Book Review

  Confessions of a Knitting Heretic
By Annie Modesitt
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Too often I've met self-taught knitters whose enthusiasm was clouded by insecurity and doubt about their knitting technique. Without the benefit of another pair of hands showing them exactly what to do—and providing validation when they do it correctly—they fear they're doing something wrong.

But here's the flip side. Self-taught knitters have the luxury of being free of a teacher's personal technique biases. Without someone saying, "You can't do that," they can follow their instincts, do what feels right, produce good results, and come up with a technique that is perfectly suited to them.

This works beautifully until that fateful day when they knit in the company of others and are suddenly told, "You're doing it all wrong!"

You're Doing It... Differently
That's exactly what happened to knitwear designer and teacher Annie Modesitt after she taught herself to knit at age 25.

Annie was haunted by self-doubt and a feeling of illegitimacy because her technique—although speedy and consistent—was so different from everybody else's.

She quickly rose in the ranks of the knitting world, designing knitwear and even working briefly as a technical editor at Vogue Knitting, but the doubts never died.

After a hiatus from knitting, she stumbled upon an article by noted knitting historian Priscilla Gibson-Roberts in which she described Annie's "unorthodox" technique as one of the three major world knitting styles: combination knitting. The validation was all Annie needed to re-enter the knitting world with renewed enthusiasm.

Her bright, inquisitive mind is always experimenting with new techniques, dropping little surprises into patterns that have been featured in major knitting magazines, as well as in Debbie Stoller's Stitch and Bitch and Melanie Falick's Weekend Knitting. She has also graciously taught at our Knitter's Review Weekend Retreat.

Back to the Book
In this, her first book, Annie has created a quiltlike compilation of personal essays, technical lessons, tips, and original patterns. The fundamental message throughout is that there is no right and wrong way to knit. As long as you get the fabric you want, you're knitting just right for yourself. Period.

To this end, she presents a wide spectrum of knitting techniques and tips, often shedding new light on old tricks. She begins by explaining her combination knitting technique, but that is not the focus of the whole book. She also explores everything from casting on and cables to increases, decreases, reading charts, and casting off.

Her embellishments section takes the I-cord and bobble to new territories, while the finishing section made it clear to me, once and for all, how the Kitchener stitch is done.

Annie's writing style is fun and conversational throughout. For example, she describes the rib as "the unsung heroine of knitting, the pragmatic and well balanced friend who always can make something fit better than expected."

My review copy of the book contained many typographical errors, which Annie assures me should be fixed in the wire-bound copy currently for sale. One of the benefits of small print runs, Annie explained to me, is that she can make changes and improvements with each edition. (The book is now in its third printing.)

Table of Contents
The book seesaws between technical instruction and personal essays, many of which are only a page or two in length. I found this interrupted narrative flow refreshing, because it gave me time to pause and digest the meatier portions of what I'd just read.

The book is packed with photos and illustrations. They are all black and white, some less visible than others—glossy color tends to be far too costly for most self-published books.

Although I was put off initially by the grainy images, I grew fond of the distinctly home-grown look and feel of the book.

The Patterns
The book ends with an assortment of projects intended to let you try out the techniques you've just learned. For the most part Annie avoids objects of clothing, not wanting us to get bogged down by details of fit when it's the technique we're supposed to be practicing.

Who Will Like It?
On the one hand, the book's technical chapters may be daunting for absolute beginners. But the personal stories and advice are precisely what knitters—new and old—need.

Annie assumes her readers—regardless of knitting experience—are intelligent and inquisitive. She doesn't dumb down her instructions to fit the glossy, six-step "I can't believe I'm knitting!" mold that most new knitting books seem to follow these days.

It's a subtle but refreshing difference that left me totally engaged.

Read the book from start to finish, keep yarn and needles at your side, practice each thing she teaches, and you'll be better equipped to handle whatever slings and arrows the next knitting project throws at you.

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