Category Archives: book review

Book Review and Giveaway: Cast On Bind Off

Just last week I was waxing on about the benefits of a well-stocked knitting library, including fabulous reference books, and lo and behold earlier this week a few new things arrived in my book review mailbox. I’m trying very hard not to just hang onto every single book I receive – which can be a challenge, let me tell you, because a lot of them are really awesome – but this one, this one is too great not to give away. I had a lot of fun looking through this little gem, Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor.

For a little spiral-bound book, this crams in quite a lot of useful information, and in an extremely clear visual style. Yes indeed, this is an entire book devoted to cast-ons and bind-offs (54, to be exact). In case you’re wondering why a person would need this many options, the book tells you exactly that. Each method is presented visually: in swatch form, so you can see what it looks like; and in step-by-step tutorial form, so you can see how to execute it. And each one is presented with a neat description of the edge characteristics and the situation it is useful for. (Example: Cable Cast on provides a firm edge, useful for buttonholes or casting on extra stitches at the end of a row.)

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This is a neat little book and I’d be happy to pass it on to one of you dear readers. If you’d like to be entered to win this book, leave a comment here some time before Monday morning telling me what your current favourite cast-on or bind-off method is, and why! Whether it’s one you just learned or one you’ve been using for years. I’ll post the winner Monday afternoon.

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In the mean time, I’m happy to have some new projects to work away on this weekend, including the striped Turtlepurl socks I started a couple of days ago. I think I’ve just about gotten to the end of an entire striping sequence and can tell now what the colour progression will be. They’ll be fun socks to wear so I’m going to do my best not to let them sit idle for too long, lest they go unknitted and sit in my blind spot in favour of newer things. Fall is coming, after all, and a gal can always use more socks.

Happy weekend, knitting friends!

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Book Review and Giveaway

Don’t get too lost in your weekend just yet, knitting friends, for I have one more book review and giveaway for you today! (Never fear, though, I do promise a return to regular knitting project chatter ;) ) Today I round out my set of spring book reviews with California Revival Knits, by Stephannie Tallent.

I have gotten to know Steph a little bit over the last several months as a tech editor, and she is just as fastidious and capable as a designer. I knew she’d put together a book of interesting and diverse patterns, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was all about in terms of ‘California Revival.’ And then I opened up the book and saw the pictures of the architectural and stylistic inspiration for the patterns and thought, “Oh! It’s like Hearst Castle!” Which is to say, I visited Hearst Castle two summers ago when I was in California, and I realize now it is one of the clearest approximations of the California Revival style that I’ve seen with my own two eyes – in other words, it is a blend of revivalist European styles (Mediterranean, Spanish) and arts-and-crafts construction. There are lots of mosaics, tile work, organic lines, wrought iron, and so on.

The cowl on the cover (and a similar pair of fingerless mitts) are great examples of this in colour-work form, but there are a variety of techniques on showcase here, along with some instructional support on how to execute them. The beaded ‘Tiles Sweater’ below is one of my favourites, which I would enjoy knitting and wearing for myself (it’s done in fingering weight, which would make it practical for a wider variety of temperatures than a heavier sweater would).

I also quite like the inclusion of twisted stitches (go figure!) in a couple of patterns, such as the Wrought Mitts, below. There is overall a variety of garments as well as a variety of techniques to try out. If you are a knitter who has mastered the basics and are looking for some elegant challenges, there are 14 patterns to choose from that will each offer you something different. The photographs (all by Kathy Cadigan) are all very clear, as is Steph’s description of her creative process.

As with all publications from Co-operative Press, this is available in both electronic and hard copy format. If you’d like to win a PDF copy of this book, leave a comment here telling me, if you only had the choice of one knitting technique for the next week, would you choose cables, colour-work, or knitting with beads?
I’ll draw a winner from among the comments sometime after noon on Monday (EST).

Until then, it promises to be a warm weekend here, so I expect my knitting shall be in the shade with a refreshing (possibly adult) beverage. I hope that yours will be too. Happy knitting this weekend!

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Book Review: Circular Knitting Workshop

One admitted perk of blogging is that occasionally new books cross my desk to have a look at for review – and believe me, I see all kinds. There are pattern collection books, extreme niche knitting books, and also the reference manuals – all of which have their place on a knitter’s library shelf. Today I have a book review for you in the latter category, the recently published Circular Knitting Workshop by Margaret Radcliffe.

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I’m one of those knitters who, while I am happy to try new techniques – yea verily, I will sometimes reach for the most crazy ambitious patterns just so I know I’m guaranteed not to get bored with my knitting (the horror!) – I am also just as likely to fall victim to the knitter’s comfort zone, where I keep going with particular methods and techniques just the same way I learned them because that’s exactly where I like it and changing it up might be different and irksome. (I have a related story here where I thought I was going to be a double-pointed-needle/DPN knitter for the rest of my life and didn’t need Magic Loop in my life thank you very much, then tried Magic Loop knitting and now write all my sock patterns for both DPNs and Magic Loop because I love them both.)

This is all a way of saying I thought I had circular knitting down and really didn’t understand what else there was to say about it once you knew how to do it, but sure I’ll take a look at this Circular Knitting Workshop anyway because you just never know. I mean, once you know how to “join to work in the round, being careful not to twist,” you’ve got it licked, surely…but maybe on the off chance that there’s something else to it, I’ll give this a read.

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Let me cut to the chase and summarize: this book is awesome. There are several instructional sections supported by full-colour photographs of techniques like cast-on and bind-off, and problem-solving for things like what to do if you have, in fact, not been “careful not to twist” at the join and you have a twisted mobius-like piece of knitting instead of the tube you wanted. (Hint: catching this sooner makes it more likely that you’ll be able to fix it, but Margaret Radcliffe has your solution.)

Then there are a whole pack of guidelines for things that knitters tend to learn as they go, handily assembled in one easy reference – things like how to convert stitch patterns or whole garments from flat to in the round, working from charts, and a nice series on various ways to finish things like hems, toes, etc. There is a brilliant alternative to kitchener stitch in here, credited to Lucy Neatby, that allows you to finish a sock toe without doing regular kitchener stitch, that I might be a little bit in love with. (I have another related story here about how I still avoid kitchener stitch if I can help it. Actually…that’s pretty much the whole story, right there.) Finally, there are several patterns included here for practice and inspiration, including hats, socks, and sweaters.

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I also appreciate that Margaret stops to point out things like this list of 5 Reasons to Knit Flat, and 5 Reasons to Knit Circular. Because while being able to work in the round is fantastic and has wonderful applications, I agree that it’s not the best approach 100% of the time. Flat and circular knitting are both worth being comfortable with, and worth getting better at.

In short, this is such a lovely reference book that I’m afraid I can’t bear to part with my copy of it for a giveaway – I’m going to make it a nice home in my knitting library and will enjoy having it as a reference.

However, I do still have a giveaway for you today, of one of these fun little sewn notions kits from Pog Totes. Mary who runs Pog Totes sent me one and they were so adorable I asked if I could do a blog giveaway for a reader, and she kindly offered!

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To win one of these little handsewn, lined, zipped, brightly coloured darlings, leave a comment on this blog post between now and noon on Thursday (Toronto time), telling me your favourite thing about knitting in the round, and I’ll do a giveaway in a post Thursday afternoon.

Happy knitting this afternoon, and stay cool!
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Book review/interview: Beyond Knit and Purl

Knitting friends, I’ve got a few book reviews coming up for you in the next month or so around these parts, so what better time than the 1st of the month to get them kicked off? (Side note: How in the heck is it May already? Time passes awfully quickly when you’re knitting a lot of things.)

My friend Kate recently published her first book, Beyond Knit and Purl, and it is a very friendly volume of tips, tricks, and patterns for knitters in that amorphous stage of advancing from ‘basic’ things towards…well, less basic things, moving into that ever-broadening category of intermediate knitting. You will find a collection of technical explanations of stitches like increases and decreases, cables, lace, and more, all with full-colour photographs to bridge the written instructions. If you are in that stage of wanting to learn more than the basics but don’t necessarily know what you don’t know, this would be a good volume for you. There are a variety of patterns for socks, accessories, even sweaters, that would be at home in many a knitter’s library. Kate teaches in the Toronto area and uses many of these pieces of advice in her classes as well.

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Since there have already been a few stops on Kate’s ‘blog tour’ for this book, I decided to change it up a bit for my stop and ask Kate a few interview questions, both about the book and herself as a knitter! Read on for more, below. Additionally, Co-operative Press has also generously offered to do a book giveaway as part of my stop on her book’s blog tour. If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of the book (because hey, free book!) just leave a comment on this post before noon on Thursday (Toronto time) with what your favourite knitting tip is that you’ve learned (either recently, or ever), and I’ll name the winner this coming Thursday afternoon.

Kate, what are your favourite kinds of things to knit?
My comfort knitting is socks – plain old stocking stitch socks in a beautiful or fun yarn. I don’t have to look, and they are a small project I can tuck into the corner of my purse, so I’m never without something to do. I got most of the leg of a sock finished in a movie theatre last week. And when I’m in a line up at the bank, it helps pass the time! Then when I’m at home, or a long streetcar or plane ride, I love really challenging lace. I get a huge thrill from experimenting with stitch patterns, and I relish the mathematical challenge of working out how to fit them together in a shawl pattern.

If you had to pick a favourite set of tips from the book…
It was really important to me to teach proper finishing techniques – it’s too often given short shrift in the literature, and many a knitting project has been abandoned due to lack of confidence or knowledge about finishing. And no matter how well it’s knitted, poor finishing leaves you with an unattractive end result.

What’s something you learned during the process of making the book?
I asked knitters – professional and casual knitters, experienced and newbies, students and colleagues – for hints and tips to add to my book. I learned an amazing number of clever tricks! One of my favourites: when counting stitches on a straight needle, hold the pointy end and start counting there, towards the stopper end – it’s too easy to knock stitches off the end if you go the other way!

What’s your current favourite knitting “viewing”?
I love a procedural mystery. My husband likes to say that if someone dies before the opening credits, I’ll watch it. The Law & Order family – Law & Order UK is fab! — the CSI family, Castle, The Mentalist, those types of shows. They are very formulaic, but that works brilliantly for knitting. If I miss a few minutes because I’m counting stitches or reading the pattern or making notes, I won’t be lost. And if the crime scene is particularly gory, I can look at my knitting instead of the screen. It doesn’t have to be a murder, but most crime shows seem to focus on that. I’m also a fan of Fairly Legal, which tells the stories of a mediator working for a law firm, and the crimes there are often much more prosaic – business negotiations, house sales, that sort of thing. It’s surprisingly compelling – but still easy to watch with only half your attention.

How strong do you take your coffee again?
Brutally, fiercely, teethcurlingly strong. At The Purple Purl, they make a special Americano for me, since no-one else takes it the way I do.

Thanks for the interview, Kate! And happy knitting, to all.

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Book Review: Vampire Knits

So, I’m finally done my grading and am now moving onto frenetic packing, tidying, and collecting up ALL the knitting to take with me (I can finish 5 projects before 2011, right?), before leaving on a bus tomorrow for a series of 2-or-3-days-at-a-time-in-one-place also known as the Christmas holidays. Which is going to be great, but then, there is the packing. (Also, I’d like to say thanks to reader Becky who thought that when I said I was ‘grading’ I meant grading knitting designs for sizes in a written pattern, as opposed to exams and essays which is what I was actually doing. Admittedly, I’d probably have preferred the patterns I think.)

Naturally, I thought this was a good time to finish up the last of my 2010 book reviews. Because when else would one sit down and clear a few careful thoughts for blog readers curious about knitting books? Well, during insane gift-shopping season, of course! (Unless of course, you already did all your gift shopping. In which case, I have some errands for you to run if you’re not doing anything.)

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Vampire Knits presented me with a bit of a challenge. On the one hand, I love vampire stories. Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Absolutely. Dracula? Yeah, bring on the gothic. True Blood? well, the books sure made for decent commuter reading, I’ll say that much. And I am big-time in support of fannish knitting. Heck, a large portion of my recent design repertoire came from fannish inspiration. Viper Pilots socks, anyone? For goodness sakes, I’m working on a Buffy-inspired collection of mittens and gloves. I’ve knitted my own Ravenclaw scarf and love the fact that there are thousands of knitters who have found their entry into the world of knitting by making their own Harry Potter house scarf. Bring on the fannish knitting, I am all over that.

On the other hand, the author of this particular pattern collection makes no bones about being directly inspired not so much by vampire texts in general, but by the Twilight series of novels and films, specifically (there are patterns with intarsia-letter motifs for pillows spelling out “team Jacob” or “team Edward.”). I absolutely loathe the Twilight series. Come on folks, as if it’s not bad enough that there are flocks of young people steamrolling past actual literature to get to Stephanie Meyer’s books to the tune of millions and billions of dollars, it makes me weep to think that there are enough people now who are holding up Twilight as the best vampire stories EVAR OMG and haven’t even given BtVS a fair shake because, okay fine, the makeup and production values in Season 1 were pretty crappy. I mean, they should at least be going off to read Dracula first, but since they’re probably not doing that, the very least they could do is watch the entirety of Season 2. And 3. And 5. And the last 2 discs of Season 7. And the musical episode. And the silent episode. And, you know, the WHOLE SERIES.

::cough:: But I digress.

All in all, I have to say, this is a decent set of patterns. The cover sweater, the ‘Lore’ hooded cardigan by Cirilia Rose, has been getting a lot of attention for good reason – it’s an effective but not overly intimidating sweater knit in bulky wool (Peruvia Quick) that also looks pretty comfortable. And really, most of the patterns are like that. If you’re looking for a set of advanced beginner patterns for someone who might not otherwise be inspired to take up knitting but likes vampire things, or someone who likes vampire things but might not have bought this book, it’s worthwhile.

I quite like this “Under the Cover of Midnight” cowl/hood (below), a chunky cabled knit which looks extremely cozy as well as stylish. And tempting given the current chill in the air.

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The ‘Bloody Socks’, above, are also pretty approachable for someone new to sock knitting, essentially a cuff-down heel-flap sock with a simple motif down the front. (Though I scratch my head at making them ankle socks, especially when the chosen yarn comes in 420-yds skeins. Does removing most of the leg make them easier? I don’t know.)

All in all, it’s a collection mostly meant for women, with a few patterns for men including a sweater and a couple of scarves. There are sweaters, shrugs, cowls, gloves, socks, and home accessories – even a corset. The yarns used in the samples are mostly recognizeable labels, from Knit Picks or Bernat to Louet and Berroco. And where it is warranted, there is a range of sizes. The cover sweater, for example, goes up to 48″ in bust circumference.

So, if you’re looking for something fun for a vampire-fan who would or could sink her teeth into knitting, this offering would be just fine. And at the end of the day, anything that helps more people appreciate knitting is just fine with me.

Stay tuned, when I’ll offer this book and one more from my previous reviews as a blog giveaway for the new year! And, as usual, keep the knitting close by!

 

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Speaking of Elizabeth Zimmerman (Book Review)

I’ve been doing a bit of Elizabeth Zimmerman knitting lately, so I was extra supportive of having a look at an EZ commemorative edition for a book review. The folks at Dover sent me over a review copy of the Knitter’s Almanac, revived in full-colour hard back form for a fall 2010 release, on the occasion of her 100th birthday (or would have been 100th, were she alive today). It’s a lovely edition, and worth considering, I would say, particularly in the gift-giving season that quickly approaches.

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The patterns in here are identical to those found in the original edition of the Knitter’s Almanac (published 1974), and include a few favourites like the Pi Shawl (that I’m currently working on and starting to see the end of), mitred mittens, and even a pattern for knitted leggings (or, “nether garment”) which in some moments I consider casting on for because seriously, hand-knitting leggings. Totally what winter ordered up. (Possibly also: extreme motivation to never gain weight and maintain current size forever and ever.)

There are a few new things in this edition, most notably the inclusion of colour photographs (many new altogether) of finished items, which is a remarkable change from the black & white photos and might well help many knitters view these patterns in modern context. Another is the re-printing of the adapted free online pattern for the “February Lady Sweater,” which you might find helpful in print form just in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t encountered one of the thousands of online knitters who have already knitted one of these.

I came only recently to the discovery of who Elizabeth Zimmerman was and what her contributions to the knitting world were like. My own knitting life has happened in a world which did not include her living presence. And so what I like the most about this revised edition, is the inclusion of a written preface by Meg Swansen (Elizabeth Zimmerman’s daughter), an Introduction by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot), and a letter to Elizabeth Zimmerman by Barbara Walker, both in praise of Elizabeth and her writing. Because of course, she wasn’t just writing patterns, she was writing to knitters about bringing confidence and self-assertion to their knitting lives.

So while the book itself has been glitzed up a bit in this commemorative edition, in a snazzier and sturdier hard-back edition, the purpose is entirely the same as it always has been. I rather like how Stephanie describes it in her introduction: “My own love of knitting and my belief that it was clever and worthy was reflected in those pages. I believed then, and I believe now that knitting is so much more than it appears, so much more than the sum of its parts.”

Thanks, Elizabeth! And happy 100th birthday.

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Book Review: Aran Knitting

I’ve got to keep up a better pace than this, folks. I’ve got 3 more books on the shelf for reviews and at the rate I’m going you’ll be hearing about the last of them right as the new batch of spring publications are released. (Note to self: stop letting paying work get in the way of your knitting time. Where are your priorities?)

I was debating which one to talk about next, and reached for my copy of the new and expanded edition of Aran Knitting, sent to me by the fine folks at Dover Publishing. It’s a beautiful book, make no mistake.

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This book is two things: A collection of Aran-style knitting patterns, and a history/explanation of the origins of Aran knitting. It’s also been flying off the shelves, as from what I hear, my fave Toronto shop The Purple Purl is already on their second ordering. There are good reasons why this is the case. The patterns are stunning. Originally released in 1997 and then allowed to go out of print, this is one of Alice Starmore’s pattern collections that is highly coveted. I myself am thrilled at the prospects of being able to make my own St. Brigid (Ravelry link), for example, along with a few of the others. There is a new one called Eala Bhan which is done in fingering weight and looks beautiful as well as stylish, and – unlike the other sweaters – uses the cables to include shaping and flare at the waist. In general, all patterns follow the Aran style of symmetrically placed panels of cables, knitted flat.

It’s the sort of collection that will be very much at home in a knitter’s library, regardless of whether or not you plan to cast on for any of the projects right now. The time will come (at least, it often does for me, and I hope I’m not alone) when you’ll need a selection of adventurous cabled knits to choose from, patterns that you can really sink into with skill and tradition. The collection in Aran Knitting includes mostly sweaters, but also a few rectangular shawls and hats. A few of the sweaters are styled to be unisex pieces, which adds some versatility.

Starmore also devotes a few dozen pages in the first chapters of the book to a history of Aran knitting, which I suspect is her true concern with this publication and re-publication. It’s a presentation of very detailed research in which she explains how Aran knitting tradition is rooted in 20th Century processes of production in the Scottish isles, and is emphatically not the same as ‘celtic’ knitting (which, incidentally, she wants you to know is something she herself established through another of her publications). There’s more to it than that, of course, and it’s worth consideration. She very much wants to set the record straight on the origins of Aran sweater knitting, so much so that I am not sure whether she is more concerned with people having this knowledge, so much as she wants to be the one to explain it to you.

I feel some sympathy for her at this point, because although she is breathlessly trying to convince her readers that Aran knitting and Celtic knitting are emphatically NOT the same thing, I can predict pretty quickly that this misconception is still going to persist. Partly because, quite simply, many people will read the book primarily for the patterns alone, and only skim the surface of the historical writing; The patterns are beautiful and are worth the price of the book in and of themselves. Also, in the end I am not sure she is helped by the format of this book – the patterns and historical discussion are two almost entirely separate pieces, and the knitter who doesn’t read the first half will eventually get to the section of the patterns titled “Celtic Designs,” and conclude that if a book called “Aran Knitting” includes a section called “Celtic Designs”, then surely Celtic knitting and Aran knitting are directly related.

(Also, I’m a geographer and not once in this book does there ever appear a map pointing out where any of this history happens. Respect the power of maps, yo, they help.)

A few technical notes on the patterns – I fully believe that they are well edited, as Alice Starmore’s reputation for precision and detail well precedes her, and the charts are excellent. Sizing is definitely skewed towards slimmer bodies wearing these sweaters with several inches of ease, so women with bust sizes above about 42″ or so will need to look into modification in order to complete them. And finally, all the patterns are written using Alice Starmore’s specific yarns, and clear specs on the yarn (i.e. yardage per weight) are not included in the book, so if you want to substitute yarns for the project, account for that few minutes of thought process to match up your yarns to intended gauge and so forth.

I hope that Starmore’s books remain in publication. As collections of patterns they are worth keeping active in knitters’ imaginations, and as sources of knowledge they will do very little good sitting gathering dust in scarce few libraries and archives. Knowledge needs to circulate, otherwise it will be lost.

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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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Book Review/Blog Tour: It’s in the Bag

Today I’ve got something new to keep me busy on the blog – a stop on a blog book tour! I was invited to be a stop on the tour for Kara Gott Warner’s book It’s In the Bag, and how could I say no? Yesterday the Fitterknitter talked about shrugs with designer Colleen Smitherman, and tomorrow Lynn Hershberger will talk about striping and colour.

As for me, my original designer interview plans ended up not coming together, so instead I’m going to chat for a bit about some projects that caught my eye, and my overall impressions of the book. And keep reading to the end for a giveaway – because what would a blog tour be without giveaways?

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Overall, this is a pretty diverse book. It is intended to showcase projects that can be easily accomplished on the go, or carried with you ‘in the bag.’ There are a range of projects from beginner basic to advanced techniques like cabling, mitered squares, even a bit of beading. There’s everything from scarves and hats to sleeveless tunics. The majority of yarns featured are recognizeable mainstream labels from North America and Europe, including Classic Elite, Mission Falls, Rowan, and Takhi Stacy Charles. There are plenty of options for kids, adults, and home knitting.

One of the projects that really caught my eye was the Uptown Chic Satchel by Cecily Glowik Macdonald, pictured above. I’ve not knitted many bags myself but I quite like the look of this one – the triangular shape at the sides would probably lend quite a bit of stability overall, and it’s worked in a bulky weight yarn (Classic Elite Duchess), which means a person probably could knit it on the go – perhaps even in a couple of bus rides! Sign me up for that.

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I’m also a fan of one of the Harlequin Socks, by Kathryn Beckerdite, one of the few sock patterns in the book but no less attractive. These are shown in Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet, but I imagine they would look good knitted up in a variety of semi-solid or possibly slightly variegated yarns. Although the photo here doesn’t show the sides as well, there is a diamond pattern running up the side of each leg, adding a degree of interest/difficulty to the ribbing. I’m actually thinking of working up a pair of these in my holiday gift knitting.

So, dear readers, this is a book you may wish to keep on your radar if you are on the lookout for collections with manageable and diverse projects. It covers a lot of bases and would be a pretty approachable book even for the relative beginner knitter.

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As a thank you to ‘blog tourists’, Kara has gifted me two drawstring Della Q bags to give away – one green, one pink. Just the right size for a small on the go project. To be eligible for one of these, please comment here and tell me about what your favourite project is to knit while you’re in transit! I’ll draw two winners at random on Wednesday evening at 5pm EST.

That’s all for today – happy knitting, and may your Monday be manageable.

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Book Review: The Knitter’s Book of Wool

Okay, so first of all, you all already own The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, right? Right? If you don’t, I’m going to assume the reason is because you a) know someone who owns it and borrow it when needed, b) have permanently absconded with the copy from your local library, or c) are Clara Parkes and therefore know everything that is in the book and therefore don’t need your own copy of it to remind you.

And if you’ve read the Knitter’s Book of Yarn, chances are you already know how wonderful it is, and therefore can guess at the awesomeness of its sequel, The Knitter’s Book of Wool.

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I’m a big fan of wool, so I’m very happy about this book. If you have ever taken a skein of wool of any kind from your stash and given it a loving squeeze or imagined in your head what you would like to knit it into, just based on touch alone, then this book is for you.

Like its predecessor, the Knitter’s Book of Wool is divided between knitting knowledge and knitting patterns. Independently, these two contributions would make a worthy publication, but here they are combined in the same volume, to make it more than simply a collection of patterns but a book that will sit in your knitting library to be consulted time and time again.

In the first four chapters, Clara Parkes takes you through ‘What is Wool’, ‘Turning Wool into Yarn’, ‘Meet the Breeds’ and ‘Plays Well With Others’. These four chapters are a pretty thorough education into what makes wool such a versatile and useable fibre. Spinners in particular will likely enjoy Chapter 3 on sheep breeds. Ever wondered what the difference is between Cormo and Merino, or Bluefaced Leicester and Border Leicester? Well, Clara will tell you. She’ll also tell you about what will happen when you blend wool with different types of fibres and what you can achieve with that yarn and why.

The patterns that accompany this fibery education are a pretty versatile collection. There are items in here that will appeal to beginners on up to seasoned knitting veterans, for women, men, children, and home. How about this Bella baby sweater, for example? Surely something that could be knitted quickly and stylishly for wee recipients.

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The adult sweaters are also accessible to a variety of skill levels, and are constructed in a way which shows off the texture of the wool being used. I like the Allegan Cardigan (by Sandi Rosner) and Comfy Cardigan (by Pam Allen), below.

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The patterns I really keep coming back to look at, though, are the shawls. There are several here, of all different construction types and using a variety of yarn weights. Just get a look at the Falling Water stole by Jane Cochran, for example. Couldn’t you see this draped at your desk chair for chilly working days, ready to accompany you right out into the brisk air over your coat? I sure could.

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Then there’s Sivia Harding’s beaded Tibetan Clouds stole, which is so beautiful that I do not see how a person could knit this without imagining herself wearing it to an elegant dinner soiree and meeting the tall dark and handsome stranger of her dreams rocking the lace like there’s no tomorrow. These last 2 stoles are the patterns I am hoping to cast on for some time soon…if the Christmas knitting doesn’t get me first, heh.

I think the best compliment a knitting book could get is that it makes me want to knit things from it right away. Clara Parkes, this is a winner.

Happy knitting!

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