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Bargello Knits

October 8

For me, one of the best things about knitting is that it provides a never-ending opportunity to learn something new. You might say I ‘m a techniques junkie! Through classes or books, I might learn a new variation on a technique I already use. Other times I’m exposed to a whole new way of thinking and creating.

The latter’s the case with the book Bargello Knits. I first met the author, Patty Nance, at a convention. She was knitting a spectacular creation, full of colors placed in an astonishing way. I could hardly wait for her book to come out so I could learn her inventive “Bargello” way of knitting. And here it is!

knitting book, Bargello Knits

The book’s beginning leads the reader through the genius of Patty’s discovering and refining the Bargello technique. She uses lengths of yarn, carefully cut so colors stack in the desired way. The yarn requirements are quite specific, since placing the colors where you want them is a key element. Patty does a great job of explaining the different color placement on hanks or balls of yarn, and why they’re important to a project’s final outcome.

Patty is a natural teacher. In very clear terms, she guides the reader through the fundamentals of her technique, preparing the knitter for a practice swatch. I easily followed her very clear instructions, from selecting an appropriately-dyed hank (in this case some Lorna’s Laces Sportmate)…

Lorna's Laces Sportmate

…through a little icord test, to a stockinette swatch, to lengths of yarn organized in little baggies, to a final swatch. It’s a testament to Patty’s precise writing style that I was able to pull off the Bargello technique on my first try!

Bargello Swatches

The 28 patterns in Bargello Knits are presented in a way that allows the knitter to build skills. They start with easy hats and scarves, then progress through an adorable skirt, to shawls and lace, and culminate a section of gorgeous sweaters using more advanced techniques.

Now that I’ve added Bargello to my bag of knitting skills, I can try some of the beautiful patterns in the book.

Bargello Knits patterns

Resources:

Patty Nance’s Bargello Knitworks website goes into detail about yarn recommendations

Individual print and digital sales information, and wholesale inquiries, can be found here: Bargello Knits

Published by Cooperative Press

posted under Book Review | 1 Comment »

Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting

May 29

CastOn BindOff_8

My latest favorite knitting book is Cap Sease’s Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. It’s brilliant!

I’ve recently had two reasons to put the book to the test. I was making socks with K2P2 ribbing on the leg, and wanted an attractive, stretchy cast-on. I have lots of reference books that include sections about casting on, but I’d have to dig through a lot of techniques just to find the one with the qualities I was looking for. This is where Cast On, Bind Off really shines. Right in the beginning of the book, Sease provides grids which show the purpose of the various techniques. In the case of my sock, all I had to do was look under the column called “Purpose” in the grid for cast-ons to find the section called “Elastic”; it lists seventeen cast-ons that will produce an elastic edge. Further down was the section labeled “Socks”, which was even more specific. Flipping to the section of the book for sock cast-ons (yes, there’s a whole section devoted to socks!), I found the perfect technique – the “Rolled-Edge Cast On for K2, P2 Rib”.

The next situation I needed to use the book for was binding off my Color Affection shawl. Before looking at the Cast On book – and kind of ignoring some warnings from Ravelry users – I figured I could just go up a needle size or two and bind off in the usual manner. Big mistake. The bind-off was too tight, and I had to take the whole thing out. Aarg! What I really needed was an elastic bind-off that would be neither too tight nor too loose for the shawl’s curved edge. Voila! Cast On‘s fabulous tables in the front of the book list a whole slew of bind-offs which can be used for elastic edges. I tried one or two, and settled on the “Suspended Bind Off Variation.”

Not only does this book provide an incredible array of techniques, it’s just so intelligently laid out! In addition to tables which organize cast-ons and bind-offs by purpose (elastic, firm, lace, etc), there’s a table which shows which cast-ons to pair with which bind-offs to create matching edges. Those of you who regularly read my blog or scarf book can just imagine how happy this grid makes me! I love for the beginnings and endings of my projects to mirror each other.

That Cap Sease has been knitting since childhood may explain the variety of cast-ons and bind-offs she’s gathered for this book. Her experience as a teacher shines through in the concise yet thorough instructions for each technique. The illustrations are thorough and very helpful. I would highly recommend this book to any knitter who wants to go beyond the basics and use cast-ons and bind-offs to exercise more control over the appearance and usefulness of the projects they knit.

Keep looking here for a special giveaway of this book. The winner will receive a copy personalized and signed by Cap Sease! (A hint – the giveaway will commence on a practically unheard-of day of celebration in June…anybody care to venture a guess?)

 

California Revival Knits

July 9

One of the best things about writing my book has been getting to know the work of other authors. I first met Stephannie Tallent at a knitting event. She was knitting an absolutely stunning sweater, which I walked up to admire. As fate would have it, she too was working on a book for Cooperative Press, and the sweater was one of the patterns in it. Here’s the finished Wrought Iron Cardi from Stephannie’s book California Revivial Knits:

California Revival Knits, Stephannie Tallent, knitting book, Wrought Iron Cardi

Stephannie’s book came about from her interest in architectural details from the California Revival period. Not only are her patterns gorgeous, but the photos that illustrate her story are absolutely stunning. Photographer Kathy Cadigan created images for this book that beautifully show architectural elements that influenced Stephannie’s designs. There is a gorgeous sequence that shows how the the traditional tiles are crafted. I just love the way the book ties together the story that led to this collection with the designs themselves.

California Revival Knits, fair isle, Stephannie Tallent

I love the variety of patterns in California Revival Knits. There are small projects and large, cables and lace, and beautiful colorwork. Here you can see how a traditional peacock motif influenced mitts and a cowl design.  Beautiful beads and buttons add another technique to the mix, as well as lending sparkle and elegance.

 I’ve been itching to make the Peacock Mitts since I first laid eyes on them. In the meantime, I’m going to make the Wrought Mitts, with their beautiful wrought-iron inspired cables, for the Ravellenic Games (the Ravelympics having been renamed due to the ridiculous heavy-handedness of the US Olympic Committee). I’ll post more about that as the Opening Ceremonies draw near.

And guess what? Cooperative Press had given me a copy of this fantastic book to give away to one of you, Dear Readership! Look for the California Revival Knits giveaway in the next few weeks.

 

To order California Revival Knits for yourself, here’s the link to the ordering page.

Published by Cooperative Press

Photography by Kathy Cadigan

Stephannie Tallent’s website is Sunset Cat

posted under Book Review | 3 Comments »

Skeletons on the Zahara Review

January 21

This is the first time I’ve mentioned a non-knitting book on my website. I recently read a book that was so compelling, I simply must break with tradition.

Cover Skeletons on the Zahara

The book is Skeletons on the Zahara, by Dean King. It’s the riveting true story of American sailors who were shipwrecked off the west coast of Africa in 1815. The good news was they made it safely to shore. The bad news was that they were taken as slaves by desert nomads. The captured sailors’ trials and tribulations are beyond my ability to comprehend – they were starved, beaten and sold to other cruel masters.  Literally, they were walking skeletons by the time their ordeal came to an end.

I loved Dean King’s writing style – his narrative is gripping without being hyped-up dramatic. He weaves amazing facts and bits of history into the story. For example, did you know that not so long ago (about 5500 to 2500 B.C.) the Sahara was quite fertile? It had all kinds of wildlife, including hippopotamuses living in lush rivers. It’s hard to believe, looking at it now.  Another thing I found fascinating is that camels originated in North America (!).

If you want to read an amazing account of courage, tenacity and survival, check out Skeletons on the Zahara.

posted under Book Review | 1 Comment »

Book Review: Ethnic Knitting

April 22

Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.” The book review that follows is long, but I couldn’t seem to pare it down any further without skipping some of  the book’s great qualities.

Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland ek2_front-cover-rule

I love sweaters that incorporate ethnic designs, so I was pleased to read “Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland”. The author, Donna Druchunas, walks you through all the steps and techniques required to design sweaters, and some smaller practice projects, with an ethnic flair. She clearly explains how to use color and texture stitch patterns from Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland in your designs.

Right from the introduction, I liked Druchunas’s approach. In a concise yet friendly manner she explains why she uses certain sweater styles, rather than others. This means you’ll end up with a sweater that is flattering rather than too boxy.

She goes on to cover some knitting basics: how to determine your sweater’s size, and how to knit in the round, including the two circular needles and the magic loop methods. This chapter makes a good primer for the beginning knitter and a nice reference for those with more experience. I’ve knitted sweaters before using short rows to shape the shoulders. But I learned something new in her description of short-row shaping for a sweater back. That said, I wished for more information on how to know whether to use this technique prior to starting the design process. Druchunas says that some body types like this adjustment, but I’d like to know what types those are.

I love the book’s format. The chapters on Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland include interesting facts about the origins of knitting in each region. Druchunas presents a variety stitch patterns from each – color ones from Lithuania and Iceland, and textures and cables for the Irish Aran tradition. Then there is a practice project and sweater project. Every project includes wonderful step-by-step instructions. You fill in the blanks on the worksheets and end up with your own design, customized for the fit and stitch patterns you’ve chosen.

I wanted to test out the book’s methodology. I chose the Fingerless Gloves project from the chapter on Lithuania. From making a gauge swatch to adjusting the stitch pattern to knitting the gloves, I found it very easy to make my own customized gloves. All I had to do was fill in the blanks on the worksheets. Each worksheet lays the foundation to make an entire pattern – painlessly.

fingerless-gloves-2

The project was so logically presented, my confidence is boosted for making a sweater next. The only hard part will be choosing from among all the lovely stitch patterns!

If you’re interested in buying “Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland”, you can find it here on Amazon. Donna Druchunas’s  web site, Sheep To Shawl, describes the other books she’s written.

fingerless-gloves-and-book

Fingerless Gloves

April 18

I’ve been looking forward to finishing the Fingerless Gloves from the book I’ll be reviewing in a few days. I had a great time knitting them, in part because the author has a really neat way of guiding you through the design process. Here’s my creation, based on the project guidelines in the book.

fingerless-gloves-2

I made the ribbing extra long to keep my wrists warm as I take photos. I also crocheted a little border around the thumbholes to give them a bit of extra support.

These will be living in my camera bag so they’ll be at hand when I go out on cool mornings to shoot wildlife (we’re talking pictures) and flowers.

fingerless-gloves-3

I used odds and ends from my stash. The yarn smorgasbord includes Knit Picks Merino Style and Swish DK, Mission Falls 136 Merino Superwash, and a smidge of Rowan’s RYC Cashsoft DK.

fingerless-gloves-1

[Many thanks to hubby Steve who once again patiently played the part of knitwear photographer for the shot of me in my gloves!]

Fingerless Mitts Swatch

April 8

Remember that picture of the yarns as seen through the Teleidoscope? You don’t?? Ok, to refresh your memory here it is:

teleidoscope-5a-colors

Here are how the colors came together in the actual swatch:

swatch1

The swatch is my launching point for making fingerless gloves from a book I’ll be reviewing later in the month.  The book walks the knitter through all aspects of planning and designing her own projects. Now that I have a color combination that I like and gauge from my swatch, I’ll follow the author’s simple worksheets to create fingerless gloves just the way I want them.  I can hardly wait to get started!

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