Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: The Knitter’s Guide to Yarn Cocktails by Anastasia Blaes and Kelly Wilson


Taking their inspiration from the cocktail set, Anastasia Blaes and Kelly Wilson have created a knitting book aimed at the new generation of knitters. Each project in The Knitter’s Guide to Yarn Cocktails: 30 Technique-Expanding Recipes for Tasty Little Projects is inspired by a popular cocktail and focuses on a specific skill, allowing knitters to learn skills incrementally. Eventually these “ingredients” may be mixed together, enabling knitters to undertake the more advanced projects in the book. While a few of the projects are suitable for beginning knitters, the majority are for intermediate or experienced knitters.

The book is laid out following the cocktail motif. The first chapter “Ingredients” covers knitting basics: knitting tools, terminology, yarn and knitting abbreviations. The following chapters group projects by drink category such as “classic cocktails” (textured knitting), “martini drinks” (cables) and “garnish with a twist” (edgings). While the cocktail motif is initially amusing, the novelty wears off and knitters may find it all a bit too cute. One helpful item is the ice cube illustration included in some patterns, standing for “refresh”. This icon indicates that techniques used in the pattern are referenced earlier in Yarn Cocktails and helpfully, the authors have include the page reference for the technique.

Most of the patterns here are geared to the younger knitter, with the majority of patterns being for accessories rather than clothing. Clothing patterns include five tops (of the camisole persuasion), two skirts, boxers, knickers and a lace vest.

The final chapter includes recipes for all the drinks referenced in the book, although this reviewer would not recommend drinking and knitting as it can lead to a great deal of day after ripping.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1592533191
ISBN13: 9781592533190

Spiral Bound, Softcover
160 Pages
Publisher: Quarry Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Author Websites: and


BOOK REVIEW: Lacy Little Knits by Iris Schreier


In the introduction to Lacy Little Knits: Clingy, Soft & a Little Risqué, Iris Schreier begins with two questions: “How can something as beautiful as knitted lace be so frustrating? And knowing this, why on earth do we feel so strongly compelled to create it?” In an effort to avoid the frustration and make lace more accessible, Schreier has tossed out the rules and developed a system to teach knitters how to “read their lace.” The result is designs knitters can start and stop at any point – and even knit while watching T.V.

The twenty-five patterns in Lacy Little Knits build in difficulty, beginning with fairly standard patterns and moving to those featuring multidirectional knitting. The first chapter covers the basics of the stitch patterns and techniques featured in Schreier’s designs. Her goal is that knitters will “be able to understand the construction of the garment…to the point of being able to knit it without having to follow line-by-line instructions.” To that end she includes a section of tips to help knitters ensure success by reading their work.

The majority of the patterns in Lacy Little Knits are for sweaters; however, Schreier also includes two skirt patterns, a sheath, several shrugs and wraps, and one hat. Sizing for the sweater designs range from finished chest measurements of 30” to 51” with the majority falling in the 36” to 44” range. Patterns are shown knit in Art Yarns but all the instructions are given in generic yarns with approximate yardage requirements (e.x. merino wool medium-weight yarn or 3mm-wide silk ribbon). Designs with negative ease include the worn measurement, as well as unstretched measurement. Knitters wishing to undertake additional projects using Schreier’s techniques will find them at

ISBN10: 1579907172
ISBN13: 9781579907174

144 Pages
Publisher: Lark Books
Publication Date: July 1, 2007
Book Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby


My first glimpse of the designs in Victorian Lace Today was at Stitches East in November 2006. One of the highlights of the convention was the fashion show featuring the incredible shawls from the book along with Jane Sowerby’s commentary on the development of lace knitting during the Victorian era. As the models showed off the gossamer-thin shawls and scarves of mohair, wool and silk, I grew more and more convinced that these elaborate designs were something I would never be able to accomplish.

Months passed and these gorgeous shawls kept popping into my mind until I finally had to pick up a copy of Sowerby’s book. Much more than just a book of patterns, Victorian Lace Today “explores the development of lace knitting in England through the work of a few pioneering ladies.” Tracing the development from the simple patterns from the books of Miss Watts and Mrs. Gaugain, the patterns quickly become more elaborate and detailed, as styles and dress shapes changed throughout the Victorian period. Sowerby transforms the sketchy instructions found in these early knitting books into charts and patterns which can be enjoyed by modern knitters. The final twenty pages are devoted to tips and techniques.

Sowerby’s introduction indicates that knitters new to lace should begin by reviewing her section on understanding lace and charts and then undertake one of the projects recommended as a first lace project. As she explains, she “began this book as a knit/purl sweater knitter, with some trepidation, a lot of curiosity, and a determination to succeed…So please, don’t hesitate to begin at the beginning, just as the Victorians did, and welcome to a wonderful knitting adventure.”

And so filled with trepidation, I will embark on my own lace adventure. I’ve already chosen the yarn, now I have to determine which of the stunning scarves it wishes to become – perhaps one of the wide-bordered scarves which are “of particularly pleasing appearance, being light and lacy, and yet not difficult of accomplishment.”

Thumb through the book here.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933064072
ISBN13: 9781933064079

196 Pages
Publisher: XRX Books
Publication Date: November 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Never Felt Better by Nicky Epstein


Following in the footsteps of her bestselling series on edge treatments, Nicky Epstein now lends her signature style to felting. In Knitting Never Felt Better: the definitive guide to fabulous felting, Epstein, a self-professed “felting freak,” provides more than 150 before and after swatches and a variety of patterns using felting techniques and fabrics.

The first twenty swatches show how various fibers (wool, alpaca, cashmere) and fiber blends react to the felting process. Epstein then illustrates how lace, cables, various colourwork methods can be incorporated into felting to produce unique results. As with her previous guides, the swatches are large and the photographs show details clearly. Each group of swatches is knit in the same colour, enabling the reader to focus on the stitches rather than having their eyes distracted by the yarn colour.

What raises this to the level of an exceptional guide are her trademark touches. An entire section is devoted to dimensional felting described by her as: “performing a magic trick: A piece of plain, flat stockinette stitch takes on a three-dimensional quality. You perform this sleight of hand by inserting a shrink-resistant object into the piece before felting.” Epstein then takes this technique and uses beads, embroidery and felted leaves to create grape clusters and 3-D flowers, as shown on the cover of the book.

The final third of Knitting Never Felt Better is dedicated to the special touches knitters associate with Epstein’s work: appliqués and embellishments; as well as templates for decorative items which can be cut from felted wool (a great way to use up swatches and felting mistakes!) and tips on transforming old clothes into felted toys, baby items and accessories. Throughout the volume, Epstein incorporates helpful tips from her readers and she even polled sixty yarn shop owners to create a top ten list of favourite yarns for felting. If you’ve ever contemplated felting, this volume will quickly indoctrinate you into this addictive realm.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027118
ISBN13: 9781933027111

176 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Lingerie Style by Joan McGowan-Michael


Joan McGowan-Michael came of age in the seventies, an era when underthings were basic and functional; but she was always drawn to the intriguing lingerie of her mother and grandmother. After finishing design school, she went to work as a designer for a major lingerie retailer, just in time for the resurgence of feminine lingerie.

Lingerie is no longer relegated to the role of shaping women’s bodies and keeping us warm. It has taken centre stage, inspiring designs and become outwear. In 2001, McGowan-Michael founded White Lies Designs and has since been designing knitted lingerie and lingerie-inspired designs for all the major knitting publications.

In Knitting Lingerie Style: more than 30 basic and lingerie-inspired designs, McGowan-Michael examines the five staple undergarments of a woman’s wardrobe – the bra, slip, corset, camisole and stocking – and reviews the construction and history of each. She then provides a pattern for the basic garment, followed by designs which use the basic garment as a “jumping off” point. The bra inspires the twinset, the slip a party dress and the camisole is reincarnated as a lacy bodice.

The patterns found in Knitting Lingerie Style invite knitters to become adventurous. Overall, these patterns require knitting experience and, because most are quite fitted, require an honest assessment of one’s body. Sizing for her garments ranges from finished chest measurements of 28” to 57” with the majority falling in the 31” to 46” range, with very minimal ease.

McGowan-Michael guides knitters step-by-step through the process of creating a knitted bra or corset and provides helpful illustrations. Her background in lingerie design is very evident in the construction of her garments she designs and in the fashioning details she includes such as including interfacing in her bra and offering alternate cup construction in the Citrus Sun Top, since a bra can’t be worn under it. Even if knitters never knit the lingerie in Knitting Lingerie Style, McGowan-Michael’s useful information will help them look at lingerie in a new way, leaving them with a better understanding of fit and styles which are figure-flattering for women.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584795778
ISBN13: 9781584795773

160 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: April 1, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine


Vogue® Knitting International hit the newsstands in its current incarnation in 1982 with a focus on fashionable knitting. Over the years the magazine has featured designs from fashion’s biggest names in knitwear design; Adrienne Vittadini, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Twinkle, Michael Kors, Anna Sui and James Coviello to name a few. Through the years, what has kept Vogue® Knitting a magazine of substance, and a must have for knitters, has been the articles and workshops featured alongside the designs.

Now, for the first time, the best of these have been gathered into one volume, The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine: 25 Years of Articles, Techniques and Expert Advice. The ultimate reference volume, within these pages is everything from beginning techniques to advice on the design process. Articles and essays were penned by the luminaries of the knitting world such as Elizabeth Zimmerman, Barbara G. Walker, Meg Swansen, Melanie Falick, Barbara Albright, and many more. Within these pages readers will even find advice on the business of raising sheep, for anyone who has ever dreamed of having their own yarn supply.

Articles, essays and workshops are intermixed, ensuring hours of fascinating reading dotted with new techniques and tips to try out. Each is marked in the upper left corner with the cover and issue in which it originally was published. Revisit old favourites and discover missed gems. If you are only going to purchase one knitting book this year, make it this one. Whether you want to read about the history of wartime knitting in America or explore Vogue®’s finishing school, this essential reference guide will more than pay for itself through the course of a knitter’s life.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027169
ISBN13: 9781933027166

244 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Punk Knits by Share Ross


If anyone had any doubts about knitting, Share Ross is ready to shatter them – knitting isn’t just for grannies anymore. The punk rock guitarist and singer of Bubbles “is addicted to the needle – the knitting needle. What is more rock ‘n’ roll than making your own fashion statement and snubbing the corporate entities that tell us how to look.”

When she started knitting, Ross discovered there were almost no patterns for edgy, underground rocker types like her and out of necessity began creating her own. The result is Punk Knits: 26 hot new designs for anarchistic souls and independent spirits, with the designs modeled by her friends – independent punk rock musicians from Hollywood. Ross’ inspiration comes from famous (or infamous) rockers like Sid Vicious, the New York Dolls and Frank Zappa, and each pattern includes her comments on the artist.

All the designs are suitable for beginning to intermediate knitters, with a few advanced patterns for those who like a challenge. Ross’ designs are unisex (although I wish she had included photos of guys in the mini skirts) and the measurements for the finished sweaters reflect that, with chest measurements ranging from 27” to 47”. If you are looking for basic knitting instruction, you’ll need to find that elsewhere; however, if you need instructions for including deliberate holes in your knitting, then this is the guide for you.

So what about the patterns themselves? I have to admit to being a bit disappointed since I was expecting something rawer, more cutting edge. That may not be possible as, by its very nature, punk isn’t about being conformist and a book of knitting patterns could be construed as conformist since the patterns are available to the masses. Unfortunately there isn’t much here which can’t be found elsewhere, although the Skull Kilt is fabulous.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584795832
ISBN13: 9781584795834

Trade Paperback, Spiral binding
136 Pages
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
Website: Punk Knits
Looking for corrections? Pattern Errata are here


BOOK REVIEW: Knits Three Ways by Melissa Matthay


Soon after knitting their first sweater, knitters often encounter a common problem. They find a pattern for the “almost perfect” sweater, perfect except for some feature; perhaps it has the wrong neckline or is sleeveless or they’d rather it be in a different weight of yarn. For some knitters this leads easily into pattern alteration while others will spend years making sweaters for friends and family, dreaming of someday making that “perfect” sweater.

Melissa Matthay, owner of The Knitting Tree in Madison, Wisconsin, comes to knitters’ rescue with her book Knits Three Ways: mix and match design elements to create a custom-made sweater. After years helping customers alter “almost perfect” sweater patterns, Matthay pulled together her experiences to create a simple, helpful guide.

The first chapter of the book takes knitters through construction basics; measuring, garment shaping, and yarn selection, followed by the basic sweater patterns. Matthay has created twelve foundation patterns and shown how simple choices such as yarn, stitch pattern, neckline shaping or sleeve length can dramatically alter the finished product. Although Matthay has provided three sample alternatives for each pattern to illustrate her concepts, the possibilities are endless.

The basic patterns range from staples such as the classic pullover, hoodied and v-neck cardigan to kimonos and shrugs. Matthay offers advice on using cables and lace to shape your garment or provide the illusion of shaping. She also includes some daring design options, such as her pattern for a classic shell with an open back; which adventuresome knitters may opt to knit using a mohair/silk blend for a “barely-there” look.

Knits Three Ways makes a wonderful addition to any knitter’s reference library, providing both inspiration and design advice for many years to come.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307345645
ISBN13: 9780307345646

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: April 10, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Runway Knits by Berta Karapetyan


Berta Karapetyan has been designing high-end knitwear and working as a technical knitwear developer for Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein for more than two decades. In 1993 she founded the yarn company Karabella Yarns and creates the innovative designs for which they have become well-known.

Runway Knits: 30 Fashion-Forward Designs is a collection of designs full of Karapetyan’s signature details and personality: unusual stitch patterns, interesting construction methods, and designs which flatter the wearer’s body. Karapetyan’s designs are inspired by both the runways of New York City and her Russian roots, with those roots appearing most clearly in patterns such as the Russian-style hat and the Soldier’s Sweater. All the designs are made with the Karabella line of yarns, a company owned by Karapetyan’s son; however, a yarn substitution guide is include at the end of the volume and yardage information can be found on the Karabella website.

Sizing on the finished garments runs from 31” to 46”, with the majority in the 32” to 38” range. These are highly-structured, close-fitting garments with minimal ease and full of couture detailing. Patterns range from beginner (Cozy Moss Shrug) to intermediate (Flamingo Capelet) to the expert (Leaf-Drop Sweater). Pattern instructions are detailed but are text only. Knitters who prefer to work lace and cable patterns from charts may have to create their own charts or work only from the text.

Full of beautiful, colour photographs, the patterns in Runway Knits are separated into four sections by their style; Spirited, Playful, Demure, and Driven. As Karapetyan states in her introduction: “all the designs exude personality; so much so that when you wear them your look will set the mood.”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307339688
ISBN13: 9780307339683

176 Pages
Publisher: Potter Crafts
Publication Date: April 17, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Knitty Gritty Knits by Vickie Howell


As Vickie Howell says on her website, “Craft This!” She is on a personal quest to eliminate the negative social stigma attached to knitting and crafting by bringing more recognition to the hip, creative, and edgy sides of these forms of expression. Her popular show on DIY Network, Knitty Gritty, features projects and techniques, taught by some of the today’s best-known knitting personalities and designers. Viewers are invited to join Vickie and her Knitster Girls as they showcase projects suitable for all levels of knitters.

In Knitty Gritty Knits: 25 Fun & Fabulous Projects, Vickie has collected projects featured on the show, including one from Lily Chin. What makes this book particularly suitable for beginners is the first section on knitting basics. Everything from basic stitches to gauge swatches to knitting tools is covered. Projects feature close-up photos at crucial stages, to enhance the written instructions. Unfortunately, there are no extra or bonus projects provided in the volume, only projects included on the show.

The patterns in Knitty Gritty Knits will appeal to the hip and trendy, as well as novice knitters. Fans of The Breeders and Kelley Deal will be eager to knit Deal’s Rock Star Bag. Amy Finlay has designed a thigh garter with pockets to handle essentials such as lipstick and ID, for those wishing to travel light on their next night out. Tina Whitmore’s felted backgammon board can either be rolled up for easy transport or side panels and handles can be added to use the game board as a tote.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1579909167
ISBN13: 9781579909161

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Lark Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2007
Author Website:


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