Rugged Knits – a book review and giveaway!

Good morning me happy Saturday! I’m still spinning for the Tour de Fleece, and rather than show you more pictures of the same fiber on the same spindles and bobbins, I thought I would give you something a little more interesting to look at this morning.

When the folks at Interweave sent us their latest list of available review titles, I was immediately drawn to Rugged Knits: 24 Practical Projects for Everyday Living by Andrea Rangel, based on the title alone. I have had some knitted items that withstood time and repeated wearings for years, and others that looked worn (and not in a good way) after just a few weeks, so I had hoped this book would provide some insight, tips, or tricks on how to make truly rugged and durable items that hold up to repeated wearing. It didn’t, at least not as directly as I had thought it would just based on the title. What it does have is a collection of knitted garments and accessories that feature richly textured stitch patterns and construction techniques that create elements of durability and ruggedness to some unlikely yarns and yarn pairings.

One of the first things I did when the book arrived was look at the yarn choices for each design. Yarn choice is a big factor in determining the ruggedness your knitted items, and while some of the yarns used for these designs are not exactly what I would call rugged, particularly Brooklyn Tweed’s ‘Loft’ or The Fibre Company’s ‘Road to China Light’, there were other yarns like Berroco’s ‘Ultra Alpaca’ and Istex’s ‘Lettlopi’ that, in my experience, have stood up to just about any abuse that I have dished out to the items I’ve made with them. In Rugged Knits: 24 Practical Projects for Everyday Living, author and designer Andrea Rangel uses those not-so-rugged yarns in stranded colorwork techniques like the Hazy Cloud pullover (featured on the cover), the Boreal touque, and the Gleaming Horizons sweater, and in gauges appropriate not only to the yarn but also the item and it’s intended use.

Some yarn weights and needle sizes used in a few of the designs would produce a slightly looser, stretchier fabric if knit in plain stockinette. That’s where the beautiful texture of stitch patterns like the tiny bowknot pattern on the men’s and women’s Sillhouette Base Layer, the cartridge belt rib pattern on the Bright River cowl-neck sweater, or the textured pattern on the Elderberry Road cardigan are used to provide not only visual interest to the knitted fabric, but structure and firmness too.

There are a few designs in Rugged Knits: 24 Practical Projects for Everyday Living that are plain stockinette stitch, but here again, the designer uses needle sizes and gauges that are appropriate to the both the yarn and the item. The Woolen Explorer cardigan, which is mostly stockinette, does feature a two color pattern in the yoke, is knit with the previously mentioned Istex ‘Lettlopi’ yarn, and if you’ve ever knit with Lopi yarn, you know that stuff is about as rugged as a yarn gets.
Ultimately, the ruggedness and durability of any knitted item depends on how much care goes into both wearing and washing it. Interweave’s photography and models are, as always, stunning. While I doubt many knitters are going to be wearing the projects they make from this book out and about in daily life on a farm as they are pictured here (okay, maybe that Woolen Explorer cardigan), these designs are, as the author says, made to be functional.

Enjoy this gallery of all the projects in Rugged Knits: 24 Practical Projects for Everyday Living.

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