Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Review of Kate Davies' Bold Beginner Knits

Popular knitwear designer Kate Davies has turned her attention to beginners for her latest pattern book. Not just beginners though - bold beginners who already can cast on and off, knit and purl, increase and decrease plus knit in the round.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Davies trailed the patterns online over a few weeks to encourage pre-orders for £15 including free postage and packing. Although I would describe myself as an intermediate-level knitter I bought one for myself, attracted by the prospect of simplish patterns that look more complicated than they actually are!

The paperback book contains six patterns, which are:

Corryvreckan

Slipped-stitches create graphic waves on this three-colour hat.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
There's a very handy chart in colour to explain when to slip stitches and after reading the pattern the design certainly looks more difficult to knit than it actually is. I'm not sure though when I was a beginner I could have managed knitting in the round, changing colours and slipped stitches all at the same time.

Upstream

You've practiced on the hat, now transfer those skills to knitting the jumper Upstream (which surprisingly is before Corryvreckan in the book).

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Upstream is knitted from the bottom up, meaning that jumper-knitting newbies will get to practice their stocking stitch until they reach the more complicated part of adding in the sleeves and knitting the yoke. Again there's a very helpful coloured chart.

Footfall

Is it a scarf or is it a wrap? The beauty of this one-size design is that it can be either.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
However the construction of triangular shawl knitting is new to me and, combined with the lace design and reading from the chart, I think a beginner would have to be extremely bold to attempt to knit Footfall. Perhaps it's a pattern to try last once you've conquered the other five.

Skep

I love the colours in the blanket and its modern, hexagonal design.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
It's garter stitch only and each of the 36 hexagons are knitted individually before being sewn together in strips and then the strips together to form the blanket. The pattern is relatively simple.

Midstream

One size fits all (hopefully, though not me being rather short) for this textured shrug.  The pattern requires knowledge of the three-needle bind-off technique and the ability to follow a chart.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Again, this pattern requires a very bold beginner to follow the rectangle construction which is then folded, secured and a border added.

Downstream

I've saved my favourite pattern until last. Downstream is the reason I bought Bold Beginner Knits. I have some aran yarn in my stash and can see me getting a lot of wear out of this cardigan, with or without a decorative safety pin at the front to hold it together.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Davies says you can knit Downstream with or without the stripes. It's knitted from the top down and there are five sizes to choose from.

What's the verdict?

It's a beautifully-photographed, well set out book with a foreward from Davies herself who says that learning to work from a chart is important in expanding your knitterly horizons.

The book was inspired by Davies' friend and employee Jane Hunter (the model in Bold Beginner Knits) who had taught herself to knit but was unsure how to progress from the basics. Davies believes that beginners shouldn't be put off by patterns that look difficult, "even if a project seems beyond your skill level, you are more likely to surprise yourself with your own resourcefulness and ingenuity in the face of knitterly frustration than you are likely to every truly fail."

Davies places great importance on swatching and finding the right needle size for your tension. Therefore she doesn't give needle sizes to use but rather specifies 'gauge' and 'below' gauge where you might be expecting 4mm and 3.25mm. Not great if you usually skip swatching and hope for the best but it's certainly a good habit to get into.

This is not a book for absolute beginners, I'd recommend that they start with Pom Pom Press's Knit How, but it's certainly a reasonably-priced one for bold beginners and intermediate knitters to add to their collection.

Lastly, a word about the yarn specified for the patterns.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
All the patterns in Bold Beginner Knits use Davies own aran-weight yarn Ard Thir, a blend of 60% Peruvian wool and 40% alpaca. I've not seen the yarn myself and it certainly sounds good quality but at £8 per 50g skein it's not cheap. Beginners may not want to spend that much (for example Downstream requires 12 skeins) if they're not sure they'll be able to complete the project to a wearable standard.

Cheaper alternatives could include West Yorkshire Spinners' Aran Bluefaced Leicester wool, at £8.69 per 100g skein, or Blacker Yarns' Limited Edition Tor Lanlavery Aran, currently on special offer at £6 per 100g skein.

Which is your favourite pattern in Bold Beginner Knits? Tell us in the comments section below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page

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