Review: More Big Girl Knits

We haven’t talked a whole lot about crafting and fat in the past, but I know we have some crafty Shapelings out there! (Has anyone knit or crocheted an Adipose cell yet?) I’m an obsessive knitter myself (though the level of obsession ratchets up and down depending on my school schedule), and I’ve been delighted at the explosion of knitting resources in the last several years, especially as the knitting world as a whole gets more conscious about providing a large range of sizes for clothing patterns. Amy R. Singer and Jillian Moreno of my fave online knitting mag, Knitty, did an awesome service to fat knitters (and really, anyone interested in customizing patterns for curvy bodies) with their 2006 book Big Girl Knits; now the sequel, More Big Girl Knits, brings us cute patterns, practical shaping advice, and a healthy dose of body positivity.

More Big Girl KnitsLet’s focus on that last point first. Don’t be fooled by the euphemistic “big girl” and “curvy” on the cover: this is a fat-positive book. The introduction is called (in giant unapologetic letters) “We’re Still Fat & We’re Still Knitting.” All the models appear to wear honest to god plus sizes; there’s none of that “I’m a size 2 model but we’ll pretend I wear a 14 for this photo shoot” nonsense certain plus-size retailers trade in. I especially love that the little cartoons used to illustrate points about shaping (among other things) are variously shaped fat women, including women of color. More Big Girl Knits is unapologetically a book for fat women that does not lament fat, pay lip service to dieting, or instruct readers to hide their bodies. For that aspect alone, it wins the Shapely Prose Seal of Approval (which, uh, we totally have) as far as I’m concerned.

The really great thing about this book, though, is the application of fat acceptance principles to help you get the most out of your knitting. Even if you felt meh on every single pattern in the book (which I don’t imagine you will), the introductory chapters on fit, color, texture, and paneling will be useful enough to warrant a spot in your knitting library. Among the eminently practical features: a highly detailed chart for your measurements, a yarn yardage chart for sweaters from chest size 40″ to 58″, and a worksheet to help you design side panels to widen a too-narrow sweater (for detailed instructions on short rows and waist shaping, check out the original Big Girl Knits). There’s even a “plain vanilla” sweater pattern, complete with worksheets and blank spaces in the pattern for you to write your own measurements and stitch counts, which will let you end up with a scoopneck, stockinette, worsted weight sweater with waist shaping. The focus here (as Singer and Moreno write) is on getting to know your actual body, “not the pre-baby, pre-menopause, pre-metabolism-slowdown body you have in your mind. Not the body that used to be or is gonna be cute and sexy at some point in the future” — not, in other words, your fantasy body that will somehow magically make you a master knitter instantly. Instead, learning how to adapt your knitting to the body you actually have (instead of the other way around) is going to make you love your knitting even more.

As you can no doubt tell, I am pretty damn excited about the non-pattern parts of this book. I certainly could have used it a few years ago when I first started knitting sweaters, and I’m definitely going to incorporate some of the ideas and tips into my knitting from now on. So let’s talk patterns. The good news is, there’s a fair variety of styles and shapes to choose from. I’m going to admit this right up front: I don’t like all the patterns. Several of them are too fussy for my taste (including two that are repeats from Knitty), with flowers or bobbles or ruffles that I just don’t dig. However, I can totally see other knitters with different personal styles loving them, and there are sleeker patterns, too — like just about any knitting book, no one knitter is going to want to knit every single thing. The ones I really like are the Twisted Pullover (a v-neck pullover with vertical lines — this is the one on the cover above); the No-Gap Wrap Pullover (a faux wrap pullover); and the Orange Smoothie Tank (a wrap tank with a plunge neckline and vertical eyelets below the bustline — so cute!). Most of the patterns, as you might imagine, are sweaters, but there are also some accessory patterns, including two shawls, a chunky scarf, two bags, and two sock patterns designed with larger ankles/calves in mind. The patterns are all clearly laid out and seem like they’ll be relatively easy to follow (but I haven’t tried any of them yet, so I can’t vouch for that!).

A few caveats:

1. This is not a book for beginners; it assumes you already know how to knit, read patterns and charts, and work various intermediate-to-advanced stitch patterns. To me, this book reads like a great intermediate book: if you have been thinking about knitting a sweater but want a pattern that is going to look awesome on a figure that’s underrepresented by mainstream designs, or if you have experience adapting patterns but want some guidance on some of that painstaking math, this book will be perfect for you. If you’re still learning how to do stitches and the thought of making a whole sweater seems hopelessly far away, then you might grab this now and stick it on your knitting shelf for a few months from now when you’re feeling more adventurous.

2. The patterns here are grouped by a system that I find theoretically charming but practically a bit confusing. The book emphasizes the three Bs — boobs, belly, and butt — and asks you to identify your most “bodacious” part(s). Each pattern has a notation for the B(s) that it works best with; some are noted for just one, others for all three. What I haven’t totally figured out is what it means to “work best” with a certain B; it’s meant to be a body-positive way to indicate flattering fits, but the pattern descriptions don’t always let you know *why* a particular B is featured. For instance, there’s a gorgeous double-breasted cardigan that is marked for Belly and Butt but *not* for Boobs; I assume that that’s because the double-breastedness will add bulk to the chest, but, frustratingly, there is no full-length photo of the sweater from the front (only a profile and a back view), so I can’t even see the Boobs on this one. (Amy R. Singer has put this shot up on Flickr, but it’s not included in the book.) It’s possible that I’m either a) overthinking or b) dense, but I don’t quite understand the 3 Bs. (It doesn’t help that the same (beautiful, happy!) models are used for different Bs — reminding me of my YM reading days when the “hide your problem spots” features would use one impossibly thin model for all supposed “flaws,” even the ones that contradicted each other, like big chest and flat chest.)

3. The cover underneath the dust jacket is cheerfully striped like a circus awning, but it makes my head swim. Seriously, I’m getting visual disturbances just looking at it. I love stripy as much as the next knitter, but I recommend you save the dust jacket!

So, to sum this all up: despite some quibbles, I highly recommend More Big Girl Knits to all fat knitters and even to not-so-fat ones who have to do some math to get their curves into standard patterns. You’re sure to find at least a couple patterns that you’ll itch to start knitting, but the introductory chapters are the indispensable parts. Since this book came out a couple months ago, you can already see some FOs and WIPs from faster hands than mine over at Ravelry (NB: Ravelry links require login). I can’t wait to see more!

What are your favorite knitting patterns for fat or curvy bodies? Have you knit anything from the original Big Girl Knits? Let us know in comments!

Edit: Here’s a Ravelry link to some knits from the first Big Girl Knits book. And some Flickr links for those of you who are not on Ravelry.

89 thoughts on “Review: More Big Girl Knits

  1. I tried to learn how to knit once. It was disastrous. I can’t keep the tension even and I can’t &$%^@!! count.

  2. I love to knit.

    My problem is staying with a pattern. As soon as I start reading it, I start thinking of how I can adapt it. I also spin and dye and crochet. I do like the first big girl knits book but I can’t really imagine myself wearing anything out of it. More using it as a jumping-off point.

    Plus, it only has one pair of socks in, and I LOVE knitting socks. I’ve started designing socks in large/xl sizes because all the weetiny sock patterns piss me off.

  3. hit the button too soon.

    I meant to add that was a good review, it might swing me ’round to getting that book once I’m liquid again, thanks for writing it!

  4. I LOVED the first book, I’m so excited to get this one. Thanks for covering it! I knit and sew and have such a hard time finding properly fitting patterns, I pretty much have to make my own. I only wish that more books like these were published, given that probably half the knitters out there, or more, could fall into the “big girl” category.

    Re: the double breasted issue. From my experience, anything double breasted is very unflattering to the busty girls for a couple of reasons.

    1. The 2 lines of buttons often end up lined up with your nipples – even so far as to have a button right on each one. Yeah, maybe you want people to notice your boobs, but a giant metal nipple with an anchor embossed on it might not be the best way to do that.

    2. With 2 pieces of fabric over each other, often lined and reinforced for the buttonholes, the front of a double breasted garment can be pretty stiff. It’s probably less so in a knit than a weave, but either way, it pretty much ensures a uni-boob. Someone with a small chest won’t notice it so much, but if you have a big chest, it looks pretty awful.

    I do think there was more discussion of the whys of the 3 Bs in the first book.

  5. Buttercup, I have kind of the opposite problem — I don’t have a good spatial sense, so I like following patterns because when I eyeball things, I tend to get proportions wrong! That said, when I use a pattern I usually adapt it; I just like having the guidance there for the general shape and size. My current favorite type of pattern is top-down raglan — once you get it started, you can just keep trying it on and adjusting as you go.

    You should check out the sock patterns in MBGK — they are both pretty cute (one has an adorable reversible cuff thingy). And if you have a pattern to link to here, feel free! I don’t do socks myself because my hands start to hurt when I use small needles, but I totally see the appeal of always having a small, portable project on the needles.

  6. Toni, I thought there was more info on the 3 Bs in the first book, but since I don’t have a copy on hand, I couldn’t remember. What you say about the double breasting makes a lot of sense; I just wish some of the design principles, which are so well explained in the part before the patterns, had been discussed more extensively in the pattern section, too.

  7. I can knit rectangles. I actually started a project that is circular, now I have to figure out how to decrease it. But I still can’t read those !@#$ advanced patterns yet. Someday, when I have a few minutes…

  8. I know, isn’t Bombshell insanely hot? The designer of that, Stefanie Japel, is one of my favorites. I want to knit like everything she’s ever designed.

  9. I want that bombshell sweater. Almost bad enough to learn to knit.

    I certainly want it enough to pay somebody with an Etsy account for it. I took a knitting class once and discovered that all my unresolved tension comes through in the yarn. I damned near tied my needles and hands into one big lump every time.

  10. Those are some pretty spectacular sweaters, especially the Bombshell one. I, uh, mostly knit hats, although right now I’m knitting socks for my incredibly-skinny-ankled fiance.

    On the absolute other end of the spectrum was Jenna Adorno; her website is sadly down at the moment, but she designed sweaters that went from a 30-inch bust (she’s seriously tiny) to a 52-inch bust. I was impressed. Here’s one on Knitty. Dunno how it scales, but at least she knows that just shrinking or expanding a sweater doesn’t always work.

    There’s always Joan McGowan-Michael who does plus-sized knits (although she also does petite-sized things, too) that are more . . . frilly. Things I love to look at on the dummy, but I don’t think I’d ever knit. Although this is surprisingly cute.

  11. I can’t knit because I cannot follow directions. I mean, I can knit, in the sense that I can do the necessary motions. But counting and marking and following patterns… either I screw up or I get bored, or both.

  12. I can’t knit anything more than a stockinette-stitch scarf, but I have mad crochet skills. Has anyone heard of any good resources for crocheters? Thankfully I have found quite a few patterns on Ravelry (I love that website sooooo much – same screen name over there if you’re looking for friends) that go up to fairly large sizes, but more would be nice.

  13. sweetmachine! does this mean you’re on Ravelry? I keep meaning to look up some fat friendly groups and people over there but I’m already in 80+ groups so I don’t know when I’d find the time for more…

    the only sweater I’ve ever finished did not turn out particularly well, mostly because I probably should’ve put in some short rows at the bust. and I knew that I would need them while I was knitting it, so it’s beyond me why I didn’t actually include them. I think my thought process was something like–”well if I stretch it, it closes! and alpaca will stretch out so it’ll be fine!” except alpaca stretches more length-wise than width-wise and I’m stuck with a gappy button band and really, I should stick to socks and lace.

  14. I’ve got the first book on my amazon wish list, but I knit so slowly and so on-and-off that I’ve never got round to buying it. Now I have to add the new one too!

    At the moment I’m in the middle of an enormous magenta mohair shawl of doom (cast on 100 on 8mm needles, keep knitting in garter stitch til you run out of yarn. At least now it’s about twice as long as it is wide, but I’ve been going at this since forever) and a pair of very plain socks (I don’t seem to have trouble with ankle sizes being too small).

    I thought I had a plus-size crochet book on my wishlist too but I seem to have been mistaken. I do have another knitting book there, the Family Circle “Easy Plus-size Knits” by Trisha Malcolm. Has anyone tried that?

    In the past I used to subscribe to Knitting magazine and gave up because they simply had far too few patterns in plus sizes.

  15. Jesh said
    sweetmachine! does this mean you’re on Ravelry? \

    Yeah. inquiring minds want to know, etc. I’m mensabuttercup over there, btw.

  16. I’ve wanted to knit a sweater for a relative for the winter holidays primarily because (as a fat woman) I don’t think she is often gifted with clothing. My plan was to do some math and cross my fingers, but this will be such a better option!

    After all, there are only so many sweaters I can knit for myself, and lots of plus-sized women in my life!

    This is such a great reminder, thank you! (And I would totally friend you on Ravelry…but only if you say so here, because I try not to stalk:) )

  17. I am totally on Ravelry. Same name over there — I’m easy to find. :-)

    Wiscck, I don’t know too much about crochet resources, but I hope some other Shapelings do. My crochet skills are deeply limited, mostly because I need someone to explain how to follow a pattern — I get how to do the stitches, but for some reason I can’t wrap my brain around patterns, and until I figure that out, I get no practice crocheting and then I get really rusty.

  18. Femme, make sure to get her measurements when you’re planning your sweater. I think it sounds like a fabulous idea!

    And yes, please feel free to add me on Ravelry! (I am slightly less pseudonymous over there, since there’s photos and all.)

  19. Dude, I love blogs. I’m on Ravelry and though I’ve hit a knitting “dry spell” (and a Ravelry dry spell) I’m a big time, mega-excitable knitter. Hooray! This is my name on Ravelry. (Feel free to add me as a friend if you don’t want to put your username on here. I actually picked up a Ravelry friend from Feministing that way!) Hi sweetmachine and jesh!

    I’m in one fat-friendly group over there but it seems kind of slow (Fat!So? based on the book) and, with the aforementioned dry spell, I haven’t had the oomph to punch it up a notch myself.

    Size-wise I’m an in-betweener, at the small end of Big Girl Knits, but I really want to pick up the old book and this sequel now. As people have said, even just for Bombshell alone! And Stefanie Japel, the designer, does include plus-size versions of her sweater designs almost all the time, if I recall. As I’m around 40″ I may be overstating–I can usually knit the XL size or so in patterns.

  20. Iffin’ you want to knit socks, and have big calves/ankles/etc. try sock patterns by Cookie A. Many of her patterns are written to fit calf sizes up to 18″. And they’re incredibly gorgeous! They are not for newbies, though. Some of the patterns are very intricate, but well worth the effort.

    http://www.cookiea.com/

  21. Laurakeet, I’m checking my copy of Stefanie Japel’s Fitted Knits (which I completely love) right now, and it looks like many of the patterns go up to the 42-46″ chest range, and one or two go up to the 50″ chest range. So that could be a good choice for inbetweenies and the smaller (boob-tacular) end of plus sizes.

  22. wissck, I’ve found a lot of patterns here:

    http://crochetpatterncentral.com

    (Rachel does a pretty good job of trying to link to every crochet pattern you can find on the ‘net) and

    http://crochetville.org

    is a good resource, too. I haven’t been over to crochetville for a while, but when I was doing nothing BUT crocheting, I was VERY active on there.

    I just wish these awesome knitting pattern designers would think of us poor crocheters and translate the patterns for us! For people like me, who can knit a rectangle ONLY, that would be an absolute GODSEND.

  23. Orora, is Cookie the designer who uses prosthetic legs in her photos on Knitty? I love that.

  24. Oh yeah, Fitted Knits gives me goosebumps I loves it so. Loves. I also like Stefanie Japel’s patterns you can buy and download–check out the Tulip sweater which goes up to 50-52″ size.

    And yes, Cookie A is the prosthetic leg model lady! My mom knits socks for me (we are partners in knitting crime and, increasingly, in FA too) and has made some Cookie A socks. I get to try them on when she visits in August so I can see how they fare on my ankles. Though not a sweater plus-sizer, I am on my lower half, so I’m jazzed for hand-knit fitted socks.

  25. psst… I made a second comment that got ate by the spam filter. At least I think it did… *checks*… yup, it ain’t there.

  26. Thanks, NF — I retrieved it. Not sure why that one went to spam and the other to moderation, but there you go.

  27. How did we both get it out of spam at the same time? Weird.

    Especially when YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE AT LUNCH!

  28. Yes, I’m going to be sneaky about getting her measurements because she’s not at a FA place and I think there is a fair bit of comparison (on her part) between her body and mine.

    I’m thinking I can measure a non-stretchy shirt, because I’d really like the sweater to be a surprise.

    Any suggestions from Shapelings as to flattering options for very busty sweaters?

    I’m thinking some sort of lace pattern, because it’s stretchy and thus more forgiving if I get the size a bit wrong (although when I check out the patterns I may have a better idea too).

  29. Oh wow, those pictures have totally inspired me to get back into knitting! First project is booties for my expected new baby nephew, but after that I will have to check out those books.

  30. Yeah, I’m definitely a better crocheter than knitter. That may be because I’m lefthanded. Crocheting for Dummies taught me all the basics no problem because they showed how to hold the hook in the left hand too. But I could not knit a thing to save my life until some kindly retired lady who taught a class at the library sat with me until I figured out a long-tail cast-on, which I thought I would NEVER get the hang of. Because even lefthanded people knit RIGHTHANDED. Yargh.

    Although sweaters can be crocheted, and it’s actually a better method if you want something lacy and openwork, crocheting a solid, non-openwork sweater takes about a third more yarn than knitting the same piece. So eventually I would like to be able to knit one. Damn, if I could only quit my job, there are so many things I’d love to take up.

  31. I’ll be honest, I started a sweater and then gave up because knitting in the round for something to go around my big belly was INTERMINABLE. I ended up using the yarn for a baby blanket instead. (Purple cotton… yum.) I haven’t knit anything in ages due to being a poor grad student in a yarn-poor region… but when I move home I might pick up Big Girl Knits and grab some good yarn and get going.

  32. Hey, crocheters who are having trouble learning to knit, try knitting Continental style. You hold the yarn in your left hand, just like you do crocheting. I learned how to crochet in sixth grade and Continental knitting makes more sense to me. I’m not going to claim it’s faster or better, but it might be just enough of a change to help people.

    Here’s a website with step-by-step directions.

    Probably won’t help lefties, though. Sorry, Meowser. Left-handed people play violin right-handed, as well.

  33. I looked through it while I was at my hubby’s store. I appreciate when designers make plain jane garment patterns for big sizes, but the amount of yardage combined with the average price/skein of nice yarn means that making a plain jane item is totally impractical in my size. I’m hoping their next book tackles some lace patterned items, like lacy pullovers and fancy lace boleros and evening jackets. I’d totally get the yarn and spend the months knitting it if it looked both fancy and complex. Every time Knitty has a cute fitted lace pattern for small sizes I weep in envy that nobody though to include bigger women. Weird things happen when I try to scale patterns up to my size instead of starting with a pattern that factors me in. Weird things, unpleasant things, frustrating things.

  34. I’m a new knitter. I bought both books.

    I think that they picked wonderful models for the sweaters they made. I don’t think many of the sweaters will work for a variety of women, though.

    I LOVED that you put in the extra links to the actual book sweaters as well some that other knitters have made. I was so psyched to make the double-breasted cardigan, and seeing it from the front tells me that for the $200 it was going to cost me in quality yarn, I would never have worn it. Knitting sages say that you can look at the model photo for clues to what is inadvisable about the pattern. This sweater looks great from the side and back but is unflattering from the front. I’m not qualified at this time to modify it, though.

    I’m with you on the critique of their “3-B” determination, because so often a fat woman is fat all over and there is no picking any one area to either flatter or de-emphasize. Here’s my biggest peeve: not all fat women A) have big PERKY boobs or B) are willing to wear the incredibly-engineered underwire/inflated bras that will make it look so. They also don’t account for a really rounded, protruding belly. Mostly they assume some fullness but overall FLATNESS.

    Meanwhile there’s your fat woman, with flat boobs and a perky stomach. My answer is that I’m really liking the look of several patterns at Vermont Fibers. They also go up to what they call a size 6X, at least 60″ chest.

  35. Any suggestions from Shapelings as to flattering options for very busty sweaters?

    V-necks, scoop-necks, wraps, faux wraps. Anything with a high neck usually makes a rack o’ doom look bigger. Having the sweater skim the waist line without being tight or blousy is also good.

  36. Another flattering tip for busty sweaters is to avoid bulky, thicker yarns. The finer the yarn, the more flattering it will be. There is a point at which it is too fine to knit at home, but the books mentioned have good advice IMO on yarn thickness. You want to look like you are wearing the sweater–not like it is wearing you.

    I also think that waist definition is KEY.

  37. Something interesting around the collar is also nice – probably for everyone, but most busty women really benefit from something that draws the eyes up… like maybe a motif of arrows and the words, “hey, look at my face, not my boobs.”

  38. sniper, HA!

    Crystal Palace Yarns website has quite a few plus patterns. Many of them are of the boxy shapeless stamp but I actually prefer them that way. I can ‘t abide wearing anything tight, and my shape is generally pretty boxy anyway.

  39. Also, you don’t HAVE to knit it in the yarn they suggest. I will never be able to afford Plymouth Royal Cashmere, or anything by Muensch or Debbie Bliss Yarns.

    There are some perfectly serviceable yarns available from Lion Brand at your local Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michael’s. Yes, even non-acrylic yarns. There’s also Elann.com and Knitpicks.com, which have cheaper stuff, although you can’t pet it before you buy it.

  40. Ok, silly question–sweetmachine, I know you wrote above that the book has yardage charts starting at 40″, but is that the chest measurement at which the patterns start too?

  41. The first BGK was my first knitting book — I bought it I think a year and a half ago. I’m planning on knitting the Stacy Pullover from there in November (for NaKniSweMo).

    I’m ambertides on Ravelry. Feel free to add me. :D

  42. Killedbyllamas, not a silly question! Yes, the pattern size range is roughly the same as the yardage chart range, give or take a couple inches on each end depending on the pattern.

  43. See, now this makes me want to hunker down and really figure out how to knit something beyond a scarf. I’m a newbie knitter (or should that be KNEWBIE har har…*cough*) and the extent of my ability is making scarves…and scarves…and, uh, scarves.

  44. Socks! That was my first thing after scarves. They’re small, so they get done quick.

    (I’m just starting the Seascape scarf from this month’s Knitty, which is my first foray into lace knitting.)

  45. Ooh, that Seascape scarf is gorgeous. I’m doing a simple lace scarf right now but I realized recently that I don’t have a good place in my apartment to block it where my cats won’t savage it. Any suggestions?

  46. Oh, the coincidences! I just recently took up knitting again too, and joined ravelry just a week or so ago. Thank you so much for this review, big girl knits is now on my amazon wishlist.

    Meowser:
    Lots of left handed people knit left handed (myself included). I knit continental from right to left.
    I *can* knit right handed (also continental, I’m Danish, so I also do Norwegian purl), but I find it much more comfy to do left handed.
    From memory there are some tutes on youtube to look at if you’re interested and there’s some interesting discussions on ravelry as well.

  47. Probably won’t help lefties, though. Sorry, Meowser. Left-handed people play violin right-handed, as well.
    And this lefty plays violin and crochets right-handed. Maybe this is why I have trouble knitting. I can’t figure out which hand to do it with.

  48. Oh, and thanks for the website links. I’ve been meaning to check out crochetville but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe after I finish the two afghans that absolutely have to be finished in the next two months.

  49. Oh, as if I couldn’t love this place more! I don’t have MBGK yet, but I loved the first book and it’s definitely on my list.

    All the models appear to wear honest to god plus sizes; there’s none of that “I’m a size 2 model but we’ll pretend I wear a 14 for this photo shoot” nonsense certain plus-size retailers trade in.

    Amy and Jillian chose their own photographer and models for More Big Girl Knits (Amy posted about it on her blog at knitty.com), which helped.

    @Meowser and anyone else who’s left-handed and learning to knit: I knit combination style which is similar to continental (working yarn held in left hand) and I know some people who are left-handed find it easier. Written directions and illustrations here: http://www.anniemodesitt.com/ or videos (for all styles of knitting) here: http://www.knittinghelp.com/ .

    Oh, I’m on Ravelry, too, under this username if any Shapelings want to friend me!

  50. Oh, yes, the Adipose is up. Click my name and hit my current projects. The pattern is there, but the final photos aren’t up yet. He’s a cute little thing. Sits on my desk looking all fat and friendly.

  51. although you can’t pet it before you buy it.

    Stephanie this is the whole reason why I taught myself to knit (scarves only so far, as I lose focus and patients easily) so I can go to the store and USE all the yarn I love to pet. Then when its all knitted it feels wonderful still, while also having become a thing (other than a ball of yarn)

  52. How big do the patterns run to, btw? My friend is about a size 28 or 30 (I think), and I wouldn’t want to buy either book (or both) and find out that the sweater sizes are too small for her.

  53. I don’t feel like reading all the comments (fat and lazy! FAT AND LAZY! AAAAHHH!) so I don’t know if this has been asked already, but can anyone recommend a book for someone who is craftly challenged but would like to try knitting?

    I’ve asked my mom for help but instead of letting me learn (and frequently learn by fucking up) she watches and then pulls it out of my hand and finishes it if I’m not doing it neatly enough for her. Despite it being my first attempt at knitting EVER.

  54. Liza, run-do-not-walk to the local yarn shop and get a copy of Stitch’n’Bitch by Debbie Stoller.

    While there, ask the nice ladies if they have knitting classes!

  55. LIza, have you had a look at http://www.knittinghelp.com/ ? I found that to be really good, she has lots of videos. Also explains many different techniques (eg. English, continental, combined) so you can try them out and choose which one suits you best.

  56. I love the Goddess shawl from More Big Girl Knits, but I think it’s too complex for me. Ditto the Pastille jumper. I’m going to have to go up a belt in knit-fu before trying one of those. The instructions on sizing at the front are brilliant. Here in the UK some pattern companies (I’m thinking of Wendy and Sirdar in particular) make lovely yarns but their patterns are just boxy, and I like to show some waist.

    Rowan has got a book of plus-size knits coming out at some point this year, but they’ve shot them on models that I’d guess are a UK14-18 – in other words, UK average. I was a little disappointed by that, especially as in their All Seasons At The Mill book they shot the garments on real workers from their yarn mill, including a clearly plus-sized lady, who looked great.

    On the left-handed front, I’m a lefty, and a friend who’s a brilliant knitter is also a lefty, and we both knit UK-style, right handed. The only difference seems to be that we ‘throw’ the yarn more because using the right hand is a little less intuitive for us. I tend to rest the end of my right hand needle on my belly (hurrah for the belly!) and let go of it when I’m moving the yarn.

  57. Stitch and Bitch gets a lot wrong, including the very fundamental yarnover stitch. I echo Maggishnesses comment about knittinghelp.com. The videos are terrific. And best of all, it’s all free.

  58. Sweetmachine, my moderate rack of doom and I thank you…yay for patterns that I theoretically won’t be stuck between size ranges in!

    And Stitch n Bitch did YO incorrectly? Um…that would explain it. Time to retry the knitting of a cute lil’ shrug whose pattern just wouldn’t work for me!

  59. Ladyjaye, the patterns are in about the same range as the yardage chart I mentioned — around 58″ (give or take a couple) is the largest size for most patterns. I’m not sure what this translates to in clothing sizes — can anybody weigh in on that?

    It’s true that SNB gets yarnovers wrong (or at least explains them in a misleading way), leading to lots of annoying questions from noobs online ;-), but I also know of a lot of people who loved it for learning how to knit anyway because of the illustrations and the tone. I would still recommend it to newbies with the caveat that you should supplement it with videos online, especially for YOs.

  60. KBL, IIRC the yarnover problem is that SNB makes it sound like a yarnover is looping the yarn around *and* knitting the next stitch, when the truth is that the YO is JUST the looping the yarn around part. When you knit the next stitch, that counts as a K, not part of the YO. Does that make sense?

  61. That completely makes sense. And also explains why said shrug had one big side and one wee side and was way too big across the back!
    (I re-learned how to knit almost exclusively from SnB.)

  62. can i just say how awesome online video has become for crafts? SUPER awesome!!

    also, i think a lot of left-handed knitters knit left-handed. i’ve certainly taught people to knit that way, even though i’m righty. though you’re right that teaching someone to cast on left-handed would be trickier for a right-handed person. hm if you want to learn how i do it, i could take some pictures and then flip them for you! but usually i do a more complicated cast-on than many people.

    don’t you like how i’m talking in the present tense even though work has superseded crafts in my life for years now? ;)

    and SM, i can teach you how to read crochet patterns if you want! you might just have to visit me, though. :-D it’s not as linear as knitting, but once you get used to recognizing where the stitches are (and what people call the different parts of them) it comes more easily. learning to crochet in the round probably helped me, because i didn’t have to identify stitches from the back until i was really used to working them from the front! also, if your hands and eyes can take it, learning thread crochet in some ways is actually easier than normal crochet, because the thread has more definition than yarn. fwiw.

  63. I don’t think my hands could take thread crochet — I can’t knit with pure cotton or with needles smaller than, say, 4s, so I’m betting it’s no go. But next time I see you, you should teach me how to crochet properly! Just like you taught me how to knit lo these many years ago. :-)

  64. ZaftigWendy, Maggishness, buttercup: Thanks!

    I probably shouldn’t take up a new hobby (I’ve been attempting to cross-stitch) but for some reason I’ve always wanted to learn to knit.

  65. I throw myself on the mercy of the knitters here to get some help, please!

    When I was in grad school, I got in with a knitting group. I made scarves with very simple stitching, when I got pregnant I made a baby sweater that didn’t get any more complicated than a seed stitch detail; the sleeves got sewn onto the body, so there was no turning and whatnot. (and it took almost as long as the baby; never do a first project on size 8 needles!)

    Since then, I have no knitting group anymore, so anything I’ve done has been self-taught. I made a baby blanket, again not very fancy, I made a couple more scarves. Basically, I like knitting, but I have no confidence in what I can do. I do have one knitting friend I can go to for advice, but not too often or it would be imposing. So, how do I get from where I am to making a real grown-up sweater like these patterns? Is there an inbetween kind of project I can step myself up with?

  66. Car, my second project was socks. I love knitting socks,they’re portable and as easy or complicated as you want them to be. Some people don’t. A good inbetween scarves and sweaters might be a pair of fingerless mitts, socks, or a shawl or cape. I’ve seen patterns for shawls with sleeves, that might also be a good intermediary.

    I recommend the following books-
    Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl McPhee (hats, socks, sweaters, humor)
    Knitting without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman (sweaters, socks, hats, knitting theory)
    Knitting Workshop by Elizabeth Zimmerman (Pure awesomeness)
    The Knit Stitch by Sally Melville
    The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville
    Vogue Knitting
    Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie Wiseman
    Any of Barbara Walker’s stitch dictionaries.

    Go to the library and leaf through some. If you’re on Ravelry, you can see projects from the books done by real people with real shapes and real comments on their project pages. Hit up knittinghelp.com and you tube for videos for help, too.

    Best sock knitting instruction I’ve seen online is here.
    http://www.cometosilver.com/socks/

    Good luck! Do what you love.

  67. Car, hats are another good way to practice technique — they’re quick and fun, but they always involve knitting in the round and increasing and decreasing in pattern. You can make them as simple or as involved as you like.

    You could also try a shrug or a bolero as a halfway-to-a-sweater project.

  68. Hi, I am new here and was so excited to see your review of the Big Girls Knits books. I am finally at a place where I can say “The body I have right now deserves the time and effort it takes to make a sweater” and the red hoodie has my heart. So I went out in search of the books. I hit three yarn stores in the area where I work. I thought it was very interesting that two of the stores simply did not carry them (but would order it for me) and the one that did carry it was SOLD OUT of both Big Girl Knits and More Big Girl Knits. Anyway thanks again for post I can’t wait to get my hands on the books and start knitting for myself (I am always making stuff for others, this will be my first project for me!).

  69. Sweetmachine you are the best! I got these two books, ignorant to their existence before now, and wow I wish I had them when I was making my super bulky fabtastic RECTANGLE of an Aran sweater. Hahahah. It has already saved me from the Fair Isle was thinking about as well. The pictures in book 2 with the girl in the big shapeless horizontal line sweater is totally me!

    Thank you thank you for bringing these up, and I love the younger looking designs. My hubby said as we were looking through the book, “hey those are nice… they don’t make you look like an old lady.” Huh. :D

  70. okay, everyone come visit me and i will teach you to crochet! or at FJ’s wedding. we can have a crochet circle at the wedding!

    oh hey i suppose i need a room to sleep in for that, huh? and yes, i can bring exploding cows. FJ you have dr. lucky, right? if not, i have that, too.

    ANYway you’re right, SM – if small knitting needles make you cramp up thread crochet might be too small, too. but handling the tension is… different with crochet than with knitting, so you might find the cotton isn’t so bad. also the hand motion is very different so you mght not get your knitting elbow issue or cramps. who knows. i suppose crocheting with yarn increases the chances that you’ll make something that is actually useful, beyond preventing cup rings on your tables or filling your hope chest with lacy items. since i know you have one of those.

  71. I have both books and love them. Not all the patterns thrill me in their original incarnations, but I’ve been able to make alterations where needed to make them look more like me. The shaping tips are brilliant, though!

  72. buttercup, I have recently discovered Ravelry. I have to admit, I’m highly entertained by their naughty patterns section and kind of want to make a Beanis of my very own.

  73. Ooh, thanks for the review and pics! I have this on my amazon wishlist now. I just wanted to add a quick plug for my favourite sewing book – Sewing for Plus Sizes by Barbara Deckert. It has a similar you-might-not-like-the-designs-shown-but-buy-it-for-the-inspiration-and-guidance aspect, i.e. some of the clothing is brilliant, some is fairly hideous, but there is a hell of a lot of body positivity (the ‘further reading’ section includes not just sewing related books but FA type ones also, and there is a definite ‘don’t worry about what will make you look thinner (because nothing really will) focus about what will make you look and feel glorious’ vibe) and lots and lots of really helpful advice on both design and the practical side of sewing. It is very good and I love it very very much :D

  74. I just came across your review of this book. I was the technical editor for the book, and I designed the Susie Hoodie. The book is near and dear to my heart, and I’m so happy to read such an excellent review in a blog I admire! Thanks for making my night. :)

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