First, the facts:
Title: Knitting Ganseys
Author: Beth Brown-Reinsel
Published by: White River Press, 1993
Published by: Knitting Traditions and Essanay Film and Television, 2010
Length: 97 minutes
Type: How-to for a classic design.
- What Is a Gansey?
- Getting Started and Casting On
- Ribbing and Welts
- The Plain Area, Seam Stitches, and Definition Ridge
- Pattern Motifs
- The Underarm Gussets
- The Upper Body and Neckline
- Shoulder Straps and Joins
- The Sleeve
- Finishing the Neckline
- Planning and Designing Your Own
- Six Garment Designs
The In-Depth Look:
I’ve been meaning to review this book for ages. Not only is Beth Brown-Reinsel one of my favorite designers, but her “Knitting Ganseys” book is a classic. I was lucky enough to meet her at “Vogue Knitting Live” last weekend and told her so–and immediately moved the book up my queue (because I’m a woman of my word).
It turns out that it’s a good thing that I hadn’t gotten around to writing up the review, though, because she now has a companion DVD, which she was nice enough to send me to review. I hadn’t even realized she had one, and I have to tell you that … well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, where do I start?
Well, the book came first.
As a good historic-technique book should, this begins talking about the history of the gansey, and then dives into the details about shaping, pattern stitches, preferred cast-ons, how the underarm gusset works … all the detail you need to know to appreciate and recreate a gansey of your own.
One of the best parts is that, in addition to telling you all these things, she acknowledges that tackling a full-size project might be intimidating. So, she has you make a small version sampler of a gansey. A stroke of genius, don’t you think? (Not to mention quite the coup for some doll of your acquaintance later on.) By the time you’ve knitted your way through the sampler, you should have no qualms with making a full-sized version for yourself.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this book is full of information. Mostly, of course, details specific to gansey sweaters, but lots of tidbits useful to all your knitting. She walks you through the construction of a gansey (sample-sized and full-sized), provides stitch motifs for you to use in your own, and then gives you all the knitty-gritty information you need to design one of your own. (And if you don’t want to do all that work, there are 6 fully-written patterns for you to knit.)
Now, the video.
It’s the perfect companion to the book. In many ways, it covers the exact same ground. The background and instructional material are more or less identical, but it’s wonderful to see actual samples of different stitches and why, say, one cast-on is better than another. Or to really see the difference in the three variations for a 2-stitch cable. Because this time, the samples and the backgrounds are in full color.
If the book has a flaw it’s in the black-and-white photos. In the 18 years since it was published, we’ve gotten used to slick, multi-color books so it looks a little dated. It’s like watching “Casablanca” compared to something like “Bourne Identity.” You can’t deny that the quality is there, but 21st century eyes are used to more vivid visual stimulation. (It always saddens me when new knitters shrug off really excellent books because they’re black-and-white and seem “old.”)
Well, the video more than balances that. Having a chance to see the book come to life meant I particularly enjoyed watching the video–not only to see demonstrations of the techniques, but because I liked being able to really SEE the samples.
I loved Beth as a teacher, too. Her voice is pleasant, her explanations are clear, her personality shines through, and she’s a lovely person to spend time with. She absolutely knows what she’s talking about and gives solid reasons for why you should do certain things, or what the historical variations were, but without sounding too pushy or strict about “you must.” I’ve never been lucky enough to take a class with her, but now I feel like I have. Even having read the book, I feel like I still learned a lot from the video.
Do you need both?
Well, probably not–but they are ideal together. You can always rewatch the video for techniques instead of referencing the paper book. The paper book does cover all the ground of the DVD. The DVD comes with printable pattern for the “Little Gansey,” too, so you don’t reallly NEED to have both. Personally, though, I’m more likely to refer to a book than to a video if I have questions, so I like having both.
They really are companions–there are details in the book that don’t make it into the DVD for time constraints, and the visual aids in the video are definitely more helpful than the still, gray-scaled photos in the book. They go together, like music and lyrics.
The book was my own personal copy, but the review copy of the DVD was kindly donated by the author. Thank you!