My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, always said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, come sit by me."
When I received a pre-publication copy of Michael del Vecchio's Knitting With Balls: a hands-on guide to knitting for the Modern Man, I was prepared to love it. I'm a guy, I'm (fairly) modern, and I live to knit. So I fixed a tea tray, changed into my comfy jammies, and plopped myself in an overstuffed chair to read.
After three months of looking for good things to say, I still haven't come up with one. So I'm just going to have to go with the truth.
First, there is the title. I'm not a prude, but I think the title is course. Yes, it is clever -- hands-on balls and all -- but it is also vulgar.
Next, the cover illustration has to be addressed. The well-composed photo of a man's torso in a crew-neck sweater, needles and yarn clenched in each manly hand. The problem? The crew-necked sweater on the cover is not in the book! Really! Well, ok, it is, but for the cover photo the model is wearing it backwards. BACKWARDS! I couldn't make this up! The pattern in the book [With the manly name of Bootcut Sweater] has a plunging neckline that would make Elvira blush.
And once you open the cover, it's straight downhill.
I really don't have the patience to outline every ill-conceived or poorly-written pattern -- there are just too many of them -- so I'm just going to give you the highlights.
The first pattern in the book is for a Knit Wallet & Business Card Holder knit in bulky chenille yarn. I've had backpacks that weren't this thick. I don't want to think how it would feel in my back pocket. I'm pretty sure it would leave a divot in my ass.
The Chu'llu Hat and Scarf. An attractive green diamond brocade patterned scarf with coordinating hat (with an unfortunate long flap in the back), both with an absolutely awful key motif in white and black which has absolutely no relationship to the rest of the pattern and looks like an afterthought. The result is abysmal.Medallion Mitts. Cabled fingerless gauntlets knit in variegated merino in shades of electric blue, lime green, and chartreuse. I am not a fan of variegated yarns, even when they are used well. And it seems like Mr. del Vecchio has never met a variegated yarn he didn't try to wrestle into submission. He is not, for the most part, successful.
The Casual Fridays Vest is actually attractive. I would have knit it in black instead of slate blue, but that is a matter of taste. The proportions are nice, the stitch pattern gives interest without being fussy. But there is absolutely nothing casual about this vest. It is the most formal piece in the book.
Now we come to one of the most problematic patterns in the book. The Hooded Alpaca Parka. Notice the light shining through the hood. Oh, and the thumb-ie things, which I am sure are very athletic and butch. Honestly -- I can't for the life of me, imagine who would wear a gold lacy hoody.
Oh, wait. I know:
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I turned the page to see the Knee-Length Coat.
As advertised, it is a knee-length car-coat, the body of which is knit in four panels with an all-over cable pattern knit in Noro Ino. Had this been knit in a solid color, this would have been an entirely different sweater -- not necessarilly attractive, mind you, but different. As it is, it looks like the Noro rep gacked up a giant hairball.
I'm too tired to write about the Home Accessories chapter of the book. Suffice it to say I am not going to be knitting any beer bottle cozies. I also can't comment on the Utility Cloth... this is a family blog, for Dog's sake. You'll have to look through the book and see it for yourself.I guess my deepest disappointment about this book is that it wastes the opportunity to discuss the differences between designing knitwear for men and to seriously set forth designs that were both tasteful and wearable. This is a pity. I hope that there is someone out there who can write such a book, because there are men and women would benefit from reading it.
It is possible to write both "cool" books about knitting that are both tasteful and attract the younger generation. Debbie Stoller and Stephanie Pearl McPhee have managed more than one each.