Monthly Archives: June 2009

Book Review: Socks from the Toe Up

I have a review for you this week, dear blog readers, this time for the recently released book Socks from the Toe Up, by Wendy D. Johnson.

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This book has been in wide release for a month and a half or so, so some of you may already have had a glimpse of it. Some of you may also be familiar with Wendy’s blog, and although I am not a regular reader of her blog I know enough about her knitting style to know that it makes sense that she would pen a book dedicated to toe-up sock knitting, since it is her method of choice for sock knitting. Let’s have a brief look inside the book.

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One high point of Socks from the Toe Up that bears mentioning is that it is technically strong. There are several pages devoted to techniques like toes, heels, and bind-offs which are useful for toe-up knitting. If you’ve dallied with toe-up sock knitting before, many of these techniques will already be familiar to you. If not, they are presented here with helpful images to make the process as painless as possible.There are instructions here for 3 different kinds of toe-up toes, heels (including the ubiquitously cuff-down slip stitch heel), and bind-offs.

Another strength of this book, possibly the strongest feature in fact, is its production. The images are colourful, plentiful, well edited, and generally quite attractive. Also, the format is quite user-friendly: the written instructions for each pattern are contained over the same fold, so there is minimal flipping back and forth required, and the size of the book itself is small enough to be portable – I can envision knitters slipping this into their handbag to set over their lap while in transit. (This is actually a quality I wish more knitting publishers would keep in mind – knitting books need not be coffee table books.)

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The technical ‘part a’ of the book is followed by the sock patterns ‘part b’, which in turn is subdivided into ‘Basic’, ‘Lace’, ‘Textured Gansey’, ‘Cabled’, and ‘Sportweight’ Socks, although these last three sections contain only 2-3 patterns each. Not counting the basic socks (which would be an excellent starting place for those new to toe-up), there are 20 patterns in this collection.

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The patterns are knit in a variety of trendy and colourful yarns, and are certainly meant to be eye-catching. Lots of bright colours and strong photography here. I like the look of the Lace and Cable Socks (above), which could be versatile for a number of sock yarns. I was also intrigued by the Vandyke Socks (below), which are knit in a single skein of Dream in Color Classy, and therefore likely to be a speedy knit.

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Socks from the Toe Up is in general a nice addition to a sock knitter’s library. In the end, my only concern with it is that I am still left wondering why the book does not do more to convince readers why we should be knitting socks from the toe up in the first place. Other than a brief note early on about the convenience of being able to use up all the yarn in the skein without worrying about running out, there is very little attention paid to answering this question. For example, from a toe-up sock book, it is surprising to me that other than the lacy patterns, many of these socks could be virtually identically reproduced working from the cuff down.

Perhaps I am under-selling the usefulness of yarn economy (which make no mistake is quite useful), but I think there was a big missed opportunity here. There are lot (a LOT) of sock books out on the market these days, and any new offering needs to distinguish itself from the others in some way. Either the ‘why toe-up’ question was not considered necessary enough to devote time to it, or the publishers are assuming that anyone who buys the book already wants to knit from the toe-up and does not need convincing. There are certainly valuable traits to toe-up sock knitting that have nothing to do with efficient use of yarn – what about customizing fit? or the difference of working certain patterns in one direction versus another? I wish Johnson would have done more to emphasize such benefits or differences involved working from the toe-up.

Overall this is a nice collection of patterns, and for knitters looking for a new set of sock patterns to work their way through, this will be a good book to add to the collection. If you are looking for a handy set of instructions about how to work socks from the toe-up, then this will also be a very useful book. If you’ve had a chance to look at this book yourself I’d be curious to know what you think, or if you have a favourite pattern from it.

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Getting the hang of this

About two years ago when I started spindle-spinning, I said I’d gradually save up cash for a wheel, and if I still wanted the wheel when I had the cash, I’d go for it. I think I am ready to say I will become a spinning wheel owner sometime in the near future. I want to be able to make more things like this:

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This is my second wheel skein that I did a week ago using Kim‘s Little Gem. Kim was generous enough to give me a few bits of roving to use along with it, and I believe this was some plain corriedale or similar sheepswool. It was lovely to practice with. This is 93g of something Aran-ish or close to it.

Then, this past weekend I hastily finished up a third skein before getting the wheel back to her, using some merino/silk blend. I love me some silk blend in just about any form, so this was certainly no exception. I can definitely tell that the merino part of it added a bit more challenge, but the silk adds strength. Good times had by all, except for when my plying got rushed toward the end. Still, Kim pronounced my efforts as highly successful:

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This one is about 70g of something close to a DK-weight. Both skeins are, unsurprisingly, over-twisted, and adding the spinning into the yarn-playing time of my week definitely contributed more arm/wrist strain, which I am now paying for a bit. But yes, me and spinning, I think we can be friends. (Also, plying with a lazy kate was so much easier than with a centre pull ball, I could just about weep.) Thanks so much for the wheel time, Kim, and for the highly skilled but subtle enabling.

Happy Moan-day…make sure the yarn is close by!

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12 of 12: June 2009

It’s been a long darned time since I’ve done a 12 of 12 post! Lately I seem to either forget about it altogether, or the 12th falls on a day when I am doing absolutely nothing that involves leaving the house or doing interesting photographable things. But this time, I remembered! In case you don’t know, the 12 of 12 is the brainchild of blogger and writer Chad Darnell, and involves taking 12 photos of your day on the 12th of the month. Let’s get posting!

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8:00am – Ahh, I love the sound of construction work in the morning, don’t you? Oh wait, maybe not. This is the view from the front window, where they have been re-doing the front walk and the walls surrounding the driveway (so that they will be actual walls and no longer crumbling stacks of bricks). Anyway, these dudes show up around 7am every morning, it’s actually pretty impressive.

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10:30 am – Off for a run, finally. Thank goodness for new Stash and Burn podcast! Sometimes new listening is the only motivation I have. And those mornings are starting to get warmer faster…

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12:30pm – En route to the bus station to catch the bus to Toronto. PS – those Lexie Barnes bags sure do hold a lot of stuff.

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2:45pm – Hello Toronto kitty cats! I am here for the weekend. Here is Somerset, demonstrating with excellent technique what all cats do best. Napping.

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4:00pm – At the Eaton Centre for a shopping excursion with my friend S. Here I am in the change room at RW & Co, with the approximately eleventy gazillion tees and blouses which I tried on, none of which fit me properly (thank you, this season’s cap sleeves that do not go with my shoulders, boooo…), and the khaki dress that I did decide to get. But what do I wear i with, is my question now.

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5:00pm – In the change room at Smart Set (clothes even more disappointing), where the wall is delightfully arranged with instructional images and hooks.

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6:00pm – The view up from the food court. You have got to love those Canada geese sculptures.

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6:30pm – Traffic goes by at Union Station.

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7:30pm – At dinner, I try to do the self-portrait thing but clearly I need a bit more practice at this. Must practice my smile into camera, I think.

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10:00pm – Back, and Shakespeare in Love on the tee vee.

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“Hello, my name is Greedo. I claim this armrest for all of catdom.”

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“Hello, my name is Somerset. I claim your lap for me me me all me.”

And, that’s my 12 of 12. Enjoy your Saturday! And don’t forget today is Worldwide Knit in Public Day – get out there with your yarn and knitting needles and start the revolution. Happy knitting!

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We interrupt this knitting geekery for regular geekery

Particularly in the summer when mainstream TV goes on hiatus, I tend to go through bursts of DVD watching or re-watching as I knit. Lately it’s been the X-Files, and since I finished off Season 8 last night (which, interestingly enough, goes by pretty fast when you skip half of it) and still haven’t gotten around to purchasing Season 9 so I can finally see for myself just how desperate the X-Files’ last gasps are, this leaves me looking around for something new. I think I might have to go back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m not sure why, it could be just be because I haven’t watched it in a while. Or, it could be this really kickass tee that arrived for me:

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Now, admittedly I have not (yet) read the Twilight books, so I can really only account for the Buffy part of this equation and not Edward, but I suspect it is only a matter of time before I just have to read them and know, to experience the phenomenon for myself. Like the printed word version of a deep-fried mars bar. But isn’t it some universal fannish law that Buffy > you? I thought so.

The other thing that came in the mail was my order of Moo mini cards, which I want to bring with me to the Sock Summit in August. They are lovely, and I had a lot of fun picking knitting pictures to go on them. It’s like my own little project gallery in handy contact-information form. The only recommendation I have if you order a set of these for yourself is…double-check your info. I spent several minutes writing in the ‘y’ at the end of my email address. Oops.

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And now, I had better go make peace with the fact that it is actually June and that May is not coming back. At least I have yarn to break my fall. Keep the knitting close by!

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Like day camp for grownups

The 2009 TTC Knitalong went off with much fanfare yesterday, as four teams converged from the West, North and East (East Team A was particularly awesome…not that I’m biased…), gathering yarn, prizes, stories, and laughter in their wake. By the time we all ended up at the final stops, our bags were full and our wallets were light, make no mistake. But we could not have asked for better weather, and everyone’s spirits were buoyed by welcoming local yarn shops at every stop, and knitterly cameraderie along the way.

[ETA - we had 50 participants plus team captains, and also raised $275 for charity. Go knitters!]

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I was a team captain for East Team A (East had to split into 2 it was so popular, and even then the teams were pretty full!) along with Joyce. (Joyce and Michelle took the horns this year and did the organizing, even amidst incredibly busy “real life” competed for their attentions. And we are all grateful they did!) Our team had an early 10am start at the Naked Sheep, who were ready for us with a table brimming with goodies, and balloon-popping door prizes. From there we carried on to the Purple Purl, where Miko and Jen put up stiff competition as a welcoming committee with goodie bags and punch.

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Closer to the downtown core, our attention was needed by Lettuce Knit, Americo, and Romni, with a few scattered stops at the bead stores, ribbon shop, and much needed cafe stop for respite. I am actually starting to regret not purchasing that pima cotton flamme from Americo…oh help. This is what the powerful yarn fumes of a day like this will do.

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There is really not much to say about a day like this except that you know it is going as it should when it all seems too easy. It was a great day, everyone on my team was awesome and we all just went along for the ride, filled our TTC Knitalong bags with yarn and goodies, and had much appreciated beverages at the end. I hope everyone had a blast. And if you haven’t had the chance to participate in an event like this, I hope very much that there is something like it close to where you live, or that you can do your own mini transit-knitalong-yarn shop day. Our local shops here in Toronto excel at what they do, and the Toronto knitting community continues to grow and expand in ways that make me very glad to live so close.

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And now…well, my stash has grown a bit. More on that once I’ve recovered from my yarn hangover. Better get knitting.

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The things we do for yarn

Seriously, folks, no wonder people look at knitters funny. As if knitting clothes from scratch isn’t good enough, no no, we have to go make the process even longer and harder. We have to go and make the yarn, too.

I began early forays into spinning a year or two ago thanks to Kate‘s tutelage with the spindle, and enjoyed it enough to want eventually to try a wheel. After chatting with Kim on my Toronto stint lat month, she offered to let me try out one of her wheels next time, so yesterday she made good and came by with her Majacraft Little Gem and gave me a pretty awesome starter lesson. (Including such wisdom as, “Glenna stop helping the twist with your fingers. That’s what the whole SPINNING WHEEL IS FOR.”)

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I’m grateful to have had some practice with the spindle first, because I understand already about things like drafting and pre-drafting, and can tell that regardless of spinning mechanism, I am picking up right where I left off at the spindle and am coming out with alternating stringy-floss bits and consistent bits and slubby chunky bits. This little guy (gal?) above is my first skein from Kim’s lesson yesterday (cue “ootchie cootchie coo”), and I’ll take it. Fine first foray. After spending a bit of time today, and disbelievingly watching the time tick by so quickly, I have a second bobbin that looks like this:

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Oh don’t let that surface image fool you, there are plenty of kinked-up over-twisted bits hiding under there. But still, I am heartened that I do not seem to be producing the worst crap ever, and am glad to have another day or two to play with this before heading back to Hamilton. My current challenges include: figuring out how to draft the proper and consistent amount of fiber through my fingers; consistently treadling in the forwards direction; getting used to the idea that getting better takes “a lot of practice” and “time”, or some such nonsense. Doesn’t the spinning wheel know I am impatient? Harumph.

So yes, things continue apace, and I am getting in more rows on Autumn Rose as well. Hanging out with the cats has been enjoyable this week and it is nice down time. Daytime hours make me largely second fiddle to sunbeams, but then come the evening Greedo and Somerset are very much, “hi we’re just going to sit all over you until you feed us bedtime snack. You’re okay with that, right? PURR.” It is, as you can see, a very very hard life being a cat.

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And finally, I have caved. I am on Twitter: GlennaKnits (GlennaC was already taken, curiously enough). I reached a point where it seemed like absolutely everyone in the universe was on Twitter except me, so I’m going to check it out. I can’t tell yet if my ‘tweets’ are witty enough to follow regularly, but if you’d like to follow me please do. I’ll give it a few days before deciding if I want to include the feed on my blog. More ways to blather on the internets, right?

Until next time, when I may or may not have developed a Repetitive Spinning Injury. One can only hope.

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The Reckoning

Dear Elspeth,

I know that you’re probably very busy doing things like your “job” or important things in the “real world” or that you might even have “other knitting” to do besides work on Autumn Rose. Still, I am compelled to point out that I am knitting on Autumn Rose and so far, you are not, and here I was given to understand that were both in on this together. Fair Isle solidarity and all that jazz.

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Now, I feel that I’ve been pretty patient up until now. After zipping through most of the body I gave myself a bit of a break, allowed myself to be distracted by Cat Bordhi, even went off to a conference and did some “real world” stuff of my own.

But I’m back at the Autumn Rose knitting now, and have now reached the point where the sleeves join the body for work in the round, which puts me in the enviable position of knitting rounds which are only ever going to get shorter from here on out. And at great risk to my own knitting karma, I feel the need to point out that I am currently LEAVING YOU IN THE DUST. My wooly, stranded colourwork dust.

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At this point my only recourse is to keep knitting, knowing that at this rate I may well finish before you even start, and either a) take up heavy drinking in order to assuage my guilt, or b) dance around the house clutching my knitting calling “neener neener neener” in my best sing-songy voice. And both of those options are pretty much giving free reign to the knitting goddess to come strike me down with a sweater that doesn’t fit, or cause me to run out of a crucial colour an inch before the end, or plague me with horrible Knitter’s Elbow, or some other such retaliation.

C’mon, Elspeth. Lonely fair-isle knitting is soooo lonely. You know you wanna.

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Filed under fair isle, fearless knitting, sweaters