Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Like PB and J

Erudite Mondays at Half Soled Boots
Volume 8 Number 3
by Jane Gottelier

This beautiful book came last week, and I loved it at first sight. In Knitting and Tea, Jane and Patrick Gottelier celebrate two of the more potent "antidotes to modern-day stress" in a blend of lush photos, serene text, sumptuous recipes, and inspirational patterns.

The first three chapters contain some really gorgeous pictures, taken by Patrick Gottelier, of Sri Lanka's high-altitude tea plantations. Patrick's father was an English tea planter in Ceylon, as it was then called, so the authors bring a wealth of interest and knowledge to the book. There are little snippets throughout the pages, such as "Five Golden Rules for Making the Perfect Cup of Tea", from the Tea Factory, in Newara Eliya, Sri Lanka. (All five of which, by the way, I was very proud to see that I already religiously observe.)

After flipping through to look at the knitting photos (of course), I started quickly scanning the text, but within a few short moments I had to get up to put the kettle on - I was compelled - and realised it would be a mistake to rush. This book is best experienced slowly, and quietly...I waited to finish reading it until my children were absorbed in watercolour paints.

Sometimes I wonder how well it works when a book attempts to combine two or three different things - in this case tea, knitting patterns, and recipes. I've seen some books that definitely fall flat, after overextending themselves. Here, it works beautifully. When you take the time to actually read the thing, it comes together very well. The authors bring a lot - their lovely pictures, their working knowledge of tea, and considerable knitting chops.
The Garden Jacket - I've always wanted to knit a trowel.

I am having a hard time picking a favourite. I'm inclined to say the Garden Jacket, but then the Boy's Planter's Vest is just too delightful - I think my daughter needs that to go with the corduroy knickerbockers I just made her. But then, the Biker's Jacket wins for wearability, I think.
Boy's Fair Isle Planter's Vest - too wonderfully Beatrix Potter NOT to make.

The Biker's Jacket - I want this.

On the subject of the knitting patterns, I have two little criticisms. The first is, the authors have not included any chatty intros for the patterns, and I find myself missing them. I like those glimpses into inspiration and execution. Those notes, which are so common now, are second only to photos in the list of things that will incite me to cast on a particular project.

Cricket Blazer - Love. It.

The second criticism is a bit more important - there is a spotty incidence of charts. The cabled trowel and fork designs on the Garden cardy are charted, but the cover design, a heavily-cabled men's cricket blazer, is written out line by line. What on earth?
The Swirl Tablecloth - pretty, beaded, elegant, and.....chart-free.

Some people (Karen and Kate) won't care about the lack of charts, but other people (Me) will find it hard to overcome. I think I'd probably end up doing up my own chart, especially if I were to knit one of the overall patterns, such as the cover model, or Summer House.
Summer House is made from laceweight merino and sequins.

Those two issues aside, there is one thing that really impressed me - the sizing. There is a great range of sizes - there is something for busts from 30" all the way to 53".
Ceylon Cardigan - delicate in fingering-weight alpaca.

If you get a chance to look through this book, do take it. You won't get the full impression of it by standing in the bookstore flipping through, but it'll be a treat for you all the same - a little moment of calm beauty. If you do read it, let me know what you think.

HSB Book Rating System
Knitting and Tea gets:

Reread: Yes
Given to Others: Yes
Bookplate: Yes


Jadekitty said...

This is going on my list to find at the library :)
Thanks for the great review!

kate said...

Great review - this book is perfect for you, hey!

The Biker's Jacket would look awesome on you, and I am drawn to that Cricket Cardigan - I've been wanting to do a side to side cardy for a while. And you're right, the lack of charts is not a bother to me :)

Gwen said...

The knitting is nice, but what I really want to know is this: Is the model on the front cover available?

Gena said...

Great review! It sounds like a really wonderful book, and I know someone who would just love it.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Since getting to know you I notice books about knitting now, even have been found in the knitting section of book stores glancing through the pictures. It started with Ruby's sweaters and now I just look for the sheer pleasure of it. This book looks wonderful and I cast my vote with the Bikers Jacket as well. Also, I'm in love with tea. Right now I'm in the States and here they know how to make Ice Tea ... something that Canadians have never done well ...

lizbon said...

As usual, I love the review, but I don't think I'd buy that book. Several of the women's designs are pretty square-shaped (the Cricket Cardigan looks a lot like some of the bad jackets I remember from the 80s). But then, I am in a piss poor mood lately, so what do I know about the tenor of knitville?

knititch said...

oh i hate when charts are missing. it makes me tired even before i have started. i also find that very annoying in barbara walkers two first treasuries.

the book looks great. and thanks for your nice comment on my blog.