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Review: Modern Top-Down Kniting


First, the facts:

Title: Modern Top-Down Knitting: Sweaters, Dresses, Skirts & Accessories Inspired by the Techniques of Barbara G. Walker

Author: McGowan, Krisitina

Published by: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010

Pages: 160

Type: Patterns.


1. Introduction
2. Top-Down Tutorials
3. The Patterns
4. Finishing

Modern Top-Down

The In-Depth Look:

This book came out ages ago–well, last year–but I only just caved and bought myself a copy.

The author says the book is inspired by Barbara G. Walker’s “Knitting from the Top.” (A book which I highly recommend, by the way, and keep meaning to review for you one of these days.) She begins by saying,

“A copy sat on my shelf for several years before I actually had the patience to read it and begin to understand what a gem it is.” “I was instantly intrigued by the questions Walker posed: Why create a bunch of pieces only to have to sew them together afterwards? Why not create an item as one continuous piece and save yourself a mountain of finishing? And why not start at the top and be able to slip the item on over your head at any stage and adjust the length and fit accordingly? The overall message was an empowering one: measure yourself, dive in, look at your work, think as you go, and take control of your knitting.”

Well, exactly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

She also says, “While working my way through Knitting from the Top the first few times, I often found myself wishing that some of the trickier techniques were illustrated.” (Yeah, I agree with that one, too.) And so, the idea for this book was born.

It starts by going over some of the top-down techniques you need to know. Things like the provisional cast-on, how to shape with short rows, and so on, all illustrated with diagrams. Then–the patterns. There are some really lovely patterns. Twenty-six of them, of which I count six dresses, which is nicely unusual. Most books rarely have more than one or two. There are also six sweaters and two skirts. All made top-down, all beautiful, and all for women.

Yes, that’s only 14 of the 26 patterns. What are the others? Hats, arm warmers, cowls, wraps, slippers, jewelry, and a belt–which brings me to the big reservation that kept me from buying this book all these months.

Now, nothing against these patterns. In fact, the Subway Hat was one of the deciding factors for me buying this book. They are good patterns. I like them.

The thing I just don’t understand is why they’re in THIS book.

The point of this book is that the author was inspired by the idea of top-down, one-piece knits. Sure, a hat is often knit from the crown down to the brim, but a hat doesn’t need to have that specific, no-need-to-sew-seams promotion that your average sweater does. But, fine. They’re knit top-down, the patterns are lovely, so there are hats in the book.

But–a rectangular wrap? A belt? How is a rectangle knit “top down?” Does the long, narrow rectangle of the belt really come under the purview of this book? Does the knitted jewelry? Or slippers? Really?

Ultimately, my biggest problem with this book is that it feels like the author’s focus strayed. She provided a lot of patterns that I like, but doesn’t seem to have stuck to her “top-down” theme. Accessories are important, of course. They’re also quickly knitted if you need one or two extra patterns to fill out a book (not that I’m saying this happened here). But I would really have preferred to see more real garments knit with Barbara Walker’s techniques. I would have liked to see occasional notes about which of her methods are being used.

This isn’t meant to be a “tribute,” like those CD collections where you find of a bunch of different artists all singing songs from the Beatles or George Gershwin. The patterns here are just inspired by Barbara Walker’s idea that knitting from the top down is good. It’s just that … the things she says in the introduction are things I’ve often thought myself–that BW’s book is wonderful, but not always so easy to actually USE. When I heard about this book, I hoped that it would be something more like a modern interpretation of her book, easier to use for those of us who want to design our own sweaters, but also with patterns already assembled.

Since it’s not, though, there’s a part of me that feels let down by an otherwise perfectly charming book. I LIKE this book. I like the designs. I like the photos. I like the look and feel of the sturdy binding. It’s a GOOD book. It’s just not what I expected from the title and from the introduction–which is why it took me so long to getting around to buying a copy.

That said, though … please note that I DID buy a copy. I flipped through it a number of times before I finally decided that the patterns were worth putting up with my lack of agreement with what the title implies.

And you? You don’t have to wait any longer, either! Get your copy at Amazon.com.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: Beautiful patterns, even if the author’s focus strayed a bit.

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