Just knits and purls (plus giveaway)

You know that thing we tell new knitters when we’re trying to be reassuring?  That thing about how knitting is just knits and purls (and that really those are just the two sides of the same stitch)?  And that’s true.  Of course it is.

But there’s also that thing that happens when there aren’t any skittish looking new knitters around to scare.  That thing where you say you just spent 45 minutes trying to figure out which of six subtly different decreases you like best.  Or you tried three different cast ons to see which was prettiest with your ribbing.  Or you tucked your decreases inside a cable and you’re feeling ridiculously pleased with yourself.  And you tell another knitter about these escapades and their eyes light up and they totally get it.  And then they regale you with the thing they’re working on that’s every bit as nuts nifty.

Well, if you’re past the point where you want reassurance that it’s all easy and you’ll have it down in ten minutes flat, and have moved on to the point where you’re excited at the idea of there being a bunch of ways to accomplish your goal (because you get to find the one that’s just perfect for your project…and you might even get to learn a new one), then what you need is a reference book (or maybe a few reference books…they tend to multiply if you’re not careful).  The folks at Vogue have just sent me a copy of their updated and rereleased Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book, and it could be just what you’re looking for!

So let’s talk a little bit about reference books.  If we’re being honest, very few folks are going to sit down with a big book (and this is a marvelously big book), start at page one, and read all the way through to the end.  I know I don’t.  I generally pull them out when I want to look something up (I will never remember the provisional cast on right on the first try…and it’s more efficient if I double check how to graft in garter rather than just swearing at it for an hour and then giving up and checking anyway).  And that means that the organizational structure of a reference book matters a lot.  The folks putting this one together paid a lot of attention to organizing this in a way that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.

There’s a general table of contents and index of course, but they’ve taken it quite a bit farther.  Each chapter starts with another mini table of contents (so if you’re going to the chapter on lace, you can look at the chapter table of contents to figure out where the section on blocking is).  The chapters are also color coded (with a stripe on the edge of the page), which makes it easy to see ‘oh, the cable chapter is blue, let me just flip to the blue pages.’  And, on many pages, there’s a little cross references section at the bottom that points you to related things you might want to know.  So on a page about grafting, it says hey…did you need to double check what slipping knitwise or purlwise meant? Those are over here. Or maybe you want to brush up on right side and wrong side? They’re over here.  The result is a book that’s easy to use.  And since reference books are meant to be tools, that’s really important.

There are chapters on things like supplies (yarn, needles, tools), basics (casting on, knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing, binding off), lace, cables, colorwork, and what they call advanced techniques (brioche, double knitting, dropped stitch patterns).  There are also chapters on understanding patterns (because really…most patterns make a lot of assumptions about general knitting knowledge), correcting errors, finishing your projects (meaning how to put them together, not how to actually get around to knitting the last few rows), and caring for your knits.  And finally, a set of chapters on designing sweaters, shawls, and accessories.  Each of the chapters gives a solid introduction to the topics without providing so much information as to risk being overwhelming, and that’s a hard balance to strike.  It’s easy to do a cursory explanation, and it’s easy to do a Massive Brain Dump.  But finding a balance between the two, especially across such a wide range of topics, is impressive.

Now, no single reference book is going to be a perfect fit for every single knitter on every single topic (and if it tried, it would be 2,400 pages long and too heavy to lift).  And there is a tiny list of things I’d tweak a bit.  There are few increases and decreases I felt were missing, I wish they’d explained that chart symbols vary widely from pattern to pattern rather than suggesting that standard symbols were a thing, and I’d have loved to see recommendations for books to read if you want to learn more about a particular topic (one of these days I need to make this myself…).  But those are very minor quibbles.  And if we’re being honest, I’d have a similar list of tiny tweaks for any book that tried to do this much in one volume.

But if you’re at the point in your knitting where you’re past the need for the ‘no really, it’s super easy, if you can tie your shoes you can do it’ pep talk and ready to have dig a little deeper, this will totally help you do it!

The good folks at Vogue are letting me send a copy of the book off to two of you.  We’ll give one away here, and one over on this instagram post (it’s totally fine to enter in both places).  To enter here, just leave a comment on this post telling me your very favorite reference book.  Is it a fabulous stitch dictionary? Or maybe a really great cookbook?  Or maybe you have a soft spot for the Chicago Manual of Style?  There’s no right or wrong answer (and it totally doesn’t have to be a fiber book…), it’s just awesome to know what you guys go back to again and again.

Comments left between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Friday, March 30, 2018 will be entered to win.  I’ll pick a winner, contact them to get their addresses, and arrange to send the book their way.  Be sure to use a real email address so I can contact you if you’ve won (I won’t do anything with those email addresses besides notify the winner).  If I do email you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them. Sorry, but I can only ship physical prizes to US or Canadian addresses.  Oh, and for anyone playing along at home, the picture of the book cover is Vogue’s, but they said I could use it.

Phaeodaria (plus giveaway)

You know how sometimes I come along and say ‘so I know this looks tricky, but you’ll have it down in no time?’  Well that’s not these socks.  Phaeodaria actually are just a tiny bit tricky, but wow are they worth it!

pd 1 sThe leg?  It’s one big chart with a lovely, intricate, twirly, swirly extravaganza of tiny twisted cables.  I won’t lie to you, you will totally need to pay a bit of attention for that part (really though, I have faith in you, you can totally do it).  But I’m not completely heartless. By the time you get to the foot, I know you’ll want a bit of a break.  So the pattern on the foot is every bit as lovely, but much more relaxing. That part you really will have memorized in no time!And really, if you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I don’t believe in boring socks!  We’re knitters, we’re mighty, and we deserve to be entertained by our knitting.

pd 2 sOne of the things that helps make these entertaining is the gorgeous Haiku yarn from Anzula.  There are some sizeable stretches of purl stitches on these socks, so you want a yarn with fairly subdued color changes (purl stitches mix up yarn colors more than knit stitches do, flip over a piece of colorful stockinette to see what I mean, things are way more chaotic on the purl side).  But the patterning, especially on the foot, is regular enough that you can absolutely get away with something more interesting than just a solid.  This Shiitake colorway is absolutely perfect (though I confess quite a few of Anzula’s colors are delightful and would be amazing here).

pd 3 sAnd the lovely folks at Anzula are going to make one of you very happy.  I’ve got a beautiful skein of Haiku in Shiitake to send off to one of you.  Just leave a comment telling me how you feel about slightly fiddly socks to be entered to win.  Do you love a bit of a challenge?  Only if the pattern really grabs you? Or do you want your socks to be simple as can be?  There’s no right answer, I just want to know what you guys like!

And while I can’t quite manage to yarn to everyone, I can give everyone a discount.  You can use the code TWISTY to get a dollar the price between now and Friday.  Just put Phaeodaria in your ravelry cart, click on the ‘use a coupon code’ button, and type in the code TWISTY.  You’ll see the change in price reflected right away.

pd 4 sComments left between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Friday, April 8, 2016 will be entered to win.  I’ll pick a winner, contact them to get their addresses, and arrange to send yarn their way.  Be sure to use a real email address so I can contact you if you’ve won (I won’t do anything with those email addresses besides notify the winner).  If I do email you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them.  Sorry, but I can only ship physical prizes to US addresses.

New Directions in Sock Knitting (plus giveaway)

If you’ve been here for a while, you know I have opinions about socks.  Socks are supposed to start at the top, go for a while, make a turn, go for a while more, then make a toe.  It’s the natural order of things.  And while I understand that some folks may make their socks other ways (which is cool, you make your socks however you want, my sock opinions only deal with my socks, not yours), I never quite got why.

So I was more than a little surprised when the lovely Ann Budd asked me to contribute a pattern to her new book, New Directions in Sock Knitting: 18 Innovative Designs Knitted From Every Which Way.  I think my socks are lovely and comfy and fun to make, but I do not generally think of them as especially innovative.

sock knittingBut Ann is charming (and persuasive!) and we found a happy medium.  I would stick with my top-down tube with a bend plan, with just a little tweak to how you do the bend part.  The result is a lovely way to take a baby step into a different construction (without anything too scary if you’re in the sock traditionalist camp with me).

cleaveThe socks are called Cleave, and are just one of the patterns in the book (the rest get much more adventurous).  If you’re looking for new ways to wrap lovely cozy wool around your feet, you’ll want this one on your shelf!

And I’ve got a copy of it to send home with one of you.  Just leave a comment telling me how you feel about sock construction to be entered to win (top down? toe up? the weirder the better? there are no right or wrong answers, I’m just looking for your opinions!).

Oh, and Ann’s got one more little goody to tuck in with the winner’s book, a nifty little gauge ruler that’s way more fun that it should be (I can’t find them for sale online anywhere, but you can have your yarn store ask her for them if you need one too. Heard from Ann, and she says “folks can purchase rulers (minimum order of 5 rulers at $5 each) directly from annbudd@annbuddknits.com.” So if you need one, you can either ask your yarn shop to order them or get them straight from Ann! And it looks like the folks over at Knit Circus have them too!).

rulerComments left between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Friday, January 29, 2016 will be entered to win.  I’ll pick a winner, contact them to get their addresses, and arrange to send the book their way.  Be sure to use a real email address so I can contact you if you’ve won (I won’t do anything with those email addresses besides notify the winner).  If I do email you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them.  Sorry, but I can only ship physical prizes to US addresses.

Graupel (plus giveaway)

You know how the right yarn and the right stitches can come together to make something that’s niftier than it has any right to be?  That’s totally what happens with Graupel, and I’m so excited to have them back out!

graupel main smallThe leg has a little sample of everything (a bit of cabling, a bit of lace, and a bit of ribbing), all in a four row repeat.  Yet somehow, it manages to feel calm, not busy.

graupel 6 smallThen when you get down to the foot, stitches come swooping in from the side to wrap your foot in soothing stockinette.  Now of course you could continue the pattern all the way down the foot, and that would be lovely (and the pattern does tell you how you would do it) but this way is much more fun!

graupel 2 smallI love how nice big areas of stockinette show off a gorgeous yarn.  You’ll want to pick a yarn with fairly subtle color variations for these.  The columns of purl stitches can be up to four stitches wide, and more heavily variegated yarns can look a bit unruly on the purl side.

graupel 5 smallThis Midsommar Sock from Solstice Yarn is just perfect.  The colors are varied enough to be interesting, but subtle enough to show off your fancy stitches.  I’ve got a skein of it in Catnip to send home with someone.  Just leave a comment telling me how you feel about variegated yarn to be entered to win.  (Pretty in the skein but not so much fun knit up? Love the challenge of finding the right pattern?  Better to stick with solids?  Unable to resist?  There’s no wrong answer, we’re just chatting!)

And while I can’t send yarn to everyone, I can give everyone a discount.  Just use the code SOOTHE to get a dollar the price between now and Friday.  Just put Graupel in your ravelry cart, click on the ‘use a coupon code’ button, and type in the code SOOTHE.  You’ll see the change in price reflected right away.

graupel 7 smallComments left between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Friday, October 30, 2015 will be entered to win.  I’ll pick a winner, contact them to get their addresses, and arrange to send yarn their way.  Be sure to use a real email address so I can contact you if you’ve won (I won’t do anything with those email addresses besides notify the winner).  If I do email you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them.  Sorry, but I can only ship physical prizes to US addresses.

Fall with SweetGeorgia (review and giveaway)

I have a long history of loving SweetGeorgia’s yarns.  I used them way back in my very first book and have been happily playing with them ever since (oh and there just might be a pattern in one of their yarns in the new book due out next month).  I love it when yarn companies collaborate with designers, so when I heard they were releasing a collection this fall, I was totally excited!

fall with sweetgeorgiaThe collection is called Fall with SweetGeorgia (that ‘volume 1’ part there makes me hope there are more things planned), and it’s delightful.  It’s a lovely mix of accessories and garments, all carefully designed to show off the depth and richness of hand-dyed yarns.

The collection includes a total of 12 pieces, four sweaters (each in at least six sizes, which is awesome), two big shawls, and six smaller accessories.  Glenwood is totally my kind of sweater (and, if one of you could just turn me into a sweater knitter, I know I’d wear it all the time), Reiland looks like just the thing if you’re looking to tuck into a big lace project, and Nexus seems like a perfect cross between a scarf and a shawl.  I suspect you’ll have a grand time with any of them!

The patterns are all available individually (though I confess I wish there were a way to buy them all together, they’re pretty enough I think you’ll want more than one), and there will be knit alongs over on the SweetGeorgia ravelry group if anything has caught your eye.  The folks at SweetGeorgia are going to get one of you started on a pattern of your choice.  Just leave a comment letting me know which pattern you’d most like to cast on and why.  I’ll pick a winner next week and put you in touch with the SG folks to send the pattern your way.

Comments left between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Monday, October 19, 2015 will be entered to win.  I’ll pick a winner, contact them to get their rav name, and arrange to send the pattern their way.  Be sure to use a real email address so I can contact you if you’ve won (I won’t do anything with those email addresses besides notify the winner).  If I do email you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them.  This is an electronic prize, so it’s open to anyone.