Book Review: The Knowledgeable Knitter

Image courtesy of amazon.com

  • Author: Margaret Radcliffe
  • Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
  • Publish Date: Sept 23, 2014
  • 296 Pages

When I stumbled upon a book that promised to tell to me the whys to knitting, I couldn’t resist. I love to know how and why things work the way they do.

A full quarter of the The Knowledgeable Knitter is just talking about pre-planning a project, so it would be an understatement to say that the book strongly advocates it. This is including (but not limited to) doing multiple swatches, to an extent that I am entirely unfamiliar with. On the other hand, I can clearly see the benefits to doing enough testing to know that something as complicated as a sweater will turn out perfectly in the end. I bet I would relate to this more if I’d ever attempted a larger project, like a sweater.

Margaret has put so much useful knowledge and suggestions into this book. Simple things like, many people purl with different tightness than they knit, so that stitches knit in the round might not match a straight stockinette stitch. Or that needles that are the same size might not actually be the same size when it comes down to it.

From the quarter of the book that I have read, I feel pretty confident that this book keeps its promise. It is a valuable resource in a knitter’s arsenal. I use the term resource deliberately, because it’s so information heavy that it’s just not something I can pick up and read for hours at a time. That is the only downside to this book I have found.

This book is definitely geared towards someone taking on a sweater (or similar) project. There are multiple sections that help with the issue of fit, and since I (like most people) have a unique body type, I can see that coming in very handy. I even have some yarn in my collection I’ve had earmarked for a sweater for a long time. Maybe now I’ll get to it? If I do, I think I’ll want this book in my bookshelf first.

Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation for this post. I did receive a free preview copy for review from netgalley, which will expire and force me to buy the book for myself!

My First Sweater

Recently, my close friend had a baby. She’s the first of my close friends to do so, and it’s kind of rocked the boat in my world. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about a sweater.

I knitted my very first sweater. And it turned out! I only frogged the same section 2.5 times (the half was a very awkward undoing of only the patterned areas and redoing, one by one…awful). And I only had one major breakdown moment, right around the 2nd frog, when I had trouble picking up the stitches again…there were tears, I won’t lie.

But it was worth it.

Several months and some minor tears later…

A sweater was born!

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(And a baby, for whom the sweater was intended.)

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(In case you were wondering, the baby came first, but only because she had 4 months head start by the time I got going.)

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I am extremely proud of this “little” project! I think it turned out nearly perfectly, and although I can see the flaws in it, I pretend they don’t exist.

And the best news is that it’s big enough that hopefully the baby won’t grow into it until the weather cools down. Making it actually useful, not just pretty.

Win!

The Gauge Monster

It was nearly love at first sight. I saw that pattern and knew deep in my soul that I wanted–no, needed–to make it. The FoxxyLady Shawl is everything I ever wanted in a shawl: it is big, but not too heavy, patterned, but not too much, and embracingly long, but without monotony.

Then I found the yarn: a little fair trade number that reminds me of vanilla bean ice cream. I tried to look at other yarn–there was even a perfectly timed knitpicks sale.

No other patterns or yarn compared. I returned to look at them day after day, yearning for them.

So I took the dive, spent the money and revelled in the beauty of my new purchases, eagerly awaiting the day I could cast on.

Until I decided to do a gauge swatch. My second swatched project ever. Except this time the measurements didn’t work, even after going down a needle size. It was taller than it was wide.

I’ve read up and it seems that there’s not much I can do at this point, unless I was using wool and could block to a specific size. At this point, I may as well just pick a size and run with it–at least until I can see how the first part of the pattern looks.

I want it to work, dagnabbit! The longer it takes for me to find the correct method to get it to look right, the longer it takes me to finish it. I want this shawl so badly!

Why won’t it work?

Did you ever have a project that wouldn’t gauge? Any ideas on how I can fix it?

Goodbye, Wedding Dress

I bought my wedding dress on my first official wedding dress shopping trip. Everyone was in love with it. I felt like a princess.

If only all the photos could have looked as good as this one...

If only all the photos could have looked as good as this one…

Gorgeous, impractical, soft and embellished, the dress was irresistible.

Unfortunately, I can barely look at any of my wedding pictures without cringing a little.

You see, the dress was beautiful, with a heart shaped neckline. On me, that neckline was a little lopsided. I was assured that it would be easy peasy to fix and it…wasn’t. Balking at the $500 price tag, I opted for the simpler fix of making the dress into a halter top.

It didn’t fix it.

The halter was put on lopsided, which just accentuated the problem. I was assured by my entourage that it looked fine, no one would notice, and maybe that was true at first. But after the dress had settled a bit…it’s all I can see in nearly every single picture.

It is a beautiful dress. I thought I would treasure it and want to keep it forever.

But I don’t. I don’t want to put it on to remind myself of the day. I don’t want to keep it just in case my future daughter wants it. I want to remember how wonderful that day was, and hopefully, with time, I will forget that little wardrobe malfunction…or at least find it humorous.

So today, my dress will be posted to The Brides’ Project — a fantastic charity that sells dresses at reduced cost, and all proceeds go to cancer-related charities, which is a cause that is dear to my heart.

It’s the best use for it I can imagine.

I just hope the next person who falls in love with it isn’t “lopsided” like me.

What did you do with your wedding dress?

Bubbles

Bubbles are wonderful. I love trying to blow the biggest one possible, or just a million tiny ones. The way they lazily float up into the sky, colours constantly shifting. Then they disappear, and I blow some more.

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I even live in a bubble.

(No, not literally, although that would be super awesome.)

I live in a safe neighbourhood. I always have. Things like homelessness are something I pass by uncomfortably. I feel enormous guilt every time I walk by a pan handler. I have so much, and they have so little…but I was warned over and over by my parents that giving a little is never enough. If you give to one person, then the next will expect it, or the same person the next day will expect it. I don’t know entirely if this is true, but I haven’t tested it. And I don’t really want to give someone the money to make their lives worse. I have contemplated many times buying grocery store gift cards and giving those out instead. I haven’t actually done it. Does that make me a bad person?

Violence is something that I read about in other people’s lives, I have never experienced it. I hope I am lucky enough to never experience it. I hope no one I care about ever does or ever has. And yet, statistically speaking, at least one of my friends is hiding something. 1 in 4 women are the victims of sexual assault. 1 in 4. That statistic terrifies me. Which one of them is hiding a harrowing past?

I have popped a few of my bubbles, over the years. The biggest being the reality of the treatment of animals in today’s agriculture. I had been avoiding knowing the truth because I didn’t want to give up the holy grail of non-veganism: cheese. But I did. And it was totally worth it. If it weren’t for going vegan, we may not have found our amazing (raw vegan) wedding caterer. And there are so many wonderful vegan/vegetarian stores and restaurants and the people there are so wonderful. It’s this little community that I get to be a part of and it makes me a bit teary. People have asked me whether I still like being a vegan and the truth is that actually LOVE it! I cannot even remotely imagine going back. Being vegan is awesome (and not as hard as I thought it was!).

I’ve also popped smaller bubbles, like thinking I’d have to give up on things that I truly want in a relationship (like spending an inordinate amount of time with one person). Or that university after high school is the only way to go.

Some days I think that I should pop some more bubbles, and live in the reality of the world. But the reality of the world is so devastating, that I don’t know if I could take it day in and day out. There’s a reason I avoid watching the news and reading newspapers.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the media was less concerned about viewership/readership and more concerned with actual news. Then, maybe, my bubbles wouldn’t feel so necessary.

What’s your biggest bubble? Do you want to keep it or are you struggling to let go of it?

My Art Project – Completed!

I finally completed my “art project“. It started with some old (cheap) drawers that weren’t needed anymore, and some calendar pictures that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of. I glued the calendar picture to the bottom of the drawer and then covered it with a gel medium mixed with some blue paint. Then I mod podged black tissue paper on the sides of the drawer, and applied a hard coat on top.

Four weeks later, the hard coat has (in theory) cured. It’s been a long and hard journey, but I think the end result is worth it:

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I love the rustic effect of the tissue paper combined with the brush stroke effect of the gel-paint combination. Almost lets me get away with saying I painted them myself (other than the lying that that would require, that is).

My main disappointment is that the “hard coat” of Mod Podge doesn’t seem to be particularly hard in this climate. The drawers are current stacked on top of each other and they keep sticking together..which tends to pull of some of the glue when I separate them. I think I probably would’ve been better off using the outdoor Mod Podge instead.

The only other disappointment is that I ran out of paint just close enough to the end of the last drawer that I couldn’t justify buying more, so it looks a bit patchier than the other 3. I’m not going to tell you which it is though, just in case no one else can tell.

Overall, though, I’m pretty pleased with myself for coming up with the idea and following through with it–and that the end result is something worth keeping!

Materials upcycled: old drawers, old calendar.

Materials purchased: paint, gel medium, mod podge glossy, mod podge hard coat, a paintbrush and 2 sponge applicators (I unwisely let the glue dry on the first one).

Have you ever taken the leap to upcycle something instead of getting rid of it?

Dear Echo

Dear Echo,

You were the most faithful of cars. Our 7 years together will remain forever dear to me. It is a special relationship, that purchase of the first car.

I knew from the first test drive that you were the car for me. You weren’t the prettiest, or the newest, or the fastest, but you were adorable and affordable. At 198,000 km just to start, you were only expected to get me from A to B for the first 5 years, but you kept going long after that. And sure, I probably spent $1500/year just on fixing you up, but you were worth it.

You even adjusted, when someone new came into our lives, and you had to drive much more than you were used to.

You truly were the most faithful of cars.

What does that make me, then? I gave up on you because of some cosmetic damage. It didn’t damage any of your functional parts, because you’re too good for that. But the insurance company couldn’t see past the dents to your true beauty, and wouldn’t pay for the repairs. Not only that, but they wanted to write you off. They thought you were only worth $2500. Perhaps I’m just too susceptible to peer pressure, because it wasn’t until even the mechanic said I should take the money that I truly realized that I was going to do it. I was going to betray you.

I am sorry, dear Echo, that I had to make that choice. The logical part of me won, knowing that it was a good amount of money for a 14 year old car with 265,000 km. It was the best offer we were ever going to get, and in the long run it would save us money on repairs for keeping you going for the 2+ years you had left in you. I know that probably doesn’t mean much to you, but I hope you can understand a little.

I hope you can forgive me for letting them send you to the salvage yard. I’m hoping it’s kind of like organ donation, and you’ll go on to give life to other cars who are struggling.

To me, you will always be worth so much more than $2500. More than any amount. Walking away from you was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Thank you for all the times you sat quietly while I poured my heart out to you. You were there for me during some of the darkest times in my life. Thank you for faithfully getting me where I needed to go, and not once breaking down anywhere. I can only hope that the new car, the lesser car, will be as faithful and wonderful as you were.

Most sincerely and with deep regrets,

Sarah