Friday, 13 April 2012

Book Review: The Handknitter's Yarn Guide by Nikki Gabriel

The 'Handknitter's Yarn Guide' by Nikki Gabriel is such an essential reference book for knitters and crocheters everyone should be issued with a copy when they first purchase yarn.

The book is split into sections: Weights of yarn, animal fibres, vegetable fibres, synthetic fibres, textured yarns and finally rare and curious fibres. At the back is all the information you would expect, such as how to decipher yarn labels, needle sizes (and European and US conversions), and how to calculate yarn substitutes.

She starts each section with the pros and cons of each fibre, such as wool or angora, and outlines the general qualities. Useful facts are scattered amongst the colourful balls of yarn such as 'it takes one goat four years to yield enough fibre to make one jumper.'

You learn how good the stitch definition is for each fibre, how it drapes, its resilience, warmth, how expensive it is and sustainability. For example I learnt from the book that not only is hemp organic, grows freely without pesticides, is warm in winter and cool in summer, is cheap and is in plentiful supply but that it is only available up to a DK weight, can be stiff to knit with but gets softer the more you wash it. This would stop me looking around for a chunky hemp yarn which doesn't exist in the future and I would know to wash it much more than I would normally do after knitting or crocheting.

She then outlines the different fibres the primary fibre can be blended with and the general qualities of the mix. Also included is a table for each weight of each fibre so you could see at a glance how much DK hemp you would need for a 38 inch jumper, for example. It even tells you the wraps per inch and recommended needle size. It's fab.

The yarn swatches at the bottom of the pages are useful too as you can see exactly how it's knitted up in the picture.

I remember feeling so lost when choosing yarn a few years ago. I had no idea what DK or Aran was and kept buying strange balls as a result. In fact I was so ignorant I thought Aran was just meant for knitting fisherman's jumpers! It's no substitute for experimenting with yarn and seeing what you like and what suits your taste but it's certainly an essential yarn bible and one you will check time and time again. It's a great beginner's guide but you will also be challenged and pick up hints and tips if you are at an intermediate or advanced level.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review. You can buy 'The Handknitter's Yarn Guide' by Nikki Gabriel here from Search Press.

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