Book Review

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  Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book
by the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine
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Time tends to alter our perspective on things. For years I've considered this book the most essential investment any knitter could make in his or her library.

At the same time, as my knitting skills evolved I rarely referred to the book.

The publication of this new, updated edition has given me cause to revisit what I remembered as a dear friend. Now that I have, I realize that the friendship had its limitations.

The Original Book
Vogue Knitting was conceived and written by the editors of Vogue Knitting magazine with the help of numerous contributors. Its original publication dates back to 1989, when knitting was slowly making its way out of a deep slump.

At the time, the book was almost revolutionary because of its unusually sleek layout and comprehensive coverage that spanned everything from how to knit to specific stitch patterns and design techniques.

Fast Forward to Today
The book slowly started to lose its impact as our bookshelves began to overflow with even glossier, more stylish, comprehensive new titles. To revive its image and status, the folks at Vogue Knitting took the book to a new publisher and had it reprinted.

Although the slipcover claims that the book was updated, I found very few changes from the original publication. Even the table of contents -- including page numbers -- is identical.

Under the Covers
Chapters detail the history of knitting, supplies, basic techniques, understanding instructions, correcting errors, circular and double-pointed knitting, color knitting, blocking, assembling, and finishing, caring for your knitwear, designing, and adding embellishments.

Instructions are documented with color drawings and photographs, and the layout and text are easy to follow.

A stitch dictionary provides clear instructions about how to knit 120 of the most common stitches (common as of 1989, that is).

The "Modular Knitting Patterns" section takes 10 basic sweater styles (many of which are decidedly '80s) and helps you calculate a customized pattern to fit your shape and desired yarn.

At the very end of the book, you'll find six patterns that originally appeared in the Vogue Knitting magazine. (These patterns have been updated for the new edition with six other Vogue Knitting designs.)

False Advertising?
The book's dustjacket asserts that there has never been a knitting book as complete as this one. I love the book but cannot agree with this claim. You'll find an admirable amount of material here, but not the most complete one ever published.

For example, the book fails to mention sock knitting (much less the use of two circular needles), nor does it provide details about knitting gloves, mittens, hats, or any other non-sweater item knitted in the round.

The brief history section focuses mostly on western European history and only makes a few sweeping generalizations about the history of knitting in America.

Much more thorough titles on the topic include Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's The Age of Homespun, Heather Nicolson's The Loving Stitch: A History of Knitting and Spinning in New Zealand, Anne MacDonald's No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, or for a truly beautiful look at American knitting today, Melanie Falick's Knitting in America.

The clear color photographs make the stitch dictionary a helpful resource. If you outgrow the book's 120 stitches (which you are destined to do at some point in your knitting career), you'll be ready to invest in Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns,A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

If you enjoy the book's Modular Knitting Patterns concept, you can advance to Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. Her book also includes instructions for socks, hats, mittens, and other garments.

Best for Beginners
Overenthusiastic marketing claims notwithstanding, the book still remains on my top 10 list of books for beginners. (My other top contender in this category is Katharina Buss' Big Book of Knitting.) It's especially useful for knitters who can only invest in a few titles and don't mind the somewhat dated styles.

You'll get a small, well-written sampling of most everything you need to know. And the day this book doesn't answer your questions, you'll know you've arrived.

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