Book Review – Finishing School

Please, please, please buy Finishing School by Deborah Newton!! 

It’s not that hard to find the time to learn how to knit – take a class, spend an afternoon with a knitting friend or even get trapped next to an enthusiastic knitter on a plane who just happens to carry along extra needles and yarn for spontaneous instructions to total strangers. Of course, by the end of the flight you’ve become lifelong friends but that is another story.

What is the hidden thread running through these experiences? Each one of those new knitters has learned how to make a knit stitch and a purl stitch. All you need to know to make a piece of knit fabric. But, what about actually making clothing? That is an entirely different story! 

Knitting is all about individual creative expression. When a new knitter goes out into the world, there is no possible way she will be able to find someone who can help her with a particular knitting conundrum precisely when she needs them. Everything from how to get the practice piece off of the needles to steeking her first Fair Isle Sweater. 

Oddly enough, Deborah’s large book is more inspiring than intimidating. Knowledge is power and with Deborah’s help, you can rule your knitting world. 

Getting started is just as important as finishing so the first chapter is dedicated to Choosing Projects Well, Using a Schematic Drawing, Swatching for Success, The Finishing Toolkit and Getting Ready to Finish.

Chapter Two covers Blocking Basics – To Block or Not to Block?, Surfaces, and Tools and Blocking Methods. The projects that Deborah gives you to understand blocking are a Lace Case Study with a scarf knit with two different yarns. She also uses two different yarns for the lace tunic (shown below).

Chapter Three covers Seaming (my personal demon) – Three Simple Rules, Seaming Basics, Joining Shoulders, Vertical Seams and Sleeve Caps. Deborah has a lovely lace top for you to practice sleeve-cap seaming. The Cabled Patchwork Scarf shows you how to pick up stitches along an edge as well as joining edges that are very different. Learn how to seam garter stitch with Three Kids’ Sweaters each knit using a basic rectangular approach but with different means of assembly. I wouldn’t mind making larger versions of these for myself.

Chapter Four is called Edgings Intensive but don’t let that scare you. It only means that Deborah is going to be giving you a lot of information – The Basic Approach, Picking Up Stitches, Types of Edgings, Trimming the Trim, Binding Off Edgings and Edgings Along Different Parts of a Sweater. The Mitered Magic cardigan vest teaches you how to pick up stitches for a buttonband and use miters to turn the bottom corners. The Cowl-Neck Pullover (shown below) features several interesting finishing details.

Chapter Five is Extra Credit – Buttons, Zippers, Pockets and More. The Fitted Colorblock Jacket has a functional zipper up the front with decorative zippers on the sleeve cuffs and at the shoulders. Wow! The Plaid Accents Cardigan is full of surprises – chain stitching to finish the plaid look of the collar, cuffs and patch pocket. A buttonband. Sleeve inset seaming – all sorts of fun details!

Finally, Chapter Six is Continuing Education: Special Finishing like Alterations When Good Sweaters Go Bad and Incorporating Other Fabrics. Learn how to add fabric lining by practicing on the Swatch Purse. The Asian Inspired Felted Vest has simple, classy lines. Check you favorite vintage store for a sweater you can upcycle into a colorful Bucket Bag (shown below). Or, turn a pullover into a cardigan by steeking the front and adding an accent buttonband. 

Remember, you don’t have to do the projects in each chapter to understand the lessons. The photos and Deborah’s excellent instructions will get you through whatever you need to finish your particular project.

I’m going to finish with a quote from Winston Churchill that Deborah actually has at the beginning of her book. “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”