I recently had a chance to review Top-Down Crochet Sweaters by Dora Ohrenstein. (Disclaimer: Dora is an experienced designer, author, and teacher, and we have met several times. I admire her work, her enthusiasm for crochet, and her desire to help crocheters learn. The book's publisher, Storey Publishing, sent me a copy of the book to review; as you know by now, that doesn't influence my opinions.)
There are seven pairs of patterns in the book. Each pair has the same stitch pattern but a different finished project. For example, Luna is a pullover in double trebles, and Janelle is a long, loose cardigan. Both are done with linked double treble stitches.
There is a nice variety. Jade and Magda use cables; Nanette (on the cover) and Erde have crossed stitches. Some of the other patterns use openwork. Whether those appeal to you is a matter of taste, but there is no question that the book's first fifty pages, "Part I: The Techniques," should be in every crocheter's library!
Dora approaches top-down stitches like an architect, explaining the overall structure and then teaching how to build each part. Here are just a few of the things she covers: Necklines; Yoke Shaping; Creating the Underarm; Working the Sleeve. Next she addresses special techniques for top-down garments include gauge, drape, blocking, and yarn choice.
The final part of the Techniques section is "Making Your Garment Fit." What a concept! Understanding what "ease" means, learning how to measure yourself, deciding what length fits your body best, and changing things up to customize fit are important techniques not with top-down sweaters, but with all garments.
I tested the Isola raglan sleeve top.
It took me a few rounds to understand exactly what I was doing, but things moved along once I got the hang of it (I did wish for some shorter sentences in the instructions--I don't know what publishers have against using a period somewhere and then continuing with instructions for a round--because having 11 run-on lines of text for one round makes it too easy to lose your place.) The symbol chart was helpful.
Here's my garment-in-progress:
I didn't finish the top because it's not something I want to wear, but I went as far as the middle of the bust. That was enough to verify that the instructions are correct.
The photography in the book is top-notch. Symbol charts and schematics are clear and helpful. Dora's thorough explanations about top-down construction are brilliant and much-needed, and I know that I will turn to those insights as I continue my own design work.
Top-Down Crochet Sweaters, Dora Ohrenstein, Storey Publishing, October 2016. Full-color; photographs and illustrations throughout. 176 pages.