Well, I sat down a couple of days ago and thought I’d write a quick post about the great new books I’d come across, all of which had been either produced completely independently, or had been commissioned from an independent designer. As I reflected on recent directions in hand-knit design, and digressed into my own thoughts on self-publishing, I realised that one post had turned into two . . . and today I predictably find that two has turned into three. . .
Yesterday I mentioned Felicity Ford’s Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and Gudrun Johnston’s Shetland Trader Book 2 as inspiring examples of independent design and self publishing. Here are two more brilliant designers, and two more brilliant – and very different – independently produced books that have recently appeared. I’ll mention a few more in my final post tomorrow.
Rachel Coopey, Coop Knits Socks Volume 2.
I love how Rachel uses the sock’s small canvas as a place to explore stitch and creativity. This book includes twelve different patterns, from Dave (a plain vanilla sock with a choice of simple heels) to Otis (a striking colourwork sock, designed for a set of chromatic mini-skeins) to Wilbert (a cabled sock for blokes or women). Rachel has all needs of the contemporary sock knitter covered here! The book also includes a few well-illustrated tutorials, and (as someone who mostly knits socks for men), I appreciate the fact that relevant designs are photographed on a male model. As well as her characteristically careful attention to structure (all of these designs are supremely well balanced), there are several other things about this book that strike me as being “very Rachel”: 1) the palette (the whole tome has a pleasing ice-cream feel), 2) the design names (who can argue with Dave, Delbert and Ernestine?) and 3) the styling and photography.
Believe me, it is really difficult to photograph things like socks and gloves. Just when you want them to look elegant, feet and hands have an annoying tendency to look weird instead. Photographing 12 pairs of socks well is an unenviable task, but every pair here is placed on the foot so that the patterns sit just right. There are things that knitters need to see, and Rachel has made sure that you can see them: features like heels and shaping are well-illustrated, differently textured fabrics lay flat on leg and foot, every detail is clear and crisp, and the yarn colours are lively and luminous. Look at how the lighting and angles are the same, and the horizon lines up neatly on all four shots above. I know from experience that such consistency is very difficult to achieve. Jesse Wild was responsible for the photography and has done a fantastic job.
Hannah Fettig, Home and Away: Knits for Everyday Adventures
I’m a big fan of Hannah Fettig’s work and this is a really beautiful book of really beautiful designs. Hannah is in possession of that indefinable knack of creating wearable, contemporary garments with an elegant simplicity that absolutely sings. That’s in evidence here in nine designs, six of which are cardigans (which I think are her real forte). Hannah correctly describes the designs in Home and Away as “knits that will become wardrobe essentials – pieces with simple lines knit in wonderful, hard-wearing wool.” Surely that’s what every knitter would like to make and wear? There are many distinctive things about this book, top of the list of which is its enabling inclusivity. The patterns are written for the knitter to make them in their preferred way, using a seamless or a pieced construction. Having recently decided to provide seamed and seamless options for one of my own recent patterns, I know that this can be quite a bit of work for both designer and editor. But I also know that the choice of construction methods is something that’s really appreciated by knitters. So whether you prefer your garments with seams or without, you could make yourself Hannah’s lovely Rosemont cardigan, or any of the other sweaters in the book.
(Rosemont can be knit in seamed pieces, or seamlessly, from the top down).
To my mind, such “bonus” features (such as alternative constructions methods, choices of charted or written instructions etc) are one of the many additional elements you are most likely to find in patterns that have been created by independent designers, rather than large companies (to whom it would perhaps be difficult to make the economic case for the added value of such “extras”). And Home and Away is packed with many other knitterly “extras” too. There are several super essays about swatching, blocking, reading a knitting pattern, and substituting yarns. I particularly enjoyed the conversation with Quince & Co’s Pam Allen, whose lovely yarns are really shown off at their very best in these pages. I think that this is a book that would make a wonderful gift for an enthusiastic beginner, as well as being a source of enjoyment and inspiration for any knitter who wants to make herself a classic, wearable garment.
And I have to say that I find the photography and styling of this book completely gorgeous and deeply appealing. Simply browsing through these pages makes me want to immediately head out to Maine, take a brisk walk in a snowy rural landscape, hunker down for the winter, and knit myself a cardigan. There’s a very well-thought-through balance between interior and exterior shots, between detailed garment photography and lovely locations – between the “home” and the “away” of the book’s title.
I visited Maine in the summer of 2005. I loved it. This book makes me want to go back. And definitely in the winter.
Rachel’s and Hannah’s books are, as I said, very different but what surely connects them is the strong stamp they bear of their creator’s personality and individual style. From the curly-wurly fonts and candy colours of Rachel’s book to the hand-drawn maps and warm neutrals of Hannah’s, these are tomes that are definitely and distinctively theirs. Both books are available in print, as digital copies (via Ravelry), or in a print + digital package.
More to come tomorrow.
I love the completeness of the Coopey aesthetic, and her beautiful ice-cream parlour sock boutique presence at knitting shows is always a deeply cheering sight. The palette, the photography, the glee and the pleasure she puts into sock knitting… it’s genius. And you are right that when one is working with a particular problem (how can I photograph a sock properly?) it can be refined over time, especially if a knitwear designer is working in a particular niche or speciality. And what is not to love about the idea of knitwear *for everyday adventures?* Who does not want to be adequately clad for EVERYDAY ADVENTURES?! Your observation of the inside/outside photography in Hannah’s book and its resonance with the concept of home and away is spot on – such concepts as “home and away” are much easier to control in the finished book if it is self-published… one can stamp the ethos of the publication on every aspect because nothing is being directed to a faraway department or division. I really enjoy Anne Kingston’s “Born & Bred” for the wondrous close links between knitwear, landscape, culture and sheep that she was able to produce by working with Baa Ram Ewe in Yorkshire. I love the way that self-publishing enables us to share passion undiluted with our comrades. This series of posts is wonderful.
Great books and I do mean BOOKS! Love both of them……….thank you for the reviews.
Well, Kate, after reading your blog, I had to go out and buy Hannah Fettig’s book, both print and e-book. It is not just that I get the patterns, it is also that I can read about the techniques themselves and helpful hints. Beautiful photography helps as well. I own both of your books and there is something about being able to hold a print edition in my hands that makes it so much more appealing to me. Even my non-knitting husband enjoyed reading Colours of Shetland. Thanks for the lovely essay and I am looking forward to the third part.
I pre-ordered Home and Away as soon as I could, and I”ve already knit the Boothbay cardigan as a gift for my cousin who just celebrated a birthday in her late 30s and is graduating with her PhD. It’s a lovely design and I want to make another for myself!
Are you SURE you want to visit Maine in winter, though? It can be pretty brutal there!!
I agree the Home & Away photos are stunning. I definitely will be purchasing that one! Now I just need to win the lottery so I can stay home and knit all day every day. Sigh.
Kate, I absolutely love your appreciation and attention and detail, and your generous spirit. Thank you so much for just being YOU. With affection. Rosey x
Bill and I will have our portraits taken this November for our 10 yr anniversary. I gave our photographer friends some of these knitting books as examples for what we want the picture to look like. Rustic, interesting, formal but informal. All you talented designers capture texture so well. I pointed this out to the photographers because I will wear(try to fit into) my moms going away suit made with a sort of velvet home dec fabric. Bill will sport the Macrihanish of course. Unless you design another man’s vest (hint).
Hey Kate, Hope you are off to a wonderful day. I thought I’d chuckle to loudly and wake the rest in the house this morning as I opened your post. I have 3 of the 4 books you were reviewing. I absolutely love Felicity Ford’s book ! I have found that I can use it for everything I do in art and in handcrafts. You can never go wrong with Gudrun’s books and I just received Hannah Fattig’s,” Home and Away”. I remember when I first looked at her designs on the WEBS online store. I couldn’t believe that someone so young had designs that even my Aged Mother would love. Believe me when I say, “That is saying a lot”.
Your post pointed out things that seem so tiny or that the average knitwear lover, had not even thought of or contemplated, in the production of these wonderful books. I will have to give “Coop Knits Socks, Vol.2″ a go. I had always thought that her designs were probably to advanced for me. I’m not the most outstanding sock knitter, some times you just have to go for it.
One thing that stands out in my mind, is that you need to know how much ” Print” books mean to a lot of people! I may be at the front of the line. Today, it is so easy for designers to just do e-books alone. I have passed up “e-books” many a time because the designer has not taken into consideration the length of these books and that printing them and finding a way of storing them other than in notebooks is really impossible. Books, printed books, hold a charm and a mystery. Their covers pull us in and invite us to open them over and over. They last lifetimes if loved and when opened by other generations of knitters (or lovers of other subjects), give a glimpse into the life of the past. I know that I love looking into the history of many subjects and my children, for the most part, do as well. If nothing else they can always get a kick about how we looked, ” way back when”. THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN REPLACE A BOOK!
Thank you to you and the others, who take the time, work tirelessly and make photographs just so, so that when someone sits down and opens that book, they are transported within the pages and on closing the back cover, know I is really a labor of love, a piece of Art, A Treasure!
I am thrilled to discover that my book has found applications in other areas of your creativity and not just in your knitting – hurrah! I also agree with your appreciation for the printed tome, and with what Kate said yesterday about making A THING. A book is a real live physical object, and considering everything from the paper quality to the cover finish to the way it will sit in a knitter’s lap is really one of the most wondrous aspects of self-publishing. You are right – NOTHING CAN REPLACE A BOOK! Happy Knitting x
Yes, I agree – my feet look like penguin flippers in photos of socks!
So true about socks being difficult to photograph – it’s an art form in itself!
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