I first met Sandra McIver at the Visionary Retreat in 2010. This was my first Retreat, but certainly not Sandra's, as she was capping off years of work on her first book, knit, Swirl! Sandra was known to all but us first-timers for her stunning, captivating, sculptural sweaters, many of which were passed around, tried on and admired during the course of the Retreat.
On June 1st of this year, knit, Swirl! will be released to the world. I for one am ready for the Swirl revolution!
Uniquely Flattering One Piece, One Seam Swirl Jackets
2011, SeaStack Publishing
This book has me happily tossing out my notions of what I look for in a knitting book. I've always been content to consume my books in fast-food fashion: buy cheap, take them on the run, and buzz through them quickly, madly producing projects before really reading and digesting a word. While I have never knitted every design in a book, I have come close. My shelf is full of books that have been purchased and enjoyed in this way.
This is not one of those books.
Priced at $34.95, knit, Swirl! is a big, beautiful hardcover book. If the incredibly stunning cover photograph doesn't catch your attention, the accolades by some of the industry's heavy hitters is sure to pique your interest. This is a hotly anticipated book.
So for all of you fast-food type knitters who imagine going to your LYS, picking up the book and yarn and casting on on the drive home (I KNOW I'm not the only one who has done this), slow down. Breathe. This is a coffee table book of encyclopedic proportions. It needs to be slowly and calmly taken in. Give it some time. Book first, yarn later.
The allure of the Swirl is multifaceted. One piece, one seam construction certainly gets my attention. Having witnessed for myself the way that a single jacket can flatter so many figures, the "miracle sweater" moniker certainly fits. Sandra asks the knitter the throw away the notion that body circumference measurement dictates size, presenting instead a simple measurement that determines one's Swirl size. In addition, she gives styling options whereby a single figure may well fit all three sizes of a given Swirl jacket.
Swirls are separated into four silhouette categories based on their structural characteristics. Within each silhouette, she gives multiple variations on trim, fiber type, yarn weight and shaping. While overwhelming to pick a single favourite, the silhouette overview is an excellent starting point to assist you choosing your own perfect Swirl. With eighteen designs in all, it's a pretty safe bet there's one for all of us.
One gets the sense these garments have not been designed, but engineered. For those who see the circular form and assume these are more of those "circle with armholes" sweaters to which we've become accustomed, think again. Sandra has devoted years of study to bring us well past the "target sweater", and the improvement is nothing short of monumental.
Designs are presented in an array of yarns, some of them very decidedly on the high-end side. With a book of this style, it seems only fitting. Numerous notes are given on yarn substitution, which should help those on a more restrictive budget, but I feel more inclined to save up some stash cash and spring for something really special in a few months' time. It may take me that long to choose my Swirl!
Designers beware: this book is not a springboard to guide you in designing your own Swirl, nor does it claim to be. As an incorrigible tinkerer, I am guilty of modifying patterns to the point that the finished product is barely recognizable. Given the unique fabric produced by Swirl shaping, this has the potential to yield very unpredictable results. I think I'll let Sandra, the veteran, design my first Swirl on my behalf. I continue to thumb through my copy of the book almost nightly, and have still not determined which design that will be.
Swirl knitting is not about instant gratification. The initial cast-on of 500+ stitches alone guarantees that. As the knitting takes shape and the sweater grows inward, it begins to move more quickly. The reward for patience and trust will be a unique, stunning and inspiring garment. With incredibly detailed schematics, visually arresting photography and notes on wearing variations, you'll feel Sandra is with you every step of the way. And who better than the Swirl Sweater Engineer herself to help you along?