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Review: Sweater 101


First, the facts:

Title: Sweater 101: How to Plan Sweaters that Fit and Organize Your Knitting Life at the Same Time

Author: Cheryl Brunette

Published by: Marrowstone Island Press

Pages: 119

Type: Design, How-to

Sweater 101


1. Introduction
2. Basic Sweater Styles
3. A Couple of Math Skills
4. Finding Your Gauge
5. How to Size a Sweater to Get the Fit You Really Want
6. How to Take Body Measurements
7. How to Assign Pattern Measurements
8. Filling in a Picture Pattern
9. Beyond the Basics
10. A Conclusion of Sorts

Pattern Size Range: N/A–all of them

The In-Depth Look:

When you can’t find what you need, you make it yourself, right? As knitters, we all understand that impulse–a chance to get exactly what we want in the color, size, shape, fiber that we want. Sometimes, you just have to do it yourself.

Well, that’s more or less what happened to Cheryl Brunette. She says in the preface,

I was the Tuesday Troubleshooter, and 99% of the trouble that walked through the door had to do with two subjects: ‘How can I make that sweater in this yarn for my granddaughter whose arms are longer than Olive Oyl’s?’ and ‘How do I sew this together so that it looks good?’ I started showing individuals how to take measurements adn draw little “picture patterns” so that they could adapt any yarn and pattern to their size. Then I started teaching classes on the technique, and that led to Sweater 101 which was originally published by Patternworks in 1991.”

“Hah!” I hear you saying. “I knew this sounded familiar!” Because, yes, welcome to Sweater 101, the 21st Century edition. The original Sweater 101–which I bought in 1990–was a “workshop.” A booklet, a ruler, and a yarn-guide, all in a paper folder, complete with photocopy-able “worksheets” that laid out sweater shapes for you to punch in your own numbers.

It was ground-breaking. It was helpful. It was pretty complete, for what it was. But then it went out of print, and it’s just now that the author has decided to bring it back–and since this is the 21st century, it comes in two options–a hardcover, spiral-bound book, or an pdf ebook.

What do you get? A thorough explanation of the hows and whys to do the basic math needed for any sweater shape. Not “scary” math–just basic arithmetic using a calculator–and the explanations of the whys is thorough and clear. Unlike some other books (like the Handy Book of Patterns) which have done all the math for you, this requires you to do the tiniest amount of thinking … but then you work from a oattern that makes perfect sense, because you understand exactly what each number is for–instead of following charts of numbers blindly–which I, for one, find reassuring.

This book has been updated from its original incarnation, but for the most part, what was in the original is in the new edition, and is mostly unchanged. The illustrations are the same, as are most of the explanations. It’s not a “fancy” book. It’s straight-forward, black and white and is strictly a “how-to” kind of book. No “pre-made” patterns for you–except for the a couple of sweaters she spells out as an illustration of the technique.

It’s a simple book, and in some ways it reflects its 1990 origin … but dolman sleeves are back, so that’s not a bad thing to have in there. As I say, the illustrations are the same as they were. In some ways, it’s a shame, since they still look like they were printed on a dot matrix printer. (Raise your hand if you remember those!) But on the other hand, they WORK, so why change them?

It’s not fancy, but it’s filled with practical advice and is written in an entertaining style. For example? While talking about the helpfulness of using the memory feature on the calculator, she says,

However, there’s an even more important reason to use it–reduced chance of error. Every time you type in 5.87, you run the risk of a finger goof. One of my favorites is to hit the 0 instead of the decimal, e.g. 5087. My brain downshifts into pleasant-drifting gear the moment I pick up yarn and needles, but even with my head in La-La Land I’m likely to stop before knitting 61,044 inches to the underarm bind-off. And you, too, would catch the error while it was still a number, before it became a scarf for a Woolly Mammoth.”

See? Entertaining.

This book is available both as a hard-cover, spiral-bound book–nice quality to this, too, with a sturdy cover that stays open on its own. I’ve got mine balanced on my leg right now and it’s not causing me any trouble at all, unlike most books I try to type quotes out of! It’s also available as an electronic pdf ebook, so you can start reading right away, and can save postage and paper. You can even download the first chapter for free to see if you really want to buy. You can find both versions at Sweater 101‘s website.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: Practical, useful, and a blast from the past–and it came with a candy surprise in the box!

This review copy was kindly donated by Cheryl Brunette. Thank you!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chris December 8, 2008, 8:20 pm

    Oh, it’s a shame that the illustrations weren’t updated. :(

  • Carrie K December 9, 2008, 4:28 pm

    I have to check. I can’t believe I don’t have this.

    And yes, crying shame they didn’t update the illustrations. It was probably expensive but knitting is such a visual experience and we’re so spoiled by fab pix.

    Carrie K´s last blog post..Photographic Evidence

  • --Deb December 9, 2008, 5:30 pm

    Black and white line drawings are pretty simple to do, so I don’t think it would have been that difficult … but, still, they WORK and that’s what really matters. The rest is just cosmetics!

  • Laura Sue December 10, 2008, 3:35 pm

    Interesting. I just heard an interview with her on Knitpicks podcast. Still undecided about the book–mainly because I am still a pattern knitter. But that can’t last forever, so maybe I’ll give it a go.

  • Klara December 15, 2008, 6:18 am

    Sounds like the kind of book I love – thanks for reviewing it! Klara

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