Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: Nordic Knitting Traditions

I bought Susan Anderson Freed's book, Nordic Knitting Traditions, on a whim a few weeks ago, when I needed to add something to my Amazon cart to get free shipping (of course, when you put in something that would have cost the same amount as shipping the one item you were originally buying, is free shipping really free? That is probably a blog entry for a different day, however!) - it wasn't listed on Ravelry yet and it had just been released earlier this month. It's safe to say I had no expectations going in, I literally just thought "oh, cool, a new colorwork book!" and checked out.

I don't have any dedicated fair isle books, so I can't say I have a frame of reference, but here are the things I really like about this book: first, the graphic design is stellar. It's a beautiful book to flip through. Each chapter's graphics are color-coded, and there are delightful line drawings that appear throughout the book as well. The book assumes you know the basics of knitting and has a small section at the beginning to share stranded knitting tips and tricks. Each chapter begins with the full pattern to make the accessory and a thorough explanation of the construction elements you'll be using in the process, immediately followed with charts and additional instructions for use in the basic pattern. There are even more technique tips at the beginning of each section to help you make successful hats, mittens, gloves and socks.

Nordic Socks
image © Practical Publishing
Many of the motifs are repeated throughout the book. On the one hand, that means you can make coordinating accessories quite easily; on the other hand, it does make it feel like there are fewer than the 25 designs proclaimed on the cover. I do believe in quality over quantity, however, and in that respect this book does deliver. All of the charts are in full color and at a reasonable size for following along; they also include a photo of the knitted swatch for reference. Overall, the information is thoughtfully presented; time will tell if the patterns are well-written, though at first glance they do appear to be quite comprehensive!

If you take the time to read the introduction, you'll learn that the designs are based on tradtional motifs that Susan has transformed, making the original base design almost unrecognizable. You'll also learn that many of the patterns are named after the author's chemotherapy nurses; what Susan doesn't say is that many of the items pictured in the book were knit by the author during her chemotherapy sessions (you'll have to read the "acknowledgments" in the back. Another interesting fact hidden in the back of the book: the designs in this book were inspired by the bird carvings of her late father, Don Anderson. How much would I love to see these original carvings?!

This prompted me to seek out Susan's other work. Turns out she her first book, Colorwork Creations, also features some colorwork stunners (perhaps also based on her late father's carvings?). It's now on my wish list! In my stalking research, I also learned that Susan is semi-local (residing in central Illinois) and has given workshops in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Here's hoping she has a speedy recovery and is up for teaching more classes in-state, because I'd love to sign up!

Click here to purchase Nordic Knitting Traditions on Amazon!

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