Books : Mary Jane Mucklestone

Books : Mary Jane Mucklestone

by Lori Law

150 Scandinavian Motifs
Mary Jane Mucklestone, Interweave Press, 2013, 159 pages, softcover.

In this book, Mary Jane Mucklestone provides a huge selection of Scandinavian (from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands) motifs for use in knitting stranded designs.

The book begins with a look a yarns, outlining both traditional Scandinavian wools, such as Finn and Icelandic, dyeing techniques used in the region and also highlighting other yarns which could be used to knit the motifs, from wools to alpaca, cotton and other plant fibres and using novelty yarns for a more modern twist.  The book moves on through the technicalities of knitting – needles, gauge, basic cast-ons on and notes about knitting circularly.  There is a section about holding the yarn for stranding, managing floats and yarn dominance, another about increasing and decreasing and steeks.  Then there is a section about correcting mistakes, blocking and finishing, using colour, a look at traditional garments and then an extensive section about working with motifs and project planning.

The beginning section of the book is quite well illustrated and offers a lot of step-by-step information, especially for someone who might be trying stranded knitting for the first time.  But it also offers much to the experienced knitter and would be a great resource for a knitter interested in designing garments using stranded motifs.

The motif directory in the book is extensive.  At the beginning of this section, there is a visual table of contents where one can noodle through, spy a motif and turn to the page where it will be charted and sampled.  The number of stitches and rows required for each motif is right there with each chart.  The motif pages themselves sometimes include colour variations and examples of how different orientations of the motifs will look, if flipped horizontally, for example, and stacked.  Each section also clearly notes which chart was used to knit the sample swatches.

The sample swatches themselves are large and clear.  I personally find the samples a little too large when trying to visualize the overall effect of the motifs in a design, in a sweater yoke, for example, because they are large (the book calls them ‘life-sized’; I think they are actually more along the lines of ‘larger than life’).  In some yarns, this would be a fairly realistic realization, using worsted or heavier weights, for example.  But if one were using the motifs around a sock using fingering weight yarn, the potency of the motifs would likely be very much minimized and not have the desired outcome someone could be visualizing when working up a design.  However, anyone who designs in knitting knows that a swatch (or ten) is required before any of the ‘real’ knitting happens.

On the other hand, presenting the knitted versions of the motifs as such is less overwhelming than in some books, where there are multiple variations of motifs in a riot of different colour combinations which can be overwhelming.

I do like that so many of the motifs (all of them, really) are knitted for the reader to have a look at.  In some similar books, the included motifs are charted but not necessarily knitted, leaving the knitter to try to visualize how they will look knitted up or to knit up each desired motif to get an idea.

There are four patterns for finished projects included.

All in all, the book offers a colourful look at Scandinavian motifs and the iconic stranded knitting of the region, and will inspire many knitters to cast on a stranded project or two.


Fair Isle Style
Mary Jane Mucklestone, Interweave Press, 2013, 159 pages, softcover.

I like pretty yokes.  So, I am immediately drawn in by the cover image, wondering what’s inside this book.

Inside you will find 20 designs, beautifully photographed, encompassing everything from garments (even a dress) to accessories to a blanket, by 17 designers.

Despite the range of designers included, each with their own styles, the book has a cohesive feel to it, brought forth by the coastal Maine setting of the photographs echoing the feel of the Shetland Islands.

The designs follow in the tradition of ‘true’ Fair Isle knitting, never using more than two colours in any row.  What makes them ‘fresh’ are the use of modern colour combination and shapes.

Each design includes coloured charts and pattern notes to guide the knitter.  Many of the projects are small accessories which could be completed in a weekend, which is a nice way to add a puch of colour to a wardrobe, and they would also make nice knitted gifts.

The book finishes with a Design Notebook section which delves into holding the yarn, yarn dominance, dealing with floats, choosing yarns, reading charts, making a gauge swatch, steeks, and designing tips – colour theory and placement, and finishes with a section on how to correct mistakes and information about blocking finished pieces.  There is also a glossary of techniques and terms from casting on to seams and a section about the designers along with a bibliography listing more resources for Fair Isle techniques and background, and a yarn sources index.

For knitters who are just diving into Fair Isle knitting or for those with more experience, this book covers a lot of bases and offers many options, and would be a likely enjoyable addition to many knitting libraries.



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