12 January 2015

Review of Yokes

As it is a new year, I've been cleaning up the house, putting away the old, and starting new projects. The stack of unread knitting books is embarrassing. I used to be able to keep up!

Just before Christmas I purchased Kate Davies new book, Yokes. As usual, this is one of those purchases where I innocently walked into The Whole Nine Yarns and Jenna the Yarn Pimp thrust the new book in front of me, suggesting I must have this now. As you might guess, Jenna is very often correct about this sort of thing.
Kate Davies holds a doctorate in Eighteenth Century studies. For those of us with too much background in academia, this book is a wonderful treat. (Full disclosure, both Jenna and I have degrees in Art History. Just for the record, so does Franklin Habit. The world of knitting is surprisingly well-populated with defrocked art historians.) Yokes opens with seven short chapters exploring the history and tradition of yoke sweaters in the North Atlantic. Some of these chapters are short essays derived from research in libraries, museums, and interviews. Kate actually spoke to Bohus designer extraordinaire Kerstin Olsson of Vild Äpplet/Wild Apple fame. Two of the chapters are interviews -- one with Hélène Magnússon and the other with Meg Swanson. By the time you read through these 38 pages plus a page of bibliography, you are chomping at the bit to contribute to the tradition yourself.

Fortunately, Kate is as good a designer and pattern-writer as she is an academic. The 11 sweater patterns are all good, primarily classics that will never go out of style. The most daring pattern is "Westering Home," a cabled extravaganza of warmth and style that seems to be the union of cape and cardigan coat. The photography by Tom Barr, mostly set amidst the Scottish landscape, will have you wanting to knit the sweaters and visit Scotland simultaneously. My favorite pairing is "Buchanan," where Kate pairs a red/gold/teal tartan skirt with a short-sleeved yoke pullover and is photographed above Loch Lomond.

I haven't knit any of the patterns, so I can't speak directly to the quality of the directions. At a glance they appear to be well in order. The list of abbreviations is inside the back cover, making it ever so convenient to check. The sizing tables are thorough, allowing the knitter to know ahead of time what to expect not just at the bust, but also at the waist, hips, arms, and neck. Charts are clean and clear, and printed at a size that can be read by someone over 40.

About the only downside of the book is the price: $44.00. For a 112-page paperback book, the price feels a little steep. It does, however, come with a Ravelry download code so you can download a complete .pdf of the book for free. If you don't want to purchase a hard copy, the digital version is available for $19.95.

Overall, a book worthy of shelf space if you have an interest in the history of knitting, or if you just want to make classic sweaters that will flatter you for a lifetime.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I saw all of Kate Davies posts on this book, and thought they were beautiful classic designs. It's good to know the book lives up to the hype. Money for knitting books takes away from money for yarn! :)