Monday, January 18, 2010

REVIEW: The Alchemy of Color Knitting.

By Gina Wilde. She's a co-owner and the creative director of Alchemy Yarns. So when I heard this book was being written, I was psyched. 'Cause, as we know, I'm all about color around here, and the more of it the better. I spotted this in the book store last night and nearly leapt upon it, giggling with glee. Coming home, I holed up in the bedroom to read in (near) peace and see what Gina has to say about color.

As it turns out, well, she didn't say enough to please me. Don't get me wrong. There's a good bit of information about color in there. She's got a couple pages on the color wheel and matching things and NOT matching them, and all that. It's a very good basic introduction to working with color. For those of you who are at a loss as to where to start, when it comes to that sort of thing, it's a fine book. But for me, who has probably hit 'intermediate' or higher in terms of color theory, dye, and all that, I was left wanting more. Wilde just barely touches on the mystical aspects of colors, relating them to the five elements (earth, air, fire, water, and metal, the ancient Chinese system). On one page she discusses the color red and its meanings in culture around the world. But she only does it for red. I'd have cheerfully paid another five or ten bucks for another hundred pages of information along those lines. Wilde is extremely educated on this subject and has many, MANY things to teach the rest of us. And that's before we even start on the dyeing aspect of it - which she's also highly educated about.

The patterns are interesting. There are a few techniques that, while not new, she explains well and uses in interesting ways. Final count: 3 scarves, five wraps and shawls, five pullovers, five cardis, a tank top, a skirt, a hat, a pair of gloves, socks, a bag, and a set of baskets. Detailing, especially on the cardigans and pullovers, is very nice.

I'm of two minds about the yarns used. All the yarns are Alchemy Yarns, which, okay, why not use your yarns when you write a book? I would. But with the exception of the socks (knit with 100% merino), every yarn used in the book is either pure silk, or has a significant silk content, 30% and up. Sure, silk takes up color well, and looks positively glorious when dyed saturated hues. But flower pot baskets knit with wool/silk blend? Really? Alchemy Yarns does make yarns that don't contain silk, so I wonder why so much silk was used in the book; there were certainly alternatives that would still use Alchemy yarns. Silk can be limiting for the knitter, because it makes everything super-warm. And for a lot of knitters, the cost will be completely out of hand and they'll have to either substitute or not knit the project. (Bamboo, cotton, flax/linen, and hemp are all decent alternatives.)

Bottom line? It's a good book. You'll get your money's worth from the patterns alone (if you pay full price for the book, it comes out to a buck a pattern; a positive bargain). But considering the author, you'll probably be left wishing for more color information.


Nalamienea said...

It's a beautiful book cover and now that I know what to expect, I'll be sure to peruse and not get too excited. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a recent slide show by Kaffe Fassett - the slides were beautiful, the colors breathtaking, but he didn't say anything about "how" he chooses colors! I was left feeling there should have been more. Oh, well, it is "his" art and perception and talent - and how does one explain that?
Beverly in CA

Amy Lane said...

Oooo... the spiritual aspects of color! Now THAT I could get down with! said...

interesting. I'm surprised about the heavy use of silk for such practical patterns. I'd never make a pot holder out of anything with ANY silk in it. I'm not rich you know!

What do you know about the spirtual aspects of colour? Wanna share your knowledge? I know very little.

Donna Lee said...

I think adding more about color around the world and the spiritual aspects of color would be interesting as well. I can put some colors together and I know what I like about them but it would be interesting to know WHY I like them.

emy said...

I am surprised if you should consider silk being warm. In fact, silk's cooling to wear in warm weather -- we use that a lot in Singapore.

But I would agree to silk/wool blend being warm though.