It’s surprising that a book titled The Gentle Art of Knitting (UK / US) can polarise opinion so violently. I find it particularly strange that some find its tone patronising or pretentious because before I read any reviews online, I thought that this was indisputably one of the most unassuming knitting books I’ve ever read. Admittedly, I might be biased. I’ve followed Jane Brocket’s blog for 5 or 6 years and I love her style, her photography, her excellent colour-sense, and the wonderful discoveries she leads me to make: Persephone Books, knitting needle collecting, and now, possibly the delights of self-striping socks. If sock-knitting mavens are cringing at this, don’t worry, I will shortly be reviewing Sock Knitting Master Class for you! :)
So when Mrs. Brocket, after 7 (?) other books, finally got around to writing a knitting book, I promptly popped it into my Amazon wishlist and I haven’t been disappointed. Here’s how Jane describes her “gentle knitting” philosophy:
“Gentle knitting is knitting for comfort and to create comfort. It is knitting you can pick up when you have a few moments, and then put down without worrying that you will never remember where you left off; knitting that allows the mind to wander pleasantly without getting tangled up in repeats and row numbers; knitting that can be combined with other good things in life such as families, friends, chat, cake, tea, films and radio. It is knitting for the simple pleasure of knitting and of making something you like.”
The book is divided into 5 sections which I do find a little arbitrary: comfort, practical, charm, colour and style. In my opinion the whole book is about colour, and how basic textures and patterns can be used to play with colour. The patterns are simple and useful enough to be knit again and again, something which Jane herself does all the time; take her string of jelly bean cushions from a few years ago, her self-striping socks, the ripple blanket craze she began (to the best of my knowledge) single-handedly.
I don’t think many designers would have had the courage to put together such simple patterns, and yet there’s a lot of room in my day for mindless knitting (as is possibly demonstrated by the fact that I’ve already begun two patterns from the book), and The Gentle Art of Knitting is a great source for that. Could I sit down and figure out the patterns myself? Of course, but I’d rather pick up a book off my shelf, even though I’ll probably make plenty of my own adjustments as I go along. In fact, more than anything this book reminds me of an old recipe book, one that falls open at the right page and has lots of scribbles and amendments, and more than a few biscuit crumbs. :)
Other Things I Love
- The book seamlessly blends Jane’s photos with professionally styled and shot photos (as in the spread above: the photos on the left are by Jane, the photo on the right is by Kristin Perers).
- The book is full of clever little tips for fudging and generally making life easier. The suggestion on page 66 is particularly thrifty and I will definitely be using it!
- There are blurbs on “inspiration”, “design”, and “yarn and needles” for each pattern. And I particularly love the recommendations for books, wine, and films that accompany some of the patterns.
- Tea cosies in 5 sizes!
- 2 crochet patterns. In a knitting book. Unspeakable! ;)
- All the further reading and exploration suggested in the book.
- Once again, I have to stress Jane’s impeccable colour-sense. There are some great suggestions for shade cards in the “Colour” chapter, and all yarn colours used in patterns are given in great detail.
- My favourite pattern has to be the School Colours Blanket, which is knit up in strips that can be worn as scarves, until they’re all ready to be stitched together into a blanket. That should be filed under all the headings, I think.
Is this book for you?
- If you like Jane’s blog, and you’d like a good “go-to” book for simple patterns that you can knit for… forever, then yes! Buy it now: UK / US
- If you’re a beginner, no, probably not. Determined beginners, of course, need not worry as they can accomplish anything.
- If you don’t particularly see the charm of “bread-and-butter” knitting, and can’t think of a use for a tea cosy, then no, you probably won’t like The Gentle Art of Knitting.
A word of warning to American readers: the book uses British terminology. While this doesn’t matter so much in knitting, crochet terms are considerably different, and unfortunately I couldn’t see a note anywhere in the book that reminds you of this. If you think you might try the crochet patterns at some point, do yourself a favour and write out the conversions on a post-it and stick it in your book right now.