I don't often accept invitations to review books but when Ann asked me at Woolfest, I just couldn't say no. Ann Kingstone is a Yorkshire-based designer who has quietly turned into one of the UK's best-loved indie designers. I adored her Born & Bred book which looked at Yorkshire's place in the UK wool industry - the Wetwang jumper is a particular favourite of mine - so I knew I would want to take a look at Ann's new book.
Stranded Knits is all about colourwork. It is also all about demystifying colourwork: the book has an in-depth techniques section at the front with clear technical drawings. I particularly appreciate that Ann has included technical explanations for both Continental and English-style knitters. The techniques section won't substitute a really good colourwork workshop but it is a great tool for anyone sitting at home trying to figure out how to get their tension even and how to carry yarns. It also details how to steek and goes into colour theory - and it does so in Ann's customary friendly manner.
But let's look at some of the patterns.
William has caught a lot of people's attention. With motifs inspired by William Morris, the jumper is knitted top-down with very clear charts showing you how to 'trap' yarns across large swathes. It is one of the most immediate designs in the book and I've seen two William jumpers in the wild myself. The jumper is knitted in Rowan Tweed which is a lovely rustic, yet soft yarn.
Field Study is one of my favourites - it is knitted using just two colours of Rowan Felted Tweed (which means you have a big numbers of colour combinations to choose from!). It is absolutely stunning with its shift in contrast - you start out by using Duck Egg (the pale teal) as the background colour and Rage (the red) as the motif colour, but you swap halfway up the body. Visually this means you decide what you want to highlight - pear-shaped ladies can choose emphasise their shoulders; curvy ladies can choose to emphasise their waist etc. Choice of colour combination will determine a lot (I am still leaning towards a red/green combo but I'm predictable that way). It is a very clever design.
The construction is also terribly, terribly clever.
Carol Feller hosted a great discussion with Ann on how the shoulder shaping occurs. An absolute master-class in designing. The gist is this: you start by working the body bottom-up, then you knit the two sleeves bottom-up, and then knit a saddle-shoulder/continguous/short-row sleeve hybrid. It sounds complicated but like everything else in Stranded Knits, it is explained very well.
Finally, you can just hone your colourwork skills by making small things.
The book includes a lovely hat/gloves set (more on this in a second), an adorable slip-over for toddlers as well as a mug warmer and a tablet cover. Whenever I run colourwork workshops, I always tell my students to start out small - get used to stranding! It also means you can play around with colour a lot more. If you are planning on knitting the Hedgerow cardigan, why not start out by tackling the adore Mary Rose mug warmer?
As previously mentioned, all the patterns in this book use Rowan yarns.
I am a real champion of Rowan (disclosure: I have worked with them on many occasions) and it is so nice to see them endorse a strong UK indie designer like Ann. Rowan often gets a bad rep for not embracing Ravelry-style patterns - I think anyone saying that has not been taking a look at what Sarah Hatton has been doing , incidentally, nor paid attention to Rowan working with Kate Davies and Josh Bennett! - and here they are collaborating with Ann on a book that really pushes the boundaries from both a construction point-of-view and a pattern-writing point-of-view. It is a real joy to behold.
Oh yes, I did mention that hat/mittens set, didn't I? I just couldn't resist casting on the Pleiades mitts despite being snowed under with other work.
I am using Rowan Felted Tweed in Camel and Rage. I am actually really enjoying knitting this. The thumb shaping is terribly clever and the way the motifs line up are very, very clever too. I only have time to work on this project occasionally, but it is working up remarkably well. The chart is easy to work from and everything is laid out clearly. Such a pleasurable quick knit - the knitterly equivalent of nibbling a deliciously biscuit between meals.
And yes, that is Yorkshire brew in the cup.
Thank you, Ann, for giving me a copy of your book. You are a treasure and so is your Stranded Knits book.