Hot off the presses (from our old friend Martingale, no less) is Modern Classics (Martingale MSRP$31.95 but the current Amazon price is $21.09*).
I quite like this book and I have the feeling I'll be making many of the patterns over the course of the next few
First, let me get this out of my system: I absolutely loathe this model:
Okay, now that the petty is out of my system, I feel better. Overall, the book is stylish and nicely put together: lots of color photos, good schematics, photographs that let you get a pretty good idea of what the finished garment is supposed to look like. I might have chosen a slightly darker ink (the patterns are printed in a taupe color that might require a good reading lamp for some) but this is a minor quibble. There is a brief how-to-knit section but it doesn't monopolize the book, and since many of these patterns are user-friendly for beginner knitters, this seems appropriate. There are also brief sections on finishing, how to read charts and other skills beyond knitting and purling which will help a newer knitter achieve more professional results.
On to the patterns. The patterns are organized into three sections, by yarn weight. The first set of patterns use DK-weight yarn (5.5 sts to the inch), the second worsted (5 to the inch), and the third use aran-weight yarn (4.5 to the inch). All the designs in the book are shown in Louisa Harding's yarns, several of which I've seen at Rosie's and look to be quite nice. But since these are probably the three most popular weights of yarn, substitution should be very easy and I'd be surprised if you couldn't find at least one pattern that you could readily make from your stash. I never really thought about categorizing designs by weight but I like it. It saves you the bother of flipping through each section trying to remember which pattern might match the gauge on which yarn.
The patterns are indeed classic in the sense that they don't feature excessively trendy design elements. These are the kinds of basic sweaters that may not be the most challenging knitting, and may not have the masterpiece cachet of an Alice Starmore fair isle or an intricate lace shawl, but I suspect they will be the garments you reach for time and time again, the old faithfuls. I see armholes that are nipped in, some patterns with body shaping while others are straight, and design touches that will add some interest to the knitting while not requiring superhuman powers of concentration, such as a single cable that runs down the front of a sweater, or a band of stranded colorwork (especially lovely) that runs across the bottom hem and sleeve cuffs like so:
The size ranges are excellent: Harding gives a whopping six sizes for each pattern, to fit bust size 32 through 42 (even numbers). Rock on, Louisa. The patterns are rated on a scale of 1 to 3 for difficulty, which will also help newer knitters select a suitable pattern.
Another feature that I like about this book, and which will increase its utility, is that different variations are given for some of the patterns. For example, a fairly simple fitted sweater is shown in three versions: turtleneck in a mohair blend multicolor, a V-neck in a multicolor angora blend, and a short-sleeve version with a scoop neck in a merino/cashmere solid-color blend. Even some of the patterns that don't feature variations in the neckline or length are shown in two different yarns, e.g., one solid and one multi. This creates a bit of extra work for the designer and her staff, requiring the knitting of a second version of the sweater for photographing, but is a nice touch for knitters who have trouble envisioning what a garment will look like in a different style of yarn.
If these sweaters are not especially cutting-edge, if they don't push the boundaries of knitting like, say, Teva Durham's Loop-d-Loop or Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature, well, that's okay with me. These aren't meant to be boundary-busting garments; they're meant to be user-friendly, versatile patterns that you can make over and over, in different variations and with different yarns. Seasoned knitters who like designing their own stuff may want to check out the book before purchasing to see if it's worthwhile for them, or if they feel that they could whip up their own similar garments without a pattern. Knitters interested in extremely trendy looks or who want challenging garments to test their knitting mettle will also be advised to look before purchasing. But if you're like me, and sometimes you just want to turn your brain off, watch "Law and Order" and knit along with someone else's pattern, you may find this book a useful addition to your knitting library.
*Okay, what's with the MSRP of thirty-two bucks for a paperback book with twenty patterns? Hmm? Luckily, you can find it way cheaper if you look around. Don't piss me off, Martingale.