Saturday, January 30, 2010

Update: Winner of Toe-Up giveaway

is the fascinatingly-named Kitten With a Whiplash! Kitten, I emailed you using the addy you had registered with Blogger, but if you didn't get it, please send me an email with your address using the "We never talk" contact link over on the right. . . Congratulations and thanks for reading! Also, thanks to all the people who commented, especially you lurkers who I never hear from. I think we set a new record for the number of comments on a GKIYH post.

Friday, January 29, 2010

New base yarn: Stella Sock

Yesterday, I posted a new base yarn on the BBF website. I've named it Stella Sock, and it's a luscious blend of 63% merino, 20% silk, 15% nylon and 2% silver. Yep - silver, so it's got a nice sparkle, just like Edward the vampire.

My first thought in dyeing it was that it would look spectacular with deep, saturated colors -- and it does --

but I also tried some more muted, subtle shades, and it looks great with those, too, but in a different way:

So check it out -- just scroll down to the bottom of the home page to see the entry. One of my sock clubs (Club A) received Stella as a special preview for their last shipment, so they can chime in since they've actually seen it and felt it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blog Tour: Toe Up! by Chrissy Gardiner -- and giveaway!

I'm pleased to be a stop on Chrissy Gardiner's blog tour for her new book, Toe-Up! Patterns and Worksheets to Whip Your Sock Knitting Into Shape. You might recall that Chrissy was one of the designers who contributed to Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarns, and she's the founder of Gardiner Yarn Works, where you can find all sorts of lovely handknitting patterns.

Chrissy has recently released her book devoted to toe-up sock patterns, so let's jump right in and have a look. We start with the introduction, in which Chrissy explains how she became a convert to toe-up sock knitting, almost despite herself. Originally a cuff-down sock knitter, Chrissy was asked to design some toe-up socks, then to teach toe-up sock knitting at a LYS. She discovered that her toe-up class was significantly more popular with knitters than the traditional, cuff-down class, and before she knew it, she was knitting most of her socks the toe-up way.

Reading Toe-Up is like taking a class with Chrissy, as she shares all sorts of tips and techniques with the reader. It's this wealth of technical information that is one of the greatest strengths of Toe-Up. For example, the first chapter is called "Getting Started," and contains basic information about the tools you'll need, a comparison of the three methods of sock knitting (dpns vs. magic loop vs. two circulars -- with some explanatory photographs), a section on gauge and how it relates to the kind of fabric you'll want for your socks, a discussion of yarn choices (with attention to color & fiber choices), fit and last, a few words on revising the patterns in the book.

The Dude Abides socks

The technical info continues with

  • Chapter Two, a discussion of cast-on methods. You'll find explanations of "Judy's Magic Cast-on," a Turkish cast-on, and a "backwards loop" cast on, again with photos to show you exactly how.
  • Chapter Three discusses toes from the perspective of the toe-up knitter, giving the knitter several specific options -- Non-shaped Round Toe, Shaped Round Toe, Anatomical Round Toe, Star Toe, and Short-Row Toe --again, including illustrations, with sample worksheets to explain how the number for each toe are calculated.
  • Chapter Four discusses heels from the perspective of the toe-up knitter, again laying out several options: a Short-row Heel, a Hybrid Heel (combining short-rows and slip stitches) and an Afterthought Heel (knit after the main part of the sock is complete). Again, photos are used to illustrate each version, and sample worksheets show how to calculate the numbers you'll need.
  • Chapter Five is devoted to finishing, in particular, methods of binding off the socks at the top while retaining enough stretch to make the top of the sock easy to put on and take off. You'll find explanations of a Yarn-Over Bind-off, a Sewn Bind-Off, and a P2tog Bind-off with photos; in addition, you'll find a brief discussion of how to weave in ends and how to care for your finished socks.
  • Chapter Six discusses what Gardiner calls "Advanced Techniques": how to read charts, how to work cables without a cable needle and, alternatively, how to use a locking stitch marker, how to convert patterns from top-down to toe-up style, and how to knit two socks at once.
That's a lot of technical information, and terrific background for knitters who want to go beyond simply reading and following patterns so that they understand why their toe-up socks are constructed in a particular way. It also gives the knitter the knowledge she needs to be able to tweak patterns to suit her own tastes.

Vortex socks

The technical chapters take up over forty pages in the book, but don't worry: there's a generous selection of patterns for you to work on. The patterns are divided into two general categories: "Family Socks" and "Fancy Socks." The Family Socks section contains seven patterns, designed in a wide range of sizes so that they can be made for just about any member of the family. The patterns also use a variety of yarn weights -- chunky to fingering-- so that you can stashbust, or knit thicker socks to wear with boots or in bed or around the house. Specifically, you'll find the following patterns in the Family section: the Snuggalicious Slipper Socks (chunky weight), a Mix-and-Match Sock Recipe (sport weight), Syncopated Rib Boot Socks (worsted weight), Old School Knee Highs (DK weight), Gull Wing socks (fingering weight, using a slip-stitch pattern), Sydney (fingering weight; ruffled anklets), and the pretty Fjordland Socks (fingering weight, with a textured color pattern).

Fjordland socks

The Fancy Socks chapter contains eight patterns, featuring more complex patterning. Two of them are knit in sportweight yarn and the remainder in fingering weight. Diamond Lucy features a textural diamond pattern; The Dude Abides, named after a sweater seen in The Big Lebowski, is colorwork in chocolate and a warm red-orange multicolor yarn; Candelabra Socks uses cables to create a twining pattern; the Vortex socks, use a swirl of cables in a very pretty pattern running the length of the sock; the Great Plains socks uses a combination of eyelets, twisted stitches and smocking to show off a slightly fuzzy yarn; Spring in Oregon features lots of vertical panels of texture; Peace Lily features a floral motif; and Sakura is a cherry tree motif with complex patterning on both the instep and leg.

Peace Lily socks

Finally, the last chapter contains blank worksheets corresponding to the various toe and heel styles demonstrated in Chapters Three and Four, so that the knitter can implement them in her own knitting. There is a glossary of techniques, with photographs demostrating skills like the Kitchener Stitch, provisional cast-ons, working through the back loop, and so on.

Other details about the book: it's paperback, color, approximately 160 pages. It's full of charts and worksheets; contains lots of clear photos to help with the more technical skills; the typeface and layout are clear and easy-to-read. If I had one druther, I'd like to see bigger photos of some of the sock designs, but I understand that big photos take up space, and this book is already jam-packed with technical info. I can understand trading off lots of photos for more technical information, particularly since the Internet makes posting additional photos of the designs quick and easy. (Indeed, if you search for the Toe-Up patterns on Ravelry, you'll find that Chrissy has thoughtfully posted multiple shots of each design to give you a better feel for how they look.) Interestingly, Toe-Up is self-published, but don't be freaked out by that; it's not the kind of black-and-white, devoid of style self-published books you might have found a few years ago. On-demand publishing and related developments in the industry have made it possible to produce extremely high quality books like this one, sidestepping the conventional publishing route. MSRP is $24.95, and you can order the book via Amazon through this link.

Old School Knee Highs

Now for the exciting part: due to Chrissy's generosity, I've got an extra copy of Toe-Up! to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment indicating that you'd like the book, and I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner. You've got to leave your comment by midnight, Friday, January 29th, and I'll pick the winner on Saturday.

Thanks to Chrissy, for including GKIYH on her blog tour, and make sure you stop at Stitch Marker tomorrow, for the next stop along the tour. (You can find the complete blog tour schedule, along with other information about the book, here.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

A weekend with Vévé

Ah, what a wonderful weekend it's been! Instead of getting sad that I had to take Véronik to the airport this morning, I will tell you about some of the fun things we did during her whirlwind visit. After arriving Friday evening, we swept Véronik right from the baggage claim into Center City, where we had a lovely Thai dinner with Craig of Loop, Laura G. and some other friends. Veronik appeared at Loop on Saturday:

On display were many of the garments from the fall issue of St-Denis's magazine, including this lovely vest

and Mary Jane Mucklestone's beautiful jacket:

Craig had stocked up on plenty of the lovely Nordique yarn:

and best of all, we got a sneak preview of the new St-Denis yarn, called Boreale, which will be coming out very soon. It's a fingering weight and comes in the same lovely palette as Nordique. Veronik had brought a few of the garments that will be in the spring St-Denis magazine, like these stranded gauntlets, and underneath you can see another lovely stole:

And of course, so many great people came, like Anmiryam

and Lisa and Allison (I'm sorry your eyes are closed, Craig!!)

and this friendly group of NJ knitters (but can you guess which one is called "Gooey"? she sure didn't look gooey to me, she looked pretty):

and the Irish goddess herself, shown here hugging the Polish Princess:

I was having such a good time, I didn't even get to take photos of pals like Aileen or Laura or Jennifer (not Genyphur) or some of the nice new folks I met like Jenny and Terry or the Facebook friends I met in real life like Hope. . .

It appears that some people ended the afternoon by looking for hot men wearing knitwear on teh Interwebz:

By the coy little smile on Craig's face, I'm guessing they just found a particularly hawt model.

Sunday was brunch in New Hope with Joe (posing here with Tom)

les beaux mecs

and Kathy Merrick and Liza Lucy,

le baiser

who has a fantastic quilting book with Kaffe Fassett about to be released by Stewart Tabori & Chang.

We ogled the quilts and the fabric

and more amazing quilts

and two incredibly sweet dogs (this is Sadie):

But alas, even the best weekends must come to an end. Bon voyage, Véronik! Come back soon!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Breaking news

It's official: this week, Classic Elite announced that Pam Allen is stepping down as Creative Director, and Susan Mills is stepping in. I'm very sad that Pam is leaving, as I adore the mark she has made at Classic Elite -- such gorgeous sweaters, beautiful photography, lovely yarns -- but given Susan's impeccable credentials (most recently, she was with Nashua/Rowan/Westminster Fibers, and she began her career in the yarn industry at Classic Elite) we have every reason to look forward to seeing the direction that Susan takes. Good luck, Pam -- please keep us posted on what you're doing next (perhaps a book (she said hopefully)? or just taking a break so you can flood the world with more gorgeous designs?). And best of luck to Susan (you keep us posted, too)!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Don't forget!

This Saturday, from noon to three, Véronik Avery will be here signing books at Loop. I'm starting to get excited... in fact, I must be subliminally thinking ahead to this weekend, for look at what kind of bread I came home with the other day.

I'm off to the dentist this morning to get a bum tooth looked at, so let's keep our fingers crossed I don't end up getting a visit from the Tooth Fairy tonight.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Loose ends

December 2009 Book Report

Let's start with December, finishing out the 2009 Scandinavian mystery-a-thon book report. This month, I again enjoyed the generosity of friends who lent me some good books. I began with Red Bones: A Thriller by Ann Cleeves, which is the third installment in a series of mysteries set in the Shetland Islands. (Why, yes, I did pick up the first one because I wanted to learn more about the place that gave us such great knitting. We already know I'm a huge knitting dork, right?) Jimmy Perez is the lead detective and he is called to investigate a possibly-suspicious death: an old woman is found dead in her yard, having been shot at night. It looks like her neighbor/grandson accidentally shot Mina Wilson when out hunting that night, but Perez isn't quite sure that it was an accident. When a visiting grad student working on an archeological dig is found dead near Wilson's house, Perez has to figure out whether the deaths are related and who is/are responsible. A good solid mystery (I didn't figure out who did it), an interesting part of the world, snappy writing.

Arctic Chill: A Thriller by Arnaldur Indridason, was another one that Anmiryam lent me (thanks!!) so fear not, the brooding Scandinavian detectives are back this month. Inspector Erlandur is called out to investigate the stabbing of a boy, the dark-skinned son of a Thai immigrant. The death of the boy raises all sorts of questions about immigration, xenophobia, and racial prejudice -- along with the usual heartbreak and suspicion that descend upon the families and friends of murder victims. Another good police procedural.

The Red Door by Charles Todd. I like the Ian Rutledge series, but I have to say that by now, the conceit which once seemed original and even daring is now starting to seem annoying. Rutledge is a veteran of the brutal trench warfare of WWI, and his post-traumatic stress disorder (WWI was when the phrase "shell shock" came into wide usage) takes the form of a voice in his head -- the Scot-accented voice of a dead soldier who served with Rutledge and whose death causes Rutledge on-going guilt and grief. Rutledge goes through his everyday life as a Scotland Yard inspector with the voice of this young Scot ringing in his ears, talking to him as clearly as someone in the room (although no one but Rutledge can hear him.) Rutledge thus tries to cope with his PTSD and hide the existence of the voice in his head from those around him, while solving tricky murder mysteries. After about ten books, though, I'm starting to find the voice in Rutledge's head more irritating and distracting than anything else, even though Todd is an excellent writer.

I give Todd credit for fashioning an original mystery: an English gentleman goes missing in the beginning of the book, is found alive, and then Rutledge is called to investigate the murder of a completely different woman in a different county who shares the same last name as the missing-but-found man. Are the events connected or not? The book ends with Rutledge confessing his romantic feelings for a recurring character in the series. It is my fervent hope for 2010 that Rutledge gets laid finds a real relationship and finally manages to ditch the voice in his head once and for all. I think the character and the author can manage quite nicely without this stylistic crutch.

Columbine by Dave Cullen. My pal John read this and spoke very highly of it, so even though I wondered if the subject matter would prove too disturbing, I gave it a try. It was fascinating and compelling reading. Cullen does a good job straddling the line between communicating the horror and terror of what happened inside Columbine High without indulging in melodrama or wallowing in the gruesome -- no mean feat. He also displays a great empathy and kindness toward the victims, their families, and to a lesser extent, to the families of the killers. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the book is the extent to which Cullen methodically busts numerous myths that were perpetuated in the hours and days immediately following the shootings. Think that Columbine was caused by two members of the "Trenchcoat Mafia" who sought revenge against a clique of jocks who bullied them? Read this book and see if it changes your mind -- and see if it isn't a cautionary tale about the way that the media fastens on "memes" that aren't necessarily borne out by the evidence.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. This was the perfect book to round out the reading year. Bradley's book won the Dagger award for best first mystery novel. The main character is Flavia DeLuce, an eleven-year-old girl living in her family's dilapidated manor house in the British country in the early 1950s. Flavia is obsessed with chemistry, has two older sisters who annoy her, and longs for the attention of her eccentric but distant father. When a murdered man is found in the backyard, and her father is the prime suspect, Flavia decides to exonerate her dad by finding the real murderer.

Sweetness.... was a charming read: droll humor, amusing characters, an offbeat mystery, and the dreamy setting of rural post-WWII Britain. Flavia is a delightful character and although the book is written entirely in her voice, it never becomes too precocious or cloying. It's impossible not to think about Harriet the Spy when reading about Flavia: the highly intelligent observer who's an outsider simply because she's a child and no one pays her much attention. But there's also a little bit of Nancy Drew in Flavia. Bradley's got a sequel coming out this spring, so I'll be looking for it.

When I look back over the reading I did this year, I'm pleased that I accomplished one goal: I read a half-dozen books that I'd been meaning to read and that were more than pure entertainment or escapism (The Naked & the Dead, Goodbye Columbus, On Beauty, Middlesex, the 2 Nancy Mitford books, andI started but didn't like The Guernsey Literary blah-de-blah). I'm going to keep that goal for 2010.

Two FO'S

Now that my deadline knitting is complete, I was able to turn to two unfinished projects and finally complete them. I finished a gift for one of the twins' teachers, whose little boy just turned one a few days ago:

Oz Vest, by Louisa Harding, knit in Lorna's Laces
Shepherd's Worsted

This was a pleasure to knit: quick, easy, a good pattern, and the yarn was lovely, too. The shoulder features some Beatrix Potter buttons because I couldn't resist (two Peter Rabbits and a Jemima Puddleduck).

On the fabric front, I finished my first real quilt:

It's a baby quilt for a dear friend in Chicago whose daughter was born this fall. I was told the nursery was being done in yellow and purple, so I had a blast finding fabric. The reverse is done in the Jay McCarroll psychedelic wildlife print that came out last year. I need to work on better edging, but overall, I was really pleased that my first effort came out so well, and I hope Mama and Baby like it, too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Presenting Heavenly Laceweight

Just uploaded the BBF website with a gorgeous new laceweight called "Heavenly."

It's a blend of 70% baby alpaca/20% silk/10% cashmere and it is soft, beautiful and has just enough sheen to make the colors pop.

The skeins are 1300 yds/100g, good for most shawl patterns.

I've got some rich, saturated colors like the vivid green, above, but also some lighter and brighter shades, including a unique pale peach shade that is tough to photograph but looks most divine.

(Don't forget the free shipping code "STAPLE" which I've extended through the month of January.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back in business

The laundry-drying business, that is... after the replacement dryer (a mere two months old) broke down three (3! III! trois! tres! trei! drei!) times, we made them come and take it away and got a different one. This one seems much sturdier and has the added bonus of coming with Happy Dryer Man on the cover of the manual:

I feel better already...

If you are a man who knits, consider getting your squeezable heinie to the Men's Knitting Retreat, to be held this May in upstate New York-- and in New Zealand, with the fabulous Kiwi James... Rumor has it that they have wonderful prizes to give away, including a Faithful Companion Scarf kit from yours truly.

Speaking of which, I just uploaded a dozen or more skeins of Merino Silk Sock to the BBF website, the yarn that the Faithful Companion Scarf was originally knit in. I'm hoping to get the new luxury laceweight up this week also. You can also purchase hard copies of the pattern (free shipping if purchased alone) with the obligatory plastic sleeve if you are not a big PDF person.

The Winter KnitSimple preview is up here. Be sure to check out the black earflap cap by yours truly:

Last but not least, thank you for the many emails. I am slowly getting back in the swing of things and appreciate all of your kind words.

P.S. Don't forget to vote for me for a "Bobby" award on Ravelry for Best Handdyed or Handpainted Yarn! Go here to vote (she said shamelessly).

Friday, January 08, 2010

Calendar this

I'm starting to have days where I feel more like myself, although I'm still a little weirded out by how it feels like someone drove a bulldozer through my brain, killing a zillion neurons and leaving me with inertia and blankness. Thank you again for the kind cards, messages & emails -- I am going to start answering them this weekend.

In happier news, my girl-crush V
éronik Avery will be in Philadelphia in two weeks! She will be appearing at Loop on Saturday, January 23rd, from 12 to 3 p.m., to sign books. (Loop is located in Center City Philadelphia, at 1914 South Street.) Loop has Véronik's first book and the premier issue of St-Denis Magazine on hand, as well as her lovely Nordique yarn, and if you're like me, it's enough to just sit near her and bask in her fabulosity. (Maybe we can entice her to tell us about her new yarn, which she is showing off at TNNA in California even as you read this, and some of the gorgeous new garments sure to be in the spring St-Denis Magazine.)

The other thing that has cheered me up immensely is that I was nominated for a Bobby Award on Ravelry, in the category of Best Handdyed/Handpainted Yarn! So please go here and vote for BBF....

There's more to come this January, including some book reviews and other goodies, but for now, I'm still taking things a bit slow.