Ethnic Knitting Exploration is a great book, which includes not only ethnic history, stitch patterns, and sample projects, but details on finishing techniques, knitting techniques, like magic loop and knitting on 2 circulars, and other helpful and useful tips throughout. However, a book that concentrates on 2 out of 3 countries with colorwork motifs would have really benefited by some color sketches or photos. You really have to use your imagination to bring color into the black and white sketches and photographs of swatches. The only color in the book is on the cover. One thing to consider on this issue, however, is that with Ravelry, we might be able to see sample projects in all kinds of colors to give us inspiration based on the projects in Donna’s book. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The book starts off with a short chapter describing the three sweater construction techniques used in the book: raglan, yoke, and saddle-shoulder. It then has a chapter on techniques. Next, it has three chapters focusing on three countries and each of the three techniques. It finishes off with a chapter on cardigans.
The book has 9 projects with loose outlines of directions that give you the freedom to customize your project, and and black and white sketch to spark the imagination. Black and white photographs of swatches of sample stitch patterns used in the projects are shown, but in two out of the three country chapters, these were colorwork photographs photographed in black and white and colorwork sweaters sketched in black and white, so you have to use your imagination to fill in the colors. Other than that, it really is a fantastic book for someone who has a basic knowledge of knitting and is interested in learning about different construction techniques and ethnic influences. It’s a great foundation for exploring how to create your own raglan or yoke sweater with colorwork patterns from Lithuania, Iceland, or beyond, or your own Aran saddle shoulder sweater with cables from Ireland or beyond. Think of it like a choose your own sweater book, kind of like the old choose your own adventure books I used to read as a kid. You choose your own colorwork or cable patterns, and the book tells you how to incorporate them into the sweater construction of your choice. The book also includes pattern outlines for colorwork fingerless gloves, a colorwork capelet, and an Aran poncho.
Each project includes details on yarn choice, appropriate needle type and sizes required, additional notions/supplies, a description of how to select stitch patterns and measure gauge, how to measure size (the book also includes standard sizes from the Craft Yarn Council of America in case you’re knitting for someone else), a diagram with measurements and abbreviated instructions, a planning worksheet of measurements and stitch counts to fill out, and a step-by-step project sheet of instructions with blanks that correspond to the measurements and stitch counts that were filled out in the worksheet.
Each of the three chapters about the three countries starts off with brief introduction of the history of knitting in that country, followed by chapter highlights, including skills, techniques, and “garment styling,” which describes the construction techniques included in that chapter. Next comes a discussion of techniques, followed by a sampling of pattern stitches representative of that culture. After that, a smaller project is presented, followed by several sweater outlines. Throughout the chapters on each country, there are blurbs about the culture. The Lithuanian chapter focuses on raglan construction and colorwork, the Icelandic chapter focuses on yoke construction and colorwork, while the chapter on Ireland goes into Aran knitting and saddle-shoulder construction.
The projects for colorwork sweaters are shown worked in the round, while the Aran sweaters are worked flat, although two pages are written up on knitting Arans in the round, and the last chapter discusses cardigans and how to choose when to steek, when to work the body back-and-forth in one piece, and when to work the body in pieces and sew them together. All in all, I think it’s a fantastic book for someone with a little imagination. And don’t all of us knitters have a little imagination?
I asked Donna why she chose to focus on the three countries in her book. She chose Lithuania largely because of her Lithuanian heritage. Her other reasoning for choosing these countries was that:
“I wanted to focus on shoulder shaping (yoke, raglan, saddle), and also because I love Aran sweaters and I love making the Icelandic yoke sweaters — with the yoke decreasing and suddenly, presto!, you’re done…”
It’s a long blog tour, and I’m near the end. I had hoped to read the other entries before writing my own, but my back didn’t hold up for it, so I hope I’m not repeating the others, if you’ve read them. If you’re curious to read them, you can find a complete list on Donna’s blog here.