Posted by: jinniver | May 14, 2008

Book Review: Stitch ‘N Bitch Nation

This past Christmas, my sister-in-law surprised me with a copy of The Happy Hooker: Stitch ‘N Bitch Crochet. I didn’t know how to crochet but wanted to learn, and was quite happy to have this book as a starting point. I really enjoyed Debbie Stoller’s writing and found her book to be quite informative. So when I saw a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch Nation at my LYS, I snatched it up.

I’ll get the negative out of the way first.  There are 50 patterns in this book, and there are only 8 that I’m even remotely interested in knitting:  2 scarves, a hat, a capelet, a vest, a wrist bag, baby pants (although I’ll skip the devil tail, thanks), and a baby sweater–the skull and cross bones motif did it for me.  A majority of the projects are accessories (scarves, hats, mittens, ponchos, leg warmers, arm warmers, bags, pet stuff, and toys) and I don’t have a need or a desire for most of them.  And since there’s a definite emphasis on the funky in these “hip, funky” patterns, a lot of them aren’t to my taste.  Still, if you’re looking for tamer, more “standard” knitting patterns, there are plenty of other books out there.  Lastly, of the few fitted women’s projects included, only about half are sized large enough that I could wear them.  A word of warning to anyone planning to knit any of the fitted projects:  look at the bust measurements, not the sizes (aka S, M, L…).  For the Fairly Easy Fair Isle cardigan (p. 82), for example, the XL has a 50″ finished bust; the Sexie haltar top’s (p. 127) XL has a 35″ finished bust.

Of the 8 projects I’m considering knitting, I’m really only excited about the Baby’s First Tattoo sweater (p. 208.) and the Spiderweb Capelet (p. 110), although the Headline News cabled newsboy cap (p. 66) is definitely growing on me–I love the idea of a winter hat that doesn’t look like your typical winter’s hat.  So you might be surprised when I tell you that I found this book to be more than worth $15.95 (plus tax) I paid.  In fact, I considered the patterns I liked to be a bonus, because I wasn’t buying the book for the patterns.  I was buying it for the first 30 pages, described in small type of the very bottom of the cover:  “Plus:  How to make any knitting pattern your own…”

I have a fairly decent grasp of how patterns are made and how they can be altered, in theory.  But reading Debbie’s instructions was like taking a highly informative class that I can carry around with me and retake whenever I want.  This section has everything from the usefulness of the gauge square to yarn substitution to ease (a topic I was completely unfamiliar with–I kept seeing the term everywhere but had no idea until now what it meant) to basic clothing construction to changing established patterns…and more.  This book has already saved me from making a serious mistake on my Sunny Summer Sky t-shirt (my entry in the Nothing But a T-Shirt KAL).  To avoid the problems with trying to figure out how to resize the fitted sleeves, I was going to cheat and use (what I now know is) a drop shoulder instead.  Turns out those wouldn’t work well– a nicely fitted shirt with droopy shoulders and floppy sleeves.

For that first 30 pages alone, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in altering patterns to suit themselves, or even designing their own patterns.  I’m short waisted, so I’d like to be able to change patterns.  And I rarely use the recommended yarn, so now I have a much better idea of not just how to substitute but what to substitute.  Before I would only have considered whether I liked the yarn and if it worked for the gauge, but now I understand that I need to keep in mind whether the yarn is appropriate for the pattern (if it drapes the right way, is of an appropriate weight, etc.).

And as every TV salesperson says, “But wait–there’s more!” 

Debbie has included over 80 knitting tips on a variety of topics, and almost every one had me saying, “I need to write that down somewhere.”  In fact, I’ll be transferring them all to a searchable spreadsheet when I get a chance because they tend to be pretty inspired.  Together with the refresher course at the end of the book, the first section and the tips comprise worthwhile knowledge for any knitter.  Profiles are also included of various Stitch ‘N Bitch groups around the U.S. (and a few overseas), many of which I found interesting to read.  The best were the ones that discussed how they got started and how they thrived, since they would be the most helpful to anyone looking to start a group of his/her own.  (I also found a group to actively avoid, since they felt the information most important to share with the world about themselves is their obsession with one member’s ex-husband and that they bond by “hating on [their] LYS yarn Nazi.”) I was also quite amused by Vickie Howell’s description of the young man from L.A. who wanted to know why they didn’t change the group name to something less offensive, like “Stitch ‘N Discouse.” (My answer: because it doesn’t rhyme. Duh!)

Any beginning knitter would definitely not go wrong with this book, and if you’re someone who’s been knitting for a while but want to a) knit something other than your run of the mill sweater, b) learn how to make those sweaters look custom made, or c) enjoy a good knitting read, you want to pick up a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch Nation.

The facts:
-288 pages, 50 projects
-83 tips provided by Debbie or her readers
-Sections on knitting basics and altering patterns to suit anyone
-Limited list of LYS’s in U.S., Australia, and Canada; list of yarn suppliers
-Recommended price: $15.95 U.S./$22.95 Can.
-ISBN-10: 0-7611-3590-1
-Recommended? Yes.


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