Knitting Book Review: The Best of Knitscene: A Collection of Simple, Stylish, and Spirited Knits
(2011, Interweave Press, 144 pages, 20 projects. Source: personal purchase.)
By: Lisa Schroyer
Nutshell: 100% concentrated Knitscene
Background: A couple of years ago, I started buying each issue of Knitscene as it came out. (Why Interweave hasn’t made it available for subscription yet, I just can’t fathom...) I was already a fan of its style—a little bit younger, a little bit hipper, and slightly easier constructions and techniques than Knits—and I was excited to see this book arrive.
For those of you not familiar with this lovely little mag, it began in 2005 as an occasional special-interest publication by Interweave. Based on its design sensibilities, I imagine it was an effort to target young, new, “hip” (whatever that means) knitters.
Think of it as the Skipper to Knits’ Barbie.
It has since graduated to a quarterly publication, just like Crochet and Knits, and continues to have a more current, fashion-forward sensibility both in its patterns and its editorial content. Each issue features a collection by one up-and-coming designer (Amy Herzog and Hannah Fettig were recent choices) as well as a “how to style this knitwear” feature that gives suggestions on accessories and clothing to wear to best showcase your new sweater in the most fashionable, er, fashion.
Synopsis: Lisa Schroyer, current editor of Knitscene, curates a collection of 20 “best-of” patterns from 2005-present. Patterns include: five pullovers, four cardigans, and assorted accessories (scarf, shawl, bag, mitts, vest, and socks). Additional editorial content includes “trends” features, showing the historical roots and modern uses of different types of knitting techniques and constructions (cables, fair isle, Cowichan sweaters, to name a few), plus articles and how-tos by respected knitters like Clara Parkes and Miriam Felton.
Writing Sample: A sort of uber-grandpa cardigan, your own Cowichan-inspired sweater can be a great foil for slim silhouettes, bold patterns, and sparkly fabrics. Knitscene designer Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s Indigo Banded Cardigan is a simple way to feel the Cowichan love with its creamy white base and midriff band of colorwork. Follow Hollywood star Megan Fox’s lead and throw it on over a slouchy white V-neck T-shirt. Add a pair of metal aviators and silky cargoes for a comfy travel look. Pair it with a vintage-y plaid blouse, skinny jeans, and tall boots. Wrap yourself up in one over a sequin tank dress for an offbeat glam effect. (11)
Woot: These patterns rock. I love each and every one of them, and I can see myself knitting and wearing each and every one…though likely minus the skinny jeans and metal aviators. (So far, I’ve only knit the Central Park Hoodie, which I bought as a standalone pattern when it was re-released in 2008. Here’s mine.) Clearly, Shroyer and her editorial team put a huge amount of time into selecting patterns that have been popular, have stood the test of time (relatively speaking), and will appeal to a wide variety of ability levels. They also took the time to re-photograph, re-knit (if necessary), and even re-size the patterns, as well as make sure that available yarns were substituted for those since discontinued.
My top three: The Geodesic Cardigan, the Heather Hoodie Vest, and the Tempest Beret.
Meh: Beware any publication that strives for a hip sensibility, because soon it will be unhip. The shelf life on this book may be limited. However, at $24.95 (and I got mine for less through my crafterschoice.com membership) it’s cheaper than buying all the back issues, and if even five patterns appeal to you, it’s cheaper than buying them as individual downloads.
Boo: Occasionally, the book uses, for illustrative purposes, a photo of a pattern that is not included in the collection. Mitigating this Boo: they always tell you the name of the pattern and which issue of Knitscene you can find it in. And...I feel compelled to note...no mens' patterns (although Norah Gaughan's Kenobi jacket was apparently designed for men, though it is modeled by a woman in the book.)
Audience? The youthful-feeling female knitting crowd who value classic styling with modern touches. I'd also recommend this as a gift for a new-to-intermediate knitter looking to branch out in a fashion-forward way--both the patterns and the articles would be helpful.
Sequel-worthy? Yes Indeedy! It's still worth buying each issue as it comes out, but if you're just getting started and don't want to spend the $$ for the DVDs of the back issues, this would be a lovely collection with which to begin.
I hope this review is helpful. I plan to continue to go through my shelves and highlight books—some new, some not—of interest to other knitters. Let me know in comments if there are any unanswered questions, or features you’d like me to consider adding. As with any review, my comments are intended to educate, illuminate, and entertain; your mileage may vary.
Have you read this book? What did you think?