Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review: Needles and Artifice

The Null Hypothesis Scarf
Needles and Artifice: A Refined Adventure Story with Ingenious Knitting Patterns by The Ladies of Mischief

Before I knew how to use a sewing machine, before I was a steampunk, I was a knitter.  I don't really know how long I've been knitting now, but it's at least a decade.  So I've always been interesting in the combination of steampunk and knitting, and have tried various ways to incorporate my knitting into my steampunk outfits.  If there is a steamy knitting pattern out there, I am probably aware of it.  I'm addicted to the magazine series Jane Austen Knits for similar reasons, even though the period isn't quite right.

So it was probably always going to be impossible for me to resist an entire book of steampunk knitting patterns.  I've had my hard copy of the book for several weeks now, and I finally read through the whole thing.  Because this isn't just a book of knitting patterns, but also a work of fiction.

I wasn't honestly expecting much from the story that accompanies the patterns.  The Ladies of Mischief are a group of Victorian era ladies who have various adventures, build wondrous contraptions, drink a lot of tea and knit.  The book introduces these ladies to the reader mostly one at a time, constantly adding character to an ongoing story.  They each have their own specialties and personalities.  They reside across the globe and use advanced technology to keep in touch and support each other when necessary.

The different chapters are titled for their different settings or themes, though the book is one continuous story.  The chapters are "mechanical, boudoir, airship, countryside, high society, and mad science."  The knitting patterns are also split into these chapters, which serves to mostly tie them to the story nicely.

I was really delighted by the story and the characters.  I want to know these Ladies.  Well, I'd really like to BE a Lady of Mischief along with them.  The story balances along that fine line of silly humor and genuine adventure that is really the essence of steampunk.  I will not forget the breed of tiny jungle sheep in a hurry.  There's also a strong heart at the center of the story, focused around the strong friendship of these women.

But when it comes down to it, this book is really All About The Knitting.  The 23 patterns cover a wide range.  Personally, when I look at a themed book of knitting patterns, I like for the patterns to tie in with the theme as much as possible.  I hate when a book claims a theme while presenting only fairly generic patterns.  On that front, this book is pretty successful.  There are a few patterns in here that lack any real steampunk connection, but the majority of the patterns are at least arguably steampunk, many of them exceedingly so.

The Cameo Spencer Jacket
I could honestly take the book pattern by pattern and give the pros and cons of each, but....well, I won't. There are patterns for corsets (overbust and underbust), spats, lingerie, scarves, shawls, gloves, hats, and jackets.  Every knitter will prefer different patterns.  I myself look for unique and striking patterns and things that I will actually wear.  I intend to eventually make several patterns from this book.  I am about to cast on for my first, the Cameo Spencer Jacket (pictured to the right).

I did read through portions of all the patterns and some of them entirely.  It's difficult to say without having knitted any, but they appear to be very well written and are nicely detailed.  The photos that accompany them are very lovely, with lots of attention to detail.  The book is very attractively designed, with a fantastic border of flourishes and gears around each page.  The printing of the hard copy doesn't quite do justice to the images, as it is printed on normal printer paper, so the photos actually look better in the PDF.

In summary, if you are a knitter with any interest in steampunk, this book is a must own.  The high quality of the patterns, photos, and engaging story are really only icing on the cake.

The book is available from Cooperative Press for $29.95 for hard copy and digital PDF or $16.95 for PDF only.  It is also available for download on Ravelry.

No comments:

Post a Comment