Books for Knitters

Over the years I’ve come into contact with a LOT of books about knitting. Often the plots are pretty similar (and I’m sure you can find this plot within many other “hobby” subgenres – quilting, weaving, heck I’ve even seen titles related to crossword puzzles…)

It starts with a woman, usually middle-aged or better, who’s had a major life change. (Husband dying suddenly seems to be the most common…) Usually the husband has left the woman financially insolvent in some way and she has to open a yarn shop somewhere to stay afloat, and of course, in doing so, finds a part of herself she never knew (and usually a new, handsome man, to boot).

Now, just because there are cliches, doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy curling up and having a little entertainment in my reading. And titles several stray from the path of this basic plot. Plus, there are many nonfiction options that go in a completely different direction. Here are a few options – starting with those nonfiction choices.

Nonfiction
Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Of course, let’s start with possibly the most well-known writer of the knitting universe. You can easily pick up any of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s books and find an enjoyable read. You will definitely laugh out loud. You might cry a little. For sure, you won’t regret it. Her blog is equally hilarious, but if you’re not yet familiar with her story, start here.

Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes

Clara has another very popular book as well, “The Yarn Whisperer” but I recently picked up Knitlandia for a trip and I just had to share it. This book is the perfect choice for a road trip read or any kind of travelling. Each chapter is about a different place in the world that Clara has had to go as part of her writing work, and while I was reading it I truly felt transported to each new place. I may not be flying to Scotland and wandering with fields of sheep anytime soon, but Clara Parkes took me there in my mind. I got to go to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, search for Art Yarn in New Mexico, and even behind the scenes at a Craftsy shoot. A quick read and a transporting experience.

It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons by Franklin Habit

This little book would make a fantastic gift for a knitter. It’s a little collection of cartoons, each one with a joke that a knitter would really appreciate. Do a google image search for Franklin Habit’s cartoons and you’ll get some examples. If you need a chuckle, this little book is for you!

A few more nonfiction titles that I haven’t read (yet!):

Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting edited by Ann Hood

Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm by Barbara Parry

Knitting Ephemera: A Compendium of Articles, Useful and Otherwise, for the Edification and Amusement of the Handknitter by Carol J. Sulcoski

Fiction


How to Knit a Love Song: A Cypress Hollow Yarn Book 1 (A Cypress Hollow Yarn Novel) by Rachael Herron

Rachael Herron is becoming more and more well known and that’s a good thing. When I pick up a novel that’s tangentially about knitting, I’m looking for a light read with a good story and a decent romance. Herron’s Cypress Hollow series overdelivers on these in spades. I like her characters and want to see how they end up. I like that each book follows a different main character but occasionally mains from one book pop up as side characters in other stories. Recommend.
The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

These are my absolute favorites of the genre. They don’t necessarily stray too far from the basic general expected plot, but boy do they take that plot and do an amazing job with it. If you’ve ever wanted to be transported to a coastal yarn shop in England, and spend time with characters you actually LIKE (ahem, I’m looking at you, Cedar Key series – just see my review below) then the Beach Street series are your jam. I’ve actually reread these books because I liked them so much.

Spinning Forward (Cedar Key) by Terri DuLong

I’ve only read the first in this series, and to be fair, that’s the author’s first novel. But I probably won’t pick up the next in the series anytime soon. The first one was frustrating. The main character was kind of an awful person, and showed no growth over the course of the book, making her pretty tough to root for. The storyline was particularly convoluted as well. Skip this one.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

This book became so popular it transcended the “knitting” genre and went mainstream. It’s a great example of its kind. I like its representation of the friendships that emerge from a great knitting group. This one’s great as an audiobook option, as well.

A few more fiction titles that I haven’t read (yet!):

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society: A Novel by Beth Pattillo

The Shop on Blossom Street (A Blossom Street Novel) by Debbie Macomber

The Knitting Circle: A Novel by Ann Hood

The Sweethearts’ Knitting Club by Lori Wilde

Hey, I used some affiliate links in this post. This means I’d get a tiny bit of $$ if you click these links and buy some books. That would help pay for my hosting fees. But actually, I recommend you go to your library or local bookstore if you’re really interested in these books. That would be a great choice too. Happy reading!

Things My Mother Didn’t Tell Me But Should Have

I don’t think I’ll have time for a real post this week – with the husband out of town most of my time is taken up with work and child-caring-for. It’s fine because I really don’t have much craft activity to report. I’ll just leave this poem here, from the amazing Warsan Shire (go look up the rest of her work, it’s worth it.) I spend a lot of time thinking about how I’ll raise my daughter and how I want her to have self confidence and self worthiness and self esteem.

tumblr_n1h3szb6ml1su276jo1_500

Time flies…

Hello! I’ve been sick this week and dealing with sinus crud, but the good news is the weather in Iowa has turned and it’s officially springtime. It’s been just lovely out and we’ve been enjoying getting outside more and even enlisted little Doctor’s help for yard work over the weekend.

Doctor in a sweatshirt and boots
Doctor’s yard work outfit

Last Friday I ended up having a late work shift, meaning Doc went to school in the morning and I had some free time. Of course I was having a blast, pulling out my knitting and getting to sit and plan some upcoming projects.

But of course, about an hour later I was dealing with this:

Well, f#@<. #knittingfail #brandnewneedles #firstproject #noseriously #knitting

A post shared by Very Good Threads (@verygoodthreads) on

And yes, I’ve contacted the company and I’m getting a refund. And yes, I have other size 2.25mm (US 1) needles. But I lost my groove on the mittens. It’s temporary, we don’t need to be concerned, but I decided to put them down for a bit. I’ll pick them up and finish them soon.

But I still had all this free time – luckily I have no shortage of crafty projects that call for my attention. So I finished up this mini quilt top that I cut out forever ago:

This is the Moda love quilt pattern (FREE!). I love this pattern because it’s written for layer cakes, or sized down for charms and even mini-charms! I did the mini-charm sized one, but instead of using mini charms I cut up scrap fabric and a couple of fat quarters.

I started this because I had just finished two huge (for me) quilt tops and I really needed a smaller, quicker project. I’m also thinking of quilting it free motion on my machine, which I’ve never tried before. (I’ll definitely practice on some scrap fabric first!)

I have one other finished object this week and it was a quick knit baby hat made with leftover Berroco Vintage from my stash. This is the Basic Baby Hat pattern by Heather Tucker. This is a gift for Doctor’s teacher who’s expecting in July. I used magic loop on this (I’m hooked!) but also because I couldn’t find the right dpns to do it otherwise.

red baby hat, knitted

So one more thing, I’ve cast on a new set of socks! I just got two skeins of White Birch Fiber Arts a couple of weeks ago, and I very nearly cast on the Sunny Day colorway but at the last minute I saw Jasmin from Knitmore Girls had cast on a baby sweater in this color. I need to see what that looks like before I decide what I’m making with mine, now.

So because it matches the weather outside perfectly, I cast on my other White Birch Fiber Arts skein, Nothing Says Screw You Like a Rainbow.

These are toe up, two at a time, vanilla socks. It took a ton of fiddly work to get them matching, but I’m hoping against hope that I’m ready to just go on these. I really needed a purse project that I can mindlessly work on. Finally!

She comes in colors everywhere

I’ve got an FO to share! It’s a big deal for me to have my drachenfels shawl done and then another thing so close behind. I had really lost my knitting mojo as I was working through the groove of becoming a mom who works and freelances, but lately I’ve been more dedicated to taking time to knit because it rejuvenates me.

I cast on this project as an emergency. I usually keep a sock project in my car. Often our family loads up to head somewhere and I’ve been distracted trying to pack up goodies and supplies for my kiddo. As soon as we get on the road, I say, oh shoot, I should’ve grabbed some knitting! So I started just keeping a project in the passenger door all the time. Problem solved!

So my day job has an inservice day each year for employee training and continuing ed stuff. Several people bring knitting for the day and I had planned to do so, but this year I forgot to grab it! Luckily I had my emergency knitting in the car.

Unfortunately, I only had the toe of one sock left to go on that project (and I had about 8 hours of knitting time in front of me)

Pink Cashmere Socks
Vanilla socks in Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere – One of a Kind colorway from their retreat in 2012

BUT by some miracle I had stashed a ball of this Knitpicks Felici in the project bag as well. I think I had been tempted to cast it on before doing the second sock in my other project and then thought better of it, and the extra ball just lived in there. Success! I made it up the cuff nearly to the heel.

Since then, this sock has gone all over the place with me. It’s been my purse knitting for about three months. It even went along on our recent trip to Phoenix.

I cast it on as a plain vanilla but by the time I reached the heel I decided I needed to have a look at Susan B. Anderson’s new Smooth Operator sock pattern that I’d been hearing so much about. And then… a game of yarn chicken presented itself. I won!

Finally these socks are in the done pile. 

Final thoughts: I love the Smooth Operator pattern. I love its comprehensiveness and clarity. I think maybe it’s more relevant to a newer sock knitter, but I did love the new technique for picking up corner stitches. It took me three tries on my sock to get matching heels – I think I pulled a much longer tail for my first sock than on the second and I really wanted the same purple dot on the bottom of each heel – that’s my favorite part of these socks!

I got them matching perfectly… eventually. This is my second try at afterthought heel socks and I was hopeful that I would like the fit better than the last time I did them, but they’re just not my personal favorite. As you can see in the above photo, the heel tries to slide back and stick out on my foot. I hate hate hate knitting heel flaps so I think I’d like to try a short row heel sometime soon. I’ve done one before and it fit my foot very nicely. Imperfect heel or not, these socks are already in my regular wearing rotation, and they bring me so much joy!

So, I’ve cast on a new project. Stranded mittens

These are the Peace de Resistance mittens from Bristol Ivy knit with Finullgarn Rauma. I’m being SO monogamous with this project. It’s my first time doing Magic Loop in several years. When I tried it the first time I was a new knitter and took advice from someone on how to do it. I got a super quick tutorial and I ended up trying it with too short cables. Of course I got awful jogs and decided I “hated magic loop.” But I finally came around to the idea that maybe it wasn’t my fault but rather the fact that I relied on a 30 second schpeel for a new technique and I actually went to youtube and watched how to do it. I’m hooked! I want to start knitting socks this way immediately. Hence, my current monogamy with these mittens. I’m using my one long cabled sock needle on the mittens and I don’t want to cast on anything else too big or complicated. (I’m on kind of a roll right now and I don’t want to stall out). So, as soon as these mitts are done it’ll be socks a-go-go.

Trying to decide whether I want to do two color sparkly shorties or another pair of stripeys. Luckily I’ve got some time – I’m only about half done with the first of these two mittens. Stranded colorwork takes a bit longer. I’m having so much fun making them, though! The pattern is simple and engaging. Can’t wait to show these off!

Here there be drachenfels…

Drachenfels Shawl
It’s finally finished. This crazy, epic thing is finished. The pattern is Drachenfels by Melanie Berg. Color A was Malabrigo Sock in the color Cote D’Azur, Color B was Ella Rae Lace Merino (not sure the exact color, but it’s a cream/neutral), and Color C was Froebe Fibers in Big Sur Cooler. That one is a hand-dyed thing I picked up at a fiber festival in Vinton, IA several years ago. I put these colors together while imagining a beach somewhere. At the time I was busy at home with a newborn and dreaming of relaxing in the sun. Now, my daughter’s days away from two years old and we’ve been through more than one summer season.

For me, a working, breastfeeding, toddler mom, finishing this beast had become my nemesis. It sat in my craft closet, untouched, for the better part of a year. It was keeping me from other things. I always feel bad casting on too many wips.

But the rows had gotten pretty long, for me. I can say with

Golden Girls Tee Shirt
My sister showed up at my house in this t-shirt recently and I loved it so much!

authority that the final rows took me one episode of the Golden Girls to complete (the whole series is on Hulu right now – so funny!)

In any case, I decided to really focus and finish this sucker. As I was getting to the end it occurred to me that I had striped a hand-dyed yarn with a bare, and I began to get worried. I started testing options for blocking – luckily even a plain block didn’t seem to cause too much dye transfer (though the water turned BRIGHT turquoise!). I ended up using Color Catchers in the block and everything seems to have come out fine. I can’t imagine finishing such a huge piece only to have it ruined with the block. What a disaster that could have been.

I’m so glad this thing’s done. I’m focusing on finishing my only other current wip: my rainbow socks. And cruising Ravelry for shawls in DK weight and up….

Social Media Update

So in the last couple of weeks I’ve made some changes to my “online presence” if anyone can call it that. I decided to take my previously public twitter and instagram profiles private. It’s a tough decision, but ultimately I decided that only “most” but not “all” of the people who follow me are people I know in real life and I share way too many photos of my daughter to feel comfortable. I teach a class in online privacy and I know the risks and I wasn’t following my own advice. It’s just not worth it to chance that someone may track your location in real time. After tons of stewing over it I decided to go private. It would have been an easy decision except – I love being able to engage with people I don’t know online. In both the crafting and tech worlds, there are lots of things happening that I need a public profile in order to interact with.

So, separately from that problem, another thing I did recently was to change my ravelry name. I’ve been getting away from my old username on a lot of my profiles because it doesn’t have anything to do with crafting and it’s a holdover from junior high – so many things have changed and I loved it but it didn’t feel like me. It was also annoying to have to explain to people when I already have a first name that I have to explain.

My blog name had to change too. I want to start posting here more frequently and I do a lot more than just knitting.

So these issues became an opportunity. I picked a single name (which is actually a name I picked for an Etsy store I’ve never posted anything into, but I digress) and I started a new insta account, updated my rav profile, and now my blog handle. I am set up with wordpress which I’m super comfortable with, and we’re going to see how this goes.

So since the three people actually reading this know me “IRL” so to speak, hopefully it won’t be too confusing. I’m going to post M pictures to my old, private account and more or less everything else is going over to VeryGoodThreads. A trial balloon, or something.

Here we go.

Edelweiss Hat

Last fall, M needed a hat. I had two ideas, one was knitted, one was sewed. I’m a working mom, so the sewed one got completed first. I knitted 90% of this hat and then it sat, unfinished, with only the last of the decrease rows and the pompom left to do. Until this winter. Luckily, I had made the hat well large enough that it should fit her next year as well (oh to love the stretchiness of knitting). And when it gets snug, which won’t be for a while, I’ll block it!

I made this hat from 1 skein of Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky in the natural/cream colorway (I’m pretty sure the actual color name is Ecru). I used every last bit of this skein because after finishing the hat I used the remainder for the pompom. 
The hat was knit on size 8 needles – I used Addi turbos with a 16″ cable for the body then switched to my Hiya Hiya size 8 double pointed needles to complete the decreases. I got some of the measurements I used from the book The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd. I’ve put a bunch of helpful tutorials at the bottom of this post in case someone who’s making their first hat stumbles upon this post. 

Though she’s petite for her age, M has a very average 1-year-old’s head size (she’s literally been 50th percentile for head circumference at every checkup since she was born). I would say the fit is loose, slouchy, stretchy, and just right for the hat to last her through not only this winter but next winter as well.

Materials:
1 wound skein of Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky (or at least 108 yards of a similar, bulky weight yarn)
1 set of Size 8 needles, double pointed
1 set of Size 8 needles, circular, 16″ cable (optional, but very nice to have, especially for beginners)
1 stitch marker (or a small loop of scrap yarn)
1 yarn needle
Scissors
Ruler or Tape measure

Cast on 72 stitches on your 16″ circular needle (if you have it). (I like Old Norwegian cast on because it’s a little bit looser than a long tail or other kinds of cast on, but not everyone knows it, so if you don’t, just use the cast on method of your choice). Join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist, and place a marker at the beginning of your round.

Knit in 1×1 (knit one, purl one) ribbing for 5 inches. Switch to stockinette (knit every stitch) for 3 inches.

Begin to decrease for the top of the hat as follows:

When the hat begins to be too small for the circular needles, switch to the double pointed needles.
Row 1: (Knit 10, K2TOG), around(66 sts)
Row 2: (Knit 9, K2TOG), around (60 sts)
Row 3: (Knit 8, K2TOG), around (54 sts)
Row 4: (Knit 7, K2TOG), around (48 sts)
Row 5: (Knit 6, K2TOG), around (42 sts)
Row 6: (Knit 5, K2TOG), around (36 sts)
Row 7: (Knit 4, K2TOG), around (30 sts)
Row 8: (Knit 3, K2TOG), around (24 sts)
Row 9: (Knit 2, K2TOG), around (18 sts)
Row 10: (Knit 1, K2TOG), around (12 sts)
Row 11: K2TOG around (6 sts)

When 6 stitches are left on the needles, cut yarn leaving about a 12″ tail and using your yarn needle, thread tail through remaining stitches. Pull tightly, closing the hole. Weave tail in and cut.

Make a pom pom using remaining yarn. I would gauge my hand size as a “large woman’s size” and I made my pom pom around my middle, ring, and pinky fingers (as a size reference). Of course, you could make your pom pom larger or smaller to suit your taste. I really like this tutorial for making pom poms:

That’s it! If you need more tutorials on hat-making, I HIGHLY recommend the tincanknits series. If you are looking for good youtube videos about hat-making techniques, this one is pretty good (aside from the presenter being a little in your face).

Most Youtube tutorials are showing you how to make a specific hat pattern, which can get confusing, so instead of searching for “how to knit a hat” I recommend searching for a particular element of a pattern you’re having trouble with, like “How to join to knit in the round” or “How to knit 1×1 ribbing”)

Happy knitting!

On Warmth

Knitting is fun. Knitting is therapeutic. Knitting can provide opportunities for community, growth, and expression. However, in the end, knitting is about warmth. I knit a lot of things that are pretty, but lately I’ve been knitting my little fingers off because the weather’s turning and my family’s heads are literally chilly and in need of woolly goodness!

Last night I was doing up the final rows of the Antifreeze I’m making for Joe. There’s something to be said about finishing up a warm hat for someone just as the first snow of the year starts to fall outside your windows. We live in Iowa and winters here can be brutal. Last winter I felt sorry for him as he dutifully did our driveway over and over with his poor face wrapped several times in a store bought acrylic scarf he’s had since before we even met. I ventured to improve his situation. I grabbed a skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca from Ben & Flo’s in Mount Vernon. It’s a plied wool/alpaca/acrylic blend which will make it super warm and super durable/washable. I knit it at a dense gauge as well.

I finished the bind off this morning and I didn’t even get the chance to do the edging before he snatched it for its first test run.

I asked him if he wanted his hood up over the hat and he said no way, he’d get too warm. I think that’s a success. In fact, he’s just come inside and declared his new hat to be the warmest piece of clothing he’s ever owned.

He’s a big Hawkeye fan, so when he lets me have it back to do the finishing I plan to use an old gold I’ve got in the stash around the edge of the face.

Miss Maya has already received one new hat; this one was sewn. It’s a jersey sweatshirt material on the outside lined with faux shearling. It’s pretty big but perfect for this intense weather.

I’m also working on a knitted hat for her from cream colored baby alpaca in a chunky weight. So far I’m just working on a 1×1 ribbing and making it up as I go. I’m not sure where I’m headed, but I know it will end in a pom pom! I’ve already knit one hat for her this year, a beautiful cobalt blue wool that was too small already when I finished it. Isn’t that just classic?

We’re having such a lovely snowy morning here in Iowa with cinnamon rolls and fresh coffee and jammies and naps and crafting. I hope you’re having a lovely morning too!