Category Archives: book review

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,


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


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?


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.


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.


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?

Treasures(?) in the attic, 70’s edition

I went over to Mom’s house the other day, and on a whim we started looking through her books. I came home with a small box of curiosities.

that 70's look

Knitting Techniques and Projects from Sunset Books came out in 1976. We’re not sure why Mom owns it, since she never knitted, as far as I remember. The techniques section is a good basic tutorial on how to get started. But did we ever really dress like this?

that 70's look

And did anyone ever knit herself a bikini? One can only imagine what happens when that knitting hits the water…

that 70's look

I wonder if today’s fashions will look this dated to us in 40 years. On the other hand, there are classics like these two pillows. The gnarly cabled one is by Elizabeth Zimmermann (I’m guessing it’s her, although the credit spells it Zimmerman), and the striped one is by Mary Walker Phillips.

that 70's look

And these hats by Barbara Walker would be very current today, in a different color palette.

that 70's look

Are you diggin’ it? I think the book’s a keeper! The other thing I found was this:

that 70's look

Remember K-tel? And Ronco? Oh, yeah, as seen on TV. Let’s get a closer look at that outfit on the box:

that 70's look

Hot pants! And this outfit is also featured on the box:

that 70's look

I checked out the instructions, and it looks like it’s just glorified crocheting, except you don’t have to control the yarn separately. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just use a crochet hook. But there you have it.

What’s in your attic? Time for a treasure hunt!

My Grandmother’s Knitting

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this gorgeous book, My Grandmother’s Knitting by Larissa Brown, at Sock Summit.



The book explores the question, “Who taught you to knit?” with 17 designers, including Meg Swansen, Jared Flood, Kay Gardiner, and more. It also features 21 patterns, some by the interviewees, and some not. Not all the interviewed designers have patterns in the book, but all the patterns are quite lovely. I especially liked this hat by Teva Durham, described as “somewhere between a slouchy beret and a milkmaid’s bonnet.” (and hey, that’s Sally!)


And I love these ‘Olina Socks by Emily Johnson, the creator of the Family Trunk Project.


Judy Becker contributed the pattern for this simply beautiful Grandma’s Fan Dishcloth. Of course it begins with Judy’s Magic Cast-On!


I think every knitter of a certain age knit house slippers like these, shared by Wendy Bernard.


Wendy goes further to add her own embellished version.


The book is beautifully photographed, and an easy size to hold and read (oversized books are nice to look at but make me tired!). It’s a perfect tribute to those who taught us to knit. Who taught you to knit? My Aunt Rose taught me when I spent the summer with her family at age 14. She was just here in town to help celebrate my mom’s 75th birthday. Of course we went on a yarn crawl. She was surprised to find that I didn’t own a swift and ball winder, and insisted on buying both for me as a gift. Thanks, Aunt Rose!

I just went looking to find the things she knit for my kids when they were born.


I’m filled with nostalgia. We just dropped our youngest in Orlando, Florida for college. We’re empty nesters! I think this means I’ll have a lot more time for knitting…


Just home from knit nite. I brought five new books with me. One was Lorna Miser’s The Knitterā€™s Guide to Hand-dyed and Variegated Yarn that I told you about here. Another was The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting by Margaret Hubert that I told you about here. The third was a Christmas present that I haven’t taken a picture of, so I’ll tell you about it later. And the last two were from TNNA. Let’s pretend that you went to knit nite with me; you can see the two new books (and go back to the other two linked books, if you’d like).

At TNNA, there were book signings every hour, and the books were free. Two came home with me. This is Rosemary Drysdale’s Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting. As you know, I’m completely entranced with entrelac lately, so I was thrilled to get this book. Actually, Lorajean (Knitted Wit) picked it up for me, because I was already on my way home during this book signing. Thanks, LJ!

entrelac book

This is a gorgeous book. Drysdale constructs her entrelac a little differently than I do; she starts her base triangles on the purl side, and has right side and wrong side rectangles. I work everything from the right side, and so I call mine left and right leaning rectangles. I don’t think it matters. If you don’t already do entrelac, it’s a good place to start. If you already do entrelac, the rest of the book is a treat. She goes through several different things you can do to spice up your entrelac,

entrelac book3

including texture, lace, cables, colorwork, beads, embroidery…all lovely. And the photography in this book is gorgeous. Here’s a little embellishment.

entrelac book4

I saw these fruit caps at TNNA; they are really cute!

fruit caps

There are several patterns in the book too, incuding a felted bag, scarves, a poncho, a cardigan, the fruit caps. I love this book.

The other book is Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Block By Block.

nicky 1

She accidentally signed the book in the back, upside down, so she signed it again in the front. It was worth a giggle!


You can use these blocks for anything: a blanket, sweaters, scarves, hats. There are blocks of cables

nicky cables


nicky color

other embellishments. The i-cord here is sewn on to a plain block. There are so many ways to use this technique.

nicky embellish

I love this blanket.


And there are patterns, too. Another beautiful, inspirational book by Nicky Epstein.

What else am I reading? Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua! This book has gotten a lot of attention recently since an excerpt appeared in the Wall Street Journal.


My in-laws sent this to me. Are they trying to tell me something? I actually think it’s rather tongue in cheek; some of the things she says are so over the top that I can’t imagine saying them for real. (“Why not A+?” has been a joke for many years in our house.) I had theTeen read the chapter on Suzuki piano, and he just smiled. We did Suzuki piano for nine years, and it was pretty wonderful.

Oh, at knit nite I was knitting with this. I’ll show you what, when I’m further along.


It’s unseasonably warm here (about 55 degrees fahrenheit), and the tulips think it’s spring. (I like they way they’ve pierced the dead leaves that I never got around to raking. That’s violent growth!)


The hostas think it’s spring, too.


I think they’re all going to have a rude awakening.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods?

30 seconds of fame, and a book

If I’m mentioned in two blogs, isn’t that 15 seconds of fame, twice?

This week Beverly from Yarn Intercept interviewed me for a feature on her blog. Click here to visit Beverly’s blog and find out 10 things about me and my knitting!

And I discovered that my new Yarn Train friend Sandi is a blogger, too. She chronicled our yarn crawl here.

What else is new? Working, working, working, and no daylight pictures. But here’s a book I bought before going to TNNA.


It’s The Knitter’s Guide to Hand-dyed and Variegated Yarn by Lorna Miser. I borrowed a copy from the library, and liked it so much that I had to buy one. I have a prickly relationship with variegated yarn. They’re so pretty in the skein, but they don’t always do what I want or expect them to do when I knit with them. Sometimes you get this:


These are all the same yarn; the only thing that has changed is the length of the row. Crazy, huh? I remember a lovely yarn that I used for a shop sample. I wasn’t anticipating this:


The book first goes through how to predict what might happen based on the length and frequency of color patterns in your yarn. It then gives all sorts of stitch patterns and ways of combining yarns that might mitigate some of the craziness in variegated yarns. There are also patterns for garments that show how this is done, if you don’t want to figure out your own. I’m using some of the ideas in a super secret design project that I’m working on. I’ll show it to you…someday. For now, I’ll keep showing you my new books. There are several more!

Do you like variegated yarns? How do you use them?


I have had a copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac forever. It’s an inexpensive little thing; I think it cost $6.95.


There’s a new commemorative edition, with writings by the Yarn Harlot and, oh, I don’t know who else because I haven’t had a chance to open the book yet! I’m on my way to TNNA with Lantern Moon. I’ll update from there…


still feeling bookish…

I have another new knitting book to show you. It’s 1000 Fabulous Knit Hats by Annie Modesitt. This copy is from the library, but I want to get a copy of my own.

hat book

Why? Partly because it’s beautiful, and partly because I’m in it! Well, not me, exactly, but some of my hats. Last year, Annie Modesitt put out a call for pictures of knit or crocheted hats. She was hoping to get a thousand to put into a book. And she did. She chose 10 to feature with their patterns. The rest are eye candy and inspiration. And there is a lot of inspiration here. A hat is a perfect project; small enough that it gets done quickly, and big enough to be a canvas for a new stitch pattern or color combination. Who doesn’t love a hat?

Here are my Pippi hats:

pippi blue


And my watermelon baby cap, which is a free pattern here on my blog:


And my spiral rib cap, also free.


My Elsa would have been in here, too, but she hadn’t been designed yet.

I’ve spent some time paging through, and I want to knit more hats!

A prize, ginger, and chocolate…

I’m a winner! I recently (well, last month) won this book in a contest on the Craftside blog.


It’s The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting by Margaret Hubert, a very nice compendium of knitting how-to. It begins with a history of knitting, goes through tools and basic techniques, and a nice stitch dictionary. There are charts for the cable stitches, but not for most of the others. The pictures are large and clear. There are also some patterns to go with the stitch dictionary and techniques, including hats, scarves, sweaters, socks, and these very cute leaf coasters.


The most interesting part of the book comes at the end. It covers more advanced techniques in a section called Specialty Knitting Methods, some of which are covered by well known knitting authors and instructors. It includes intarsia (Sasha Kagan), entrelac, freeform, crazy lace (Myra Wood), twined (Beth Brown-Reinsel), and bead knitting (Judy Pascale), and one I’ve never heard of, ouroborus knitting by Debbie New. It’s described as “working in rings from the center out, each round getting larger with strategically placed increases that shape the garment as you knit. These closed circles result in very unusual, one-piece garments that require no cutting or seaming.”


I haven’t had much time to sit down and play with this book yet, but it looks great. Lots of reference material and some really fun techniques to explore. Here’s the freeform bag:


In other news, I went shopping for some staples at the Asian market last week (Fubonn, for PDX locals), and was enticed by the preserved ginger in the snack aisle. I bought it for theTeen, since he’s a ginger aficianado. You may recall that he started brewing ginger beer last summer, and even gained some fame in the local newspaper for doing so. Anyway, I decided that I needed to try putting some in scones. My first batch just swapped ginger for my usual chocolate chips, but it lacked…something. So I added a little more butter and sugar, substituted half and half for my usual skim milk, and used half chocolate chips and half ginger. A winner!


Ginger Chocolate Scones

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

2 cups flour (not whole wheat; I used unbleached white)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (not soda)
1/2 tsp salt

5 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup preserved ginger candy, chopped (it’s sweet; I bought it at the Asian market in the snack aisle)

1/2 cup half and half (just barely, or it will be too wet)
1 egg, scrambled

1 Tablespoon chunky turbinado sugar (optional, but pretty)

Combine dry ingredients and stir. Cut the butter into pieces and then blend them into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter. Stir in chocolate chips and ginger. Scramble the egg into the half and half, and then pour it into the flour mixture. Stir until blended, then knead on floured surface about 10 times. Form two balls with the dough. Pat out balls into circles about 7 inches in diameter, slightly mounded in center. Cut each circle into eight pieces. Brush tops with half and half (I just used what was left in the measuring cup); sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and let rise for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just golden. Cool on rack. EAT! To reheat, warm in toaster oven on lowest setting.

Makes 16 dainty scones. (11.17.10: Edited to up chocolate chips to 1/2 cup, instead of 1/4)

Hat tip to Lorajean for suggesting ginger AND chocolate when the ginger wasn’t quite enough on its own. Now go make some!