Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lily Chin's Knitting Tips and Tricks

Review Month at HalfSoledBoots
Volume 10, Number 4

by Lily Chin

This book has me at a bit of a standstill. I don't want to need it but, gallingly, I think I might.

Let me explain.

Lily Chin seems like an interesting character. She's quite keen to impart her knowledge to those of us so unfortunate as to not be able to take one of her 'popular', 'instant-sellout' tips and techniques classes. I raised an eyebrow at her assertion that many of the tips are not common knowledge, but "have become more popular, I'm sure, as a result of the classes that I have taught almost every month since 1994. Word gets around. Thus, some things may be familiar to you..."

That slightly patronising little gem is on the second page of text. The first page looks like this.

I have such a hate-on for this trend - outsize fonts in mid-page.

But then, just as I had defiantly decided there wouldn't be anything truly necessary in the book (I'm reactive, what can I say), she came out with two really useful bits of information. One was a little page on knitting with ribbon yarn, which has been the stuff of my nightmares for some time now. I've got a Clapotis in the works, using ribbon yarn, and it's frustrating me so much I'm afraid I'll go off in an apoplexy. Lily advises me to sew the yarn ends together with needle and thread...not to weave in the ends...and it's so obvious I can't believe I didn't see it before. She also advises me to set up my yarn ball on a knitting needle axis, so it behaves like toilet paper. Huge reduction in twisting.

The second useful thing was her explanation of combination knitting, and exactly WHY, when I knit stockinette using the continental method, my purl rows are almost always a little looser. It's a matter of yarn path, it turns out, and it's fixable. I'm going to try combination knitting in the new year and see if I can't retrain myself.

I haven't read the whole thing, and I'm sure that I'll find a lot more techniques to improve my knitting skills. I don't ever have to reread the first two pages, after all, so they won't be a long-term issue. I'm actually looking forward to reading the rest of it, and finding out what else I didn't know I didn't know.

Overall I like this book, and it will live on my shelf despite its off-putting, annoying-fonted first pages. I give Chin credit for the knowledge she has amassed, but, as a final note, I do take humorous issue with the following. I can think of so many adjectives to describe this piece of advice, including "incongruous", "laughable", "amateur", and "outrageous".

And to that an extreme "WTF?!"

It's not perfect, but it'll be useful. It's small - a good knitting-bag size. It comes from one of the most respected designers (and Vogue-appointed Master Knitters) in the textile world, and most knitters will need what's in this book, one way or another.

Lily Chin's Knitting Tips & Tricks gets:
Reread: Yep
Given to Others: Probably
Book plate: Why not.


A Note: Lily has also published "Crochet Tips & Tricks". If I were a crocheter, I would actually buy that book just on the strength of this one. Bound to be good stuff in there.


kate said...

Oh lordy, I almost fell off my chair laughing at the colouring-in page!!!!

Shan said...

I know. I would have written that page thusly:

"If you don't know how to knit with two colors across the row, often referred to as Fair Isle, learn."

lizbon said...


And yes, thusly. Sheesh. As to the first two pages, I wonder if it's at all possible to become famous in any sphere without starting to believe in one's own PR. Sigh.

Gwen said...

Even I, your loving sister who can barely knit a dishcloth, know that markers belong in the kindergarten room, and not on one's sweater. Can you image my Mamlukes made with Scentsations? Cripes.

Cynthia said...

This is really classic Lily Chin. She knows so much, but she's so wrapped up in being a wunderkind -- though of course she's been one for so many years that she hardly qualifies any longer. It sounds like a useful book but a hard one to love.

Brenda said...

Interesting the reation we all have to dear Lily, I thought it was just me! That being said, I'm curious about the combination knitting, as a continental knitter who also finds purled stitches looser. I think there are many others who write about/teach this technique as well, doesn't Annie Modesitt have a bood about it?

Ames said...

Gives a whole new meaning to "place marker".

Dave Hingsburger said...

WHEN YOU ARE AS WONDERFUL AS I it is IMPORTANT that everyone know it AND FONTS are a good way to SHOW IT. it's like COLOURING in WORDS

freedomnan said...

Do tell me that she is not really colouring in stitches.

Shan said...

You people are hilarious. "Place marker", that's just priceless.

Gwen, your Mamlukes would look charming done by marker. It would be like connect the dots on wool.

Dave, I am going to be laughing for a long time about that.

Brenda, Annie Modesitt does have a book about it but I haven't looked at it.

Gena said...

Oh. My. For the love of wool, why would anyone actually color on their sweaters?!? Just learn a new technique.

Still, Lily does have some gems of knowledge, but I suppose some patience is required to wade through the rest.

mel said...

I am not generally a very snarky person. But man did this bring it out in me!! Having heard a story of blatant mean-ness from a knitter I know & love (and one not inclined to drama), prejudice kicked in and I got a little fired up when I saw your header. And then went on to have a good laugh. The coloring of the stitches? That was so far beyond the realm of my understanding (and not in the good way) that I had to sit on it for a couple minutes (Markers? What are the markers for? Does she mean for the reader to plot a design on that graphic?) before I understood that she actually meant to color your knitted stitches. Gah! To think I'll never be a real knitter because I haven't gotten off on the right foot. Missed the boat. But then, I like to knit. I'm much better at knitting than coloring. OMG. I am stopping RIGHT NOW. Thank you as always for your humorous writing and insight - this had me in stitches! And actually considering a book that I would likely throw against a wall...

Anonymous said...

Cynthia said it best, about book and author: " love." Thanks, Shan, for this review.
- Beth