Book Review: The Knowledgeable Knitter

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  • 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!


Book Review: Vegan Ice Cream

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  • Author: Jeff Rogers
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press
  • Publish Date: May 13, 2014
  • 144 Pages

I cannot quite emphasize how much I love ice cream. Dairy ice cream was one of two reasons I held onto vegetarianism as long as I did before making the jump to veganism. If I had been presented with ice cream made from one of the recipes in Vegan Ice Cream, I would have given up that reason in a heartbeat.

The ice creams in this book are divided into two categories: “Ice Cream” and “Raw Ice Cream”. The regular ice creams are cashew-based and usually sweetened with maple syrup (my favourite!). The raw ice creams are true to the raw manifesto and don’t contain any kind of processed ingredients–they are sweetened with dates (or other fruit). Overall, the ingredients are mainly easy to find in this household, except the non-alcoholic vanilla flavouring. I had to go to whole foods for that, and I gave up on finding a non-alcoholic almond flavouring altogether. (The alcohol content in regular flavouring interferes with the freezing process.)

After poring over all of the recipes and trying to decide among the endlessly delicious options, I finally made Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip ice cream. This ice cream was wonderful. It was rich, full of flavour, and had that airy quality that a lot of vegan ice creams are missing (I’m looking at you coconut-based ice cream). My only issue was that the ice cream was a bit too sweet for me. If I were to make it again, I would use a 3/4 cup of maple syrup instead of a whole cup. I suspect the same sweetness level will be found in all of the recipes, but there’s only one way to find out…

I would definitely, definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves making delicious ice cream. Even the non-vegans. Because the world needs more delicious ice cream. And I am seriously considering buying a copy of this for myself–after all, it’s almost time for fresh, local peaches, and there are 3 different recipes just for those…

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!

Book Review: How To Be Vegan

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  • Author: Elizabeth Castoria
  • Publisher: Artisan
  • Publish Date: April 22, 2014
  • 224 Pages

Even though I’ve been vegan for over a year now, I’m by far not an expert. Since it’s a lifestyle choice, everyone does it a bit differently. I think one of the best parts of How to be Vegan is that the author embraces this and advises readers to do what feels most comfortable for them.

That said, my vegan lifestyle looks a bit different than the one described in the book. For me, shoes aren’t vegan just because they don’t have leather. The glue that binds the sole of the shoe is often made of animal products, so that needs to be taken into account. I don’t go under the assumption that all bagels and bread are vegan. After scouring the bread aisles at the grocery store, I can definitively say that it is actually quiet difficult to find vegan bread and bagels. Lastly, I try to take into account human welfare as well as animal welfare–and there’s a reason those $10 shoes are so cheap.

Regardless of those belief differences, I did enjoy her writing style. It had some humour in it and that made it a breeze to read. She also had some excellent basics in food education (what one can and can’t eat) and what a vegan lifestyle requires. I learned that B12 is the hardest thing to get in a vegan diet (fortunately, that means I get to eat more nutritional yeast).

I think the best asset to this book is the tips for dealing with other people, vegans and non-vegans alike. She definitely had some excellent ways to deal with that ever-present question, “But where do you get your protein?”

At the end of the book are some great-looking vegan recipes. While I wouldn’t say they look particularly healthy, I daresay they’d be tasty even to a non-vegan. It is a really good way to round out this how-to book.

In conclusion, I think that this book is a great starting point for anyone starting out, or even just interested in knowing more about veganism. As the cutest cow ever from Herbivore says, “A little veganism never hurt anybody.”

Rating: 4/5

Update Feb 20, 2015:

I have recently been thinking a lot about this blog post and how unfair it was, for multiple reasons.

Firstly, I realized that despite the “vegan” label on a menu item at a restaurant, I doubt they checked the bread for monoglycerides. While I still try to make sure the ingredients I buy are vegan, I can respect just picking up some bread from a vendor in a pinch–they might have a “vegan” sandwich that’s not really vegan anyway, so what’s the difference?

Secondly, I got schooled recently by the lovely Nice Shoes and they informed me that the glue used to make all shoes these days is vegan, as it’s tougher than the animal based glue. So really the main concern is just the use of leather.

As a result, I’d like to increase my rating to 4.5, and seriously recommend this book to the newly vegan or the vegan-curious.

Book Review: Knit Your Own Zoo

When I saw “Knit Your Own Zoo” on Netgalley, I was pretty excited. I love animals, and I also love knitting miniature versions of them!

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  • Authors: Sally Muir and Joanna Osbourne
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
  • Publish Date: February 11, 2014
  • 176 Pages

There are a lot of great things about this book. For one, I love the detail in the shape of each of the animals. Even from the cover picture, you can see that each of the animals has a huge amount of detail in the curves of its body, legs and head. Another thing I am impressed by is the use of pipecleaners to give shape and bendability to the limbs.

The variety of animals is also quite wonderful. There’s penguins and pandas and giraffes and seals…And before each pattern begins, there’s a few fun facts about each of the animals, which I think is a very nice touch.

All of the animals are knitted straight and then seamed together. For me, this is a sad point, because if I have to seam things, it will take me years to get around to finishing it. I admit, though, that you just can’t get the same detailing (especially some of that colour work!) if you are knitting in the round, so my laziness is entirely my loss.

I think the book might have been better if the animals were sorted by difficulty, or at least had a difficulty rating for each one. Some of the patterns are definitely harder than others, and I found that many of the animals had a lot of stitch shorthands I didn’t recognize, which was a bit overwhelming at first. However, one look at the stitch key in the back of the book assured me the mysterious stitches, in fact, were not too difficult.

My favourite animals were the Panda and the Penguin, although there were a lot of others in there I would be tempted to make as well. Is there enough awesomeness in this book to get me over my aversion to seaming? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t buy it for someone with less of an aversion!

Overall, I give it a 3.5/5.

Fan Friday – Book Review Edition

Since I just adore Christmas, what better way to foray into the book review world, than a book about both knitting and Christmas!

Fan Friday Presents…Knit Christmas Stockings!

When signed up on NetGalley a few weeks ago, I saw this book and thought, that one, that is the book for me. It is especially fortuitous since my brand new little family does not have Christmas stockings of our very own yet.

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  • Author: Gwen W. Steege
  • Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
  • Publish Date: September 10, 2013
  • 136 pages

The book is well written, with lots of pictures to go along with the instructions. There was a nice variety of different patterns, and each pattern specified how large the end result would be. This is important because some families are very “stocking-heavy” (aka: don’t bother with those heavy stocking holders on the mantle, it’ll fall over anyway), or “stocking-light” (aka: Bigger is better, put those suckers under the tree instead!). They also had several patterns that had “mix and match” pieces, so you could make matching stockings that are still a bit different.

Another cool thing about the book is that it has some great techniques at the front. I learned how to do a long-tail cast on (which is actually an awesome cast on technique). It was pretty confusing at first, but I did figure it out after a fairly short period of time.

The only negative point of the book is that none of the patterns inspired me with the feeling of “I have to knit this right now”. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like a lot of the patterns, it’s just that there wasn’t the sense of urgency that comes with finding that perfect pattern. However, it is entirely possible that once the Christmas season heads our way again, I will be singing (or knitting) a different tune.

Overall, I give it a 4/5.

Feedback time, is this book review useful to you, or should I get back to my regular style of Fan Fridays?