Book Review

The Knitter's Life List: To Do, To Know, To Explore, To Make
by Gwen Steege

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When we first start knitting, it's all too easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities. So many kinds of fibers and yarns, different needles, varying techniques, tempting festivals and retreats, farms and spinneries, people and publications. So much to discover. Where do we begin?

Depending on your personality type, you may be perfectly happy just to plow ahead and learn as you go. But if you need a knowing friend to help guide you on the who, what, and where of knitting, this is your book.

The Book
At its core, The Knitter's Life List is a book of possibilities. The author, Gwen Steege, is a lifelong knitter who is also an accomplished spinner, weaver, and shepherdess. She loves fiber in all its forms and is also an editor with Storey Publishing, making her the ideal person to put together a book like this.

Steege surveys all the nooks and crannies of the knitting world and presents them in an easy, comprehensive overview—a Frommer's guide to the imaginary land of knitting. It points out all the most important people, places, and things of interest, still leaving lots of back streets for you to explore on your own.

What's On the List
The book's cover promises 1001 inspirations in all, the nature of which spans every conceivable creative and cultural inch of our knitting world. You'll find everything from technique tutorials to lists of fiber festivals, knitting-themed movies, and classic reference books. You get to meet all sorts of knitting people, from Meg Swansen and Linda Ligon to Kate Gilbert, Kristin Nicholas, Alice Starmore, Nancy Bush, and yours truly.

You learn about fibers and twist, notable mills and interesting yarn companies. You read about needle types, knitting in public, and the merits of knitting backwards.

The information is presented in general themes: yarn, learning, and then types of projects (sweaters, socks, scarves, shawls, hats, gloves, mittens, bags, children, and home decor), ending with a look at other kinds of fiber-related activities, such as spinning, weaving, and dyeing.

Each story is accompanied by colorful content ranging from pictures to illustrations, and the pages are peppered with friendly little checklists and "Did You Know?" sidebars. I'll warn you right now, you'll see lots of pretty pictures of different knitted items, but you won't find a single pattern for those pieces. They are inspiring eye candy.

Breadth over Depth
If the knitting world is a big pond, this book attempts to skim every square inch of the surface, distilling that essence into page after page of clear, friendly little fact nuggets. Each piece, whether it's a tip, tutorial, or profile, is just one or two pages long. The goal here is breadth, not depth.

And that's the only tradeoff. In order to make it from start to finish in just 320 pages, Steege needs to run fast. She never goes deep—nor does the book ever claim to do so. She writes in a friendly and encouraging voice that is easy to follow, enthusiastic and inclusive in nature, never snarky or critical.

While the book is a great gift for new knitters, it's also a potential source of inspiration for lifelong knitters too. You may already know what a fiber festival is, and you may have already mastered Kitchener, but with 1001 inspirations in all, chances are that you'll still find several new ideas to ignite your creative spark.

Despite the attempts to organize this information into logical sections, it's easy to get lost. My advice? Just open it up and read a page at random. Let the book serve as a kind of Magic 8 ball for inspiration whenever you need it.

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