Friday, April 29, 2011

Koigu Magazine

Earlier this week, my friendly UPS man (with the good-looking legs that all UPS drivers seem to have) brought me a most welcome envelope: it had a copy of the first ever Koigu Magazine in it. Regular readers will remember that I have a very special place in my heart for Koigu. The first hand-dyed yarn I ever knit with was Koigu, and it's not an exaggeration to say that loving my experience with this yarn helped spawn my love of handpaints.

Fireflies (Kathy Merrick)

Every once in a while, I'll hear a knitter ask "What's the big deal about Koigu?" Well, here are a few reasons why it's one of my desert-island yarn picks:
  • Koigu is one of the pioneers of the handpaint industry; the Koigu folks were creating their beautiful & unique yarns long before many of us handdyers had ever mixed our first pot of dye.
  • The colors and color combinations are exquisite and varied -- solids and nearly solids, muted multicolors, wild multicolors, just about anything you could ask for in a handpaint.
  • Koigu tends not to pool, a big plus especially for knitters new to handpaints.
  • It's extremely versatile yarn. The original Koigu, KPM/KPPM, is technically about fingering weight, but it knits well at multiple gauges. You can do lace, or you can knit it at a tighter gauge for socks, or you can knit it at a looser gauge (like 5.5 or 6 sts to the inch) for a drapey effect. You can double it and it knits beautifully, even triple it.
  • Some of the newer base yarns that Koigu has added, like Mori (a blend of wool and silk) and Kersti (a slightly heavier gauge wool) add even more versatility while still giving you luscious Koigu color.
  • Maie Landra's multcolored designs, which include lots of multidirectional knitting and knitting with multiple colorways of Koigu, are beautiful and unique.

Pixie Dust (Maie Landra)

With all of these advantages, it probably shouldn't come as a big surprise that so many knitters and designers love working with Koigu. And that means it shouldn't come as a big surprise that after 25 years of making gorgeous yarn, the Koigu folks decided to produce a magazine devoted to the many ways that a knitter can play with and enjoy Koigu yarn. So let's take a closer look.

Koigu Magazine (MSRP $12.95) is full color, with 25 designs. For this inaugural issue, Koigu aimed squarely at the ladies: all but four of the designs are ladies' garments. (The remaining four are a scarf and a cap which would work for either gender and two throws.) You'll find a little bit of everything, from pullovers to lace stoles to dresses to accessories. I counted the following breakdown:
  • 2 rectangular stoles
  • 8 pullover sweaters
  • one scarf (unisex)
  • 5 cardigans/jackets
  • 3 dresses
  • one skirt (shown with a matching sleeveless sweater)
  • 2 vests
  • a beret and glove combo
  • 2 throws
  • a unisex cap

Kiki (Maie Landra)

Likewise, you'll find a lot of different techniques used in the garments. There are two lovely fair isle/stranded designs,

Deep Sea (l) & Sheep (r) (Maie Landra)

lots of lace (including lacy stitch patterns and lace edgings), modular garments, intarsia style knitting, a cabled garment, lots and lots of use of multiple colorways, some solid garments, one beaded stole, and several garments that experiment with double- and even triple-stranding. While most of the patterns are knit, about four or so are crocheted, including this spectacular throw by Friend of GKIYH Sally Watson Cushmore

[Sally's Bigass Blanket Comfy Cozy (Sally Watson Cushmore)

the aforementioned unisex watch cap, and a fetching beret/glove combo by Friend of GKIYH Kathy Merrick.

Frenchie (Kathy Merrick)

Given the variety of styles included -- from fitted, like this cardigan by New Zealand's Mel Clark

Scholar (Mel Clark)

to flowing, like Maie Landra's Allegra dress,

Allegra (Maie Landra)

it's hard to pick favorites, but I do love the mitered blanket

Squares Cubes & Blocks (Taiu Landra)

the lace stoles

Tumble Leaves (Maie Landra)

and Mel Clark's second cardigan:

Skipping Stones (Mel Clark)

Given the many colors that Koigu yarns come in, it's fun to imagine playing with patterns using different colorways and types of colorways. For example, my own pattern in the issue, called Thistle, is shown in a multi as the main color with solids used for the trim; interestingly, when I originally swatched the design, I used a semisolid for the main color, and a mix of solids and multis for the stripes. I think both work beautifully and I'm awfully tempted to make a version myself playing with more combinations.


Because of the eclectic nature of the designs, the style of patterns varies from designer to designer. Some of the patterns are presented in a single size, others in multiple sizes, and of course some of the patterns (like the scarf, stole and throws) don't need multiple sizes. Charts are given in color for the fair isles, lace is charted, and schematics are given for some but not all designs.

Koigu lovers, rejoice! There's a magazine hot off the presses just for you. Taiu Landra promises that the second volume of Koigu Magazine will be out this fall. More Koigu & Koigu designs can only be A Very Good Thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We'll miss you, Goat Boy.

Remembering with great sadness and much love Steve, a.k.a. Goat Boy.

I hope you are surrounded by a flock of the finest celestial goats, Steve.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Wishing a happy Easter to those of you who are celebrating it...

with many bunny kisses from Charcoal....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The week continues

After the minicupcakes (lots of work for minimal cupcake -- and you can imagine what the kitchen looked like with three sugar-crazed kids slopping cake batter into teeny weeny cups)

I fled in panic to my mother's. First up was bowling

then ice cream, then a quick trip to the Wyoming Monument, which marks the spot of a Revolutionary War battle in which badly-outnumbered colonists were killed by British and Iriquois fighters. Unbeknownst to me, the Wyoming Monument was struck by lightning a while back and was being repaired.

But the cannon were still perfect for a photo op.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In the works

an exciting new project that I'm working on, but can't be clearer about for a little while. (Hint: it involves the publishing world...) Stay tuned!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing airplane glue.....

So the week I resolve to blog regularly again happens to be the week that all three kids are home from school for spring break. Which means that instead of a book review, you get fabric chicken making

and egg dyeing

and even a Dipped Infinity yarn pack going up in the shop (this one is Violetshimmer):

I will spare you the Perler bead-ing -- it's only Monday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Must get blog rolling again.....

Okay, I don't want to become all "wah wah wah" let's just say that I'm surfacing again, with several deadlines met, and the rest (I hope) more or less under control. Now I've got to get this blog rolling again.

So let's play catch-up with an overdue book report. Somehow I haven't done a single one this year, so here's January and February combined. With all the snow and a lot of deadlines looming, I found myself gravitating toward escapist reading, which for me mostly consists of mysteries & police procedurals. I did, however, continue to explore some young adult titles and found two winners there.

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman. Lippman writes the Tess Monaghan series of books, a detective series set in Baltimore, but I've been reading some of her freestanding suspense books because my library always seems to have them. In this book, the main character is a woman who was kidnapped with her sister when they were teenagers. Eliza was held captive for a lengthy period of time before she was found by a state trooper pulling over her kidnapper's car for speeding. The book explores some of the issues that have arisen in cases like Elizabeth Smart, when an impressionable teen is kidnapped, held for a period of time, and although technically has opportunities to escape, has been psychologically conditioned to stay with her captor. More disturbingly, the book also explores the issue of survivor's guilt, through the eyes of a kidnapping victim who witnessed her captor kidnapping and killing another teen. The only part about the book that didn't ring true with me was the plot device that gets the whole thing rolling: Eliza is an adult, with a family, living happily in a Maryland suburb when she gets a creepy letter from her kidnapper insisting that she get in touch with him so he can make amends before his execution. (I think I'd be inclined to tell the guy to go to hell, but maybe that's just me.)

Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse by James Swanson. I read Swanson's previous book, about the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so when I had a chance to snag a free advance copy of this book, I jumped on it. In "Bloody Crimes," Swanson juxtaposes two key events that took place in the days immediately following Abraham Lincoln's assassination: the quest to capture Jefferson Davis after General Lee surrendered on the battlefield, and the bizarre-yet-heartrending funeral procession as Lincoln's body was carried by train through the northeastern U.S. on its way to burial in Illinois.

The background of Lincoln's funeral procession is macabre and fascinating, but there comes a point when Swanson just overdoses on detail, providing lists and lengthy quotes from letters, and so much minute information that the drama of this extremely emotional event -- the beloved president who kept the "united" in United States is mourned by the people who loved him, bringing flowers and other tributes to his coffin, lining up along train tracks to watch the railcars carrying his body go by -- is drowned out. The events that Swanson seeks to parallel with it -- Jefferson Davis's stubborn insistence that the war wasn't over, followed by a half-hearted flight through the south to evade capture -- just don't pack the same emotional wallop. Again, Swanson overloads the reader with details, quoting too many letters at too great a length, and losing the thread of the narrative in the copious details.

I learned a lot about the days following the Civil War in this book, including a great deal I'd never heard about the Lincoln funeral processsion, but I ended up skimming through some of the excessive dry detail. I think the book would have greatly benefited from a brutal editing, and I also think that perhaps the structure of the book was inherently flawed in that trying to base an entire book on the parallels between the funeral procession and Davis' flight just didn't work.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead won a Newbery Award. This is one of those YA books that my oldest kid read first and recommended to me. I really, really enjoyed it. It's a very fast read but the plot is interesting. (Also it features my favorite game show ever, The 10,000 Pyramid.) The book takes place in 1978 New York. The main character, Miranda, has just had a big fight with her best friend, and even her favorite book, A Wrinkle In Time, doesn't completely console her. She starts to receive weird notes that say they want to save her life. I won't spoil it by giving away any more of the plot.

I blew through This Night's Foul Work and Seeking Whom He May Devour both by Fred Vargas. They are part of her series set in France, featuring quirky Commissaire Adamsberg. I've been enjoying this series a great deal and am looking forward to reading more of Vargas when more of herbooks become available in the U.S. I also read The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg, which Amazon insisted I would like because I read so many Scandinavian mysteries. In this book, the first to be translated in the US by Lackberg, a Swedish writer goes to a small coastal town to go through her late parents' belongings and prepare their house for sale. While she is there, an old friend commits suicide. The writer is compelled to investigate the suicide along with a local police officer. I found this a diverting enough thriller, but not as well-written as some of the other Scandinavian authors I've read. Likewise, What Never Happens by Anne Holt (a Norwegian author) was a solid thriller but again, more plot-driven and less literary than some of the other Scandinavian authors I like. Last on the mystery rota was Dissolution by C.J. Sansom, which was a bit of a departure; it takes place in Tudor England and features a hunchback lawyer who is sent to investigate a strange death that occurs in a monastery -- during the time during which Henry VIII's ministers are dissolving monasteries and taking the property & riches therein.

Trapped by Michael Northrup was another quick YA read about a group of teens getting snowed in by the blizzard of the century. The kids miss their rides home on an early dismissal day, and get trapped in their high school when a nor'easter socks their New England town with feet of snow. Lots of suspense, but a rather abrupt ending. Perfect for the "reluctant" boy reader in the family.

Last was my favorite, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. This book is aimed at the "independent reader," kids around grades 4 to 6. I was completely charmed by the book, which was a Newbery runner-up last year. The title character is a girl growing up in rural Texas at the end of the 19th century. Callie is smart and something of a tomboy; she is the only girl in a family full of boys, and she chafes at the expectations society (and her mother) place on her to be more "feminine." She'd rather catch tadpoles and write in her nature journal than practice cooking and sewing, and as the book begins, Callie discovers that her grandfather is immersed in studying science, particularly natural science. Callie and her grandfather form a loving bond as they explore science together.

I loved this book in the same way that I loved books like "Anne of Green Gables" and "The Secret Garden." They all feature heroines who are spunky, smart and outsiders in some way, but who manage to forge bonds with those around them while remaining true to themselves. There's lots of humor, and some bittersweet parts, too, as Callie starts to face growing-up issues -- seeing her beloved older brother fall in love, feeling her younger brother's pain at realizing his pet turkeys are meant to be Thanksgiving dinner.

Last but not least, I updated the BBF shop with 20 skeins of beautiful BFL Tight Twist, a fingering-weight blend of 75% blue-faced leicester and 25% nylon, with generous 450-yd skeins. Here's a peek:



Stained Glass

Friday, April 08, 2011

I'm still here....

and still plugging away at my deadlines. Not much new to report, but I did feel bad letting my blog go silent for so long. Fellow fans of St-Denis & Veronik Avery, I just heard that the third St-Denis Magazine is done and making its way to warehouses all over North America... I can't wait!

And quilters, don't forget that Cherri House will be at Spool this weekend, and meeting people while booksigning tomorrow afternoon. Details here.