Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book Review: Top Down Crochet Sweaters

It took me the longest time to get around to ordering Top Down Crochet Sweaters by Dora Ohrenstein but finally I did, it arrived and I've read it! It's just as good as I'd hoped. Back in December, I read a super review of the book by the wonderful designer Susan Lowman on her Crochet Architect blog and more recently I've been chatting about it on Ravelry on the Crochet Circle Podcast Group Forum. 

January I was in a spend nothing / feeling frugal phase. All that traveling and inevitable gift-buying had taken its toll on our budget.  Thank goodness for Christmas gift vouchers! My sweet sister-in-law gave me one from Knit Picks, they had a book sale and I obviously I had to add yarn to bring my order up to get free shipping. Free shipping is such a motivator for me!
The book focuses on top down seamless construction. Top down sweaters appeal to me for the same reason as toe up socks - you can try on your item as you go. And I'm just not fond of sewing seams. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way.

Part 1, pages 10 to 55, covers technique and was an absolute revelation. I hadn't really thought about patterns I've previously made as having raglan or circular yokes or given a lot of attention to the calculations. The book explains the principles of sweater design in a very simple and comprehensive language. It's been incredibly helpful for clarifying different aspects of sweater design in my mind such as: neckline and yoke shaping, underarm adjustments, stitch count fixes, meeting gauge, blocking, measurement and alterations. I'm not sure if I'll go so far as to design a sweater from scratch. I have a great respect for designers and the huge amount of time they spend creating patterns but I feel far more comfortable now about modifying an existing pattern for a better fit.
And of course I just love the expert tips such as to only use fingering to DK weight yarns for sweaters. (That's 2ply to DK weight if you're in the UK reading this.) Lighter weight yarn moves more fluidly over your body. Of course it does!

The second part includes fourteen original patterns (see them on Ravelry here) with seven different yoke concepts of varying difficulty. The garment pairs differ by yarn choice, gauge and other details. Now I just need to finish some of my current WIPs, choose a pattern and get going! Can't wait!



Jodiebodie said...

Thanks for the review Tamara. I've enjoyed reading Dora Ohrenstein's articles, well researched and referenced so I hope to have a look at this book one day.

I've tried one top-down garment pattern with a round yoke before (not one of D.O.'s patterns) and discovered that my shoulders need something more structured in a garment to look right and sit right on my body. Shame because I loved the convenience of being able to try on add you go.

The seven different yoke concepts have me interested. What can you tell me about that part of the book? I love books with technical information and like to play with modifications for a customised fit so this may be a perfect book for me. Have fun and happy learning.

Tamara said...

Dora Ohrenstein is certainly a fantastic inspiration. That's interesting what you say about the round yoke not suiting your shoulders. You will probably do better with a raglan style. There are some great tips about customising the yoke to fit so I think this book would be great for you Jodie. The seven yoke concepts are as follows: 1 circular round neck-line, 2 raglan with short cap sleeves, 3 circular linked stitches, 4 raglan cables, 5 peacock fan yoke, 6 circular lace panels, 7 crossed treble stitch yoke. Looking at it again just now I've realized what a really great book this is!

Jodiebodie said...

My mother used to make raglan sleeved jumpers for me when I was a child but nowadays the clothes that fit me best are those with set-in sleeves - like the crocheted Petal Pullover by Robyn Chachula and the Cardigan with Lacy Edging by Melody Griffiths (find them on Ravelry). It is all a learning experience.
I must read Dora Ohrenstein's book then. It may be premature to dismiss top-down garments altogether. It may just be a matter of finding the right yoke style and getting the scale right for my figure.
so many thing to learn and to try. Don't you love crochet? :-)

Tamara said...

I haven't tried set in sleeves but I just had a look at those two so I could see what you meant. Yes Jodie, the learning never stops. That's why I love it so much!

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