I've been meaning to reorganize my Book Reviews page for some time now. I've only been reviewing books in earnest for about a year, but the page was getting cluttered and it was difficult to find particular titles.
I stayed up late and finished revamping the page. Now there are alphabetical lists by title, author, and publisher. It was worth the effort!
Unique Feet: Men's Socks from The Unique Sheep by Laura Lough, photography by Kristen Caldwell, pub. Cooperative Press, 2013
These past few years, I have learned a little about the process of producing a knitting book. It is after all a production, much like theater, with many hands and talents coming together---and many deadlines as well.
I knit a couple pairs of socks for Unique Feet, one of which was the Heraldic socks by Janine Le Cras. Laura sent me Tinsel Toes yarn in the Sand colorway. I ran out of yarn.
Normally this might not be such a problem, but I had misplaced my gauge swatch and Laura had misplaced the recipe. The new yarn didn't look much like the original, but we thought careful photography could avoid calling attention to it. The foot wearing the two-tone sock might be photographed partly inside a shoe, or behind the other foot.
But Janine's sock pattern is a joy to work and bliss to wear (according to my husband, who refused to take them off after trying them on---I had to remove them while he was sleeping!). I have another pair in process in my knitting bag right now. (And yes, they adjusted the amount of yarn required!)
Unique Feet is ostensibly a pattern book, but like all truly good pattern books it teaches as well. Erssie Major's Naughty Norwegian Socks pattern and the Wedding Kilt Hose by Janine LeCras include calf shaping for "bulging calf muscles." The Naughty Norwegians also have a deep heel and slightly narrower foot.
Laura also cautions against making men's socks "too pointy in the toe." The incredible design feat (believe me, I tried not to use that word) at right fits the bill. It is Charles Voth's Super Hero, with a construction that "takes you on a daring caper."
As Laura says in the chapter "Sock Basics," many sock patterns are supposedly "one size fits all." Even women's feet come in such an assortment of lengths and widths that this is a strange idea, but the problem is even greater with men's feet. All the patterns in this book are given in a variety of sizes, but if you want to knit one of these designs for a slightly different size than the ones given, Laura has tips to help with that.
These Cuffed Boot Socks by Katya Frankel are a great way to keep snow and debris out of boots. The socks are shaped before the heel flap for a better fit. Unfortunately, no rear view is provided---so we can't judge for ourselves.
Maybe it's just my digital copy, but the photography in general seems overprocessed or something. (I'm not expert enough to pinpoint the exact problem.) Stitch patterns are difficult to see, socks aren't sufficiently smoothed, and not enough attention was paid to things like the toe of one sock being a totally different shade. Disappointingly, the stitch pattern is barely discernible on Lobug's addictive Diamond Moss socks.
This is my absolute favorite design in the book---another Charles Voth. The laces are done in the color named for him!
The introduction to this book explains the motivation behind it, then continues with "Sock Basics" which contains much more information than its length would have you believe. The project section starts with simple toe-up, top-down, and time-saver patterns, then quickly ramps up speed with texture, construction, and colorwork designs.
In sum, it's full of solid information and innovative socks in a variety of men's sizes. Great work!
Disclosure: Cooperative Press provided this copy of Unique Feet to Kangath for review purposes. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Cooperative Press, Laura Lough, or the designers.
In anticipation of the next issue of Clotheshorse magazine, I thought I'd post a tutorial from one of my designs that appeared in last winter's Clotheshorse.
This is Baroque, a double-breasted capelet with contrast color facings, done in stranded colorwork using steeks.
One way to prepare steeks involves a sewing machine. You can also sew them by hand or crochet them---or simply leave them to felt. For this design, I chose a knotted steek. The knots fill in the space between the facing and the colorwork, adding insulation.
Below is a photo of the back panel before cutting. The stripe running up the center is the steek itself---a bridge of stitches which will not appear in the garment itself. The narrow black line marks the center, and it is where I will cut.
Whew! Now for the knots. I gently unravel the stitches all the way to the solid white line. Then I choose one black strand and one white strand and knot them together. I pair a black strand with a white in hopes that I will get two strands from the same row. Perplexingly, it doesn't always work out this way and I end up with an extra white strand and have to knot three strands together, then root around for the black strand that escaped earlier.
I used an overhand knot---maybe a half-hitch?---for most of the knots. But in spite of my clever color-coding of the steek itself, some strands were too short and had to be tied in square knots. Below are action shots of the half-hitches in process . . .
. . . and the final fringe, which is to be tucked in neatly under orchid-colored facing.
The Knitted Slipper Book by Katie Startzman, photography by Mika Nakanishi, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013
My daughter is adorable. She's pretty (everyone says so), charming, and outgoing---but she's also smart as a whip, full of helpful information, new ideas, and a great sense of humor.
This book is like my daughter. Okay, maybe it doesn't bake awesome bat-shaped chocolate chip cookies or look especially good in her purple paisley dress. But in addition to being well laid out, with excellent photography and sweet finishing touches (like the little running stitches bordering occasional photos and headers), it's packed with, well, helpful information, new ideas, and a great sense of humor.
Before even getting to the projects, Katie guides us through choosing a style, choosing yarn, gauge for felting, sizing and fit, and felting itself. If you're an experienced knitter, you might want to skip this part, but don't miss the sections on soling (four methods), lining, and slipper care and repair.
After all this information come the thirty delightful projects. But oh, ho! There is more information sprinkled throughout!
Before and after photos of felted slippers, wonderful process photos of the slippers being embellished, an incredibly cute method of making mini pom-poms, beading! thrums! needle felting! cardboard liners! curled pointy toes!!!
The outrageous red cuffs on the Recycled Fringe Slippers are made from an unraveled thrift-store sweater. I will not say they are my favorite slippers in the book, because I simply refuse to choose.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of The Knitted Slipper Book for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Stewart, Tabori & Chang or Katie Startzman.
Stitching in the Stacks: Librarian-Inspired Knits edited by Sarah Barbour, photography by Caro Sheridan, pub. Cooperative Press, 2013.
When I was a little girl, my parents used to threaten to take away my library card if I misbehaved. I must have spent half my waking hours in the library and have many pleasant memories from the various buildings that have housed book collections in the places I have lived.
In some of them, the librarians were for the most part hidden away, with one or two out by circulation. At others, they greet patrons with utmost cheer, recognizing the regulars and inquiring into their latest exploits.
This collection celebrates both bibliothec and bibliophile, as well as the books themselves and even a building or two. Perhaps my favorite design is the Open Book Cardigan by Kristen TenDyke, shown on the cover. I love its long lines, the stitch pattern, the buttons, the color . . . all of it. I am an admirer of Kristen's work, and this cardigan is a fine example of her characteristic thoughtful construction.
This book boasts a wonderful assortment of designs: a coat, a long-sleeved cardigan, a short-sleeved cardigan, a long-sleeved pullover, a short sleeved pullover (to be worn with matching cape--"every librarian needs a cape!"), a man's buttoned vest, a man's pullover vest, a woman's vest, a unisex hooded vest, a hat, a snood, a scarf, two skirts, two shawls, three mitt patterns, a bookmark, bookend covers, book and nook covers, a coffee press cozy, a pencil case, a spectacles case, a bookweight which I almost dropped my deadline work to knit, and of course a bookworm. 28 very varied objects!
The Man of Letters vest by Molly Kent is a tribute to Ben Franklin featuring intarsia letters on the fronts, a textured skeleton key on the back, and all-American yarn. The edges look somewhat raw---an interesting design choice.
The Book Woman jacket by Sarah Barbour is an extremely attractive piece. If I were to make one for myself, I would add some rows of slip stitch to the rear button panel to even it up with the front panel. I would probably also add a jigger (interior button) to further prevent the dreaded rear panel droop.
This pattern has the largest chest measurement of the designs in the book---60.75". I assume this is meant to be 4 to 6" of ease, since it is outerwear. The smallest chest size in the collection is 28", skirts range from 22-46" waist, men's garments from 36-52" chest, most of the mitts come in 3 sizes, but the hat (sigh) only comes in one size.
Karin Wilmoth's stunning Bunny Watson vest is beautifully shaped and sports a button in back. Bunny Watson was a movie character, but there are several designs named for real-life librarians with interesting stories to accompany them.
One of these real-life librarians, Jessamyn West, wrote the preface to the book. It would have been nice to know who she was before I got to the lovely mitts named for her. Her preface doesn't give us a clue that she's striving to bridge the gap between those who have access to technology and those who don't, or that she took a stand against the Patriot Act.
Brenda Castiel named the Nancy Pearl mitts after another real-life librarian. Get the book to find out who she is, even if you're not smitten by these gorgeous hand-coverings. I have never knit a mitt, though patterns for them are a dime a dozen. I may just have to whip up a pair of these, though.
The third mitt pattern is by Sharon Fuller, who provided the book's sole sidebar, "Knitting Typography." This "sidebar" stretches over three pages and is worth the price of the book. It covers most kinds of colorwork, but not textured knitting.
Caro Sheridan's photography was generally beautiful and sadly not trumpeted on the cover or acknowledgements or anywhere but the copyright page. But Theressa Silver's Old Reed skirt was given only a blurry photo (there is a clearer shot on the pattern page) while the Carnegie Vest by James Magee was given two front views for no apparent reason.
Styling was another minor problem. I don't mind all the flyaway hair, but the fold line in the lovely Aurora Teagarden skirt could have used a little steam, and the Man of Letters model's wristwatch is a little distracting.
Patterns are well laid out with plenty of space and great charts (although the illusion knitting chart is unsurprisingly dizzying and the colors won't show when printed in black and white). The schematics by Meghan Jones are worth noting for their beauty and clarity.
I recommend this book for anyone wanting to knit book miscellanea, anyone who needs small gifts for book lovers, and anyone interested in library trivia. Also anyone wanting a short dissertation on working letters in color, complete with a chart for a mosaic-knit alphabet. Great patterns, great reading!
Disclosure: Cooperative Press sent Kangath a copy of Stitching in the Stacks free for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Cooperative Press or the designers.
I'm not much for holiday knitting. I have too many deadlines as it is. But I know some of you knit gifts for the holidays, and preparations are starting now.
I just finished knitting two sweaters in two weeks (not to mention writing the pattern for them) and I worked out some ways to make the deadline less of a chore and more a sort of inspiration---or at least a fun challenge.
1. Keep moving! I know this may seem like a strange bit of advice to knitters, but even if you're sedentary it helps to switch chairs at regular (or irregular) intervals or to walk around the room with your yarn tucked under your arm.
2. Give yourself goals, and reward yourself when you reach them. Have a piece of chocolate at the end of every set of sleeve decreases, or jog a victory lap around the room when it's finally time to turn the heel (see #1).
3. Figure out how many minutes it takes to get a certain distance in your work, and see if you can improve your time.
4. Read! With the right book, those miles of stockinette will fly right by.
5. Coordinate your lower body with the motions of your hands. Curl your toes, tap your feet, raise your knee. This will slow you down at first, but it's good for you and may even increase your speed.
Hang in there! And don't forget to think good thoughts while knitting. My cooking always tastes better when I'm loving my family while preparing it. A similar magic is at work in the fiber arts. But if it's drudgery, maybe it's time to take a break. After all, this is supposed to be fun!
I have another yarn to highlight today---Llamalini from Fibra Natura. This amazing yarn (40% Royal Llama, 25% Linen, 35% Silk Bourette) lies flat in stockinette when knit at the right gauge. It is incredibly soft with a luxurious feel, yet the fabric is relaxed and could be dressed up or down. It has a little bit of a tweed look (due to the bourette?) and is as comfortable as your favorite T-shirt but with the sumptuousness of llama and silk. For more photos see my previous post, Using the Nostepinne.
More Modern Top-Down Knitting by Kristina McGowan, photography by Anna Williams, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013.
In this book, McGowan uses all 12 of Barbara Walker's templates from Knitting from the Top: the raglan pullover, the raglan cardigan, the seamless cape, the seamless skirt, the reversible pants, the sleeveless sweater, the seamless set-in sleeves, the seamless saddle shoulders, the kimono sleeves, the square set sleeves, the dropped shoulder ski sweater, and the classic cap (hat).
She designed two garments in each category, which still doesn't exhaust the possibilities offered by Walker (who offers templates for, among other things, 11 types of pants). This structure provided McGowan with personal design challenges which she met headlong with a sense of fun and a taste for embellishment.
The cover design, fremont skirt, was named for Grace Kelly's character in Hitchcock's Rear Window. The skirt itself is a fairly straightforward linen stitch garment, but the finishing makes this piece stand out. Elastic cord is crocheted into the cast-on edge in place of an elastic waistband. Stretch lace is sewn to the bottom hem. And the branch motif which inspired the design is embroidered on the front (and back) of the skirt.
I think embroidering sequins on someone's seat is asking for trouble, and I winced at the uncharacteristic inexactitude of some of the instructions (such as "Enlarge Embroidery Template to desired size," and the complete lack of mention that half of them need to be vertically flipped), but I appreciate the tricks McGowan uses to get the branches on the skirt and will use them if I ever have the occasion.
My daughter walked into the room while I was writing this review and admired the fremont skirt and these shorts. I love the idea of knitted shorts, but it bothers me slightly that no rear view is given either for the shorts or for the longer "yoga-style" pants. Walker says, "There is not so much difference between the back and front of the body that a flexible knitted fabric can't adjust to it."
Well, maybe Walker (and these models) are built differently, but on my body there is actually more difference between the back and front of my bottom half than my top half. Just as I can't imagine a busty woman wearing a fitted top backwards, I can't imagine reversible pants ever being comfortable on me.
There are a few appealing designs in this collection, but mostly appealing techniques. There's something in practically every piece from intriguing stitch patterns (from Walker's Treasuries) to intricate duplicate stitch charts spanning entire fronts of sweaters, suede patches, and of course embroidery. And I enjoy having a more colorful (albeit much less thorough) version of Walker's book.
Most patterns are given in 5 or 6 sizes (XS to 2- or 3-XL), but the hats are given in a single size only (22", which won't fit me, even in that holly berry bonnet---I've tried!). They could easily be adapted, but I don't think the knitter should be the one to do that work.
The photography by Anna Williams really stands out. Every stitch is visible, models are relaxed and glowing, styling (by Pamela Duncan Silver) is understated yet lovely.
Before you buy this book, flip through it or look at the designs online and see whether any of them excite you. Though many of McGowan's designs in this book are not to my taste, I do appreciate the color photos and clear pattern-writing (as opposed to line drawings and chatty prose). If you're not interested knitting any of the specific designs, think about whether it might be a good idea to purchase the book for the techniques and template realizations.
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of More Modern Top-Down Knitting for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Stewart, Tabori & Chang or Kristina McGowan.
Congratulations to Paula, the winner of the Yarn Whisperer giveaway! She said, "I would be merino wool. Soft, sturdy, reliable. Good for the dull, plain work of stockinette, but still able to take the twists and turns of the cables in life." Paula, contact me with your shipping information by October 9, and I'll send you the book.
I enjoyed reading everyone's comments and look forward to the next giveaway.
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