Book Review

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  Folk Shawls: 25 Knitting Patterns and Tales from Around the World
by Cheryl Oberle
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Shawls represent the most basic folklore and clothing traditions around the world.

Folk Shawls

This is Cheryl Oberle's first book of patterns, although she has dedicated most of her life to knitwear design.

The book is part of the Interweave Press Folk series, which also includes Nancy Bush's "Folk Knitting in Estonia" and "Folk Socks," as well as Marcia Lewandowski's "Folk Mittens."

Around the World

The book is a globe-trotting compilation of 25 shawl patterns from around the world. Each pattern includes a brief description of its folklore or a general overview of shawls from that geographic region.

Most regions of the world are represented, including the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, and Norway, as well as Spain, South America, the United States, Russia, Japan, and the Himalayas.

Oberle also looks at the distinct design traditions of Victorian England and Native Americans.

Solid Materials

Oberle demonstrates what I consider true maturity in her selection of yarns. Her patterns call for yarns appropriate to the region or traditions of the pattern. Only once does she specify her own yarn -- Cheryl Oberle Designs Dancing Colors -- and the context is entirely appropriate.

Otherwise she seems particularly fond of Baabajoes Wool Pak, Henry's Attic, and Jamieson & Smith Shetland.

In several instances she calls for Alice Starmore yarns, which are no longer available but can be easily substituted with similar yarns that knit up at 18 sts/4 in.

Easy to Follow

Oberle writes with a conversational tone that is pleasant and easy to follow. In many instances she pauses to explain technique in different terms so that you stand a better chance of understanding.

Where appropriate, patterns include clear charts and simple schematics. Oberle models all the shawls in front of a simple grey background, which helps show the subtleties of each pattern.

Something for Everyone

Shawls range in shapes from triangular to rectangular and square, with difficulty level ranging from easy beginner garter stitch to mind-numbingly complicated lace and cables.

Perhaps the biggest value in this book is that it spans so many cultures and styles. No matter what your personal taste, you're likely to find a style that suits you.

Note: There are some errors in Cheryl's patterns that are corrected at

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Reader Comments

"I have enjoyed Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls very much. It is a great book to just browse through and read how connected knitting patterns are to local culture. Then you see how timeless and placeless the designs are. I have one project going from this book and expect to make many others." pkegh, 7/30/2001

"I love Cheryl's 'Folk Shawls' book. I have had a hankering to knit a lace shawl, and she has some lovely ones. I'll agree, some are mind-numbingly complex. She also has some simpler, sturdier, more practical ones, such as the Prairie Shawl from America. I have a few books on shawls, but this is my favorite." Joygetha, 5/23/2001

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