Friday, April 30, 2010

I Love Books, Not Just My Own.

First I do the whole disclosure thing here - yes, some books come to my door in boxes that I didn't pay for. The two books I am reviewing today are such as those. I am not paid to review them beyond the 'free book' part of the deal, and I will not review any books I don't like. If I like it, you'll see it. If I don't, you won't. The people who send me the books know this. Occasionally they send me a book I love and I forget to review it right away and then time passes and I get busy and I forget which one I was supposed to review, but that's more a personal problem, really. I was just sharing. These two are unforgettable, and not just because I am as the writer of 2 sock books and a collector of same.
The first, Toe-Up Socks for Every Body - Adventurous Lace, Cables and Colorwork from Wendy Knits by Wendy Johnson is a truly stunning collection of beautiful toe up sock information and design.
There is marvelous breadth and depth here. From the encouraging "Basic Information for Sock Knitters" which inspires you to begin modifying and designing socks, through a stunning series of patterns, culminating in a detailed technique section with clear images and instructions for multiple cast-on and heel applications, this book does not fail to impress. I have a particular love of twisted or traveling stitches and cables, and there are socks in this book of that ilk that nearly take my breath away. I was particularly struck by the beauty of the Diamonds and Cables Socks and Crocus Socks. I tend to avoid colorwork in my personal knitting life; I am not sure why this is, unless it stems from a childhood of various Red Heart intarsia and colorwork 1970's atrocities. In fact this would be my guess - one too many loopy hats in something brightly ombre, or vests with large ladybugs or owls yanked over my then 7 year old head may have left a rainbow of scars. Yet I am lustful over Wendy's lovely Norwegian Rose Socks. Brilliantly designed and beautifully photographed, this book is a must-have for any sock knitter.

The second book, The Sock Knitter's Workshop - Everything Knitters Need to Knit Socks Beautifully by Ewa Jostes and Stephanie van der Linden truly lives up to it's name.
From discussions on yarn, needles and tools required the books transitions to the basics of sock knitting; numbering double pointed needles, knitting a swatch (always a topic near and dear to my heart), clearly photographed and explained increase and decreases, Kitchener stitch - it's all here. This is a must-have book for beginning sock knitters and fledgling sock designers. Casting on and getting started with double points is covered in a way that gives knitters a choice between a single needle cast on or a multiple needle cast on (the method I use myself when knitting with double points). Multiple cast-ons and variations for cuffs are presented from basic to decorative (and adorable!). Heels and toes are approached in the same fashion - many options so that knitters can choose for themselves. The focus of this book is really top down, but directions are supplied for toe-up knitting as well. Time is given to knitting socks on circulars, as well as flat or back and forth techniques to take your socks in new directions. The book culminates with a section featuring 15 patterns, each rated according to difficulty using a yarn-ball scale as a guide. New to socks? Start with a one-ball pattern such as Babies' Socks - a great way to step into socks without the commitment of a large scale project. Looking for a challenge? Choose the 3-ball Mosaic Pattern. If you've not tried socks yet, this would be a great way to dip your toes in.

Unless of course, you want to jump in headfirst, in which case I know of a couple of books that might be of interest, but maybe I am biased.

Speaking of me (such ego), things are gearing up for a wild few weeks here. I will be on the Webs Ready Set Knit podcast with Kathy and Steve this week. It will air locally Saturday at 9am on 1400/1250 AM, or you can download it at iTunes after the show airs. Also on Saturday I will be teaching the first ever open to the public (but it's full now, so don't bother trying to get into it) Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time class at Webs. On Monday, a package of bees will arrive at Mr. Wonderful's place of work, and we'll pop them into our second hive. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? On Tuesday there will be 50 fluffy chicken butts in a cardboard box at my PO at some ungodly hour. On Thursday May 6th at Webs there will be an evening gathering to celebrate the official launch of Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks, complete with nosh and champagne and chit-chat and signing of books. Please come if you can, but register first with customer service by calling 1-800-FOR-WEBS or emailing There's no fee to attend, but a head-count is a good thing - it simply would not do to run out of champagne now, would it? I'd love to see you there - really I am just perpetually neurotic that my various hosts will buy cookies and bottles of bubbly and boxes of books and then no one will show up and I will feel bad that they invested time and money in me, so please come and drink something or eat a cookie and definitely buy a book so that I can relax a little. On May 9th I will be wandering aimlessly at the NH Sheep and Wool with my husband who will be buying me yarn and raffle tickets and lamb and things - if you see me and you have a book and want it signed, I do travel with a Sharpie! Don't be shy, unless I have my mouth full of lamb, in which case if you could wait till it's empty that'd be nice. On May 22nd a Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time class will be held at Metaphor Yarns in Shelburne Falls, and then on the 29th of May I will be at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool in Cummington, signing book at Foxfire Fiber's booth again. I love signing for Barb. Sitting there surrounded by all that luscious yarn and fiber. Mmmm. Then we get into June when I'll be everywhere from Rhode Island to Ohio and Virginia and home again. On June 26 and 27th there will be two 2-at-a-Time sock classes at Webs - one tops down and the other toe up. And then in July I will be on my deck in the sun taking a nice long nap to recover from May and June!
Keep knitting, and hope to see you out there!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Should Blog

But I can think of nothing to say. So we'll do one of those posts with images and brief bits. I am working on a third book, celebrating the launch of the second, and generally over my head busy lately.
We did fit in a day in Maine.We saw lobster boats, lobster men, and lobster pots. The only lobsters we saw were red and on plates with butter, bibs and wetnaps. There is a great spot in Ogunquit called Perkins Cove, home of Barnacle Billy's. It was lovely. Placed our order, retreated to the deck, and waited for our tasty pal. I am not enamored of lobster having eaten entirely too much of it as a kid. But it's nice once in a while. Gene sits and waits like a kid for his meat to be cut while I make quick work of the shell. I still remember the first time he ever ordered one. He had no idea what to do with it. I think now he could get to the meat if he had to, but if your wife is going to have it all out for you in a minute or two, why bother? Also, if my mother knew that I now eat the bits she always yelled at me about not touching, she'd die. My dad made a face when I said I had become a bit of a tomalley fan. I also used to sneak the roe when no one was looking. My parents were very inland folk.I love climbing on rocks and taking pictures of objects. Like shells.Or damaged lobster pots mimicking cresting waves.
I ordered some yarn last week. Great segue, I know. I am not feeling subtle today. It is Monday after all!This is painfully yummy Black Bunny Fibers Stella Sock, and everyone should have some not just because I am all about the sparkle. I have plans for this yarn. More will be revealed.
This weekend I burned a pan to a crisp while attempting to make chicken wings for friends.The kitchen failures have become a bit of a trend. I am slipping. Apparently cooking is not like riding a bike. Speaking of bikes, in my defense, Gene had called me downstairs to try a modification on my bike trainer and I got distracted. Never leave sugar unattended where heat is involved. I know better. But I am a slow learner.
We went for a hike above our house.We live very close to a Vermont state forest, and the land up at the end of our road is quite secluded. If you leave my house and walk two and a half or so miles you will be in Vermont. We saw the prints of our moose friend. He or she is around seasonally. The attraction being both privacy and...
beavers. Who have made a series of three dams, and are working hard at turning the area into a lake. Moose like lakes. Given sufficient time, the beavers will be successful. The topography lends itself. Eventually, left to their own devices, another three or four acres could easily go underwater. Of course then if their dams fail many bad things will happen, like some pretty significant flooding of some recently created wood roads. But then isn't that the nature of the planet? Constant change? Change is good. I am rooting for the beavers, which is unusual for me. They're generally kind of a nuisance. But they were here first.
When we came back from our walk we found that the chickens had gone across the road and into the pasture. Far into it, almost into the woods.This is them returning home after I called them. I leave home for an hour, they head into the brush. Trouble's name is chicken!
More soon, with some actual knitting. Right now we're all about the writing. There's a couple of projects on the needles. Yarn soon, promise!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Crazy, Isn't It?

This past weekend Girl entertained a dog named Abby. Abby is wonderful, brilliant, very well-trained. She's some mix of stock dog, herding dog or heeler. She looks like she'd be great with cattle - low to the ground and stocky, and potentially relentless. This makes her a tad restless, especially when removed from hearth and home. She likes to herd all of the stuffed animals into a pile in the middle of the living room. That takes about thirty seconds. You can send them off to the far corners of the room again, but she's got them back in their pack in a matter of seconds. Sitting still is difficult for her, especially with the glaring distractions of Dazee and Boo, chickens crowing in the yard, cat blowing in and out and humans opening and closing doors and generally wandering about.I took all 3 dogs for a 2 mile walk on Saturday morning, thinking this would tire them out. I was partially right. Boo and Dazee crashed in heaps - Boo managed to get himself jumped on by another big dog, so was traumatized and therefore exhausted. Dazee takes 4-5 steps for every one of mine, so for her that was a pretty long hike. She really wanted a piece of the big dog, but he was much too busy snapping and growling at Boo. Abby, as soon as we were back in the front door asked if we could go again. More. Now. Please. Please?!? By Sunday afternoon I found myself sitting in a chair trying to make everyone relax for a few minutes. Just a few. I managed to get them to remain in their spaces for a whole ten minutes. It was most impressive. Note the Zen-like expression on my face as I try to remain as still and calm as possible while making sure each dog has some sort of physical contact. Very effective.
On Monday morning I headed out for a bit of a trot with Dazee and Boo. I assumed they had recovered from their little walk on Saturday. Dazee had and trotted gamely at my side. Boo, in spite of my going north instead of south, has indeed made decisions about "outside".I expected this really. All four paws planted firmly into the dirt of the upper part of our road. Immovable. He is long on memory and easily traumatized. Being jumped by a Weimaraner has had it's effect, and I doubt I will be able to get him further than a half mile from home ever again. In his mind the outdoors, which has always terrified him, is now populated by mean, angry dogs seeking to kill him.
I finished these socks this week. They're currently called Beachside, although their new owner (Webs) may change that.The yarn is Valley Yarns Superwash DK. The pattern is written toe-up 2 at a time. And there's BEADS! And cables.
The heel is simple stockinette, although heel stitch could just as easily be used. I just liked the simplicity of the stockinette on these. I love them. I hope you do too! I'll let you know when the pattern is available from Webs, in case you want to make a pair for yourself. They would also make a great gift sock I think.
It's getting close to time for Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks to make a public appearance. I don't think I am nervous so much this time as excited. I want to share it. I hope everyone loves it. I already do!