Book Review

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  Hand Knits for the Home
by Caroline Birkett
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Times have definitely changed since the poodle-headed golf club cozies and floral toilet-paper covers of my youth. This book—originally published in the U.K. and then reprinted in the U.S. by Interweave Knits—embodies the nouveau domestic knitting aesthetic, with bold and distinctly cosmopolitan throws and pillows whose style falls somewhere between the U.K.'s Conran and Pottery Barn here in the U.S.

With the exception of a classy hot water bottle cover sporting a cabled heart motif, there's nary a cozy to be found.

I should say that the aesthetic here is not totally new. This book is stylistically almost identical to Erika Knight's Comforts of Home, first published in 2000.

Beautiful for Beginners
Beginners often are encouraged to start with a simple garter-stitch scarf because it allows you to focus on the basic motions of knitting without worrying about fit or gauge. But what if you're a beginner who seeks something a little more fulfilling than a long rectangle of knitted fabric?

Here's where Birkett's book is extremely helpful. Walk through the book from start to finish, and by the time you're done you'll not only have more than 20 finished objects under your belt, but you'll also have gained experience with most of the basic knitting techniques—even buttonholes, Fair Isle, intarsia, and bobbles. Meanwhile, you didn't have to worry about whether or not the project will suit your figure once it is done.

Skill Level
The book is laid out by order of difficulty, beginning with the basic knit stitch, then purl, then knit and purl stitches combined together. Birkett then explores stripes, cables, colorwork, and textured knitting, ending each lesson with a project that uses the specific technique.

She concludes with a photo-filled section on finishing that covers everything from concealing yarn ends to seams, edgings, buttons, eyelets, fringe, tassels, cords, and pompons.

Beautiful and clear photographs accompany all the instructions. Colorways tend to be neutral, with subtle styling and an overall sophisticated feel.

The Patterns
The majority of the 20+ patterns in this book (some 13 in all) are for some form of cushion. The remaining projects are four blankets/baby throws, one table runner, one hot water bottle cover, one shoulder bag, and one bath mat.

Although I would have preferred a wider variety of projects, I can understand how the simple cushion offers a perfect form for teaching new techniques.

How Much Yarn?
The patterns have all been modified to be brand-neutral, specifying generic yarn types rather than specific brands. However, the specifications fail to include what is, for many knitters, the key number by which all yarn purchases are made: yardage.

You'll be told how many skeins of yarn you require, and how much each skein weighs. But just as not all yarns have the same number of yards in them, not all skeins are the same weight, even among similar-gauge yarns. And this, I'm afraid, means you'll need to take out a calculator and put on your thinking cap when selecting yarns for your projects.

The Directory of Projects section near the end of the book gives some help, revealing which yarn was used for each project. It tells you the specific colors used, the number of yards per skein, and the weight of each skein. You'll still have to do some math to get the total yardage required.

Best for Beginners
I suspect that experienced knitters may initially find this book too simple for their needs, although several of the patterns could easily be used as springboards for more complex, elaborate ideas.

But for less-experienced knitters who prefer to learn on pillows rather than pullovers, this is a beautiful—and useful—guidebook.

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