Raving, continued

Here it is, the culprit. It is a brand spanking new book by Norah Gaughan called Knitting Nature. Carolyn recently mentioned it on her blog, and I bought it immediately, sight unseen.

Ever since I knit my first sweater, the Vintage Pink Cardigan, I have kept my eye on Norah Gaughan designs, and I have come to regard her as a very creative and prolific knitwear designer. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I put Norah in the same category as Annie Modesitt and Teva Durham – even if I cannot imagine myself knitting and wearing some of the designs, they encapsulate a completely different perspective, thought-provoking and inspiring. For this reason, I did not hesitate to purchase the book without even leafing through it at the bookstore.

Now, a quick review. The patterns in Knitting Nature combine knitwear design and Norah’s background in biology. Yes, Norah is a biologist by training, with a degree from Brown! Each of the six chapters, hexagons, pentagons, spirals, phyllotaxis, fractals, and waves, contains patterns which feature one of these naturally-occurring motifs. Norah explains the background of each design (women’s tops, mainly), how it incorporates the elements of nature, how it functions, how it’s supposed to fit – good stuff! The patterns are thorough – schematics, finished measurements, charts… everything your knittery heart desires. The photos are large and clear.

The designs are exactly what I expected – intriguing! Different! Fascinating! Some I’d wear, some I wouldn’t. Some I wish I could, but I need to grow at least 5” ;). It is the shapes and the silhouettes that are the unusual element (meaning, the colors and yarns and other aspects are entirely palatable and non-objectionable). This is a book that I don’t recommend you “buy right away,” but if you can borrow it from the library, or leaf through it at the bookstore, do it. NOW. And take off the dust jacket – it looks different under there ;). To whet your appetite a bit, I snapped photos of some of my favorite designs from this book, and put them in the extended entry.


So, which design caught my eye? Swirled Pentagon Pullover from the pentagons chapter (click here for another view). You’ve got the basic stockinette at the bottom, but just look at how cleverly the yoke pentagons are attached! How some pentagon sides form the armhole, and others are seamed together to make a smooth neckline – brilliant!

I have some stash yarn I can use for this project – Gedifra Korfu cotton/acrylic blend in a nice tomato red that I got at elann (unfortunately, I see that they no longer carry it). I already have a full list of modifications planned, although I don’t intend to mess with the pentagons at the shoulders at all. That’s definitely one of those elements that are best left to the designer :). Of course I’ll tell you the mods as I get to them (can you already spot the first one?), but one thing for sure – there’s no way I’m keeping this a turtleneck. Turtlenecks, generally, make me feel like there’s pantyhose wrapped around my neck and someone is pulling at each end really hard. Some kind of simple crewneck works better for me.

Did I mention that my stitch gauge is off, and my row gauge is way off? And I know from experience (ahem) how important row gauge is in this type of construction. Hehehe! Let the fun begin ;).


59 thoughts on “Raving, continued

  1. SallyT

    Glad you said the turtleneck has got to go. That was my first thought. Good luck.

  2. Purly Whites

    Negative ease? Is that the first mod? Or are you using a different rib? I can’t tell on my crappy laptop monitor. This is intriguing and I’m excited to see how this goes forward. Nice choice!

  3. Kate

    Now couldn’t we just have predicted this book would appeal to the ultimate math knitter, Grumperina? I have already bought One Skein and Mason Dixon this week so I am waiting on this one, but I definitely have to have it. I was a bit of a biology nut in school so the minute I saw the word fractal associated with knitting, I knew I’d have to have it.

  4. maryse

    i bought this book sight unseen too and i’m glad i did. it’s a beautiful book with lovely patterns and techniques. i too was a biology major in college so it appealed to the younger bio geek in me. love fractals.

  5. Agnes

    I agree … this is a great book and I have it in mind as Teva Durham’s Loop-D-loop. Very inspiring and interesting designs!

  6. Wannietta

    Definitely a slow, full-focus read. Thanks for the pics – it’s certainly whet my appetite for this book a meal to be savoured.

  7. Theresa

    She’s really fun in person. I met her at an event once, and we had a nice long chat about Providence and what had changed since she’d been here (not the professor teaching intro bio, though!).

  8. yahaira

    thanks for all the pics! Ive been wanting to take a peek inside this book, but I couldnt find it anywhere. love the sweater you picked. now Im going to have to order this book

  9. Carey

    I just bought this book last week… and I had to run into the other room after reading your comment about taking the dust jacket off… WEIRD!

    I originally bought the book because it intrigued me. The designs really inspired me. Also, I just got approved for a house mortgage, so my yarn budget will disappear in a few months… so I had to grab this while I could! I don’t know when I’ll get to play with it, since I already have a lot on the needles, but I’m really enjoying just leafing through it.

  10. Kat

    Thanks for the book review. I find myself consistently drawn to Norah Gaughn’s designs. I’ll be looking to add this to my knitting library.

  11. Andrea

    Thanks for the pics! I was hungry to see this book, but here, Mexico is not in the bookstores or libraries, only amazon. Mientras llega… thank you very much!

  12. Lee Ann

    Yay! Have at it! Let me guess: you’re thinking the female form has a waist….

    I’ll be keeping close watch on this one. The pentagons trip my trigger.

  13. Lilikoi Knits

    I too fell in love with this book as soon as I saw it. I haven’t started anything yet, but will soon be starting the Roundabout Leaf Tank (once finals and a few WIPs are done). In the mean time, I’ve started a KAL for projects from the book. You are the first person I’ve heard who has actually started any knitting from it. If you’d like to visit or join, please do.


  14. SusanSW

    I loved that design too but agree with you about being strangled by turtlenecks! Am anxious to see your solution for changing to a crewneck. I’d love to make this for a more lightweight sweater–searching stash tomorrow.

  15. joy

    Based on the strength of her previous designs, I bought the book unseen too. Now I can’t wait til it gets to my house! I’m so glad you’ve found a sweater you want to make for yourself. Have fun making the mods. 😉

  16. Melissa

    Why or why are there so many awesome knitting books out right now? 😉 I really like the sweater in the norah8 pic. I like turtle necks too. I must see if my library has this!

  17. alice

    I think it was on lolly’s blog that I first saw a rave about this book. It does look amazing. There is something in the approach that reminds me of the things I liked about Loop-d-loop, but with much nicer more wearable designs

  18. j a r e d

    the book is inventive for sure! and the photos are beautiful… i spent my lunch break earlier this week hunkered down in the isle of a nearby barnes and noble reading through.

    the design i really like is that green jacket with the turned hems ( you have it pictured above). its awesome! and the cowl nautilus crazy sweater, while totally unreasonable, is a pretty amazing idea. and it is beautiful (on the model).

    woohoo for a new sweater!

  19. Susanne

    I just rec’d my copy from Amazon and was thrilled as I curled up with it and a cup of tea to meandre through the pages. It is a gorgeous, clever, wonderful book and I intend to go back to decide which one I will start!

  20. Angela

    Guess I’m not the only Norah Gaughan fan out there; on Tuesday I posted about this book! (Way more photos in your post, though.)

  21. Alyson

    Shaping. Oodles of shaping. I love all of these designs (but, again….shaping.) Thanks so much for sharing all those photos – my Borders doesn’t carry much in the way of knitting books lately, or they’re all selling out, so I haven’t had a chance to thumb through it.

  22. gail

    I agree with your comment about turtlenecks. Plus, add to that fact that I am at that time of life where my body flashes heat at inopportune moments, day and night. I happen to really like Meg Swanson’s neckline treatments on many of her items–an applied narrow I-cord. This stretches, makes an elegant finished edge and looks more like a designer edging than ribbing. Can’t wait to see your finished product and all the alterations you made.

  23. gleek

    those swirly pentgons and very lovely. i’m looking forward to how this sweater will look with a crew neck!

  24. Katherine

    Huh. Cool. Thanks for the intro to this book. I may pick it up sometime.

    I’m thinking you switched the ribbing from 2×2 to 3×1, but it’s kind of hard to tell.

    I have a Berocco pattern that is somewhat similar, although not quite as nifty. I haven’t started it yet or even bought yarn, but I will be interested in your progress with this pattern, since it may give me some insight with my own.

  25. Kathy

    I love the open-minded way you approach this book — sure, some of the designs are a little out there, but so what? The ideas and creativity ROCK! It’s only a matter of time, though, until some of them show up here.

    I’ve got to get my hands on that book just for the mitten pattern! Dulaan, look out!

    2×1 ribbing instead of 1×1 — perhaps you, too, find ribbing kinda boring, especially 1×1?

  26. Steph

    For the past two days I’ve been going to the bookstore during lunch to drool over this book. There are so many incredible projects in there, I love the Starfish shawl or the Bubble Sweater. I had the same thought about leaving the turtleneck off the pentagon sweater! My only criticism is that pretty much all of the sweaters have no waist shaping. But since that is an easy modification, it’s not that big of a deal.

  27. B.

    Interesting design and I too agree about the turtleneck, but I’m afraid I don’t agree with your choice of ribbing. I like the way the finer ribbing in the original echoes the texture of the pentagrams.

  28. Wanda

    I just got this book from the library and love it. I’d seen some patterns on Lolly’s blog and once I heard there was a new book out by her, I had to check it out. Definitely one I want to own as well. Such interesting and unique patterns. As you say, some I don’t care for, but I love the construction of them. I too always feel like I’m being choked with t-necks. I always change that neck. Good luck with this pattern. I’m sure you can make it work.

  29. jessica~

    Ah, I had to decided between this book and Moorehouse Farms and chose the Farms book. I think I’m going to head out and pick this one up tomorrow.

    Thanks for the review/preview!

  30. Anne

    I was in my university bookstore looking at the plant guides when they rolled through the cart of new books to stock – I noticed that book on the top and grabbed it. I was a little unsure about some of the designs, but I love the pink sweater with the phyllotaxis pattern and the wide neck. She took nature and knitting beyond DNA cables and tree bark cables – there are very interesting designs.

  31. Ruth

    Another knitting book I can’t live without. This is an unanticipated side effect of my new blogging habit.

  32. TracyKM

    Thanks a lot! With the baby, and the move…I’m on a pattern diet (I tried really hard to stick to the yarn diet but my LYS is closing).

    I’ve admired Norah’s designs for a few years now. I bought a pile of old Vogue’s at a yardsale, and she has some really clever designs. Unfortunately, Vogue sizes don’t fit me and her designs are not easily altered to other sizes by just ‘figuring gauge and adding an inch of sts”. I still want to knit them for the experience! Heck, right now, I’d be happy to knit just about anything!

    (How’s the skirt?)


  33. Johanna

    I JUST got back from the bookstore with this book! I hadn’t heard anything about it, and was planning on blogging about it Monday! I probably still will, so look forward to my take on the patterns. This is a book that my tummy wouldn’t let me leave the bookstore without!

  34. Stephanie

    I always take my dust jacket off and store it so it doesn’t get ruined while I drool over my books! 😉 I think the designs are more sophisticated than Teva’s – thou I like her very much. My first thoughts on this sweater (and the book) match yours so closely it was de ja vu reading this post! Good luck, can’t wait to see how it comes out. I’m sure you’ll inspire me as you usually do, btw – love the new socks. Never tried it, but every pair you have made gets me closer to starting a pair. And I wear socks all the time.

  35. Kate

    Oooh, loving the idea for the book and the pics. This should jog me out of my knitting paralysis in no time!

  36. quenna

    What a great sweater — classic lines yet modern. Definitely raising the notch in knitting. I’m with you on turtlenecks (and choker necklaces too). Love your blog!

  37. mary

    In the book, Wrap Style, the one design I kept going back to was the Norah Goughan poncho-cum-capelet. I still haven’t figured out how she made it from reading the instructions. Let’s see — do we take yarn money from groceries or utilities;)

  38. Lolly

    I bought it sight unseen last month, and I have no regret. (I did a massive picture post for it too) The book is really stunning. I think I am having dreams about that Hex Coat… love it so much. The Pentagon pullover is on my list too. Red will be a great match for it.

  39. Claire M.

    Totally with you on the crewneck rather than turtleneck thing. Turtleneck sweaters only look good on women who are so slender and beautiful they could pull a potato sack over themselves and people would still ooh and ah. So you wanted more flex at the bottom? If it hadn’t been for Melissa above, I wouldna seen it. Looking forward to seeing your mods! Waiting for my next payday and that book will be ordered from Amazon in a jiffy. Enjoy the knit!

  40. Lola Lee Beno

    Wow . . . this is different enough that it looks like some of these patterns will be a pleasant challenge to knit, yet not “outta there”. Going to have to put it on my wishlist.

  41. Janet

    My niece is one of the models – 3rd row, 2nd photo, dark hair. Also, she is a knitter thanks to me. Her mom just sent me a link to the book, so of course it’s on its way!

  42. Cheri

    I don’t know what you are talking about…I always run my bath water wearing a long sleeved shrug with a matching hat.

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