Thursday, October 22, 2009

(Another) Book Review: More Big Girl Knits

In which we discuss "More Big Girl Knits", and if you go all the way to the end we reveal more about our self than we might otherwise, but this is a soapbox issue for us, so on we go! As always, and since the FTC is now apparently officially watching (don't get me started on that one), the books I review herein are, unless otherwise stated, provided to me free, usually by the publisher. I do not review books I do not like, and receive more books than you see here. If I like it, you'll know (I feel like I just said this recently...hmm...when was that?).

The fashion industry assumes that the average American woman is a size 8, with measurements as follows: 35-inch bust, a 27-inch waist, and 37.5-inch hip. But adult American women ages 36 to 45 actually average 41-34-43. Fashion magazines, clothing catalogs, retail stores and most knitting pattern books seem oblivious to the obvious - American women are curvy. We're round, soft, wobbly and comfortable. We eat, we love, we laugh; we want to enjoy and embrace life to the fullest, and are not afraid to take on all that it has to offer. Unfortunately many of us do it in shapeless tunics with matchy leggings because the rest of the world has failed to recognize what we already know - big is beautiful, and women with shape need cute clothes, too.

It starts in the mirror. Authors Amy Singer and Jillian Moreno advise us to take stock, look at ourselves in the mirror, and learn to "Look with love and tell the critical voices to shut the hell up". I couldn't agree more. Who and what you are today is who and what you are. You're not a size tag, not a number, not a measurement. You're a real woman with value and brains and beauty and wisdom that the size of your jeans does not reflect. Get over it. Most of us are round, and we're really very lovely.

"More Big Girl Knits" is just what it says it is. Stuffed with "25 designs full of color and texture for curvy women", this book aims at a market we all know is out there, in fact it's the majority market, a market that deserves equal time and treatment.

Most big girl clothes tend to be either too shapely, revealing maybe a bit more than we'd like, or clinging in all the wrong places, or just plain old not fitting. "More Big Girl Knits" gives you the tools you need to make sure your finished sweater fits YOU, just the way it should. Advice is given for different body types which helps you choose styles and cuts that fit and flatter you. That advice alone is worth the price of admission. Take the ideas in this book on the road on your next shopping trip, and see if you don't benefit from the authors' practical tips on accenting the bits you want to show off. Proper measuring technique, deciding on your desired ease and choosing a size, knowing your curves, finding yarn and colors that flatter you - it's all here. There's also an exceptionally handy yardage chart included so you know how much yarn you'll genereally need based on gauge and garment type. Excellent!

None of these designs has a size clocking in at less than a 40" bust measurement. Most begin in the low 40"'s, and some go up to the 60" range. There is, indeed, something in this book for every curvy girl. There are shawls and scarves with proportions that flatter bigger bodies. There's even socks designed to accommodate more shapely calves and ankles - notably Indian Summer Socks designed my Sivia Harding, which feature beads and an adorable folded cuff.They're delightful to look at, especially given the season! But what's really important here are the sweaters.

The sweaters really get the job done. From the Bountiful Bohus by Chrissy Gardiner, a Bohus inspired cardigan in rich warm brown, to the cozy dress-it-up, dress-it-down Hot Cocoa by Jordana Paige and the slip-stitch charm of Pastille by Kristie Porter, there's something here for every knitter and every big girl.

This stunning "Susie Hoodie", designed by Mandy Moore is among my favorites.Presented in sizes ranging from 44" to 60", there's a size here for every big girl. This is a delightfully cabled cardigan, made more so by the addition of a shaped back that draws the eye down and gives length to the body.
This sweater looks comfy, but not shapeless and lumpy. The yarn is Tahki Donegal Tweed Homespun.Makes me want to go for a walk in the leaves.

Sweetly sexy, the Orange Smoothie tank by Libby Baker is the perfect thing for summer. You know those days when the idea of clothing is too much to bear? (Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way, since the intro for this one says "It's hot and you can't go outside naked.").This is the perfect topper. The surplice front makes this extremely flattering for women to whom nature generously provided an ample cleavage.Simple but eye-catching and comfortably breathable, knitted in Dalegarn Svale. Hey, wait. I've got three bags of that here somewhere...hmmm!

There's so much more here - the Slipstream Pullover which uses a bit of sparkly to accent cuffs, hem and neckline; the Plain Vanilla Pullover you can customize to fit your shape to perfection; the bi-color Modular Spiral Jacket that uses blocks of color to define your shape, the Twisted Pullover that makes use of vertical lines to best advantage, the No-Gap Wrap, another garment that uses a v-neckline to flatter mature bust lines; the Cable Love jacket that...well I could go on and on. The point is that no matter what you're looking for, if you're a big girl, you'll find it in here.

Some of us don't embrace the shape we're in. We feel guilt, shame and revulsion at our own image. That's sad. We're driven by a culture that promotes unrealistic beauty standards, and makes us think that if we're not a size 0 we have no value or appeal. We allow the media and culture to pump that mindset into our daughters, making them shamed by their own curves, afraid to have that piece of birthday cake, refusing food, becoming anorexic or bulemic in record numbers at insanely young ages, or just hiding out under tent-sized t's and baggy pants. For most of my life I've struggled with weight issues and body image. At 17 I weighed 76 pounds. My periods stopped, my hair fell out. But I was thin! I thought if I lost enough weight my man-attracting curves would go away. I was anorexic and I was killing myself.

After my babies were born I struggled with self-esteem and body image - babies made my already generous bust line explode. I've done it all; diet and exercise, just diet, just exercise. I've counted calories, worried endlessly about fitting into a number. I am SO over it now. Life is much too short to worry about this crap. The size that fits is the one I need. The food I eat is what I'm hungry for. My blood pressure is low, my cholesterol is too. My resting pulse is around 60 beats per minute. I'm fine, just as I am. Don't like it? Don't look!

Should we eat healthier? Yes, we certainly should. Should we get up and go for a walk, run, swim or bike ride? You bet. Should we allow ourselves to be shamed into hiding out under sad, sorry outfits, cringing at ourselves in family photos, running and hiding from the truth of who we are? NO. It all begins with loving yourself as you are.

ALL of yourself. Start now. Please.


gale (she shoots sheep shots) said...

Fabulous review & love your message at the end. Very tempted to knit that Suse Hoodie, very.

Anonymous said...

Great Review!

I'm trying to embrace what my bumper sticker says...
Change how you see, not how you look.

And I really want to do the bohus inspired sweater......

Gramma Phyllis said...

I enjoyed the first Big Girls' book and now your review has made me want to add this one to my Birthday/Christmas wish list. Bohus for the rest of us, how great is that.

ME215 said...

Thanks Melissa. It's time for me to start that "first" sweater that I've been putting off. Great to see you this weekend.