Book Review: Knitting On Top of the World

Knitting On Top of the World by Nicky Epstein

So, I was on Amazon.com the other day checking out the knitting book section when I came across the book, “Knitting On Top of the World”, by Nicky Epstein. I love Nicky’s books and this was one that I hadn’t read yet. I scrolled down to read the general description on the book when I noticed that the book didn’t have the usual 5 star rating that most of her books have. So I scrolled down even further and started reading some of the reviews. A great number of people had given her book only 1 to 2 stars and I was shocked to read what some people said about the book. Here are a few of the comments taken from Amazon.com:

“… but the patterns are just atrocious. I would pass these off as the sort of awkwardly-shaped things you might see on a Milan runway, but they’re even far too frumpy and absurd for runway models. I can’t think of a single occasion in which I bought a knitting book or magazine and didn’t find at least one pattern that I liked, but not only are there no patterns in here that I would want to knit, but I can’t even begin to think of creative ways that I might alter these patterns to make them at least tolerable. A truly absurd and bizarre collection of string. “

“I can’t imagine spending valuable time and money making any of these designs. The only person that would have a time or place to wear any of these “things” would be a paid professional model on a set. I guess this must be eye candy for fashion designers, so why bother with knitting instructions? The Fair Isle Tam Caplet looks like an obscene Mae West joke. My husband thought they were shields.”

“… There may be less than a handful of designs I’d be willing to try. For the most part the colors are garish, the fit is strange, and the designs are just ugly! How is that possible when this book was so eagerly anticipated and the cover looked so promising? I think the ambition of the project allowed more than one mistake to make its way in. To her credit her imagination is wild and I would never be able to produce as much as she puts out. But with that said, it certainly takes away from her reputation when she’s turning out aesthetically-challenged designs.” 

Really? I just couldn’t believe that Nicky would spend all her time and energy coming out with something that was pure junk. So I checked out a copy of the book through my local library to see if this book was truly filled with ‘ugly’ designs.

Well, guess what? I absolutely LOVE this book. Nicky, you are incredible! No, this is not a book for everyday knitting. This is pure knitting fashion! Nicky takes knitting to a whole new level in a way that is daring and whimsical at the same time. Inspired by knitting traditions around the world Nicky Epstein has shown herself to be the Elsa Schiaparelli of the knitting world.

Knowing how traditional wool tams are made, I adored her larger than life Fair Isle Tam Capelet. Her Fiesta Skirt makes me think of the art and craft fairs in Santa Fe. And the Evening Gala Aran with its ostrich feather collar makes me want to finally learn how to knit cables. The one piece that’s really got my hands itching to knit is the La Belle Cardigan. Only Nicky could make me fall in love with something so pink and frilly.

“Knitting On Top of the World is not for the knitter who wants to blend in. These designs are meant for the knitter with the desire to stand out and be noticed. With this book Nicky Epstein has shown that she’s not just another  knitter who designs pretty cardigans, but an artist who uses knitting as her medium.

What I’m Reading This Week

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My bi-weekly trip to the local library resulted in the find of this wonderful book- “Super Stitches Knitting” by Karen Hemingway.

First of all the author’s last name is Hemingway. After reading “The Sun Also Rises”, when I was 10, I was convinced that people with the last name Hemingway must be related to Ernest and therefore are cool by association.

So, the point is, that the book was cool before I even opened it. But when I did start to read it, the cool factor increased.

Yes, this is yet another stitch pattern dictionary, but its not set up the way most are.  Instead of endless black and white pages crammed with little window squares showing a portion of the pattern, you get the whole pattern still on the needles! That’s right, each pattern is pictured still active on the needles and in nice glossy full color. Karen uses various yarn weights and colors to help bring out each stitch pattern to its fullest.

More then 300 stitch patterns are presented in this book. It’s just one of those books that you want to keep going back to when you want a clear idea of how a pattern will look on your needles before you cast on. I may actually cry a little when I have to return the book to the library.

(Hey, Santa Claus, if you’re listening, I’m putting in an early request. Please let me get this book for Christmas. If you’re still on vacation and don’t want to deal with Christmas orders this soon, feel free to pass along my request to the Easter Bunny. He can give it to me in place of the hollow chocolate bunny I usually get. Thanks!)

My Kind of Crazy

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I picked up this book at my local library. It was among the books for sale and only cost me $0.75. The author, Cilla Ramnek is textile artist whose name you may already know from the fabrics she has designed for Ikea.

Cilla is a crafter not afraid to cross different disciplines and combine them in creative ways. Her designs are original, daring and always off the grid. In short, she is my kind of crazy.

Her book, “Knitprovisation”, is not a pattern book, but an inspiration book. She loosely describes the construction of each garment, but her goal is not to have you copy her work. Her aim is to get you thinking outside the box and give you permission to play. Fearless creativity equals one of a kind kick ass designs.