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Book Review: Beyond Wool: 25 Knitted Projects Using Natural Fibers by Candace Eisner Strick

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Beyond Wool by Candace Eisner Strick collects 25 knitting patterns that utilize yarns other than the standard acrylic or wool. The chapters are divided by fiber: mohair, alpaca and llama, cashmere, silk, angora, qiviut, cotton, and linen and hemp. Each chapter opens with a detailed description of what each fiber is, how it is harvested and spun into yarn, and what properties it has (i.e. if it is warm and fluffy, if it is lightweight and slinky, etc) so that you can better choose an appropriate pattern.

The patterns are sadly uninspired. The best part of the book is reading about the different fibers.

“Boucle Swing Coat” is a large, shapeless structure. It hangs down to the knees, and despite being knit with a selection of lightweight fibers (silk and mohair, mostly), it looks like the hem is heavy and dragging the whole piece down. The riot of hand painted yarn in fall colors doesn’t help things.

“Clouds of Purple Shawl” is a lovely, light mohair shawl – there is just nothing interesting or exciting about it. It is a small, basic shawl – no lace, no detailing, no embellishments.

“Edelweiss Jacket” is boxy, shapeless, and generally unflattering, with a single gold clasp at the neckline. “Cornflower Cardigan” is similar in shape, but knit with a chevron lace pattern that makes it more feminine. “Blue Sky Mittens and Hat” are a red, black, and silver set with chevron designs.

I do like the “Llama Cables,” a mock turtleneck with a simple, all-over, interlocking cables-and-ribs design. “Razor Shell Shawl” is light and airy, with a trim of lace. “Caroline’s Sweater” is an unshaped pullover, but it looks cozy and the scalloped hem gives it a bit of style.

“Magic Colors Silk Stole” has a simple square lace pattern and ruffled edge. It was designed specifically to work with Magic Ball yarn to get that ombre color change. “White Winter Pullover” is made with a fuzzy angora-blend in a sweet diamond pattern. “Smocked Vest” is just plain ugly – it is a big, boxy shape – more like a tabard split down the center – and it ties up at the neck.

All in all, this is a fairly lackluster pattern collection.

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