Book Review

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  Knitter's Stash: Favorite Patterns from America's Yarn Shops
edited by Barbara Albright
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How often have you walked into a new yarn shop and fallen in love with a sweater on display, only to learn that it's an original pattern created by the store owner him or herself?

This book taps into the experience and wisdom of yarn shop owners, showcasing some 42 original patterns from 33 shops. The shops are located throughout the United States, from Seattle's Tricoter to Philadelphia's Sophie's Yarns, with many stops along the way.

Under the Covers

The first thing I noticed about the book was the unusual treatment of the shop- and designer-related photographs. Instead of providing lush, full-color images of the shops and their owners, the book offers only small snapshots that vary widely in quality from store to store. Moreover, they are all printed in grey-brown tones rather than full color.

Part of what makes yarn shops so irresistible is their cornucopia of colors and textures. How unfitting, then, to remove all color from the pictures. What's left isn't always that flattering to the subjects or their shops.

The Patterns

Here's where the true meat of the book lies. And what patterns indeed!

Instead of designing for the runways of Paris, these yarn shop designers create garments they know their customers will like. You'll find an impressive selection of shawls, ponchos, rugs, scarves, pillows, jackets, sweaters, caps, and mittens.

Patterns reflect almost every design sensibility and knitting level, from intricate Fair Isle to basic bulky and fine lace. My hands-down favorite is the Cottage Felted Tea Cosy from Marji's Yarncrafts in in Granby, Connecticut.

Crisp Contrast

Unlike the rather bland shop photographs, the images of the actual garments themselves are exquisite. (This is most likely because these were photoraphed by Interweave while the shop photos, I suspect, were provided by the shops themselves.)

Patterns are all clearly written and illustrated with schematic diagrams and charts where necessary. The charts use both symbols and colors, an intelligent choice for people who wish to make photocopies or enlargements for easier viewing. The colors may be lost in the copy, but you can still follow the symbols.

Tour Guide of the Country

With each pattern, the book also provides a small backgrounder on the designer/shop owner who provided it.

I must confess I missed Melanie Falick's voice, which rang so clear and deep in "Knitting in America." You won't find soul-searching, inspiring insight into the hearts and souls of people who've dedicated their lives to this field. Instead, you'll find enthusiastic, tour book-style listings of yarn shops across the country.

The book's idea was brilliant. I only wish the writing could have delved deeper.

Otherwise, the patterns are beautiful, and the shop listings serve as a permanent Yellow Pages for your travels in the United States.

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