Thursday, April 29, 2010

Other people's FOs: Emo socks

Here are some pix of a lovely sock made by Anmiryam, in BBF Superwash Merino Classic, colorway Emo.

Because I have early onset Alzheimer's, I forget the name of the pattern but I'm sure she'll chime in.

Other than that, I got nothin'.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Update today: beautiful bamboo/merino blend & a new laceweight

Sorry I've been quiet lately. Nothing unusual going on; just haven't had much to blog about other than the occasional book review and pattern or yarn announcement. I am very much looking forward to Maryland Sheep & Wool, which is this coming weekend. I will take lots of photos and give you the full report. In the meantime, I've got two lovely new base yarns. The first is a laceweight, a blend of 80% alpaca and 20% silk.

Spring Rain

I just bought a little of this to see how it would perform in the dyepots and what it would be like texture-wise, and I think you'll like it. Super-soft and takes the dye beautifully. I've got 800-yard skeins in four colorways.

Chocolatte Plum

I'll definitely be getting some more of this for future updates.

The other yarn is a fingering weight blend of 80% superwash merino and 20% bamboo fibers. I've called it "Bamberino" and the skeins are around 420 yds/100g.


This is an extremely soft yarn with a gorgeous hand. Because of the merino content, it doesn't feel excessively limp but you get an extra sheen and silkiness from the bamboo fibers.

Frosted Violet

I tried to create some colorways that felt like spring, a bit softer and clearer.


There are some brights, too, but I love the way the yarn creates gorgeous muted colorways like this:

Cherry Blossoms

Use the code on the front page of the website for free shipping on merchandise over $25....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New St-Denis Magazine ....

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but did I ever tell you how dearly I love Véronik Avery? Just out: the second issue of St.-Denis Magazine, the magazine which accompanies Véronik's lovely yarn line.

I am thrilled to report that I have two designs in this issue. The first is a tabard, a layering piece, for little girls:

It's knit in one piece and requires very little finishing. Nordique yarn is really wonderful for colorwork, so it was great fun to play with swatches. It probably won't surprise you to learn that it was designed with Little Miss in mind.

Although we were unable to fly Little Miss to Montreal for a photo shoot, the little girl who is wearing it is absolutely beautiful, no?

The other garment is a woman's sweater called Michelene (my great-grandmother who emigrated from Poland was named Michelene):

This sweater is knit in the new St.-Denis yarn, Boréale, which is a fingering-weight version of Nordique. For those of you wrinkling your nose at "fingering weight," be advised that Michelene is knit at a looser gauge, so that you can't complain about it taking too long to knit.

If you'd like to ogle the rest of the patterns before you immediately call your LYS to see when the magazine will be in stock, go here. There are so many lovely patterns in this issue, including a terrific cardigan by Laura Grutzeck and designs from such other knitting luminaries as Robin Melanson, Kat Coyle, Jared Flood and Pam Allen.

P.S. My Asymmetric Pullover design from the first St.-Denis Magazine

is now available as a single download exclusively from Patternfish. Go here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blog Tour: Knits Men Want, by Bruce Weinstein

Knitting for men is a proposition fraught with peril. Sometimes it seems as though the kinds of things the knitter wants to make for a man in her life are completely different from what that man wants to wear. Add to that the varying styles that men can have (compare a hipster working in a creative field in Soho to a suburban guy with an office job to a man who lives in a rural area spending a lot of time outdoors) and although a knitter may badly want to make something for her guy, she may not know exactly what.

Enter Bruce Weinstein. Fresh from our friends at Stewart Tabori & Chang comes Knits Men Want: The 10 Rules Every Woman Should Know Before Knitting for a Man~ Plus the Only 10 Patterns She'll Ever Need (2010; MSRP $18.95, available for $12.89 at the time of this writing through the link). Weinstein is ably assisted in his venture by Jared Flood, a.k.a. "Brooklyn Tweed," who took the beautiful photographs that fill the book.

Raglan-Sleeved Henley

Knits Men Want is a somewhat untraditional knitting book. It begins with an introduction explaining Weinstein's philosophy, and then is organized into ten chapters. Each chapter begins with one of Weinstein's "rules" for knitting for men, backed up by a few paragraphs of personal anecdote (my least favorite part, actually, since I thought that it veered into stereotype a bit too much), and is accompanied by one master pattern. The master pattern is a kind of template or table, giving the knitter different sizes to pick from and different gauge choices, enabling her to select the type of yarn she (or her man) prefers, determine its gauge, and then go right to the numbers that correspond to yarn gauge and size.

Because this is a book that is premised on the opinion that men and women think very differently about knitting, I've decided to do something a little different for this post. You may be aware that I am not a man, nor do I play a man on teevee. Therefore, I have enlisted the help of a real, live, 100% certified man to proffer his opinion on Knits Men Want: Mr. Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat himself, my beloved husband.

First though, I will run through the mechanics of the book for you. Knits Men Want is a paperback with fold-in covers, approx. 128 pages long. I know I've already mentioned that Brooklyn Tweed did the photography, but it bears repeating because the photographs (and the styling) are so beautiful. The book contains a total of ten patterns, but as noted above, these are more in the nature of templates, since they provide instructions for multiple gauges. The ten patterns consist of the following: six sweaters (one contains a vest variation, too), fingerless mitts, thick socks, a cabled scarf and a watch cap. The sweater sizes range from 40" to 60" finished chest, going by four-inch increments. Even the mitts, hat and socks come in varying circumferences, a nice touch that recognizes that men come in different sizes too. (The scarf is, obviously, presented in only one size/gauge, but features an inset box with tips for changing gauge.) Schematics are provided for the sweaters (note that some of the tech editing was done by the eagle-eyed Robin Melanson) and the cable pattern for the scarf is charted. There's a page of special techniques in the back, but the book wisely assumes that the reader already knows the basics of knitting.

One final note: if you have a knitting-for-a-guy story, check out STC's Knits Men Want sweepstakes here. There are all sorts of prizes available, including some of the sample items from the book.

Without further ado, to give you the man's opinion on the patterns and advice, I now present a Very Special Guest Contributor:

Mr. Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat's Book Review

As a non-knitter, but someone who isn't clueless about clothes (unlike the standard-issue guy described by Weinstein), I had a mainly positive reaction to Knits Men Want. Weinstein gives some solid recommendations about what men look for in a knitted garment -- muted colors, subtle styling (e.g. no big shawl collars), finer gauge fabric, small plain buttons, non-shiny zippers, and so on. On the other hand, he frames his advice in too many Mars-Venus stereotypes (women love to shop; men wear the same thing for 20 years; women are verbal; men just buy 10 copies of the same sweater in different dark colors; men use their sweaters to clean up spills and can't be trusted with nice fabric; women love cute bright stuff; men are big babies who only want to wear oversized soft clothing).

I used to think that Italian-American stereotypes were the last socially-acceptable prejudice (see, for example, commercials for jarred pasta sauce; commercials for The Olive Garden; Tony Danza's entire career; Joey from Friends) but I think the stereotype of the always-befuddled, helpless, meathead guy/dad/husband/boyfriend may have the guido thing beat. (Could you imagine the uproar if women were routinely portrayed in the media as being unable to dress or groom themselves, make decorating decisions, operate household appliances, or follow instructions on over-the-counter medicine labels without assistance from their smarter, savvier spouse, fiancé, children or sassy gay sidekick?)

But now I'll climb down from my soapbox and talk about the garments in the book.A couple of the sweaters in the book are great and go right to the top of my maybe-a-certain-someone-could-knit-that-for-me list. The Baseball Jersey with the saddle shoulder (rather than the traditional raglan sleeves) is a definite keeper -- deceptively simple looking but with an unexpected design element that keeps it from being boring.

Baseball Jersey

The Zipper Cardigan manages to avoid the Mr. Rogers look with a nicely proportioned collar and some subtle stripes created with different stitch patterns -- not colors.

Basic Cardigan

The Hooded Sweatshirt seems like a great weekend pullover that you could wear most of the year (I might suggest a slightly less elfin shape to the hood, but that's a minor quibble).

Hooded Sweatshirt

On the accessories side, the Thick and Warm Socks are simple-looking but helpfully designed to not fall down (one of my pet peeves with socks).

Thick & Warm Socks

The Reversible Cable Scarf is a handy wardrobe staple and would work with both a casual jacket or a longer topcoat you would wear to work.

Reversible Cable Scarf

The book had a couple of "Huh?" moments for me as well. After all of the advice about understated color and subtle design, the book has some items that made me raise my manly eyebrows -- fingerless mitts in traffic pylon orange (might work in Park Slope, but I'm not expecting to see them in suburbia any time soon);

Fingerless Mitts

and the mock turtleneck, all-over-ribbed Ski Sweater in, um, heathered teal ('nuff said).

Ski Sweater

If I had one major complaint, it's that a book that purports to be a selection of knits for men ignores some major categories of traditional men's designs that I would place under the admittedly imprecise heading "preppy basics" -- for example, there's no argyle, no fair isle, no aran/fisherman sweater, no Norwegian or Lopi-style motifs. Given the aesthetic sensibility that runs through this book, a Weinstein take on one or more of these design traditions could be very interesting.

Overall I liked Knits Men Want for its nicely done patterns for wearable wardrobe basics presented with attractive graphic design and excellent photography. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to watching the game in my undershirt while sitting in my recliner with a beer in my hand.

Mr. Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat is an attorney, raconteur, lagomorph-lover and occasional spokesmodel for Black Bunny Fibers.
He is rarely befuddled or helpless and never a meathead.

All photos c.2010 by Jared Flood.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No-Bull Book Review: Comfort Knitting & Crochet: Afghans

That Norah Gaughan is such a little minx! She's been creating fabulous, distinctive knitting designs (Knitting Nature is a wonderful book); she has revitalized the venerable Berroco yarn company by creating fabulous new yarns and a fresh sensibility; and as if that weren't enough, she's taken the "ack" out of acrylic by creating a yarn line, Comfort, that contains entirely man-made fibers --and has a lovely hand, good colors and terrific pattern support. [Please note that I will delete with great relish any comments that use the phrase "yarn snob." Go start a Ravelry thread if you want to debate yarn snobbery.] You wouldn't think that Norah'd have time to write a new book, but apparently she is one of those people who only needs two hours of sleep per day, for I was delighted to receive a review copy of Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Afghans (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2010), by Norah Gaughan, Margery Winter and the Berroco Design Team.

I have been watching this growing trend of books devoted to a single yarn produced by a regular publishing company (as opposed to being published by the company that makes the yarn). Within the last few years, we've seen books dedicated to the gorgeous Koigu, a book with projects knit entirely in Cascade 220, a book devoted to the joys of Rowan's Kid Silk Haze, and now we've got a book of afghans knit entirely in Berroco's Comfort yarns. I am indeed curious to see whether this trend will continue (and if it does, what yarns will be featured)... but I digress. Let's give Comfort Afghans the No-Bull Book Review treatment.

Ethel (C)

The book is paperback, with fold-in covers, about 160 pages long, and MSRP is $19.95 (you can score it for $13.57 via the above link at the time of this writing). The book contains, as you surely figured out by now, all afghans: I counted 51 of them, 27 of which are knit and 24 of which are crocheted. Why so many afghans? Well, the introduction explains:
an afghan is the epitome of comfort. It is a staple of the home, the finishing touch that pulls together a living room or bedroom and makes it feel complete. But the usefulness of an afghan extends far beyond sofas and beds. An afghan easily transforms into a picnic blanket for a day at the beach; a wrap at dusk when the temperature drops; even a child's playtime tent.

The process of making an afghan is often as rewarding as the finished product, since there are so many opportunities to customize it to your personal taste and needs.
And if that weren't enough to convince you, remember that afghans don't suffer from sizing problems, even if you gain or lose weight; they tend not to go out of style as quickly as a garment may; and gauge often becomes less important since the afghan just needs to cover a lap or a baby or a sofa, without precisely calibrated measurements.

In terms of style, you'll find just about every kind of afghan and technique imaginable. As per usual with Norah Gaughan, you'll also find some extremely novel and creative patterns, too.

Like cables?

Textured Knots (K)

Fond of ethnic-inspired colorwork or redwork quilts?

Ukrainian Tiles (K)

Prefer your throws to be understated?

Ribbon (C)

You can also find modular knitting

Bright Star (K)

representational still life

Still Life (K)

embroidery and Tunisian crochet

Marrakesh (C)


Weave (K)

a holiday-themed afghan

Mistletoe (C)

lacy stitch patterns

Lucy (C)

afghans suitable for babies

Little Waves (C)

partchwork-style squares

Gypsy Patchwork (K)

and of course the intriguing geometric motifs that Norah Gaughan is known for:

Swirl (K)

There are even afghans suitable for using up your odds and ends of yarn if you choose not to reproduce the lovely colorway that the sample is worked in:

Autumn Haze (K)

(this photo has "Free" written in the corner to remind you that if you go to the Berroco website, you can download a copy of this pattern for free, and in no way indicates a certain laziness on the part of the reviewer in neither rescanning the photo nor cropping out said "Free" notation.)

Before finishing up a discussion of the various designs, it's worth noting that although I've mentioned Norah Gaughan a lot, since she's the creative director of Berroco, other folks from Berroco worked together on the book and designed some of the afghans themselves. So here's a big shout-out to Margery Winter, co-author of the book and a former creative director of Berroco who is a very talented and experienced designer (she designed the lovely Ukrainian Tiles and Gypsy Patchwork afghans shown above, among others), and to the other members of the Berroco Design Team: Amanda Keep, Cirilia Rose, Donna Yacino and Brenda York.

Note that although the Table of Contents separates out the afghans according to which craft (the left-hand page lists all the knit ones, and the right-hand page lists all the crocheted ones) the afghans are not divided that way in the book; knit and crochet are intermingled throughout. I don't think this is a big deal, but if you are flipping through the book and looking for just knit or just crocheted afghans, you won't find them in separate sections of the book.

If you've used Comfort before, you're probably aware that it comes in multiple weights, from chunky through fingering. So I tallied up the patterns based on the weight of the Comfort yarn it uses. There are around 6 afghans worked in Comfort Chunky; about 5 worked in Comfort DK; and the remaining 40 or so are worked in regular Comfort, which is a worsted to heavy worsted (knitting at around 4 to 5 sts per inch depending on the stitch and needle size). Given the versatility of gauge, it would be fairly simple to substitute other yarns at these gauges, particularly since afghans give you some play in size.

In addition, I have only the usual flattering things to say about books that come from Stewart Tabori & Chang: beautiful photographs by Thayer Allison Gowdy, lovely styling, nice quality paper, diagrams and charts (including some in color) where appropriate, a few pages listing special techniques and abbreviations in the end. From my eyeballing the book, it looks like skill level will vary from afghan to afghan, given the range of techniques involved. Just as there's something for everyone in terms of taste, there's something for just about every skill level.

Comfort Afghans is, then, a beautifully presented book with an extremely generous selection of patterns for afghans and throws in just about every style imaginable, varying in skill level and with an interesting assortment of techniques. Whether you're an afghan aficionado or a fan of Norah Gaughan and Berroco, you can't go wrong with this book.

All photos c. 2010 by Thayer Allison Gowdy.

Update: Visit the Comfort Afghans blog tour here and get links to all the stops!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Update: more sparkly stuff

I spent last week with a slightly-sick kid (again) and recovering from all the hullaboo surrounding Easter. Yesterday Little Miss lost a tooth, blaming it on Elvis (she said he knocked it out by hitting her with a pillow) and then she tried to convince us that since other kids in her class get $20 from the Tooth Fairy (allegedly) she should, too. Nice try, Little Miss. Even though I think she looks adorable without the top tooth, she refused to smile except with her lips tightly clamped shut. (But she still looks cute...)

I also did a bunch of dyeing last week, including some Twist O'Silk sock yarn (superwash wool/bamboo/silk)



and some Stella, the sparkly fingering weight yarn (mix of wool, silk, nylon and silver):

Space Oddity

Krypton Sun

So if you're in the mood to treat yourself, go have a look!

Coming tomorrow, another book review...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

No-Bull Book Review: Knitting 24/7 by Véronik Avery

It is indeed a red-letter day when the UPS man brings me a copy of a brand-new book by my pal and girl-crush Véronik Avery.

I couldn't wait to get my sweaty little hands on a copy of Knitting 24/7: 30 Projects to Knit, Wear, and Enjoy, On the Go and Around the Clock (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2010) and a review copy arrived late last week.

I'm in heaven.

Knitting 24/7 is designed for the busy knitter: people who are passionate about knitting but never seem to find enough time to knit due to pesky little details like day jobs, family obligations, and chores. As Véronik puts it in her introduction:
I designed the projects in Knitting 24/7 to be portable and to make use of our "extra" time -- those nooks and crannies in our lives when we are busy, yet our hands are free to practice our craft. Many of us like to knit while we travel, wait, watch or listen, and times like these call for projects that can be easily stowed in a bag and contained in our laps. They also call for easily memorized stitch patterns so that charts are not needed once the pattern has been established.

Ostrich Plumes Stole

The book contains 30 projects designed to fill those little bits of time that knitters have -- while watching hockey practice or sitting in the car line or commuting on the bus -- with interesting, stylish, but do-able knitting.

Modern Pillow

The book is divided into three sections: A.M., P.M. and Weekend, each referring to different times when a knitter may be able to sneak in a few rows. (Each section begins with a brief list of suggestions for ways to sneak in more knitting -- in line, waiting for the pizza to arrive, while watching a movie.) A.M. begins with a gorgeous pair of stranded mittens knit in Harrisville Shetland:

Patterned Mittens

as well as lounging socks knit in DK yarn, a cute wool skirt (well, for those with trim little butts), a button-front "grandfather" vest, a lightweight transitional scarf shown in merino/tencel,

Transitional Scarf

a shawl, lovely arm warmers,

1965 Armwarmers

a cabled beret, a fetching colorwork pillow, and a pair of mesh kneesocks. (So many of these would look terrific in Black Bunny Fibers yarn, no?)

Arrowhead Kneesocks

P.M. begins with a cute spiral cloche with large button,

Spiral Tweed Cloche

a clutch with a clever knot at the handle, a pretty shrug, a fine-gauge turtleneck, a linen market bag, another lacy scarf, a slouchy hat, a pretty stole and a pair of slippers -- one version for winter and one for summer.

Weekend features a very smart-looking fleur de lis hat,

Fleur de Lys Hat

an acorn-styled tea cozy, a pair of toe-up socks, a pretty mesh tank top for layering, a striking striped cowl and mitts combo,

Redwork Cowl & Mitts

another pair of stranded colorwork mittens (I love this pair, too),

Heilo Mittens

a headband, a bookmark, lacy cable socks, and lovely red cabled gloves.

Cabled Gloves

If you're looking for a tally, that's:
  • 2 pair of mittens and 1 pair of gloves, along with 1 pair of armwarmers and an armwarmer/cowl combo;
  • 4 hats & 1 headband;
  • 3 pair of socks, plus 1 pair of kneesocks and slippers (with 2 variations);
  • one turtleneck pullover;
  • one vest;
  • one skirt;
  • 3 home dec items (pillow, tea cozy and bookmark);
  • one tank top;
  • 2 bags (clutch and market bag )
  • 2 scarves;
  • 3 wraps (shawl, stole and shrug).
Olive Heather Skirt

Yarn weights are all over the map, ranging from fingering weight (e.g., for the pullover and some of the socks) to sportweight (e.g., the lovely St. Denis Nordique is used for bookmark, beret and headband), to heavy worsted (cloche & tea cozy) to chunky (the shrug). Techniques used in the patterns include lace, felting (one pair of the slippers), cables, and stranded colorwork, as well as a few stockinette items like the pullover sweater. Most of the items are one-size-fits-most, although the pullover is sized from 30.75 inch finished circumference to a 48 inch finished circumference, and the vest goes from 32 to 52 inches finished circumference -- generous sizing.

Fir Cone Shrug

As usual, it's a gorgeous book from cover to cover. It's paperback, about 128 pages, all color, with mouth-watering photos by Thayer Allison Goudy. The book contains a very brief section of special techniques but otherwise doesn't waste time on how-to-knit instructions. There are schematics and diagrams where appropriate as well as charts. We see nice clear shots of the stitch patterns, and close-ups of pattern details are thoughtfully included. With a MSRP of $21.95 (available via the link for a mere $14.93 as of this writing via Amazon), this lovely book full of beautiful patterns is worth every penny!

Leafy Knot Clutch

There is a certain knack to creating patterns that are easy and accessible to knit, but which are elegant and sophisticated-looking -- it's nowhere as easy as it looks. Thank goodness for us multi-tasking knitters that Avery has this knack. Knitting 24/7 is full of gorgeous but do-able patterns, great for making for yourself or giving as gifts.

All photos copyright 2010 by Thayer Allison Goudy.