I promised in the ornament recipe post that I’d review Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting: New and Expanded Edition. Because quite frankly, this is the first colorwork book that made me stop and say, “HELLO! Get in mah shopping cart – RIGHT NOW.” I haven’t really been a huge Alice Starmore fan before – I understand she’s the doyenne of modern Fair Isle and traditional knitting pattern revivals, but I’m just not in love with her patterns. Too fussy and traditional to my eyes – there’s a lot to learn from the technical information, sure, but you will probably not find me working on any of her sweaters in my knitting lifetime. I like spots or accents of colorwork on a sweater, but not an entire sweater of it. (I have a knitting-girl crush on Connie Chang Chinchio, if you want to know my style.) (And, okay, I could get into some of her patterns for kids and a couple of the patterns from the Scandinavian Knitwear book. But that’s pretty much it.)
So when I saw the Charts for Color Knitting book flit across my radar while looking at an online site’s book sale, I gave it a sideways glance to start with. But it kept bugging me from the “Recently viewed items” and “You may like…” sidebars, so I gave in and investigated. When I figured out that this book : stranded colorwork :: Barbara Walker’s treasuries : stitch patterns, it was in my cart more quickly than the new Jonathan Coulton album.
The first section of the book is about different sorts of sweaters that you can design yourself using these patterns. If you are into Fair-Isle sweaters, it’s the proverbial gold mine. Personally, I’m more interested in the other parts of the book – the last part of the book deals with Starmore’s inspiration for her original charts and using color in Fair Isle knitting, which is fascinating if you’re considering dabbling in design. But the middle of the book is where the REALLY good stuff is. It’s charts. Pages and pages of charts. (About 105 pages, to be exact. And some of those pages have upwards of ten or twelve different charts on them.) The charted patterns come from all over the world: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania, Russia, and South America are represented in the “Traditional Knitting Patterns” section. There are adapted patterns from Celtic cultures, Greece, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the “Far East.” And there’s a third section of charts that Starmore created herself – they are generally either inspired by nature or geometric patterns.
The point is that if you have a plain project that needs embellishing, you can use these charts in just about any situation. Find a border chart that you like and use it as the border on an otherwise boring stockinette sweater sleeve. Take a single motif and dress up the bottom corner of a cardigan with some intarsia work. Use an allover pattern to gussy up the top of a sock leg or around the ball of the foot. The possibilities are endless. You can even use them in embroidery or perhaps even filet crochet (neither of which I’ve really tried, ever, but you go right ahead if that’s your thing).
There’s no advice on color choice for specific motifs, so it’s up to you to make the choices. Some of the motifs are so intricate that it’s obvious you need to use very simple, high-contrast color combinations. Other wider-spaced motifs might work really well with a neutral MC and a really bright variegated/self-striping yarn as the CC (Noro, I’m looking at you). There’s also no gauge, yarn weight, or needle size suggested for any of the patterns – you need to have some pretty solid colorwork and knitting experience under your belt to be able to use these with stranded colorwork.
Final verdict? 5/5 stars, based on ease of use and value as a reference/daydreaming/design resource. Not necessarily for beginners, especially because there’s no solid pattern information, but there’s nothing wrong with having it around as a viewbook of knitting to which you want to aspire.