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Review: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting

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First, the facts:

Title: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting: New and Expanded Edition

Author: Alice Starmore

Published by: Dover Publishing, 2011

Pages: 153

Type: Reference.

Chapters:

1. Introduction
2. Designing Patterened Sweaters
3. Traditional Knitting Patterns
4. Adapted Patterns
5. The Continuing Story
6. A Word on Color

KS: Charts for Color Knitting

The In-Depth Look:

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Alice Starmore? Luscious cables? Rich colors? Gorgeous patterns in subtle, saturated color combinations?

Well, this book is nothing like that. If you’re looking for one of her famously impressive sweater pattern collections, this isn’t it.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a rich storehouse of treasure all the same.

This book is primarily a collection of black dots and white squares. The kind that look like cross-stitch patterns or, say, color-work charts … Lots and lots of them. Something like 110 pages of them.

This is a treasure-trove of charts. Collected by origin (Norway, Russian, Celtic, Birds & Flowers, and so on), it doesn’t so much as tell you what to do with them as give them to you to do whatever you wish. You can knit with them, embroider, stencil, mosaic … anything you like. The possibilities are endless.

Of course, this IS an Alice Starmore book, and it says right in the title that these are charts for knitting, and so there are guidelines for that. There are chapters on how to design a sweater using charted patterns, though, the sweaters themselves are the simplest, drop-shouldered kind of shapes. Like the other recent Dover editions, this is slightly updated from the old, out-of-print volume, but large chunks are exactly the same.

So far as I can tell (without having the earlier version), the “New and Expanded” part comes at the end, where she talks about “A Word on Colour.” The chapter begins, “When compiling and writing this book in 1991, my intention was to provide knitters with a comprehensive pattern source. I hoped they would use it to create their own colour schemes and then go on to incorporate them into garments to suit themselves in both style and size. … However, over the intervening years, many knitters have expressed to me a profound fear of working with colour, and, in many cases, a belief that they have ‘no eye’ for it. This prevents them from even beginning to attempt colour schemes of their own, despite having this readily available source of patterns.”

She then goes on to discuss exactly how to find color combinations that work. She doesn’t go into color theory and I can’t recall a mention of the color wheel or primary colors, but rather she talks about following your instincts. “Marvel with passion at the endless beauty in the world; surround yourself with beautiful yarns and colors and just plunge in.” This new chapter is only about ten pages long, but has some really good advice on how to start exploring with colors for your knitting. And, of course, everyone knows that Alice Starmore is an expert at mixing colors.

Ultimately, this book is definitely getting a space on my crowded bookcase. Not only are the charts themselves a huge resource for all kinds of things, but a look at how a true master can take these black dots and white squares and create magic just by changing colors is well worth reading.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: A wealth of charts.

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