We just got back from a trip to Davidson, North Carolina to bring my son home from a three-week intensive Animal Behavior class. While exploring the Davidson College campus area we walked by a yarn-bombed store sign . . .
. . . marking the entrance to a store of particular interest. The Needlecraft Center is a lovely store right on Main Street. I had not expected to go yarn shopping, but at the encouragement of my wonderful husband, I went up the front steps.
Sale yarns are on a table just inside the door to the building, still outside the store. Happily for the aforementioned wonderful husband, there were also records from The Bird's Nest (upstairs) on the same table.
Laurie greeted me when I entered the store, complimented me on the Taurus shawl I happened to be wearing, then thoughtfully left me to my own devices. I hadn't come prepared with yarn weight and yardage information, so I just drank the store in and promised to come back the following day.
The Needlecraft Center has knitting and crocheting yarns in the front two rooms, and needlepoint yarns in the back two. They have more brands than are listed on their website, including some gorgeous indie handpaints. The yarns are mostly in little cubbies or on bookshelves, with a few in standing baskets around the store. The store had an open, spacious feel, in contrast to some larger stores which are set up differently.
When I returned to the store (I actually returned twice---once between swimming and dinner that same day and once the next morning) I was surprised to learn that Laurie had visited my blog and had been researching my shawl. How flattering!
With Laurie's help, I chose some buttery-soft Louisa Harding Grace Silk & Wool to swatch with as well as some discontinued Berroco Suede. I'll have to think up more excuses to visit the Charlotte area so I can visit this store again!
10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza, pub. St. Martin's Griffin, 2012.
This book is not solely a pattern book or an anecdote book or a fiction book or a technique book or a biography, but it is an entertaining mix of all these things.
Each chapter bears the name of one of the 10 Secrets, and begins with an exploration of that gem of wisdom. This means providing a list of "must-have" books, delving into various types of fibers and their characteristics, telling a fable, or (most frequently) profiling a fellow knitter.
The profiles are one-page bios with photos, more laidback human interest stories than cutting edge investigations of methods or approaches. (If you're interested in the latter, I highly recommend Knitting in America.) There are also author commentaries and brief dialogues sprinkled throughout.
And sidebars! The number of irrelevant sidebars was astounding (not to mention distracting) and reminds me of my children's textbooks. St. Martin's Griffin happens to be under the Macmillan umbrella, so this may not be a coincidence.
The quality of the information is magazine-like, just enough information to help you decide whether you really want to dive headlong into the topic. The knitting tips are mostly sound, and more are included in the patterns.
Speaking of the patterns, the Peasant Bread Tunic at left is a simple and charming design, rated at a "dining chair" level to show it requires concentration. The Solvang Weekend Vest is only a rocking chair level but employs a clever construction. The Smoked Jewels Hooded Shawlette is another clever and attractive piece, by well-known designer Sivia Harding.
Many other celebrated knit designers (Rebecca Danger, Kathleen Day, Norah Gaughan, Romi Hill, Daniel Yuhas) contributed to this book, settling in alongside novice and experienced designers.
Garment patterns are usually given in 3 or 4 sizes, the exception being the child's skirt which has 6 sizes from 1 to 10. Most of the designs are quirky, but some are basic. There are delightful pillow, placemat, and monster designs along with the socks, mitts, hats, shawls, and sweaters.
Perhaps the most surprising and offensive thing in the book is the replacement of the standard gauge-check reminder with various supposedly humorous and in some cases downright bullying calls to action ("Go ahead, knit a giant, unwearable sock. Either that, or check your gauge." "You will lose definite cool points if you fail to check your gauge."). Definitely not laidback!
Vicki Stiefel's photography can be gorgeous, but often lacks the sharp focus and clarity of vision I have admired elsewhere. Models sometimes look uncomfortable or blurry. The Jellycat Pig outfits are almost completely lost in shadow, and the Heirloom Motif scarf is lace modeled over a top with a distracting emblem printed on it. This is unfortunate, because it really detracts from the appeal of the book.
If you're looking for an entertaining read or would like an overview of several different aspects of knitting (color, fiber, working without a pattern), you might try this book. If you love several of the designs (as I do), all the better. But if you want a book to help you find relaxation in your knitting (or remember why you used to), flip through before buying. This book is appealing in many ways, but it doesn't exactly have a laidback layout.
Disclosure: St. Martin's Griffin sent Kangath a free copy of 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters 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 St. Martin's Griffin or the authors.
The rights to sell my first Clotheshorse patterns, Hestia and San Graal, returned to me a while ago. I finally got around to proofreading the tech edited version (yes, I'm one of those) and posting it on Ravelry. So if you've been putting off buying this pattern, now would be an excellent time to take the plunge.
As I wrote before, San Graal looks amazing but is really a perfect first stranded colorwork project. Trust me. Just remember to admire your work frequently so you can catch any obvious mistakes.
Plus, the pattern includes instructions for lengthening the garment if you're a little shy. But look at the pictures below before you decide. The fuzzy-faced chick is me before I learned how to focus the camera when using the timer.
I'm well known for my generous hips and thighs, but this skirt makes me look downright slim. Maybe it's all the alligators. . . .
photo by the wonderful Jeff Roland
This week's Malabrigo Quickie is one of my designs!
Ochos Locos can be worn as either a scarf or belt, and the super-bulky Aquarella works up super-fast.
I loved working with this yarn. It's so many of my favorite things: hand-dyed wool, thick-and-thin, fair trade . . . and gorgeous! The colors are amazing and I had a hard time choosing between them.
I settled on Indy which is described as "Brownish Golden Yellow, Greens, Wet Blues and Violets." Sounds like a walk through the forest after a good rain. The mix of colors looks like watercolors, blending beautifully and flowing into one another. Garter stitch enhances the blending.
Ochos Locos is written to use two balls of yarn at the same time, so you could easily use two different colors. The pattern includes special two-color instructions, as well as variations for rounder holes and longer holes. I had so much fun with this pattern, I couldn't resist cooking up alternate versions.
Thanks to Alex at Malabrigo for yarn support, and Jeff for photography.
Finally! Photos of Taurus being worn.
Over a wrinkled shirt which I tried to iron with the retouch function. . . .
This is the prototype. The back "zodiac circle" is smaller in the actual pattern, so it lies flat. But I'm definitely going to use the larger circle as a design element in a future shawl. I love the way it hangs. I don't think I'm wearing the right shirt to show it off, but it really accentuates my waist when it hangs like this. I also love the way the Green Sheep Fingering feels against my skin, and the way it keeps the chill of the air conditioning off. This is my new go-to shawl. Just in time, too, since my daughter stole my old one!
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