Monday, February 19, 2007

Review: When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters

I was sent this book, and my first thought was, "How can there possibly be a need for yet another how-to knitting book? I hope it's not terrible." So I read it, and I was pleasantly surprised; mostly I thought how great it would have been to have this book when I was a beginner knitter. Still, there are a few things in here that are useful to me as an intermediate knitter, too.

It's a small book that holds a lot of information. It seems pretty easy to navigate, but I'd recommend having a read-through before your knitting crisis, to familiarize yourself with the book's contents and organization. Besides the main text, in which info is presented as answers to questions (e.g., "My pattern doesn't say what kind of increase to use; does it matter?"), there are sidebars with extra info (e.g., "Six Rules on Weaving Tails"), charts (e.g., US/UK/CDN/metric needle conversion), and lots of illustrations. The first knitting resource book I bought for myself when I was starting out was the Dummies book, and I remember feeling overwhelmed by it (and thinking it had an ugly layout). This book is cute, it's small, and it contains solid info on the basics and a little bit beyond the basics (e.g., knitting on two circs, holding a different colour in each hand to knit Fair Isle).

The book doesn't claim to be absolutely comprehensive, but a few notable techniques are missing. There is no mention of lace knitting, for example. There are three pages on Kitchener stitch, including good illustrations and a paragraph on Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener (who knew?), but nothing on turning a heel. There's nothing on buttonholes, or short rows. What it does have is a nice, casual (but not forcibly clever or sassy, thank god) voice that continually reminds the reader that you're the boss of your knitting and that the world will not end if you don't rip back 10 rows and fix that purl bump that was supposed to be a knit stitch. This might be frustrating to perfectionists or more advanced knitters -- for instance, we all know it's (usually) possible to drop stitches down to a miscrossed cable and fix it, or to cut, fix, and graft the yarn, but the authors only say to rip the whole piece back to the mistake, or to "deliberately cross another cable or two in the same wrong direction and create a new design" -- but those knitters probably have other, more serious resource books at hand.

I'd definitely recommend Bad Things to beginner knitters, and intermediate knitters might consider it, too. I can tell you that I've always avoided mattress stitch, opting instead to knit selvedge edges for easier seaming, because no matter how much I read about how to do it, I just didn't feel comfortable with it. But I think I get it now! (It's the same as the "side-to-side join," right?) When I need to do it next, I'll have this book beside me.

(Click on the book cover above to read the introduction on the publisher's website.)


Chris said...

Thanks for the review! I'm a big fan of multiple reference books, because, like the mattress seam for you, I should be able to figure out what I need from ONE of them.

Anonymous said...

What a great title! I have been fighting with my knitting for days. Bad things DO happen to good knitters, it isn't just me, what a relief.

gleek said...

the dummies book was the first i bought too and i STILL use it as a reference. i'm always surprised at the depth that book actually goes into.

mattress stitch is great. one of my favorite seaming techniques.