I was checking out the shelter mags while on the treadmill recently, and thought about good photography, and how deceiving it can be.

Martha Stewart is the worst on this — rest assured that pipe cleaners and rickrack never look that good in their natural state — but decorating magazines can be almost as bad. They’ll take an iron bedstead with a shabby granny square afghan, an old pair of boots, and a galvanized bucket of wheat, and take pictures with such gorgeous lighting and camera work that you are tempted to recreate the whole thing in your own home. If you did, it would look like a bunch of refuse.

Some knitting books are like that, too. With fetching models, lovely scenery, artful lighting, and poses which obscure the knitted item but highlight some few square inches of the stitches into wonderful abstract textures, they make the patterns look gorgeous without actually giving any indication of how they will look when you knit them.

Norsk Strikkedesign is not that kind of book. The models may be beauties, but they look as though they are being prepared to be burned at the stake. They stand — in fields of rocks or blurred backgrounds — with their arms hanging hopelessly at their sides, the sleeves covering their hands entirely.

If they have not just stepped out of the tumbril, then they may look so scared because Stacy and Clinton are rushing toward them to point out that their boxy sweaters make them look dumpy, skinny as stick insects, or both at once. Especially since they are way too big.

There are a couple of dozen sweaters, some with interesting shaping (that one where the model is cowering against a tree, possibly waiting to be shot? That could be a pretty little jacket if it were made in her size). There is a child’s sweater (though, since it finishes out at 35.5 inches, many adults could wear it), and some hats and bags and socks and things. Once I’ve made something, I’ll tell you what the items look like in real life.

The best part of this book, to my mind, is the charts. The colorwork is very impressive, including stylized fauna and flora, geometric designs, sinuous curved patterns, and traditional Scandinavian designs combined in interesting ways. There is a witty cat chart, complete with fish skeletons, there are some that look like Renaissance and Jacobean crewelwork or tapestry, there are all-over Moorish arabesques and Pucci-like swirls.

There are some texture designs as well, but it is even more difficult to guess what they look like. One is a coat, which is actually photographed quite clearly, but looks mostly as though the wearer is standing inside a huge pile of ropes. The cabling might really be nice, on a much smaller scale, but it is hard to tell.The other cable designs — including the gray edging of the cover sweater which you may be able to see here — look as though they might be quite beautiful, but are photographed blurrily in muddy colors.  Swatching would be necessary for me to get any real idea of the patterns.

I plan to try out some small thing from this book on an experimental basis, but I will definitely be using the charts for other purposes.

The directions are written in traditional fashion, with charts and schematics and thorough finishing directions.

I’ve added a knitting project to my list of WIPS, though not one from this book. I printed out a pattern for a peace armband to which Kali Mama furnished a link, thinking that my sons would think it was cool. They did not. However, #1 son wants a plain ribbed one in stripes, so I have agreed to make it for him. It is his turn, and the small scope of the project should allow me to finish it before his nagging gets intolerable . He picked some yarn from the crafts cupboard for the purpose.

Now I guess I am in a critical mood, because last night in choir practice I found myself feeling downright cross. We had only ten present, three of whom are new since last year, and the director and older choir members persisted in saying things like “We don’t have to work on that one — we’ve done it before.”

They do this all the time. A piece that the choir did five years ago, before most of us were even at the church, doesn’t need to be rehearsed at all, because “we’ve done it before.”

At one point, while practicing a new arrangement of “The Palms,” the men had some difficulty with a line and the director said, “We’ll just do it the old way.”

This is not the first time he has done that. Let me clarify: he is saying that they will sing it, not as it is written, but as they may or may not remember it was written in a different arrangement which they used to sing. Is it any wonder that we find it hard to get and keep new choir members?

Afterward, the Chemist and I roped one of the new people into doing a trio with us. She turns out to be good at arranging things. We are doing a traditional Lenten hymn, “If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee,” but with a lush, close harmony that gives it a Medieval air. And, under her guidance, a couple of solo bits to change it up and keep it interesting. I think it will sound good.

It would make a good sound track for the film in which the Norweigan knitting pattern models are apparently taking part, the one about the martyrdom of young women on a rocky coastline, in gigantic formless sweaters.