Category Archives: books

A little something…..

I have finally come up with a summer calendar that actually works for us! (Pics of that to some soon….). Thursday I have designated as “project day.” While we will  be doing lots of “projects” this summer, I wanted to set aside some time each week to try something that might take up the entire afternoon. So yesterday we tackled our first project! Using Issue Seven of Alphabet Glue as inspiration, we made mini books and pouches to go with them.

To make the books, we cut paper to three inch squares using an exacto knife and my cutting mat. The boys made covers for each book, and then we sewed them together on the sewing machine. (I use a regular size 90 needle for that, then keep it separate marked “paper” for use again.) Once the binding is sewn on, we cuts strips of duct tape from the super cool duct tape sheets we found at JoAnns last week. Place the tape over the sewn binding and suddenly you have some very official looking little books!*

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(Yes, the title of this book is indeed “Dead Knight.” Can’t wait to see the story of that one!)

Next, we hit the sewing machine. I wanted to keep this very simple, so we basically sewed together two rectangles, added a velcro closure inside and sewed on some twill tape for a handle. We marked their names on the handles in permanent marker as to not mix up.

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Next, it was writing time! Knittykid says we should make a hundred books. Math Boy outright refused to join us, saying he absolutely hated making books and preferred to stay up in his room reading what is apparently a hilarious kids’ series called Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie. I’m trying to find projects everyone loves, but with a 3, 6, and 9 year old that’s just not always gonna happen. Next week we need to find something goopy and scientific, I think!

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What big kids’ project have you done lately?

*Loving the shots of my very ugly dining room table? The downside is, it’s butt ugly. The upside is that the boys can do whatever they want on it, and I could care less if it gets covered in glitter and glue. Hmmm….that might actually be an improvement!

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Three thoughts

Have you run across this book?

It came out last year and I never ran across it until I was browsing through the latest at my library. I was smitten with the cover so I took a look and realized three things:

1. I was really, really excited about knitting these socks. They are thick and warm and up to your knees with beautiful colorwork and stitch patterns. They look warm. Did I say warm? They look really, really warm.

2. Unless you live in a state that borders Canada (like myself) or if of course you live in Canada, or have family in such a situation, you will have absolutely no use for this book.

3. The stylist must have fallen and hit his/her head before planning these photo shoots, because no normal person would make a guy tuck his pants into his socks, especially green pants with white socks and black hightops. If you don’t meet requirement #2 above, I recommend checking this out from the library just to see the poor guy with his tucked in socks.

That said, if you had to pick a favorite sock book today, what would it be?

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A book review of a different kind

I’m lucky to drive right past the library on my way home from, well, pretty much everywhere. When the boys aren’t with me I’ll usually grab a few books for them. Star Wars was the request today, but there were no Star Wars books in so I quickly scanned the shelves for something else. And what should I run across but a true gem of a book? The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater That Grandma Knit.

Now, never fear. This is not an anti-knitting book! It tells the story of a boy who gets a hand knit sweater from his grandma for his birthday, a sweater that he hates. He goes through all sorts of antics to get rid of the sweater, until Grandma comes to visit. The rest, I’ll leave you to find that out….

Little Man and Knittykid both loved it, especially the repetitive line, “It was a truly terribly horrible sweater…and Cameron was never going to wear it.” We said ti together each time. Spinner ignored it completely, so I can tell you it’s perfect for 6 year olds and preschoolers, one year olds, not so much. What I loved was that I was instructed to read it, “like a teacher” since it suddenly dawned on the boys that since I am a teacher, I possess the very difficult skill of reading while holding the book up in front of me while they perched on the coffee table. It is so very impressive that I am able to read to them upside down…a most important skill! *

A bonus for we grown ups who might choose to read this to our little ones? The pattern for the sweater is in the back on the book. You can knit a truly terribly horrible sweater for you favorite little boy yourself.

Lastly, thank you for the thoughts on my last post. It’s so helpful to bounce things off of all of you!

*Little Man once told me he had a substitute teacher who obviously was not a real teacher, since she could not read upside down.

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Book Reviews: Socks!

I’ve got a thing for sock books. Despite the fact that it seems that I don’t knit a lot of socks these days, I still can’t read enough of them. In fact, I seem to be drowning in all the sock books I’ve gotten from the library lately.  I’ll be doing a handful of mini reviews this month in case you, like myself, are wondering which of the many new sock books out there might be worth a splurge. Sure, we all know Cookie A,  Cat Bohrdi, Wendy Johonson…but what about the rest? I’ll try to give you a quick run down on some of the lesser known books out there.

So the book for tonight? The Big Book of Socks, by Kathleen Taylor.

I really liked Kathleen’s felting books, so I was excited to see what she came up with for this book. For the 75 patterns alone, it’s a great deal, but is it really the ultimate guide??

I’d say she came pretty close, and the one exception might be more a mistake of the publisher rather than than author. There really is a bit of everything in here: basic tube socks (for those afraid of the heel), afterthought heel, flap and gusset heel, no wrap short row heel, tow down, toe up, stripes, cables, lace, fair isle and some “just for fun” projects.  It’s a nice progression from basic to advanced, although I would say that the majority of the projects lean towards the advanced beginner or intermediate knitter.

Paging through the book, I saw quite a few patterns I liked right away. She has a nice mix of  yarn weights with quite a few worsted patterns, nice for this time of the year when you might want to pound out a couple of pairs of quick socks for gifts. The Striped Knee Highs are cute, and I’m in love with the Argyle Socks. The lace patterns she has are not too complex and would be good for an advanced beginner ready to beef up her skills a bit. Kathleen’s fair isle socks are my favorite. The Mosaic Tile socks are stunners and the Holiday Garland socks would be nice this time of year. The thrummed slipper socks are a perfect quick Christmas knit.

So far so good, so what’s the problem?? I’m a very visual knitter. The first time I tried to knit a sock I had nothing more than the written directions. And it was a disaster. It wasn’t until I came across a book that had very clear pictures that I understood what the heck was going on with this whole heel turning thing. And that’s the mystery of this book. Despite the fact that it starts with something as basic as a tube sock, it is completely lacking in instructional pictures. There is one teeny-tiny drawing at the beginning diagramming the socks parts. But there is not one picture or diagram to walk you through a heel turn and that’s the trouble. I kept thinking, “there must be diagrams in here somewhere…” but nope, all you get is that little diagram in the beginning. Even the chapter on heel and toe variations in the back lack pictures. This might be okay for a knitter who knows the basics and just needs to read through the directions, but a novice knitter would be pretty lost. You do get one photo of each sock and charts, but that’s it.

Now granted, it does bill itself as a “beyond the basics” guide. But then why the tube socks? And all the detailed the directions on heels and toes? I felt a bit like the book didn’t quite know what it wants to be: the progression of pattens makes it a good candidate to be a great basics book, but the lack of detailed diagrams truly turns in into “beyond the basics.” But as I said in the introduction that could have been a publisher choice as well. In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a wide range of lovely patterns all in one book and you have some skills, this one’s for you. If you’ve never knit a sock, you’d be better to find a different book to start with and come back to this one later.

Who this book is for:

  • The budget conscious knitter who wants a ton of socks patterns.
  • An advanced knitter with knitting experience but no real sock experience.
  • A knitter who enjoys knitting socks in a variety of weights, from fingering to some speedy worsted weight socks.

Who this book is not for:

  • A very beginning knitter
  • A highly visual knitter
  • A knitter who prefers all her socks to be a fine weight.

I’ll be back in a few days with a review of The Joy of Sox. And a new Spinner sweater to share.

Enjoy your weekend!!

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Twelve Years

Sixteen years ago this fall, I was just getting to know a shy, goofy boy of 19, who played the bass and tuba and hated studying for music history. Twelve years ago today I married him, and what a blessing those twelve years have been. Last night the Skeptic noted, “it’s nearly half our lives already, isn’t it?” Wonderful to think we could be so very, very lucky.

Our anniversary marks your last chance to get your book review in. I’ve really enjoyed reading those that have entered and have already added a bunch of requests on my library list because of it. Hope to read a bunch more tonight! Remember, I’ll pick one lucky random winner to choose either a handmade needle roll or project bag, your choice of colors. You don’t need a huge review, short and sweet is fine. Old or new books, knitting or sewing, ti doesn’t matter. Be sure to post here when you’re through.

I wish I had some Halloween photos to share from last night, but to be honest the day was one big whirlwind and I barely managed to snap one blurry shot before chasing a vampire, Spiderman and dinosaur our the door and down the street. There were jack-o-lanterns, giant handmade spiders, and treats galore. Today we woke up extra early (@#$% daylight savings) and were already eating candy at 5:08 in the morning. I’m trying a new approach this year. Instead of the careful rationing I’m letting them eat it all. I figure it will already be gone by the end of the day, and out of my life!

So I’ll share the Miss Babs, all plied up for you visual folks. I’m in love it with, my best handspun yet, I think!

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Review: Vintage Baby Knits [and a contest]

I’ve been blogging for nearly six years now, I think. And it’s been interesting to see how the knitblog has evolved over the years. One thing I used to love was all the banter about books and magazines; the detailed reviews made it easy to decide what I might want to order or grab at the library. But those reviews seem to have dwindled off. Maybe because there are so many new knitting books out there, it’s not as exciting every time a new one comes out. Maybe it’s because more knitters are turning to online patterns rather than the books.  Then there are so many knitting, sewing and general crafting books out there now and it can be tough to sort through it all. I mean really, how many sock books will appear out there? And which one is worth your hard earned money? The reviews I run across are few and far between or just don’t give me enough information.

My point? I’d like to try to fill that void a bit. I’m blessed with a killer library system here in the Twin Cities and I’m usually picking up at least one or two knitting books a week. And after  flipping through them I find I want to tell someone about them, and well… the Skeptic is just not interested. My plan is to give you readers a useful review so you’ll have a better idea of what books you might want to purchase. I’ll review a new book every other week and keep track of them here on the blog. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Is this useful for you? Is the Amazon review system good enough or is there more you’d like to know about a book before you buy it? Is there someone else already writing great reviews that I’m just missing? (That would save me some work! 🙂

The contest, you ask? It’s been ages since I’ve had one here and it’s about time. Read through the rules and then enjoy the review.

Contest rules:

1. Review a knitting, sewing, spinning….any kind of craft book really, on your blog. It doesn’t have to be as detailed as the one here but do take some time to give us a few points think would be helpful. Short and sweet is fine. Maybe a couple of patterns you think are great. Is it a book worth buying? What about the photography?

2. Leave a comment here directing us all to your review.

3. Post a link in your review that links back to the contest here at the blog. That way your readers will be able to read the comments section here and get their hands on all of the great reviews; they’ll also have a chance to participate.

4. That’s it! I’ll leave the contest open until the end of the month. On November 1st (hey, that’s our anniversary!) we’ll draw a random entry to win a prize. The winner will have a choice of either a project bag or a needle roll, your choice of fabric colors. I’ll throw in a few surprise goodies as well. Be sure to complete all three sections and have fun! (If you’re blogless feel free to post your review here in the comments section.)

5. If you’re not planning on entering the contest please feel free to just drop a comment and let me know what you think.

And now the review. Just a note, the header links to the actual book and author website where you can see hte general gallery. Patterns that I highlight will link to Ravelry.

Review #1: Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren.

There is a reason that this book sparked a need for me to tell everyone about it. I have to admit, after having three babies, being surrounded by friends having babies, and knitting massive amounts of baby stuff I had become rather fatigued by baby knitting books. They all started to look the same, especially the boy stuff. Then I checked out Kristen Rengren’s book yesterday and all I can say is I wish Spinner was brand spankin’ new again just so I had more time to knit baby stuff for him.

I always love a book that includes more than patterns, and this books meets that criteria. Kristen gives an interesting history of how she got into vintage knits as well as the challenges of modernizing these patterns. She gives a nice little history of knitting in the 20’s through the 50’s throughout the book, along with some tips on tools and choosing yarns. You’ll know what types of yarns were typically used in vintage patterns, what modern ones would work, and what yarns are good choices for babies. Her resource section is fabulous. Should you feel the need to tackle those old vintage patterns you inherited from your great-grandma, you’ll have the know-how from this book. (I know I’ve got a large stack of them upstairs!)

There are no basic knitting instructions in this book, and I’d say most patterns are not for total beginners. This is an advanced beginner to advanced knitter book. There is a basic glossary that seems to cover the few odd directions you may not know from memory (kitchener stitch anyone?) but you will need to have some skills to knit the patterns. If you don’t know what psso means you’ll need some extra help.

The patterns? Where do I even start?Forty plus,  they cover the usual gamut of baby garb: sweaters, blankets, toys, booties. But she expands on the usual by adding in soakers, a onsie, a christening gown and other styles that you just don’t come across.

It’s boy friendly, which I love. As a mother of three boys I’m always jealous of the huge lot of fancy baby girl outfits while the boys just get the usual cabled cardigan. With this book I’m not sure where to start. The Archie vest or Otto pullover  perhaps, with their lovely fair isle patterns? Or maybe the Harry sailor sweater? The Floyd pullover? Or maybe I pull out all the stops and knit the Felix suit with it’s kitty intarsia on the front and it’s classic green color. (Although the Skeptic did say he wasn’t sure he could leave the house with us if I dressed Spinner in that. But personally, I think it’s adorable.)

The girls don’t lose out either. There are sweaters galore and the Pearl shrug would be a quick little knit, perfect for a gift. The Avery christening gown can be made into a beautiful dress and the Hazel cape is so sweet. The Daisy soakers make me want a baby girl to knit for. There is also plenty for the gender neutral knitting as well. The Stella hat would make an excellent shower gift, as would the Bunny Blanket with it’s unique applique.

As would be expected with patterns based on vintage knits, the yarns tend to be finer. Most pattens call for needles sized 2-3. The largest I came across was a size 8, but when you remember you’re knitting for small people the fine yarns really aren’t that daunting.

There are schematics for all the patterns and charts as well. There are a few one piece patterns but there is quite a bit of seaming to do with many of the patterns.

There was really only one downer for me and that was the limited range of sizes. Babies grow so fast, and I like a baby book that gives sizes from 3 months to 3 years. The sizing in this book is a bit wonky. One sweater might have three or four sizes available, one sweater might only have one or two. Most patterns are sized from 6m-18m. Quite a few go up to 24m and there is one pattern that goes up to a size three. But it was disappointing that the Otto Short Sleeved Pullover is only sized up to 12m, too small for my baby who already wears 18-24m. I know I could do the math, or just use a  bigger needle size but I do wonder why more size options were not included.

Overall I would put this book in my “one to purchase category.” The patterns are unique, beautiful and of course, timeless. Kristen Rengren did an amazing job of transforming these old vintage patterns into something knitters can use today.

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In Print

I love books, I love magazines, yet I rarely take the time to talk about them here. Today, however I want to share two little gems with you.

winter_09_cover2The first is a magazine, Living Crafts. A magazine that caters to all areas of natural crafting, the latest issue covers everything from knitting to woodworking. Beautiful projects and patterns (tons of knitting!) make me want to curl up and work on them all day. While not just for the family, I did feel that children and families are heavily considered, at least in this issue.

The other book is Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner. I’ve always loved her fabric and projects so I expected wonderful patterns61sljr3fmul_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_1 when I ordered this book. BUT, this is also the book I needed when I began sewing. Not only are the patterns beautiful, but the first part of the book is dedicated to sewing basics and the instructions are top notch!

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