Friday, 23 February 2007

The long promised book review........

After promising a book review so very long ago today I decided to kick myself into gear and write about Yarnplay by Lisa Shobhana Mason. This book review business is much harder than you would think. I find myself not wanting to say anything that may hurt the designer's feelings should she come across my lowly blog but on the other hand I don't want spout bullshit. A rock and a hard place people.

This was a book that I was really excited about receiving, one that while has merit was unfortunately disappointing. Lisa Shobhana Mason is an incredibly talented designer but this book feels rushed. It feels as though there was much filler put in in order to meet a publishing date. It seems that more and more of the new books are this way. Not many of the new books are as whole as "Knitting in Nature" and that is okay, that book is a masterpiece, but do we really need another washcloth and purl scarf pattern? I am not sure if I would have bought this book if I was able to view it beforehand (and this coming from a book junkie, well former book junkie now the finances will no longer support this habit).

This is a beautiful book with moments of Lisa's talent shining through so lets get the bitchin' out of the way first then finish with the good stuff.

1. Like I mentioned too many basic patterns; washcloths, bathmat, table runner, cushion cover - all in plain garter or stockinette, no pattern needed. The designs that are the most appealing are the sweater patterns but there are simply not enough for the cost of the book. For this I blame the publisher not Lisa. I don't think publishers are giving knitters enough credit and failing to see that we are original creative beings who want this reflected in the books we purchase. Most publishers think they can take a designer with a few great patterns then put together a book and throw lots of filler patterns in and we won't notice. Well guess what, we do. Why can't they allow the designer to take the time needed to truly develop a full range of patterns? Now Lisa's main theme on this book is colour and she does have a great colour sense but this still does not excuse the basic patterns. One of the patterns is for a K2 P2 scarf. The pattern instructions read to cast on the required stitches, do the required length in K2 P2 and then cast off. Is it really okay to even publish this pattern? It isn't original for goodness sake. Oh by the way this is given an intermediate skill level. It does come with a basic hat that requires knitting in the round and picking up some stitches but for intermediate knitters?

2. When are publishers going to allow the designer to direct the photography? The photos in this book are beautiful but entirely inadequate for viewing the design. Lisa notes this on her blog. I love Chelsea. It uses some techniques I have a bad attitude about (dropped shoulders, reverse stockinette, too long sleeves) and it pulls them off. However look at this picture, it is the best photo of the sweater and tell me how long this sweater is or what the bottom looks like. The photographer decided to tuck up the sweater because it would look better, yeah thanks for that.

Have publishers learnt nothing from the complaints about Scarf Style. This book is right up there for being as hopeless in it's photos. This one doesn't even show a knitted item, it is for the shawl can't you tell! The photo is as bad in the book.

The best photo of the shawl

Of the table runner

Of the copperhead scarf

3. Why oh why do all of these new knitting books put how to knit in front of them? No one can learn from the directions given and it takes up valuable room. Do the right thing and just direct newbies to the books that can really help, the ones that are truly designed to teach someone how to knit. Give us another pattern or something interesting to read, a new or more difficult technique, another reason to buy the book.

Okay now the good stuff:

The sweaters are adorable. I love Poppy on the cover. I am just mad about Everything But The Kitchen Sink. I definitely plan to make this one.

She makes sweaters that are very flattering for most women.

Her use of colour is great.

It is a beautiful book; glossy photos and beautifully laid out. There are schematics for all of the sweaters which is helpful.

My verdict: If you are buying this for men's, kid's or baby's sweaters don't bother there is only one of each and while nice are pretty basic. For household items stick with Mason-Dixon Knitting. But for some lovely women's sweaters it should be considered. Lisa Shobhana Mason has a point of view and it does come across in her work. I would be interested in seeing her future work though I would be more inclined to purchase it as individual patterns. I think I am tired of pattern books at this point and feel as though I need more in my book purchases. For those who have this book or have seen this book do you agree? Am I on the money? I would love to hear what you have to say.

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