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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
Knit to Fit

Lara's Library: One of My Old, Preachy Books

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
A knit bikini? Not a new idea.

Sometimes I go through my old garage-sale finds and think to myself, "What WAS I thinking?"

When I took up knitting again in 1999, the Great Knitting Book Bang hadn't really happened yet. So, books on knitting were few and far between, especially in the small town where I went to college.

So, for several years, I had a habit of snatching up every knitting book I laid hands on. Even if I couldn't see a good reason to have it, I had to have it.

My copy of Ida Riley Duncan's Knit to Fit has $10.95 written in the front cover, but I doubt that I paid that much. I probably picked it up from a $2 table in a garage sale on the campus green.

I do go through these books now, with a steady hand and a cool head, and get rid of some of them. I like to keep a lot of them, though, and here's why.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
The drawings!

1) They are written in a preachy, bossy, and obnoxious tone.

It helps me keep in perspective my own style of writing, where I try not to be those things. I suspect a lot of this came from these women (or their publishers) trying to strike up a strict, scientific tone, in order to justify publishing a book about something as silly-headed (as it may have seemed to them) as knitting.

This particular book is really over the top in this area. It's supposed to mimic the author's "$100.00 correspondence course given by the Progressive School of Knitting Design." As such it covers "every conceivable phase of scientific knitting."

My gosh. That's just on the inside of the front jacket cover.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette

2) They usually don't have any color photographs.

But, on the other hand, the line drawings are often superb. Also, the black and white photography is very clear and well-done in most of these books. On the other hand, if there is no photograph, you get the fun of working up a garment (or pattern stitch) for yourself, and discovering how it looks.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
A chart for the back of a cardigan.

3) Didn't people have calculators back then? What's with all of the charts, graphs and diagrams?

Well, in 1963, when the first version of this book was written, not really.

From The History of Pocket Calculators, Copyright 1996 by Guy Ball and Bruce Flamm:

"1963 -- Bell Punch Co. LTD and Sumlock-Comptometer LTD of England introduce the "Anita" which is claimed to be the world's first fully electronic desk-top calculator. The machine weighs 33 pounds and uses dozens of vacuum tubes (called valves in England) along with hundreds of other discrete components. Although the Anita is as large as many mechanical models, it is a major breakthough since it is silent (no moving parts) and very fast. In the USA, the Friden 130 was released at about the same time. It used a CRT (cathode ray tube ) television tube - type of display and was also one of the first fully electronic calculators in the world."

So, instead of doing the math for you and just presenting stitch-by-stitch instructions, or presenting formulas for you to do your own math, this author relies upon setting out patterns which YOU will later scale, much as in dressmaking, to fit your particular needs.

5) Seaming? Argggh!

Yes, I turn into a Peanuts character, or maybe a pirate, when I'm faced with seaming. On the other hand, considering your work in pieces for the math, then knitting up in the round isn't a bad way to go. It allows you to really suss out details like armhole shaping, sleeves, necklines and the like.

The "dressmaker" mindset of books like this thus serve you two ways. They often have deep, thorough discussions about things like collars and they give you a good way of chewing through your first sweater design, in manageable bites.

6. The typography and design elements all look old-fashioned to me.

And I love it.