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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2008
'Victorian Lace Today' is a superb lace knitting book - enticing, imaginative, and inspirational in every way.

The last two years have seen a return to the 'feminine', gentle and beautiful, especially in the areas of crochet and knitting. Gone are many of the stiff, boring and unimaginative garments that deterred many from taking up the needles again. Not so with this book.

It is, as the title says, based on patterns found in the knitting books of the Victorian era. However, these are transformed by the author Jane Sowerby, with the use of modern yarns, designer yarns, cottons, finest kid mohair, gorgeous colours and the adaptation of the patterns for the woman of the moment.

Lace is often thought of as doillies, chair back covers and old-fashioned items that grandma used on her tea tray. In 'Victorian Lace Today' you will not find anything like that, but chapters filled with wonderful shawls in many styles, simple lacy scarves, lace edged scarves, shawls with curving corners, throws, swirls, swinging items and everything that one could wish for to be a lacy up-to-date woman.

The colours used are often vibrant. Imagine a lacey rectangular shawl in fine lime green mohair or bright raspberry; or for lighter shades a soft gentle apple green, and a primrose so pale and fragile it is stunning. Also there are romantic black and mulberry coloured wraps to entice and capture the heart, plus a host of other lacy styles and colours.

The diagrams and intructions are very clear, as is the history of the women long ago who wrote these patterns for us. They are discussed in a way that brings the Victorian era to life.

The photographer must receive an accolation for his superb pictures. Alexis Xenakis has chosen the exteriors of stately homes for his locations, adding a mysterious past/present feel to the book. The models also echo this sense of timelessness in a way that is frankly beautiful.

If I had to chose only one knitting book this year, this would be the one.
It is exceptionally lovely.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2007
While I would have liked to have read more information derived directly from Sowerby's research, this is an excellent resource for knitters. It is beautifully illustrated and includes a wide selection of patterns graded by experience level, each of which includes required yardage and both the yarn used in the image as well as suggested substitions. A well-planned book, it concludes with a very useful guide to methods (it's always nice to know which cast-on/off, etc. the designer had envisaged). Very good value for money.
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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2006
If there is still anybody who thinks knitting is stupid, boring or whatever, think again. This wonderful book puts knitting into perspective. First and foremost it clearly demonstrates that knitting has a rich and long history to it. Secondly, as with anything with a history, it tells us a lot about the society and the people who practised it. Case in point, the Victorian society. But if you think history is as boring as knitting, here is another thought for you. This is a beautiful book. This lace and its patterns richly deserved to be preserved. This is as much cultural heritage as the Taj Mahal or Shakespeare. This lace is breathtaking. The photography is ever so refined and the Victorian settings are so fitting. I assure you. You will not put this book away until you have seen it all. And finally, when the mind and the senses have been satisfied you yourself can partake in this grand tradition. The detailed patterns and clear instructions allow you to recreate all this romantic beauty and make it ready for a new age.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2010
Jane Sowerby really knows her stuff... this gorgeous book gives a fascinating insight into the pioneering creators of the original patterns that have inspired her. The shawls, scarves, fichus and collars are beautifully photographed in historic locations around the UK. There are no written patterns to follow, just charts - but there are good explanations and diagrams of all the techniques involved. Although I am a fairly competent knitter, I had not attempted such fine lace work before and although I had several false starts on my first attempts, I found that as long as I didn't lose track and followed the pattern absolutely, this was actually no more difficult than any other knitting I have done. I would say that patience and perseverance are the most necessary requirements, certainly for the larger items. Definitely not for the faint hearted or the complete novice!

This is not the kind of knitting that you can do while watching television, I found it took 100% concentration and the larger items do take a long time to complete, but the end results are well worth the effort. The stitches themselves are not particularly complicated, losing your place on the chart is the biggest problem and once lost, I found it very difficult to see where I was particularly in the middle of a repeat - I solved this by using a ruler which I repositioned every time I moved onto another row, in that way I could glance at the pattern and see immediately where I was at any time. On many of the large shawls, the borders are knitted on afterwards - you are knitting 'sideways on', picking up and combining stitches from the edge of the shawl with those of the border on your needles and this is a bit fiddly, partly because the main body is pretty large. But I found the awkwardness disappeared within a few repeats. Incidentally, the instructions on this aspect in particular are very clear.

Amongst other items in this book, I have now knitted one of the large rectangular shawls in a laceweight cashmere and silk mix and am proud to have created a unique heirloom that hopefully will be enjoyed and treasured by my children and grandchildren.

A few helpful tips that I learned along the way,
1 Use bamboo or rosewood needles. With such fine yarn and comparatively large pins, the work just slips off steel needles
2 Photocopy or scan and enlarge each chart before you begin knitting - I enlarged to A4 size and it really made it easy to follow
3 Use a ruler moved up and down to show which row you are on - it helps you keep track of where you are on each repeat
4 After finishing and hand washing block your shawl / scarf carefully to achieve a perfect shape with all the points just so.

Happy knitting.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2007
This is a real winner, with beautiful photos and I want to make EVERYTHING in this book!! There's something for everyone from beginner to advanced. Would you believe it - it's written by an English woman, living near Cambridge but she had to go to US to get it published, by XrX, the people who publish lots of the knitting mags, etc. As it's an American book this means the patterns are all charted out, which I have come to realise is so great where lace knitting is concerned. Takes a little while to get into the swing of it, but now I find uncharted patterns so much more hard work. Go on, treat yourself...you'll love it
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2009
Visually, this is a beauiful book with a wealth of information about pioneering knitters of Victorian times. The shawls are all beauitful and I would love to make every one. My only reservation is that this is definitely not a book for a beginner If you want patterns that say cast on x sts and repeat pattern y times then cast off, this is not the book for you. The construction of most of the shawls is more complex than that, with instructins for knitting on borders that cause much head scratching, although the lace patterns themselves are not a problem.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This book is definitely for the more experienced knitter. The pictures are fabulous. The patterns seem to be clear, although charts are used. There is a section at the back explaining techniques used. A must have on your book shelf!
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2007
I must admit that I found both the look and the title of this book totally unappealing. Fortunately a friend had a copy and I was able to delve inside and see it's potential. For several years I have been looking for a book on knitting lace - and have bought several publications only to be disappointed; but not in this case. It took me some time to "get my head round" the instructions, but everything you need to know is there and is clearly explained. I am already enjoying making my first project, while still exploring the pages to decide what to make next. Clearly written with great passion for the subject - fabulous book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This book is simply beautiful. A lot of the patterns are for the more advanced knitter but the patterns are graded to show the skill level e.g. easy, intermediate, advanced etc. The yarns used in the book are all mostly available in the UK. The photography is stunning. It will certainly make most knitters want to have a go at lace.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2011
The only problem I have found with this book is I can't stop looking through it trying to decide what to start knitting first.. or having started... next! I have returned to knitting after a break of about 20 years and I have been bitten bad. I am a very proficient knitter - albeit a bit of a rusty one.

This book is just a feast of beautiful projects from easy to advanced. (I didn't check the level when I finally settled on a design to try - I would suggest you take care to do this - particularly if you are a novice. It took me five frustrating attempts to get the border pattern of my first shawl set P36 - the alpine scarf). If you are a novice then do start with an easy one! Lace knitting boils down to a combination of knit, purl, knitting stitches together and doing yarn overs. Thats it, so it really isn't rocket science! Give it go! With this book you will be fine and up and running and increasing your confidence very quickly.

The notes on the history of lace knitting in the uk are very interesting. The photos are wonderful - definitely knitting porn! The charts are very clear and the instructions really well laid out. The style is really easy to get used to. There is a diagrammatic overview of construction and notes in the margin giving you essential info such as yarn amounts, needle sizes and tension. There are notes for applying borders to each corner. These are clearly referenced in the instructions - then the patterning charts themselves. Clarity all the way. there is a close up photo of a section of each shawl so you can check that what you have done is right.

Do give it a go! The projects are up to date and just delightful. This is well worth the price. I love the bit at the back on designing your own lace work. Artists who share info skills so generously like this are just wonderful! You can make great gifts for special friends. Todays lace yarns are beautiful - just google for them. Did I mention the section on special lace techniques? Very good. I learned a lot from this.

I did find an important comment that your lace knitting will look a bit suspect until it is washed and blocked (stretched to size) which will open out the work. It was lost as a note on one of the patterns. Do bear this in mind and don't lose heart. It will come out in the wash - quite literally!
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