Cool Stuff : - Spring + Summer 2024

Cool Stuff

Cool Stuff - Knitty's opinions on products and books we like. We don't publish reviews of things we don't like.


Cool Stuff

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We are provided with samples to review for free, and we do not publish reviews of products that do not perform well in our testing.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.

Browse the whole list of books reviewed this issue at Bookshop which gives 10% of their profits to independent bookstores across the US, and a 10% commission to Knitty for every purchase.

We also provide links to purchase on Amazon, and they give us a commission when you purchase as well. Thank you for supporting Knitty!


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Short-Row Colorwork Knitting: The Definitive Step-By-Step Guide
by Woolly Wormhead
Soho Publishing

Buy now from | Amazon

Woolly Wormhead has designed hats (among other things) with motif and pattern designs that seem to defy knitting as I know it. When I knit a Woolly pattern, I just trust; I do not try to figure out how that floating or sinuous motif works in the design, and it always comes out beautifully.

Now she is teaching us insider knowledge of the technique she is famous for: short-row colorwork. There is discussion, step by step instruction and 50 motifs to play with. For me it was complex going, but I do love a puzzle. Just don’t expect to set the book on the arm of your couch while you watch Only Murders in the Building, while contemplating if Meryl Streep and Martin Short are dating in real life, and expect to design your first short-row colorwork pattern on the first go.

For me it took a morning brain, flooded with tea, peace and quiet, and some yarn and needles to fiddle with. It is so smart and makes perfect logical sense. I have always loved how Woolly’s brain works for the beauty of her things, but now I can add the beautiful logic behind it all.

First, she explains the over-arching concept of sHort-row colorwork, then works through the bits you need to know: balancing your fabric, reading her motif maps, about the different types of motifs and how and when to use them, and how to choose the right yarns. All of that happens in the first 14 pages.

After I absorbed the meat of it all, I worked my way through the 50 motifs, reviewing what I learned and practicing reading the maps. It was like being in class with my favorite, hardest teacher from school – so satisfying. The book is peppered with practical tips and techniques from Wooly’s decades as a designer.

The book wraps up with 10 gorgeous patterns, in case you don’t want to design your own or if, like me, you want to knit something armed with new knowledge before trying to design. There are shawls, mitts and hats designed by Woolly, and a host of other designers known for their creative approach to knitting.




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Norway’s Knitted Heritage: The History, Surprises, and Legacy of Traditional Nordic Sweater Patterns
by Annemor Sundbø
Schiffer Craft
$60, hardcover

Buy now from | Amazon

This book was in my top two craft reads of 2023. It is an amazing feat of scholarship. As you may know, after buying a wool recycling mill in 1983, Annemor Sundbø has nearly single-handedly revived the popularity of Norwegian knitting and motifs. She's a living legend, the human repository of so much knowledge gained through years and years of hands-on experience finding and cataloging treasures she rescued from the sweater ragpile at her mill. No one who isn’t passionately dedicated to their topic could have written a book with such depth and heart.

If you are simply interested in social history, or women’s history, and not a knitter, you will still find this a fascinating read. At 400 pages, I didn’t sit down and read it cover to cover. I dipped in and out reading other books in between and frequently reading the chapters out of order.

The 31 chapters cover history, politics, spirituality, industry, culture, and craftsmanship, and Annemor digs deeply into research and lore. Even though some of the chapter titles may sound dry – Consequences of Napoleon’s Wars, Knitting Machines and Streamlining –  she does not write like an academic. Every single chapter is interesting and exciting, partially because it’s all about knitting and mostly because she writes from her passion and experience. She also follows her interests and delves into the mythology and spirituality of Norwegian knitting in chapters like Ancient Gods in Propagated Folk Art, and Drops of Blood in Knitted Art.

Don’t feel like reading? There are over 900 images in this book. Just looking and reading captions is monumentally satisfying.
Interested in making your own sweater? There are no patterns per se, but there are 75 pages of Knititng Guides and Inspiration from Annemor's legendary Sweater Archive, which include, basic shaping and motifs.

It’s no surprise that this book won a major Norwegian literary prize the year it was published (Sørlandets litteraturepris). It is the culmination of a life’s work and celebration of Norwegian knitting.


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The Sock Project: Colorful, Cool Socks to Knit and Show Off
by Summer Lee

Buy now from | Amazon

Summer Lee is a designer I wasn’t familiar with until I received this book. I am absolutely tickled by her relaxed approach to knitting socks and her joyous use of color.

When I say her approach to knitting socks is relaxed, I don’t mean unfactual or sloppy. In this book, she can take a knitter who has never made socks from their first sock all the way through textured and colorwork socks with very little stress. She presents her ideas with the basics, pointing out what could go wrong, that things will go wrong, but don’t stress – it’s just knitting. This is my favorite style of learning. It’s not magic; you are learning a skill which takes practice.

Her voice is friendly and lighthearted, and she shares many of her own mistakes on the way to loving knitting socks.

She walks through six basic socks, covering five different heels and cuffs. Her preferred method is cuff down, though she does include a toe-up pattern. She points out where each pattern can be customized for your foot, and provides sizing for most of her socks from toddler to adult XL.

Once you feel confident with a basic sock, she rolls you into the fun and creativity of patterned socks including 25 different patterns that start out stripey, move to fades, then ribs, knits and purls, lace, colorwork, and cables.

You will never be bored knitting socks with this book!


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Knits from the LYS: A Collection by Espace Tricot
by Stephanie Earp and Naomi Endicott
39,90€, hardcover, 36,90€ digital download
SR: 38-72"

Buy now from Laine

Espace Tricot in Montreal is a legendary yarn shop, the type of local that everyone wishes they had in their town. They are known for being inclusive and welcoming, for having an incredible selection, and for their creative patterns.

This book is a collection of 15 of their unique and fresh patterns. There is an excellent mix of gauges, styles, shapes and amount of brain power needed for the designs. The sizing is inclusive, and the designs have areas for customizing.

Their designers are so very clever! They manage to take something like a simple everyday pullover and give it just enough of a twist to make it interesting to knit and elevate it style-wise, like the Composition Book Pullover and T-shirt by Naomi Endicott.

Or take a stitch pattern like Old Shale that you might have knit a million times and give it fresh twist by using it for fingerless mitts – Winkle Mitts by Naomi Endicott – and pair it with a set of mini skeins. I’ll be making mine out of a pile of handspun color samples.
In my opinion, the star of this book and the pinnacle of clever designer thinking is the Aurora Cardigan. This is an all-over cabled cardigan knit in bulky weight yarn. The designer, Stephanie Earp, uses the usually ignored space between the cables to insert a variegated run of colors in one version, and a Fair Isle design in another – it’s spectacular!

There are sweaters, wraps, accessories, a blanket, and a skirt, each one with a bit of extra pizazz. This is the type of welcoming knitting book that will make you smile every time you knit from it.


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Echoes: 24 Modern Knits Inspired by Iconic Women
by Susan Crawford
39,90€, hardcover, 36,90€ digital download
SR: 32-60"

Buy now from Laine

Iconic knitwear designer Susan Crawford is best known for shining the spotlight on vintage Shetland patterns. In her latest book, Echoes, she pays homage to women who have inspired her own creativity.

There is a freedom in these patterns, I’m sure inspired by the women themselves, but I have to think it might have been a little freeing for this designer to not be bound to an idea, like vintage Shetland patterns.

The patterns are lush and exciting. I am as thrilled with the idea of wearing them as I am about knitting them. There are 24 patterns (six sweaters, four cardigans, three vests, one dress, two shawls, one cowl, two pairs of socks, two hats, one pair of mittens, one tie and one blanket) and it’s going to be hard to choose a place to start.

There are a big variety of shapes and styles, and types of knitting – lace, colorwork, cables, texture all exquisitely rendered in her own hand-dyed yarns, and beautifully modeled by the designer.

The patterns that are calling loudly to me as I write this are Gaskell, the cover sweater. Somehow Susan managed to design a sweater encrusted with cables without making it stiff or formal – she’s made it so cozy. It’s a sweater I doubt I’ll take off for most of the year. The perfectly balanced with pattern and color fingerless mitts, Agatha, is colorwork I’m drawn to that I might actually finish. Both Gertrude and Vita, a cardigan and a vest, are more colorwork than I think I’d do, but I am so drawn to them. They are opulent in color and design, yet relaxed in style – many, many colors of knitting that I would throw on over a fancy dress or over my pjs to run out to get milk.

I’m going to let you discover the stories and connections of the women these designs are dedicated to. It traces together a beautiful, deeper history of a talented artist, and will spark your own thoughts of creative connection and echoes.


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Nordic Hands: 25 Fiber Craft Projects to Discover Scandinavian Culture
by Anita Osterhaug
Schiffer Craft
$34.99, hardcover

Buy now from | Amazon

I enjoy a craft author who goes beyond just presenting projects, because we are all so influenced by things beyond making. Anita Osterhaug sets the stage for her wonderful book, Nordic Hands, by presenting a history of Nordic countries. Not just political history but geological and cultural history too.

Once you are thoroughly mired in the who, what, where, and why of the Nordic lands, the projects start. The projects are divided in to chapters: Nature, Community, Craftsmanship, and Sustainability, and each chapter is ushered in by a series of essays on the topic.

The projects in this book are beautiful and very accessible. If you recognized the author’s name, she's the former editor of Handwoven magazine. I was expecting many multishift weaving projects, and was pleasantly surprised by the variety of projects included. There is knitting, needle felting, card and band weaving, tapestry, and – surprisingly – rigid heddle weaving. Every time I thought, ‘well I’d need a multishift loom for that project’, I was wrong. There are no multishaft floor loom projects in the book. The weaving projects have been designed to be woven on a rigid heddle loom.

The projects are written in a way that is easy to follow, and photographed to be enticing, with helpful to follow instructions. The book is full of useful tips, and the essays often compare and contrast Nordic cultures. My favorite is the comparison of Hygge in the Nordic countries. Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden all have their own words for that feeling of contentment and coziness. The closest the author could find for Finland is kalsarikänni which translates to ‘underpants drunk’, perhaps the ultimate in relaxed.


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Cumulative Cloth: A Guide to Fabric Color, Pattern Construction, and Embellishment: Wet Techniques
by Susan Brandeis
Schiffer Craft
$59.99, hardcover

Buy now from | Amazon

This book is an outstanding overview of wet techniques in surface design. There are certainly stand-alone books for each one of the techniques in this book that go into greater detail, but this is a great reference that can take you from beginner to intermediate in dyeing, Shibori, drawing and painting with pigments, screen printing, digital printing on cloth, and discharge. For each technique, there is an overview, maybe some history, materials needed to do this type of surface work, a strong component of safety measures, how to set up a personal studio, work flow, and step by step how to of the basics. How-tos have both written and photographed instructions, formulas (where applicable), and less-detailed instructions for intermediate techniques.

My favorite part of each chapter is Try This, an entire page (or more) of prompts and experiments to try using the technique. At the very end of each technique is the Cumulative Challenge, an invitation to combine the prior prompts and prior techniques into one project.
The appendices of the book are substantial. There is one on finishing, one on materials, tools and equipment – including what the author, who has a 40-year surface design career under her belt, has in her toolbox, and ways to keep and organize your design samples.

This book is like surface-design summer camp in one volume.


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Embroidery Garden: Artful Designs Inspired by Nature
by Yanase Rei
Schiffer Craft

Buy now from | Amazon

A beautiful book from embroidery artist Yanasi Rei. Her intricate, delicate, and elaborate designs always catch my eye as I explore the world of embroidery.

In Embroidery Garden, she explains the process behind her art by working through all aspects of several embroidery projects. These projects are not for those of us (me!) who prefer a quicker style of embroidery – her most beautiful work uses single strands of floss – but I still learned so much from this book.

Of course, there are the basics in this book: materials, tools, transferring patterns, stitches, etc., but the wonder is in following her method, and the amazing close-up photography.

The book is divided into three main parts: embroidery with a single strand of floss, embroidery with black (including black on black), embroidery with two strands of floss, and includes instructions for motifs and projects (bookmarks, hairbands, bowties, a hatband, a bag, and thoughts on embroidering on clothes).

Interspersed throughout are Sojourns, tips and short thoughts on how to work: What do you Like? Color Preference; My Creations; and the very helpful The Progression of Embroidery Work – her map of how she fills an elaborate piece.


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Gathering Colour: Foraging Magic & Making Art from the World Around You
by Caitlin ffrench
9/10 Publications

Buy now from 9/10 Publications

Caitlin ffrench’s Gathering Colour: Foraging Magic & Making Art from the World Around You is a unique addition to the library of books on natural dyes and inks. Starting with the cover, the reader feels invited into a very special world, a world where multiple interests, identities, and ambitions can not only coexist but impact each other. When ffrench discusses her uncertainty about bringing together “textile work, the creation of artist materials, and the rituals I use for their processes and practices,” she offers a space where others can acknowledge the way their own disparate interests and identities tie into their creative practice.

ffrench treats the reader as an artist and shares the results of her years of practice through clear instruction and generous guidance. The book is divided into three sections: Magic, in which she shares stories and inspiration for the ways she works; Colour, where the instructions for materials and projects can be found; and Exploration and Practice, which provides rituals and inspiration for further discovery. ffrench doesn’t expect or demand that the reader be engaged in everything she covers. She invites the reader to take what they can use and leave the rest behind. This is not an all-or-nothing book; it is an invitation to explore.

In addition to crafting artist’s materials like pigments, inks, and charcoal, projects include a knit shawl, an eco-printed fabric patch, and an altar cloth. She takes the time to clearly explain how to respectfully gather materials from the land and process them, always reminding the reader to take proper safety precautions. The book also includes a glossary as well as a listing of resources and books for further reading.

The combination of ffrench’s personal stories and experiences with the gentle way in which she guides the reader make this a book one will return to again and again.


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Mini Minder (left)
by Lemonwood

  • Shown in Art Deco (many other designs available)
  • 4" wide base, 6" tall assembled
  • comes with leather strap and clip as shown

Buy now from Lemonwood

Splash Rollup

by Splash Fabric

  • Shown in Spout print (many other prints available)
  • 15" tall, 13" wide across the top
  • now includes two external pockets

Buy now from Splash Fabric

I don't often combine reviews, but I took both of these on a trip to test them out, and they worked so perfectly together, I needed to share.

First up, the Mini Minder from Lemonwood. This super-pretty Art Deco design is just one of many offered at Lemonwood, and each is prettier than the last. Laser cut and hand colored, each shows quality workmanship in the wood (all smooth edges and professionally finished), the Mini Minder comes in two flat pieces that are quickly assembled into a portable yarn cake or skein holder that can go everywhere with you. It's super light and super strong! The center spindle easily slides into the middle of a center-pull ball, and even if the ball is a disheveled mess, like the one shown above, the Mini Minder can tame it. I just stuck the spindle in what looked like the middle and, later when it got a bit tangled as the ball became smaller, I took the spindle out and reinserted it to allow the yarn to continue to flow. And flow it does!

That metallic clip allows the Mini Minder to spin freely as you knit. No more yarn ball falling out of my bag and rolling across the floor. And on an airplane, I simply looped the leather handle around a bar on the seat in front of me, and enjoyed uninterrupted knitting the whole way home.

But what if you don't find a bar in front of you to loop it around? You can slip the leather loop around your wrist! Or you can do what I did...I clipped the loop into the top of the other product I was testing, the Rollup from Splash Fabrics. Then I let the Mini Minder hang off the table, well above the floor, and continued happily knitting. I love this combo and will probably keep them together because they're so handy as a team.

So what is this Splash Rollup? Well, I got mine to test at the trade show almost a year ago, and since then they've made the bag even better. They've added two outside pockets, which mine didn't have. That's a brilliant addition.

But mine has all the other great features, and so here's what I loved about this bag.

First, they're made from their own laminated cotton prints, made with water-based urethane (see more on their ecological impact here). The fabric is washable and dryable, and if it wrinkles, you can even iron it!

This bag design is based on a sailor's dry bag, which is a waterproof bag that you can roll up and clip shut to keep the contents dry. One thing that's brilliant about this design for knitting and crochet is that you can compact the Rollup as small as the contents will allow, and that makes it a perfect travel companion. As the piece grows, the bag expands upwards to keep it safe! I wouldn't swear that it will keep your WIP dry if you drop it into a lake, but I'm confident that it would survive a rainstorm or a wet floor with zero damage.

Here you see it sitting up nicely, with the top folded down, as I sat on a damp lawn to knit. No worries. The bag is lightweight and the fabric is super flexible.

And here it is, compacted as small as it could get, as I'd packed it for my trip. You'll note that the rolled top and clip end up becoming a handle for easy carrying, or attaching to your backpack or purse strap.

It's funny how you get inventive when you're away from home and only have to hand what you brought. In this case, these two great products will end up as a permanent team, because they work so well together.


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Shorties Interchangeable Needle Set
by ChiaoGoo

Available in three weights:
Small gauge set (red case): MSRP $115.50

  • 1 set of 2"/5cm long solid stainless needle tips in sizes US 0-3/2-3.25mm
  • 1 set of 3"/8cm long solid stainless needle tips in sizes US 0-3/2-3.25mm
  • 3 mini-diameter red cables 5"/13cm, 6"/15cm, 8"/20cm long
  • tightening keys, connectors, stitch markers and a mini needle gauge
  • red nylon fabric pouch, perfectly sized to hold all the items above

Medium gauge set (blue case): MSRP $126.50

  • 1 set of 2"/5cm long solid stainess needle tips in sizes US 4-8/3.5-5mm
  • 1 set of 3"/8cm long hollow stainless needle tips in sizes US 4-8/3.5-5mm
  • 3 small-diameter X-Flex blue cables 5"/13cm, 6"/15cm, 8"/20cm long
  • tightening keys, connectors, stitch markers and a mini needle gauge
  • blue nylon fabric pouch, perfectly sized to hold all the items above


Large gauge set (yellow case): MSRP $85.00
Includes 3" long needle tips in sizes US 9-11/5.5-8mm

  • 1 set of 3"/8cm long solid stainess needle tips in sizes US 9-11/5-5-8mm
  • 3 SWIV360 silver cables – two 6"/15cm cables and one 8"/20cm long cable
  • tightening keys, connectors, stitch markers and a mini needle gauge
  • yellow nylon fabric pouch, perfectly sized to hold all the items above


Buy now from your Local Yarn Shop
(if they don't carry them, they can usually special order for you!)

Kate (a frequent sock knitter) tested the red set and says:
The ChiaoGoo Shorties interchangeable set is a wonderful addition to the world of knitting needles. 

These Shorties sets are designed to provide alternatives for working small circumference projects – anything between about an 8 inch (20 cm) and 16 inch (40 cm) circumference. They work fantastically well for socks, mittens and sleeves – faster than magic loop, and offering fewer points and opportunities to drop needles or stitches than two-circulars or DPNs!

I’ve always liked the needles part of ChiaoGoo needles – they are sturdy, smooth but not too slick, with an excellent long and strong point. In this interchangeables set, you get a load of options: two full sets of needle tips in six sizes and three different cords. The needle tips come in two lengths for each size, 2 inch (5 cm) and 3 inch (8 cm), allowing you to set yourself up with a circular needle of a 9 inch (23 cm) to 14 inch (36 cm) circumference.

The joins are smooth and tightened easily and firmly, and the cables flexible but not flimsy. I’ve done a fair bit of knitting with this set, and they remain well attached and feel great to work with.

As always with the ChiaoGoo sets, they come with an attractive and secure storage case, with a bunch of accessories – a needle gauge, stitch markers, and a couple of ends to turn them into flexible single-point needles.

I will put a small caveat on needles like these: because the needle tips themselves are very short, they might require an adjustment in how you hold your needles. They work brilliantly well for some, but I have seen others struggle a little with them, either not finding them comfortable to hold, or knitting somewhat looser than normal. If you’re interested in them, I would strongly recommend trying a shorter-length circular out before you invest. If these lengths work for you, this set is absolutely worth the investment.

Amy tested the blue and yellow sets and says:

I don't knit socks much, but I am on a serious sweater kick, and that means lots of sleeves. I was looking forward to sleeve island this time, because I knew I had the Blue (medium) set to test. But I forgot that what I was working on was actually a larger gauge than the Blue set accommodates. I didn't care; I picked up the stitches around the armhole with the largest size 3" tip, and started working the sleeve. The knitting absolutely FLEW. I couldn't believe how easy a sleeve was to knit on these Shorties! (Below you see the chunk of knitting I did on the smaller-gauge Shorties, just before I ripped it back.)

Look how pretty my knitting was using the Shorties, even though the gauge was too small for the garment

Now, you should know that my go-to needle size is a 5" long tip, and I have tried and rejected 4" tips as too short (and 6" tips as too long) for my regular knitting (sweater bodies, scarves, cowls, etc). However, I had absolutely no trouble with the 3" tips when working sleeves. My knitting was much more even on these than on the two big circulars I had used for the last sleeves I'd made. (And let me tell you, I hated knitting those sleeves, every stitch. All that extra cord flopping around. So annoying! I dislike magic loop for the same reason, and I just don't have enough different sizes of DPNs to try them for this purpose.)

I stopped knitting long enough to write the owner of ChiaoGoo to let her know how very much I loved these needles, and if she ever released a larger size, I would be so excited to test them as well. How embarrassing...the larger size already existed! I had been too excited to use these to investigate further. She kindly sent along the Yellow (large) set for me to knit the sleeves at the correct gauge, and as soon as they arrived, I ripped my pretty sleeve back (see above) and started fresh. Again, a wonderful experience.

What I was knitting was laceweight linen (see below). I was striping the sweater with two strands of laceweight linen held together (and one was a chainette) alternating with a section of a plied laceweight linen on its own. I found nothing getting stuck in the join, and the joins never came loose when tightened properly with the rubber heart grabber thingy. The knitting was smooth and easy, and even though this was a much smaller circumference than I am used to knitting, it really was a pleasure. The points are pointy enough to effectively pick up the yarn without splitting (which can happen with super-pointy tips). I would agree that I was knitting at a looser gauge than usual – a key reason to swatch in the round when using these needles, to make sure you get the finished gauge you're looking for.

Same sleeve being worked on the correct size Shorties this time, and the knitting was still a piece of cake

There is no such thing as sleeve island in my house any more. I have Shorties, and now I look forward to knitting sleeves!

KA and AS