This book feels like it’s been in the works for absolutely ages, and to be honest, it has.
Back in February 2019 I received an email asking if I’d like to contribute a design to what was billed as ‘the world’s first comic-strip knitting book’. The message was from the creative partnership of Alice Beltran and Karen Mar who created the Knitstrips feature on the Modern Daily Knitting website. To be honest I hadn’t seen the feature so I had to pop on over and have a look. You should too, it’s a genius concept where the instructions are presented in comic-strip format, tearing apart the traditional knitting pattern which is text heavy and image light. The email dropped at a time when I’d already done a lot of publishing work in the preceding months. Having completed my collection of lace designs for the Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide no 15: Open and co-edited the Warm Hands collection with Kate Davies I was really brain tired. But, intrigued by the Knitstrips concept and up for a challenge to my usual work process I said yes.
Nearly 3 years on and the world is a very different place and sadly my personal circumstances have changed beyond recognition. But receiving this bold beautiful book through my letterbox this month brought a huge smile to my face. It takes me back to a time when I could share my work with both Mum and Sam and they’d give me honest feedback. (Sometimes brutally honest in Sam’s case “you know I like everything you do, why are you asking? Stop worrying and just do it”).
So you may be wondering, what is Knitstrips really like? Is it worth the hype? Is the format user-friendly? What are the projects? Who are the designers? Well read on and I’ll tell you…
Knitstrips is based on the concept of IK (pronounced eye-kay) or Interactive Knitting. That’s where the patterns are:
- Yarn neutral – so you’re free to play with different yarn weights, colours and textures.
- Based on the wearer’s body measurements not a defined set of dimensions.
- Presented with specific instructions while at the same time allowing you to personalise the project to suit your personal style.
The book opens with a foreword written by founders of Modern Daily Knitting Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, followed by an explanation of exactly how you should work from the comic strip instructions (this is particularly helpful as we’re so used to page after page of nothing but text). Then to set you up, there’s information on the different types of yarn, how much you’ll need, knitting needles and other necessary tools before exploring tension (gauge), various types of fabric covered by the patterns and how to finish your projects. Once you’ve read all this you’re all set to jump into the 4 collections or themed comic books that contain the Knitstrips patterns.
The patterns and designers
Each themed comic book is named to give you a taste of what to expect:
- Issue 1 is OMJOM (One More, Just One More). Have you ever kept telling yourself that you’ll stop after the next row, then you don’t? Well these are knits you never want to finish.
- Issue 2 is Focus Pocus. The projects feature the kind of techniques that take a bit more focus while you’re making them.
- Issue 3 is STASH (Skeins That Are Special and Here). Lots of patterns that can be made from what you’ve already got hidden all over the house.
- Issue 4 is Bucket List. These are knits of a lifetime, you know the kind you might choose to knit for someone else?
I’ve just realised this is turning into the worlds longest blog post so rather than describe every pattern in the book I’ll just give you a run down of who – other than myself – has designed something for this book. It’s a lovely diverse group in terms of ethnicity, ability, design signature and skill level:
Alice Ormsbee Beltran
Karen Kim Mar
The designs range from a slouchy oversized tunic that cleverly turns into a sweater with the addition of sleeves, to a bobble hat worked in sequence knitting. Or perhaps you fancy a pair of toe up, short row heeled socks, a drop sleeve custom cabled sweater or a two colour brioche cowl – that’s my humble contribution. You’re probably asking how patterns that are so technically dissimilar can make sense as a comic strip. Well, that’s the genius of this book, they absolutely do and if you’re someone who’s previously struggled to make sense of the large bodies of text used in conventional pattern instructions you should check out this book. Hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
This book encourages each of us to think a little more outside the box when knitting from the patterns is contains. It doesn’t give information about the specific yarns used but instead gives an idea of the yarn’s weight, characteristics and an idea about how the gauge should feel. That could mean yarn with a light, airy yarn handle, a hardwearing wool or even a gauge that’s ‘medium to chewy’. No I hadn’t heard of that one either!
At the back of the book you’ll find lots of other helpful hints and tips along with a gallery of bios on every contributing designer, the authors and illustrators who have created the most wonderful comic portraits for everyone involved.
There’s so much that makes this is an exciting new style of knitting book and from moment I noticed the brown hands on the front cover I knew I was going to love it. Alice and Karen, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this beautiful thing called Knitstrips. I hope there’s a second one on the way.