Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Charmed Knits, a review

A rather lovely thing happened to me the other day. I won a prize! I'm in the habit of entering competitions in the various knitting magazines I read, and it seems like it's starting to pay off. A couple of months ago I won several balls of Patons Moonglow, and this time a copy of Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter, by Alison Hansel, suddenly landed on my doorstep. Since it's new, I thought I'd give it a review here. I should mention at this point that I am not the world's biggest fan of Harry Potter. It is a little bit twee and Blytonesque for my taste (sorry, JK). But I am not one to turn down a book of knitting patterns just because of a few quirky motifs, so let's take a look inside ...

Charmed Knits is published by Wiley in New Jersey, which means it's in American English. All the patterns give needle sizes in mm as well as ". It's a small-ish paperback, but at 166 pages, it feels thick & chunky enough to promise satisfaction. It doesn't mess about with overly chatty introductions, but launches straight into the patterns. The table of contents shows nearly 30 patterns on offer. Let's see how they break down.

At the absolute most basic count, there are four or five each of sweaters, hats and scarves. Around three sock patterns, a blanket, a shawl, a Harry Potter dress-up kit (robe, wizard cap, stuffed toy) and a handful of accessories including bags. However, this basic shopping list really does not do Alison Hansel justice. You don't need to be a Potter fan to appreciate the thoughtful work that's gone into putting Charmed Knits together.

The book is far from frou-frou and is full of good, solid-looking, wearable patterns. Hansel has gone to the trouble of providing a range of sizes for adults and children for all the sweaters. Added to this, several of the patterns are photographed in more than one colourway and displaying various optional features. Her three Elf Hats for babies are distinctively different - and all as cute as a button, incidentally. She's similarly generous with her sock patterns, seemingly offering the reader as many options as she can squeeze under one heading.

Hansel is an independent designer and so the recommended yarns in her patterns show wide variety, while her sensible, quite plain sense of design means it won't be hard for a British reader to substitute their own favourites for the American yarns in Hansel's book. The socks pictured here are knit usiing Knit Picks Essential (regular sock yarn, mostly superwash wool, the rest nylon). Another pattern, the ribbed Quidditch Sweater is made in hard-wearing Plymouth Encore Worsted (75% acrylic, 25% wool, DK gauge). The most luxurious item in the book, the lace Invisibility Shawl, is knit from Hip Knits Laceweight Cashmere (100% cashmere).
The book closes with an appendix in which techniques such as Swiss darning, chain stitch embroidery and simple crochet are illustrated.
Perhaps surprisingly, since Hansel is apparently a Potter fanatic, you really don't need to like Potter, nor have kids, to find lots of interest and value in Charmed Knits. It might be something I'd take away travelling with me, for instance, because there's at least one pattern for pretty much everything in there. If I suddenly feel like making a sweater, pair of socks, handbag, cardigan, hat, mittens, scarf, knitting bag, shawl or whatever, I've got all the options right there.
Oh, and if you do happen to have kids and love HP, I'm sure your ankle-biters would go wild for the dress-up kit.
Until next time, folks.


ContinentalCat said...

Great review, thank you! It's always great to read more than 'it contains 30 patterns' about a knitting book.

Anonymous said...

It's a fabulous little book, isn't it. I am a HP fan, so it's that much better, but there are so many things in there that are just nice to knit, regardless.