by Jillian Moreno, Kate Atherley, Amy Singer, MK Carroll, Sasha Torres
SR [Finished chest
measurement for sweaters] =
the smallest chest measurement to the largest
chest measurement we could find in
the book. There may be only one pattern
with the smallest or largest size, but it's in there. Books
are softcover unless noted otherwise. All prices USD unless
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Amy Christoffers is the design goddess of everyday chic. She captures a modern sensibility that simultaneously looks casual and pulled together -- a little Katherine Hepburn, a little J.Crew. I waited excitedly for this collection to come out and it doesn't disappoint!
The designs are mostly sweaters (yay!) and they have that magical quality of being straightforward to knit without being boring. And the finished garments are timeless and would make me feel pulled together even if my bottom half was clad in yoga pants (don't judge). There is care in the planning and design; there is shaping and interesting detail that all adds up to a collection of gorgeous and wearable designs.
The designs are all named after and inspired by American artists. The patterns that I keep looking at are Serra Turtleneck, Hopper Cardigan, Edmonia T-Shirt and Parrish Mitts.
At crafting events like MakerFaire, I keep an eye out for the hesitant ones, the people who will eye a bright skein of yarn longingly, maybe reach out to gingerly pet a skein, or page through a book of yarn crafting patterns. Before they can turn away, I'm heading over with a bright smile and "do you know how? Do you want to learn?" In return I often hear something like "I'm not good at stuff like this." If they sit down, it's with tense shoulders and apologies, prepared to (and afraid to) fail. I've wished for something I could hand them -- a book, maybe? -- to take home with them, along with the swatch they've just started to make. Now I have one!
Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises and Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain't Pretty, by Kim Werker, has us aim directly for failure so we can get it over with. Upbeat without being saccharine, Kim invites us to identify our personal monsters and listen to what they have to say in a series of exercises designed to loosen up our creative muscles. Even if you think you don't have any creative blocks, you may find the exercises to be a little scary. You didn't think there was a monster under your bed...until you really looked, and found one. The author is up front about this, and says you are on the right track if you are feeling anxious when you start to look.
Sprinkled throughout the book are recommendations for additional material, including links to projects and talks, as well as anecdotes and quotes from people Kim interviewed about their creative demons.
Kim actively encourages that you use the paperback version to do the written exercises in (unless you've borrowed the book, of course), which I found terrifying, thrilling, and monster-revealing. Write? On the lovely clean pages? Really? Yes, really. The paperback is a pleasure to hold, small enough to fit neatly into a handbag, with a lovely thick, nubbly paper cover. It feels really good to write in, too.
"...this book is YOURS. Mark it up, fold down the pages, cut things out. It is not precious. It is, in fact, meant to be USED."
Make It Mighty Ugly is available in both digital and paperback formats.
I love that this book is dedicated to the author's Ravelry group. It shows her dedication to learning from her students and fans, the hallmark (in my opinion) of a great teacher.
This book is more than a book of accessories, not surprisingly, then. It's a teaching tool in itself. Full of projects, each designed to teach a skill or set of skills, it's a portable classroom in 144 pages.
She focuses on three techniques: wrapped and elongated stitches, advancing lace skills, and -- of course -- Nelkin's signature of late: knitting with beads. Starting with accessory projects as simple as a buttoned cuff, she'll take you through each technique in a gentle and logical manner until you're ready for the beaded lace gauntlets on the book's cover (so beautiful!) or the lacy, Gyrus Tam near the back of the book. The Quadro Convertible Shrug is another stunner.
The section on knitting with beads is enough to make the book a knitter's library must. Information about what yarn content works best with beads, how to choose beads suitable for knitting, and much more are essential reading for anyone wanting to add sparkle to their fiber. Hard to pick a favorite pattern in this section, but the gradient Halli Shawl is a jaw dropper. Want.
Another collection of patterns from the unstoppable collaboration between Cascade Yarns and Sixth&Spring Publishing. This one features the Venezia Collection of yarns: sport weight and worsted weight Merino/silk yarn. As you might imagine with a fiber blend like this, there is lots of drape in these patterns, and lots of lace. It's a nice change from accessory books that lean to worsted and bulky yarn.
There are 60 patterns. Need something for a friend, a KAL, a just-for-me quick knit? It's likely there is something for most people in this book. The patterns are mostly texture, lace included, but there are a few colorwork patterns. And they are fast to knit. Most patterns don't fill a whole page.
I am ready for fall and these patterns caught my eye, because I can really use something quick and maybe just-for-me right now. I like the Solid and Striped Infinity Scarf, Tulip Lace Hat, Short Row Ruffled Shawl and Geometric Mitts.
Here's something I'd never thought I'd say: "Thank goodness someone has written another beginning knitting book", but it's true. Most of the beginning knitting books that have come out over the past few years have been exactly the same. Everything explained in the same way, with all of the projects so similar it was hard to tell one book from another.
In Knit It, Melissa Leapman has brought fresh eyes to the beginning knitting book. Melissa has been knitting and, more importantly, teaching for a long time. It's this perspective which allows her to write a better beginning book. All of the information is there -- the how-to and why and when that a beginning knitter needs -- but it's presented in a way that makes more sense to me. A topic is presented, like making knit and purl stitches, over a couple of pages. And also on those pages are the answers to questions a new knitter would ask at this point in a lesson like, "What is Knitwise and Purlwise?" Melissa assumes her reader is curious and paying attention.
The projects are also a step above. As a teacher, Melissa sees that beginners want patterns to aspire to and that there is no stopping a beginning knitter if s/he wants to knit a particular pattern. Instead of just scarves and iPod cozies, she gives us sweaters and home dec. There are hats and accessories, but those too are more interesting than the usual.
When Amy and I saw these bags at TNNA, the yarn industry trade show, we made lots of wanty sounds and grabby hands. It was instant love. The screen-printed images are what draw you in. They are hilarious and sassy, but the bags themselves are keepers. They are made of heavy preshrunk cotton -- I love the raw edges all around the bag. There are handles on the bag that can be replaced or removed; they are short-ish and more suitable for hand carry than for wearing on your shoulder unless you're very small.
The bag is stuffable, but I found it happiest with a shawl and a pair of socks plus a book or my iPad and knitting accoutrements. These bags are so well made and well printed that I'm wishing there were even more different styles and sizes.
There are 19 designs in a variety of color combinations. I bet you can't buy just one.
Elsebeth Lavold's new book reminds me why I fell in love with art history with my first 101 class. Everything and everyone is connected. With Viking Knits and Ancient Ornaments, she continues and expands her study of decorative ornament.
This time scouring the globe for patterns that are universal that she labels interlacements. They are swirls and crossings that are related to Aran cables and are much more universal.
She translates her findings into knitting patterns designed with her signature Scandinavian style.
That is a simplistic way of describing this book. Reading this book is not a quick thing, settle in with tea and plan to do some ruminating. Don't miss the reading it's fascinating.
The book is broken into design elements Loops, Rings and Chains, Little Knot and Fourknot, Threeknot, Overhand Knot, S-hook and Braiding.
Each element gets an overview with images, photos and line drawings of artifacts and information on where each style of interlacement has been documented. Elsebeth has designed motifs based on artifacts; they are represented in knitted swatches and charts. Each element gets a several patterns too. They are mostly sweaters and rich in detail beyond the interlacing motifs.
For example, the chapter on Braiding has artifacts from Italy, Mexico, Denmark, Egypt, Peru, Sweden, France, Congo, Mongolia, Croatia, Estonia and Guatemala. Braiding has 5 patterns, 3 sweater, a vest and a bag.
The patterns are as gorgeous as I would expect from Elsebeth Lavold. They are her signature Scandinavian style with dense elements of textures broken up with swathes of stockinette or reverse stockinette.
Be sure to read patterns thoroughly. The pages are broken into 2 columns with not much space between rows, which makes my ageing eyes get lost easily. I would photocopy and highlight if I were working one. The charts are often referenced only as "the chart", with the name of the chart only appearing once and sometimes just in the pattern overview with materials and gauge. Sometimes the chart needed for a pattern appears in the pages before the pattern.
Don't miss the last pages of the book: they contain a Grammar of Viking cables and five pages on Create Your Own Cable Pattern.
If you want a quick and easy knitting book, keep shopping. This is a thinking knitter's book, a book to learn and challenge. I know I will never again assume that a braid or interlacement is Irish or Swedish in origin.
I was filled with a sense of warm fuzzy when I heard that beloved designer and style icon, Debbie Bliss, was launching a line of homewares. When the first samples arrived, my warm fuzzy blossomed into full-on nesting mode. I want to fill my home with every single one of her accessories.
First up, a line of knit-inspired tea towels. Printed on high-quality cotton in delicious Bliss-esque colors, the samples I received are so pretty, I can't bear to wipe dishes with them. I'm going to use them as kitchen curtains in my new apartment. They're absolutely worthy of being on display. The good news is that they're affordable enough that I could buy a second set and use them as intended. Each features a different stitch pattern, and, cleverly, the instructions for the stitch below the name.
A lace book with 18 patterns and not one shawl or scarf? Yes, and it's marvelous!
Heather Zoppetti is not muchof a shawl person. She'll wear them for special occasions, but they aren't an everyday thing for her. On the other hand, lace is something she looks forward to knitting and wearing every day. The premise of this book is that you can wear lace every day in any season; it doesn't have to be frilly or over the top girly and it doesn't have to be a shawl. Thank you, Heather.
The patterns in this book span the seasons and are divided into Warm, Transitional and Cold. Most are that wonderful type of lace knitting that look much more complex than the knitting actually is. So if you are a beginning or close-to-beginning knitter, do not pass up this book -- there are many patterns in her for you.
How lacy is lacy? Only a few patterns are all over lace. Most of them have lace panels, insets or edges. It doesn't take much lace to be gorgeous -- look at Belmont Cardigan, a scoop-neck, top-down raglan cardigan in the Cold section of the book; a lace panels runs down the front and the sleeves. That's it and it's lovely.
Lace doesn't have to be lace-weight yarn either. Most patterns call for fingering, DK and sport weight yarns. Really like the Conestoga Tunic, all of the hats (I'm a sucker for lace hats) and the Millway Socks (easier than they look!).
If I say this is an easy lace book I mean it in the most positive way. Easy to knit as in put your feet up, have a glass of wine and knit. Easy to wear as in pair these knits with your favorite clothes. You don't have to wait for a special occasion.
This book explains the why behind the how to of knitting. Imagine if the tiny little bit of information at the beginning of a knitting pattern was blown up into an almost 300-page reference book; that begins to explain The Knowledgeable Knitter.
It's to be used in conjunction with patterns. It's not about how to write one of your own.
There is a vast amount of information in this book. Here's a peek at the table of contents: First Choices: Patterns, Yarns and Needles; Second Thoughts: Planning the Project; Third Time Lucky: Modifying Your Pattern; Forethought: Shaping and Fitting; Work in Progress; Evaluations and Adjustments; Putting It All Together; and Bindings, Borders and Embellishments.
The writing is straightforward and the information is solid with lots of pictures as examples.
It's probably not a book to read cover to cover or carry with you to knit night, but when you run into knitting or a knitting pattern question, you'll be glad you have it on your shelf.
This project bag has a smart twist. These new pouches are clear all over with an oilcloth edge at the top. No more guessing which project is in which bag, or which pouch holds my favorite stitch markers.
Everything else is the same Chic.a quality: reinforced seams, sturdy zipper, a little bit of fun oil cloth prints, but now I can be just a little more organized.
Knitting Blocking Wire Set by Lazadas knitting accessories
Mix set as shown at left: $29
The Lazadas blocking wires come in variety of different sets, with different numbers of different length wires. The one I tested, the "Mix", has seven in the package: four 35-inch ones, and three 70" ones, with 30 t-pins. MSRP on that particular set is $29.00.
The wires are more flexible than the usual, providing a couple of distinct advantages over the more traditional wires. You can coil them up for easy storage, which makes the package ideal for travel. Exactly the sort of thing I would take with me to teach a class. And that flexibility allows you to adapt to curved edges, excellent for shaped shawls or garments.
There's a couple of trade-offs with the flexibility, however. They’re very fine and so can be challenging to thread through the edges of your knit pieces. For blocking a straight edge, I found these too flexible and coiled (like a circular needle cable) to work for me.
I've been looking forward to the release of Beth Smith's gorgeous new book,The Spinner's Book of Fleece: A Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose for a long time. It is finally here, and it does not disappoint.
The Spinner's Book of Fleece will guide you through choosing, storing, washing, preparing and spinning raw fleece. It will also introduce you to the major types of wool and get you started making the yarns you want out of any one of them.
Smith advocates an easy-to-adopt starting point in spinning any fleece: matching the number of twists per inch in the yarn to the number of crimps per inch in the wool. Once she has thoroughly explained this approach, she leads readers through each wool type -- fine wools, longwools, Down and Down-type wools, multicoated breeds and "others" -- explaining the characteristics of each, providing detailed instructions for washing and preparing, and introducing some of the commonly-available breeds of that type. She then discusses her own approaches to spinning those breeds, and illustrates those approaches with her own sample yarns. Her yarns are stunning, and the excellent photography allows readers to really see their particular characteristics.
Smith's knowledge of her topic is deep, and her style is approachable and often funny (as in the following description of Down-type wools: "Each fiber likes to be independent and on its own. Instead of being all lined up like soldiers, these fibers want to act like it's a party all the time").
If you've thus far spent your spinning life spinning only commercially-prepared fiber, but would like to start buying and working with raw fleece, The Spinner's Book of Fleece is the perfect companion for your initial explorations. If you have more experience with fleece, Smith's book will shepherd you adeptly through your own breed studies. Lavishly illustrated, richly detailed, and completely inspiring, The Spinner's Book of Fleece is a must-have addition to any spinner's library.
Patsy Zawitoski has been spinning and teaching spinning for decades. She has developed a detailed and systematic way to reproduce commercial yarn by taking it apart and studying it. She's invented a Yarn Decoder Board that's easy to make from construction paper and paperclips, and it's easy to use to help deconstruct yarn.
Patsy shows how, by untwisting a commercial yarn, all it's secrets are revealed: twist, ply, drafting method, preparation and fiber. Once a commercial yarn has shown all of its secrets, it's a snap for a spinner to spin a similar yarn with the information gleaned.
She also teaches how to use a McMorran yarn balance in two ways: to measure grist and shows a trick to help reproduce yarn that I've never seen before.
This video walks you through decoding a commercial yarn and gathering the most useful information needed to spin a similar yarn.
This is the exact book I wish I'd had when I started to crochet. But I am happy to have it while I'm still a beginner. It is the most basic information -- the stuff that is usually allotted a page or two in a crochet book: how to hold a hook, making a chain, counting a chain, basic stitches, measuring gauge, crochet in the round, etc.
It's full of the things that you don't think about when you know how, but completely perplex a newbie.
I didn't think I'd like them, but I really like the line drawings vs. having photos. They are clear and I don't spend time trying to figure out the yarn that's being used.
This book is perfect for a beginner. Buy it while you are having your first lesson. A newish crocheter that keeps forgetting (ahem, like me) should have it close at hand.