Monday, September 14, 2009

New England Knits: Timeless Knitwear with a Modern Twist

A review by Lesley Buxton

New England-based knit designers Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre’s new book, New England Knits, is a classic collection of patterns inspired by the seasons of their home state. Knitters will enjoy slowly leafing through their work. Sadie Dayton has done a remarkable job on the photography. Her photos capture the fundamental nature of both the area and the colourful knitwear. In my opinion, it’s the attention spent on the luxuriant visual details that make all of Interweave Press’s books so special.

The twenty-five patterns that range from accessories such as hats and bags to cardigans and pullovers are divided into three themes: Around the Town, Fall on the Farm and Along the Coast. The designers consider their clothes transitional wear created for layering and the changing weather of their region. There are also creations featured by fellow New England designers Kate Gagnon Osborn, Kristen TenDyke, Cirilia Rose and Carrie Hoge.

In the past, I have been seduced by many beautiful knitting books that I have rarely used, but this definitely won’t be the case with this book. Indeed, I will probably have to make a list of all my projects. My favourite pattern by far was the Chelsea Skirt. I’ve been looking for a good skirt pattern for some time and haven’t found anything I’ve felt tempted by. Most were either too fussy or too bulky for my taste. However, Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s design has a slender line that I admire as well as a cheeky lace edge.

Another pattern that I’d like to make is Melissa LaBarre’s Montague Bulky Lace Vest. I thought it would be fantastic worn with a pair of jeans or a simple skirt. The lacework on the back is stunning. I love that it’s knitted on big needles. I enjoy the challenge of lacework but frequently get tired of working with small needles. This pattern will make a nice change.

I also like the Greenfield Cardigan. This is one of the simplest patterns of the collection, a top-down raglan cardigan. The leaf detail at the bottom of the piece is charming and I like the three-quarter length sleeves.

My only criticism of this book is that it offers very little for beginners. It’s definitely designed for the experienced knitter who knows his or her way around a pattern and enjoys the challenge of working with cables, lace or colour. I wouldn’t discourage a beginner from attempting a pattern like the Brattleboro Hat, but I would urge him or her to have the support of a more experienced knitter.

I’m certain this book would make an excellent addition to any knitter's library. This well-crafted collection has both practicality and style. I can’t wait to start knitting.

New England Knits: Timeless Knitwear with a Modern Twist

By Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre

published by Interweave Press
paperback, $24.95