Category Archives: book review

Merry Knitmas! New holiday knitting patterns

I have a pattern (or two, depending on how you look at it) in the new Knit Picks book, Merry Knitmas.

Aren’t they sweet? It’s a choose your own adventure pattern. I wanted to offer a choice of cuff motifs that looked fairly traditional. Three hanks of Wool of the Andes Superwash Bulky can be knit up into two coordinating stockings.

I love how they styled these. Very homespun Americana. I love everything about these stockings. Christmas stockings are great first socks, because big yarn means that they knit up quickly. And you only have to knit one, so there’s no Second Sock Syndrome. The stubby toe on the short leg makes me smile. And you can’t even see where I snipped the yarn, frogged half the leg, and grafted it back together.

This is what they looked like when they came back from the test knitter, oops! I couldn’t show you yet when I posted about my grafting adventure this summer.) Not the proportions I intended.

And look: They’re on the cover!

The Merry Knitmas Collection has patterns for these stockings and a lot more holiday home fun! You can order it as a hard copy book, or as a pdf download from the Knit Picks site.

I’m having a little giveaway. Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me who you want to knit these stockings for. I’ll do a random drawing on October 18, and the winner will receive the Merry Knitmas e-book. Ready? Go!

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On the nightstand: Stitch dictionaries!

I love perusing the knitting books at Kinokuniya, the bookstore inside Uwajimaya. I’ve picked up a couple stitch dictionaries there, both here and once in Tokyo. It’s usually possible to puzzle out the charted stitch patterns, even though I don’t read Japanese.

I recently picked up this book. There are stitch patterns and edging patterns, and the charts are clear and easy to read. The thought of a Japanese book about Shetland lace was kind of amusing, too.

But the more I looked at the book, the more I wanted to know what the text said. There was some text with each chart, but more intriguing was the text at the beginning of the book. I could see this page was trying to indicate that you could space your stitch patterns so they fit in your repeat. I think. I wanted to know!

I poked around inside the book, and found that the author’s name is Elizabeth Lovick. Hmmm. That’s a pretty non-Japanese sounding name. So I googled her, and lo and behold…

So I bought it! There’s a wealth of information in here. It has taken the place of the Japanese copy on my nightstand.

And apparently her name was on the front of the first book, too. I just couldn’t read it. I asked Son2 if this cover said Elizabeth Lovick, and he said yes. Or at least it was something like “Erizabesu Robikku” using Katakana (phonetic alphabet).

I’m using one of the edgings on a new shawl design. I’m pleased that I figured it out from the Japanese book, so it wasn’t a complete spending fail. (Just the sawtooth edging, not the shells.) More on that, soon.

And look! I have this on pre-order. In ENGLISH. (I must be learning.) Looking forward to receiving it, October 10. I took a class with Gayle Roehm at Sock Summit 2011, and she knows her stuff!

What’s on your nightstand?

By Hand Serial: Puget Sound

It’s out today! And now I can show you my new design, Puget Sound, which is in the current issue of By Hand Serial. (All photographs from this issue by Karen DeWitz, courtesy of Andrea Hungerford.)

I put together my favorite things about Puget Sound: Sunshine and waves, seagulls, the Olympic Mountains, and a little bit of rain. I’m very pleased with the positive/negative seagulls; they are my favorite part.

Puget Sound is a half-pi shawl, a half circle that wraps you in a hug. I used Hazel Knits Entice MCN in Hoppy Blond and Splish Splash, and it is decadently glorious.

Andrea Hungerford, the creator of By Hand Serial, knit her version in blues, Twilight and Frost. I love the monochromatic shading here.

This issue of By Hand features makers in the Puget Sound area of Washington, where water meets earth meets sky. It’s a big issue with lots to love, including some of my favorite yarn makers: Hazel Knits, Spin Cycle, and YOTH. Tolt and Churchmouse Yarns and Teas are two of the featured shops. You can order this issue online, or find it at select yarn shops. I know my usual haunts Twisted and For Yarn’s Sake are carrying it here.

I love this Fern and Feather sweater by Jennifer Steingass. I hope I can squeeze in some time to knit one for me. But it’s a little busy around here. I have a design out for test knitting, a design out for tech editing, two presentations to work on, and I’m judging knit entries and teaching this weekend at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival.

There’s still a little room left in my classes. Saturday morning’s class is the advanced version of my Tink Drop Frog class; this one features fixing mistakes in lace. You can sign up on site (pre-registration is closed), but there’s a bit of homework. If you’re interested, let me know and I can send you the homework assignment.

Sunday afternoon’s class is on Elongated Novelty Stitches; stitches that are made with extra yarn overs and other manipulations. I’ve added the honeybee stitch from my Go Tell the Bees shawl to the class. No homework! Register at check in.

OFFF also has animals in the barn to admire, classes and demonstrations, exhibits, and lots and lots of vendors to visit. Hope to see lots of fiber folk there!

By Hand Serial: From Portland to Portland (review)

I’ve been savoring a new book series, By Hand. This new venture features maker communities around the country.

Author Andrea Hungerford writes:

In this day and age, many of us are searching for community–a sense of belonging, a feeling of unity, a desire to share our passions with others. As a sense of community becomes ever more elusive, we look for ways to build our own. A community of makers–those who find joy in creating with their hands, minds, and hearts–gives us a chance to share and celebrate our ideas and passions.

Thus we have “making communities”–areas areound the country where makers with a common ethos work and, in turn, are inspired by each other–and we are “making communities,” even where physical proximity isn’t possible, by sharing our stories and journeys and images with each other.”

I love this concept. Although Andrea has a strong knitting focus, not all the makers featured in the books are fiber artists. The first lookbook focuses on Andrea’s home town of Portland, Oregon, which is my home, too. Some of the featured makers are:

  • Indie dyers Amy Lee Serradell of Canon Hand Dyes and Sarah Kurth of Bumblebirch
  • Yarn companies Woolfolk, Brooklyn Tweed and Shibui Knits
  • Other non-fiber artists including ceramicists JaMpdx (Jenn Gauer and Megan Radick, pastry artist Anna Henrick, and paper artists Tess Darrow and Kara Yanagawa of Eggpress Design and Letterpress. And more!

A visually stunning visit to Timberline Lodge was a non-fiber highlight for me. This whole book felt like a visit with friends, some of whom I have not yet met. The book also includes 3 knitting projects, a fabric project, and a recipe. I’ll be spending more time with these.

Andrea’s second book focuses on the other Portland, Portland and mid-coast Maine. There is so much fiber and textile history in that part of the country, and it is also the home of a resurgence of the industry. I wondered if I would like this book as much as the first Portland book, since I’ve never been to Portland, Maine. This did not disappoint.

The table of contents reads like a who’s who of fiber all-stars; designers that you know and love, and yarn companies that you recognize from your LYS. Hannah Fettig (Knitbot), Clara Parkes, Bristol Ivy; and yarn companies Swan’s Island and Quince and Co. There are instructios for 6 knitting projects, 2 sewing projects, and a family recipe for Cinnamon Swirled Orange Bread. Yum!

Andrea is working on her third book, which will visit Nashville, Tennessee. You know I love Nashville. I am really looking forward to purchasing this issue!

I’d like to thank Hannah Thiessen, whom I met in Nashville at Craft South, for putting me in touch with Andrea Hungerford here in Portland, and thank Andrea for the review copies of By Hand, too. I’d also like to share the fun. Who would like my review copy of Lookbook #2, Portland, Maine? Let me know in the comments. I’ll pick a winner after next Sunday, April 23.

Thanks also to my helpful assistant, Biscuit. She’s been under the weather for the past two weeks; we don’t know what’s going on with her, but she’s had many visits with our favorite vet. Send good thoughts her way?

Disclosure: Andrea Hungerford provided these review copies for me. All opinions are my own. I loved them!

Book Review: In Search of the World’s Finest Wools

What’s your favorite luxury fiber? Cashmere? Qiviut? Taewit? What?

I received a review copy of this beautiful book, In Search of the World’s Finest Wools by Dominic Dormeuil, photography by Jean-Baptiste Rabouan. It’s a tribute to the growers and producers of the world’s finest fibers. Dormeuil is the Chairman of the House of Dormeuil, a fabric house that was founded in 1842.

My first instinct was to page through the book, just to enjoy the stunningly beautiful pictures. We are treated to travel through Greenland, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Ladakh, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and Peru.

I knew Qiviut came from the arctic musk ox, but what does that really mean? I didn’t realize that the musk oxen in Alaska came there via a 1954 breeding and conservation program in Canada and Alaska. I’d heard the romantic tales of plucking the tufts of fiber from the shrubbery that the musk oxen rub against in an effort to shed their double fleece in the spring.

What I didn’t know is that there are wild musk ox in the Kangerlussaq tundra of Greenland, which was the focus of the qiviut chapter. There, the musk ox are hunted as game for food, and the the fiber brings additional revenue to the hunters. (The climate does not support agriculture.) Before the opening of a wool production workshop in 1997, the skins were discarded; now there are several workshops that process the skins for the wool. Food and luxury fiber from the same animals, excellent.

The book focuses on eight luxury fibers. Two come from wild sources (qiviut and vicuña), and six from domesticated animals: two from sheep (Shetland and Merino), and four(!) from goats (cashmere, pashmina, taewit, mohair). I’m especially in awe of the goats; the luxury of their fiber is a direct result of the inhospitable climate in which these small hardy animals live.

The existence of these luxury fibers is dependent on a way of life that is threatened by industrial progress. The book is a beautiful celebration of both the animals and the people who bring us their wool.

Shetland Sheep with moorit bronget markings
We’re more familiar with sheep’s wool, such as this Shetland sheep of Scotland,

and this half shorn merino sheep in Tasmania.

The book closes with a chapter on the vicuña of Peru. Vicuña were hunted almost to extinction in the 1960’s, and have made a tremendous comeback due to a protection program initiated by the Peruvian government, and newer techniques for shearing without killing. The wild vicuña featured in this chapter are protected, and gently corralled for shearing via a 300 person human chain. How nice is that?

From wild to nomadic to farms to wild again, this book is a beautiful celebration of the source of the luxury fibers of the world. I enjoyed the visual tour, and learning about the people and the animals. I highly recommend it!

A teaser: Have you heard of Taewit goat wool from Kyrgyzstan? I hadn’t. It’s most likely a cross between the Kyrgyz goat and the Orenburg cashmere goat. I’ll let you imagine just how wonderful that must be.

I received this book in exchange for review. All opinions about it are my own. All pictures are my photographs of the book, so they’re not as nice as the book! Thank you to Firefly Books for the opportunity.

New: Rain Chain Shawlette, ebook and yarn for you?

Back from Madrona, but it’s going to take a few days to be ready to properly blog about it. In the meantime, here’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you about for months!

Rain Chain Shawlette KP

I’ve been dying to wear this new piece for the last year, but I had to wait until it was published this month. This is my Rain Chain Shawlette.

Rain Chain Shawlette KP2

The shawlette is a sideways crescent triangle, one of my favorite shapes. It features a rain chain detail at the top edge, and spring flowers on the lower edge.

Rain Chain Shawlette in Velveteen

My prototype version features beads that look like raindrops both in the rain chains and in the flowers and edging, to add sparkle and drape. Instructions for bead placement are in the patttern.

Rain Chain Shawlette bead detail

The Rain Chain Shawlette is knit with Knit Picks Gloss Fingering, a 70/30 blend of merino wool and silk. The silk gives it a drape and a bit of a shine. This shawlette is in the new Knit Picks book, Little Luxuries, which is available as a physical book, and also as an e-book. The single pattern is also available from Knit Picks.

I”ve enjoyed looking through the book that just arrived; it includes 23 patterns for beautiful accessories such as shawls, cowls, hats, and mitts. All patterns use less than 100g of yarn.

I’m giving away a pdf copy of the Little Luxuries e-book, and 2 balls (100g total) of Gloss Fingering in the winner’s choice of color. Leave a comment and let me know which color you want to knit your Rain Chain Shawlette; color choices are here. I’ll pick a winner on Monday, February 27.

Rain Chain Shawlette gradient

The prototype before the prototype was knit with an end to end gradient from Alexandra’s Crafts.

Fibonacci and Fan

And now finally! The winner of Knitted Wit Victory Sock yarns to knit Fibonacci and Fan is Rhea Kohlman. Her pick? Snowy Woods, which is the color that launched the entire snowy line. Good choice! Rhea, I’m emailing you to get your addy.

So many things to knit! So many things to blog. Back soon, I promise.

Do you read while you knit?

Are you a monogamous knitter, or do you like to have many projects going? I usually have two projects, or three at the most.

More linein minisNext on the needles

I like to have one thinking project, which is usually a design project. I have to work on it at home in peace and quiet, and there’s a lot of ripping and re-knitting as I figure things out. It helps to take good notes!

Red ZephyrJust off the needles, a multi-tasking dream

And I like to have one project that is good for multi-tasking, where I can read, watch TV, or chat at knit nite. Usually the design project becomes a multi-tasking project, after the kinks get worked out and then it’s easy knitting all the way. I like to design things that are good for multi-tasking or meditative knitting, where you don’t have to be tied to the instructions for every stitch or row. This is the kind of knitting I like best.

I read a lot of blogs while knitting, and I like to read on my Kindle. I prefer Kindle to physical books, because it lies flat, and I just have to tap or swipe to turn the page. The last time I read a physical book, I tapped the page and nothing happened!

Burials

I’ve been enjoying Mary Anna Evans’ Faye Longchamp mysteries for many years now. I just had the pleasure of reading an advance review copy of Burials, her latest which is coming out on March 7. Faye Longchamp is the scrappy protagonist. Originally from Florida and the descendant of a slave, she’s a smart archaeologist who is something of a murder magnet. She and her hunky husband Joe are always involved in discovering who did it, and how. We learn about archaeological procedure along the way. I was sorry to get to the moment where the murderer was revealed, because I didn’t want the book to end. Fortunately, I’ve just pre-ordered the Kindle edition so I can read it again in my preferred format. Why buy a book I’ve already read? It’s only $6.99, less than 2 cups of fancy coffee, and I’ll catch all the things I missed when I was reading the pdf on my iPad. If you’re looking for a smart, fun read, try this one. The book works as a stand alone story, you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series. But if you want the backstory later, or you want to start at the beginning, Artifacts, the first book in the series, is only 99 cents for the Kindle edition. And on iTunes, it’s free, at least for now. I’d be envious, though, because you’d get to see the character development of my lovely friend Faye. (She seems real to me!)

In the notes at the end of Burials, the author talks about the Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma, the setting for the novel. This Native American historical site dates back to 1400 AD. Some of the finds there include cups, pottery, tools, and textiles. Of particular interest is a bit of lace. Click here to see a picture and learn more about this lace. I had not associated lace with Native American culture, so this was fascinating to me. Can you imagine someone finding a piece of your knitting 600 years from now? What would they make of it? Would they think it was mainstream, or something special for ceremonial purposes?

OK, off to bed. I’m at Madrona, and teaching tomorrow. Blocking first!

Rosaria edge detail

Good night!

Anna Zilboorg’s Splendid Apparel

just landed in my mailbox!

splendid apparel

Looking forward to savoring this one. It will be like a trip back to History Unwound! Click the link if you missed my review of that wonderful event.

Gotta run. Off to Seattle for some fun with the Piano Babes. I’ll check out the book when I get back…

Book Review: Sock Yarn Shawls II

sock yarn shawls II

I have a review copy of Jen Lucas’ new book, Sock Yarn Shawls II: 16 Patterns for Lace Knitting. Jen and I share a love of fingering weight shawls of all shapes and sizes.

The book is organized by the size of the shawl. This is great, since many of us look at the yarn in our stash (yes, even I, the non-stasher, now have a stash) and wonder what we can do with the yarn we have. The categories in this book are small (single skein), mid-size (two skeins, either the same or coordinating colors), and large (at least 900 yards and more).

There are many different and fun constructions in this book, including the traditional top down triangle, bottom up crescent, half-pi and full pi (circular), so you won’t be bored, even if you knit them all. What I found most interesting were shawls where Jen plays with familiar constructions, like changing up the length of the short rows to narrow the shawl ends of Jasmine, a crescent shawl,

jasmine

or placing the usual 4 increases over two rows of a triangle shawl only out on the edges (no center spine) of Earth and Sky,

earth and sky

and combining constructions in Sparrow, which begins like a half-pi shawl, and then changes to a 3 sectioned shawl with two increase lines (like a triangle shawl with two spines).

sparrow construction

sparrow

Jen has an inventive mind! No matter what the construction, all the shawls feature lace and are very pretty. The lace instructions are shown in both chart and written form, and the pictures are clear and informative. This book is a definite winner. With so many construction styles, including some join-as-you-knit borders, you’re sure to find a shawl that will look great and teach you something while you knit it, too.

You can see all the shawls on the Ravelry page for this book. The book is available as an e-book through Ravelry, or as a hard copy through the usual outlets.

All images from Sock Yarn Shawls II by Jen Lucas, Martingale, 2015; used with permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free with the understanding that I would review it, with no promise of a positive review. My opinion is my own. The book is wonderful!

I win! and win…

Remember the 10,000 frogged stitches?

frogged!

There were more along the way, but I finished my secret project, wrote it up, and it’s off to a test knitter. Hooray! I love the finished object, and I think you will, too. I look forward to sharing it with you…next year.

I wish I had some knitting to show you. And actually, I do.

Saturday was busy with secret knitting and blocking in the back yard, since the sun has returned. But then at 11 p.m. I realized that I needed a gift for Lorajean’s baby shower at my house on Sunday. I had seen this cute pattern a while back, and while I’m not sure how functional these booties are, they at least say, “Hey, I’m going to knit a gift for Franny Jean, but for now, look how cute these are!”

chaussons mignons

They took an hour, tops, Saturday night. A definite win. I used leftover yarn from my Raspberry Vodka Lemonade cardi. Full details on mods are on my Ravelry project page.

image

And one more win: I won a drawing on Jen Lucas’s blog. The prize is this book, Free Spirit Shawls by Lisa Shroyer. It’s lovely! Lots of pretty shawls, but even more important, great reference material on shawl shapes and construction.

image

And Jen threw in an extra book, 150 Scandinavian Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone. Lots of traditional and some more unusual motifs in here. I can see using them in scarves, cowls, and even Christmas stocking cuffs.

Now that I have a breather from deadline designing, I am looking forward to a leisurely perusing of these books. Thanks, Jen!

What did you do this weekend?