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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review #11: 150 Scandinavian Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone

Happy End of November! Happy Saturday! And, most importantly, HAPPY BOOK REVIEW!

The book(s) in question are books that I have purchased (or someone bought me for a Christmas and/or birthday present) for my own fibery library. I have been given no money or other non-monetary forms of payment for my book reviews. The reviews are based on my own experience(s) and opinion(s) and may not necessarily coincide with the thoughts and opinions of other fiber enthusiasts (though they certainly may). I may also throw in some other fun information, if I can find it or if I know of any. We'll see where we end up...
There's the disclaimer. Woo-hoo! 

Today's book:

Photo from Amazon

The Basics:
Author: Mary Jane Mucklestone (website here)
Publisher: Interweave (August 13, 2013)
Paperback: 160 pages
Language: English
Cover Price: $24.95 USD (you can find it on Amazon for cheaper than that but it's also available various places)


I picked this book up on a total whim. I was having a horrible couple of days in mid-October where I wanted nothing more than to be back home in Wisconsin. I found out one of the yarn shops a few miles up the road was having a sale. Little Man and I took the trip up to South San Francisco and I came across this book. 

Now, why is this important? I come from a very Norwegian town in the Midwest and that particular week, I was very homesick. And here's a book full of Scandinavian colorwork motifs! It had to come home, even if I never used it. 

Soooo...back to things. Mary Jane Mucklestone...I have no idea how long she has been knitting but I would imagine that anyone that has been published in fourteen different publications (including two books that are entirely her own and 60 listed patterns on Ravelry) has probably been knitting for awhile. She has always been around Scandinavian textiles. Her great-grandmother was Norwegian and wearing Scandinavian sweaters happened in her house...and her friends' houses...and around her hometown of Seattle. According to her Ravelry designer page, she loves knitting, color, fashion, and un-fashion. She travels around the world, learning and studying traditional knitting techniques, and teaching along the way. She has her own group on Ravelry. She's on Twitter (MaryJaneM). She's on Instagram (mjmucklestone). She also has a video class on Craftsy. She's kind of the opposite of Anna Zilboorg with regards to technology.

That's honestly all I've really been able to dig up about Mary Jane Mucklestone. That's okay, though, because we're not really here to talk about her...we're here to talk about her book!

The book claims to have over 150 different Scandinavian motifs...I haven't counted so, you know, just go with it. The motifs are from the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faeroe Islands. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, the motifs aren't labeled with their country of origin. This could possibly be due to the amount of cross-over between the countries or trying to avoid showing favoritism toward one or two countries. Either way, no idea where each motif comes from. 

The first section covers "Essential Skills" needed to knit Scandinavian motifs. There's a section on yarn including a specific section on traditional Scandinavian yarns, needles & notions, gauge (including how to create a "speed swatch"), casting on, knitting in the round, holding yarn for stranded knitting and how to do stranded knitting, weaving, increases/decreases, steeking, fixing mistakes, and blocking & finishing. This is followed by a section on how to use color in colored knitting including traditional Scandinavian colors, value (the lightness or darkness of a color), using two or more colors (in a motif, in a row, etc.). This section I found most interesting, although it's short. The idea of value is where a lot of color knitting falls flat. It's not just about the colors looking "good" together but if there's enough of a contrast between them to be seen properly. Sometimes subtlety is the wanted outcome while other times, a bolder contrast is needed. This is where value comes in. If you want something bold, you don't want two colors that hang out around the same value. A trick I learned is to photograph yarns together and then change your settings to a greyscale (either in some sort of photo editing program or right on your camera). That's not discussed in the book but it is something I learned. Something else interesting in this section is about the dominance of color - which color(s) do you want to show. There's a really good example of the same motif done two different ways. One has the darker color as the "background" and the lighter color as the "pop" and the other has the lighter color for the "background" and the darker color for the "pop." Although they are the same motif, they look very different because of which color pops out at you. After the section on color, there is a section on Traditional Scandinavian garments and where they originated, a section on how to use motifs, and the ever-important project planning.

After all the essential skills are covered, there's a HUGE section called the "Motif Directory." What's interesting about this section is that you are shown all the motifs at once, in a visual display of blocks. Each block has a page number next to it and then each individual motif is numbered. So, if I wanted to work on a certain motif and it was found on page 134 and I wanted the second row of motifs down on the right, it has a line drawn from it with a number next to it (in this case, that would be motif #153). I would flip to that page and there would be a larger photo of just that motif along with the chart for that motif. Many of the motifs are shown with a normal "dot" chart (where you knit the white space as one color and the dotted spaces as another color), a colored chart, and a second colored chart (that is usually "opposite" of the first chart). 

By the way, there are 168 different motifs in this book. Thought I'd share.

The last section is the "Projects" section. There are only four projects listed but they're pretty versatile. You could switch out the motifs if you want something different but it gives you the basic design (size, stitch counts, etc.) for some basic items (a pincushion, mittens, a hat, and a cowl).

So many of the designs in this book remind me of home. I saw a few things that I can remember seeing on items in my grandparents' shop while growing up (my grandparents owned an office supply/Norwegian gift shop). I think, however, that even if I hadn't been having a crappy week, I would still own this book. I've been toying with the idea of making Christmas stockings for the family and I think this will help me with some of the designing. It's a win-win all around, really :)

Are there things I dislike? Of course. I'm a history nerd and I like knowing specifics. I would like to know where, specifically, the motifs come from, how they came to be, where they spread, etc...of course, that would mean a book much larger than what this covers. Or several. Even knowing where each motif originated would make me smile. I'm just that way.

Otherwise, I really like this book. I'm thinking about picking up her Fair Isle Motifs book, too...perhaps for Christmas or my birthday.


Anyway, I should be back in a few days with another book review (my last for 2013). Enjoy!

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