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!

2014-07-13 22.21.30

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

2014-07-13 22.22.00

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

2014-07-13 22.21.39

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?

Updates Galore!

In lieu of doing a real post this week, I’m going to update on a few things I’ve posted on in the past few months. Things change over time, and posts lose their veracity. So…

1) I’m almost done the art project! I just need to do a few touch ups, and then all four of them will be ready to go. I’m very excited to share the finished results!

2) I have discovered that my “lazy” way of knitting is only the correct way if you’re doing stockinette. If you’re doing garter (or knitting in the round), the old way is still better. My mind is still blown, because I can’t even count how many scarves I must have done wrong over the years…hopefully nobody notices.

3) It took me quite a while to realize that changing my name really wasn’t what I wanted. Since I spent over a year trying to convince myself that it was what I wanted, I’m a little confused as to why I didn’t realize that sooner. The reality is, for me, that my name is mine. Sure it came from my dad. But our family isn’t the Smiths. It’s not even the Robert-Smiths. Our mothers and our fathers all had family names, which would mean to be true to the actual family we are, we would have to manage 4 last names. Unfortunately, taking the first letter of each of those last names doesn’t really work (too many consonants). So we’ll keep our names, and decide what to do with kids when we get there. We might even consider hyphenating. What’s the point in having kids if you can’t torture them with long, hard to learn names? (Kidding…)

4) As for the upcoming move, we have mostly decided that in the short term, we will be remaining in the Vancouver area. We are still seriously considering buying, though, so we’ll have to move into one of the Vancouver suburbs if we want to afford that. Even then it will still be a townhouse (at best), instead of our own detached house. One day…

5) Our “little” Boots is as cute as ever!

20140401_161918

(The hay all over the ground is the fault of the degus, we don’t live in a barn, I swear)

I only wish I could always be as happy as she looks in that picture. Sunbeams really are the best thing ever. If she hadn’t taken that one, I probably would have.

That’s it! May your week be full of sunbeams and contentedness!

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!

Image from Amazon.com

  • 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.

Triangle Mug Cozy Pattern

It has certainly been awhile since I designed a pattern. I would like to say that this pattern is a brand new creation, but in fact I designed it many, many years ago as a scarf. I haven’t touched it since then, and when I was asked to knit a mug cozy for a gift this year, I realized it was time to resurrect it.

20131216_202740

This pattern can be scaled to be wider or narrower, just cast on any number of stitches that is a multiple of 4 and adjust the pattern accordingly. For a smaller mug, it would probably be best to either use lighter weight yarn and smaller needles or do 12 stitches instead of 16.

Materials: Loops and Threads – Charisma (i.e. bulky weight) in two colors; Size 7 DPNs; (These are what I used, feel free to use smaller yarn and needles); Button with large holes; Tapestry needle

If you are uncomfortable with knitting straight on DPNs, you will also need straight needles of the same size, and will need to transfer to the DPNs for the binding off process.

Skills: knit, purl, i-cord

Main Pattern:

Cast on 16 stitches in C1
Notes: The key to this pattern is to not pull the yarn tight when switching colours. Allow the pattern to keep the colours together, otherwise the holes won’t form. 

Row 1 & 2: With C1: (k2, p2)* rep til end
Row 3: With C1: (p2, k2)* rep til last 4 stitches, p2; With C2: k2
Row 4: With C2: p2; With C1: (k2, p2) rep til end last 2 stitches, k2
Row 5: With C1: (k2, p2)* rep til last 4 stitches; With C2: k2, p2
Row 6: With C2: k2, p2; With C1: (k2, p2)* rep til end
Row 7: With C1: (p2, k2) x 2, p2; With C2: k2, p2, k2
Row 8: With C2: p2, k2, p2; With C1: (k2, p2) x 2, k2
Row 9: With C1: (k2, p2) x 2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 2
Row 10: With C2: (k2, p2) x 2; With C1: (k2, p2) x 2
Row 11: With C1: p2, k2, p2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 2, k2
Row 12: With C2: (p2, k2) x 2, p2; With C1: k2, p2, k2
Row 13: With C1: k2, p2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 3
Row 14: With C2: (k2, p2) x 3; With C1: k2, p2
Row 15: With C1: p2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 3, k2
Row 16: With C2: (p2, k2) x 3, p2; With C1: k2
Row 17 & 18: With C2: (k2, p2)* rep til end
Row 19: With C1: p2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 3, k2
Row 20: With C2: (p2, k2) x 3, p2; With C1: k2
Row 21: With C1: k2, p2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 3
Row 22: With C2: (k2, p2) x 3; With C1: k2, p2
Row 23: With C1: p2, k2, p2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 2, k2
Row 24: With C2: (p2, k2) x 2, p2; With C1: k2, p2, k2
Row 25: With C1: (k2, p2) x 2; With C2: (k2, p2) x 2
Row 26: With C2: (k2, p2) x 2; With C1: (k2, p2) x 2
Row 27: With C1: (p2, k2) x 2, p2; With C2: k2, p2, k2
Row 28: With C2: p2, k2, p2; With C1: (k2, p2) x 2, k2
Row 29: With C1: (k2, p2)* rep til last 4 stitches; With C2: k2, p2
Row 30: With C2: k2, p2; With C1: (k2, p2)* rep til end
Row 31: With C1: (p2, k2)* rep til last 4 stitches, p2; With C2: k2
Row 32: With C2: p2; With C1: (k2, p2) rep til end last 2 stitches, k2

Chart:

Triangle Chart Repeat rows 1 – 32 until desired length is reached. For a built in button loop, continue as follows, otherwise, bind off here.

Button Loop: Bind off first 7 stitches, then with the 7th and 8th stitches, knit an icord of the desired length to go around the button. K2tog with the 8th stitch and the 9th stitch, and the 7th and 10th stitches. Bind off all remaining stitches.

Button: Use tapestry needle and one of the yarn colours to sew the button onto the desired location. Make sure the loop will fit over the button snugly.

This is a great pattern for a beginner, as there aren’t many fancy stitches involved, yet the outcome is stunning! It’s got a texture that not only looks good, but also makes it easier to grip.

Pattern can be found here on Ravelry!

The WIP

I haven’t talked about knitting very much on this blog. Not because I don’t love it (I do), but because I don’t get to do it very often. One of the best parts of the honeymoon was having the time off from work. It meant that my neck and arms weren’t already too sore from the work week to pick up some knitting needles. Not to say I didn’t push them until it felt a bit like I’d been working all week. I was just so excited to knit again!

On the trip, I started a Dandy Sir Cephalopod. I had intended to start a different project, but then realized that I didn’t have the entire pattern with me. So instead, I broke out the DPN’s and started knitting. It actually went to the extent that we bought some stuffing in Hawaii so that I could stuff the little legs and seal them up. (Side note: that filling is way softer than the usual stuff from Michaels.)

Look at those cute little legs!

Look at those cute little legs!

Since we got back, I discovered an app, Visual Knitting Counter (for Android), that allows me to not only store patterns text, but also to keep track of what row I’m on! Which means that even if I can only do one row, at least I won’t be spending 15 minutes next time trying to figure out what the next one is!

Because of that app, I am also starting back up on a scarf that I put on hold well over a year ago. I picked the pattern because I wanted to make a scarf for my love, and he wanted a manly one. Enter “The Manly Man Scarf“. It was rated “manly enough” and I quickly set to work on it. But it has a complex pattern, that I already messed up once, and coming back to it for a few rows once a month wasn’t cutting it. But now, I can keep track!

2013-10-04 12.46.54

Halfway there…

I started that scarf 2 years ago. And it’s still only halfway done. But now, I have hope (and so does my partner) that it will one day, maybe even soon, actually be completed.

Do you use an app to keep track? What projects do you have on the go?