Book Review; Handy Top-Down Sweaters

A sweater knitting technique that is dear to my heart is the top-down, no-seams method. I’m also very fond of Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns and The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns books. So I was understandably ecstatic when her latest book The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters came out.

Ann Budd's The Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters
Ann Budd’s The Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters

These books give you the basic numbers you need to design your own sweater patterns in your own yarn and gauge. You take the charts for the basic sweater, mix and match the body style, sleeve style, neckline style, etc. Patch them all up together and then just knit following the tables she has already done all the math for – in your size and gauge! Since I have never followed a pattern (or recipe) exactly in my life; I’m always changing something, this is the perfect fit for me and knitters like me. She provides patterns for pullovers, cardigans, v-necks, crew necks, collars, raglan sleeves, round yokes, set-in sleeves, Saddle shoulders, and modified drop shoulders. And if you have her other books and a knack for cobbling you can add even more options.


Mom's Sweater - ripping
Mom’s Sweater – ripping

As I re-do Mom’s sweater, I will be using this book instead of the previously ill-fitting pattern.

Did I mention I love, love, love these books?

There is a caveat though – these books have a learning curve. If you can only follow patterns where one step immediately follows the next you will have to learn how to use these. My favorite way is to photocopy each page I need to make the garment and literally cut & paste them together to make a pattern. It works for me and then I have a single pattern to file away in my Finished Objects notebooks (along with a yarn sample, ball band and photograph when I’m feeling really organized) and a good reference for when I need to knit a similar sweater.

Which brings me to the digital version or the book’s “App”. Interweave really fell down on the job with the digital version. I purchased it first thinking it would be fab to have it on my iPad and always with me for handy pattern following or tweaking. I got excited when I saw the App because I assumed (we all know what happens then) it would have some really great features, making it easier to follow the patterns. Nope. I feel like they rushed this one out the door without thinking it through. As Seth Godin says “Skeumorphs = failure“, a skeumorph (in Seth’s definition) is a design element from an old thing added to a new one. In this case, the e-book/App is exactly like a printed book with fewer features. The only links are in the table of contents to the beginning of each chapter. Why publishers keep putting out e-books that have even less usefulness than the printed version is totally beyond me. There is an opportunity to shine here people – use it!

A useful e-book should have; the ability to send any page to an air printer and to e-mail it to yourself or your Dropbox account. The ability to highlight any word, phrase or paragraph as well as bookmark same. Every time it says “for such and such info see page 123” that page number or phrase should be a link, no excuses, with a “return” button so you can go right back to the page you were on when you clicked on the link. And, for a knitting pattern book, it would be nice to have a place marker bar that runs under the line in the pattern or chart you are on as well as the ability to highlight the column for your size. Removable later, of course. I’ve thought about this for ten minutes and I came up with some stellar features. How long did the digital publisher think about it? Good question.

OK, so the last bit was a little rant. I can get worked up about books. I have no sympathy for an industry that cries about its demise when it’s hidebound (pun intended) refusal to keep up with the times is its own worst enemy. Don’t blame the internet or the readers if you won’t deliver what the readers need or want (due to cowardice, laziness or ignorance). I guess that was a big rant, but I have it off my chest for now  🙂

In summary, the books are fabulous for the sweater designer who needs a spring-board. The print copies have a learning curve but are well worth the effort and eminently useable. The digital copies (as of this date) are useless.

Do you have any experience with the digital version and does it differ from mine? I’d love to hear the other side.

Deb H

Book Review; Handy Top-Down Sweaters

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