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Knits for NerdsKnits for Nerds by Joan of Dark, a.k.a. Toni Carr

As with so many knitting books, I heard about this one on the Knitpicks podcast. There I learned that “Joan of Dark” is Toni Carr’s roller derby name, and that she also has a book of roller derby patterns. Knits for Nerds is a fun little pattern book. It’s organized by obsession rather than by garment type – fantasy, science fiction, comics and manga, and general geekiness. The patterns are mostly intermediate and beginner level, while even the advanced projects seemed more on the intermediate side to me. The yarn called for also is universally less expensive yarn, either from Knitpicks or brands available at craft chains – good for both beginning knitters and for people who might not want to make a major yarn investment for something that would be more for costume than regular wear. That being said, there are both flaming and more subtle geek things here, and while the projects are mostly garments, there are also some bags and stuffies, including a tribble and a robot. Declaration of Geek projects include the Princess Leia hat featured on the cover (with three braid variations), the Next Gen sweater, hobbit feet slippers, and a tiny felted top hat called the Top This fascinator, which one of my knitting friends said her teen daughter would go nuts for. Projects that could blend in or not depending on yarn choice, or would be considered medium geek level include a Jayne Cobb scarf and sock set (hat patterns readily available free on Ravelry), a chess board laptop bag, Gryffindor ebook reader bag, and Mr. Nancy fedora and gloves. Those last would stand out a lot in the called-for bright green and yellow, but a) only a really dedicated fan would recognize them and b) there the yarn color really is everything. My favorite projects fall in the Secret Fan category, including the Dragonrider [fingerless] Gloves, Summer Queen Shawl, and the really gorgeous Aim to Misbehave Brown Jacket. This last is a trench coat length sweater, lace from about the waist down, knit in sport-weight yarn. I don’t think I’ll ever have enough time on my hands to knit such a thing, and brown is not really my color, but still… I can dream. The photography is outstanding, models posed with fun and appropriate backgrounds while still showing good detail of the actual project. I had some quibbles with her book-related trivia, but that really is a minor complaint in a knitting book. And while I’m not casting on for anything from this book right this minute, this was very fun to look through myself and with friends, leaving us feeling satisfied and happy with our geekiness.
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One of the ways that I know my love loves me is that he brings me knitting books from the library… even though I work at another library and can check out my own knitting books. This was one of those.

Knit Kimono TooKnit Kimono Too by Vicki Square. This is the second book of knit kimonos from designer Vicki Square. I haven’t read the first one, though I did listen to a lovely interview with her on the Knit Picks podcast. In this second volume, Square says that she is focusing on color – not necessarily on colorwork, though there is some, but in traditional Japanese palettes. She’s certainly done her research, with an introduction featuring lots of watercolor sketches of traditional kimono and explanations of what colors were used in what seasons by what rank and how they were combined (often in multiple layers, with the underneath layers intended to show.) Her kimono designs are lovely and quite resistant to changes in the wider fashion world, though I would be unlikely to knit them both because I prefer more fitted garments and because the looser designs mean more knitting and I just don’t have that much time. However, this book includes a number of short-sleeved and sleeveless fitted tops meant to layer under the kimono, but which I think would be perfect for me to wear to work in the summer. (It doesn’t hurt that many of the garments are shown in purple.) I would be happy to knit and wear just about any of them, in fact. This is a whole book of nothing but knit items to put on the top half of women, but if you’re in the market for such garments, this is quite fine knitting and eye candy.

Cross-posted to and .

Extra Yarn

Jan. 21st, 2012 04:10 pm
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Fair warning: I have not yet read this book to either of my children. No, my good friend and colleague S. pointed it out to me on the shelf waiting for the head children's librarian’s attention. It has not yet been stickered and is not yet available to the public in my library. Since that librarian isn’t in today, I snuck it off the shelf to read and put it back before she noticed its absence.

Extra YarnExtra Yarn by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. “On a cold afternoon in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.” She starts to knit. She knits a bright sweater for herself and for her dog. People start finding her brightness distracting, so she knits sweaters for them, too. When she’s knit sweaters for every person and animal in town, she starts knitting cozies for the buildings. The illustrations show the change in the town as it gradually fills with color and warmth. All the while, the box stays full of its beautiful yarn, which seems to be magic both in never running out of yarn and in allowing Annabelle to knit with amazing speed (that last isn’t commented on in the book, but really… she knits a cathedral cozy.) Then, an evil Archduke comes from across the sea to take the box for himself. Annabelle says no. The Archduke is powerful and used to getting his way. What will happen to the box?

The story is told in simple, direct language, with little enough text to the page that my two-year-old would likely be able to sit for it. But there’s enough meat to the feeling of it that it holds up for older readers, too. The art fits and expands on the text perfectly, showing a kind of 1960s minimalism. It starts on white pages with buildings and figures in shades of brown and grey. The constantly falling snow shows brown in the sky and white against the brown buildings. They look to me like watercolor with especially crisp edges, as if they were first painted, then cut out, then had details like the snow added. Aside from a tiny bit of pink on the noses and cheeks of the people, the yarn is the only color throughout, with bulky variegated watercolor stitches covering first Annabelle and then of course nearly everything in the town. I’m fascinated by the technique. It looks like Klassen (who also illustrates The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Placefirst painted sheets of mixed colors with watercolor, then – maybe digitally – overlaid that with the knit stitch pattern. Those pieces are then, by my guess, cut out to make the required. This is a book about the joy and peace that hand-knitted love can bring, and it’s a forceful peace. Annabelle may not do anything but knit, but that knitting transforms her community and is powerful enough to withstand the evil plots of the outwardly more powerful Archduke. May it always be so.
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book coverThe Knitter’s Life List by Gwen W. Steege. More than once, I’ve heard that knitting is a hobby you can never get bored with (assuming, of course, that you like it to start with.) But what all is there to do with knitting? Steege sets forth a list of knitting-related things to do that could easily take more than one lifetime to accomplish. It includes things like techniques from beginner to advanced, from making a gauge swatch to learning to knit backwards. It includes lists of all different kinds of things to try – fiber types, sweater and mitten styles, ethnic traditions. There are famous knitting people to meet, like Cat Bordhi or Jared Flood, and places to go – yarn stores, historic mills, conventions, fiber festivals, and cruises. It’s divided into chapters: yarn; know-how; sweaters; socks; scarves & shawls; hats; gloves & mittens; bags; kids; home decor ; fiber lovers. Each one starts off with a checklist, with room for the reader to add a few more items. Each check-list includes people to meet, places to go, things to knit, techniques to learn… and I’m sure more that I forget. I found these lists – basically notes on what’s covered in the following chapter – unfortunately a little tedious, given that the whole notion of the list was what drew me to the book in the first place. I did enjoy that Steege put so much effort into making the lists diverse, not just ways to become a more advanced knitter but also ways to enjoy your knitting more and find more knitting delight in the world around you. And if the list gets long, the chapters expand on everything in it, explaining why you’d want to include that item on your personal life list. I’m currently at a point with the very active, not-sleeping two-year-old and the job that I feel like being less ambitious with my knitting is probably happier for me – but even I can look for knitting in art or for the books, classic and modern, that involve knitting. The appendix includes bibliographies and current websites mentioned in the text for easy reference. If you’re the ambitious knitting type, afraid of getting stuck in a knitting rut, or just want to learn more about the broad world of knitting, this is a book to look for.
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book coverAll Wound Up by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Just about any day can be improved for me by reading one or two or three of the Yarn Harlot’s essays on knitting and life. I don’t know that there are so very many non-knitters who read her books and her fabulous, award-winning blog, though her humor and insight into life certainly goes beyond knitting. This is another book that looks at things like should knitting be treated as an addiction and how to answer questions from non-knitters like, “Did they let you on this airplane with those needles?” In the knitting realm, I recognized myself in the essay on why knitters feel compelled to knit gifts. In the non-knitting realm, there was a very funny obituary for a dead washing machine, as well as “That Kind of Mother”, the story of what one normally restrained mother (that would be Pearl-McPhee) did one hot August day when her three girls started in indoor water balloon fight. If there is a knitter on your Christmas shopping list this year, do her or him a favor and get this book.
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book coverHow to Knit a Heart Back Home by Rachael Herron. This is the second book in the Cypress Hollow Yarn series of knitting romances, after How to Knit a Love Song. This second entry worked much better for me on the romance level, and it was funny, to boot.

Lucy in her thirties and still not able to find a man able to match up to her memories of Owen, the bad boy she tutored in high school and who kissed her just once. Now, she owns the Book Spire bookstore, which she inherited from her grandmother, in a former chapel in Cypress Hollow. She’s also a member of the volunteer fire department. As the story begins, a car crashes into a pole outside Lucy’s brother’s bar, where she’s knitting and drinking with her best friend. She runs out and rescues the woman from the flaming car with the help of a man who’d just showed up. The woman is Abby from the first book, now pregnant with her second. The man, of course, turns out to be Owen. He’s back from the big city, forcibly retired from being a cop by an injury and come home to take care of his aging mother with Alzheimer’s. Owen comes over to her shop the next day, with boxes of ancient books that he’s hoping to sell her for the used-book side of her business. Once again, there are major sparks – but can they get past the obstacles in their way, including their pasts and Owen’s old bad boy reputation? Their journey towards romance is also a journey towards personal growth for both of them, and not just the accepting the need to love and be loved kind of personal growth. While there’s still a lot of physical attraction, Lucy and Owen seem to care more about each others’ eyes and smell than the shape of their rear ends, which also works better for me.

There are some great supporting characters here, too, mostly on Lucy’s side – her best friend, Molly, a daring Chinese medical interpreter and conquest-a-week type; her mother, Toots, an artist and free spirit just starting up a sex toys business to Lucy’s extreme embarrassment; the too-beautiful high school classmate who owns the nearby bakery; and the trio of old folks who nearly live in the book store. These side characters make the story both funnier and a spicier than it would be on its own, and might keep it from being appreciated it by more conservative readers. Lucy is of course a dedicated knitter. The yarny love in this book comes from her quest to recreate the worn-out hand knit yellow sweater her grandmother made that she always wears at the bookstore (pattern included) and (spoiler alert!) the cache of unpublished papers from (fictional) knitting guru Eliza Carpenter that Lucy finds in the boxes Owen gives her. This was an entirely satisfying romance on both the relationship and the knitting sides. Keep it up, Ms. Herron!
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In early July, I went to Borders to pick up a couple of birthday presents. While there, the salesperson convinced me that based on my previous purchasing history, it would probably save me money to buy the premium membership. I’d even get coupons that would make back the whole $20. I knew Borders was in trouble, but I’d just read in Publisher’s Weekly that there was an offer in for it, so I didn’t worry. Two weeks later, Borders was going out of business. I hiked right out to see what I could buy – mostly things for other people, but I picked out this one book for myself.

book coverThe Knitter’s Home Companion by Michelle Edwards. Edwards writes homey essays about the role knitting has played throughout her life – as a student, first married, a young mother, and now a mother of teens; knitting for herself, for babies, for ill or bereaved friends, and for charity. The essays are interspersed with recipes – suppers to let simmer on the stove while you knit, or cookies to nibble on while you knit alone or with friends. In between these are knitting patterns, mostly relatively simple, for baby blankets, mittens, socks and hats. The patterns are all knit from Lion Brand yarn (though I’ve usually seen their acrylic, she does thankfully use mostly their natural-fiber offerings) and are the kind of pattern that you can embellish or just crank out multiples without needing to think too much – good basic non-fussy patterns. All three – essays, recipes and patterns - are grouped up into sections of knitting for home, for gifts, and for the community. There are also little “read-alongs”, book reviews of books from picture book to novels and memoirs where knitting plays a part. This is a book to warm the knitter’s heart, one that will stay relevant even when fashions in knitwear change.

Cross-posted to and .
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book coverThe Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman Just in case there is a knitter reading my blog who hasn’t heard of Elizabeth Zimmerman… well, this seems pretty darn unlikely. But just in case. Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books take homey, personality-filled writing applied to quite revolutionary ideas about making knitting just challenging enough but as easy as possible. Of course you can design your own sweater. Of course you’ll enjoy making a shawl, and you’ll naturally come up with some embellishments to make it pretty along the way… that kind of thing. The Knitter’s Almanac features her thoughts and activities for each month of the year, with a selection of projects. Each is talked through in detail in the main body of the chapter, and followed with “pithy” short directions at the end of the chapter. There are some famous patterns in this book, including the Pi shawl and February’s baby sweater. I read the new commemorative edition, which features a lovely introduction by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and an adult-sized version of the famous baby sweater, February Lady. Never mind that at my current rate of knitting it would take me twelve years rather than twelve months to get through all the projects here – this is a book that every self-respecting knitter should own.

Originally posted at .
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Recently (and I don’t remember where) I read about what kinds of men are attractive to straight women. I think it talked about the reverse as well, but what I remember best is that while men seem to like women more intelligent than older stereotypes would have, women still pretty much go for big strong alpha males. Cowboys and Navy SEALs and that ilk. Neither of these types have ever done much for me, though I will admit a weakness for men in kilts. But this book is a romance featuring yarn and a very good-looking cowboy. I read about it on the Knitty blog, and had to get it through inter-library loan. Because of the yarn, not the cowboy.

book coverHow to Knit a Love Song by Rachael HerrickThis is a classical romance – meaning focus on the couple and the progress of their romance more than any other aspect of the plot. It features Plot Variation B, where the couple starts out hating each other as people, fighting a strong physical attraction. Abby, our heroine, is a young knitting designer of some renown. She was the protégé of Eliza C, an older knitting star, whose initials and advice quoted at the beginning of each chapter make it clear to those familiar with the knitting world that she is modeled on the incomparable Elizabeth Zimmerman, or EZ, all of whose works are still popular and in print decades after they were first published. Eliza has recently passed away, however, leaving to Abby the small cottage on her ranch, and to her nephew Cade, the current occupant, the house and surrounding land. Cade is furious at having the property split up, after his years of work making the ranch profitable. He’s especially furious because the cottage is uninhabitable, in poor repair and stuffed full of boxes, so that Abby has to stay in the house with him. Abby is fleeing a scary, stalking ex and is determined to make a fresh start here, no matter how unfriendly Cade is. There was just slightly too much description of the hotness of Abby’s figure from Cade’s point of view for my taste, but this was still satisfying overall on both the romance and the fiber-love aspects.
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book coverBrave New Knits by Julie TurjomanBrave New Knits is profiles of and patterns by knit bloggers, and in particular those whom the internet helped to knitting-designer success. Many of these are knitters I’ve heard of before, like Grumperina and Ysolda Teague, although I hadn’t read any of their blogs. The book is roughly divided into sections by pattern type – sweaters and accessories – but what makes this book really unique is the in-depth profiles of each of the bloggers. Where most books will give a paragraph at most to each designer, Turjoman includes a lengthy three to four page profile for each designer before the pattern. These invariably made me wish I were reading next to a computer, so I could look at their blog and Ravelry profiles. It also made for a disconnect the couple of times when the profile said that the designer was known for making garments top-down, say, and then the pattern included was knit flat in pieces. There were a lot of sweaters – quite lovely – ranging from quite complicated to simple – and socks, and non-sock projects with sock yarn. The patterns looked quite nice, though I read on Amazon that there are a lot of errata. All in all, I found the patterns nice, but what really interested me about this book was the designer-bloggers and their paths to making a life out of knitting.

Crossposted to and .
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So, way back in steamy August, my first reaction to finding out that my baby was definitely going to be spending upwards of a month in the hospital was to think that she needed handknits in general, and a cardigan to wear over her hospital gown in particular. Naturally, having a baby that sick means that one doesn’t have time to knit anything at all. And happily, she was able to sleep snuggled under handknit blankets where a cardigan would just have tangled up her lines. But for your knit-lusting pleasure, here are the books I was looking at then:

PhotobucketKnitting for Baby by Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas Falick and Nicholas are two excellent knitters whose work I have enjoyed before. This books seems to come from the starting point of someone being inspired by a new or upcoming baby to knit. It starts with very basic instructions and easy projects, working up from simple garter stitch projects knit flat to working in the round, cables, and (fairly simple) colorwork. The projects are attractive and include difficulty ratings intended for beginners, while the instructions are detailed. My favorite projects include the stripy garter-stitch cardigan and the snowflake fair isle, though the more advanced aran pullover, and small balls and teddy are also very attractive. There’s lots of baby knitting books out there, of course, but this is a solid one good for beginners up.

PhotobucketVintage Knits for Modern Babies by Hadley Fierlinger This book seems on average to be written more for the intermediate than the beginning knitter, though there are still patterns at all levels and it still includes helpful difficulty ratings (because I am a person who could just get sucked in by how pretty a project looks and not think about whether I’d actually have the time and headspace to knit a complicated pattern.) Fierlinger’s introduction includes the intriguing idea of picking one baby pattern to knit for every baby, one simple enough that you can memorize and just plunk them out in between projects or in a hurry, so that you are always prepared for a new baby with your signature baby gift. I like the idea a lot, though there are so many cute baby patterns out there that I’d have a hard time picking just one. I was looking at cardigans, of course, and my favorite was Anya’s Cardigan, a lacy number that reminded me of the ones my grandmother wore. Ravelry says, however, that the most popular pattern is the Vintage Pixie Cap, indeed a charmer. Another strong book, beautifully photographed and laid out, with lots of drool-worthy inspiration for the babies in your life.
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book coverSweater Quest by Adrienne Martini Martini’s last book, Hillbilly Gothic was a memoir of severe postpartum psychosis. Grim subject, that one, saved by Martini’s delightful sense of humor. This book brings the same thoughtful approach and humor to a more cheerful topic, one also dear to my heart (did you know that the sanity and well-being of new mothers was a cause dear to my heart? It is.) Martini took up knitting as part of her sanity-maintaining efforts – hooray! And in this book she tracks her quest to knit one exquisitely beautiful, terrifically difficult sweater, after a knitting diet of mostly hats. She starts by going over the tangled history of the gifted yet prickly knitting designer Alice Starmore, as well as a little bit of the Tudors, the inspiration for Starmore’s pattern book in which is contained Martini’s dream pattern. The supplies are hard to come by; the technique takes some work to master. But this isn’t just about this one project. Over the course of the year, Martini visits various knitting luminaries to discuss deep knitting questions with them: why do we knit? If she is knitting a Starmore sweater designed it to be knit with Starmore’s brand of yarn, no longer available, is it still a Starmore? How much of the sweater is Starmore and how much Martini, and does it matter? Many of the knitting folks are ones whose blogs and books I read myself – Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of, and Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka, as well as Clara Parkes, whose The Knitter’s Book of Wool I read not so long ago. Martini is still both funny and insightful; this was another book where I found myself reading bits aloud to my love every other page or so, and even that was restraining myself. Thank you for sharing, Martini. The sweater is beautiful.
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book coverFiber Gathering by Joanne Seiff For those who feel passionate about their fiber crafts, there are fiber festivals, all over the country, where the people who use fiber – especially animal fiber – meet with the people who produce it and the tools to work with it. Some are enormous, with people traveling from all over the world to attend them. And some are mostly regional festivals, limiting vendor attendance to locals to provide a show of truly local color. Author Seiff provides descriptions and drool-worthy photographs of eleven fiber festivals from around the country, with sheep and llamas, hand-dyed roving and yarn, and booths of lamb-based food. Each festival is followed by a couple of projects related to the specialty of the gathering just discussed. They are not just knitting projects either – they are projects to knit, crochet, dye, hook, or spin, including very basic spinning, how to clean a raw fleece, and how to help at a sheep-shearing. I’ve never been to the Michigan festival, although it is profiled in this book. I was terribly amused to see the author describe Michigan as a state where August is cool enough that we’re already thinking about woolly sweaters. Not in this part, for sure, but perhaps in Allegan County, where the festival takes place, it’s not quite so sticky. This is a beautiful book, sure to inspire fiber-lovers to seek out their own nearest festival, or perhaps even travel farther abroad.
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My reading of knitting books increases as the amount of time I have to knit decreases; with Christmas and a new baby, I had very powerful and unmet knitting urges. True devotees of knitting books can find reviews of many books at , but here are a few of the books that have been inspiring me on this latest knitting-reading binge.

book coverMen’s Knits by Erica Knight Knight, so she tells us, is a renowned clothing designer as well as a knitter. This book features a number of classically designed sweaters and some accessories, all photographed on multiple models of different ages and body shapes. That kind of thoughtfulness in design is exceedingly rare, and the really good quality yarn called for will also help make sweaters that will be loved and worn for decades. The designs were attractive enough that I wanted to rush out and start knitting my love sweaters, even though I know that he is not generally a sweater wearer. Perhaps I should knit him the giant (both in length and cable size) cabled scarf instead, at least in my imagination.

book coverFairy Tale Knits by Alison Stewart-Guinee My loyal readers might guess that fairy tales and knitting are a perfect combination for me. Oh, yes. These are mostly clothes inspired by fairy tales, clothes that will work when your child just is a mermaid or a fairy or a knight or a pirate for weeks on end and will only wear appropriate clothes. Often, in knitting books, there will be a handful of patterns that I would really want to knit and most of them I wouldn’t. This book was for me the opposite – and those that I wouldn’t knit were mostly because I don’t feel a need to knit another baby blanket for the foreseeable future, and I don’t like color work. Those patterns were still attractive, though. Not only do the patterns look good, but they are thoughtfully made out of soft and washable yarn, mostly knit in one piece to reduce finishing and get the finished product on the child “before the next growth spurt”. LB wants me to knit him the chainmail of soft grey wool; my mother wants to knit Baby Godzilla the Snow Queen coat and muff; [ profile] garrity and I would both be happy to have a Robin Hood sweater for ourselves. I really hope that Baby Godzilla likes fairies when she’s a bit older, so I can knit her a flower fairy dress. And I think I should stop now.

book coverSoft + Simple Knits for Little Ones by Heidi Boyd Here’s a slightly older book of quick-to-knit items for little ones (though most of the sweaters here are seamed). There are a lot of good-looking items in this book, too. A few use simple intarsia – I liked the giraffe sweater, but LB wants the fleece yarn sweater with sharks chasing each other around – one on the front, one on the back. I’m planning to start a dress for BG as soon as I finish my current project; my mother kindly supplied me with the wonderful Debbie Bliss Cashmerino as a Christmas present. It’s a darling dress, and the yarn is wonderful to work with. But this book has lots of fun and soft sweaters and hats, and a portable castle filled with king, queen, knight, jester and dragon finger puppets.

book coverKnitting Lingerie Style by Joan McGown-Michael Though the cover shows actual lingerie, most of the patterns in this book are inspired by lingerie but intended to be worn on the outside. There are lovely fitted tanks, corset-inspired vests, slinky skirts, sexy stockings, sweet cardigans. There were several things I could see myself wearing, as well as more I wish I had a place to wear. Her history of lingerie seemed off to me – crinolines were a product of the 19th century, not the 14th – but she is an actual lingerie designer, so her bras will work and fit like real purchased bras, which was impressive. More things for me to knit for myself, something that seems to happen much less than me knitting gifts for other people.

There's more, of course, but that's good for a start, I think.
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OK... this is a really happy day for me, except for the part where LJ is suddenly reading my html as plain text.  Why won't the pretty book cover show up?  [EDIT 11/9 - I finally got the picture to work.]
book coverCasting Spells by Barbara Bretton Here we have a delicious book for Library Mama – a romance set in a knitting shop in a magical town.  Chloe Hobbs is the 30-year-old orphaned daughter of a sorceress.  Unfortunately, she shows no signs of any magical powers herself.  A protective spell set by her ancestress keeps everyone in the town safe from accidents and from outsiders noticing things like no one in the town dying.  But the spell is obviously weakening – a woman who walks briefly into Chloe’s yarn shop is found drowned, possibly murdered, later that night.  Chloe needs to get her powers fast, and start reproducing to ensure that the Hobbs line continues.  Even before she gets her powers, she has to make sure that the police officer the county has sent in to investigate the death doesn’t find out too much – like that the people who pulled her body out of the water are werewolves.  Business at Sticks and Strings is booming, as the internet buzz is building for the yarn store where you always get gauge and the technique you couldn’t get at home always works.  While the bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club assumed no knowledge of knitting, this book is written for knitters.  Instead of beginner info, it’s filled with tips on lace and sock knitting and sprinkled with references to Koigu and Cascade 220.  A magical never-empty basket of roving features prominently as well.  But back to the police officer – Luke MacKenzie sticks out like a sore thumb with the only Biblical first name in a book filled with mostly ancient pagan names.  Naturally, since it would probably strengthen the power of the protective spell for Chloe to fall in love with a sorcerer or a faery, she falls right for the one man who shouldn’t know anything about the magic.  It’s a delicious, enthralling yarn. 
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This one has been on the bestseller list for a while. I resisted reading it. Probably because the ladies were going to be dealing with depressing stuff and because it was a bestseller? So much for knowing my own tastes. Once again, my colleague S. put it on hold for me. And once I opened it, I had a really hard time putting it down.

book coverThe Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs Georgia Walker was young, single and pregnant when an older lady suggested that she use her knitting to make a living for herself. Now, her daughter Dakota is 12 and Georgia is the proprietress of a thriving New York City knitting store, Walker and Daughter, which is also staffed by the elderly and widowed Anita. As our story opens, a group of women wanting companionship and help with their knitting coalesces into the Friday Night Knitting Club. Our cast includes Georgia’s old friend from publishing, K.C., who is always starting but never finishing big projects; Lucie, a single and out of work television producer; Georgia’s daughter Dakota, who provides baked goodies; and Darwin, a women’s studies grad student bent on proving that knitters are submitting themselves to the patriarchy. The plot thickens further for Georgia as Dakota’s father James, missing since the pregnancy was discovered, turns up. Her old best friend from high school, now a rich society lady, also comes in to commission a hand-knit ball gown. The story switches between all of the major characters, as they all work through their own struggles and learn to rely on each other. It’s classic strong female friendship stuff, with some Wisdom from the Grandmothers (and a random priest) thrown in. It’s all about the characters and the relationships, and is already being promoted for book clubs. Did I mention that I read during rare knitting opportunities?
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Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter by Alison Hansel When I first saw this book advertised, I thought that I wasn’t really a big enough Harry Potter fan to want a book like this. Then I actually saw it. I guess I’m a bigger fan than I thought. Now I’m longing to knit Mrs. Weasley’s initial sweaters, recreated in tweedy yarn with soft rolled edges, sized for children, adults, or Christmas ornaments. Her clock is made into an afghan, with the arrow conveniently pointing to “at home”. The striped scarves from the movies are included in both the wide stripes of the early movies and the narrower double barred versions from the later movies, with matching hats and mittens. A Hogwarts v-neck sweater with narrow stripes in house colors at the cuffs and waist is subtle enough to wear without any but other fans noticing, while only the most die-hard of movie buffs would recognize the (still nifty) zigzag cabled hat and mittens from Hermione’s trip to Hogsmeade in the fourth movie. Knit mismatched Dobby socks, including a pair with Snitches on one sock and broomsticks on the other, wand cozies, a miniature stuffed Errol, house elf hats for babies. The patterns look well crafted, the book is nicely put together, and there are projects for both the rabid and the shy Harry Potter fan.
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Yes, I am a little obsessed with knitting. No, I haven't made a sweater yet myself. Not even a little one for Mr. FP.

Yarn Girls

The Yarn Girls’ Guide to Beyond the Basics by Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs If you’re a knitter wanting to branch out a little from basic rectangles, but still wanting to keep things fairly simple, this is a good place to start. Well, depending one how much you’ve done, you might want to start with the first one, which has slightly simpler patterns. Both focus on basic sweaters knit in fairly large gauge, though there are a few hats, scarves and blankets as well. In this book, they include stripes, simple intarsia, cables and other stitch patterns, where in the first book, they are a bit simpler. They are mostly nice-looking patterns, ranging from the simple and basic to more modern in style. I say mostly, because while I liked many of them (and am really thinking about knitting the cabled “not your standard-issue sweatshirt, take two”), I personally would not want to wear a pea green sweater with an orange stripe up the middle. The Yarn Girls run New York City’s Yarn Company, and design patterns for a more fashion-conscious population. Anyway, the book is fun and the patterns nice enough to tempt a scarf knitter into the broader world of sweater knitting.
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Chicks with Sticks
Chicks with Sticks (It’s a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard I was sucked in enough to go back and read the first one… where the second book was about the four knitting friends balancing their friendships while dealing with Boys, this first one was nearly equal parts creating the friendship and becoming addicted to knitting. It was still told from Scottie’s point of view, still addictive, girly fun. The knitting patterns in the back were also much easier – wish I could go from knitting a garter stitch scarf to knitting lace socks in the time it takes to finish two books!
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Chicks with Sticks (Knit Two Together) by Elizabeth Lenhard Once again, I accidentally picked up the sequel first. Scottie, Tay, Amanda and Bella are four girls from different backgrounds who bonded over knitting in the first novel. Now they are the Chicks with Sticks, and have become trendsetters in their school. The book focuses mostly on Scottie, the Jewish girl, as she goes from fruitless crushes on almost any boy to her first kiss and the beginnings of a real relationship, and gets angsty about her favorite pastime becoming trendy rather than different. Tay, the tomboy, worries about becoming too entangled with her boyfriend. Bella, a biracial hippie girl, has decided to give up boys until college. Amanda worries that her boyfriends is in love with the idea of a rich and beautiful girlfriends (she’s both) rather than her. Through it all, the girls are sustained by knitting and their friendships. This teen novel is on the formulaic side, and hampered by the use of way too many internet abbreviations, even when they’re not on-line. I found myself guiltily enjoying it. If you like relationships and knitting, you probably will, too.


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October 2012

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