Book Review: Mother-Daughter Knits

This review was originally posted at the Juniper Moon Farms blog.  I heart them and thank them for the opportunity to review this book:

I knit.  And I am a daughter. 

My mother, on the other hand, is not a knitter (I once helped you cast on a fun-fur scarf, mom...whatever happened to that?).  But she is one of those fashionable people who has to be careful about where she buys her clothes so she doesn't show up to teach her high school students wearing the same trendy outfit they are. 

I think this qualifies the two of us to review the book "Mother-Daughter Knits: 30 Designs to Flatter and Fit" by Sally Mellville and Caddy Melvile Ledbetter.

In this book, Sally and Caddy take turns designing patterns using similar themes or ideas with their own mother or daughter take on them.  They intersperse the patterns with fun tidbits like this gem from Cally celebrating the rise in knitting-popularity: "But then knitting became the new yoga, the new black, the new pantyhose, the new lip gloss!"  Sally responds, "I'm glad we have knitting as an alternative to pantyhose."  Amen, sister, although people are WAY more likely to stare at me funny when I bring my knitting rather than my lip gloss to the bar.

They claim that the experience of writing the book was a positive one, describing their collaboration as "beautiful."  I am not sure my mom and I have ever done anything involving clothing that didn't involve strong disagreement over what qualifies as "cute" versus "lame."  With this book we:

  • Agreed that there are quite a few great patterns in here.  In fact, my mom immediately requested Mother's Day presents knit from this book. 
  • Agreed, that the Altered Austen Jacket and the Cabled-Edged Vest are the highlights of this book.
  • Patently disagreed on the Camelot Coat, with her on the side of "it's adoooooorable!" and me on the side of "meh, whatever."  But she is usually right about these things and it underscores the fact that this book is written by and for both mothers AND daughters, and we don't necessarily have to like each other's styles.

A couple of notes on the patterns themselves:

  • My biggest fear of starting a big project is that I am going to get to the end and have the ugliest thing that anyone, anywhere, has ever seen.  This book spends a whole chapter on making sure you don't end up in that situation.  It provides a good overview of what makes a sweater flattering (fit, length, etc.), teaches you how to measure your body to make sure you know what your ideal fit is, and then helps you translate those measurements into how to change patterns to fit your body.  I will use this guide for EVERY sweater I make, not just the ones in this book.
  • The basic patterns are cute and SUPER basic, but not exciting enough to buy the book just for them.  That said, the Tabbed Legwarmers might be the sexiest thing I have ever seen.
  • Most patterns in this book are all written to accommodate up to size 2X, but none of the models in the pictures are that size, so it is sometimes difficult to visualize what a pattern would look like on someone other than a skinny-minnie.  My mom added, though, that there are a couple of great patterns in here for petites, like the Altered Austen Jacket and the Scarf-Closing Cardigan.  And really, who doesn't look good in a classic like the "Sophisticated Hoodie"?  It has just enough stitch patterning to break up the usual monotony of endless stockinette.  And it would be very easy to substitute your own stitch pattern, too.
  • The charts are tiny (bring out the bifocals and blow them up on your copy machine), but well done.  Also, there are written-out instructions with the ever-helpful stitch counts given after increase and decrease rows (shout out to the tech editor here.  Thank you!!!)

Not going to lie, there are some things in here that I would feel ridiculous wearing, but honestly, I appreciated the commitment to using different materials (ribbon as handles on a bag, scarfs as sweater closures, lots of cute buttons), design techniques and styles.  It was not a whole book of the same sweater thirty times over.  Verdict: in the age of $5 (or free) patterns on Ravelry, at $22.99, this book is totally worth it.  There are thirty solid, well-written patterns.  And more importantly, directions on how to knit these patterns to flatter the figures of mothers or daughters alike.