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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definition of an intellectual is "someone who, alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on"..., 17 July 2011
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This review is from: The Gentle Art of Knitting (Hardcover)
Jane Brocket has thousands of loyal fans, including myself; we find her to be inspirational and stimulating, encouraging and sympathetic. We follow her blog `yarnstorm' and genuinely feel that she is a friend.

In `The Gentle Art of Knitting' Jane has cleverly and thoughtfully put her mind to what most knitters really want to get out of it. And this is perhaps not quite what might expect.

In the past knitters produced clothes and useful items that would otherwise have been too expensive to buy or generally unobtainable in good enough quality as ready made. I started out as one of those followers of Sirdar-style patterns, as my knitting history spans five decades. When I was a girl I knitted to make myself something hopefully attractive to wear to vary my very limited wardrobe. My mother, aunts and grandmothers knitted to keep children warm, well dressed and comfortable. They felt that to have idle hands was a sin.

So in those times the sensual feel, possible fashionable colour way of the yarn was not really considered. Artificial fibres would withstand washing and wear well - baby's `pram sets', school V necked jumpers, socks, scarves, knitted with plastic or metal needles fiercely clacking away, had a hard, shiny, harsh feel. The aim then was to knit like a machine, to produce an item that looked as if it had been made in a factory! Women did knitting at home for others at the price of the ball of wool for their labour. Now with smooth quiet bamboo needles and gorgeous silk, cashmere, merino, alpaca yarns, knitting can be a real therapeutic joy.

Today the price of yarn is quite surprising and the range rather bewildering. Jane Brocket has researched far and wide, for this is her hobby, she just loves fossicking around yarn shops all over the place, learning about new mixes, niche suppliers and all the while keeping an eye on what will be satisfying and exciting to make up. So the new way of knitting is creative, artistic and impressively individual.

We need help here, as most knitters are unlikely to have a cosy well- stocked wool shop on their high street. Those that do can join their in-store knitting circles try out yarns and see the possibilities - and what pleasure there is to be had from that. More usual now is the need to order online and many great sites service this, supplying all the lovely kit we need in a speedy and efficient way. Jane has tracked them all down and provides the most useful wide- ranging index of suppliers.

She also puts her mind to other matter - degrees of difficulty in executing the pattern. Sometimes a most complicated and skilful project may appeal and with proper lighting, uninterrupted peace and quiet (well something good to listen to on the radio) this may be achievable and hugely rewarding. However most of the time knitting will be a secondary activity, pieces of work being picked up and put down according to the mood and time allowed - so Jane has found 40 projects that will be just the ticket.

Because she is a normal person, like us, Jane Brocket can see what might trip us up or put us off. Using the benefit of her experience she only offers ideas that she has already had a bash at. Only she would dream up knitting up a bed blanket in a manageable fashion by knitting five long scarves, which are called back in from good use to be sewn together when the work is complete. Crocheting gets a good look in too, with the most glorious suggestion for Starburst Flower squares, all photographed in a delightfully nostalgically vintage chic way. Literary hotties dressed in Penguin orange, Persephone dove grey and turquoise Pelican just beg to be made. Church Bazaar stripy tea cosies look addictive. Jane gives us directions for all size of teapot right down to doll's tea set. Best for me was the `Simple, Squishy Slouchy hat' even though on looking up the yarns online the expenditure would be more than you'd imagine. Think couture... It would be fun to master that one pattern alone to create a selection for Christmas gifts. One you'd completed the first one, future efforts would rattle off the needles. After all you have to do something with your hands while watching tv. Jane even has suggestions as to what films to watch while making flowers (for the tea cosies)...

This book is a joy to behold. The colours, patterns, bits and bobs to go with, all tempt and entrance. The photography is just fabulous. As in the wonderful book The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home Jane rattles on in the background telling us stuff we just love to hear. Her educated view on what makes people content and happy stands strong and firm. Her anecdotes amuse and entertain; her observations widen our horizons and enhance our vision. I just can't recommend getting to know Jane Brocket more highly.

p.s. I had added images of my first creation - the chunky cushion cover from page 25. Sadly I have 'Loose tension' and my cables are wonky despite my unpicking the front twice to try to put it right. Yes it does look like a plaited loaf and would look great in a golden beige colour. The out lay is a consideration - the skeins of Cascade Magnum - two of which only just did the job; I had to miss two of the last rows making the back flap to be sure of having enough. Also the investment in the new circular needles, cable needle and filling. So a pricey project but quite satisfying now it's complete.
The trouble is as with everything in decor, it's always best to have two to balance. Over a hundred for two cushions..
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Location: HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom

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