DVD Review

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A learn-to-knit DVD

by Allison Isaacs and Sara Lucas / Ruby Gold Producer
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How many times has a yarn shop owner heard the words, "Could you teach me how to knit?" Over the years, they get better and better at teaching this simple act. So good, in fact, that I wish many of them would take their act on the road.

I'm happy to report that Allison Isaacs, co-owner of San Francisco's ImagiKnit, has done just that. She released her first learn-to-knit DVD in January of this year.

Keep it Simple
Rather than inundate the beginner with detailed information and endless options—an approach that can send aspiring knitters running for the hills in despair—Isaacs kept this DVD extremely bare-bones and straightforward.

It is intended to be a springboard for absolute beginners.

A Perfect Production
Before I even talk about what's on the DVD, I should mention production quality. Many a good idea has been marred by poor lighting, trembling hands, distracting outfits, or dogs barking in the distance. In this case, everything is seamlessly perfect.

Filming was done against a black backdrop, with the camera focusing only on a pair of well-lit hands (with a lovely watch and French manicure, I might add!). These shapely hands never shake or move out of step with the narrator. Every movement is slow and fluid.

A benefit of this being in DVD format is that the beginner can freeze each frame to study the details of every step, whereas a VHS video tends to flicker and shake when paused on screen.

In short, this is very well done, especially considering it's the video version of a self-published book. I should also note that this is not just a thinly veiled advertorial for ImagiKnit. The store is never mentioned, and Isaacs doesn't even list her name on the cover.

Click to Begin
The contents have been thoughtfully assembled and edited into three sections: Getting Started, Needed Skills, and Begin Your Project.

In the first section, Allison clearly demonstrates how to cast on and knit. Although she only shows one cast-on method (the long-tail), I was pleased to see her show how to knit in both the Continental and English style. Variety in cast-ons is nothing compared to the importance of helping a beginner find a comfortable way to hold the yarn.

Simple Skills
Then comes the Needed Skills section. Here's where you learn how to purl (both in the English and Continental method), plus undo stitches and rows of stitches, make increases (knitting through the front and back of the same stitch, and vice-versa for purl rows), decreases (knit or purl two together), starting a new ball of yarn, casting off, and weaving in the ends.

Projects: Tips
And finally, we get to the Begin Your Project section. It begins with a helpful tutorial on how to read a yarn label—something I know Allison has explained to her customers hundreds of times already.

She pays special attention to the issue of gauge (what those numbers mean, why it matters, and how to figure out your own gauge), plus fiber information, what a dye lot is and why it matters, plus needle size, care, and yardage.

There's a little tutorial on knitting needles, which is a great help for rank beginners who might otherwise go crosseyed staring at all the needles available in most stores.

Isaacs explains the nuances of straight versus circular needles, the various materials in which they are made, standard lengths, and which kind of needle is most appropriate for which kind of work.

You'll also find a quick reference of stitch patterns that combine knitting and purling: garter, stockinette, seed, and one-by-one ribbing.

Projects: Patterns
Because the best way to learn is by practicing, the DVD also includes several extremely basic patterns for a baby blanket, two shawls, a poncho, and scarf.

They're all ideal for beginners, but even I was sorely tempted to try one of the shawls, which looked like a significantly easier version of the Union Square Poncho in Melanie Falick's Weekend Knitting.

Smart Shops Take Note
Shop owners would be wise to consider carrying this DVD. It wouldn't replace their need to teach people, but it would help with those customers who go home and promptly forget what they were just taught.

It would also be excellent in ad hoc kit form: yarn and needles for the project, plus the DVD explaining what to do.

Potential Pattern Confusion
Only once did my eyes slow and confusion cloud my horizon: the patterns. They are perfect beginner projects, but some of them may have been edited a little too much for brevity.

One, for example, says to knit until you have 25 inches, not indicating if that's length or width. (Most of us would understand they mean length, but remember, this is for complete beginners.)

Another pattern gives no gauge and only specifies a needle size and "mohair" for the yarn. Although experienced knitters would look at the picture and guess brushed mohair, a beginner might not know this. That's another reason for shop owners to familiarize themselves with this DVD, so they can point yarn-seeking newbies in the right direction.

Add to your Arsenal
As I mentioned before, this DVD is intended for the absolute beginner knitter. It was kept intentionally simple and brief, showing only a few ways of doing things. Yet in its 40-minute running time, it covers everything you'd need to know.

I like to outfit my new recruits with a little care package to help them on on their knitterly journey. This DVD would be a welcome addition, especially for people who learn best by watching others.

Slip it in a bag with some Aurora Bulky and a pair of 9-inch US 11 Crystal Palace needles and you'll hook them for life.
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