Knitting an afghan is a popular choice for knitters who are new to designing because the shape is simple and they can be knit either all in one piece or in blocks that are later sewn together. Just pick a stitch pattern and a yarn, knit a gauge swatch and you're ready to go.
But actually there's a lot to think about -- or a lot you can think about -- when designing and knitting or crocheting and afghan or throw, as Afghans and Throws: A Step-by-Step Guide to Knit and Crochet Designs, Patterns, and Techniques by Luise Roberts illustrates in great detail.
Lessons in Afghan Design
The book is pretty short on projects, but it does include plenty of techniques and inspiration you might want to include in your designs.
It goes through a multitude of design options and decisions you might want to think about when planning an afghan, from choosing an allover design knit in one piece to planning out blocks, working with color and texture, adding surface embellishment like beading and embroidery, adding borders, tassels and fringe and more.
Each general technique category takes up at least a two-page spread in the book, which includes full-color photographs to illustrate the concepts.
The options that require a pattern to explain usually include some sort of text instruction that s not very detailed, with the bulk of the technique being taught in the form of knitting or crochet charts.
This is fine for people who are comfortable working from charts and are familiar with how to read them and the standard symbols used. But for most charts there is no key given other than the one in the back of the book, so those who aren't as well versed in chart knitting will find themselves flipping back and forth often.
There were many cases where I wished there were more text instruction to make a concept clearer because the charts were difficult to interpret on their own.
While there are instructions included for how to read charts, I didn't find them to be quite detailed enough, either, particularly for the crochet charts, where I am a complete novice.
Afghans and Throws includes a good collection of stitch motifs and patterns you might want to try in your afghans, whether they are knit or crocheted.
But when it comes to sample projects that you might want to knit without designing, there are very few options: two pillows, a bag, a shrug, an oddly shaped (by which I mean not square or rectangular) crocheted throw and a throw made of a tube of Fair Isle knitting stitched to a piece of fabric.
None of these are the sort of afghan or throw patterns I imagined when I first saw this book (though they are all pictured on the front cover). I guess this is a matter of just not knowing what to expect and imagining more patterns in a book with the word patterns in the title.
But if you're not expecting project patterns when you pick up this book, there's a lot to like. The different motifs and tips on using them are helpful, and sections on joining blocks together and adding borders will be helpful even if you never design your own afghans.
This book is certainly for people who like to take a hands on, do it yourself, dive in and see what works kind of approach to knitting. Newer knitters and those who lack that attitude may find themselves overwhelmed, confused and disappointed by the offerings.
For those more willing to try new things on their own, however, this is a great reference that's sure to guide you to some new discoveries for your own original projects.
Publication date: September 2008.