Monday, November 15, 2010

Barbara Walker/Kristina McGowen/Knitting Top Down

I am a top-down knitter. I wasn’t always. I grew up knitting pieces and mattress stitching them together and Hating. Every. Minute. Of. It.
One day, I stumbled upon a blue workbook by Sidna Farley. Sidna introduced me to Elizabeth Zimmerman’s method of seamless knitting. Well, I had to learn more about this Elizabeth Zimmerman. When I purchased “Knitting Without Tears” I also bought “Knitting from the Top” by Barbara Walker the same day. I hit the ground running with EZ. I loved her wit. I thumbed through “Knitting from the Top”, read the passages and could not wrap my brain around the concept. I loved Barbara’s wit and wisdom also and though I wasn’t grasping her technique I liked reading her book.

In a period of a year or so I read "Knitting From The Top" over and over. Finally, I picked up the book, needles and yarn and dove in. I never looked back. I knew EZ wouldn’t mind too much because she is quoted on the back of Knitting From The Top that Barbara was a genius. I have designed everything from sweaters to suits. And I wear what I make. One thing that has annoyed me over the years is the comment that Barbara’s book is “dated”. The designs are dated. My response is, anyone using the technique and worth their salt in knitting after using this book has the ability to adjust the style to current fashion dictations. Even better, after learning this technique those of you that adore “retro” fashion will have no problem figuring that out on your own. “Knitting from the Top” is still the best basic instructional top down knitting book out there. If you can’t handle the dated cover, tear it off. Better yet, maybe Schoolhouse Publishing could reprint it with a “fashionable” cover. When it was originally published the cover was in fashion. I guess the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” is apropos here if you get hung up on that sort of thing.

 My path to Barbara Walker is very similar to Kristina McGowen’s as stated in the beginning of her book entitled “Modern Top-Down Knitting”. In fact, it's so similar its kinda spooky. I purchased Kristina’s book because she knits the way I do. Kristina does state that the styles in Barbara’s book are dated. But wait, because she has learned the technique she’s figured out how to adjust and update. How about that? She has some nifty finishing techniques using elastic cord and pipe cleaners. Brilliant! Her focus is the sleeveless or set-in sleeve technique featured in BW’s book. I love this style except for the working with 2 balls at once but I get over it. I prefer the simultaneous set-in sleeve method as opposed to picking up the stitches around the armhole and short-rowing the cap. She incorporates crochet into her designs. For me knitting and crochet go hand in hand. A crocheted edge is sturdier where you need it. Her designs are very up-to-date.

 What will knitters say about Kristina’s book 30 years from now? The same as folks are saying about “Knitting from the Top” today. There will be someone else to come along to update the look but the fact is, we’re all still using the same out-dated, out of print book and whacking out great stuff.  We’re free from commercial patterns. Thank you Barbara. And thank you Kristina for bringing it forward with your techniques.

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