Monday, July 17, 2006

craftlit review: Big Girl Knits

This is the first in a series of reviews by Toronto Craft Alert readers of books in the Potter Craft series published by Random House in Canada. Enjoy!

Big Girl Knits : 25 Big, Bold Projects Shaped for Real Women with Real Curves (2006)
by Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer

Available locally at Romni Wool & Knit-o-matic, as well as


Reviewed by Suzann

"Big Girl Knits" gets it right, right off the bat, with a foreword by Wendy Shanker, author of "The Fat Girl's Guide to Life". She encourages you to "show the world that women of all sizes can look fashionable, shapely, and innovative." With that, she sets you up to indulge in a book filled with knits that celebrate the beauty of the bountiful bod. And the authors, Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer [of Knitty fame - ed.], kick away all pretension with their honesty: "Chances are if you're reading this book, you're fat ... nothing contained in these pages will make you look skinny. But we can make you look good." Even better, they teach you how to make yourself look good, with attitude, confidence and a little bit of math.

Jillian and Amy become your knitting buddies, guiding you to flattering colours, the right yarns and the best styles to highlight - or minimize - what they call your three B's: boobs, belly and butt. Their writing style is funny, sassy, and right to the point. They'll tell you how to make your knits work for you: "Got rack? ... show some chest skin... don't show tummy skin ..." "Belly, pooch, or tummy? Work it up high and down low to look yummy." And of course, "Cushy tushy ... no ribbing...The only thing cupping your butt should be your honey's hands."

They teach you how to measure yourself correctly, with the help of some really close friends. They take you through the math step by step, with samples and examples, so you can really use what you've learned. Then they show you how to customize with waist shaping and short rows so you can knit the fit right into your clothes. Truthfully, the math in this book scares me, but I know it is absolutely worth doing. The whole idea of having a friend measure me is a bit daunting too. But the logic that custom-fit clothes will look better on you, so you will look better in them - well, that just makes sense. And Amy and Jillian give good advice on which styles and shapes work best on each figure type. Rather than continue to waste a lot of time and money knitting clothes I will never wear, I will take my measurements and do the math >sigh<

This is not a book for beginners. They assume you are smart and crafty, and can easily handle straightforward knitting with shaping. Many patterns add colour work, multiple stitch patterns, and more complex shaping if necessary. The back of the book provides a well-rounded list of reference books on technique and other good reads.

Amy and Jillian have gathered twenty-five patterns from twenty up-to-the-minute designers. Each garment focuses on at least one or two of the three B's - boobs, belly or butt - with additional pattern notes and customization skills alongside the detailed instructions.

And the patterns! There are sexy ribs and luscious cables. A diagonal tied wrap that is sure to become a staple in your knitting diet. Classic coats with attitude. A 'curvilicious' cardigan that will accentuate your curves - even if you don't have any. There are A-line skirts that look good on every girl, with Celtic knotwork defining one, and a chevron detail anchoring another. Plus a pattern for "Yo!Ga" pants that work for all types of butts.

The "Bombshell" tee flatters any figure, and can even be worn inside out. The "Sandy" cardigan is completely custom-fit with diagonal stripes and solid side panels that can be further tailored to accommodate narrow or wide shoulders. And the "Chocolate-covered cherry jacket' is both dramatic and delicate; lacy, soft and stunning.

Of course there are accessories - a fabulous and functional purse made to Big Girl scale. Socks you can customize for wide feet or fat ankles or big calves and cute heels. The same theory goes for gloves or mittens: small hands or long fingers, ruffled cuffs or picot hem, the pattern lets you mix and match. For luxury the "Mimosa" wrap offers detailed shaping and over a thousand beads to create a shimmering confection of linen and lace.

Some of the patterns actually made me stop and say, 'wow!' Like the Chocolate Covered Cherry jacket, the curvilicious cardi, the Sandy cardi and the Celtic knot skirt ... I have my work cut out for me. And if I've read the book right, my work will pay off.

In "Big Girl Knits" Jillian and Amy give you tips, advice and lots of options to create knits you will want to wear. Knits that fit. Knits that flatter. Knits that are worth the effort. Finally.

Three years ago, Suzann decided to learn to knit. So, for her birthday, her daughter gave her needles and wool. Her younger daughter asked for a scarf. And in such innocence an obsession began. Now, she is surrounded – squished between skeins of silk and bags of wool, between magazines, books, works-in-progress and even more books. Suzann’s knitting morphs into presents or donations or “learning experiences”, tucked away for another day, in clear bags at the bottom of a shelf. And her favourite piece is the scarf she taught her daughter to knit – which she received last year as a birthday gift.


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