Book Review

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  Knitting in the Old Way
by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson
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Imagine freeing yourself from the tyranny of line-by-line patterns written for somebody else's taste and body shape. I call it "off-road knitting," and that's exactly what Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson teach in this recently expanded classic.

Hardly Hip
In this era of trendy, glossy books boasting knit-in-an-hour patterns for bikinis and cell phone covers, this book stands out.

Its wide shape and hardcover format make it more reminiscent of a textbook than anything else. And the only illustrations are black-and-white drawings and charts by Gibson-Roberts herself.

Under the Covers
The book aims to teach you a fundamental skill of offroad knitting: How to read and follow your stitches, rather than a specific pattern.

The notion of patterns is replaced by general schematics called "plans." You're shown how to apply your own desired gauge and body measurements to the garment shape, style, and innate proportions.

Reapplying Ancient Techniques
Gibson-Roberts has made a life of studying and preserving traditional ethnic design techniques, and in this book she dissects them all. You're walked through the evolution of sweater shapes, from the early basic blouse and gansey to steeked jerseys, gussets, raglan sleeves, and yokes.

Although the traditional proportions of each garment are diagrammed, they have also been translated into a much easier-to-follow percentage system. All you need is a calculator, your body measurements, and your desired gauge to adapt the garment style for your own use.

Understanding that not all knitters are created alike, the authors show you how to make calculation changes depending on your body type and desired fit.

Styles from Around the Globe
Once the essential sweater composition and the basic styles have been unveiled, the authors travel around the globe to show specific ethnic styles and traditions. The color technique section covers ancient techniques from Norway and Sweden, Great Britain, Iceland, Færoe Islands, Samiland, Canada, and America.

The discussion of ethnic texture techniques spans from Denmark to Great Britain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Austria, and Germany.

You'll also learn about geometric patterning and crochet-enhanced knits.

Beyond the Byline
While the original 1985 version was written solely by Gibson-Roberts, Deborah Robson—technical editor, print designer, and "asker-of-questions"—joined her for this major revision.

Gibson-Roberts—or PGR as she is often called by her fans—has been instrumental in the preservation of textile traditions. She is the author of Simple Socks, Ethnic Socks and Stockings, High Whorling, and Salish Indian Sweaters.

Meanwhile Robson was editor-in-chief of Spin-Off for 12 years and edited Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot for the Handweavers Guild of America.

Be Willing to Work
This book is not for the faint of heart. If you're used to having start-to-finish instructions handed to you, this book might be too heavy.

It takes a little extra time, thought, and effort to take your measurements, knit your gauge swatches, apply the calculations, and create a pattern for yourself. However, you end up with a truly one-of-a-kind garment that will fit you perfectly. Period.

If you're ready for the off-road journey, consider this the most useful knitting textbook you'll ever need. No matter how new or advanced a knitter you are, you're sure to gleam inspiration from these pages.

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