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Book Review: Knitting in Tuscany by Nicky Epstein and Japanese Inspired Knits by Marianne Isager

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Knitters find inspiration in everything. One of the things that most inspires knitters is travel: exotic lands, new people, different cultures, and of course, native fashions.

One of the divas of modern knitting, Nicky Epstein, has a collection inspired by Italy entitled Knitting in Tuscany. While still a beautiful collection, I find the patterns in this book to be less wearable than many of her other efforts, and a lot seem derivative of her other works, utilizing motifs over and over (piecework shawls, for example, or large clusters of felted flowers).

The book, divided into chapters by region, also acts as a travelogue, offering shopping and accommodation tips, festivals in the area, trademark wines, recipes, and visits to local yarn factories and shops. Photos of Nicky throughout Tuscany are scattered throughout.

A selection of patterns: “Fresca Vest” has a beautifully-interpreted image of an Etruscan flute player, circa 450 BCE, knitted on to the front. Too bad the “vest” (more of a tabard) is oversized, shapeless, and wholly unflattering.

The “Cypress Capelet” is a simple, elegant capelet, shaped with subtle pleats. It just begs to be worn horseback riding. “Vineyard Bag” is a tiny heirloom-style purse with a grape motif on the front. Frankly, it looks a little childish.

“Bella Bride’s Dress” is a stunning crochet creation, meant to be worn over a slipdress. “Felted Etruscan Pitcher” is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. Based on Etruscan artifacts, it looks like a child’s handicraft that, at best, can be placed on a mantel – it obviously can’t hold water. “Medici Scarf” is a color-block scarf in royal hues with large, playful bobbles. “Siena Rooftop Sweater” is a zip-front hoodie with odd dimensions. It is too short, with very wide ¾ length sleeves, and a puffy ribbed texture.

Marianne Isager brings us knits from another part of the world: Japanese Inspired Knits. There are 12 patterns – one for each month of the year. Each pattern is inspired by traditional Japanese icons or styles of dress.

“Stone Garden Jacket” is a stylish wrap-front jacket with a pebbly cable pattern. “Winter in Tokyo” is a long tunic sweater with a diamond and stripe graphic pattern. It looks good, I promise.

More delicate is “The Fan,” a soft shawl-collared cardigan with a round, fan-inspired shape. “The Sun” is an 80s-styled sweater with graphic, shadow-striped sun patterns. “Rice Fields” is a zip-front jacket with a complex stranded-knitting pattern.

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