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Knitting on Top of the World

Knitting Around the World

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Knitting on Top of the World

Knitting on Top of the World by Nicky Epstein.

Nicky Epstein Books.

Nicky Epstein loves to stretch her creativity using tons of different techniques, embellishments and colors, and that can be seen to great effect in her book Knitting on Top of the World: The Global Guide to Traditions, Techniques and Design.

There are more comprehensive books on various knitting traditions from around the world, but this book merely seeks to provide an overview of our knitting heritage; the focus is on patterns that use those traditional methods in modern ways for interesting garments of all sorts.

A World of Traditions

Knitting on Top of the World contains an overview of knitting in places we usually think of as having knitting traditions, including:

  • Far North (Scandinavia, Iceland, Latvia, Russia, Estonia)
  • Windswept isles (England, Scotland, Ireland, Aran Island, Guernsey, Shetland Islands, Fair Isle)
  • Old World (Germany, Bavaria, France, Austria, Italy)
  • Around the Mediterranean (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt)
  • Far East (Japan, China, Korea)
  • New World (Canada, United States, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico)

Each chapter includes several pages on the knitting traditions of the countries, speculation on how knitting developed in that area, how knitting has evolved in that area and what that part of the world is known for in terms of its knitting style.

Each section includes several knitting projects that often contain traditional elements but that are explored in a different way from the traditional, such as using lace on a top that might have been on a traditional shawl or adding Egyptian motifs to a tunic top.

The Patterns

In all the book contains 48 patterns inspired by knitting from around the globe. Thirteen of the projects come from the windswept isles region, and each other region has between five and eight projects.

The designs are mostly for women (though there are a few sweaters for children) and are often oversized (one hooded coat is 54 inches around in the small size). And because this is a Nicky Epstein book, the projects often contain embellishments like felted flowers, tassels, embroidery, lots of colorwork and beaded knitting.

The book uses the skill levels novice, experienced and master knitter, and most of these patterns fall toward the high end of the scale because of their size and complexity.

These patterns are all over the place (literally) in terms of style, so different patterns will appeal to different knitters. Some of my favorites are the Copenhagen Royal Shawl, worked in pieces designed to easily stay on the shoulders; the Cowl Collar Jumper, a dress inspired by a Gansey sweater; the Parisian Entrelac Wrap, worked in big, chunky squares in multiple colors; Hai-Riyo, a Amigurumi-inspired knit dragon; and the Cowichan Vision Wrap Coat, an oversized example of what's possibly the only folk knitting tradition indigenous to North America.

Bottom Line

No matter your personal knitting style this book is sure to educate and inspire you about the wide world of knitting. Even if you never knit a project from its pages, you may find that some of the style and traditions illustrated in these patterns make it into your own projects, whether in the colors you choose or deciding to make a type of project you might never have considered before.

Publication date: November 2008.

Publisher's website

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