celticdragonfly: (Knitting patterns - Dumbledore)
Book Info:
Men in Knits: Sweaters to Knit that He WILL Wear by Tara Jon Manning
c. 2003, ISBN 1-931499-23-3
List price $28.95
Obtained by Interlibrary Loan – thanks to the nice people at the Montgomery County Library, Conroe, Texas.

Main comments:
I requested this book because I’d seen pictures of the patterns on Ravelry, and then read the Ravelry description of the book. And hey, I’m thinking about wanting to make sweaters for men I know.

There’s a good introductory section discussing what men want in a sweater. Quote that is IMO exactly spot on – “The first step to ensuring a happy ending to your guy’s sweater story is to involve him in every step of the process in a fun and effortless way.” Yes, yes, yes. Also “Do you want to make a sweater he will enjoy wearing, or do you want to knit a project you will enjoy?” A good question. A nice discussion of The Dreaded Boyfriend Curse. Then there’s a section on Defining His Personal Style that was breaking men down into three categories. It’s going to be no surprise to those who know us to hear that Karl definitely did not fit in any of those three categories. But it will be helpful to knitters for more typical men, or for those who don’t get to know their recipients really well.

There’s a section on selecting the perfect color and fiber. Color theory still sounds confusing to me – I mean, I look at my darling all the time, and I’m still not sure if his skin tones are yellow-based or blue-based. A couple of people pictures here could have been REALLY helpful. Especially since it basically says he’d look good in yellow if it was one way, or in blue if it’s the other, and darn it, I like how he looks in both yellow and blue.

I like this. A discussion of laundry, and hey, if he won’t put up with handwash, go for the machine washable yarns – and she discusses how many newer wonderful non-synthetic-yet-washable yarns there are.

There’s a section on customizing fit by body shapes, which is good to see.

Anything I particularly liked:
Beautiful classy sweaters with lots of cabling and texture. Just the sort of thing I’d like to knit. And several had both mens’ and boys’ sizes.

Anything I particularly disliked:
Mens’ patterns only came in four sizes at most. I’d have liked plus sizes available.

All the patterns were knit-pieces-and-sew. Surely some of this could be done with knitting in the round or knitting in one piece, or otherwise minimal sewing. Like that classic camel vest. SURELY.

Oh, wait, I take it back. The Hyland Argyle vest is knit in the round to the armholes, and no seams. I hadn’t looked closely at that one, because I don’t like it.

Pattern info gives finished sizes only. Doesn’t say how much ease would be good, or what actual chest measurement on the person goes with that size. An ease range would really help.

Comments on photography:
Pretty good. Although many of them only have a single picture, it’s generally showing the garment clearly, nothing obscuring, no weird poses. A variety of male models, although not much variety in build. Good charts. Sweater piece diagrams are well labeled.

Projects from this book that I’m thinking of knitting:
Well, I’ll have to see if any of them would fit any of my prospective recipients. Jack’s Aran Pullover is just lovely. Bulky, though… yeah, even making it for Jamie in the boy’s size, not going to get worn in Texas. The Jack’s cardigan is also pretty. I’m going to show the Basketcase Jacket to Karl, he has some interest in jackets – but eek, bulky yarn, and this one only has 3 sizes.

Might I buy this book?
Eh. I’d want to from the pretty, but probably not. This is the sort of thing I had in mind to knit. But – the size range problem. I want these a bit bigger. I’ll check, I might be able to make sweaters from this for some of the men in my family, but certainly not all.

What I REALLY want is to grab Annie Modesitt – see my earlier review of Men who knit & the dogs who love them, with all that great stuff, wide size range, easy substituting, done in the round or with minimal sewing – and lock her up until she rewrites this book!
celticdragonfly: (Deadly Yarn)
Book Info:
Men who knit & the dogs who love them: 30 great-looking designs for man & his best friend by Annie Modesitt & Drew Emborsky
c. 2007, ISBN 1-57990-874-8
list price $24.95
Obtained by Interlibrary Loan – thanks to the nice people at the Faulk-Central branch, Austin Public Library.

Main comments:
Well. Isn’t that… colorful. Anne Modesitt mentions in the introduction that one of her influences was Kaffe Fassett. Yep, definitely. So if he’s one of yours, too, go look at this book.

I didn’t like the sweaters at all the first time through. Looking through it again, I’m appreciating them more. Some of them I might like a lot more if I just went with different colors.

Hey, look, sweater knitting in the round. Oh man, she’s singing my song. Even things that can’t be knit in the round often have a lot of shaping in the knitting and minimize the number of separate pieces to be seamed together. The cabled vest is all knit in one piece. Oooh.

But – they’re bright loud garments. Bold, daring, and all stuff that absolutely none of the men in my life would wear. The cabled vest is the one quiet piece – and it’s not inspiring.

I’m not interested in any of the dog patterns – but then, I don’t like dogs and wouldn’t knit for them, I am clearly not their target market for that half of the book. It’s not just dog sweaters, though – there are beds, a kerchief, a treat bag, a toy, a leash, socks, and more. If you would knit for dogs, check it out.

Overall this is a very well-done knitting book, that I probably won’t get to knit anything from, because nothing is the style the men in my life would like. How frustrating! I’m going to hand it around some more before I send it back to the library, though, see if there’s any interest.

Anything I particularly liked:
Nice bit about using charts. And a good part about knitting a tube with two circular needles, with a good picture. I had been trying to explain this to my visiting mother-in-law, and showed her that part.

Mens’ sweater sizes vary from XXS to XXXXL, chest sizes from 30” to 62”. In addition to chest measurements, it gives back hip length and sleeve length to underarm. With illustrations, which is great since I wasn’t sure what they meant by “back hip length” until I saw the drawing. Mentions chest size ease. They get serious bonus points from me for this breadth of sizes. Makes me really wish I liked some of the sweaters! They also have 8 dog sizes, with approximations of what breeds are what sizes, and an illustration of where to measure dogs.

Oh, look at that – in the introduction to each project, it’s giving yardage needed by size and the weight of the yarn. There’s a box that tells you what specific yarn the sweater in the picture was knit with – but it’s really set up for plug-in-your-own substitute yarn. Good for them!

Anything I particularly disliked:
Well, the style isn’t mine, but I can hardly complain about that. Okay, personally, I think the dreadlock hat is Just Wrong. But that’s personal taste.

Comments on photography:
Good clear illustration of techniques. Multiple pictures of the items from different angles, you can clearly see what they’re like. Good garment diagrams.

Projects from this book that I’m thinking of knitting:
None at the moment. The gray cabled vest seems the likeliest candidate. But I'm going to look through it a few more times and pass it around the family.

Might I buy this book?
You know… I was thinking no, because the styles and colors are so different from what I like and what the men in my life tend to like. But it’s occurring to me, here is a book with a wide range of men’s sweater sizes, info on how much yarn is needed for each sweater in each size, measurements, techniques with minimum sewing and maximizing the knitting construction of each piece. I may well buy it. Might wait a bit, but I’m thinking this could be a great resource to cannibalize bits as I work up my own designs. So yeah, I think I will, weird though it may seem.

I am NOT going to design sweaters for dogs, though.
celticdragonfly: (Knitting patterns - Dumbledore)
Book Info:
Never Knit Your Man A Sweater unless you’ve got the ring!: 22 Handsome Projects for Every Level of Commitment by Judith Durant
c 2006, ISBN 13 978-1-58017-646-0; ISBN 10: 1-58017-646-1
list price $19.95

Obtained from the Fort Worth Public Library. I believe this is one of the ones that they didn’t have, I sent in a request for purchase email, and they bought it and then reserved it for me. Support your public library, and ask them for the books you think they should have!

Main comments:
Okay, I giggled when I first saw the title of this book online months ago. Cute idea. And hey, sounded like a useful one – given that the men I’m most likely to knit for live in Texas, where it’s mostly too warm for sweaters, and one of them I’ve seen wearing shorts when it was snowing, so hey, I had great hopes of this book.

When I picked it up from the library where I had it on reserve, the librarian looked at the title and quizzically asked me about it. I had to give a quick explanation of the Sweater Curse. That was fun.

I was a bit frustrated by reading the introduction and getting the general idea of the book. Yes, she discusses the problems of knitting something special for a boyfriend, especially a new one. But I feel like she misses much of the point of how best to avoid it. Starting with smaller projects and working up to bigger ones, okay, good. But there’s none of the analysis of what causes things to go wrong, things like involving your SO in choice of projects. The book seems to be aimed towards making him surprise projects. Maybe he hates turtlenecks, doesn’t like surprises, finds wool itchy but loves cotton, can’t stand red but would wear green. The whole idea that good communication would produce good results – as true for knitting in relationships as it is for everything else in relationships – doesn’t come up at all. But then, from what I’ve glimpsed from people out there, it doesn’t seem to come up in most of life.

Frustratingly, the wearable projects are still aimed at northern climate cold weather. So mostly not going to help me with my original goal of looking for things to knit for my warm-climate men. I have more exciting coaster patterns already, I wouldn’t really need a pattern for an i-pod cozy, and they don’t have a Powerbook. (And I think the laptop cover would be better with a really good strap. As it is, it acts as bubble wrap, but not anything else.)

Anything I particularly liked:
Lots of different projects planned for men, some are sweaters but there’s a variety of options.

She makes a point that although she’s picked a favorite yarn for each project, that we may want to substitute. And although she doesn’t give yarn weights, she DOES give yarn band gauge to make it easier for us to substitute. I appreciate that. And the intro shows needle size with the caveat “or size you need to obtain the correct gauge”. Yes, I know that already, but it’s good to see it in there.

Hey, look! Hats knitted in the round, the way they ought to be. (In my not so humble opinion) The one hat knitted flat has complex colorwork – yeah, that makes sense. And she puts in three socks of varying complexity. Yay. Socks are fun, more people should do socks, and they make great gifts.

Anything I particularly disliked:
Sweater sizes – shows finished size measurements, does NOT list ease amount or what chest measurement that should be made for. How is a knitter to figure out what size to make? And it’d be good to have correspondence between the finished sizes and mens’ clothing sizes, *especially* if the aim is towards making him surprises – you could peek at his laundry and get a shirt size. As it is, even if you were pulling out the measuring tape, it’s going to be tricky without ease or chest size going along with finished size.

And while we’re on sizing issues – apparently the author thinks the men in your life should come in a very narrow range of sizes. The simplest hat mentions an option for upsizing. The headband has two versions with different sizes. And those are among the better options. Mittens and gloves are all one size. All socks are the same size – no allowance for wide or narrow feet. And the vests and sweaters finished chest measurements generally have 3 sizes varying from 38” to 48”. The final “only when you have a diamond ring” sweater only has two sizes, although it goes up to 50”. I’m not sure if this is because the cardigan needs more ease, or if it’s acceptable for him to put on a bit of weight once you have the diamond? Gah.

Oh, with the socks, she’s talking about telling the man that these socks should not go into the washer and dryer – and with one, suggesting you offer to wash the socks for him. What is she thinking? Hand a man a pair of socks with the directions that they have to be kept separate from the rest of his laundry – and the chances are awfully high that either there will be a disaster and ruined socks, or he’ll never wear them. There are LOTS of nice, soft, attractive sock yarns out there that are machine wash and dry. Hand a man a pair of socks that feel great and soft and warm, but you can tell him no fear; just toss them in with the rest of his laundry – that is far more likely to win you points!

Comments on photography:
Good photography. Projects are shown clearly, and from multiple angles. Sweaters have some diagrams for the pieces. Fairly good use of charts. The technique tips that are here and there through the book, alongside the projects that use them, have good illustrations

Projects from this book that I’m thinking of knitting:
Sadly, very little. One thing that tempts me is the cabled gloves with the seed stitch palms. Nice design elements, I’ve been wanting to try out gloves, and since it’s a man’s one-size, it looks like it would fit ME. [livejournal.com profile] selenite might like a pair of those; he occasionally appreciates gloves for driving in winter. I like two of the scarves, and might think about those, but I don’t know if I’d have anybody who’d want a scarf. I’m that weird oddity – a knitter who’s never done a scarf.

Might I buy this book?
If the sweaters came in more sizes, maybe. As it is, probably not. I might check it out from the library again if I choose to do the gloves. If the men in your life fit in that size range, you might want it.
celticdragonfly: (Firefly -River - I'll knit)
Book Info:
Special Knits: 22 gorgeous handknits for babies and toddlers by Debbie Bliss
c. 2005, ISBN 1-57076-302-X, list price $25
Obtained by Interlibrary Loan – thanks to the nice people at the Houston Public Library.

Main comments:
I had heard mention of this book, but hadn’t really paid attention to it, until this post from Franklin on the Panopticon, where he jokingly referred to it by the title “Fancy-Ass Knits for Spoiled Rotten Babies”. Once I finished giggling, I figured I might as well look at it and requested it from the ILL website. (And may I just say, if you’re not reading Franklin’s blog, you’re missing a treat.)

It’s completely a project book – no knitting instruction at all. Since I already knit, I like that. Instruction books are useful for new knitters, but it’s nice to have one where I can just leap into the projects. These are projects that are designed to be luxury items for loved babies – these are not the practical rugged workhorse outfits. There is a mix of difficulty levels – the garter stitch blanket hardly needs a pattern, although the ribbon edging is a nice touch. There are various embellishments – use of ribbon, organza, beads, embroidery.

Anything I particularly liked:
Hmmm. Well, there are some cute projects. And those are cute babies.

Anything I particularly disliked:
Okay, I knew this was going to be basically a book-sized yarn advertisement, so I didn’t let that bother me too much. Honestly, cashmerino? These are spoiled rotten babies with their own personal laundress! I do so, SO wish that they’d put something in the introduction of the pattern saying what weight the yarn was. Yeah, I can figure it out, look at the needle size, the gauge, and go online and read up on the yarn. But it’s annoying. Unfortunately, MOST knitting books only mention the particular yarn they’re pushing, and this is the type of book I really expect that behavior from.

I wish they’d put the gauge with the other introductory info on the ‘splash’ page, with the measurements and materials and such.

Another thing – and this is one of my common pet peeves, sadly most knitting books are like this – it’s all in terms of knit pieces flat and then sew them together. No construction by knitting. The picot BAG is knit all in one piece, although it’s STILL knit in the flat and then seamed.

Comments on photography:
POOR. Yeah, there are a lot of cute pics that can make you go “awww”. However, a number of the projects you never get to really see the whole thing. That carrying bag – I have no idea what it’s really supposed to look like, you’re only seeing part of it. And even though the little drawstring bag is the ONLY thing not knit in pieces and sewn together, there are not any diagrams or sketches of the pieces and how they’re put together. The book gets a bad grade on this. Too much artistic, not enough useful. However, the picture index in the back, showing one pic of each item with the page number that it’s on and the sizes (where applicable), THAT is useful.

Projects from this book that I’m thinking of knitting:
Eyelet vest – cute, and I could easily convert it into knitting in the round up to the armholes. Because honestly, why do that in the flat? Definitely substituting yarn. And I don’t know about the cute ribbon through the eyelets – looks like the kind of thing that a baby would just constantly yank out.

I love the Alphabet Sweater – but it’s all done in the flat, and OMG what a pain that would be to sew up.

Bow-tied Bolero – okay, it’s all in pieces to be sewn up, but well, for that garment, pretty much would have to be. It’s cute, and would be a nice warm-up for fall over a onesie. I’m tempted.

Might I buy this book?
Hm, given that there are two projects I’m thinking of doing for Alanna, maybe I will.
celticdragonfly: (Knitting patterns - Dumbledore)
Book Info:
Domiknitrix: Whip Your Knitting Into Shape by Jennifer Stafford.
c 2007, ISBN 1-58180-853-4, list price $19.99
Obtained by Interlibrary Loan – thanks to the nice people at the Denton Public Library, Texas.

Main comments:
Okay, this wasn’t a knitting book I’d expected to read at all. I don’t think I’m her target audience. But someone on my Livejournal friends list was talking about having gotten the book, so I got curious. And since ILL requests can be done online now, I’ve gotten pretty casual about “sure, what the heck, I’ll ask for it and take a look.”

And yeah, not really my type of knitting book. But for someone who’s uncertain about the idea of modifying patterns, if this is the encouragement that gets them to do it, good.

Hm – three cast on methods, and she mentions that each produces a different effect – but doesn’t say anything about what the effects ARE. Frustrating. For me, knowing what kind of knitting is going to benefit more form a long-tail cast-on, or a crochet cast-on (not that she mentions that one) really helps.

Anything I particularly liked:
The rolled slip stitch edge is new to me, and I can see using that in the future. I’m making a note of it to keep that in mind for future projects. Also the elastic bind off, gotta try that.

Anything I particularly disliked:
Comments about someone having taught you to knit and purl “the wrong way”. I generally don’t think there IS a wrong way. English, continental, mixed, whatever. If you get a knit stitch and a purl stitch, with good results and you’re not hurting yourself (no carpal tunnel issues,please), I don’t if you did it with your feet.

She really has the mindset of a seamstress. (Heck, she loves zippers and steeking.) I don’t like that – I have an ongoing frustration with knitting writers and designers who go at it like a tailor. A large part of the fun in knitting for me is the idea that the knitting can construct the item.

Women’s sizes only go up to a 43” chest, and men’s sizes only up to a 44”. Hey, she can design her patterns any way she likes, but yeah, I’m not going to want to buy the book.

Comments on photography:
Really good knitting book photography. I saw multiple pictures at different angles of everything except a pillow. Pictures were clear, the models were in good clear positions, no awkward weird poses where you’re left wondering what the item really looks like. She also has drawn sketches with the patterns, diagrams of how the pieces are shaped or how things go together. Generally really well done photography.

Projects from this book that I’m thinking of knitting:
None whatsover. And that is NOT a snood, it’s a cap. Yeah, this lady’s style is just not my style.

That said, she does have an unusual distinct style, and if most knitting books leave you wishing for something more radical and exciting, this might be the book for you. Well, if you’re a young thin person.

Might I buy this book?


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