Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nicky Epstein's Knitting in Circles blog tour

When I was asked recently to take part in the blog tour being organised for Nicky Epstein's latest book, I perused my book shelves and realised that even without this new publication, I own 7 of Nicky's books. This got me to wondering, why so many? And the reason I came up with is because her books are a wonderful combination of techniques, inspiration and awe inspiring design.  Which brings me neatly to her latest book "Knitting in Circles" published by Potter Craft.

 And this book is no exception, with 100 circular knitting patterns to experiment with, the inspiration to be gained from its pages is breath-taking. As with all of Nicky's books, all the techniques used are explained clearly and illustrated particularly well. Each circle pattern has both written and charted instructions backed up by added information explaining its construction. Nicky also provides lots of additional information on sizing, shaping, joining and much more.

So what exactly is knitting in circles. Its most obvious use is in circular shawls, however the circles can be constructed from the outer edge, from the centre out, as wedges worked backwards and forwards, sideways, even as spirals. Also known as circular medallion knitting, this particular type of knitting was extremely popular in both the 18th and 19th centuries when circular medallions were used as bonnet backs or linked together for bed spreads. Mary Thomas talks about medallion knitting at length in her Book of Knitting Patterns first published in 1943. I also found the pattern for a beautiful bedspread created by medallions in The Encyclopaedia of Needlework by Th de Dillmont, a much earlier publication. Montse Stanley and June Hemmons Hiatt both cover knitting circles in their books too. However, Nicky's book really explains what you are doing and why, so that you grow in knowledge as you work from the book.

And if you are not sure how to use these knitted circles, Nicky has also created a beautiful collection of patterns all using circles. There are a wide range of projects in the book, but three in particular caught my eye.

The first, the Rotunda Cape is cleverly formed from one huge circle and is constructed using short rows in a very similar way to my own Shrimpton Collarette which will finally be released as a single pattern next month!

The next project I particularly like is the Hoopla Bag. It has great make do and mend potential as odd balls of yarn can be used to make each circle. The way the bag is constructed also reminded me of a vintage pattern I had failed to reconstruct several years ago, and looking at Nicky's fantastically clear construction diagram, I can now see where I went wrong!

Another project I fell in love with is the Circle Sampler Afghan. I don't know if I would wear it myself but it is a remarkable garment.

The colour scheme, the shape and the drape have a real early 20th century feel to them. There are echos of Paul Poirot, Lanvin and Mme Vionette. I could see one of The House of Elliot girls curled up in this in their London flat, wearing it with coordinating silk pyjamas and a stunning pair of ear rings of course! I also love that you could so easily put your own stamp on this by changing the order of the circles or even completely changing which circle pattern you choose to knit.

So, how do you get a copy of this beautiful, inspirational book? It can be purchased via the GMC website OR you can enter my competition to win a copy. GMC have generously provided one copy to be won by one lucky reader. If you would like a chance to win, please leave a comment on the blog answering this question:

Which era do you feel deserves the title the 'golden age of knitting' and why?

To help you along, here is Nicky's own response to the same question:

Ours..right now!...It was the forties when the world noticed, Fairisle, Aran, Estonian knitting etc. People knitted for economic and functional reasons…Today we knit for pleasure, relaxation and to create fashionable designs that express our individual sense of style.

The closing date for entries will be midnight (UK) on Thursday 4th October and I will choose and announce one winner in a random draw on Friday 5th October. Please make sure you include your email address when you post your comment so that I can get in touch with you if you win.

To read more about Nicky's book and for more chances to win a copy do pop by the other blogs taking part in the tour, which are:

27th Sept – Knitting Institute  
1st Oct – Cut Out + Keep  
2nd Oct – Make and Craft  
3rd Oct – Black Cat Originals  
4th Oct – Jessica Biscoe  
5th Oct – Jo Simmonds  
8th Oct – Kate Heppell  
9th Oct – Alix Beech  
10th Oct – ConnieLene Johnston  

Good luck,
Ruby xx


SBW said...

Before I'd read Nicky's answer, my immediate reaction was 'right here, right now.' Not just because of the range of knitting going on but the remarkable sense of community it brings. And the knitting activisism. I could go on, but right now knitting is vibrant, influential and bang on trend.

Anonymous said...

There's no doubt that our range of tools and materials is greater than at any other time, and so our possibilities of creation are greater too, but I still think that the nineteenth century was the golden age. A time when hand knitting was a necessity for many, not just a lifestyle choice, and yet the knitters chose not just to be functional but develop a wide range of beautiful patterns.

Woolly Wormhead said...

I need to buy this book... I've read Mary Thomas's chapter on knitting medallions countless times - knitting circles in their various forms is something everyone should try.

Can't wait to read Nicky's perspective on knitted circles!

And to answer the question - I'd agree, the golden age is right now. We are constantly learning and developing, bringing together the knowledge of the past with the inspiration of the present.

Chrissy said...

I wish I knew more about the history of knitting, but even knowing the little I do, I feel that we are currently living a golden age of knitting. Never before have so many techniques and traditions been exchanged to easily around the world. We are able to search and find new ways of performing techniques. We have never had so many talented designers accessible to so many people. While we may be drowning in things to try, we at least have the option of choosing what style to knit and how to knit it.

LindaR said...

Athough I love knitting now, I think the Forties was the golden age. Make Do and Mend meant every last scrap of yarn was used wisely. They were so inventive, out of necessity. Don't know how they managed without Ravelry though!

Johnston4kids said...

The availability to instruction, patterns, yarns, etc. have changed so much even since I began knitting 20 years ago to help one learn and grow so quickly that now is a great answer. But the image of women knitting in the fields with the sheep, being involved in the process from start to finish...something so idyllic sticks in my mind as "golden".
Thanksfor a chance to win.

Fine Lightness said...

My Grandmother's time, the 1940s, was a lovely period from what I gather. And I am happy to live now, knitting has its place and I like that! There a so many gorgeous ideas about these days.

Taloferia said...

Wow, the cover of that book is so beautiful!
Like others, my immediate answer, even before reading Nicky's, was 'now'. I could make an argument for other eras as well (particularly ones in which knitting was taught in school). But we have such access to materials, patterns, and tutorials now that I have to say this present time is a really great one to be a knitter.

Tallulah said...

While I was reading the question, I thought of the Second World War, when it seems everybody was knitting to support troops, and the periods just before and after it. But then, reading Nicky's answer, I have to agree with her - never before in history there has been so much available, and media through which to access patterns and tutorials, and even to contact other knitters. Thank you for the giveaway!

Debbie said...

I would agree with Nicky. Right now, we have a tremondous amount of resources and tools. Thanks!

Susan said...

I think that ... there isn't a golden age! That is the beautiful thing about knitting, it binds the past and the present and the future altogether. I can stitch the exact same stitches someone from a hundred years ago stitched, in exactly the same way. That is so powerful and makes it so timeless!

Heather Leavers said...

For me, personally, it has to be right now. I've been knitting since the 60s but it's only in the last decade or so that I've really made knitting my own. It never occurred to me in the early years that a "ordinary" knitter could work off-piste, create from scratch and not use the same patterns as everybody else.

heather [at]

Anonymous said...

I don't know- maybe whenever I'm knitting in? I'm sure I'll still say the same thing in 20 or 40 years!

meppybn said...

Rats - forgot to leave my e-address so will repeat myself.
I think currently is certainly a golden era for design and technique development that has not been seen in earlier 'eras'. Each era though has led to the next and all have a part in where we are today - stunning designs like Nicky's where creativeness knows no bounds!

k1w1 at olypen dot com

fabriquefantastique said...

I think the 40s also....I loved knitting lots of those early patterns....also love 'found yarn' from thrift stores.

Susie Hewer said...

Well I've got all her other books so i'll probably be buying this one too!

I think each age of knitting has been the best it can be given resources of yarn, patterns, time and money. But I believe we are the luckiest knitters ever because we have the most amazing connectivity now.

This means that someone in the UK, who needs a little help understanding something, can ask a question on-line and receive replies from all over the world. We have yarns made of all manner of materials. Patterns can be sourced, gorgeous yarns sampled, ideas are sparked by viewing what others are making, designers are able to share their ideas with ease, knit-alongs joined and friendships formed. How amazing is that?!

This truly is the golden age of knitting and I'm glad I'm part of it!

elineof said...

It's so facinating to see what Epstein comes up with. She often has a take on knitting that is outside the box, but not too far outside! With all the different yarns we have now it is great to know that Nicky will show us ways to use it all!

Great blog by the way!

Bobbi said...

Nicky is right - the golden age is now. We have access to fibers, needles, notions, patterns, and education from all over the world. No matter what a person's style is, they can find clothing and accessories to suit them.