A few months ago, The Ladies of Mischief asked me to review their new book, Needles and Artifice.
I’ve waited until now to write my review because I wanted to be able to review it, not only as a reader, but as a someone who had knitted one of the projects. Here I go…
A knitting book with swashbuckling style and panache
This book really has style. It’s completely unlike any other book of knitting patterns I’ve ever seen. It has mood, drama, and a story to tell.
I like the homage this book pays to Steam Punk. What’s more, I like how unapologetic it is about doing so. It doesn’t try to sell these patterns as “for nerds.” The patterns are simply presented as beautiful things. As art.
There’s more than one project I would be delighted to make and wear.
This book has good variety. There are a few “out-there” projects that are mostly just fun to look at. But the majority of the projects look like something I could wear without fear. Like this top. I could see myself wearing this with jeans, minus the heavy eye makeup and the fancy rifle.
And there are many more patterns I would just like to knit because they’re awesome
There are several patterns in this book that I would have trouble finding an excuse to wear. I only go to GenCon once a year, after all. But I’m so happy these patterns exist that I don’t care about petty things like usefulness.
I LOVE that this book has patterns for sexy knitted corset covers. Their use of cables is flirtatious as all get out. We need more edgy patterns to challenge our notions of what knitwear is and what it can be.
The short story doesn’t add much
If you pick up a copy of this book, one thing you’ll notice right away is that the authors have included a short story. There are chapters scattered throughout the book. I was going to say that I don’t get why the authors included it, but that wouldn’t be true. I get why they did it. The authors are paying homage to the Steam Punk genre. They wanted to use this book and their patterns to tell a Steam Punk story. They do this beautifully with the patterns, photography, and overall aesthetic. In fact, these things are so compelling that I found the written story kind of annoying, just extra pages I had to turn to get to the good stuff.
I’ve seen books that have done what the authors of Needles and Artifice were trying to do. A good example is White House Chef, a fascinating memoir liberally sprinkled with tantalizing recipes. In that book, the memoir was the primary attraction…the recipes were a delicious bonus. They were something you could skip or scan over easily. They did not distract from the story. With Needles and Artifice, the main attraction was the patterns and the photos, no question. The story, while it may have merit, gets in the way.
My advice: Keep the patterns primary. If you want to include some story, how about short intros at the beginning of each pattern. Or a short story included at the end of the book or offered as a free download.
The Warm & Tingley Mitts
As part of my review, I felt it was important to not only react to the text and presentation of the book, but to also try one of the patterns. This is lovely book withe gorgeous layout, but that only gets you so far…
I’m very happy to say that my experience knitting from one of the patterns in this book went well. I knitted the Warm & Tingley Mitts. If found the pattern and charts very clear and easy to follow.
This pattern featured an afterthought thumb. Up until now, I have avoided anything labeled “afterthought” in patterns. Pockets, heels, thumbs, neck holes: you name it, I avoided it. I thought of these as “a-holes.”
I decided to face my fear with this pattern. I thumb wrestled these mitts into submission, consulting no resources other than the instructions provided by this pattern.
I love a-holes. I can’t wait to do more of them.
That sounded wrong, didn’t it?
The Bottom Line
This is a wonderful little book…well, medium-sized book. The patterns are a lot of fun. The authors aren’t afraid to take chances and experiment. There are patterns for everybody here. You can appreciate their artistry even if you aren’t into Steam Punk cosplay. I hope to see more books like this in the coming years.