I’m really impressed with Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits: 20+ Must-Have Accessories, just out from Interweave Press. Normally neither boutique nor accessories would inspire me to pick up a knitting book. The first sounds too fussy; the second too inconsequential. But this book arrived one afternoon last week when I was hanging out in my LYS, The Golden Fleece, suffering that big-project ennui that hits us all from time to time. I did have projects to work on, but they all felt too complicated and too in need of close attention for me to want to pick them up on an unseasonably hot (85Âº F in late October) day when I felt half brain-dead.
So, instead of knitting, I leafed my way through the latest shipment of books. (Margaret, who owns the shop, cleverly orders single copies of a great many new books, then orders additional copies of the best, once she sees what her customers get most excited over.) I started with Nicky Epstein’s newest (a disappointment) and Continuous Cables (lovely), then picked up Boutique Knits once I’d been through everything else.
“I’d like to try that.” “I wonder how she constructed that piece?” “Nice use of texture.” I found myself responding to a number of the pieces in this book. But the piece that really got me was this great cloche hat with a twisted, faux-cable trim, knit in baby alpaca grande. It looked interesting, fun, and wearable. Andâ€”quelle coincidance!â€”The Golden Fleece carries baby alpaca grande. I turned to Margaret and asked, “Want me to knit one of these up for a shop sample?”
Minutes later, I’d pulled needles from the wall rack, Margaret had wound the yarn, and I was knitting away. Yes, the temperature was still in the 80s and the yarn was alpaca, but its softness and the small size of the project kept me from over-heating. I got the body of the hat knit up that afternoon in the shop, then finished it up at home in the evening. That’s it right there on the shop counter next to the book.
I did make a few changes to the original pattern. Irwin designs ready-to-wear for a Seattle boutique, and her patterns seem to make a fair bit of use of separately knitted parts sewn together, which no doubt speeds up production of multiples of the same pattern, but which I’d prefer to avoid. The cloche hat pattern as written began with a rectangular band. Next stitches were picked up along one edge of the band and the crown was knitted back-and-forth. Only after that was the piece sewn up. Then stitches were picked up along one edge for the trim, which was knit lengthwise then sewn down at the start of the crown.
I eliminated two of those three bits of sewing by stitching up the hat body as soon as I finished knitting it, so that the crown stitches could be picked up and knitted in the round. I also picked up the stitches for them trim and worked it up before knitting the crown, which allowed me to knit the trim into the crown, rather then attaching it afterwards. I’ll probably make similar changes to some of the other patterns, but her directions are straightforward enough that adapting these shouldn’t be hard.
If you want to do some original, feminine knitting for holiday gifts (or other purposes) you’ll want to check this book out.