Book Review: Shadow Knitting

March 17th, 2006 | View Comments

Cover of Shadow Knitting

Author: Vivian Hoxbro
Publisher: Interweave Press
Rating: 2 Skeins
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Many people in the knitting community were excited about this book, and I think the general consensus is disappointment.

Some of the projects are nice. The potholders, the button heart bag, the two pillows, the matching hat and scarf, and the two children’s sweaters are all projects I might consider making. The designs are uninspired, but at least they’re decent-looking.

The fur heart bag is an eyesore. It might look nice without the fur, but then it’s not really a fur heart bag anymore, is it?

The rest of the designs are just lacking. Neither the colors nor the shapes of the sweaters appeal to me. The narrow stripes of color needed to produce the illusion already make the fabric look busy, and then some patterns exacerbate this by using many blocks of super-saturated colors. Visually speaking, it’s too much for me.

The sweaters are all boxy forms–not a single one of them contains waist shaping. This is fine for children’s wear and menswear, but it’s really not going to be flattering on many women’s body types.

I’ve heard that Vivan Hoxbro is a talented designer, but you really wouldn’t know it from the designs in this book. The Alien Illusion Scarf in Stitch ‘N Bitch is more innovative than anything you will find in Shadow Knitting.

The book does photograph the designs well–it’s clear from the pictures how the garment is supposed to hang and what the illusion pattern is supposed to be. However, like the rest of the book, the photographs don’t actually inspire you to make anything. There is nothing like the luscious photography in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts that makes you want to run out and buy heaploads of yarn.

The introductory text of the book contains some good information on the types of yarns that are good for shadow knitting. The back of the book contains the obligatory review of basic techniques.

The problem with the instructions on how to do shadow knitting is twofold: 1) they are much more verbose than necessary, and 2) they are focused on how to read a shadow-knitting pattern, which requires no more skill than being able to read a chart, and don’t clearly explain how to design your own shadow knitting pattern. Which, given the lack of good projects in the book, is probably something you’ll want to do.

A poster over on the Knitter’s Review forums explained the technique with less than half a screen of text. To paraphrase:

Every “line” in a shadow pattern requires four rows of knitting. The first two rows are knit in color A. The second two rows are knit in color B.

Rows 1 and 3 (basically, all the odd rows in the pattern) are always knit all the way across, regardless of color.

Rows 2 and 4 are where the shadow pattern is worked. In row 2, work the pattern in knits and purls, i.e., k2, p4 all the way across. In row 4, switch the knits and purls, i.e., p2, k4 all the way across.

That’s it. That’s what Hoxbro took a page and a half to explain. The good news is, now you don’t need to buy the book.

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CogKnition posted this on March 17th, 2006 @ 10:58pm in Book Reviews | Permalink to "Shadow Knitting"

1 Comment

  1. Linda Sorensen says:

    Let’s put a positive spin on this commentary. (As my father always said “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”)

    This patterns book is perhaps not as appealing to people who are looking for something young and trendy, but the more mature knitter, some with more mature figures, will find much to admire. After I knit one of the jackets, with colors of my own choosing, I modeled it in a large knitting event fashion show. When I walked out on stage, the entire room erupted in a big group “OH!!!!!” accompanied by applause.

    I do think the above abbreviated directions for accomplishing the 4 rows that create the pattern are very good and helpful. There are so many different ways to learn and understand any pattern. Some people are visual learners, who benefit from charts. Some are text learners, who do better with words. And then there are people like me, who benefit from both.

    Yvonne, you are right. It would be nice to have a book written about how to create your own pattern for shadow knitting. Until someone does it, Google “shadow” or “illusion knitting”; there are a ton of websites since this review was written 4 years ago, as well as videos. Perhaps someone has figured out how to put some flattering shape into a shadow knit sweater by now.