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!


Louise said...

Thanks for the review of these two new books. A knitter can never have too many books!

Mona P said...

Thanks for the reviews, Melissa! I think Wendy's designs are clever and fun and enjoy both of her books. I hadn't come across the Sock Knitter's Workshop and so will have to take a look at this book at next opportunity.

Please post photos of your chicks arrive :)

Nichole said...

Hi Melissa,

I just reviewed your new book over on my site... check it out!