Monthly Archives: October 2010

Book Review: Stitch n’ Bitch Superstar Knitting

Spoiler alert: I think this book is awesome.

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I took up knitting not long after the first Stitch n’ Bitch manual was published, so all of my knitting life has been in the contemporary landscape that includes this series of books. Knitters have no shortage opinions about them – something that Debbie Stoller address directly in her introduction to this new addition to the series. Many people reacted to the heavily modernized and youthful trappings of the craft as presented in these manuals, others celebrated them as a revival. And I don’t know whether it’s possible to say whether the Stitch n’ Bitch books were responsible for the resurgence in the popular profile of knitting in the last decade, but the books have certainly happened alongside it.

Truth be told, I’ve been a bit ambivalent about the series myself. I’ve knitted one or two things from the earlier volumes but never spent a great deal of time with them because once my knitting ambitions took to things like cables and design and socks and colour-work and so forth, there wasn’t as much in the early books to tempt me. However, I still refer to the original Stitch n’ Bitch as a solid source for general knitting technical know-how, especially for new knitters. These are not just pattern books. If you’re on the look out for a solid, non-web-based, can-read-it-whenever-wherever-you-want set of pages on basic knitting steps and don’t want to pay a fortune for it, it’s a pretty great option. This, in essence, is how I feel about this latest volume, Stitch n’ Bitch Superstar Knitting, but applied to advanced techniques – like cables, colour-work, beading, intarsia, lace, bobbles, and more.

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Let’s take steeks, for example. (You know, when you cut up your knitting on purpose. If steeking is new to you and need to go ahead and look that word up to check, I’ll wait.) I’ve had the chance to teach a few local classes on steeking, and it’s a pretty fun and empowering thing to know how to do. When I teach it I work with swatches, have people practice cutting steeks using 3 different methods of reinforcement (or un-reinforcement, as the case may be), and talk about the difference fiber content makes.

And then, at the end, I refer people to a collection of approximately eleventy thousand books, reference manuals, web tutorials and video clips on where to go for more help. It’s not that any one of these things is wrong – it’s just that it’s rare to find a comprehensive set of this information contained in the same location. This is partly because different sources tend to choose a specific focus, and others fill gaps as they become apparent. This is also because knitting, as a collection of knowledge, is constantly changing, which is the reason why you won’t find decades-old knitting manuals that tell you how to do things like a crochet steek reinforcement.

Stitch n’ Bitch Superstar Knitting, I dare say, makes a pretty good attempt at being a comprehensive technical manual, for many many different skills. When I got my review copy of this, I looked through it and had few expectations, but the more I flipped through it I kept thinking, “you know, this is a really good book.” And when I dropped by the local yarn shop and showed it to Bridget, she looked through it and said the same thing. Not only does it cover a lot of advanced techniques, but it covers each one well, in comfortable and accessible language.

It explains not just how to cable, but how to cable without a cable needle, something which is new enough not to be usually seen in printed books. It explains intarsia and how to work with different colours while working flat or in the round, and does such a thorough job at this that I might actually consider knitting something in intarsia. And then, because all the technical stuff isn’t enough, it goes on to a section explaining pattern construction and basic design elements – again, something that can be hard to find accessible support sources for – and then a collection of patterns to practice everything you’ve learned.

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The patterns are substantial. There are a lot of sweaters, which I love to see, as well as a variety of accessories like gloves, socks, and bags – even a dog coat. All of the projects use one or more of the skills addressed in the technical section. I think it’s worth having a flip through – it’s likely some of the patterns will depend on your own personal tastes, but there is incredible variety, and most of the patterns are worked in yarns that are widely available.

This is a super neat book. It’s on the side of knitting, knowledge, skill, and encouragement, and I can get behind all of these things.

I may yet offer this book up as a blog giveaway, but that will have to wait. I’ve got a few other book reviews coming up in the next month, and since my postage budget can only stretch so far, I may have to choose randomly.

In any case, happy knitting this Thursday! Catch you next time.

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Staked

I’ve got a design to tell you about, and I’m super thrilled over it. It’s my pattern contribution for the Indigodragonfly ‘Smart-Ass Knitters’ single skein yarn club, and I’ve had it in the works for a while. Because this is a pattern currently exclusive to the club and because not everyone in the club may have received their packages yet, I’ll put up this handy club-approved photo of Otis, the Indigodragonfly Yarns resident dog, to allow for a bit of spoiler space. You can scroll down for the good stuff.

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Back at the end of last winter Kim messaged me (on Twitter, not via email, so instantaneous was the need for this discussion apparently) to ask me if I wanted to be involved in the club, and naturally I needed no time to make THAT decision. Then she asked me (I still have this saved) “How would you like to design for a colourway called ‘And then Buffy staked Edward. The end?'” And I believe I said “I think I would feel really really really good about that.”

The colourway name was pretty much all I needed to go on. The “Staked” pattern is the lovely result:

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I do love me some twisty cables, and I thought they were especially appropriate with the vampire-slayer-themed colourway. I went looking for some nice stabby motifs, including one more than a little reminiscent of a stake-through-the-heart. I really love the way it turns out in the dark colourway, it has a subtle but dramatic appearance.

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The cables continue onto the foot but eventually diminish, decreasing symmetrically on each foot until only stockinette (and possibly dust and darkness?) are left behind.

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I love them. I think this is one of my favourite patterns I’ve done so far. Kim’s Merino Sock 2-ply is a wonderful yarn to work with and is also becoming one of my favourite sock yarns.

The only bummer (for you), is that the pattern isn’t yet available outside of the club – but it will be in the spring, and I’ll be sure to let you know about that when it happens. (If you’re interested, signups are still open for the 2nd half of the club, here.) But I just couldn’t resist showing it off!

More to come from me this week – some book reviews on the go, and almost-never-ending Pi Shawl progress.

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Giveaway results

Whoa! Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments on my last post. It is great to read about your knitting gatherings – big festivals and small knit-ins alike. It is a fantastic reminder of how much knitting is a part of social networks, and not just a solitary pursuit.

The winner of the draw, by random number generator, is 105, which I do believe corresponds to commenter Julianne! I will be contacting her and getting the lovely purple skein to her asap.

Never fear, though, dear readers – I’ll be doing a few book reviews in the coming month and no doubt will have a book or two to gift to you as well.

I hope your Sunday is lovely and has/had some knitting in it! Until next time.

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Rhinebeck, the Stash-en-ing

Every year there are knitters who manage to go to Rhinebeck and not buy anything. I have no idea how they manage this. Clearly, they are stronger/wiser/more powerful than me, because I always return with an armload of yarn. This year, though, I made an effort to be a bit more mindful of what I was buying – that I’d rather have a few things I was happy with than many many smaller portions of things I didn’t know what to do with. Truthfully, I never can tell how long any of my acquisitions will sit in the stash, but I can at least try to acquire things that will stand me in good stead when I am suddenly hit with a project idea.

One of my first stops, therefore, was the Briar Rose booth. I have never managed to get to them in the first half of the day (Saturday) before, and it makes a huge difference in the selection that is there. I knew I wanted to get a sweater quantity of something, and lo and behold I came out with two of their generous skeins of Abundance, a heavy worsted/Aran ish weight, in a smokey grey-purple shade. One skein is a bit more purple than the other, so whatever I make with it, I’ll be sure to alternate skeins.

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On Sunday I returned to the Green Mountain Spinnery, having weighed the decision for a day, and also snagged a sweater’s worth of yarn from them – their wooly worsted 2-ply, appropriately named ‘Wonderfully Wooly’, in a nice dark cranberry shade of red. This is going to be something cabled, for sure, though who knows what and when ;)

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Although I wasn’t (really for sure I wasn’t) going to get any spinning fibre, so long has my spinning wheel been neglected these few months, I couldn’t help picking up a bit over at Into the Whirled. Their colours are just so lovely. And peeking out from under there are 2 skeins of wool/silk blend from Brooks Farm, for perhaps something in a hat and mittens set? We shall see.

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And finally, I have something for you, dear readers – a single fine skein of Holiday Yarns flock sock, in ‘Graple’, a nice purple colour. For a chance to be the happy recipient of this skein, just leave a comment on this post some time between now and Saturday morning (Toronto time), telling me about a knitting gathering you’ve been to and enjoyed (of any size) and I’ll draw a winner’s name at random. A little piece of Rhinebeck from me to you!

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I hope your Thursday has some knitting in it today! Until next time.

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Leaping Llamas

I’m still working up a post on my stashly acquisitions (I may even do a brief give-away), but as it turns out, re-entry into regular life after a knitterly weekend does take a couple of days to feel back to normal. I am already wishing it was the weekend again.

So, for the moment I wanted to share with you a video clip I took on Sunday morning, of the ‘Leaping llamas’ show. It’s like horse-jumping but with llamas and alpacas. It was fantastic. The littlest guys had a harder time of it once the bar started to rise, but these tall ones were just zipping along. And they were all clearly in tune with their handlers/owners and it was lovely to see how sociable these animals really are. Turns out they have other talents besides making yarn fibre!

Happy Wednesday! May it be as painless as possible.

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Rhine-Ten

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I think, for the first time, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the big-ness of Rhinebeck. I went in planning to have an enjoyable time and hang out with some awesome kntters, and buy some pretty things along the way, and that’s what I did. I rode down with a great van-load of Canadian knitters and stayed with a house-load of American ones. It has been a weekend of yarn-related crazy and gathering, in a good way.

Ann, who bought a fleece at Rhinebeck last year, was wearing the sweater that she had knitted from the yarn she had spun from the fleece she bought at Rhinebeck last year. I think she wins.

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But then Stacey (new curly-haired sister-friend) also wins, because she broke her foot last Wednesday and still came. Elspeth made sure she got her scooter. She was pretty slick, zipping around the fairgrounds in style.

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Today I ended up meeting up with Sandi at lunch time. She had the garlic dog, I had the deep fried mushrooms.

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We looked at spindles and fibre, she wore some fibre on her head like a crown, you know, as one does.

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The sheeps (and goats) were sheepy (and goaty?)…

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Emily bought her body weight in Briar Rose yarn…

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We went to the Ravelry meetup and the internet came to life before my very eyes, and Gwen got her first Ravelry button…

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A bunch of us played blogger/Ravelry bingo…

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Jo bought all the spinning fibres…

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There were yarn-related things that weren’t yarn…

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Because I was there for 2 days and not just 1 this time, there was even a bit of time for sitting and knitting…

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And then, it was over. Thanks, Rhinebeck!

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Making the deadline

On Friday, during the van ride down to Rhinebeck, I knitted the 2nd sleeve.

On Friday night, I sewed the sleeves to the body over margaritas.

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And on Saturday, I wore the finished sweater to Rhinebeck. (Royale, available on Ravelry and on Patternfish.)

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It was awesome.

I also bought some yarn. More about that tomorrow. There’s some more knitting and drinking to be done first. Hurray for knitting weekends!

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Filed under design, finished object: sweater, sweaters