Book Review: Knits Three Ways

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Yesterday a new book arrived in my mailbox for review from Random House, and with a start I realized I had never actually posted a review for another book that I’ve had for a couple of months! I meant to review Knits Three Ways in June…and then so much of my time in June got eaten up by my fretting over my sick laptop, so I suppose a few things in my brain got shelved and put aside 😉 Now, though, I am very happy to write up this review because I think I actually like it better on second glance than I did the first time I looked at it.

Knits Three Ways by Melissa Mathay strikes me as a book that does a good job at combining two seemingly contradictory knitting styles: the organic knitter who wants to create and knit as she pleases with whatever yarn she pleases, and the knitter who needs a pattern to cling to for guidance and structure in her work. You know how a lot of knitting books (particularly beginner books) will tell you how patterns can be adapted and modified and yarns can be substituted and you can create your own look? Well, this book doesn’t just tell you that, it shows you. The book is premised on the idea that a single pattern structure or stitch can be adapted in several different ways for different effects each time. Accordingly, each of the 12 sections presents 3 takes on a single idea. The cover picture provides a good example of this, presenting the same chevron-shaping pattern in a bright, almost ‘Madonna’-esque halter, a muted single-tone tank top, and a bright but slouchy cardigan.

I’ve taken a few shots with my digital camera to illustrate a few more concepts from the book – please do pardon the lo-tech representations! The ‘Leah’ tank/vest on the left and the ‘Celia’ pullover on the right, below, are two sister patterns taken from the ‘Cables Galore’ section. One is a bright, versatile vest with more sharply ‘cut out’ armholes, the other is a casual pullover that can be thrown over a t-shirt or worn on its own. The cabled accents are similar in both cases, but used in different amounts.

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Another sample I quite liked was the take on the v-neck cardigan – this book takes a “classic look” that usually appears in modest, unaccented patterns, and opens it up to some customization. In the ‘Tracy’ sample this is done by using Prism Arts Wild Stuff which creates a fuzzy, variegated, almost ‘kitchen sink’ look. In the ‘Katherine’ example, below, the look changes again by knitting a plain version in Rowan Kidsilk Haze and the optional accent of a ruffled scarf. I have to say, I kind of love this ‘Katherine’ sweater:

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Two other sweaters I was taken with are the ‘Jacki’ off-shoulder raglan, and the ‘Suki’ kimono, below. ‘Jacki’ is one of 3 ‘Sweatshirt to Soiree’ sweaters all produced at a gauge of 8 sts/4 ins, and her 2 sisters are a cowl-necked pullover and a hooded front-pocket sweater. They are all meant to be comfortable, quick, gratifying knits. ‘Suki’ is one of 3 kimonos knit side-to-side, from one arm to the other, and ‘Suki’ also comes with instructions for a matching belt. Yes, I would knit this in about two seconds. I wouldn’t knit it in the yarn shown in the sample, but I would knit it nonetheless.

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There are a variety of yarns used in this book, and I suspect that most of them are readily available in yarn shops across the United States. I can’t say that I’ve gone looking for all of them over the course of my shopping in Canada, but I think this is a book that lends itself very well to yarn substitution, and the sample yarns cut across brands – there’s everything from Lion Brand to Rowan in here. Also, and I never thought I’d say this, but this book is seriously making me re-think eyelash yarns. That kimono above is not my personal colour palette, but you know? That hint of fuzzy eyelash kind of works. I bet it makes the finished garment feel a little bit luxurious, and more than a little unique. I am reminding myself that not all eyelash yarns are created equal, and that there is life beyond Bernat Boa.

Another thing that I like about this book is that, in many cases, the sweaters are modelled on more than one person, so it gives you a slight idea of what the sweaters would look like on different body types. I do say ‘slight’, though, since these women shown do tend towards the thin end of the spectrum. But it is an accommodating book – all of the patterns go up to a finished size of 44/45 ins across the bust, and several of them go higher than that. (Runway Knits, this is not!)

The book also starts out with a section on how to design a garment to fit your own body, and this section in combination with a wide variety of patterns makes this an ideal book for a beginner knitter who wants to get creative and work a little bit outside of the box. Knits Three Ways presents patterns as starting points, not fixed guidelines, and that’s almost reason enough for me to call this a win.


  1. book reviews huh? is there anything you don’t do?

    and How does one get involved in reviewing books anyway? That sounds like an intereting endevour.

  2. Dude, THEY SEND YOU BOOKS?!? That’s awesome.

    Good review, by the by. I’ve seen this book here & there, but wasn’t that interested in what I saw as a lead-you-by-the-hand, variations on a theme trendy pattern book. If it really does go into pattern adaptation and modification to the extent you show, however, I might just give it a second look (so job well done!)

  3. Woohoo, reviewing books!

    More like guidelines than actual rules, eh?

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