A book review...

Elizabeth Doherty - Top down, reimagining set-in sleeve design. Paperback, 96 pages. Published in 2015 by Quince & Co. £18.50 or so in the UK, $24 from Quince & Co (print and pdf).

This book is for adventurous/experienced knitters who can think in 3D. It is especially relevant to garment designers, but there are lovely patterns and useful tips that will be enjoyable to intermediate and advanced knitters who just want to knit the pretty things.

It's a short volume but with a whole lot of content. Basically, how to make set-in sleeves working in the round, top-down. Other patterns have done similar things, but I have yet to see such a comprehensive treatment of the whole concept. Doherty draws on a background in tailored sewn garments and a love of engineering to provide excellent and readable explanations of the complex 3D shaping that a sleeve cap entails.

There are six patterns for women’s sweaters, a mix of cardigans and pullovers, in a variety of yarn weights. Understandably, all the yarns chosen were Quince & Co, and this is my only personal drawback, in that they’re hard to get in the UK and very expensive. I shall be making a little list of possible substitution options which I’ll post here at a later date.

The relevant anatomy of both the wearer and the knitted fabric are discussed and illustrated very clearly. In fact the diagrams, and particularly the schematics set this book apart from the rest. To devote an entire page to each schematic is a rare thing in a pattern book, perhaps the fact that it was published by a yarn manufacturer rather than a “publishing house that happens to do knitting books” has something to do with it.

The idea of shaping with short rows wasn’t at all new to me, but the twin-wrap decreases are a clever trick. One detail that my TE eye loved, was labelling markers as M-one, M-two and M-three. So clear, and no possible muddling up with m1 as in make-one. I will be suggesting this to clients where necessary! There is an amazing level of detail in the patterns, one example is lengthening i-cord edges to compensate for a shortened row gauge caused by the slipped stitches.

I’m always interested in the idea of having one’s cake and eating it - or getting the best of both worlds. In this case achieving the line and form of a set-in sleeve but with the easy working and ability to try on as you go of the top-down method. Is this some sort of Holy Grail of knitwear design? Possibly, and without actually trying the method myself, I can’t say for sure. However, it certainly seems sound to me and if the photography of the samples is anything to go by, the results are beautiful so it’s definitely something I’m going to try at the earliest opportunity. I fully expect the patterns to live up to the rest of the book, but I’ll keep you posted once I’ve cast on…

Disclaimer - I didn’t actually pay for my copy myself, it was given to me by a relative for Christmas, and I have no connection at all with the author or the publisher.