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Available at Amazon

Big Girl Knits

Potter Craft
$42.00US hardcover
SR: 40-63 inches

If you are a big girl, or knit for one, Big Girl Knits is your Book of the Year. It's crammed with stylish, wearable patterns, gloriously photographed, on sizzling hot models. No need for the qualification of "plus size" models; these are beautiful women, period. Amy and Jillian's message is: so are you. Stop fussing with patterns that don't work for you. Learn what works, knit it up in delicious yarns, and go out there and knock 'em dead.

But get this: if you are a woman of any size or shape and you knit for yourself, you need this book. Big Girl Knits provides the most straightforward, clear and thorough explanation of how to shape handknits to fit a female shape that I've seen in any knitting book. What is 'ease'? How do I figure out my 'ideal ease'? Where does waist shaping start and where does it end -- on MY body? How do I do short rows, and where do I put them? All of these questions, and ones you never thought of, are answered in plain English (okay, sassy English), with nifty checklists to walk you through the math. Armed with Big Girl Knits, any woman can tailor a garment to fit and flatter her unique shape. This may involve putting stickers on very unlikely places, and measuring the distance between every point on your body, but it will be worth it, people!

As style gurus, Jillian and Amy are right up there with Trinny and Susannah (of "What Not To Wear"). There are no out-of-date lectures about wearing dark colors or oversized shapes that would turn a big girl into a walking black hole. Instead, Amy and Jillian analyze women's shapes in terms of the B3 (Boobs, Butt and Belly), and dispense valuable insights about what features will make the most (or the least) of each asset. It's about looking good, not disappearing into the background.

My favorite patterns have got to be 'Lift and Separate', a suave and sexy wrap sweater, and the 'Natalie Coat'. These two items alone are wardrobe-rescuing staples with plenty of knitterly details. My favorite Big Girl Knits rule? "Find a rule to break."

In addition to being an uber-useful technical guide and pattern book, Big Girl Knits is a romp of a read. You will be shocked -- shocked I say -- by Amy and Jillian's irreverent way of speaking truth to curvaciousness. (Jillian and Amy? Mouthy? Who knew?)

If you're not a big girl, go look at this book and you'll see how much you need it. If you are a big girl? JUST GET IT.


Available at Amazon

Inspired Cable Knits

Potter Craft
$35.00US hardcover
SR: 30-60 inches

This is the most original book of knitted cable designs that I've come across in a while. There are whisperings of traditional aran in Fiona's sweaters, but she has left the sometimes heavy and thick feeling of traditional cables behind in the dust.

Fiona's patterns are inspired by various organic forces (nature, change, energy and time) and indeed they do seem alive. Her cable patterns are swerving, soaring and sinuous.

Her sweater patterns are feminine and graceful, she knits them in unexpected colors, and sometimes adds bits of lace. They range from intermediate to advanced in skill. Each pattern is prefaced by words of how life and nature inspired each design and concluded by words of knitting mindfulness, a beautiful flowing circle.


Available at Jordana Paige

Knitter's Satchel


This is one sexpot of a bag. I carried and used a purple one as a knitting bag and a purse for a couple of weeks. Everywhere I went, every day, knitters and non-knitters commented on it. "What a cool bag", or simply "Where?" The style is something like Mary Poppins meets Lulu, vintagey, but mod. I love, love, love the clicky grandma's purse closure, and the feet on the bottom that keep it from dragging through what ever is on the floor when you put it down. The straps are that perfect hold it in your hand or over your shoulder length. It has all of the signature Jordana Paige interior elements that help keep your knitting life and that other life organized together, circlets for keeping your yarn from tangling, needle holders, cell phone pocket, and lots of other pockets, including a snap out zipper pouch for your tiny tools.

"But how big is it?" I know you're dying to know. HUGE. I stuffed it full, like I like to do, and here's what I carried easily in it: the back of a vest and the yarn for the front, a scarf project, an Interweave knitting book (8x9"), a legal pad, 4x6" moleskinne, digital camera, wallet, phone, and assorted kids toys.

But it's not perfect. Because of its shape and the handy-but-heavy outside pocket, the bag falls over when it's closed. It's fine and balanced when it's open, but when closed, plop, it falls on its face. Annoying, but it hasn't stopped me from carrying this kicky bag. [p.s. Jordana tells us that they're working on prototypes to solve this issue.]


Available at Amazon

Mason-Dixon Knitting

Potter Craft
$29.95US hardcover
SR: 32-52 inches

When I heard that two of the internet's most-popular bloggers were writing a book together, I had a tough time imagining what would be in it. I thought perhaps it'd be a pocket-sized paperback full of wit and wisdom, much like you'll find on their blog. And yes, it turns out that it's absolutely full of wit and wisdom.

But it's huge and it's hardcover, it's beautifully designed and it contains so much good stuff that I've been savoring this one as bedtime reading for several weeks.

As in their blog, the book is written in turn by Ann and Kay, back and forth, on the topics of interest. There's the backstory about how they met, more about Afghans for Afghans, their very successful [and heartwarming] charitable project of last year, interviews with people you need to know...and then there's the patterns.

I would buy this book for the linen curtain pattern alone. It makes my heart beat faster and I will be knitting many of them. It's something I'd never have imagined, and yet it's so perfectly rendered and easily knitted by even the most beginnery of us. There's a sexy linen nightie and robe combination that I rather love, even if the sizing stops a little too soon. This book has given me a new appreciation for linen yarn.

I had never considered knitting a rug before. But I've seen super-thick cotton yarn and wanted to do something with it. What? Now I know what! Look at that killer bathmat over there on the left. Doesn't it just make you want to take off your shoes and walk on it? I think it would make getting up in the morning easier, too. I can imagine the welcome my shower-wet toes would enjoy every day. Must knit it.

There are other brilliant rugs, blankets, baby acoutrements and even warshrags [which have never turned my crank before].

Consider my crank turned. As Ann and Kay make very clear, knitting doesn't always have to be for the body. You can knit for your house and it will never complain about the color or the yarn you chose. It will just be happily enveloped in things you knit yourself. And unlike many of the unintentionally delicate quilts I've made over the year, these clever and attractive designs are meant to be used, washed and used again.

I love this book. And I love these women. Rilly.


Available at Amazon

Knitting Rules! : The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks

Storey Publishing

I know the author and I like her [that's the full disclosure part]. I've read all her books and liked them, too. But nothing has conveyed her personality more than her newest -- Knitting Rules!

Is that a good thing? Absolutely. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee just might be the most likeable knitter in print today. She's really one of us. She's knowledgeable. She's never afraid to admit when she screws up and laugh about it. And she's there to pass us a soothing beverage when it's our turn to cry. She knows what it's like to be surrounded by non-knitters who don't get it, and she defines it just a little too perfectly in the first chapter.

Case in point: at the hairdresser's, I was knitting a moebius while getting my head attended to. As it does when one's knitting and one isn't, the conversation turned to knitting, and why the person with her fingers in my hair doesn't knit. Read pages 12-13 of Knitting Rules. Stephanie pegged her reasons, such as they are, word for word.

But beyond the perceptive witticisms, this time Stephanie shares her knitting tricks with us, too. You know the stuff you'd want to call your personal knitting guru about at 2am, but don't want to get yelled at for waking him or her up? Like just how wide should a man's scarf be? Do I have enough yarn for ______? How do I turn this cache of alpaca into a circular shawl without having a word-for-word pattern?

There's tons more. Years of knitting experience is condensed into charts and how-tos. Stephanie gives you short cuts but she'll also tell you when they won't cut it. Read the section on gauge and Emma's sweater.

The book won't yell at you at 2 am when you need an answer. In fact, this book would pull up a chair with you and keep you company. I think it's fabulous.


Available at Amazon

One Skein

Interweave Press
SR: 30-36 inches

In One Skein, Leigh Radford offers up a huge variety of knit and crochet projects that use one skein or a variety of small amounts of yarn. True, she does stretch the one skein truth in a couple places, using a skein of Helen's Laces (440 yds) and a cone of Peaches and Cream in another -- but nowhere in the book does it state all skeins are 200 or less yards like my brain does.

There are the things you expect in here (socks, hats, scarves, hand/wrist/arm warmers, and a very sweet baby sweater) but even those are done with that particular Leigh Radford twist.

She gets really creative and colorful in the section using stash yarns. Really, who doesn't love a good stash dive? There are knitted cupcakes (!), bags, a kiddo sweater, and a beautiful coiled rug, inspired by walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.

Even if you never knit a pattern out of this book, (but I bet you can't resist) by spending time with it you will be inspired by what you could do with small amounts of yarn.


Available at Amazon

Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker

Workman Publishing Company
SR: 31 - 50 inches

We don't normally talk much about crochet in Knitty, but when it's Debbie Stoller -- the woman that helped bring knitting back to the masses -- we've got to take a look.

Debbie, right up front, addresses the knit vs. crochet issue [see page 9]. And she makes it clear that crochet is not knitting and that's just fine. They do different things, and stick around, because she's going to show you how to make crochet cool. I like a woman who knows the difference between a needle and a hook, respects the strengths of each.

As with Debbie's two previous books [Stitch 'N Bitch and Stitch 'N Bitch Nation], she doesn't skimp on the instruction. Hook-phobics like me can figure out where to stick what, following the clear illustrations and written instructions. As we've come to expect, this is a thick book, packed full of everything you need to become proficient with the hook.

Plus there are 40 patterns to work through, including tops, bottoms, accessories, bunny slippers [!] and jewelry. She's also scored a coup -- she got artist Camilla Engman to share patterns for her web-famous bear and bunny Bedfellows [little stuffed amigurumi-type creatures]. Serious cuteness.


Available at Amazon

Morehouse Farm Merino Knits :
More than 40 Farm-Fresh Designs

Potter Craft
$29.95us hardcover
SR: 38 - 54 inches

When I went to NYS Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck last fall, I was surrounded by a lot of wool. But since I'm allergic to it, I spent not a moment in any woolly booth. What was the point? I stuck to silk and cotton and the like.

That was until I stopped at the Morehouse Merino booth. I just stood there, jaw hanging limply, staring at the beautiful hand painted softly spun yarns of every thickness, and -- for once -- cursing my wool allergy. I had to buy something, even if it wasn't for me. Thankfully, my mom hasn't got the family allergy.

Anyway, that brings me to this book. Morehouse Farm Merino Knits. It is as stunning as their yarn. Margrit Lohrer, formerly a graphic designer and now the design genius behind Morehouse, is the author and designer of everything in the book, and her work is delightful. Lots of accessories like hats, scarves, wraps and mittens [including stuff for kids -- a particular specialty of Margrit's]. And there is a lovely selection of adult sweaters, all running oversized and easy fitting, perfect for cool weather as a top layer.

But you have to have her yarn to work the patterns, you'd assume, right? Wrong. Of course Margrit specifies which of her Morehouse yarns she's used if you want to duplicate the look, but she's also provided weight and gauge information, so you can substitute. Excellent.

The front section of the book talks about the history of Morehouse Farm and merino sheep, and the book is full of charming photos taken there.

Margrit and her husband, Albrecht, are hitting the road with two of their merino rams, Alfie and
Buddy, who will personally "ram-ify" copies of the book. The Ram-in-a-Van tour starts April 26 at the Union Square Farmer's Market in Manhattan. Check the tour page for the rest of the dates.


Available at Designs by Romi

Shawl & Scarf Pins

$20-65 US

As happens in this wired world, I first learned about Romi's pins from a friend's blog. She received the cloisonne pin shown at left and proudly wore it on her many lace shawls and stoles.

Romi started small with just a few designs, and has quickly grown her line of gorgeous pins from tiny miniatures decorated with pearls to solid sterling pins with a variety of embellishments.

You can get almost anything you want at Romi's Restaurant, on a silver-plated, gold-plated or solid sterling pin. Each pin is solid yet light, so it won't hang heavily off your delicate lacework. Chunks of misty glass, fimo discs, semi-precious stones, shimmery beads of all descriptions, and lots of yummy cloisonne. I am exceptionally fond of the custom Knitty pin she made for me -- the pin's silver-plated with sterling-plated beads. You can have her make one for you that says anything you please. They're beautiful, well made and the perfect finishing touch to the handknit lace thing you slaved over for so long.


Available at Amazon

Available at Amazon

Mindful Knitting

Tuttle Publishing
$12.95 US

Compassionate Knitting

Tuttle Publishing
$14.95 US

SR: 38 - 49 inches

Are you looking for your knitting to go a little deeper?

Tara Jon Manning has written two beautiful books that teach you how to let your knitting transport you elsewhere. To a deeper understanding of yourself and your world by being present in the here and now. Tara calls this practice Mindful Knitting, it's meditating while knitting, and while it's not hard, it does take some practice.

Tara starts in Mindful Knitting by teaching basic meditation, then mindful knitting. The tough and ultimately fulfilling bit is that you sit and intentionally observe your stitches as you make them, one at a time, no squirming either physically or mentally. The result is a greater calmness within and wisdom about yourself. Mindful Knitting has a variety of patterns that take you on the path from the first steps of mindfulness to deeper contemplation.

In Compassionate Knitting Tara teaches about further intention with your knitting. The joining of knitter and inspiration in the drive to create. To open your heart to others while your are knitting.

20 unique and lovely patterns inspired by Heaven and Earth guide the mindful knitter to quieting the mind and opening your heart through your hands.


Available at Amazon

Knitting out of Africa

Interweave Press
SR: 39 - 50 inches [many of the sweaters are only in one size due to construction technique. "Congo" for example only comes in a 47" finished bust]

I'll admit it. When I first put my hands on Knitting out of Africa by Marianne Isager, my first reaction was that perhaps I was ignorant, but when I think Africa, I don't think knitting. In fact I wondered sort of absently if it ever got cold enough in Ghana to wear any of the sweaters and vests from the book. (I checked. It doesn;'t really.)

I started to flip through it and was pleasantly surprised. True, the knitting doesn't come from Africa, but the motifs, colours and shapes are all the best parts of African art and textiles, married to clever, upstanding knitting in interesting garments.

Marianne has used intriguing techniques like domino, entrelac, slip-stitch and double knitting to express African shoowa palm fibre weavings, block printed asante fabrics, mud-dyed patterns from Mali and much more. All in all, Knitting out of Africa offers 18 beautiful sweaters and vests, as inspiring as they are interesting.


Available at Amazon


SR: 27 - 38 inches
[Girl's/Tween/Junior sizing]

If Debbie Stoller is the the Queen, then Shannon Okey is the High Priestess of the garage band school of knitting. With Knitgrrl 2, Shannon moves her tween and tweenie-minded knitters from the knitting basics to knitting power chords.

Increasing, decreasing, picking up stitches, knitting with circular and double-pointed needles, embellishments, knitting with beads all are covered in precise language and clear step-by-step photos.

The projects (jewelry, headgear, a sweater, a tank, bags, and a poncho, even knitted book covers) are designed for knitters to use their new skills right away (and to tempt them into learning new skills) and they have appeal way beyond their target age.