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.

Brave New Knits Rocks!

I picked up another gem from the library this week. Brave New Knits by Julie Turjoman. The patterns in this book make you want to go out and buy more yarn, but that is not why i love this book. I love it because of its interviews with many of the  knitwear designers/bloggers that we all know and love.

Interview after interview, I am amazed and inspired by the diverse and often times contradictory backgrounds of each designer that somehow knitting has worked its way into.

Each designer interview includes a pattern from the designer. This gives more depth and meaning to each pattern because after you finish reading about a designer’s approach to knitwear and their design philosophy, then you turn the page and see their ideas and concepts in full physical form waiting for you to make.

The overall message in this book is how the internet- and especially Ravelry- has help to make are knitting community a little more ‘close-knit’ and has been a great platform for new designers and their work.

A great book to read for anyone thinking about becoming a knitwear designer or if you just want to know how a person makes the leap from biochemisrty to sweater designer.