Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague

“A pattern, no matter how many sizes it includes, is unlikely to fit you perfectly without any changes,” writes Ysolda. Size was a key motivator for this book. Ysolda wanted to show a collection of knitted garments designed for, and modeled by, real people of different shapes and sizes.

The book is far more than its garments, of which you’ll find seven patterns total. It also offers more than 100 pages of patiently presented, cleverly conceived instruction on everything from selecting yarn and swatching (music to my ears!) to measuring your body, choosing the right garment size, and customizing garments to create the perfect fit for your particular body type.

Ysolda wants you to understand that sizing and shaping involve far more than just measuring your chest, matching it to the closest pattern size, and casting on. She takes into account many other dimensions of the human body—ones that can vary widely from person to person even within the same general pattern size. And she succeeds in showing you how to feel comfortable and confident identifying and changing problem areas in other patterns.

What’s unusual about this book is that it doesn’t present garments segregated by size. It shows the same sweater scaled up and down to fit multiple body sizes, as cheerfully modeled by Ysolda herself and her friend, Lorna’s Laces manager Amanda Allen (now Jarvis). You can see exactly how and where the shaping was adjusted to fit the different figures, and you learn exactly which techniques were used.

The book’s instructional underpinnings are aided greatly by its charming design, which combines images and sketches, Ysolda’s handwritten notes, swatches, ball-bands and even yarn snippets taped to pages. All conspire to give the book a highly personal feeling as if this were Ysolda’s very own notebook being shared with you. It often feels as if Ysolda were sitting right over your shoulder narrating as you read. “Flattering line,” she writes, pointing to one part of a garment. “Not so flattering!” she warns and points to another.

Ysolda’s love of yarn shines through, and this may be my favorite element of the book. Her section on yarn and swatching provides deep, tangible information on twist, ply, and fibers—even pointing out how the density of different fibers will change the nature of a yarn when spun. Within each pattern, she also provides a lengthy paragraph about the ideal yarn qualities for that particular garment.

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