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Review: The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons; and, a Giveaway!

Filed under: Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 3:28 pm on Friday, August 24, 2007

yg knitting seasons.jpgThe other book I’ve been sent a review copy of recently is The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons, by Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs.

I have heard of the Yarn Girls before, but this is my first exposure to their books. As I understand them, their designs are targeted at new knitters, with each book introducing somewhat more ambitious projects than those before.

Knits for All Seasons contains a lot of classic designs. Nothing here is going to turn the fashion world on its head, but there are many timeless styles that you can knit today, and still wear in twenty years. Or keep the book around, and knit them twenty years from now.

What doesnt’ work

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!

Of course, you can only figure out those measurements by taking the one number they give you – the finished width of the garment at the chest, not the circumference of the chest – and doubling it. Why, if you’re a book for less experienced knitters, would you require that your readers take that extra step? No pattern tells you what real body bust measurements each size is intended for, and in fact, the only size references given are XS, S, M, and L for women, and S, M, L, and XL for men.

Yarns for each pattern are specified by brand, which is good. But what if you want to make substitutions – or are forced to because your LYS doesn’t carry a yarn, or because it’s discontinued? No guidance other than gauge is given for the weight of the yarns needed, and in many cases the yarns are knit doubled, which would have to be accounted for in estimating the weight used. I searched the introduction, and couldn’t even find a suggestion that you ask your LYS owner or an experienced knitting friend for help with substituting yarns.

While the instructions are generally okay, there are places where the reader is left hanging. Zippered cardigans have good finishing instructions (with good step-by-step illustrations in the back of the book), but then end with a simple statement to “Sew in zipper.” No suggestions about how and where to place the zipper in relationship to the edge of the sweater front. No help regarding what thread to sew it in with, or a preferred stitch to use.

What does work

Each pattern has a schematic drawing of the main pieces, showing all the important measurements – an essential guide to making sure the piece you’re knitting meets the expectations of the pattern. As for putting your sweaters together, there’s a well-illustrated, step-by-step guide in the Finishing Techniques section at the back which covers most of the needed procedures. (Sadly, though, not sewing in zippers.)

The garments are all photographed on real people, and those photos are clearly unretouched – freckles and imperfections on the models are all intact. Some of the garments fit the models better than others – there is at least one sweater where you can see the model’s chest was a bit larger than the size knit, and the sweater pulls and stretches badly at the corners of the v-neck. Mostly, however, the sweaters look reasonably good, if sometimes a little frumpy, on the bodies wearing them.

All that being said, there are, as I mentioned before, many designs that will stay classic for years. Here are some of my favorites:

Nancy's Knit
Nancy’s Knit

This is the very first project in the book, in the Spring section. The yarn is Alchemy Synchronicity, a 50/50 silk/wool blend. The color they chose, Waterlily, may be my reason for liking this one, at least as much as the 3/4 sleeves, the diagonal rib, and the boat neck. The only shaping required is for the set-in sleeves, which would make this an easy knit for a beginner.

Suzanne's Bright Idea
Suzanne’s Bright Idea

This may be the cutest pattern in the whole book. Found, of course, in the Summer section, this great little dress is knit from Tahki Dream, an 80/20 wool/nylon blend, held doubled. Minimal shaping makes it an easy knit, and the contrasting hem is even folded to the inside to give a more finished look, and a little weight for better drape.

Olivia's Sweatshirt
Olivia’s Sweatshirt

This actually struck me as a good, attractive, yet functional garment. The yarn is Crystal Palace Merino Frappe. There are lined pockets, and a hood. Minimal shaping again, only the set-in sleeves. Still an easy knit, just more pieces to make. I can see this becoming a comfy, everyday jacket.

The Catwalk Cable
The Catwalk Cable

Preppy style all the way! I think this may have been a little large for the model – what looks like drop shoulders are actually set-in sleeves, suggesting the shoulders of the sweater are a little too broad for the girl wearing it. Otherwise, there’s a lot of nice texture, and though there are three types of cables, they’re all of the simple rope variety – just crossed in different directions and widths.

Other Projects

There are 8 sweaters for men in this book as well. Some of them are nice, comfy-looking, bumming around types. None of them stood out to me as “nice enough to wear to the office on Casual Friday,” however. And I felt all were a bit lacking in imagination when it came to colors and textures.

There are also 8 different accessory projects. None of them impressed me much – one was a garter-stitch belt so simple, the instructions were nothing more than how many stitches to cast on, and a directive to knit to the desired length. Oh, and how to add fringe to each end. Your mileage may vary, of course – there is a beach tote in the Summer section that almost twinges my knitting fingers, but not quite.

All things considered

The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons is a flawed book, and may trip up the apparently intended audience of less experienced knitters. On the other hand, if readers can remember to ask for help from a more experienced knitter if they need it, there are many classic designs here that can be worn – and knitted – for years to come.

Keep in mind the sizing, though. This is not for the zaftig, or even the reubenesque. If you’re among the fortunate who have kept their size down, or if you often knit for teenage girls, this book may be worth picking up, but if you or your target recipient is built like the Venus of Willendorf, as I am, I’d pass it by.

I really wanted to like this book more than I do. I’m just not who it’s meant for.

Giveaway time!

That being said, I don’t have a need for this book in my library – no teenagers around here to knit for! But maybe there is one among you who would like to have it? If so, just leave a comment on this post before noon, Eastern time, on Monday, August 27th, and I’ll enter you into the random drawing. The winner will receive The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Knits for All Seasons absolutely free.

Mention this giveaway and link to this post from your own blog, and I’ll enter your name in the hat a second time. Just be sure to tell me you did!

Have a great weekend, everyone, and good luck!


Comment by Carrie K

August 24, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

The catwalk cable sweater looks cute. Thanks for the link on the Venus of Willendorf! Interesting stuff.

Comment by Carol

August 24, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

I agree, the projects you show don’t look htat impressive. Meh, indeed. don’t enter me in the draw, BTW, let someone who really wants it have it….

Comment by Christine

August 24, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

I haven’t seen this book, of course, but I think I’d agree with your assessment based on their other books. Some nice-looking patterns, but can leave a beginner hung out to dry. I made a hoodie from one of their books as my first sweater; it ended with the instructions, “Sew on hood” with no further guidance.

Comment by sarebear

August 24, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

My fave shown is the sweatshirt. Leaving out the zipper info; wow, geez. Of course, I’ve got a whole pile o knitting books here I checked out from the library t’other day, and I remember one of them (perhaps Men with Balls) has really good info, well-illustrated, etc., about the zipper thing.

Being plus size myself, I’m of the same mind as yourself regarding that issue.

I do hope that knitters within the book’s size range see this giveaway, and with that in mind I’ll post about it on my blog!

Comment by Elspeth

August 25, 2007 @ 3:18 am

They do look cute – not as technically advanced as IK can be but I can’t believe a book targeting all beginning knitters would stop at a 42″ bust. Don’t they know we’re all getting bigger (at least here in the U.S.)? It does strike me as a good library knitting book – you don’t need it after you’ve knit for awhile or maybe for just one pattern.

Comment by Wannietta

August 25, 2007 @ 5:22 pm

I think it’s a fair review. I have the same issues/gripes about the summer VK’s – in general, the summer issue seems more geared to the model-esque figure. Not that that stops me from buying it, I love VK.

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