Deborah Newton notes in her book Finishing School: A Master Class for Knitters that she's probably a little more obsessed with finishing knitwear than the rest of us. She certainly has more enthusiasm for it than the vast majority of knitters, and it's a good thing for us that she does.
During her decades in the business, she's developed favored ways of doing everything from making buttonholes to adding pockets, seaming to blocking, and she's sharing her tips so that we can all become better finishers of our knits.
About the Book
- Pages: 164
- Format: hardcover
- Number of patterns: 14
- Skill level: 5 are suitable for advanced beginners, 5 for intermediate knitters and 3 for advanced knitters
- Sizing: 3 projects are for kids and offer 4 sizes; the remaining garments are all for women and have 5 size options
- Illustrations: full-color photographs
- Publication date: October 2011
Finishing Makes Your Sweater
Newton is right to focus on finishing, because no matter how well you knit your garments and other projects, if you don't finishing them well, they just won't look good. I've often heard it said that good finishing is the difference between something looking handmade and homemade, and that is a good way of thinking about it (though I don't think there's any shame in the term "homemade!").
There's also a lot that goes into finishing a knit project such as a sweater, from blocking to weaving in ends, seaming, adding touches like pockets, buttons and zippers and other embellishments.
Newton covers all that and more in her beautiful and wonderfully detailed book. She shares the secrets she uses when she finishes garments -- even though she has sample knitters she likes to finish projects herself -- and her book feels like a conversation over the dining room table while you're both stitching a side seam or knitting a button band.
But the book actually begins even before finishing, with an examination of the pattern you're thinking about knitting with an eye toward how you will finish it. She advises knitters to actually read the patterns they're thinking about knitting and make sure they make sense on paper, look at the schematics, make sure all the stitches you need to use are described and that the project will actually fit you before you decide to cast on.
Then there's the swatch, of course, which really can tell you things about finishing and serve as a testing ground for different finishing ideas. You should see Newton's swatches. They're things of beauty. Huge, experimental; you can tell she's having fun with them and learning a lot, too. We would all do well to think about swatching more like she does, too.
The How-tos of Finishing
Finishing School takes a very logical approach to the issue of finishing, taking knitters through blocking (and why Newton does it only minimally), seaming, edgings, buttons, zippers, pockets and other "finishing" such as felting and repurposing an old sweater as a new bag.
Each chapter includes lot of details, photos and directions, as well as a pattern or two illustrating the lessons of that chapter. The blocking chapter, for instance, has two different patterns done two different ways. There's a lace scarf worked in both lightweight alpaca and a bulky alpaca-wool blend, and a tunic knit in linen and a bamboo blend. The basic design of each project is the same, but they illustrate how the materials you choose can make a big difference in how the finished project looks and in how you might approach the finishing of the project.
This is not a book you buy for the patterns, though there are some pretty projects here illustrating both a range of knitting skills and of finishing techniques. If you wanted to learn just about all there is to know about finishing knit garments, you could use this book as a literal workshop and knit through it, building your skills as you go.
But this book serves just as well as a reference that you can read for understanding and use to help you work through whatever project you happen to be finishing. It's like having a knitting expert sitting beside you telling you exactly how to approach finishing and what to do when.
Finishing School is more than a must-read, it's a must-use resource for every knitter who makes garments or would like to learn to make garments. It doesn't just belong on your bookshelf, it belongs on the table in front of you while you do your finishing and by your side while you're contemplating your next knitting project.
You might not think that a book about finishing would be inspiring, but this book really is. It made me want to knit more garments and to take the time and muster the enthusiasm to finish them well. So many of us rush through this part of the knitting because we just want our project to be done, but with a little more time and care we can produce even better garments that make us proud to say, "I made this."
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.