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Interactive Learning:
The Art of Knitting DVD

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I can't count the number of times I've heard someone say, "A friend taught me how to knit, but now she lives far away and I can't remember how to do it." Geography has thwarted many an aspiring knitter, but it doesn't have to anymore.

Sure, the new knitter can seek out local knitting guilds, classes, and stores, but sometimes that can be intimidating and time-consuming. Now we have a far better option nearly guaranteed to keep the knitting thread strong: an interactive DVD that walks you through the basics of knitting and takes you on a tour of our knitting world.

What's Inside?
The Art of Knitting covers a vast amount of subject material in a friendly and casual way, introducing you to many aspects of the fiberarts.

It contains countless little vignettes on such topics as basic knitting techniques, alpaca farms, spinning mills, different types of knitting circles, knitting meditation, knitting-related fashion design, color theory, dyeing, knitting with wire, and avoiding knitting-related injuries. Laura Bryant, owner of Prism Yarn, also does a brilliant job of walking us through the different types of fibers and yarns available today.

The producers took advantage of the interactive multimedia format of the DVD to also include three music tracks and pop-up info options that take you to new screens of information, including three patterns.

Learning to Knit
Beginners will be most interested in the Getting Started portion of the DVD, where we watch someone being taught how to knit.

This technique can be helpful if you make the same mistakes she is making on screen. But it can also feel like you're in a two-student classroom with a teacher who spends all her time on the other student.

Next, we are given an invaluable tutorial on how to knit in both the American and Continental styles. This section is very brief but well filmed, showing far more than you see from flat illustrations in a book.

I found the true meat of the DVD in the Intermediate section, which is taught by Jennifer Wenger, owner of Jennifer Knits in Los Angeles. (Most of the people featured in the DVD are in California or have a California connection.)

She speaks directly to the viewer as she teaches us about swatches and gauge, the different types of increases and decreases, how to rip out stitches and pick up dropped ones, and how to knit stripes.

She doesn't cover cables, Fair Isle or intarsia, or any kind of finishing techniques, but I suspect this will be covered in future DVDs.

Although the DVD has a lot of content, I have some hesitation about the cover's claim that this is "the definitive DVD on knitting."

You see a lot, but you never actually learn how to dye, how to spin, how to raise or shear an alpaca, how to pursue a career in knitwear design, or even how to knit your first scarf or sweater. The DVD includes three patterns: a knitted hat, wire bracelet, and bikini—none of which seems ideally suited for rank beginners.

The clear production quality is sometimes marred by wobbly hand-held closeups and assorted background noises (birds, random clicks and hums, and the occasional voice).

In a few cases, the subjects seem to be too far from their microphones and you have to strain to hear what they're saying—made slightly more challenging by the upbeat music that plays in the background throughout the DVD.

The Resource Guide section tends not to explain why the resources listed could be helpful. For example, the Knitting Magazines and Websites screen has only five items listed (and only one that is a Web-only offering). Click on any of them and you'll be taken to an ad-style graphic showing you how to subscribe.

The Books screen contains a slideshow of knitting book covers. But there's no explanation of what you're seeing or why each book has been chosen from among all the others out there. These are just a few examples of how the DVD occasionally strays into a more commercial realm than an editorial one—even if the straying wasn't intentional by the DVD's producers (as they later informed me it wasn't).

More to Come
This is the first in a series of four DVDs. When all four are released, I can see the collection being an extremely valuable gift for any new knitter.

I am particularly looking forward to the final DVD, which will focus on teaching children how to knit. Not only will it be excellent for children to watch, but it will also be a perfect tool to give any non-knitting parents of children you teach.

When they get home and the child needs help with his or her knitting, the parents can simply refer to the DVD for help. Better yet, they can learn along with their children.

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