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Book Review

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The Any Size Yarn, Any Size Knit Hat Book
by Sarah Bradberry

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November marks the official beginning of hat and scarf season in my house. The scarves vastly outnumber the hats simply because I knit them all the time. But this year, with the looming threat of higher heating bills, I've decided to tackle hats head-on.

The best starting point for hats would have to be in Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. You have everything you need to knit simple hats in almost any size or yarn. Once you've made a few simpler hats, you're ready to venture into slightly different shapes. Here's where I kept faltering.

Most of the hat pattern books I own tend to focus on the fabulously ornate, theatrically whimsical, or technically complex. We don't have much of a migration path from absolute beginner to these more ornate creations.

My ears perked up when I heard that Sarah Bradberry (a fixture in the online knitting community since "way" back in the '90s) had self-published a book all about knitted hats. Could this be my answer?

Substance Over Spiral
The book has a plastic spiral binding and double-sided black and white print and images inside. I found the old-fashioned, self-published look of this book appealing. It feels like a spiral-bound notebook from which a teacher would base an entire semester's curriculum. The layout is simple and clean, with lots of white space for easy reading.

The book is full of lots and lots and lots of hat possibilities. Bradberry provides 45 hat styles in all, beginning with the very basic and slowly, gradually migrating to more subtle shaping and ornamentation. She gives variations on shapes, such as the ski hat, skullcap, and beret, plus pointy hats, sun bonnets, hats adorned with animal ears, and even a whole bunch of felted designs.

Each pattern includes instructions for 17 different head sizes, beginning with a preemie 8-inch and spanning all the way to adult 24-inch circumference. In each case, you begin with a gauge swatch from which all your pattern numbers are derived—which means that, yes, you really could use any yarn with these patterns.

Instructions are clear and accessible, and they really do give you a sense of infinite and achievable possibility. Strong technique and recommended readings sections round out the book well.

A Model Model
All the hats are shown photographed on a stylish styrofoam model of a human head. You can see large, full-color versions of all the hat photos on her online photo album—a very nice solution to a common problem among self-publishers. (Full-color printing raises costs dramatically and, quite often, prohibitively.)

The styrofoam head is an elegant and consistent way to show all the hats in their very best context. Past experience knitting hats modeled only on styrofoam heads, however, is that my head does not behave like the beautiful styrofoam model. (For starters, my head has hair.) I'd welcome even a reader-submitted photo album of these hats on real live human heads just so I could get a more realistic take on how they may actually look on us mere mortals.

A Pretty Price
The knitting community has a long and healthy tradition of self-publishing. Even Elizabeth Zimmermann was self-published, wasn't she?

The quality of self-published books on the market keeps getting better and better. One area that remains a challenge, however, is cost.

Those who print books in smaller numbers simply cannot benefit from the economics of scale that the larger publishers enjoy. They aren't able to invest in 30,000 copies, they're betting the farm on 500 copies and hoping to break even and be able to print more.

For that reason, self-published books almost always cost more than their "publisher-published" counterparts—and this book is no exception. The spiral-bound edition is priced at $29.95, which is a lot for a black-and-white spiral-bound book. But if you factor in the actual depth and breadth of information this book contains, and how few other hat books you'll need as a result, it may be worth the price.

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