Alunissage (alunissage) wrote,

[knitting] Gripe, gripe.

Mom got me the Stitch n' Bitch Knitter's Design Journal. There are some very nice things about it and others that range from hideous to merely "What was she thinking??" ("She" being Debbie Stoller, not Mom. As one of the Amazon reviews commented, the book comes in shrinkwrap so you can't tell what you're getting ahead of time.)

The hideous part is the name and the cover. I realize that the vulgar name is a given since it's a series and al, but repetition has not reconciled me to it. The cover, besides having the obligatory trick roper with yarn and needles, has a background of green and orange striped knitting. Really unattractive green at that. Sigh. The onslaught of dopey puns persists in this, too, but it's not actually necessary to read any of the text to use most of the book.

The book itself is a nice size, though, and with a sturdy enough cover to hold up and a slip-off band to hold it closed. It has a little cardboard gauge ruler and needle sizer in an an inside pocket, not something that would hold up to hard use but not bad to have to carry around. There are several other thoughtful bits throughout the book.

Nearly two-thirds of the book is square graph paper for design work. The pages are a little small for this, but that's a tradeoff of having a fairly small book to carry around. Every third page has a girl drawn on it to sketch garments on, which isn't a bad idea but is implemented pretty unusefully. They're of three different body types: skinny and flat, slightly curved (probably intended to be average, but still quite slender), and fairly curvy/hourglass. The introduction directs one to choose "the one that looks like you", but what if you're rounder without a waist...or male? They're all girls. The drawings run off the page at mid-thigh, so they're useless for anything below tunic-length; that's probably sufficient for most sweaters but is still limiting. They each have different hairstyles, which I suppose gives more options for hat design, but the same problem applies of only one being likely to match (and Princess Leia buns, which the curvy drawing has, aren't really hat-friendly). If the whole reason you knit is to fit things to your body type, one or more of these is likely to be useless. (Right now I have something for I-Gene drawn on the flat girl, which is the closest I'm going to get, but of course even she, straight up-and-down as she is, has more of a waist than he does.) The curvy one is close enough for my own stuff and I can draw stuff for Wendy on the medium one or the skinny one. However, when I did draw something on the latter I found that one shoulder of the template was a full square above the other. You know, the whole advantage of having graph paper is correct errors like that in my freehand drawing.

Other annoying things are that the girls all have undergarments drawn on, which is distracting, making the penciled in lines less clear and possibly impacting the actual design because of a tendency to use the arbitrary lines provided. On the other side of this argument, the templates obscure the lines of the graph paper, so you can't easily ignore them if your actual schematic overlaps them. And set every three pages means only two pages out of three are template-free, which isn't a lot of space if you're both drawing schematics of garment pieces and charting cables/lace. I guess for that level of detail you go home to your big pads of graph paper like I did, or draw over later drawings of girls and use a ruler as a guide where the grid is missing.

About the last third of this section is knitter's graph paper, which I find less useful since I've yet to do any intarsia or colorwork. I agree that this is good to have; it's just not necessary for me personally at this time. I suppose I could use it for those cable charts, since those usually don't have much relation to the actual aspect ratio of the finished project.

Following this is a section of design tips. There's a page on ease, probably more than needs to be there. The next page is a brief rundown on the three basic sleeve types; the set-in sleeve bit says that "plotting out set-in sleeves is a task best left to the masters" but the little diagram illustrating the type is extremely simple, showing the sleeves extending straight out from the shoulders with only a little bit of shaping at the underarms, not at all a complex sleeve cap (mostly flat). There's a couple of pages on necklines, one on elementary edgings, and one on figuring diagonal increases, which are okay although the latter makes the process sound unnecessarily arcane. I don't really see why that's put in but not anything about shaping the very simple set-in sleeve cap illustrated, which wouldn't need anything fancier than this. Some standard information follows: yarn estimates for three weights of yarn and a range of sizes of long-sleeve sweater (but no indication of what length this is or how much to add for other lengths); recommended gauge and needle sizes for 6 weights (this is what the ball band is, this is what your own gauge swatch is for); standard body measurements and hat measurements. I suppose this is useful if you only know the size someone else wears and not their actual measurements.

More somewhat useful stuff. A needle inventory page where you can check off what you already have. This I do intend to use, although it won't solve the problem of finding the ones I own. Fifteen pages to fill in yarn stash info, at two per page -- does anyone only have thirty types of yarn? My spreadsheet is much longer and it badly needs an update. I guess if you just wanted to carry around info for some specific stuff you were working with, or wanted to find a pattern to go with already purchased yarn. I'll have to see if this is of any use. There's space to tape in a sample, but 15 sampes in the same spot on consecutive pages, x2, would make quite a bulge in the book. 12 pages for projects you've made, which is probably why Mom bought me the book; I was complaining that I couldn't remember what size needles I used for something I wanted to replicate. Since about all my stuff is also my own design, this space would be far too small to write out everything I did, but I suppose I could cross-reference with a diagram drawn in the graph-paper section. 14 pages on "patterns I want to make" which isn't likely to be of use to me except in writing down magazine issues with things I want to study/borrow from. There's a space for picture/sketch, but why? If you're referring to a published pattern there will be a bigger and better picture there, most likely, and if it's your own there's space to draw it better in the design pages. Maybe if you just want to flip through and see if you already have a triangle shawl or whatever in queue.

Measurements. This is quite good, with one glaring exception. There's not only space for you to write your own measurements, but those of three favorite sweaters, if you want to get similar fits. There's also space for measurements of 16 other people, which would save me from measuring Wendy every time I think of making her something (she's been measured two or three times already). The unbelievable omission? A waist measurement, That's right, every single sweater must be a cylinder, no shaping (and forget about skirts or pants). There's no space for hip measurement either, even though the existence of tunic length is mentioned in the standard sizes section (which also lack waist and hip measurements). This is ridiculous. What's the point of having multiple body types in the design section if you're not expected to allow for them? And even if the precise waist measurement isn't all that necessary since even darted sweaters are unlikely to cling precisely, the location of the narrowest point would be a useful thing to write down to know where to stop making the dart. I really don't get this at all.

The last section is similarly puzzling to me. A chart of knitting abbreviations...okay, I guess they can be obscure. How to make a slipknot and the long-tail and cable cast-ons...still kind of basic, but maybe people forget them. But the two pages after that are simply how to knit and purl, English and continental! Who is going to get so far as to be designing their own sweaters, even cylindrical ones, and not know how to knit? Those pages would be much more usefully devoted to decorative cast-ons, or even a basic one like tubular, considering how many sweaters start with ribbing. If you think that one should be going to a reference for things like that...well, one shouldn't be needing to carry around basic instructions on how to knit in one's bag, either. The next couple of pages are nearly as silly; there's the single, very basic bind-off, the make 1 increase, the yarnover (!), k2tog, and ssk/skpo. I can't imagine that these would be more needed than, say, triple decreases or even simply purling through back loops (k/p tbl is clearly too advanced to be included, even though someone who still needs to refer to instructions to purl is likely to produce twisted stitched which will need to be corrected by knitting tbl).

The bit on seaming is probably more useful, although the Kitchener stitch (grafting), which many people consider fairly complex (and/or confusing and intimidating), has not only inadequate illustration but incomplete instruction. The other basics covered are okay, I guess, but still not really on a scale with the rest of the book. I still think this section should have had more advanced things that aren't likely to be remembered so well, like unusual cast-ons and -offs, selvages and edgings, avoiding jogs in circular knitting, possibly buttonholes. Bobbles are omitted, which doesn't bother me much since I don't like them.

Overall, I do plan on using the book, and have used it a bit already. It's just a shame that it's a) ugly and b) containing a lot of pages which are useless to me. I guess I could paste photocopies of more useful stuff over the basics. Come to think of it, I could also glue a nice, opaque piece of fabric over the outside cover, too. Except that then the equally obnoxious band wouldn't fit around it.
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