One-Skein Wonders (r): 101 Yarn-Shop Favorites, by Judith Durant, Storey: 2006, 240 pages. Paperback and digital editions available. Grade: A
101 Designer One-Skein Wonders (r) by Judith Durant, Storey: 2007, 256 pages. Paperback and digital editions available. Grade: A
So far I haven’t referred to Amazon reviews of the books that I subject to scrutiny on here, but this time I feel it is necessary. I was wary before buying the ones I’m discussing here because I read some negative opinions about them. I want to spread some peace of mind all round the world and, hopefully, fewer people will debate with themselves whether or not to believe the harsher critics on Amazon. Additionally, I’ve decided to compare the first two members of the “One-Skein” series because some people don’t want to spend $20 (estimated digital price) and would prefer to just spend $10, forcing them to choose one or the other.
So, let’s start with the Amazon customer critiques, which are about as reliable as a Yahoo! Questions page. Most people who bought these books gave them five stars without leaving much commentary. The trouble comes from the fact that the more negative opinions are long, which seems to lend them authority. I think this is the problem with anonymous reviews, really, because the individual: 1) actually said something and took time out of his or her day to write; 2) the happy people clicked on stars and left it at that, looking like they didn’t read a thing of the book they bought; 3) the harsh critics got a nice “helpful” rating, which means their positive voters decided not to buy the product and never had the opportunity to experience it for themselves, because “helpful” here means “I didn’t buy it because I made up my mind a priori reading this opinion.”
It’s a waste of our time to go over specific commentaries. Instead, I think it’s best to generalize. I surveyed them quickly. Basically, it seems like a lot of the negative Nancies copied each other. So, according to some critics: 1) there are “too many errors,” 2) the word “one-skein” is meaningless because a lot of the projects use up less than one unit, 3) it’s disappointing to have a yarn in your stash you think you’d love to use only to discover you don’t have enough of it, and 4) it is necessary to understand the mysterious sorcery that is yarn substitution because everything relies on exotic, fancy stuff.
How many errors are too many? 18 of the 103 patterns in One-Skein Wonders (r) have mistakes in them, and they have been extensively corrected in the errata list on the Storey Publishing web site. But, this means that approximately 17% have problems. Is 17% too much? You decide. I’m more of an optimist. 83% have no mistakes at all. As for 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders (r), the stats are a bit more disappointing. 30 out of 103 have needed corrections, which means that roughly 29% are not written up accurately. Still, 71% are perfectly error-free. If you hate following along with errata and insist on spending your money on a book with fewer imperfections, the first of the series with an 83% success rate might be your choice if that’s good enough for you. My opinion? I don’t care, really. If by chance I choose to make something from instructions with errata, I just follow the corrections. Go Internet! You youngsters don’t know what it was like to knit or crochet something from a publication with errors, having to wait for the errata to come out in a magazine and remember to store the corrections some place and not lose them once you found them, which took some time. Not too long ago, it was a paper and wait game.
The next critique we must face is the opinion that the word “one-skein” is meaningless because a lot of the designs use less than one skein. I’m sorry Amazon reviewers, but that is sort of silly. This is not important, especially since the pattern notes state how many of a particular item you can get out of one ball. It’s so exact that there are directions for a mitten that tell us that one unit will make exactly five items – that last mit will remain unpaired with one ball only, so knit two pairs and use the rest for wrist warmers. Anyway, I like this information. If I want to knock out a bunch of one thing to give away to people, I can plan ahead and buy the right amount of yarn. I’m looking at you, “Wine Gift Bag” by Leanne Walker. To make these yarn counting people happy the title would have to be changed to Partial Skein Wonders. That doesn’t sound too catchy, does it? Again, I source my optimism: this set here is good for leftovers, too!
And then we have the whiner who complains about not having enough yarn for a particular project. I think that if you blame the book for the content of your stash you really need a couple of things: 1) an introductory course on logic, available in a college philosophy department near you; 2) a psychologist to help you understand how you – and only you – are responsible for your feelings. I mean, really!
Finally, the comment about “having to understand yarn substitution” made me laugh a lot when I saw it. It’s really easy.
First of all, you need to buy some equipment: a microscope, some beakers, a Bunsen burner, litmus paper, the eye of two toads, a purple butterfly’s wings, the legs of an ostrich, the horns of five unicorns… If you think swapping one yarn for another is really problematic, let me help you: try the yarn you want to use and knit up a little swatch, preferably with the main stitch pattern the directions call for. Does the gauge on your swatch match the number indicated in the pattern? Do you like how it looks? If you have answered “yes” to these two questions you now have your official diploma in Yarn Substitution and you’re all set to legally practice this DARK ART at will, any time you wish.
Sometimes it’s tempting to pay attention to Amazon blatherers because it feels like their opinion must be better than our suspicions because they bought the book and took the whole thing in themselves while we did not. Now that I’ve glossed some of the most frequent negative opinions about the two One-Skein Wonders titles, I think we might judge some of these people as trolls, or just plain silly. The only observation that might be reliable or understandable is “too many mistakes.” This, of course, is subjective, but it really could be a valid reason to avoid a book for some people.
On the other hand, the projects in these two collections are really clever and help us yarniacs who tend to collect stray skeins here and there. Some are for crochet, too, even though the majority of them are for knitting. I think crocheters who don’t knit shouldn’t buy these books because the majority of the directions would be useless to them, but knitters who happen to crochet will be doubly thrilled. Both texts have the variety every knitter craves: bags, vests, socks, scarves, cowls, jewelry, various more accessories, and even decorative finishing touches to add to any project. In the original One-Skein Wonders (r) (2006) I particularly love: “Beaded Diamond Bag” by Diana Foster, “Crocheted Bag” by Deidra Logan, “Cozy House Socks” by Sue Dial , “Four-in-One Gaiter” by Nancy Lindberg,“Gossamer Shell Scarf” by Tamara Del Sonno,“Handpaint Highlights Socks” by Leah Oakley , and “Aran Tam” by Carol F Metzger . From the 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders (r) (2007) collection, I really admire “Basic Cable Mittens for the Family” by Marci Richardson ,“Broken Rib Socks” by Kathleen Taylor,“Cable That Bag!” by Chrissy Gardiner,“Kat’s Hat” by Diana Foster ,“Simple Mistake Rib Vest” by Karn J. Minott , and “Tucson Lattice Shawl” by Nancy Miller.
As far as the difference in the titles goes, the second book’s starts with the word “Designer,” which seems to give it more pizazz. In reality, the different wording has to do with where the patterns came from. In the first and earliest published set, One-Skein Wonders (r) (2006), the designs are by pretty cool yarn shop owners who thought it would be useful for their customers to give them patterns that only need one skein. So, the word “Designer” is used for the second one (2007) because the authors are not shop owners or hobbyists. The projects, really, come down to individual taste. If you only want to buy one of these and not both, I would suggest checking them out on Ravelry. You can see finished objects as well as the photos provided in the books. So, go to One-Skein Wonders on Ravelry to see all the patterns for the first title and just click on Designer One-Skein Wonders to see what the second set offers.
Both books organize the projects by yarn weight. This is especially convenient for those times we are thinking about a particular skein in our stashes and want some ideas on what to do with it. This structure makes consulting the text much more efficient. I also like the practical presentation of the designs, with very precise information about yardage and the number of items that can be made from one skein.
I recommend both of these collections to knitters, as well as knitters who crochet, that have some stray yarn and are looking for inspiration. There is enough variety in both books to please just about everyone. Errata haters, I understand your hesitation. For me, personally, it doesn’t matter, just as long as I have access to the corrections so I don’t drive myself crazy while trying to figure out “what went wrong” in the middle of my project.