be sized up. I will look into this books as I like very close knit clothing.

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