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AlterKnit & Giveaway!

UPDATE 9/5/17: Apologies! I drew the winner and forgot to post! congratulations to Christiana Vance! Christina, check your email.


I recently got my hands on a copy of AlterKnit (Interweave Press, 2017, $26.99), a stitch dictionary with 200 modern knitting motifs. I really liked this book because it had a wide array of patterns (200!) covering both traditional and very geometric, to more organic and funky motifs. Some people are under the impression that Fair Isle always means straight lines with traditional patterning, and while there are some of those, there’s also zombies, monkeys, and cactus! The swatches shown showed multiple repeats (always important for a stitch dictionary so you can see how to motif looks when repeated) and used nicely contrasting shades of yarn. There’s also a handful of projects in the back providing pattern support for some of these stitch patterns and it’d be easy to swap in another motif from the book if you wanted.

Being obsessed with Fair Isle and any sort of colorwork, I knew I had to check it out and have author Andrea Rangel answer a few questions….

Tanis Gray (TG): There are a lot of stitch dictionaries on the market for knitters. What is it about this one that makes it a must have for our book shelves? 

Andrea Rangel (AR): AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary is different because it focuses entirely on original stranded colorwork motifs. Most stitch dictionaries include just a few color patterns, or may focus on traditional motifs, but this one is unique in that it offers 200 new color motifs to inspire knitters! It also has a technique section to help knitters get started and improve their colorwork, and five new projects so knitters can see some examples of how the motifs can be used in design. It’s an all-around great knitting resource!

TG: Something unique about this book is that it was a team effort. Your husband conceived the stitch patterns while you swatched and refined. How was it working like that? Did you have veto power?

AR: Every motif that’s in the book is there because we both agreed it works. We did a lot more work than was published and it was a process of weeding out. He’d create a chart and we’d both decide if we liked it. If yes, I’d swatch it. Once I had a pile of swatches, we’d go through them and pick out the best ones, taking out any that either of us didn’t love. There wasn’t really any need for anyone to veto because we only wanted the very strongest motifs to be included, so if we didn’t agree, we just didn’t use it. Mostly we worked well together, though there were a few times when he was talking as an illustrator and I was talking as a knitter, and we weren’t quite speaking the same language. And it was an intense amount of work in a very short time, so it was definitely stressful. But overall, we’re both just sort of delighted that we actually made a book together!

TG: If you had to chose your 3 favorite stitch motifs in your book, which would they be?

AR: That’s so hard! I’ll say Hippos still makes me laugh every time (it’s the round butts!), Amplitude is so visually mesmerizing, and I think Long Stitch just works perfectly. But ask me on a different day and I might give three different answers!

TG: Fair Isle is my absolute favorite knitting technique! Do you tend to focus on colorwork or are you an equal opportunity technique knitter?

AR: I love almost everything about knitting, so as much as I love stranded colorwork, it’s only one of the many techniques I use all the time. The nine months I spent working on AlterKnit was almost all colorwork though. Every day. All day. Right now I feel like I’m in a Stockinette phase, but then I knit up some lace and the rhythm of that is so enthralling and reminds me of colorwork, so I’m back there again. Can’t stop knitting.

TG: I teach Fair Isle often and the thing I hear most frequently is “that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.” What advice would you give someone who wants to learn this technique but hasn’t mustered up their courage yet?

AR: I recommend just playing without judgement. Even if a thing seems hard, just try it and you may love it! I included a bunch of tips for improving your colorwork in AlterKnit because there are lots of practical ways to make your work look better, and every time you practice, that’ll make it better too! Swatches are great for knitting play time. I know a lot of knitters want to make a project, but embracing swatching can be a really fun, low-risk way to learn something new. And I always recommend practicing reinforcing and cutting a steek on a swatch before trying it on a real project. Steeking is a technique that’s so empowering and once you’ve done it once, it’s not quite so intimidating.

TG: What is your dream Fair Isle project?

AR: I have too many dreams! I find myself constantly wanting to make all the things. For traditional Fair Isle, I’m pretty excited about a current WIP – Ysolda’s Bruntsfield vest I’m knitting in Uradale Farms yarn, a farm I visited while in Shetland this summer. I really like less traditional colorwork too though, so I think I’ll probably use some of my Shetland yarn to design another sweater with one of the geometric motifs from AlterKnit, maybe incorporating the many-colored look of Fair Isle with the more modern look of the new motif.

TG: How can people use this book?

AR: Our hope is that knitters use AlterKnit as a jumping-off point for their own creativity. Anyone can use the motifs for their own original patterns whether for sale or for fun. It isn’t necessary to give credit, though I would absolutely love to see what folks make using the motifs, so tagging #alterknitstitchdictionary would be awesome. The book can also be used for reference – it’s got a techniques section in the front with info on how to hold your yarn, catch floats, pick colors, steek, and a lot more! I included five projects too so folks can get some examples of how to use colorwork. I’m looking forward to seeing knitters make those projects as they’re written, but I also can’t wait to see what different motifs they use instead of the ones I picked. There’s a section on how to use motifs in design (with specific examples and math!) so I hope knitters swap out motifs to get a project that’s just right for them. And I hope that just flipping through the book makes knitters want to do colorwork! If I see a bunch of new colorwork designs and projects in the world, I’ll be happy that my job is done.

TG: I like that you have a handful of projects in the back to get people going. What is your favorite kind of project to knit with colorwork?

AR: I adore a good colorwork sweater, especially if I get to cut it open at the end! It’s so satisfying!

TG: Color is a very important aspect to this kind of knitting. What advice would you give knitters who have trouble choosing colors?

AR: My number one tip is to start with colors that have high contrast – one should be light and one dark. It can be hard to tell if your colors are contrasting enough, so an easy trick is to just take a photo with your black and white filter on. That’ll show the value (relative brightness/darkness) of the colors. If they still look different, go for it! If they look exactly the same, they probably won’t read very well in colorwork, so pick a higher contrast.

TG: What’s on your needles now?

AR: It’s actually all personal knitting, which is delightful and unusual for me! I’m currently knitting Woolen Explorer from my first book, Rugged Knits, and two patterns by Ysolda – Bruntsfield for me, and Wee Liesl for my niece. I also like to have a sock on the needles in case I need something simple to throw in my bag, so I just cast on an Okanogan Sock.

Thanks, Andrea! Let’s give away a copy of the book, shall we? Answer the below trivia question in the comments correctly and be entered in to win a copy of this book. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, September 1. Open to US residents only!

How many islands make up the Shetland Islands?

45 Comments Post a comment
  1. Charla Carr #

    Thereally are 100 islands in the Shetland Islands

    August 30, 2017
  2. Patricia McHan #

    There are 100 islands .

    August 30, 2017
  3. Linda Medina #

    About 100.

    August 30, 2017
  4. jacksgrandma #

    Around 300.

    August 30, 2017
  5. Karen #

    100+! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this exciting book!

    August 30, 2017
  6. savannagal #

    Well, it depends upon your source. Wiki says “The Shetland archipelago comprises about 300 islands and skerries, of which 16 are inhabited.”, while Enclyopedia Britanica says ”
    Shetland Islands, also called Zetland or Shetland, group of about 100 islands, fewer than 20 of them inhabited”. I certainly didn’t know that off the top of my head!

    August 30, 2017
  7. Linda Segal #

    There are about 100 islands with only 16 being inhabited.

    August 30, 2017
  8. Kathy D #

    Well it says there are nearly 100 but only 30 are inhabited, so I would guess under 100. Hmm, other sources say over 100 with only 20 inhabited. So I guess that I need more information on whether it’s total islands and cays, inhabited islands or just a wild guess. I say more than 100. Lol did lots of reading (interesting) to come up with an estimate.

    August 30, 2017
  9. Cathie #

    A group of about 100 islands, fewer than 20 of them inhabited!

    August 30, 2017
  10. Chris #

    I found two different answers too. On wiki it has about 300 islands and skerries. has this “The hundred or so islands of Shetland are formed by a range of ancient hills standing on the continental shelf and partly drowned when sea level rose 400 feet (120m) at the end of the last glaciation, about 10-12,000 years ago.”

    August 30, 2017
  11. Julie Howard #

    Wikipedia says 100, though only 16 are inhabited. Does it count if I had to look it up? 🙂 It was fun learning about Shetland — and I loved your interview with Andrea!

    August 30, 2017
  12. Joan Raubar #

    100 islands. Would love to visit there someday. Joan

    P.S. Tanis, are you teaching currently in VA?

    August 30, 2017
    • Yes! I teach a lot at Fibre Space in Alexandria and have a number of workshops coming up locally.

      August 30, 2017
  13. Kate #

    More than 100. I did not know that! 😄 The book looks fantastic!

    August 30, 2017
  14. Kathy #

    Somewhere between 100 and 300 islands, depending on the reference and what it is considering an island. Most agree that only 16 are inhabited. KathyRV

    August 30, 2017
  15. Thanks for another wonderful post, Tanis! Love reading your blog – stimulating & fun. Colors are my love and you are always interesting.

    Answering your question was harder than I thought: requirements included defining an island. Wikipedia defines them a little differently than Britannica, and it greatly affects the number. Wikipedia says around 300 (land surrounded by water on a daily basis, but not necessarily all day) and Britannica says around 100 (always surrounded by water, even at lowest tide). There you have it!

    Marjorie McGreggor

    August 30, 2017
  16. Geri #

    About 100 islands, roughly 20 inhabited

    August 30, 2017
  17. Betsy #

    Over 100 islands. This book looks amazing! Thanks for the chance to win.

    August 30, 2017
  18. dd #

    The Shetland archipelago comprises about 300 islands and skerries, of which 16 are inhabited.

    August 30, 2017
  19. Yes 16 inhabited is also my answer. Great interview and fantastic book!

    August 30, 2017
  20. Jeannie Murphy #

    I think it is close to 300. Amazing interview. Thanks for the giveaway.

    August 30, 2017
  21. Elizabeth Decker #

    Most sources say about 100 Shetland Islands with 16 inhabited.

    I love the hippo motif! My 4 year old looking over my shoulder called them “Happy Hippos!! Because they’re happy!” 😂

    August 30, 2017
  22. About 100 islands, would love to win this book!!

    August 30, 2017
  23. Ellen Perry #

    100 Islands

    August 30, 2017
  24. Carol Perecman #

    Apparently it depends on the source, so I will say over 100 islands and hope that is correct enough. THanks for the opportunity to win this book–it looks great.

    August 30, 2017
  25. Renee #

    The Shetland archipelago comprises about 300 islands and skerries, of which 16 are inhabited. Another source says 100 with fewer than 20 inhabited.

    August 30, 2017
  26. Andrea #

    About a hundred. I want to knit those hippos!!

    August 30, 2017
  27. Sue Bates #


    August 30, 2017
  28. Christiana Vance #

    Around 300 if you count the skerries, otherwise its closer to 100, 16 of which are inhabited. I love research. Thank you!

    August 30, 2017
  29. Barbara Smith #

    More than a hundred ish

    August 30, 2017
  30. Connie #

    300 islands but only 16 are inhabited. Yes,I Googled it. Love the names though, “Muckle Row” and “Baa Skerries”

    August 30, 2017
  31. Louise Gingery #

    About 100

    August 30, 2017
  32. Gina #


    August 30, 2017
  33. Whitney #

    The Shetland archipelago comprises about 300 islands and skerries, of which 16 are inhabited.

    August 30, 2017
  34. Lee #

    About 100. What an amazing giveaway!

    August 30, 2017
  35. Nancy Dolder #

    16 islands ! Book looks fabulous. Hope all is well The judge

    Regards, NSD

    Sent from my iPhone Nancy S. Dolder


    August 30, 2017
  36. Shelly Simon Gohr #

    100 islands

    August 30, 2017
  37. Tara #

    Around 100 islands. Thank you for offering this giveaway

    August 30, 2017
  38. Beverly #

    “About 100” or “over 100. I didn’t know this. I learn something new every day. The book looks like so much fun. I’m definitely going to buy it if I don’t win it. Thanks for the generous giveaway.

    August 30, 2017
  39. Shannon Scattini #

    WOW… 300!!!

    August 31, 2017
  40. Marsha #

    About 100!

    August 31, 2017
  41. Christine (BellyLaugher) #

    Over 100, 15 of which are inhabited. Amazing!

    August 31, 2017
  42. Shetland islands number about 100, with 16 of them inhabited.

    And, love your blog.

    August 31, 2017
  43. Rebecca Shaw #

    Love this book, can’t wait to get my hands on one. And if I am correct in that there are about a 100, maybe I will win one! Thanks Tanis

    August 31, 2017
  44. Melissa Clendenin #

    I’m not sure if I’m too late, but I thought I would comment anyway, 300 islands! This book is on my wishlist, so why not try and win one!

    September 1, 2017

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