Book Review

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  The Yarn Girls' Guide to Simple Knits
by Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs
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As the Spice Girls fade into pop history, a new girl group is on the rise. Instead of lip-synching songs to screaming audiences of pre-teen girls, this group enthusiastically preaches about knitting to eager recruits in Manhattan's upper West Side.

The self-dubbed Yarn Girls are Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs, and their pulpit is The Yarn Company, a store they co-own in New York City.

Debut Album
In this, their first book, the two present 30 of their favorite patterns. Their goal was to offer patterns that could, as the authors say, "be started and completed in less time than it takes to grow out a bad haircut."

You'll find extremely easy patterns for six of the most common sweater shapes: funnel-neck, crewneck, and v-neck pullovers; cardigans; tank tops; and ponchos. Also included are patterns for scarves, hats, and throws.

Liner Notes
Before delving into their patterns, Carles and Jacobs give you 53 pages of instructions, explanations, and advice.

Techniques and stitches are well illustrated, but most of the technique and glossary information pertains only to the patterns in the book. (This isn't intended to be an ultimate knitting reference book.)

Chunky Designs
All the patterns use heavy worsted to extra super chunky yarns, often doubled or tripled and knit on US 9 to US 36 needles (i.e. tree trunks). Patterns begin with a full-page photo of the garment on a mannequin along with a chatty anecdote from Carles and Jacobs.

Next you'll find an information box with a small picture of yarn with needles. But the yarn and needles in the picture aren't the ones used in the pattern. Here's where the confusion begins.

And That Would Be...
Many of the patterns fail to provide complete yarn details, listing only the yarn name, not manufacturer. This is fine if you know who makes Polar (Rowan) or Muschio (Filatura di Crosa).

But if you're a total novice, which is the book's target audience, this can pose a problem.

Acrylic? Alpaca? Angora?
The book also fails to provide details about the specified yarns' fiber content. This might not seem like a big deal, but it's fairly important if you want to make an appropriate yarn substitution, or if you are allergic to any specific fiber types.

Currently you'll have to go on looks alone, do separate research, or take the book into your local yarn shop to find out if the original yarn was a scratch-free merino, a well-draping alpaca, a lofty cotton, a scratchy wool, or perhaps an acrylic blend.

How Small is Small?
The final issue is sizing. The garment sizes are listed simply as small, medium, or large. You'll have to flip through to the schematics and read the measurements to determine which size is closest to yours.

Many other designers include a basic chest measurement for each sweater to give you a better idea about how the sizing will relate to your body.

Easy Read for Beginners
The patterns themselves are written in a conversational style that can get a little confusing during the shaping sections. Fortunately the sweaters include separate step-by-step shaping guides for sections of the patterns. These are extremely clear and helpful.

It would be more helpful to integrate these directly into the pattern instead of listing them separately.

Truth in Advertising
Does the book live up to its promise? Absolutely. Carles and Jacobs clearly show how -- with a little work and a realistic yarn budget -- any beginner or lapsed knitter can quickly create a fashionable sweater.

Once begun or drawn back into the fold, you'll likely grow eager for more challenging patterns and comprehensive reference materials. This book will jump start your journey.

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