Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review: Color Knitting

"The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques"
by Margaret Radcliffe

Available in hardcover-only U.S.; paperback UK-only.  Edit: author has informed me the paperback version is UK-available only; in US only available in hardcover.

The first 23 pages alone are worth the cost of this book! Even those who already have a good working knowledge of color theory will find some great ideas unique to working with yarn and fiber.

Do you tend to pick up a skein of yarn from sale bins or order an unseen ball of yarn online... just to figure out if you might like it or to see the color in person? What are you gonna do with it now? Consider how this information might influence your work if you spin or dye yarn yourself!

"Everyone perceives color a bit differently, and our responses to certain colors or groups of colors are a matter of personal preference as well as psychology & perception." This is probably no more true than when we are talking about what we wear & how we choose to artistically use yarn in knit (and crochet) projects. A refreshing bit of news for those with "color phobia" is the author's statement that there are "no right or wrong combinations, there are just color groupings, or colorways, that have different effects," and then she proceeds to demonstrates this reality in specific and creative ways. You can take vast amounts of the information in this book to modify and "dress up" patterns you've already got, or apply this information to "from scratch" designs you are cooking up!

She begins by describing the relevant aspects of color that are most useful to understand as fiber artists. Beginning with basic color theory, accompanied with particularly helpful full color graphics, she helps us to understand that especially in fiber, "context" is everything. A color with a specific appearance by itself can and will appear quite different depending on what colors are next to it and in what quantity. A little bit of a color you despise by itself can be successfully combined with other colors in such a way as to make it the star of the project... if you understand how colors affect one another.

That hank of neon green or hot pink lace weight yarn that you bought online and now have no idea what on earth you'd ever do with it can be stranded with other lace weight yarns, with specific color impact that will tone it down to a "temperature" that you can love. Or double-stranded with worsted weight yarn or triple-stranded with a single sport weight yarn to create a completely different fabric than the original yarns alone would produce.

And, you don't have to swatch and swatch and swatch to determine which colors in which variations or sequences will give you the results you are looking for. But when you are ready to swatch a little, what kinds of things do you need to know? If you are using more than one strand of different yarns &/or different thicknesses, how do you know what size needle to use? What about one color bleeding into another color?

All of this is covered in just the first 23 pages of the book! See what I mean?

From there, you are taken on a journey of different ways to knit colors together to achieve different results. You are not only given ideas about how to combine colors, but you are also taught actual knitting techniques involved in getting the best results combining different colors and different yarns together.

Stripes are perhaps the easiest way to combine different colors. Flat knitting and in-the-round techniques are addressed. How to carry yarn along, how to add in new yarn colors, what to do with yarn ends, what are the best way to work stripes in stockinette or garter stitch, how to make diagonal stripes, how do you make ribbed stripes look "clean," how do you make stripes reversible for a scarf? Ever make stripes in circular knitting? You know that "jog" where you start a new round in a different color that makes you nuts? There are a couple of ways to disguise and modify that uneven change! And you can add texture to your circular stripes too. What about combining pattern stitches to spice up your stripes? All of this is covered in pictures and tutorial explanations every step of the way, culminating in variations of a scarf pattern.

Incorporating color into pattern stitches can turn a "blah" project into a masterpiece. Color swatches, complete with written stitch patterns, charts, and a series of variations on this same stitch pattern are included for over twenty stitch patterns, interspersed with knitting techniques to improve your successful execution.

Love multicolor yarn... not so pleased with pooling and other issues when you start knitting with it? This book will help you apply knitting and stitch techniques to get a result you'll love depending on the specific kind of multicolor yarn you are using.

From there, you are taken on a tour of stranded knitting techniques for that Scandinavian look. How to manage multiple strands of color, how to prevent holes when changing colors, dealing with tangles and unevenness and shaping... all the basic, and not-so-basic, things you'll appreciate. Do you know what a "steek" is and how to do them... or why you'd ever want to know? You will when you've finished this chapter.

Intarsia or "picture knitting" is covered as thoroughly as every other topic, with color photos and helpful tutorials all along the way.

Now most people would think that would pretty well cover all one might possibly want to know about knitting in color, wouldn't you? Would you believe there is MORE? Helix, shadow, mosaic, twined, double knitting, and modular knitting... including entrelac... all covered as well!

But wait! There's more! Finishing techniques including decorative bind offs and embellishments carries you to the final chapter. How do you modify existing patterns to incorporate these techniques or design a project from scratch using this information? What might you need to consider regarding the kind of fabric that will be best for your project and which technique to apply to get that best fabric? Answers are here.

Last but far from least, the book closes with an Appendix that covers basic knitting skills, garment sizing guidelines, abbreviations and symbols, a bibliography, and an outstanding index to locate specific information later. There are a few patterns in this book, but if you are looking for color-work designs and patterns book, you'll probably be happier with a book that has a different focus.

After you've learned the basics of combining color in yarn and see all the different ways you can knit a multicolor project, you'll not hesitate to pick up one or two balls of yarn at the fiber show or from the sale bin at the local yarn shop (LYS) or order that spectacularly priced clearance yarn online. Because you'll know you can mix and match and finesse that fiber goodness into a finished project that will make that "lonely only" into a work of art! This book holds the potential to save you a lot of money, spark your creative juices, and expand your skill set. Really... how can you lose?