Author: Erika Knight
Publisher: Potter Craft (US)/Quadrille Publishing Ltd(UK)
Hard Bound: 104 pages
Probably best known in the UK for her “Simple” series of books (Simple Knits for Cherished Babies, Simple Knits for Little Cherubs and Simple Knits With a Twist) Erika Knight’s “Collectables” series continues with a range of designs for knitted home furnishings across two titles – Classic Knits at Home and Glamour Knits at Home. Although, I must admit, I was highly skeptical at first that two books perched so obviously at opposite ends of the style spectrum could be considered a “series”, I also do not mind admitting that my skepticism was misplaced.
Billed as a “tightly focused collection of relaxed classic casuals”, Classic Knits features a blend of textured knits and stockinette projects, in a muted palette of natural coloured yarns, and spare, somewhat rustic photo-styling. Glamour Knits, on the other hand, is all about boudoir “bling” – tastefully done – with silk tassels and slipper gems, chinoiserie-paneled pillows and sweet little such-like nothings for the boudoir. On the surface the books appear to compliment each other rather like oatmeal and sushi, which is to say, not at all. I was surprised to find, however, that they kind of do. Their odd little secret lies with the ease and flexibility of the patterns, and in some truly brilliant photo styling.
The most obvious illustration of this is the slipper pattern that appears in both books. “Yoga Slippers” from Classic Knits, are worked in Aran weight natural cashmere and merino, and feature an exterior seam at the heel, and suede trim on the soles and a back-of-heel suede tab. The similarly shaped “Ornate Slippers”, from Glamour Knits, are worked in mercerized cotton, at a slightly finer gauge, and feature grosgrain ribbon and multi-faceted jewel embellishments on the toes. While there are differences between the two patterns (the Ornate pattern features a range of three sizes, and the Yoga pattern but one, for instance) they are slight. What makes one slipper the perfect choice for Downward Facing Dog, and the other perfect for reclining on a chaise, reading Jane Austen and sipping cappuccino, comes down to a choice of yarn, embellishment and photo styling.
With this flexibility in mind I opened both books, paged through them, and mentally swapped out materials; an easier task than one might think. Take, for instance, the Jacquard Cushion pictured on the cover of Glamour Knits. Inspired by boudoir wallpapers, the diminutive Fair Isle knit for this cushion is worked in elegant shades of blue and black mercerized cotton, and is backed, according to the pattern, with “sumptuous velvet”. Change that 4 ply cotton for soft Aran weight wool, in shades of cream and black, and use a robust oatmeal-coloured wool for the backing, and the very same pillow would look at home with any of the cushion covers featured in Classic Knits.
In fact, I found in flipping through the books few instances where a change of materials and embellishments wouldn’t work to add glamour to a classic pattern, or impart a more classic feel to a boudoir knit. Some patterns, the Kid Silk Haze lace throw in Classic Kits, for instance, look as if they could make the transition from homey classic to high glitz with little more than a change of colour. Even the Boudoir Lampshade from Glamour Knits, a confection of romantic lace and sequined panels and beaded trim could, if worked in a simple crochet cotton, without the sparklies, make for a stylish accent piece on hall table.
All told, I found just one pattern, from Glamour Knits, that couldn’t (and really shouldn’t be asked to) make the transition. The vintage-inspired Tea Party Tea Cozy, worked in garter stitch from a continuous strip of tulle fabric, is “classic” only in the kitschy sense. I can’t imagine it would actually keep tea very warm in the pot either. Nevertheless, it’s funky, and fun; a nice reminder that we needn’t always knit with yarn.
My only quibble with both books is with the layout. The front sections contain full-colour photographs of the finished projects, whilst the two-colour sections at the back give complete instructions, patterns, and techniques. The duo-tone images of each project in the pattern section are hard to see, and I found myself flipping back to the front section to check the details in the full colour photos as I worked on my Yoga Slippers. Still, this layout makes for a less expensive print job, and at under $20 US both books are good value for money.
Choosing between the two books is difficult, but if I could only buy one, I’d come down on the side of Glamour Knits, if only for the inventive use of several very interesting looking stitches, and the knitted embellishments that am certain I’ll use in future projects of my own design.
For all that, I’m a classic girl at heart, as are my family and friends, and the simple effective patterns, like the ridiculously easy why-didn’t-I-think-of-that Plant Pot Covers, in Classic Knits, would make wonderfully quick-to-knit gift projects. Both books are all about the perfect finishing touches which give a basic project an unexpected lift. It really is hard to choose between them.
If I’ve learned anything from these books it’s that sometimes it pays to look beyond the styling, and consider your own inspired choices with regard to materials. If you’re willing to fearlessly substitute some of the suggested yarns in the books, the thirty designs between the two covers will have you happily transforming your own environment, as well as that of friends and family, in no time flat.