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Review: Needles and Artifice, An Ingenious Book of Steampunk Knitting Patterns


I am a geek and a nerd. I am an intermediate knitter and crocheter. I have very little exposure to the amazing world of steampunk, but I’m working on it. Nice to meet you.

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Now that we have that out of the way, let me just say this: this book is fricking awesome.

There are many different ways to approach this book. You could be a knitter, looking for some fresh new patterns. You could be into steampunk, and looking for new garments to craft. You could be a reader, ready to gobble down the latest adventure story with daring heroics, clever inventions, and six (count them) leading Ladies. As long as you appreciate awesomeness, this book should find its way to your shelf or hard drive.

Of course, the knitting patterns are technically the main focus of the book. Generally speaking, they seem to range from early intermediate to very advanced levels, although unfortunately, there are no difficulty ratings provided. Every pattern includes wonderfully detailed instructions on almost everything: sizing and how to change it, good yarn substitutions, blocking instructions, how to fix dropped stitches in a particular scheme… It can, admittedly, get a little overwhelming and text-heavy at times, but it’s well worth the amount of black on the page.

The patterns themselves are clever and ingenious, much as the title claims. The tweaks and inventions and sumptuous garments seem endless. My brain got excited about everything. “Bloomers!! OMG! Ooh, rivet buttons for knitted spats! I WANT THAT BED JACKET! Such a nice vest…what a great technique to start both straps at the same time… That is AWESOME shaping on that cameo jacket. Oh, that is actually a make-your-own-underbust-corset, that is the greatest. OH LOOK! SCIENCE SCARF! And…yes, they did. They did suggest bamboo skewers for boning on a capelet. Brillz.” By the end of perusing the book, I could feel my yarn stash humming along in time to the plans I had for it.

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The interwoven story is fun, and integrates nicely into the themed pattern categories. The writing will make knitters groan and laugh: insults like “thrice-frogged” and “felted” abound. Overall, though, these Ladies are just great.

The patterns’ charts have some clunky fonts, which will detract from the otherwise beautiful book (if not adjusted from the advance PDFs to the physical book). And yes, some of the instructions may be hard to follow, so beginning knitters should wait to pick up this book. Otherwise, the patterns and story are so whimsical that they more than compensate for the slight flaws. Many of the garments can be customized for costume pieces, like the spats for armor bracers, or even serve for everyday use, like the Master and Commander cap and cowl, or any of the armwarmers and fingerless gloves. I myself have already cast on for the Incandescent Cowl. Geeky knitters, eat your hearts out. And then go knit everything in this book.

Needles and Artifice is available digitally and in hardcover from Cooperative Press.

When not knitting cabled capes or making TARDIS noises, Allison M. Charette translates mostly literature from French into English. Her blog, ostensibly on the latter subject, can be found at

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Susana Polo
Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.

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