Now, I’m not much of a lace knitter, but Donna Druchunas’ latest book, Successful Lace Knitting caught my attention because more than just a pattern book, it is a work of knitting history. Druchunas investigates the work of Dorothy Reade, an American knitter and designer of the 1960s. Although she worked at the same time as those other American knitting icons, Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker, Reade is no longer so well known.

There is no good reason why, as she produced beautiful work, both spun and knitted, which was widely exhibited in museums and galleries at the time. More importantly in textile history terms was the fact that she was key in the development of visual lace knitting charts as we know them today. Having had access to Reade’s own papers, knitter and writer Druchunas writes a compelling history of Dorothy Reade’s life and work in the first half of the book, quoting from Reade’s letters and notes. There is also a lovely array of photographs of Reade at work, with her knitted objects, spinning and on her travels.

Before the projects section, Druchunas has written an extremely good illustrated chapter on lace knitting basics. Combining both Dorothy Reade’s instructions and her own additional notes, she shows not only how to form lace knitting stitches, but how to read a chart, and highlights how the charted symbols used today were influence by Reade’s work in the 1960s.

In the second part of the book, there are over 20 patterns using lace, from socks to cardigans, shawls to an afghan (that’s a knitted throw to those on my side of the Atlantic). The designers’ brief was to create a garment which incorporated lace knitting, each using a different stitch pattern that was used in Dorothy Reade’s book, 25 Original Knitting Designs. Her influence is palpable. Inspired by Druchunas’ extensive research, designers such as Annie Modesitt, Marnie MacLean and Chrissy Gardiner have contributed some really lovely designs, which are of course, all charted in an easy to follow way.

The projects are all well photographed to show off the stitch patterns in their best light and in the back of the book there is an extensive list of abbreviations, a glossary and designer biographies. This book would make a welcome addition to any knitter’s bookshelf, and a great Christmas gift at this time of year, but especially if you are interested in the development of American knitting or are a beginning lace knitter as the instructions are so well written.

Successful Lace Knitting by Donna Druchunas. Martingale & Company: Bothell, WA, 2010


Review: Successful Lace Knitting by Donna Druchunas
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