"Knitting in the old way" is not just great patterns for ethnic sweaters, but is an excellent reference for knitting free from dependence upon a particular pattern with its precise numbers and gauge to be matched and counted. It is perfect for all of us who have a sweater pictured in our minds that we would love to design, knit, and wear; but are afraid to try because of our dependence on "knit a swatch until you have the exact gauge," etc.
The "old way" is to use the percentage system, a method whereby YOU pick the yarn YOU want (there are suggestions for which type of yarn goes best with the type of sweater you want to knit), and which size needles go best with that yarn. Then pick out a sweater or sweatshirt that you love wearing - that one you reach for most - your "comfort sweater." Measure its circumference. Then knit your 4" - 6" swatch and determine YOUR gauge. Now comes the fun. With the circumference you want, do the simple math of how many of YOUR OWN stitches it will take to get that measurement. Voila! You are now ready to figure out the rest of your sweater. No more bondage to someone else's gauge.
That basic circumference is 100%. You are now given a percentage of that number for other parts of the sweater: neck, armholes, gussets, saddles, wrists, etc. Use simple math. For example,let's say the plan shows the armhole at the shoulder being 40% of the 100% circumference. If the body has 120 stitches, then you will pick up and knit 48 stitches at the armhole. (You could also start at the cuff - and there are percentages for that, too.) There are 12 basic sweater styles to plan from, each with its own fine-tuned percentages. For length of the arms and the body, you simply use your own arms and the lengths from that favorite sweater.
Another thing: the authors encourage "knitting in the round" which is also part of the "old way." Use circular needles and double-pointed needles. Now that I've done so, I can't imagine going back to straight needles except for a few things. Sweaters are completed with only a couple of seams at the most, and I find circular needles much easier to handle than straight needles.
And it works! I'm just now finishing a sweater I've had pictured in my mind for years. It fits perfectly. I am so excited - from now on I'll be knitting MY sweaters, using MY gauges, with yarns that _I_ have chosen, and with patterns - colors or textures - that _I_ have in mind. Freedom!
If you are already an experienced knitter, you can use this book with ease. If you are a beginner with some successes under your belt, I would get something like "Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book" (tried and true!) which gives you all of the techniques for knitting in clear language and excellent photos. It would make a great companion to "Knitting in the Old Way," and will have you feeling very comfortable as you grow in experience.