Cool Stuff - Knitty's opinions on products and books we like. We don't publish reviews of things we don't like.
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 noted. We are provided with samples to review for free, and we do not publish reviews of products that do not perform well in our testing. We are not paid to review any product.
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Cardigans for Every Body: Because Every Body is Worthy
by Tian Connaughton
Buy now from the author
Tian Connaughton’s tagline for her design, coaching, and teaching work is “A rising tide lifts all boats”, and that is certainly true with this book. This self-published book is a life- and self-esteem saver for new-to-garment knitters, and knitters who can’t get a good fit from their handknit sweaters.
The book has four basic, wear-everyday cardigan patterns – two knit and two crochet, one knit sideways and one bottom up – but the magic is in how she gets them to fit your body without tears.
Tian walks you through measuring and math with more encouragement and kindness than any other book I’ve read about this topic. It IS the pattern, not you, that is the problem. She discusses swatching at length, the how-to and the very practical why. She talks about how to choose size and ease, and how to read a pattern and see where and how it can be customized.
The working part of the book (measuring and customizing) is designed with lots of white space, plenty of room to write your own notes and numbers. Working directly in the book, even though it’s not a workbook, helps me take the precious and perfection thinking out of knitting.
Not only does she walk a knitter through making changes for your body to a pattern, she teaches how to figure out yarn amounts required for a swatch or a sweater. There is so much excellent information for bodies of all shapes and sizes in this book.
Working through just one pattern with Tian as your guide will empower you with tools and confidence to customize all kinds of knitting patterns to fit your body perfectly.
Wellness for Makers: A Movement Guide for Artists
by Missy Graff Ballone
Wellness for Makers is an outstanding book that will keep us doing our favorite things without pain. This book couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I had a hip replacement last year and I have arthritis creeping into my hands. I learned so much from this book.
It’s not a book that specifically targets particular crafts, but particular movements and ways we hold our bodies. As makers (and humans), we fall into patterns as we stand, sit, walk, and create. Many are not great for our bodies. Our tendency when we feel stiffness, pain, or tiredness in a part of our body is to compensate rather than look for the cause.
Missy Graff Ballone urges crafters to look for the cause, correct it, and strengthen our bodies. She does this through clear explanation and photography. She teaches how to find neutral positions for standing and sitting, including better positioning we might take as we create. Taking frequent movement breaks is key, and she talks about how to set up your studio so these become habit. She shows how to strengthen and do self-massage. These were particularly helpful for my hands and forearms.
Through this book, I found many reasons why my body aches after long days of spinning or knitting, I sit at an angle with one hip higher than the other; I hold one shoulder higher when I knit, and I spend way too much time with my hands in a pinching position without taking breaks. I also reevaluated how I stand, walk, and even the shoes I wear.
This is an important and useful book for anyone wanting to craft pain-free.
The Studio Formula Set for The Art and Science of Natural Dyes
by Joy Boutrup and Catharine Ellis
These recipe cards are a genius extension of the book The Art and Science of Natural Dyes. The book is an amazingly detailed lesson in natural dyeing. The cards allow you to focus on one type of dye without having to take your book into your dye studio.
The cards were designed to show what is possible from a select number of easy-to-get natural dyes: indigo, weld, madder, cochineal, pomegranate, and cutch.
The cards show different things like what a natural dye or mix of dyes looks like on woven wool fabric, recipes for pre- and post-dye mordants, general recipes for overdyeing, and recipes for printing. The cards are laminated, but can be written on (I recommend a Sharpie). The cards have all of their information and images on the front and the back is lined for your own notes.
The deck is not a replacement for the book. It is meant to be used in conjunction to stretch your knowledge and skill in natural dyeing. With 84 cards in the deck, there is a lot to be learned.
Catside Up, Catside Down: A Book of Prepositions
by Anna Hrachovec
We know Anna Hrachovec very well from the world she's created for knitters: Mochimochiland. In this, her first picture book for younguns, she shares the most adorable of knitted tiny things along with a great book to look at and especially to read aloud. Full of fun puns, and unexpected lighthearted turns of phrase, this book of delightful rhymes will become a nighttime favorite in so many homes this fall.
Anna has created a tiny journey of a book with perfectly chosen words, to help little ones learn about prepositions, and everything about it will make it one to read again and again. I think only Anna's exceptionally creative mind could have come up with some of the adorable knitted yarn-based creations for this book. Each page is full of color and a variety of cat-filled scenarios to look at and discuss together. My favorite is the one below...and you'll have to read the book to see where this fits in the narrative.
100% recommend. And Anna, prepare for knitters everywhere to start clamoring for you to sell the patterns for the knitted wonders in the book. I want a cat with an x-ray pie in its tummy!
PS We have a sweet treat for Knitty readers...Anna has designed a companion bookmark in her trademark Mochimochiland style to celebrate this book's launch, and you'll find it in our Deep Fall surprise in October! Sign up to our mailing list to get a note when it's ready for you!
Summer Knitting for Little Sweethearts: 40 Nordic-Style Warm Weather Patterns for Girls, Boys, and Babies
by Hanne Andreassen Hjelmås and Torunn Steinsland
This a lovely book of kid and baby patterns for warm weather, knit from fine Merino yarns. The sizes range from newborn to an average 10-year-old. Plus, there are a few doll-sized patterns. I could tell that the designers are mothers because the sizes and styles easily span more than one season, if not a year or two.
There is a good variety in the patterns. Some quick to knit things, like hats, socks, and easy to knit sweaters that could be made in an evening or a weekend, and some like colorwork sweaters, and lace leggings that may take a little longer.
The patterns are written simply, and are easy to follow, but are missing schematics that would help fine tune fits for kids that are between sizes.
Several of the patterns share motifs, so a sweater and a hat may share butterflies or dinosaurs. The designs are so cute. There are a few like the Tilda dress, the lace leggings, or any of the rompers that have me considering hunting for a child to knit for.
The Lost Flock: Rare Wool, Wild Isles and One Woman’s Journey to Save Scotland’s Original Sheep
by Jane Cooper
Chelsea Green Publishing
This is an Indiana Jones-style adventure for wool people who like research.
Jane Cooper took a class from Deb Robson and first learned about Boreray sheep. Within a few years, she moved to Orkney and was raising Borerays on a small holding. To say Boreray sheep have become her life might be an understatement. I’ve read several books written by people wanting to change their life, so they start a farm and raise sheep, and indeed it changes their lives. Whether it’s an interesting read can be hit or miss.
The Lost Flock, to me, was fascinating. Jane changed her life, but her main goal was to rescue Boreray sheep which were endangered at the time. Her passion and hard work lifted the Boreray sheep from critical to at risk according the Rare Breed Survival Trust. What it showed me is exactly what to takes to rescue endangered heritage breeds.
When Jane Cooper got her first flock of Boreray sheep, she found out that several were descended from the ‘Lost Flock’ a genetically unique flock that had been left to their own devices on Boreray island for decades, and thought to be descended from the ancient breed traceable to the Vikings.
The book kept me reading late into the night as Jane traces her flock’s history, learns how to keep, care and breed sheep, raises the profile of the Boreray in Scotland and internationally, turns her farm into a regenerative farming ideal, and makes her small holding profitable by finding excellent like-minded partners and selling fleece, skins, woven goods, meat, and horn. I can’t believe all that she accomplished; I won’t spoil it all for you here.
I appreciate that she didn’t hide what was hard, and at times it was really hard. But she persevered, made her own history, and changed the history of the Boreray sheep by keeping them from sliding into extinction.
The Knitting Pattern Writing Handbook: How to Write Great Patterns that Knitters Will Love to Make
by Kristina McGrath and Sarah Walworth
This is such an important book for so many people.
Kristina and Sarah are experienced tech editors, and hosts of Tech Tip Talk, a You Tube channel with designer interviews, a newsletter, and a Patreon. They have given us a book that walks through what it means to write a good, useful, and thorough knitting pattern.
Why as designer would you want to read 150 pages to publish a four-page pattern? Because Kristina and Sarah know what they are doing and have done A LOT of work for you. Their table of contents says it all, they cover: Foundations of a Good Knitting Pattern, Components of a Pattern, Gauge, Charts, Sizing, Common Sweater Pitfalls, and Working with a Tech Editor. Each chapter is perfectly detailed, has a question-and-answer section, and a checklist (my favorite thing!).
To be blunt, a well-written, error-free, and easy-to-follow pattern will sell more; and if you get a reputation for excellent patterns, your sales will continue to increase.
I hope anyone even considering designing patterns buys and reads this book.
Even more, I wish that anyone that talks or writes or teaching about knitting would read this book – every teacher, vlogger, blogger, influencer, and author – would read this book. It would create a a better-informed knitting community.
A Knitter’s Year: 30 Modern Knits for Every Season
by Ida Wirak Trettevik
A Knitter’s Year revolves around a year in the designer’s life. It’s broken into seasons and celebrates family, friends, and important locations. Ida Wirak Trettevik lives in Norway and this particular year in her life saw her family moving from the city to the country. The styling of the book has that perfect Scandinavian combination of clean lines and coziness.
I was pleased to see not just the usual basic sweaters and accessories. Knitter’s Year has those but adds tanks, dresses and pants to the mix. Most of the patterns for are for feminine presenting adults though there are several that would be beautiful on anyone, and there are a few kids patterns.
The yarns range from DK to chunky. These are quick-to-knit patterns. The finest gauge is 20 stitches to 4". Most of the patterns that call for DK or finer yarns use them doubled.
The patterns are mostly simple in shape and modern in style. There are a few that take a bit more concentration: a skirt with a zipper, and a pair of summer pants, but most are thick and quick and look so comfy. Mostly I’m captivated by the chunky and cozy sweaters, like the Chunky Brioche Jacket. I’ve never been tempted by knitted pants or dresses before but the Midsummer Culottes, and the Nordic Summer Dress might change my mind.
As much as I’m charmed by this book, I’m disappointed in the limited sizes ( there are a few that call 42" chest an XL) and lack of schematics that would help map the way for altering.
How to Embroider Texture and Pattern: 20 Designs that Celebrate Pattern, Color and Pop-Up Stitching
by Melissa Galbraith
So many of us started embroidering in the past few years. I have quite the collection of threads, fabric, and so many great kits in my stash (so many kits).
I have bought lots of embroidery books along with everything else, and this one is really a stand out. There are 20 designs that can be followed to the letter to create unique and beautiful hoops depicting landscapes and the natural world, but for me it’s all about the inspiration.
Most embroidery that I’ve been doing has a mostly flat surface and is done on one type of fabric. I may have made noises when I opened this book and saw that Melissa Galbraith uses more than one fabric for her ground and works in many textured stitches that rise off of the background.
The book is set up in a great way that teaching happens all the way through. There are the pages of basics, materials, how-to, finishing, and a 20+ page stitch dictionary. All the elements have great close-up photography, and the stitch dictionary has step-by-step close ups and high-contrast photos.
Where Melissa goes the extra mile is in her patterns. Most embroidery patterns show an overview – a photo of the finished piece overlayed with the stitches and thread colors used in each section. That is just the beginning for these patterns. There are several pages devoted to each pattern with close ups of different stitches and sections detailing how to place the stitches, if they need to be worked in a certain way. The detailed teaching guides a stitcher to success.
This style of presenting patterns and stitches not only guarantees you’ll be pleased with your results, but really inspires a stitcher to think about laying down threads in really unique ways.
by Splash Fabric
Buy now at Splash Fabric
I have thing for aprons. I have a collection of linen aprons that I use for teaching and any time I work with fiber. They protect my clothes, and have lots of pockets for tools and anything else I need to have close at hand.
The problem with linen aprons is that they aren’t great for dyeing or washing fleece. I’ve tried some more waterproof and water-resistant aprons, but they are usually heavy and sweaty.
I was ecstatic to find Splash Fabric’s Laminated Apron at the H+H show this summer. These aprons are cotton, coated with a water-based urethane. They are light, water resistant, and they have pockets across the front, big pockets.
The laminate is biodegradable, and has OEKO-TEX certification. The coating is plenty water resistant. I spilled most of a 5 gallon bucket of dirty fleece water on myself and stayed dry; not so much my shoes.
There is one size, 26"wide x 26"long, with 40" ties. It fit me well, but is a little longer than I like. I do appreciate the long ties! There are 22 different cute prints available. They also sell just the fabric and have a free apron pattern, if you’d like to make your own.
Evita Project Box XL
shown in Whisky; also available in Black
Buy now at Universal Yarn
Do you need to treat yourself and your crafty projects? This all-leather project box from Muud is gorgeous and practical.
It has a flat bottom and a lid to keep everything covered and to keep the contents from spilling. There are six slip-in pockets and two elastic bands to keep all of your tools tidy.
What makes this box really useful along with the pockets and it’s overall sturdiness is the sides open like a flower. This allows you to see and get to everything in the box, even small things that have fallen to the bottom – so smart!
The top doesn’t secure, so it can’t really be used as a bag. But I did slip a giant rubber band around mine and took it out and about to knit night.
It holds a lot. For knitting, along with my regular tools, I fit in a sweater in progress and a couple of extra skeins of yarn. I could fit a stack of mending or embroidery projects in this box with all of my floss organized around the edge.
What happily surprised me is that I could fit my Daedalus Sparrow espinner (or my EEW Nano) in the box along with the control box, cords, battery, tools, and a braid of fiber.
This is a really versatile and useful project box, plus it’s beautiful and has that fantastic leather smell.
Pro Takumi Circular Needles
Buy now at Clover
It’s been a while since I’ve used Clover needles. I have a bamboo set of interchangeables from another manufacturer that I typically use; it’s habit that’s kept me from using Clover, not quality.
These new Pro Takumi fixed circulars might have me carrying individual needles again. The bamboo seems more polished than the Clovers I’ve used before; the needles are smoother. There is color coding between the needles and cord that indicates the length of the cord, I wish more needle manufacturers would do this.
The biggest difference for me is all about the join between the needle and the cord. It is so smooth, smoother than my not-to-be-named usual set of needles. There was no hesitation when I slid my stitches over the join. The other outstanding feature of these needles is the cords swivel and rotate so my knitting moves however it likes and the cord won’t get twisted or kinked. That little technical change alone has me recommending you try these needles.
Etimo Kids Grand-chan Set
Buy now at Patty Rabbit Yarns
This isn't an easy product to find (I got a sample at this summer's trade show), but it's such a clever idea that I've hunted down a shop in the US that carries it. What is it? It's a helping hand for little ones learning to crochet! However, it could prove useful to more than just children. Read on.
In a handy gift box, you get everything you'll need to get crocheting! It includes the stand which attaches to a table with a clamp (different than pictured at top - see second picture), The plate that sits on the table has a sticky backing that can be re-energized by washing with water. You even get a little skein of yarn at the proper gauge to work with the size of crochet hook in the box. There's also a little instruction book that tells you how to set up and use the Grand-chan, how to learn basic crochet, and some super-simple projects including a bead bracelet, stilts made from milk cartons, a little fish and fishing rod, and even how to read a crochet pattern.
The stand has little places to store a crochet hook and yarn needles (both included) on either side of the stand. And in the center is a smiling face that's there to help tension the yarn while one learns to use the chunky easier-to-hold hook. Available in sizes 8, 10 and 12mm, the hook has a smiling face so a child can more easily focus on where the yarn is held, and a smooth, flat, rubberized ergonomic grip to make manipulating the hook easier. The yarn is slid through the neck area of the smiling face on the stand so it doesn't require using a hand to tension it, as one develops the skills and experience to hold it in their hand.
For someone of any age with dexterity issues, or someone with only one fully functioning hand, this would be an essential tool. It could do the work of tensioning while the working hand can relax and just crochet. Because sometimes a helping hand is just what you need. I can see this being super useful in learn-to-crochet classes for folks of all ages. Watch it in action here.