Friday, August 31, 2007

Review: Romantic Hand Knits

You've probably already come across reviews of this book in blogland, maybe at Claudia's blog or at Wendy's or [Jen]La's or, well, there have been lots. (Thanks, Random House/Potter Craft for sending out so many copies to the bloggers!) Romantic Hand Knits, by Annie Modesitt, is a beautifully designed hardcover with 26 patterns and loads of pretty pictures. It's also a bit of a niche-knitting book. These are ultra-feminine garments -- mainly tops, skirts, and dresses -- with lots of lacy details, ruffles, and figure-conscious shapes.

In the book's introduction, Annie explains her take on "romance": rather than being all sexy lingerie and rose petals in the bathtub, she writes, romance is "about dreams. It's an idealized vision of something ..., a belief that a certain type of perfection is possible within our imperfect lives." This notion guided my reading of the book, in that -- for me -- these designs aren't for knitting. They're for dreaming. That is, I'm not going to make anything in this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading each scene-setting pattern blurb (e.g., "you'll swear you've drifted into a Dorothy Sayers novel in 1930s London when wearing this vintage-styled shirtwaist dress"). The thing is, if I were to knit, say, the Bishop's Wife dress (which I quite like), and if I were then to put it on and go out for the day, I might feel like a Dorothy Sayers character for a few minutes until I realized I wasn't standing in an English garden with a wispy hairdo, but rather that I was sitting on the bus with a big backpack and feeling oddly inappropriate in my lovely long sport-weight dress. This doesn't mean it's not a good dress. It just means that I'm more of a realist than a romantic, and that this book has more value for me as a pretty picture book -- "an idealized vision of something" -- than as a practical collection of patterns.

Figure 1: The Bishop's Wife

As for the actual mechanics of the patterns, it's nice to see a wide range of sizes: the West Side Story skirt, for example, can be made to fit a 22-inch (!) waist, a 48-inch waist, and four sizes in between; the Notorious top can be made for a 25.5-inch (!!) bust and a 56-inch bust alike. The photos are generally good at showing the garments, and many patterns show more than one view. When we get to accessories toward the end of the book, though, photos are somewhat lacking: Vertigo is described in the text as a "long scarf," for instance, but in the single photo it appears to be some kind of shallow wrappy-tube. Too bad, because there are probably a lot more knitters willing to knit lace gloves or a scarf than will commit to, say, a full-length skirt.

Figure 2: Vertigo

I've had some excellent luck this week, winning a couple of blog draws, so I'm going to pay it forward. Would you like my copy of Romantic Hand Knits? Leave a comment, and on Monday night I'll randomly choose a winner. Meanwhile, have a good weekend!

54 comments:

Jenny said...

This does look like a beautiful, if slightly impractical book. The more reviews I read about it the more I think I'd like to buy it. I wouldn't complain if I won it though...

Julie said...

Hi Alison! Thanks for the review of the book. I have heard many good things about it, so if I win your drawing, that would be awesome!

ontheborderland said...

I love impracticality! Sign me up!!! ;)

emilyoboe said...

I love this book--I might even knit something from it. Sign me up too : )
(bonus--I'm in Canada too)

Netter said...

I'd love your copy.

Cindy Z. said...

Thanks for the review. I am a new reader to your blog and I'm enjoying it.

rockbridge said...

thanks for the review - so glad i found your blog.. sign me up too, i'd love, if nothing else, to ogle the pictures in romantic knits!

jane said...

I personally think it's fun to have some not-so-practical items in the wardrobe for fun. Sometimes its fun to severely overdress in something that makes me feel awesome.

Plus you get the added bonus of enjoying making the dress or skirt that makes you feel great.

Alli said...

I would love to take this book off your hands. I guess I am a bit of a process knitter because I really enjoy knitting silly things that I rarely wear :)
I just found your blog yesterday, I'm really enjoying it so far. Thanks!

Robin said...

Thanks for your great review. I'm always up for another knitting book to drool over. I could waste hours daydreaming of wearing my knitted dress to tea in an English rose garden! ;)

Geertje said...

impractical, romantic clothes? inappropriately vintage dresses? this book was written for me!!
i'm keeping my fingers crossed...
thanks for the review, i hadn't read about it yet :)

Balkan Style Bloggers said...

You should write the bizarro version to 'Romantic Hand Knits' - 'Riding the Bus Hand Knits'

Luch said...

Thanks for the game of chance! Have a good long weekend!
Heather

Terhi said...

Thanks for the review! I'm more on the practical side too, but I love pretty books. :-)

Steph F. said...

Thanks for the review! The book is so pretty. It makes me fantasize about having high tea in the rose garden near school :)

Snarsh said...

I'd love to make some romantic/sexy knits. And I'd love to win this book.. PICK ME PICK ME!!!

Jen said...

I'd love to give this beautiful book a good home!

Jenn said...

I'd love to give some of these patterns a shot, especially since I haven't been knitting much recently and could use some inspiration. Incidentally, just found your blog recently, and I'm really enjoying it - looking forward to browsing the archives, too.

jennie said...

hell, I'm just happy that someone (ANYONE!) has heard of dorothy sayers! she has long been my fav mystery writer... and, let's be honest, i'm a little inclined to wear impractical, 1930's style clothes just to have that momentary feeling of being trapped in a dorothy sayers novel (only if it means I get to marry Lord Peter, though. he's always been my dream man). :)

Thanks for the review!

(www.twin-knit.com)

cko said...

I'll give it a shot. I would say it similarly, in that I'm a practical girl, but I'm willing to give more form-fitting patterns a try and maybe I would even knit a skirt.
Thanks for the honest review and the chance to get a new book.

knittin' in Van said...

Thanks for the honest review. I've read some of the other bloggers' early reviews and I think I am most in tune with your perspective - yes, this is the stuff of dreams. So, sign me up for some dreamin'....

Thanks for paying it forward.

Bonney said...

That was a great review!! Sign me up; thanks!

Shari said...

I have seen the other's reviews of the book and I just keep falling more in love with it! There are a few things in it that I would love to make, for myself and my girls.

Fingers crossed!

Lauren said...

I would love to have the book! I love those kind of knits and I got to look through the book between classes at a Border's but found that my wallet would not allow me to have such a luxury item (I know I am not the only college student struggling with the desire and love to knit yet not having the funds).

If I were to be chosen, I'd dance. A lot!

Anywho, it is very kind of you to do such a thing and am excited for any one who wins it! Good luck!

Melanie said...

OOooh. This book looks and sounds wonderful. I would love to own it and perhaps add one or more of the patterns to my list of things to knit. I also think it is very kind of you to give up this lovely book to someone else.

Bertha said...

Ooh contest! As the mother of a 6 month old, I too doubt I'd be able to wear much of anything in this book, but I love the inspiration!

jodi said...

Alison, I would totally make that dress (after grad school, of course). I'd just be very careful where I wore it, and perhaps not take the bus that day ;)

In fact, I might just try to translate the cut to fabric and draft a sewing pattern for something that looks like this. I really love it.

Alynda said...

I love to just look at pictures. That must be why I keep buying Kaffe Fassett books! Please enter me too. I'm also a former Okanagan girl.

amanda said...

Thanks for the good, honest review, Alison. That dress is a marvel, but too err on the side of practicality, so I'm merely enjoying the images as well! And such awesome images they are!

PS: you can skip throwing my name into the hat -- I'd much rather see this lovely volume go to someone who will actually knit something from it ;)

Jessica said...

Romantic dreaming, Sign me up

BostonBecca said...

Oh my. I positively lust after this book. It's not in a romantic way either, it's a gotta have it infatuation sort of way. Too bad all my book buying is about designing my lace chuppah for my wedding-a very romantic notion indeed.

maceknits said...

I love these types of contests! Leave a comment and maybe win a prize. Woo hoo! I appreciate having pattern books with good photos of the garments.

goodkarma said...

I'd love a copy of this book. I haven't knit anything by Annie yet, but I admire her sense and her unique construction methods.

Tonia said...

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) I am a hopeless romantic. I love this book and would be tickled to have it.

Laura said...

Ooh! I am total sucker for the romantic. I am the sort of person who would get all swoony reading the old J. Peterman catalogues. I have been known to buy clothing because I think it will make me feel like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient, or Debra Winger in The Sheltering Sky. This book is right up my alley. If I don't win yours, I'm afraid I'll have to buy it.

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melly Testa said...

seems like fun to me! I'd like a try.

Erika said...

Thanks for reviewing it, I would love a copy!

catie said...

Count me in! Hopeless romantic, keeper of all things impractical..sounds like me!!

brunhilda said...

lovely review, i'm in :)

miss ewe said...

Love to have a closer look! Thanks for the contest!!!

Lisa W. said...

well dip me in coffee and call me a donut hole...i'd love a copy of that book!

Corvus said...

After reading multiple reviews and then wandering to the bookstore to thumb through it myself, I know for a fact there are designs in that book I'd like to knit, and even more I'd like to dream about. With my classload this semester I'll do more dreaming than knititng, but hey: sign me up and thank you!

Minty Fresh said...

Thanks for a great review. I browsed through it at B&N and thought many patterns were pretty. I'd like to get a chance to win the book.

Barbara-Kay said...

After reading your well-written review, I MUST have this book! As my mother taught me, "Yes, please!" VBG!

Whitney said...

I think that I agree with you. The pictures are lovely but I doubt I would knit a dress from it. The accessories probably. It would make a nice coffee table book :)

Polly said...

The book looks lovely... I'd love to have it!

melissa said...

i love it! sign me up! :)

and happy holiday weekend.

I HAVE CONCERNS said...

would love it!

maaria said...

Thanks for the realistic review! :) Sign me up, please.

Kristen said...

I would love a copy of that book! I'm glad Mooky is feeling better too.

Lynne said...

Hi!
Thanks for the review... seems like an interesting book. Thank you for passing it on!!

Jodi said...

It looks like a beautiful book! Loved the Dorothy Sayers reference (interesting tidbit -- she was one of the first women to get a degree from Oxford).

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until Christmas!!! I know I'll be getting this book and the patterns are so lovely!!! So much for surprises, eh? :D