Nicky Epstein is well known for her love of embellishment in knitwear design, so it might seem funny that she'd take on the most basic design element out there: the square. But as you might imagine Knitting Block by Block: 150 Blocks fro Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans and More proves that basic doesn't have to be plain, offering a ton of embellishments, pattern stitches and ideas for elevating the block to something knitters of all skill levels will want to play with.
Knitting Block by Block is reminiscent of Epstein's other compendiums of basic and beyond-the-basic stitch patterns and techniques (such as the Edge series) in that it includes several sections of patterns arranged generally by skill level or technique.
"Basic Building Blocks," for example, starts out with the true basics of Garter Stitch, Stockinette and Seed Stitch, then moves on to some textured stitches, block built with basic increases and decreases, and blocks with frames around the edges to showcase a bit of embroidery or a textured stitch within.
Other sections showcase ornate embroidery, applique and cords; creative colorwork; special techniques like double knitting, entrelac and domino knitting; cables and counterpanes; and "eclectic" style, which includes highly embellished blocks featuring beads, corkscrews cascading off the block and other embellishments.
The blocks are showcased first in large full-color pictures, then a section with the patterns includes smaller pictures and written instructions as well as charts when needed.
These designs offer a lot for knitters to think about and are likely to inspire some projects, whether that's working a sample block as shown to try out, say, a diagonal cable that gets wider as it climbs up the block or designing a whole project based on one of the designs.
As if the block designs in Knitting Block by Block weren't enough, Epstein wants to further inspire knitters to think square by providing 13 patterns that use blocks of different sizes in their construction.
From the stunning Melange Counterpane Afghan, covered with bold textured designs, to the cropped, chunky cabled Tres Chic Pullover, these designs show the wide range of things that can be done with squares.
There are two afghans, two scarves (one a women's hooded scarf, the other a men's scarf with dinosaur motifs), a shrug, two sweaters, a vest, two bags, a hat, a pair of cabled cuffs and a trio of toys worked out of a single square that's sewn up and embellished just so to make a lion, cat or turtle.
You may never make any of the patterns out of this book, but that's not really the point. The idea is to get knitters thinking about the way blocks can be used in their knitting beyond afghans (though the afghans presented here are really beautiful). You don't have to use complex shapes to get good-looking designs, and that's what these patterns are there to illustrate.
In the end, this book is really all about the block designs themselves, and the goal is getting knitters to see that blocks don't have to be boring, squares don't have to be one-dimensional and even garments don't have to include shaping to be spectacular.
Flip through this book the next time you need some stitching inspiration, and even if you don't think of yourself as a designer something's sure to go off in your head that will send you rushing for some needles and yarn.
Publication date: November 2010