First, the facts:
Title: History on Two Needles: Exploring Art History Through Modern Handknits
Author: Annie Modesitt
Published by: Cooperative Press, 2012
The In-Depth Look:
The author begins by saying, “For years I dreamed about a collection of designs based on iconic works from art history, blending several of my great loves (knitting, history, and art) into one set of finished patterns that anyone could knit and wear. I wanted to create garments inspired by historic images, without becoming historic costumes. My love of historic garment silhouette, detail, and the lessons these teach us about political changes in the world is something I like to bring to my hand-knit designs whenever possible.”
Well, this collection of patterns is a delight. Clever reconstructions pulled straight out of historical images ranging from Ancient Egypt and Greece straight through the Victorian age, with an emphasis on Northern Europe. As Ms. Modesitt says, “I’ve traveled more extensively in the UK and Ireland than in other countries – the only language in which I’m fluent is English. This has led to a strong British bias in my choice of original artwork to use as inspiration, which is especially noticable in the Renaissance section (a re!ection of my own personal love of the Tudor period of history).”
It’s true that some of these designs are more successful at looking “inspired by” history without looking like costumes, but there are some really lovely designs in here (like the Pembroke Jacket, which I fell in love with). The photos are a combination of modeled knitwear photoshopped against historically-accurate backdrops which gives the images a lush feel.
Except for some accessories that could go either way, all the designs are for women, and most are in the clothing category, rather than accessories, though there are some nice wraps and headwear (like the Black Prince Hood of knitted chainmail or the knitted-architectural brillians of the Sutton Hoo Helm).
Along the way, you get little bits of history to go with the designs and nice, atmospheric photos to set the mood. Each design comes with thorough schematics (I would expect nothing else from Annie Modesitt, honestly), and an impressive attention to detail.
And, darn it, it was fun.
This book can be bought from Cooperative Press.
This review copy was kindly donated by Cooperative Press. Thank you!
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