Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Couple of Book Reviews

OK, I’ve thoroughly checked out the books I got yesterday so here’s the scoop.

Haapsalu_ShawlFirst up we have the one I’ve already mentioned, The Haapsalu Shawl: A Knitted Lace Tradition from Estonia by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi (Saara Publishing House, 2009). The authors wisely chose to go with an English translation since the tradition of their Estonian shawls is currently quite popular outside of their tiny country. Although I already own an Estonian book on this subject (Pitsilised Koekirjad, currently OOP), I can’t read anything except the charts! Plus there is also Nancy Bush’s Knitted Lace of Estonia and the authors credit her as consultant and editor of the English version of their book. Even though there is some information in common, these books complement each other quite well.

The Haapsalu shawl has been around long enough (perhaps 150 years) to have developed strong traditions of shape, construction and patterns. Particular to this style are nupps (meaning bobbles or buttons, rhymes with “loops”) that announce in no uncertain terms that this is a hand-knit since they cannot be replicated by machine. I remember when I first saw a photo of a stitch pattern with nupps in it and I was charmed, determined to find out how to replicate them. Evelyn Clark’s ubiquitous Swallowtail Shawl was my baptism of fire!

Apparently the Swallowtail’s triangular shape isn’t traditional though. A Haapsalu shawl is invariably rectangular and a scarf is square. They are knitted centre section first and the separate edging pieces (knit in two parts because they are so long) are sewn on. Edgings are not mitred at the corners but are eased instead. Every lace knitting tradition seems to have their own interesting way to accomplish the edgings with similar but different results. This book has detailed information and large, clear diagrams.

The section on the history of the shawls is fascinating with lots of photographs. One particular series has a group of master knitters from the late 19th century, a similar one of today’s masters in costume, and a final photograph of a relaxed group of knitting high school students. Of course it’s entitled “Past – Present – Future”!

Perhaps surprisingly, there are no actual complete shawl patterns in the book. The majority of the pages feature individual stitch patterns which consist of a photo and a chart (Estonian symbols as in the Pitsilised book but much bigger), no written directions, and each one on its own large page. They are grouped with variations and often a short history of the design’s origins. You will not need a magnifying glass to see these pattern charts – they are beautifully clear. You might want (like I will) to translate them into more familiar symbols for easier following. I never begrudge a few minutes to make my knitting go smoother.

One big “ah-ha” moment came to me when I realised that one of the reasons the edgings are sewn on is that they are knitted from the outside edge in! It’s the bind-off edge that is sewn, or rather laced, onto the main section. The finished piece is blocked on a wooden frame with dowel pegs rather than with pins or wires. I still prefer triangular shawls and scarves (personal taste) but I can totally see using some of these lovely stitches in future work. This is a fabulous book to own and indeed leave out on your coffee table for inspiration.

Enchanted_sole_cover The second book I got was yet another sock book:  The Enchanted Sole by Janel Laidman (Rustling Leaf Press, 2009). This is the companion book to Janel’s first one, The Eclectic Sole. If you’ve seen that one, then you know to expect some amazing socks that are knit up, down and sideways, long and short, and in lace, cable and stranded stitches! I think this book has even more beautiful patterns. They are not for the rank beginner sock knitter however. You’ll want some experience to tackle most of these elaborate art pieces for the foot. There’s helpful information in the beginning of the book but then it goes right into the “recipes” for 20 different fantasy designs.

OK, so why would anyone need yet another sock book? Ummm…do you need a reason beyond the obvious? I covet these socks. Whether I get around to making any of them is another story but I’m currently trying to figure out if Lothlorien can be converted to top-down or if I have the patience to knit what would only be my second toe-up pair…


Anonymous said...

That sock on the cover is enough to make me buy the book. Don't know if I am brave enough to give those socks a try though.

magnusmog said...

why would you need another sock book? What kind of silly question is that. There are never enough sock books :)