Book Review

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by Teva Durham
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Today's publishing market is jammed full of glossy, colorful knitting books. But if you stripped them of their patterns, very few of them would still be worth reading. This is one of them.

Durham Gets Her Due
After contributing to knitting magazines and pattern collections for years, Teva Durham has finally been given a book of her own.

Not just any book, but a big, gorgeous hardbound volume with page after page of large, lush photographs—the kind of printing investment that book publishers make only on very special occasions.

A Modern Aesthetic
If you've seen her Loop-d-Loop designs (a line of handknits she launched in 2000), you'll know that Durham has a decidedly modern European sensibility.

She often takes one knitting concept or theme (such as a bobble or the simple twisting of a cable) and reconstructs them in a totally new, often exaggerated way. The result is bold, striking designs that would be right at home on a fashion runway.

Room for Everybody
Although Durham's styles may be interpreted as "new guard," this does not come at the exclusion or denigration of the more classic knitwear design. In fact, in reading this book I was impressed by Durham's solid foundation in (and respect for) the classics.

She often references Elizabeth Zimmermann and gives frequent, respectful nods to the likes of Alice Starmore, Kaffe Fassett, and Nora Gaughan—three of my personal heroes. She is quick to give credit where credit is due, acknowledging her own inspiration but not claiming to have discovered roads we know are already well-worn.

Under the Covers
Durham divides her patterns into three general categories: cycles (designs that use circular tubes, spirals, and round shapes), planes (designs with textures, stitch patterns, and diagonal construction), and waves (designs that blend color pattern and composition).

Each category begins with an essay explaining the concept, and then Durham walks you through page after page of gorgeous photographs showing each project clearly, and often at multiple angles.

With each design, Durham includes an interesting and insightful explanation of how the project came about. Colors inspired by an early childhood encounter with a pomegranate, cabled ribbing based on the bark on a tree outside her window, a Spencer jacket spotted while window shopping in NoLita (North of Little Italy in New York City).

Like being given a guided tour of a museum exhibit by the artist herself, having her insight helps you see and appreciate the designs in a deeper way—not just in terms of whether or not it's something you'd make.

The Designs
In all there are over 40 designs for men and women (often in unisex form), as well as designs for children, accessories, and the home. You'll find sweaters, scarves, capelets, gloves, collars, cuffs, a stole, felted hat, bags, and chair covers.

Durham assigns five levels of skill to each pattern, ranging from easy to mind-bogglingly advanced, the knitterly version of an M.C. Escher painting.

It is assumed that you already know how to form the basic knit and purl stitches.

Pattern Highlights
There's an incredible freeform paisley carpetbag, a Fair Isle pullover with the bottom half knit at an angle, and an intriguing sweater made of different shaped color blocks, each connected to the next by a working zipper.

In one vest, she uses yarn-over steeks to create an airy, open effect down the center. And in a seemingly sweet and innocent cardigan, she adds an enormous circular open medallion in the back, made from a lacy dropped garter stitch.

In all cases, Durham pays special attention to every detail, from the way the trim rolls to the precise location where the shoulder seam falls on the body.

A New Favorite
I have a few, cherished books I refer to whenever I feel stuck and in need of inspiration: Knitting in America, for the inspiring profiles; Principles of Knitting, for the mind-expanding technique detail; and Norsk Strikkedesign and Poetry in Stitches, for sheer artistry in knitting.

Add now, I can add this book to the list. It manages to incorporate all those marvelous elements—an inspiring personal story, depth of new technique and skill, and pure artistry—under one big, beautiful cover.
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