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Entree to Entrelac

Beyond the Basics Entrelac

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Entree to Entrelac

Entree to Entrelac by Gwen Bortner.

XRX Books.

A lot of the entrelac knitting patterns that are out there use pretty basic shapes and stitches, which is great for making the technique accessible to knitters of all skill levels, but not so interesting once you've worked a few flat rectangle projects.

Gwen Bortner has lots of ideas for different ways to use entrelac in knitting projects, from working it on point to make a bag to using it in the yoke of a sweater or as an allover pattern on just about anything. Her book Entree to Entrelac: The Definitive Guide from a Biased Knitter offers tons of instructions and patterns to take entrelac beyond the basic Stockinette Stitch rectangle.

About the Book

  • Pages: 160
  • Binding: paperback
  • Number of patterns: 35
  • Skill level: 4 easy, 8 easy +, 13 intermediate, 1 intermediate +, 8 experienced and 1 advanced
  • Sizes: range depending on the project; some are sized from child to 2X, others small to XXL or 2X, still others extra small to 3X
  • Illustrations: full color photographs and charts, technique is illustrated with drawings
  • Knitting lessons: the basics of entrelac are explained and a section in the back of the book briefly covers a wide range of knitting techniques and offers an at-a-glace look at the basic components of entrelac
  • Publication date: August 2010

Knitting with a Slant

Entree to Entrelac, despite the name, is not really a book I'd give to a new entrelac knitter. Bortner is obviously very skilled at -- and obsessed with! -- this technique, and she's sharing a lot of what she knows in her book.

That's wonderful, of course; it's always great when someone amasses a lifetime of knowledge and shares it with others. But all that wisdom can be a little intimidating to someone just starting out in the craft.

There are good instructions for basic entrelac knitting, but even the way the book is formatted could be intimidating to some knitters, given that things like how to pick up stitches, weave in ends and knit backward are covered before it's even explained how to make an entrelac block.

One thing that is seriously cool about this section, though, is the explanation of how to work purl-side increases and decreases in reverse, so theoretically you'd never have to turn your work to knit entrelac successfully.

Each chapter of the book adds a little bit of complexity to the basic entrelac rectangle, starting with simple shapes and moving on to building in different directions, using color, making reversible entrelac and beyond.

Each technique is illustrated with a sample block the knitter new to that technique can try (in the end you can make a sampler baby blanket), and just working these blocks would be a lot of fun. I'm not a huge fan of the project that used the argyle technique, for instance, but could still have fun working the block and maybe using it as the front of a bag.

The Patterns

Thirty-five patterns, ranging from basics like a coffee sleeve, cell phone case and small bags to intricate sweaters, socks and throws, are included in Entree to Entrelac. Many of the patterns offer different sizing or style options, such as a hat, mittens and sweaters sized for nearly everyone in the family. Sweaters are shown worked without sleeves, or with long, short and three-quarter sleeves, or in a plainer style and with a cable thrown in to some blocks.

All of that is great, especially for knitters who want to feel like they're making some choices even as they follow a pattern.

But another thing that might be a bit dizzying for newer entrelac knitters is the vast array of charts in this book. The charts are shaded to indicate different colors, have arrows to show the direction of knitting, and have different colored squiggles for live stitches, picked up stitches, bind offs and more.

All of this is no doubt incredibly useful, especially to visual knitters who love charts, but it's also sure to be downright intimidating to someone who's never knit entrelac before.

Some of my favorite patterns include:

  • Harlequin Slippers, basically large socks that are felted (and sized from toddler to large adult
  • Spruce and Ivy, a pretty allover entrelac shell that uses units of decreasing size to shape the armholes and neck
  • the pretty Watercolor Coat, a trapeze style jacket with an entrelac skirt worked with two strands in two colors to make an ombre effect
  • the interesting Color Sampler Messenger Bag, featuring a felted body from which stitches are picked up to knit the flat, worked in three-color patterns in entrelac
  • Cables & Lace, with is worked as both a scarf and a throw in alternating blocks of a reversible cable and faggoting lace (I particularly like the mohair throw version)
  • the really cute Baby Gingham, the only pattern in the book labeled "advanced," which is a little raglan sweater with a gingham style entrelac front that also incorporates Seed Stitch

Bottom Line

Entree to Entrelac is a detailed, inventive book clearly written by someone who is passionate about entrelac and has spent a lot of time learning its secrets. That said, it's also likely to go over the heads of knitters who are completely or even relatively new to the technique, so proceed with caution if you fall into one of those camps.

But if you've knit a few entrelac projects before and are ready to try something new, this could well be the book for you. Especially if you like the idea of turning entrelac on its side, adding color, texture or other design elements, even the somewhat mind-boggling prospect of double-knit entrelac.

The book also includes a section on designing with entrelac, which takes knitters through the process used on a simple cardigan design and offers great advice on measuring for gauge and how to combine regular knitting with entrelac in the same project.

All of that and more can be found in this book, and adventurous knitters who are fond of entrelac are sure to become even more obsessed when they see all the ways Bortner uses it.

Publisher's website

Pattern corrections

Projects on Ravelry

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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