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Modern Top-Down Knitting: Sweaters, Dresses, Skirts & Accessories Inspired by the Techniques of Barbara G. Walker by Kristina McGowan

Modern Top Down Knitting

Modern Top-Down Knitting: Sweaters, Dresses, Skirts & Accessories Inspired by the Techniques of Barbara G. Walker by Kristina McGowan, STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (October 1, 2010), 160pp.

Jills Dress

Of all the books I brought with me on our recent Alamitos Bay Knitting Cruise (toodling around the bay for a couple hours, eating, drinking, chatting, knitting), this one garnered the most excitement.

I love Barbara Walker’s book — and obviously, so does McGowan — but the dense yet chatty prose can be a little hard to get through.  McGowan distills the information and presents a variety of patterns utilizing Walker’s techniques.

The book begins with an interesting intro, then moves into photo tutorials for crochet chain provisional cast on, short rows, hiding short row wraps, set in sleeve caps, and tightening the first row of the sleeve cap.

Walker, in Knitting from the Top, recommends not hiding the short row wraps for the sleeve cap;  McGowan does hide them.  I do think leaving the wraps unhidden would alleviate some of the issues regarding tightening that first row.  It seems pretty standard now to hide wraps, which is perhaps why McGowan recommends it.

I’d like to have seen a few more provisional cast on techniques included, but I suspect if you already know how to do provisional cast ons, you have your favorite.

Regardless, these tutorials are an excellent resource, the photos clearly showing each step.  This is one of the few books in which I think the how-to section is very appropriate for the level of the book.

The remainder of the book is devoted to a variety of patterns, including several dresses.

  • Dresses: 6
  • Sweaters: 7
  • Skirts: 2
  • Hats: 4
  • Arm warmers: 2
  • Wraps, cowls, etc: 2
  • Misc:  slippers, belt, jewelry

Annie Hat

Sizing runs from XS to 2X or 3X for the majority of projects.  Cable patterns are charted.  Schematics are provided for the sweaters, skirts and dresses.  Multiple photos show pertinent design details.  Between the schematics and the photos, you do know what you’ll be getting as a FO.

And though there are a lot of dresses, if you don’t want a knitted dress, most of these could easily be worked as tunics or sweaters.

McGowan includes tips on customizing the individual patterns, when to try them on as you’re working, etc;  for example, for the Smocked Dress, she includes tips on adding sleeves.  The Pigeon Hat includes directions on how to dye the hat.  Throughout the book also are tips on applying linings and trim for a more professional, tailored or heirloom look (especially cute for the Mulberry & Annie hats).  The niftiest tip/tutorial section was, I think, the one for Jill’s Dress, where she shows how to get that wonderful crocheted edging along the “seams”.

The final section is on finishing:  choosing and applying trim;  working crocheted edgings;  utilizing elastic cord.  There’s also a list of yarn sources and recommended reading.

This book is a tactile pleasure, too;  the pages are thick matte paper, the photos are clear and crisp, the slightly shiny cover print is a different texture from the rest of the cover.

This book is presented as something that should be in your permanent library, and I think the material within more than justifies that.

I received my copy from the publisher;  you can purchase a copy through Amazon by clicking on the book cover above.

Layered Ruffle Sweater

5 comments… add one
  • Mette September 17, 2010, 11:14 am

    Thank you for this review, just added this as another book wish for christmas (as if I’m able to wait that long…) Mette

  • Rosemary September 19, 2010, 5:46 pm

    Great review! Very helpful and informative!

  • Lee Bernstein September 20, 2010, 11:37 am

    I enjoyed this review — thank you. I’ve seen the book previously, but now I’m seriously considering buying it.

  • Ragan Masterson September 20, 2010, 2:02 pm

    I just received my copy of this book and agree with your review wholeheartedly! It is a beautiful book and it has inspired me to try some of the finishing embellishments. In particular, I think the velvet ribbon is beautiful lining the hem of the museum tunic. I am just so glad to see more modern and beautiful styles using Barbara Walker’s brilliant techniques.

  • Mary Miller October 19, 2010, 1:08 pm

    The above review is a great summary of the book. The instructions and guidance and good enough for me to tackle knitting a dress for a friend.

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