Book Review – No Sheep For You

Details

  • Title: No Sheep for You: Knit happy with cotton, silk, linen, hemp, bamboo, and other delights
  • Author: Amy R. Singer
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-59668-012-8 (pbk.)
  • 2007 Interweave Press

Summary

A guide to fibers (natural and synthetic) other than wool. Includes information on the kinds of fibers available, guidance on how to substitute them for wool, information on how the fibers behave, and patterns demonstrating the different fibers.

Contents

The book consists of three chapters and twenty-one projects. Aids in the back of the book include abbreviations, glossary of techniques, contributors, sources for supplies, a bibliography, and an index. There are plenty of full color photographs, and quite a few hand drawn illustrations. Graphs for knitting are included.

Review

Well, the truth is that this book is pretty unique. There just isn’t that much information out there on knitting without wool. The three chapters beginning this book are absolutely invaluable for any knitter, regardless of whether they are wool-users or not, because of the breakdown of fiber types, sources, manufacturing processes, substitutions, and so on. Most pattern books won’t delve into these topics because the emphasis is not on the materials used, but on the design itself.

The first chapter deals with fiber types, the second with substitutions, and the third with swatching—what Singer impishly renames “Geeky Thing”, from Get to Know You (as in getting to know your yarn). Together, they comprise the bulk of what really makes this book stand out—a guide to the rest of the fiber world. (My favorite parts dealt with the different sources and types of silk yarn. Who knew that domesticated silk moths can’t fly?)

So, it’s hard to find material put into an easy to handle volume. What else?

The writing style. Singer’s words are fun, informal, and take what could be a reinterpretation of a term paper and turn it into something definitely enjoyable. She’s a little flippant sometimes. She veers from the subject at hand by throwing in details about herself, her friends, her yarn obsession. What keeps the book coherent is the strength of Singer’s voice: she’s having a conversation with you, and the book sounds that way.

The patterns included have as their greatest strength that they are written for anything but wool. For someone who has been frustrated with the lack of patterns available for anything but acrylic, or has known the woes of trying to substitute yarn and failing, I’m sure that these patterns will be a godsend. All the bases are covered: For women there are three cardigans, a shell, hat, shawl, top, two coats, scarf, bag, collar, and four pullovers. For men there are patterns for a vest (waistcoat), a casual pullover, and a gansey. Filling out the repertoire are patterns for thrummed mittens and two different sock styles.

The designs are nice. Classic. Wearable. Things pretty much anyone would feel comfortable having in their closet. From what I can tell of the measurements, the finished bust measurements on the various patterns for women range from 31″-59″, the one exception being a deep v-neck robe/coat which goes up to a 64″ bust. For those of us who are tall or long-waisted, several of the patterns may need some alteration to keep them from being crop-tops, but other than that, they look good to go.

My one criticism is actually a praise: Update the book! So many new yarns and new fibers have broached the knitting scene; people should be made aware of them. I’m sure that some of the yarns suggested for the patterns are no longer manufactured either. Plus, no patterns are included for children. Popular colors have shifted some since this book was released, and a few more years may leave the designs looking slightly out-of-vogue. So please, update! Let’s have a No More Sheep For You 2 hit the shelves and continue to explore the wonderful world of alternative fibers which Singer has made so easily accessible.

Happy Knitting!

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