F+W/Interweave provided a copy of Alterknit Stitch Dictionary for my review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. This page may contain affiliate links, which help support me, but don’t cost you anything extra.
Stitch dictionaries are catnip for knitting designers, and Andrea Rangel’s new Alterknit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs is no exception. The book contains 200 stranded colorwork motifs with a decidedly contemporary flair. You won’t find mosaic or intarsia or texture patterns, but you will find a wealth of stranded patterns to choose from.
The Stitch Patterns
Let’s start with the good stuff: the stitch patterns. The patterns were designed by Andrea’s husband Sean, who used his artistic mind to come up with non-traditional motifs, all of which work amazingly well for knitting. As I glanced through the patterns, a mixed tag cloud formed in my head: geometrical, whimsical, optical, tiled, interconnected, Greek, humorous, nature. There is bound to be something here to tickle your fancy—everything from Escher Bats and stranded zombies to the eye-popping Broken Shield. That one is sure to show up in one of my future designs!
Few of the stitch patterns would be considered “easy”, although once you understand the stranded knitting technique, it’s simply a matter of following the charts. Quite a few of the designs are symmetrical enough that you won’t have to be a slave to the chart, but others are complex and are probably best suited to times where you can concentrate on the knitting.
The swatches are stitched with highly-contrasting colors to show up the patterns perfectly. With clear charts and only two patterns per page, the patterns are easy on the eyes. An index indicates stitch and row counts by stitch pattern, which is a huge help when searching for that perfect pattern to fit your project..
While the focus of the book is on the swatches, you’ll find plenty of supporting material to help you manage the stranded work. You can refresh your knowledge about choosing yarn and colors, including the importance of color value. You’ll find instruction on holding the yarn, manipulating multiple colors, managing floats, and color dominance, Chart reading, the importance of swatching (YES!) and steeking are also covered in detail. I found Tips for Better Colorwork particularly helpful, although I already knew a lot of the other techniques.
If you are itching to start a project using the motifs, but don’t quite know where to start, the third section of the book sets you on the right path. In Stitch Motifs in Projects and Designs, Andrea provides an easy-to-understand explanation of how to fit motifs into hats, cowls, pullovers and other projects.
Don’t want to design your own? Complete patterns for a pair of mittens, a couple of hats, a cowl, a round-yoke pullover and a cardigan allow you to practice what you’ve learned.
Pros: Original, appealing patterns, variety of styles to suit every taste and project, easy-to-read layout and photography
Cons: Sean Rangel didn’t get author credit! I want more patterns, but I don’t have enough time to explore all these. Seriously, I don’t have any cons on this one.
Looking for more information on stranded knitting techniques? Check out my free Creativebug video on stranded knitting. Want to knit along with me on a stranded project to get your feet wet with the technique? Join my Creativebug class Fair Isle Mitts or Mittens, and make a mitten (or fingerless mitts) with me.