No-Bull Book Review: Scottish Knits, by Martin Storey

I have started and been interrupted from finishing this book review for, literally, months. But my competitive spirit runs high, and so when Lorna’s Laces left a comment on my blog yesterday, sympathizing with my backlog of book reviews and asking if I wanted to race, well, it’s on!  Just the kick in the pants I needed to get a review or two done before TNNA.

I received Martin Storey’s latest book, Scottish Knits: Colorwork & Cables with a Twist (Interweave; MSRP $24.95, available via the link for $18.62 at the time of this writing) as a Christmas present, and have wanted to do a blog post about it pretty much since then. Martin Storey has been a favorite designer of mine for a long time. I love his use of traditional stitch patterns and techniques in a contemporary way, and really, that sums up in a nutshell what I like about his latest book.

storey cover

Scottish Knits was originally published in the UK (with the slightly different title “Scottish Heritage Knits”) and has now been offered in the USA by Interweave/F & W. It’s a paperback book, just over 150 pages, with a slightly different size (about 7.5 ” wide by 9.5″ tall) than most of Interweave’s recent pattern books. Because the styling and photography were done in Britain, the book’s style also feels a little different from the recent batch of Interweave books. It’s a somewhat no-nonsense book, launching directly into the patterns without introductory material or even chapter divisions. The book contains 24 patterns, mostly women’s garments and accessories, with a few home dec items.

Let’s start with the most traditional designs. The Ross cardigan features a classic fair isle knitting pattern:

storey ross

The sweater is updated a bit for modern preferences with its longer length, waist shaping and solid edgings — it’s not the boxy rectangle shape you so often see with stranded sweaters. I like the rich palette of colors, too.

The Shetland cushion is made of squares featuring a matching fair isle pattern, but worked in two different colorways. The squares are seamed together to make the pillow cover.

storey cushion

The same technique is used for a matching throw; just make more blocks and you end up with a small throw or a larger blanket.

One aspect of these patterns that I particularly like is that they add some unexpected details along with the traditional patterning. The Tweed beret uses a classic herringbone stranded pattern, but alternates both main color and background color for a little zing. The top of the crown is done in a solid color making it easier to work in decreases without interrupting the flow of a two-color pattern.

storey beret

Matching mitten and scarf patterns are included, too.

The Highland tunic features traditional cable patterns (what gorgeous stitchwork!)

storey highland

but the short sleeves, foldover collar and pockets, plus gentle waist shaping, make it a much more flattering and versatile garment, easier to wear than heavy, long-sleeved drop shoulder styles.

While Martin Storey has shown us time and again that he can design very traditional-looking garments, I love that he didn’t play it entirely safe with this collection. Take, for example, the Tay Tartan cardigan, which combines two different styles of colorwork–stranded and intarsia–in the same garment, with a bold plaid setting off the more delicate stranded design on top.

storey tartan card

Likewise, the Thistle cardigan uses a thistle motif on the two cardigan fronts, but sets it off with graduated stripes on the sleeves and back.

storey thistle

Again the stripes not only give this a fresh look, they will speed the knitting along and make the raglan increases much easier to complete.

The Portree sweater uses the same scroll motif in bands, but changes the background color for a fresh look; the motif is thoughtfully planned to go across the sleeves, matching perfectly.

storey peebles

We’ve all seen argyle socks and vests, but here Storey blows up the argyle design and uses bright, untraditional colors. I’m not sure I feel about the contrasting edging pattern (I think I’d like it different colors), but overall this is a supercute sweater with high marks for creativity.

storey argyle 2

A second aspect of this book that I like is the way that Storey combines different types of techniques in the same garment. For example, the Mackintosh Rose jacket uses a stranded pattern on the body complemented by a lace edging. The jacket is bolero-style, with a loose fit. (If you’re like me, and find that shawls often slip off your shoulders, this style gives much of the feel of a shawl but with sleeves.)

storey mackintosh

The Cromarty coat is features a stockinette back and ribbed sleeves, with celtic-inspired colorwork on the front collar/lapels.

storey cromarty

It can be worn flowing but I really like it belted as in this photo:

storey belted

The Peebles stole combines panels of lace and cables in a bright spring green tweedy yarn:

storey pebbles

Another favorite of mine is this cropped, short-sleeved cardigan, the Fyfe:

storey better fyfe

It’s a great layering piece and a cabled sweater that even someone who always runs on the warm side (like me) could wear a lot.

Summing up:

Total patterns: 24

Type of patterns:

  • 6 cardigans
  • 3 pullovers
  • 3 pairs of mittens
  • 1 cushion cover
  • 2 throws (one of which is shown in two sizes)
  • 3 scarves
  • 1 poncho
  • 1 bag
  • 1 pair of socks (knit in light worsted weight yarn)
  • 1 stole
  • 1 hat
  • 1 vest

Who they’re for:  Mainly women, with some of the scarves and the home dec items having unisex appeal

Sizing: Home dec and accessories are one size fits all; garments are sized S to XL, with actual garment size of S ranging from 36 to 39″, and XL ranging from 49 to 54″

Schematics: Y

Charts: Stranded designs are charted, some in color, some in B&W with symbols; cabled designs are not charted

Photography: Color with multiple shots of each garment, including close-ups of some detailing; also includes gorgeous photos of Scottish landscape

Yarn weights: Aran through fingering weight

How-to material: Contains only brief explanation of general topics such as gauge, sizing and finishing


If you’re a fan of Martin Storey and/or Rowan (and I”m a big fan of both),picking up a copy of this book will probably be a no-brainer. It will also have appeal for fans of traditional techniques presented in more contemporary silhouettes; tweedy fans; lovers of Scotland and Scottish-inspired knitting; and experienced knitters looking for some interesting stranded and cablework to tackle.


Photographs copyright 2012 Berry & Bridges Ltd.




One Thought

  1. Bonnie says:

    Wow, the Ross Cardigan is beautiful.

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