Book Review

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  Knit Knack Kit
by Kris Percival
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When I knit in public, I usually encounter one of four standard reactions from others: bemusement, judgment, appreciation, or envy.

The last two reactions are by far the most fun, because they mean another person may soon join our knitting community. But how do you get them started?

Enter the Knit Knack Kit
San Francisco-based Chronicle Books has long been a producer of beautiful gift boxes, normally reserved for notecards. But it recently turned its production skills toward knitting, taking Kris Percival's book, Knitting Pretty, and turning it into a gift box for the new knitter.

The kit was so well received that Chronicle has gone back into production, hoping to have more kits on the market by the end of February 2004.

Thinking Inside the Box
Chronicle transformed the instruction section of Percival's book into a little booklet of its own (with a few edits to accommodate the new format). Each pattern from the book was reprinted on its own colorful laminated card (25 in all).

To make things really fun, Chronicle added a pair of generic unmarked U.S. 8 circular needles, two plastic stitch markers, and a plastic darning needle to the box.

Never mind that only half of the projects call for this needle, or that there's no yarn in the kit to get you started. It's still a wonderful way to introduce a novice to our world.

Capital-S Simple
The projects are all extremely, extremely basic: a garter-stitch dishcloth, bookmark, and change purse, pillow covers, beer cozy and cell phone cozy, simple pair of socks, lacy shawl, legwarmers, and baby pullover. Each pattern is given a difficulty rating from 1 to 3.

Although the kit includes adult-sized accessories, it doesn't venture to cover standard adult garments except for a cute halter top. Again, this is truly intended for beginners, especially those who'd enjoy the more trendy items.

Where'd Gauge Go?
There were only a few slightly disconcerting elements to this kit. First, gauge is only occasionally mentioned in the patterns.

I can appreciate this where dishcloths and scarves are concerned, since beginners truly don't need to worry about gauge with this kind of project. But Percival also neglects to give any gauge guidance for more size-dependent patterns including those for socks, mittens, and hats.

Making matters more complicated, Percival doesn't provide specific yarns or yardage requirements, only weights and generic yarn types. I can appreciate leaving brands out of the mix, but neglecting specific yardage can be an issue.

For example, the pattern will ask for "1 skein (2 ounces) soft wool or acrylic worsted weight yarn." Worsted yarns can range from 4.5 to 5.5 stitches per inch, which can also impact the weight of the skein. This means you could end up with more or fewer yards than you need, and a hat that doesn't fit.

One other silly but notable glitch: The instruction book says that alpaca fiber comes from llamas, rather than from the alpaca itself.

Unusual References
Percival brings a brief but welcome breath of fresh air to her knitting resources area. She recommends somewhat esoteric yarn finds including San Francisco's gem, Artfibers, the internationally innovative Peace Fleece, and one of my favorite Maine secrets, Pine Tree Yarns.

In the magazine department, she skips all the big U.S. glossies in favor of Rebecca and Rowan and the occasional knitting article in Bust Magazine. Knitter's Magazine has cause to be nervous.

Try Before You Buy
While we wait for the next batch of these to arrive from China, you can whet your appetite with four patterns from the kit, which Chronicle Books provides on its Web site.

Once more kits arrive, I have no qualms about recommending them for the total novice knitter (especially the younger ones who'd appreciate the beer cozy and halter top) you want to encourage, not overwhelm.

Just be sure to accompany it with a ball or two of yarn, preferably worsted-weight, so your friend can get started immediately.

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