Monthly Archives: April 2008

Book Review: The Knitter’s Book of Yarn

It’s going to be a bit of a book review season around here for the next month, as I work through the 4 copies that I’ve currently got my hands on for blog reviews. The one I’m going to look at this week has indeed been out for publication for more than 5 months already – but there are so few knitting books that I come across and truly adore without reservation, and this is one of them. Seriously, you need this book. Beg, borrow, steal, put it on your birthday wish list, whatever you have to do…then hug it a little bit.

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The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes accomplishes 2 things: First, it gives you a crash course in yarn education over two chapters of discussion of fibre types and yarn construction. It’s like they extracted the yarn chapter from Vogue Knitting, 1986, updated it, made it more readable, and included photo support from all the yarns we know and love today. There’s nothing here for a knitter looking for technical instructions, so beginner knitters should still look elsewhere for those things. What this book does is explain how and why different yarns behave in different ways, and it does that well.

After reading these first two chapters, you might feel a little bit like you’ve been given a new interpretive guide to yarn shops. You can impress your friends with comments like, “oh, well that yarn is hand-painted. What you’re actually looking for is something hand-dyed,” or, “you know 25% is a very reasonable amount of angora in that merino blend, you should totally buy that if it’s on sale,” or “tsk, those cables really need a 3-ply or at the very least a 2-ply if you can find one, use the single-ply Noro on this stockinette project instead…”

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As if these first two chapters weren’t enough, the second thing this book does is provide you with 40 patterns (when was the last time you picked up a knitting book with 40 whole patterns?), of all kinds. There are scarves, mitts, sweaters, shawls, hats, you name it. They are organized according to the yarn construction – single-ply, 2-ply, 3-ply, and 4-ply and more. Each of the 4 sections explains how these kinds of yarns may be used to full advantage.

The first one out of the gate are the Maine Morning Mitts (click the link for a free download of the pattern), which use a single skein of ‘single-ply’ (not really plied, of course, but you catch the drift) yarn, such as Noro. I’ve never been much of a fingerless-mitt person, but when I saw some single skeins of Noro Silk Garden on sale at a local shop I decided to try these, and they do not disappoint.

Maine Morning Mitts

These are done in a 2×1 rib and use just a hint of shaping around the thumb, which distinguishes them from many other fingerless mitt patterns and provides some extra comfort. They are an easy weekend project and highly, highly giftable.

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Another single-ply project that stole my heart right away was this Cabled Tea Cozy by Jennifer Hagan, which uses kettle-dyed Malabrigio (above), and is waiting to jump into my current projects once I’ve gotten another sweater off the needles. I’ve never been much of an Inanimate Object Knitter, but this pattern has me convinced – and what a great way to use some bright shades and dress up a teapot (which quite frankly gets a lot of use around my house).

At heart I am a Sweater Knitter, and this Cabled Swing Cardi by Norah Gaughn (one of the 3-ply projects) is going to have me searching for Berrocco Ultra Alpaca at a time of year when we in Canada should by rights be casting off the sweaters and embracing the spring temperatures. I love it. The wrap construction, the cabled centre panel, and the lovely drapey yarn – it’s a winning combination.

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The only drawback to this book (I suppose there had to be one) as a selection of patterns is that there are no projects for men. All the sweaters and accessories are meant to be worn by women, with the exception of some intended for children.

Still, there are many, many patterns here to choose from, and these three are just the tip of the iceberg. Since we’re living in a Ravelry world now, I decided to investigate how many projects from this book have already been ‘Ravelled’. Patterns in books don’t tend to disperse quite as fast as projects in magazines or online publications, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was making my notes a couple of weeks ago to find that 75% of the Knitter’s Book of Yarn patterns have been knitted and completed. Many by the dozen. There are books that have been out on the shelf for twice as long that don’t have those numbers.

The Double-Thick Mittens and Norwegian Snail Mittens by Adrian Bizila are two big winners, as are the Maine Morning Mitts which have already been knitted by the hundreds, at least. The Princess Mitts by Jennifer Hagan (cabled fingerless mitts) are also popular, as is the felted Calla Lily Bag by Cat Bordhi. I would be surprised if you didn’t find anything in this book to fall in love with.

Next up in reviews: More Big Girl Knits, A Fine Fleece, and Tweed.

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Magknits and Basic Black

I found out this afternoon via a Ravelry user that Magknits is no more – the patterns are all gone. The real question now is how to access the patterns now that the online Magknits archive has been taken down.

I received a question about my ‘Basic Black pattern, and thankfully I have my own computer files with pattern notes and also a printed copy from post-publishing (I think…I know my mom is knitting this…), so I should be able to recreate the pattern and post it as a free PDF either here or on Ravelry, or both.

There were many fine patterns archived at Magknits and I hope they will live on in another format! My heart goes out to all the knitters and designers who were relying on this site.

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Knitting takes New York

I am working on some book review notes (somehow I have managed to get backed up and have 4 to do -eek! book reviews ahoy in April), so rest assured this week’s blog content will be filled with more than just New York City things…but I couldn’t resist just one more with some pictures from around Manhattan. I took the sock (Jaywalker pattern, in Lorna’s Laces) along wherever we went and finally decided to try my hand at this sock picture business. And truly, it’s a fun challenge!

Some are sock pictures, and some are just pictures. Enjoy!

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Also, knitting a blue, green, and purple sock is just the ticket for spring. Colour really is very soothing.
Knit on, my friends!

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Inexplicable, Part 2

You know, even though I got up at 6am to get to the airport in time for my flight, I was totally thinking that I wasn’t really that tired. Sure, I’ve pretty much done nothing but walk around Manhattan for 3 days, but that’s not really that tiring, right? Heh. I got back, unpacked, had a nap, and was having trouble remembering what exactly I was supposed to do next.

[I edited my Venezia FO post to include a couple more photos and full project details, for anybody curious! ]

Next time I’ll have to do a bit better about trying to be in touch with other people for meetups – Risa, I will be more organized for sure and we’ll take some lunch break knitting by storm! As it was, though, it was pretty great to show up and then put myself in the hands of Rebecca and her knitting peeps.

So, here are some pics and brief notes from the yarnish portion of my New York City time. Which, come to think of it, was a large portion of the time there. The whole visit sort of went like this: walk subway walk museum walk walk yarn shop walk walk subway food walk walk yarn shop subway walk walk sock picture walk walk yarn shop walk walk food walk walk sit sit knitting sit sit DVDs sit sit sleep coma sleep repeat next day. That’s good, right? I thought so.

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I arrived 3 hours late (seriously, Newark, a 3-hour delay for freakin’ WIND? Bite me.) but just in time to breeze in to the Borders where the Yarn Harlot was speaking. (Though I did run into her at the airport on Wednesday morning on the Toronto end, which was unassailably cool.) She’d just begun the talk and I snuck in with Rebecca and we stood and knitted and listened and laughed. [Aside: For real, someone out there at one of her next signings coming up has to ask her in the Q & A portion about the comma story. She told it in Toronto in the 'thank you' portion of her launch talk, which probably won't make it in there due to time, but I seriously laughed my ass off. So did Rebecca and Melanie when I re-told it to them.]

Melanie and Holly totally made it onto the Yarn Harlot’s blog post from the New York day’s post, so go them, and it was great to see Catrina and Abbie again too. This is a group of gals who all coalesced around the same knitting group, and they get along and have different interests and pasts and jobs and it’s all great. I will totally hang out with them any day of the week. It was also really awesome to see other knitters while standing in line (dude, the back of the line was so not fun to stand in, that was another 2 hours of standing, and my legs were weak by the end of it….but still OK for the knitting and conversation that passed the time. Knitters are a living breathing example of perseverance.)

The next day, while on the subway on the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rebecca and I encountered Rita, a visiting knitter from (I think) Connecticut (with her parents), who knew about the Yarn Harlot and had her knitting with her, and started talking to us when she saw us knitting on our projects. It was great. Hi, Rita! It was totally great to meet another knitter on the subway, it actually happens to me pretty rarely when I am in Toronto.

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Post-Met, we wandered over to Knitty City. I don’t mind saying that this was my favourite shop of all the ones we went to (I’m totally not biased because of the Fleece Artist and Mission Falls stock…not at all…), and we visited five LYSs. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, patient, and there was a constant stream of activity in and out of the shop. Would go back again in a heartbeat. I scored some Shi Bui sock yarn and some Lorna’s Laces.

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There was more yarn shop visiting scattered throughout the next couple of days. Downtown Yarns was, for me, a close second to Knitty City, I thought they were a real counterpart to Lettuce Knit in Toronto in terms of atmosphere and neighbourhood and yarn selection. (And also they just happened to have Fleece Artist and Mission Falls). I picked up a braid of fiber.

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We also stopped by Purl (gorgeous), and Seaport Yarns (Awesome Cherry Tree Hill selection, I got some). We happened by Knit New York sort of by accident while on the way for dinner. I must say they have one of the best Noro selections I’ve seen outside of Romni Wools in Toronto. Melanie was with us and despite proclamations of I DON’T DO THIS STASH BULLSHIT got taken down by the Misti Alpaca chunky and left with a skein which she promptly began turning into a hat.

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I will say one thing about New York – if I spent that time every day on the subway, I might have a sweater every two weeks. I started a pair of Jaywalkers on Tuesday and I’m already halfway finished the 2nd sock.

Good times, good times.

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Venezia takes Manhattan

Venezia - Finished!

I’m in New York, loving it, and loving the photos my knitting pal Rebecca took of Venezia. Here I am with Venezia at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on a beautiful clear day.

And a fun hi and hello to all the great knitters I met at the New York Yarn Harlot book launch! I don’t take my top off for just anyone, you know. Just people who appreciate steeks. (I had a t-shirt on underneath, tsk, get yer minds out of the gutter).

[Edit - April 6th for more details]

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Pattern: Venezia Pullover by Eunny Jang, Winter 2006
Size: 37.75 ins bust
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette. Foreground (light): Cream, tan, twig, golden heather.
Background (dark): Garnet heather (also for the hems), autumn heather, merlot heather, iris heather, clematis heather.
Needles: 3.0mm (colour work) and 2.75mm (for hems and neckline).
Modifications:
When I looked on Ravelry I saw others had done a v-neck version, I knew I had to follow the lead on this one. I much prefer the versatility of v-necks and it’s a very practical style. Thank you very much to Maud’s modification notes, which I used as a guideline. I placed the beginning of the v-neck about an inch below the beginning of the armhole decreases.

I also modified for length, adding 1 inch evenly before the waist shaping decreases (I did this by starting the chart sooner than the pattern instructions), and 1 inch even after the shaping decreases. I did similar modifications to the sleeves in order to add an inch in length there. These paid off big time – the waist sits where my waist is and I couldn’t be happier!

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I’m very pleased with this sweater – it fits, it’s comfortable, and damn is it pretty! It’s sort of surreal to actually wear it and think that I made it from balls of yarn. On the 2nd day I wore it I had to sort of stop in front of mirrors and look at it and think, WHOA. I made this sweater!

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Yo, for serious. If you’re thinking about making one of these, go for it. I won’t say it’s easy, I won’t say it’s hard. But I will say that it’s worth it.

When I’d cut the steeks and sewn up the seams on the sleeves, I slipped it on unblocked to make sure it fit OK and to reassure myself. And it was reassuring to know that it did indeed fit just like I wanted. But at the same time it was an odd moment, because I realized that it was no longer my knitting. It had become a piece of clothing, and that meant I didn’t get to knit it anymore. And that made me kind of sad.

The bar’s been set, my friends. More fair isle, more.

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Inexplicable, Part 1

It’s 11pm and I’m in my pyjamas running around trying to stuff things in my suitcase necessary for a) 4 days in New York and b) temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius, which I’ve almost forgotten what that’s like. And I’ve got to do an apology because i’ve been horrible with responding to comments and emails the last few days and my brain just hasn’t been able to cope.

Also, I’m having a bit of a drinkie because I’ve still not fully come to terms with the fact that my dissertation is no longer in my hands, Venezia is still not fully dry after laying out all day (I put her on spin in the washer and laid her out on a drying rack and am crossing all fingers and appendages for transportability tomorrow), and I’m so overtired from stress that I don’t think my brain remembers what bodily relaxation is like.

But by this time tomorrow i’ll be in another city and that will help matters I am sure. When I booked my ticket to New York a couple of months ago I knew I’d be hitting the right time to see the Yarn Harlot on April 2nd and that I’d be missing her in Toronto on April 1st, and yet the bizarre series of circumstances that has been causing me other stress the last few weeks also led to me being in Toronto today, and with a free evening. So I got to go. It was fun. I tried my best to let my brainwaves come down from Beta (concentration, stimulation), and move into Alpha (no concentration required) and perhaps even Theta (meditative state…still working on that one…)

The Isabel Theatre was lovely for waiting in.

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I am super proud of my see-stor Martha who totally scored 4th place in the Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour Toronto scavenger hunt. Yay! (Seen here with Kate on the right who accompanied her for the afternoon. Martha totally got a TTC driver’s picture too, which I think rocks.)

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And we got serenaded by the Skydiggers beforehand. Or is it a concert? Is it a serenade if it’s for 300 of your closest knitting friends? I have a vid clip here that I took of their first song and it was really so lovely to listen to that I want to share it. I hope they won’t mind. (But if someone tells me to yank it down I totally will.)

I’ll have my camera but not my laptop on my travels so I may not be able to blog much…but I’ll do my best for Venezia pics and New York pics and all assorted yarny tales. Rebecca is going to make sure we get to Knitty City and Seaport Yarns, along with all touristy attractions.

Catch you on the flip side, knitters!

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