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  Hand Knitting: New Directions
by Alison Ellen
Buy it now at Amazon.com
I was instantly drawn to this book by its cover, an evocative shot of colorful knitted garments stacked on top of one another against a backdrop of cascading hanks of yarns. Without even opening the book, I knew I had to have it.

That mission accomplished, I carried my new book around for several days in a smug state of satisfaction, awaiting the perfect moment to open the cover and get lost in my reading.

When I finally did open the book, my mood shifted. I found the author's writing style difficult to follow, and I caught myself trying to rush through the first half of the book to get to what I considered to be the goodies.

In the Beginning
Although the book conveys a level of sophistication, it's actually aimed at both advanced knitters and rank beginners. The author goes so far as to explain what a "stitch" is, the correct posture for knitting, and what constitutes yarn.

Much of the knitting history section I've read before. In this case, she punctuates it with lovely photos of items from her own collection, as well as some wildly creative knitted art pieces and installations.

Then Ellen moves to the topic of how stitches work. She shows a variety of stitch patterns, not so much for encyclopedic thoroughness as to demonstrate the variety of ways in which stitches can be manipulated for different results.

I found some of the illustrations a tad confusing. Beginners may be well advised to pair the book with a more complete knitting reference such as the Vogue Knitting Quick Reference.

The Road Less Traveled
But here's where Alison begins to veer from the norm and explore more sophisticated techniques, from entrelac to short-row circles, interlinked diamonds and scallops, knitting squares from the center, and making a square with four diagonal triangles.

The Knitting with Colour chapter is extremely helpful for knitters who want to design their own patterns and color combinations. Ellen spends a fair amount of time demonstrating how color changes look different depending on where you place them in your pattern (something many of us learn the hard way).

She also shows how to produce diagonal stripes using Fair Isle, how to make different patterns using slipped stitches, and how to use mirrors to create color patterns.

Unusual Patterns
The Projects section is complicated yet intriguing. She begins with a basic pullover with Kaffe Fasset-esque colorful stripes and polka dots, and also gives instruction for a boxy square-yoked jumper with several alternate design options.

An amazing child's jacket has stripes, diamonds, and ruffles galore. There's also a kimono-like jacket, vest, hats, and gorgeous yet achievable cushion patterns.

Worth the $45?
The author tries to cover a lot of bases where she might have been better served by focusing on the designs and styles. At $45 a pop, this book requires a bit of commitment.

If you're unsure, check it out at the yarn shop or library first. Either you'll love it or you won't.

Still, if you're serious about having a complete knitting library of your own, you'll want this one.

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