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: Pretty in Punk by Alyce Benevides & Jacqueline Milles


Pretty in Punk: 25 Punk, Rock, and Goth Knitting Projects is THE knitting book for anyone who came of age in the 80s, idolized everything British and is more Vivienne Westwood than Laura Ashley in their fashion sense. Alyce Benevides and Jacqueline Milles, owners of the counter-culture knitwear company knit-head, have gathered together 25 of their signature designs and invite knitters to “unleash their inner rockstar.”

Beginning with their signature Mohawk hat (currently being sported by Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore on tour) in the chapter “For the Head”, the designs in Pretty in Punk are divided into six sections depending on where on the body the garment is to be worn. While the patterns themselves are simple (suitable for beginners although there are no learn to knit instructions), these designs have serious attitudes. Benevides and Milles’ sense of style carries throughout production of this book. Everything here reflects punk, rock and goth sensibilities; from the high-fashion style photographs to pattern names – although in this case, punk gets a nudge of luxury for these ladies aren’t above using cashmere.

Even if your style no longer runs to mod micro-minis or sporting the union jack, Pretty in Punk is the perfect inspiration for your inner rebel. Instead of plain gauntlets, why not indulge your quirky side by using the “Love Bites” arm warmer pattern? My inner goth is mentally digging through the stash to find the perfect mohair for the “Goth Girl” jumper and “Vamp” scarf. Benevides and Milles suggest that anti-authority knitting means injecting yourself into what you make, whether your style is goth, mod, punk, ska or rockabilly, it’s all about individuality. “All you need is two sticks and a ball of yarn.”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0811857441
ISBN13: 9780811857444

Trade Paperback
120 Pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2007
Author Website:
Photos courtesy of Pretty in Punk MySpace


BOOK REVIEW: KnitKnacks: Much Ado About Knitting


KnitKnacks: A small ornamental article used in the act of knitting; a trinket no knitter should be without (from the back cover of KnitKnacks)

With the resurgence of interest in knitting has come a commensurate interest in vintage knitting patterns. When not actively knitting, we enjoy reading about the world of knitting and the obsession we have with sticks and strings. With KnitKnacks: Much Ado About Knitting, Voyageur Press has combined these two elements presenting images from vintage pattern books, old photos and artwork along with essays from several well-known knitters.

The three essays are humourous and cover a range of topics. Laura Billings asks the question “Could knitting be so addictive that it’s like a drug” and helps knitters determine when they’ve crossed the line from recreational knitter into an honest to goodness addict. Clara Parkes considers the journey from yarnilepsy to yarnirvana and hopes that her personal story will help others realize that, no matter how long the journey, it is possible to reach yarnirvana and its infinite rewards. Sigrid Arnott ponders on knitting for the man in your life as a means of staving off guilt and has found creative ways to ensure your gifts are truly useful and tailored to his interests. Grab the needles and some nylon rope and knit your man an Electric Cord Snood or use twine and wooden beads and knit up a Car Seat Shrug. And don’t forget to read Arnott’s small section at the end and you too can use guy talk; never again will your partner’s eyes glaze over as you discuss your latest project. “Have you seen my on-demand textile fabrication toolkit?”

Knitters are encouraged to see themselves in the images of knitting in unusual places and the vintage images used to illustrate the various signs of yarn addiction. Muffled laughter is a sure sign that you recognize the “signs that yarn (and acquiring more of it) dominate your existence.” This little book is the perfect size to slide into a knitting bag and skim when you need validation that you are not alone in your relationship with yarn.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0760328471
ISBN13: 9780760328477

96 Pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Twinkle’s Big City Knits by Wenlan Chia


Wenlan Chia launched her fashion design label Twinkle by Wenlan in 2000 and made her runway debut in 2002. Famous for turning chunky yarn into feminine designs, Wenlan creates shapes such as tuxedo jackets, shrunken capelets and unique scarves as well as a range of sweaters. No longer are chunky yarns only for oversized, baggy sweaters.

In Twinkle’s Big City Knits: 31 chunky-chic designs, Wenlan shares some of the patterns which have made her clothes sought after by fashionistas everywhere. Included are her famous signature pieces: the seed-stitch Twinkle Hoodie, the Best Friend Cardigan, and the Shopping Tunic. The designs are fashion-forward and fitted; many of these garments are meant for layering.

The majority of the patterns are designed using Twinkle’s own line of handknitting yarns, although some Lopi and Classic Elite yarns are also featured. Patterns range in finished chest size from 22” to 35”, meaning the largest size garment is a women’s size 10. Many knitters will have to undertake serious alternations to the patterns if they want to make a larger size, meaning this may not be a book for all knitters.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307346110
ISBN13: 9780307346117

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: February 13, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: The Elegant Knitter by Gina Macris


In The Elegant Knitter, Gina Macris has designed a collection of quick projects. “But no matter where you go with your knitting, rest assured that the finish-line will never be very far from the starting point. Sometime life calls for a quick yarn fix. A little ball of softness calls and we can’t wait an entire sweater’s length of time to see the results. Hence this book.”

Macris has focused on accessories in this book: scarves (Macris’ favourite accessory), hats, mittens, gloves, bags and even two sweaters for your favourite pooch. To each pattern she adds her special flair – an interesting stitch pattern, a unique detail or a luxurious ribbon – to enhance the elegance of the project.

The first part of the volume includes the technique information required for the project in The Elegant Knitter. In addition to the basics, Macris covers cabling, felting, short row and Fair Isle techniques, as well as colour and yarn theory and selecting appropriate embellishments.

Many of the projects in The Elegant Knitter are suitable for beginning or novice knitters, with a few intermediate projects providing knitters something to which they can aspire. All the projects are small enough to be easily portable and since the yarn requirements are minimal, luxury fibers could be selected for a truly exceptional piece. The most unusual project is the Shibori Scarf. Knit as a simple rectangle in alpaca, glass pebbles are wrapped into the fabric prior to felting, creating a unique, three-dimensional look.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1402739923
ISBN13: 9781402739927

128 Pages
Publisher: Sterling
Publication Date: April 1, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Knits from a Painter’s Palette by Maie Landra


For the past ten years, knitters have delighted in knitting with the yarns produced by Canadian company Koigu Wool Designs. Founder and designer Maie Landra is an artist who found her perfect medium, each skein is a miniature work of art. Every batch of Landra’s beautiful yarns produces slightly different results due to the handpainting process, meaning no projects will ever be identical. She believes that “the perfect dyelot must be alive with highlights and depth, not dead and lifeless” and to date has created more than 300 colourways. The designs in Knits from a Painter’s Palette: modular masterpieces in handpainted yarn celebrate the beauty of Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino, known as KPPPM.

Landra is known for her use of modular or domino knitting and the majority of the patterns in Knits from a Painter’s Palette utilize this technique. This collection contains many favourites from the past ten years, including the famous Charlotte’s Web Shawl and Landra’s first design, the Oriental Jacket. Beginners will find projects such as Basic Squares Scarf, to assist in learning modular knitting techniques, and the Knit Yarn-Over Scarf. Experienced knitters may be inspired by the Spirit Skirt, which raised quite a stir when originally published in the Fall 2005 Vogue Knitting magazine, or the Magique Cloak.

While the majority of the patterns included are oversized, some pieces are quite form-fitting such as the Groovy Dress (image in upper right), Jazz Cardigan (image in upper left) or the Patchwork Pants. Several patterns are also provided in children’s sizing.

Koigu designs are very colourful and require a certain panache to carry off for everyday wear. At $13/skein, the larger projects requiring upwards of 40 skeins must be viewed as investment pieces, ones which are saved up for or purchased a few skeins at a time.

Knits from a Painter’s Palette
is sure to please Koigu fanatics and neophytes alike.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027061
ISBN13: 9781933027067

128 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Color by Brendon Mably


In the 1980s, Kaffe Fassett took the knitting world by storm. He revolutionized the way that knitters worked with color, giving us permission to let our creativity free and use twenty or more colors in a single piece. The second sweater I knit was Kaffe Fassett’s Ribbon sweater from his 1985 book Glorious Knitting. His gift to knitters was helping us believe that we could do anything, even undertaking one of his sweaters soon after learning to knit.

Brendon Mably took over running the “Color in Design” workshops and the Kaffe Fassett studio. Most knitters will never be able to attend one of these workshops in person; however Knitting Color: design inspiration from around the world explains Mably’s three-step process, then illustrates it by showing garments alongside the scenery and/or indigenous fabrics which inspired them. Throughout Mably puts into practice his process: 1) look at the color combinations and the proportion of each color in the design; 2) assess the tonal range and 3) put in the subtle transitions from shade to shade to bring the piece to life.

The Kaffe Fassett Studio is known for loose fitting, over-sized garments and Knitting Color does not break with tradition. Mably’s designs are suitable for novice knitters, the challenge comes in managing the multitude of colors. Patterns range from children’s vests to pillows to oversized coats.

If your penchant is for minimal ease in your clothing then this book will function as inspiration in planning a garment better suited to your individual preferences. The colors are worked Fair Isle and intarsia style, although knitters can easily utilize another knitting method and all twenty patterns are designed using Rowan yarns.

The most compelling component of Knitting Color is Mably’s reflections on his travels, the inspiration for each garment and how he sees color in the world around him.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 193302707X
ISBN13: 9781933027074

144 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: October 28, 2006
Author’s Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Beyond the Edge by Nicky Epstein


In the previous two volumes in this series, Nicky Epstein looked at decorative finishes “On” and “Over” the edge of garments. The new volume Knitting Beyond the Edge: the Essential Collection of Decorative Finishes looks at cuffs and collars, necklines, hems and closures, the perfect topic to complete a knitting reference collection.

Designed with her trademark style, the more than 150 designs for decorative finishes will help knitters move their sweaters to the next level. Knitters are no longer limited to using the cuff or collar design provided with a purchased pattern, for Epstein has provided enough variations to please even the most finicky knitter. In the final pages of the volume, Epstein includes information on adjusting patterns and necklines to utilize these finishes.

The main part of the volume is divided into four sections, one for each type of finish. The swatches are knit up as they would be used (cuffs, collars, etc.) and in many cases shown incorporated into a garment. Each section is assigned its own colour range and all swatches are shown in a yarn from that range: cuffs and collars in purple, necklines in pink, hems in green and closures in blue. The same colour is then used to mark the outer edge of the pages, enabling knitters to quickly find the appropriate section of the volume.

The finishes cover every level of knitting from novice to expert. The photos are a decent size and show details clearly. By having each section limited to a single colour range, the eye isn’t distracted by the yarn and is able to focus on the design. The only complaint this reviewer has is that patterns are provided only as text. While for most of the designs this isn’t an issue, it may limit knitters who prefer to work cable and lace from charts.

Nicky Epstein has also included five patterns for garments modeled in Knitting Beyond the Edge. The Belle Époque jacket shown on the front cover is a true masterpiece and something to which novice knitters can aspire.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027010
ISBN13: 9781933027012

192 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: November 28, 2006
Author’s Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers


“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
A knitted flower
Can be any hue.”

Nicky Epstein is one of the luminaries of the knitting world. Known for her innovative use of embellishments, Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers presents a bouquet of blossoms suitable for every occasion and outfit. This reference volume presents more than thirty-five different floral designs, as well as several patterns using the flowers.

Epstein divides the book into five sections based on the method of construction: stitch pattern flowers; petal constructed flowers; cord flowers; felted stitch pattern flowers; and felted cut flowers; with the majority of the designs using the first method. Knitted Flowers provide knitters a starting point to explore their flights of fancy. As Epstein suggests: “The flowers can be layered, and stems and leaves may be added. Bobbles, bangles, buttons and beads sewn to the centers bring the flowers an extra touch of beauty.”

Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers
isn’t an essential addition to a knitter’s library; however knitters looking for unique accessories, and those who love flowers, are sure to find inspiration here for years to come. Clear instructions and large, colour photos are provided for each design. While not essential, this is sure to be a welcome addition to most knitters’ collections.

ISBN10: 1931543887
ISBN13: 9781931543880

128 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: April 28, 2006
Author’s Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Nature Babies by Tara Jon Manning


Fall 2006 saw the publication of a number of books featuring knitting with organic yarns and “living lightly.” Tara Jon Mannings’ Nature Babies: knits and organic crafts for Moms, babies, and a better world is one of two specifically geared to organic knitting for babies. Manning states in her introduction: “Nature Babies presents you and your baby with gifts and accessories that employ some of our Earth’s loveliest materials and that fit the philosophies of a natural and holistic lifestyle.”

Manning’s patterns follow her philosophy: “Live simply so others may simply live.” By utilizing recycled and organic materials, Manning proposes that gifts for babies should help teach them that “less is more.”

The sections of Nature Babies are colour-coded to help readers easily locate the projects. The first section (pages edged in red) contains projects suitable for novice knitters, intersperse with information on organic yarns. The second section (blue edges) are projects made with felt and Manning suggests recycling old wool (and other all-animal fiber sweaters) to create these fun toys and hats. The third section (green edges) contains sewing projects, the fourth (yellow edges) is pattern templates and the final section (teal edges) provides instructions on various techniques.

Throughout, Manning discusses imaginative play and the benefits of toys without batteries and flashing lights. Her theory is that “simple, natural toys absorb the child in a world of touch and fantasy…to develop a strong sense of the natural world and their place in it.”

Nature Babies provides a wide range of garments and toys that are sure to delight any new mother or baby.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1400053528
ISBN13: 9781400053520

144 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: October 17, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Two New Knitting Books by Erika Knight


Erika Knight is an internationally renowned knitwear designer, fashion consultant and the author. Known for taking traditional designs and adding a twist, Knight keeps her designs simple, chic and contemporary.

Classic Knits: 15 timeless designs to knit and keep forever
and Glamour Knits: 15 sensuous designs to knit and keep forever are Knight’s newest offerings from Potter Craft. Each book features her trademark designs in sumptuous yarns, with sweaters in sizes 32” – 42”. Knight assumes basic knitting knowledge, providing only interpretations for the abbreviations used in the patterns.

Classic Knits
contains pieces sure to become favourites: a mock turtleneck, a traditional v-neck, an off-the-shoulder sweater that pays homage to Bridget Bardot and a tailored Chanel-style jacket. Each of these can be knit in luxurious fibers as investment pieces, certain to last for years. As well as sweaters, Knight includes a messenger bag, a basic knee-sock and gloves.

Glamour Knits contains sweaters inspired by legendary Hollywood sirens: a fine-knit lace tee-shirt in mohair, a menswear style cabled vest, elbow-length gloves and an off-the-shoulder sweater whose cables are enhanced with sequins. Knight has added beading, appliquéd lace, ribbons and embroidery to create unique pieces guaranteed to make any knitter feel she’s walking the red carpet.

The major drawback with these designs is the sizing. Knight has provided wonderful foundation pieces; however, many knitters would have to undertake major adjustments to these sweaters in order to wear them.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

Classic Knits: 15 timeless designs to knit and keep forever by Erika Knight
ISBN10: 0307347192
ISBN13: 9780307347190

96 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: January 2007

Glamour Knits: 15 sensuous designs to knit and keep forever by Erika Knight
ISBN10: 0307347206
ISBN13: 9780307347206

104 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: January 2007


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