Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Review: The Sweater Workshop

I first heard about The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee during a podcast by Kelly Petkun of KnitPicks. I've been a big fan of KnitPicks for a while now, and I really felt like she must know what she's talking about, so I took Kelly's reccomendation and bought the book.

I'm so glad that I did buy it! It's such an interesting book, and, most importantly, I have learned so much! The concept of the book seems like that of The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Bud. Without belittling that book, let me say, it is so much more than that. While Ann Bud's book provides instructions for lots of sizes and lots of weights of yarn, that's pretty much where that book stops and The Sweater Workshop takes up.

Jacqueline Fee's book explains all the reasoning and all the math behind every shaping decision and all the design choices. Reading this book prepares a knitter to become a designer as well, and shows that it probably isn't as difficult as we may have thought. Understanding how the numbers are figured for each part of a sweater, from the armhole to the neckline depth really lets a person understand how they could go about changing these design features and coming up with designs of their own.

The sampler that she has you make at the beginning of the book will obviously provide valuable experience for a knitter who has never knit a sweater before. A beginner who has learned only to knit and to pearl could easily use this book. In fact, a sweater from this book would be a much better first sweater than most, because the technique saves a new knitter from the frustration of messy seams and ill-fitting drop shoulders.

Though the book will be great to get new knitters started on the right track, it is also a very good book for experienced knitters. They will be introduced to concepts in design and techniques in sweater making that they may have never seen, and they will be able to branch out and practice many new skills while they make the sampler. Even in the unlikely event that a knitter has already used every skill taught in the sampler, everyone needs practice now and then, and the idea of having all the different ribbings, decreases, finishes, etc on one piece, always available for reference, is a great one.

Though I haven't gotten the chance yet to make my sampler or cast on my first sweater in this method, I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in knitting design, or for anyone at all who would like to improve their understanding of sweater construction.


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