[Edited to add]: Find corrections for this book and other Annie Modesitt patterns here.
In the midst of all Thesis and General Life Turmoil, I thought I’d remind myself that reading and writing aren’t always painful, by sitting down with a knitting book review. Annie Modesitt’s Romantic Hand Knits is a treat.
It seems as though there has been no shortage of new knitting books in the last year or two which showcase sensual designs that are meant to fit and flatter women’s figures. While I haven’t had a look at all of them, I can say pretty surely that there is something in Romantic Hand Knits for everyone – I’d be surprised if you picked up this book and didn’t find anything that appealed to you.
The book is divided into pieces ‘Above The Waist’ and ‘Below The Waist’, and then a few accessories. All of the pieces are named after film titles, emphasizing the ‘romantic’ nature of these designs as part of the stuff movie dreams and glamour-filled lives are made of. These are challenging patterns – only a handful are labelled as ‘beginner’ or ‘easy’ – which depend on a great deal of shaping, cabling, and lace work. Unlike other books which provide you with lots of attractive patterns and assume you know how to do the finishing, this book also takes you aside with a few instructional pages. Basic embroidery skills and crochet are two examples of these. The yarns used are varied, showcasing not just wool or cotton but fibers like silk, corn (the skirt on the cover – ooh la la!), and bamboo. But beware, several of these are in the pricey range – I suspect substitution will be high for many knitters with romantic tastes but tight budgets.
The ‘Bishop’s Wife’ dress above is one of several dresses and skirts in the book. Now, I’m not saying I’m going to run out for an armload of wool/linen blend to knit this up just yet. But just the fact that I could work up a knitted dress like this using this pattern is pretty awesome. On the other end of the practicality and time commitment range, there are projects like this ‘Dark Victory’ yoked sweater pattern. I think that would be a comfortable day-to-night knit, and you could customize the colour combination to suit your own wardrobe.
In the accessories category there is a full range of knitted items – full length gloves, cashmere fingerless mitts, and yes indeed, a knitted hat. I have to say, I could really go for this ‘Gone with the Wind’ hat, pictured above. I might choose different colours, and I’d have to do some searching around to find millinery wire, but that would be a darned fun project. The ‘All About Eve’ skirt – though challenging my price point with the use of 100% silk ribbon – is gorgeous and versatile, and I love the bright pink paired with the black sashes.
Overall, these patterns are sized for almost everyone. Most of the patterns fit bust sizes up to 48/50″, including all of the dresses. However, there are two exceptions to this that make me want to bleat pitiably, because they are two of my favourite patterns in the book – and they only come in 3 sizes, with 10-12″ difference between them. The ‘Charade’ wrap sweater, and the ‘Casablanca’ off-shoulder top are elegant and look like they’d be very comfortable. But let’s say you’re a 36″-bust gal and want to go for that Casablanca top: You’re going to have to choose from a 40″ bust or a 28″ bust, and no other sizing options in between. I’d suspect that with these two patterns knitters are going to have to make some decisions about altering gauge and/or yarn to help the garments fit them as needed.
I’m looking forward to seeing the Finished Objects that will spring up from knitters working with this book. There are lots of possibilities and I think this is an ambitious book that will challenge and excite. Sometime in the dark of winter I might just come back with an armload of wool and knit myself up a floor-length skirt, you just never know.