Review: Knitted Gifts by Ann Budd

Knitted Gifts by Ann Budd, Interweave Press, 2009, 136 pages. Paperback, Kindle, and PDF editions available. Grade: B.

Knitted Gifts, for me, is all at once a remarkable success and a spectacular failure. It really depends on the pattern I’m talking about. This book is a mixed bag, in my humble opinion. In fact, I’ve struggled with what grade it should receive. I originally gave it a “C” but I’ve since revised it to a “B.” I actually like some of the patterns in this collection and I’ve even knitted one.

After a brief Introduction that sings the praises of knitting for other people – with no mention of the terrible consequences that might come from such a brave endeavor – the patterns are brought on without further delay. There’s quite a lot of room for improvement left blank in the Introduction, which is only two paragraphs long. The author just talks about how knitting for other people can become a magically selfish enterprise. You now have an excuse to buy more yarn! Instead of doing housework, you can knit, and the fact that you’re doing this for another person is a perfect rationalization! I read this imagining the author sprawled out on her living room sofa, laughing with glee, needles zipping away, a ball of yarn unraveling madly in a gilded yarn bowl, her house engulfed in flames. I think some advice would have been appropriate here. Maybe a suggestion or two about how to choose the right item to knit for the receiver? Perhaps a recommendation about yarn selection? Color?

The patterns are definitely numerous, which means everyone is bound to find one or two things to knit, at the very least. I’ve actually made “Ulla’s Scarf” by Nancy Bush. It was a gift, too, of course! My sister-in-law loves it and let me tell you, when she opened her gift at Christmas a couple of (or three?) years ago it was a show stopper. My mother-in-law gasped in disbelief, my other sister-in-law gushed over how beautiful it was. All the women in the room looked at the intended wearer with envy. They perhaps silently plotted how to go about stealing this scarf from her when she wasn’t paying attention. So, yes, there are some truly gorgeous designs to be had here. They are mostly not reprints, but rather written especially for this title. Amazon is selling this in paperback format for a little over $6 right now, so it wouldn’t be a bad investment if you only liked a few of these knitted gifts.

There is quite a number of designs I love and plan to make in the future: “Hobby Horse,” “Curry and Spice,” “Transitions,” “Gentleman’s Scarf,” “Winter Sky,” and several more. Others just don’t convince me very much. I won’t name any in particular, I’ll make a broader comment, instead. In my opinion, one of the worst ideas in this set is to make a felted potholder. I imagine it getting stained with food, in turn attracting moths, and so on. Some leave me with a lukewarm, “meh,” kind of feeling, like a wool bag. Again, I think about moths. The problem with the felted items is that the recommended yarn is impractical – like wool for kitchen accessories. It can’t be substituted with another material because the gauge and dimensions expect the knitter to treat the wool after the knitting is finished. Felting shrinks the item to the extreme, so the object is planned to be over-sized. Cotton or bamboo does not felt; therefore, untreated wool must be used to make the design as instructed.

My grade of “B” is perhaps harsh, but in the good old days before grade inflation a “B” mark was often cause for joy and celebration. If this book came to my office complaining about its grade and arguing it deserved an “A” I would reply, “I was generous because you were actually getting a ‘C.'” This book isn’t bad. It isn’t fabulous, either. It’s worth buying if you like some of the patterns and its price is reduced. I’m happy to have it in my library. It has been useful to me and it will most certainly come in handy in the future. It all depends on individual taste, really. Also, if you decide to knit one of the designs as a gift, think hard about whether or not the receiver will appreciate it!

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