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Book Review: Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard

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Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard is subtitled “Unleash your inner designer with top-down and improvisational techniques.” Within it is a delightfully succinct way to say, “Here are a bunch of cool patterns. We are going to show you how to make the patterns, give you some ideas on customizing the patterns, and give you the basics for creating your own patterns from scratch.”

The book starts out with understanding how best to fit your shape. Understanding ease, taking proper measurements, and even how to create a model of your torso you can check your progress. Divided into five additional chapters which contain the projects, each chapter is broken down by type of project: top-down raglan sweaters, top-down set-in sleeve sweaters, round-yoke sweaters, designing on the fly (projects the author came up with “on the fly,” the process she went through to design the garments, and advice for coming up with your own projects), and elements to alter and advice for starting from scratch. Each pattern also includes suggestions for various ways to customize each project: change the neckline, the sleeve, the pattern, and adding detailing.

The “Indigo Playmate Jacket” is one of my favorite projects from this book. It resembles Hef’s smoking jacket, but girlier. This cozy cardigan hits at the hip and ties like a robe. The “Backward Cabled Pullover” features the traditional scoop neck in the back of the sweater, and a simple braided cable down the front center. The “Ingenue” is a good beginner sweater. A loose fit with a wide boatneck, long 3/4 length sleeve, and simple detailing on the cuffs, hem, and neck make this piece vaguely retro and very chic. The “Paradise Beach Cover-Up” would make an adorable dress, with it’s ribbed bodice, lace body, and short length.

I’m not crazy about the ruffled “Lion-Neck Cardigan,” which stays open in front, tying across the bust. And I am not sure how I feel about the “Not-A-Poncho City Cape” – it looks great on the model, but I don’t know if I could pull it off. Hitting at the hip and featuring buttons down the front, the cape includes slits to thread your arms through. “Tang” is a very simple, very basic, very boring turtleneck. It is included to offer knitters a basic canvas – different stitch patterns and necklines are encouraged.

While I’m not quite ready to step up and design sweaters from scratch myself (too much math involved – me and math do not mix), this book offers some great ideas for customization, which is something that I do feel comfortable tackling. And a lot of these patterns are adorable as-is.

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