Monday, 28 August 2017

Book Review - Finishing School, A Master Class for Knitters

Finishing School, A Master Class for Knitters, by Deborah Newton:  New York, NY, Sixth and Spring Books, 2011, 164 pages, ISBN # 978-1-936096-19-0, $29.95.  Reviewed by Donna Estin. 

The best way to prove that professional finishing doesn’t need to be stuffy or boring is to add artistic flair and out-of-the-box creativity to the mundane.  Deborah Newton draws from her background in theatrical costume design to elevate finishing from tasks to art.  Edgings in a contrasting color, silk-lined pockets and zippers that stand out are not only possible but encouraged. 

The Dali Lama once said “learn the rules so you know how to break them.” Deborah Newton’s underlying advice throughout this book echoes this sentiment, with an added message... “in perfect execution.”  She acknowledges traditional guidelines and rules but never reveals them, preferring knitters to experiment through swatches in order to learn to read their own work.  This common sense approach is energizing, especially when color, flair and variety spill from the glossy pages.  Her ability to stimulate creativity in the midst of perfectly executed finishing makes you want to rummage through your sweaters and redo the edges.  

Before opening the book, pull up another chair because Ms. Newton will sit right next to you and talk you through all her tips.  This personable approach is filled with stories of past experiences, good and failed.  You have a trusted friend.  Half of the book is text and half filled with captivating, color photos that make you want to organize your supplies and buy more yarn. 

Finishing requires thought, planning and knowledge of garment function.  Sometimes you need to take a step back and think about the garment from many angles before deciding on a technique.  For knitters who have reached a plateau, the book shows you why your same old techniques may not be the best choices for every garment.  Bullet point tutorials sum up techniques that make quick references.  You’ll learn several ways to seam, when to use each and why.  Her explanation of the best buttonhole ever (compliments of Barbara Walker) is a game changer.  The art of finishing however isn’t limited to your ability to perfectly join a seam.  It encompasses your desire to transform your piece into a professional, runway-worthy garment.  This is where the added pizzazz comes into play.  She strikes a balance between finishing a garment properly and artistically. 

Educational, fashionable, encouraging and fun to read, this book includes over a dozen patterns and the thought process behind many of her Vogue Knitting designs.   Precise knitters will find ways to polish their techniques and bohemian knitters will delight in the creativity.   I loved learning new tricks and being encouraged to try different techniques.  I valued the art of finishing before this journey but came away energized and excited about the possibilities.  And isn’t that the goal of every how-to book?  To educated and elevate the reader’s skills while leaving them energized and excited?  After our long chat I said goodbye to Ms. Newton and ran my hands across the shiny hard cover.  This inspiring book is to be cherished and referred to often.

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