Blog, Books in Review

Book Review: Family Friendly Knits

The week before Christmas, along with a few presents, the postman also brought a rather large parcel of books. Under normal circumstances, reviews might well have been written up while we had a good few days off. This year though we both needed some time to rest and re-charge the batteries.

That pile isn’t going to read itself though, so we’ve deliberately selected a bit of an ‘all-rounder’ to become our first book review on the blog in 2017.

Family Friendly Knits is an ‘all-rounder’ because it contains projects suitable for everyone. Apologies to those of you who only speak crochet, we’ll make a pledge now to review a crochet book next time.

The collection of patterns for garments and accessories for your entire family are the work of knitwear designer Courtney Spainhower. Courtney has designed garments for some of the most well known knitting publications and has over 10 years of experience.

Family Friendly Knits is a directory of patterns, rather than a how-to book.  If you’re unsure about a technique, the book does contain a handy glossary, a table of abbreviations and some information about tools and choosing your yarn at the back.

Back to the main course. Where to begin, there are so many designs.

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The Lindy Yoke Pullover with its simple cable detail on the front yoke and shoulders is a classic knit. It begins with a band of 2×2 rib and uses two different coloured strands of yarn held together to create a marled effect (an Olann and favourite technique).

Once joined, the yoke continues in one shade, which ensures the cables aren’t lost and show up clearly. The design includes a good range of sizes from 35½ to 46¾ inch chest and as it’s knit using worsted weight yarn, so even the largest size would be a fairly quick knit.

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Continuing with my love of all things Gansey, the Ellen Saddle Gansey is perfect. Courtney has taken the basic gansey shape and decorated it with a garter stitch panel, running down the centre of the front and sleeves of the jumper. The panel on the sleeves continues up the full length of the sleeve and forms a saddle shoulder.  The raised neckline is traditional to this style of jumper, as is the width, which means it falls loosely and will keep you warm and cosy without feeling too constricting. A finer weight scarf can easily be worn underneath for added insulation and the contrast would look lovely.

The yarn used to knit the sample in the book is a lovely heathered, worsted weight yarn from Quince and Co.  Again, the range of sizes includes options for both sexes and the simple styling of the jumper ensures it would suit either.

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The Dart Shawl is a vast swathe of knitted yumminess.  Preferring to wear workhorse shawls in heavier yarns, Courtney has designed the perfect wrap.  Arrow shaped, rather than more traditional triangular shaped, the shawl is made up of beautiful textured stitch patterns.  Approximately fourteen hundred yards of worsted weight yarn means you’re not going to whip the Dart Shawl up in the one night, but it will ensure you keep the chill out, when you’re wearing it.

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The Choose Your Own Adventure Cowl is, as Courtney points out, a lovely introduction to stranded knitting. There is a basic pattern which includes two different charted colourwork options for you to choose from.  Each requires three different colours of yarn, although you could stick to using two if you prefer.  Stick to either of these charts or chose to mix things up and use a combination of the seven other charts Courtney has included in the book.

The cowls pictured in the book have been knitted using Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift (100%) Highland Wool on 3.5mm needles.  Knitted in the round with a rib border at either end, the cowl isn’t excessively wide like some other designs.  The double thickness of the stranded knitting will provide great insulation and ensure your neck and you stay super warm.

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If you like to co-ordinate your knitted accessories, there is the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Toque, which will also help to use up any leftover yarn.

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Before I finish this review, I wanted to tell you about the Cuff to Cuff Socks, although the truth is that there’s probably only a couple of the designs in Family Friendly Knits that aren’t for me.  The rest, well let’s just say that I’ve already added a couple to my ‘must knit one day’ book.

Back to the socks, the construction of which is slightly unusual (to me anyway).

To make the Cuff to Cuff Socks you begin with the cuff, as you would with a traditional top down sock.  Once you’ve completed the cuff and then the leg of the sock, the pattern directs you to make a short row heel, before you knit the foot and begin the toe shaping.  So far so good, just your basic top down sock, yes?  Except it’s not.

Before you finish the toe, you work several rows in scrap yarn and then re-join your working yarn in order to work on the second sock.  This time you’ll be knitting a traditional toe up sock, all shaping is reversed, toe, foot, heel, leg, cuff.

I admit I’m intrigued. The socks certainly appear to be the same in the photographs in the book, but I wonder if they feel the same. Either way I’m going to have to give them a go at some stage.  Aside from the unusual construction, the socks include a decorative moss stitch panel, running down the middle of the front of the sock, stopping before the toe shaping.  The directions for the Cuff-to-Cuff Socks include a useful page of instructions on how to separate and finish your socks too.  Oh and in case you’re wondering, they’re knitted using a double knit weight yarn.

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Family Friendly Knits – Seasonal Knitted Garments and Accessories for Children and Adults by Courtney Spainhower is published by Interweave and available from their website or from all good book/craft shops and costs £16.99 or the equivalent in Euros.

Image Copyright © 2015 Joe Hancock

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