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Interactive Learning:
Lucy Neatby's Knitting Essentials 1 and 2 DVDs
Details and ordering information from Lucy Neatby
Order from WEBS

I know Lucy Neatby is smart, skilled, and an excellent teacher. But I never quite grasped just how smart, skilled, and gifted a teacher she was until I watched her two new DVDs.

Lucy Neatby's Knitting Essentials are the electronic equivalent of a one-on-one master class with a knitting genius—only instead of straining to see what she's doing from two table lengths away, this class happens in your own home, at your own pace, right before your very eyes. You can even wear your pajamas.

What It Isn't
We have several "learn to knit!" DVDs on the market, all aimed to help brand new knitters get started without the aid of an LYS or knitting friend. This is not one of them.

Neatby doesn't hold up a knitting needle and say, "This is a knitting needle." She doesn't walk you through your very first knit stitch, and she doesn't include free patterns for beginner projects. While you don't need to be a master knitter to derive value from these DVDs, especially the first one, you should be comfortable with yarn and needles.

Pop It In and Press Play
Both DVDs begin with a quick introduction from Neatby standing in her snowy Nova Scotia woods—you can even hear the crows in the background. She then takes you indoors for the meat of the matter: teaching you everything.

The production is exceptional for its seamless invisibility. Except for a few scenes of Neatby standing against a wall of yarn to demonstrate larger techniques, the camera stays closely focused on her hands set against a jet black background. They gracefully and clearly carry out their commands with yarn and needle. The microphone is so close that you can hear the wool sliding along the wooden needles.

There's no background furniture or humming fluorescent lights to distract you. Lucy's hands are free of clattering bracelets or bright nail polish—although she does sport a lovely ring on her left hand. You look down at her hands as if they were your own, with her voice calmly explaining everything she does.

Wise Words...With Wit
Neatby's gift for teaching is apparent the minute she speaks. She always chooses direct, descriptive words—not once did I hear her slip into "ummmm" or "you know." Likewise, she never points to a stitch and says, "like this."

Everything is explained slowly and thoughtfully, but not without a few traces of humor. She describes the edge stitch as "that very first, long-suffering stitch" and the last stitch of a bind-off as "a source of merriment and mirth in many of my classes."

The Meat of the Matter: DVD 1
So we know Neatby chooses her words wisely, but what is she saying, anyway? That depends on which DVD you're watching. There is some definite overlap between the two DVDs, but the first tends to focus on the more "basic" things, such as cast-ons and bind-offs (including her modified conventional bind-off technique), seaming pieces together, weaving in the ends of multicolored work, reading your stitches, and even winding hanks off an umbrella swift.

Whenever possible, she shows you several approaches to the same concept, with demonstrations of the end results. For example, she casts off a ribbed project in both rib and knit stitches, so you can see exactly how the cast-off edge will differ. Many reference books may cover similar territory, but Neatby's DVDs are vastly superior because they have the author physically showing you the technique.

Inside DVD 2
I was a little surprised to see several elements from DVD 1 repeated in DVD 2. But when she takes an element from DVD 1, she tends to expand it within a broader, more complicated context. For example, she repeats her mattress stitch tutorial but then shows how to seam an end to a side, and how to seam two sides of different gauges or lengths.

But for me, the real value in the second DVD—and you can't assign a dollar value to this one—is the steek workshop. You can read about steeks all you like, and you can even look at as many pictures as you can find. But nothing compares to being able to watch every step of the process unfold, especially that terrifying moment when scissors cut the fabric in half. If anything will give you confidence to try steeks, this DVD will.

The Bottom Line
These are among the most useful knitting DVDs I've ever watched. Each retails for $29. Compared to book prices, that may seem steep. But compare it to the cost of an actual workshop—which you can't stop, rewind, and repeat to your heart's content—and you have yourself an incredible bargain.

Note: Sock knitters will be excited to learn that Neatby is also creating a two-DVD set filled with her sock techniques.

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