Thursday, November 17, 2011

No-Bull Book Review & Giveaway: Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures with Judy's Magic Cast-on, by Judy Becker

Judy Becker developed her "Magic Cast-on" several years ago, a method of casting stitches onto two circular needles (originally motivated by the desire to knit toe-up socks). Becker describes her magic cast-on this way:
There are various ways to start a toe-up sock: Figure-8 cast-on, provisional cast-on, long-tail cast-on combined with grafting, etc. I used to use the figure-8 cast-on, but it leaves loose stitches that have to be tightened back in after a few rounds. Even with lots of practice, I usually had to make two or three tries at it. Although invisible from the outside of the toe, on the inside the figure-8 cast-on leaves a blank space between the purl bumps of the first round.
I thought that the world needed a better way, a more humane way to start toe-up socks, so I developed Judy's Magic Cast-On. It's an easy to learn, fast method that starts at the very end of the toe and works the first time, every time. It's completely invisible from both sides, and it can be used with almost any toe-up sock pattern.
This ingenuity, trying to figure out an effective and attactive way to solve a practical problem, is one of the things that fascinates me about knitting. And like so many ingenious solutions, the Magic Cast-on has become very popular -- not just for toes-up socks, but for any place a knitter needs to use an invisible cast-on.


November Street (Duffy Stephens)

One of the fascinating aspects of the rise in self-publishing has been seeing books devoted to topics which pique the knitter's curiosity but might not seem "marketable" to a traditional publisher. Judy Becker's novel and extremely handy form of casting on stitches has excited knitters all over the place, but a traditional publisher might not want to base an entire book upon it, not really understanding why it's such a big deal to knitters. 





Becker bypassed the traditional publishing world, publishing Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures With Judy's Magic Cast-On (Indigo Frog Press 2011) herself.  Let's take a No-Bull look.



Eye of the Needle (Stephen Houghton)

"Beyond Toes" (Indigo Frog Press 2011) is a sturdy paperback book, about 11.5 by 8 inches, with glossy color pages. MSRP is $28.95 (available through the link above).  The book begins with an Introduction, in which Judy describes her background, how she came up with the Magic Cast-on and includes several great vintage photographs from her family history. After the introduction, she moves right into techniques, giving a page of handy tips before demonstrating the Judy's Magic Cast-on technique.  Next up are explanations of the following techniques which riff on Judy's Magic Cast-on:
  • using the Magic Cast-on as a provisional cast-on so that one can knit in two directions from the same starting place
  • a tubular version, giving a stretchier edge for ribbing
  • a method of casting on a twisted I-cord
  • how to add stitches using the Magic Cast-on
  • and double-knitting using the Magic Cast-on (if done with two colors, you get an invisible start)
Handy illustrations help walk the knitter through each technique.

Patterns are next, and they are divided into seven chapters organized by the type of garment. First up are hats, including the stylish brimmed cap


Laurel Jane's Cap (Deb Barnhill)

a caddy's hat and the funky "Headbumps," with short rows used to create three-dimensional shapes.




Headbumps (Gayle Roehm)

The "Neckwear" chapter features a double-layered cowl and matching wristlets


Magic Cowl (Sivia Harding)

and a lovely seamen's style scarf suitable for men and women.


Monica's Seamen's Scarf (Myrna A.I. Stahman)

"Mittens" features an adorable bobsled-inspired pair and a second pair with cable details. "Socks" contains two pair, including these lovely ones by Janel Laidman.


Spring Fever Socks (Janel Laidman)

"Garments and Wraps" takes the technique to a grander scale, including a colorwork vest


Djinn (Samantha Roshak)

shawls/wraps, and a poncho.  "Bags and Cozies" features a felted bag, a cabled notebook cover and a backpack-style bag.  Last chapter is "Comfy Things," a pillow cover with variations and Pippa the pig.


Pippa (Deb Barnhill)

For my statisticians, you'll find the following patterns:
  • 5 hats
  • 4 scarves/cowls (including wristlets for one pattern)
  • 2 pairs of mittens
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • a colorwork vest
  • a shrug
  • 2 shawls
  • a poncho
  • 3 bags (one is a laptop cover)
  • 1 pillow cover pattern; and
  • 1 stuffed toy pattern.



Mokosh (Cindy Abernethy)

Yarn weights are varied, from fingering weight to bulky. Sizing varies depending on the pattern. Hats, for example come in one to three sizes.  Scarves, bags and shawls are mostly one size, mittens come in 4 to 5 sizes (child through adult male), socks in one to three sizes (think women's sizes, rather than kids' or men's), and the vest comes in five sizes (finished chest circumference  29 through 46.5 inches).  Charts are used in most of the more complex stitch patterns, and you'll find schematics for the vest and shrug, as well as diagrams for the items with more unusual construction. Plenty of clear photographs (by Vivian Aubrey) taken against stunning natural backdrops add to the charm.


Bobsled Mittens (Lorilee Beltman)

"Beyond Socks" is a terrific example of what smaller independent publishing can offer us knitters:  a book with a very specific technical focus, informed by its author's own vision of how valuable the technique is and how it can readily be used in different knitting applications. With its attractive selection of patterns from respected designers such as Cat Bhordi, Myrna Stahman and Sivia Harding, it will be a welcome addition to your bookshelf.

And thanks to the generosity of author Judy Becker, I've got a copy of "Beyond Toes" to give away to a lucky reader.  Just leave a comment telling us whether you already use the Magic Cast-on or whether you'd like to learn it, and I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner.  Judy will even sign the book for you.  Leave your comment to this post (one per reader, please) by Saturday, November 19th at noon EST and I'll pick a winner later that day.





68 comments:

La Tricoteuse Heureuse said...

I would LOVE to learn Magic Cast-on - I think this technique would send my knitting and designing into a whole new unlimited set of directions! Thank you for reviewing this book - it looks AWESOME!

knottygnome said...

Sounds like another book to add to my list! i've used the magic cast-on for socks and hats before. i'm intrigued by the list of other uses.

knottygnome@gmail.com

Gina said...

As a statistician, I am always thrilled when our numerical tendencies are satisfied. The book sounds great; I love all of the designs you highlighted, especially the Headbumps hat, and I hope to make this part of my knitting library soon.

Jenipurr said...

Ooh, I'd love to win this book! I have made a ton of socks, but only ever done them cuff-down. Someday I am going to do toe-up socks! Maybe if I can figure out Judy's cast-on, that day will come sooner rather than later!

RebKnitz said...

Judy's Magic Cast On is UH-mazing. My go-to for toe-up socks. Those mittens are adorable; I'd love to win the book!

Jersey Shore Deb said...

Learning Judy's Magic Cast-On was the only way I was able to successfully knit toe-up socks. I have used this method for several pairs of socks, and more recently, for hats.
The book looks wonderful and I would love a copy signed by Judy--certainly a knitter's heroine!

ThatCleverClementine said...

Huge fan of magic cast on here, waving mightily and saying, "Yay! A book!!" I'd love to win it -- am so excited that it exists ;--)

shortoldlady said...

I have NO IDEA what the magic cast-on is but if it make a tight knit piece without ladders (I'm VERY DPN afraid) I would love to learn it!! Please don't let me continue to wallow in self-pity about being DPM-impaired!

Megan said...

I use the magic cast-on ALL THE TIME, in fact I often substitute it in when a pattern calls for another provisional cast-on. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

Deborah said...

I haven't used Judy's Magic Cast-On yet, but would LOVE to see how to use it for shawls! I'm in!!

collegeknitting said...

I only use the figure-8 cast-on, and she's right- it does make a pretty big gap. I'd love the chance to win this book and really learn how to do the Magic Cast-On! Thanks for the offer.

Small and Moody said...

I have never tried the Magic Cast-On, it sounds pretty amazing. I have never made toe up socks and I would like to try. This book looks great! I love the little piggy and the Headbumps hat!

nestra said...

There are some really nice patterns in this book! I'd love to win it, but if I don't I'm still glad to know about it so I can seek it out on my own.

CowGirlKnits said...

I've never used Judy's cast-on, I admit because I don't like to knit socks. I've always been fascinated by the idea of the technique, but didn't think it had an 'outside the sock' use. I'd love to learn and apply it, though!

Kitten With a Whiplash said...

I'm crazy about the Headbumps, it brings out the amateur phrenologist in me! I remember hearing about Judi's Magic Caston for socks when I first started knitting, and thinking since I wasn't ready to do socks, it was too advanced for a beginner like me. I'm still not a real sock knitter, but I'm happy to learn there's a whole world of opportunity to use this technique for projects other than socks. Thanks to your great review, I'd love to have this book, thanks for the giveaway.

sandi said...

How generous of you and Judy! I have used her brilliant cast-on, and would love to add this book to my knitting library.

Josiane said...

I had no idea that Judy's Magic cast-on had so many useful applications. Now that I know, I would love to learn it, so that book would clearly be a most welcome addition to my bookshelves! Thanks for offering us a chance at winning a copy.

teabird said...

I've never tried the cast-on, but it's on my list for next year when I tackle toes-up. The book sounds wonderful!

teabird on Ravelry

helena said...

LOVE the Magic Cast-On, I use it in my socks all the time, and I teach it and the Magic Loop method to everyone I know. I feel like an evangelist of magic methods!

Elizabeth D said...

Ooooooo, I am intrigued. Pick me, pick me!

Stitched Together said...

I use the Magic Cast on for socks mainly, but also to start little bags to felt or even on top down garments, starting from the back seam, doing the back first, then the fronts from the provisional or Magic cast on.

Michael said...

OK I would love to learn other things to do with Judy's caston!

Julie said...

I have never used Judy's magic cast on but I'd love to give it a try. Several members of my knitting group are currently working on a kal doing 2 socks at a time toe up using Judy's Magic Cast On and most have said they enjoyed learning it.

hazelmoon said...

I never thought of using magic cast-on in place of a provisional cast-on, wow. I just learned how to do this, have been using turkish cast-on for my socks til now.

Tricia said...

I love JMCO and use it a lot. Recently I used it to cast on more than 150 stitches for the centre of a shawl!

SharilynR said...

I've used JMCO a number of times for socks.

geekknitter said...

I completely love and adore the Magic Cast-On. I simply can't imagine using anything else for toe-up socks or circular shawls!

Ardosa said...

I'd love to learn the magic cast on!

Hillside said...

I'd love to learn Judy's magic cast-on. I've never got past trying to cast on in a pair of toe-up socks. It's just too hard when top-down is so easy.

rinebird said...

I would love to learn the magic cast on.

Sharripie said...

I use JMCO all over the place. I've been using it as a provisional caston for at least 18 months and I can't say enough good things about it. It it twenty kinds of awesome and I can't wait to read all the other ways to use this technique.

I am such a freaking nerd.

MimiD said...

I have been using Judy's Magic Cast On since my first toe-up socks in 2007. Love it! I have also used it for provisional cast-ons. I'd love to win the book and see the other useful applications of it!

lorraine said...

this book is so fun! ive used the magic cast before and its genius! raineoc@yahoo.com

MistySnow said...

What a great find! Thank you for reviewing the book. I would love to try Judy's method and add it to my knitting skills base!

neknitsandbeads said...

I've never used the Magic Cast-On, although I would like to learn.

tattva1knits said...

I've used the Magic Cast-on before. I didn't much like the Figure8 one.

Mary Ellen said...

I really want to learn the Magic Cast-On!

affiknity.com said...

I have seen videos of this magic cast-on, but never had the courage to try it. I am planning to use this for a bag I am trying to make. This book will be a great help since I don't knit socks, but this cast-on can be useful in all projects.

Elaine in NYC said...

What a wonderful birthday present this would be! I've always wanted to learn this technique.

Jenni in Edmonton said...

Thanks for the opportunity! - I've been using the Magic Cast-on for several years now, and several pairs of socks; I coach another knit-group member through the "top needle, bottom yarn, bottom needle, top yarn", and hear myself saying it in my sleep (well, almost!) This book looks AMAZING, hope it's my number that comes up!

tracytracy said...

Yes! Yes! I LOVE Judy's magic cast on! I learned toe-ups because I usually want to use up the whole skein when I'm making socks...or I did until hexipuffs (also JMCO!) made me appreciate leftovers (:

Bridget said...

I spent way too much time trying to figure it out from websites and other people's descriptions, but finally "got" it (though I still need to look at her instructions each time I try it). It is pretty awesome for toe-up socks, I have to say.

I may just have to check out this book, I especially love those mittens!

asp said...

My socks to date have been top down,but I'm ready to learn the Magic Cast on and start at the toe instead!

Kassia said...

I have used the magic cast-on a few times but as I'm not a big fan of toe-up socks, I haven't used it much. I'm eager to learn other uses for it!! :D

KnittingViolets said...

I haven't used Judy's Magic Cast-On yet, but I hear about it all the time and really need to try it out. Would be a good new year's resolution for 2012!

Mylyne said...

I would love to learn Judy's magic cast on and see how it applies to making hats.

skaro964 said...

I would love to learn the magic cast on and knit 2 socks at the same time.

Jenn said...

What a great giveaway! I love Judy's cast on, and because I love toe up socks, it's my go-to cast on.

Anonymous said...

I never tried the Magic cast-on but your book review has convinced me it's time to give it a try.

Thanks for the review.

Mary Kay

Patshuff said...

I use Judy's magic cast on for all my socks and I have often wondered how to use in while making other items. I would love to have this book.

Doc Anne said...

A lovely book. Thank you, Judy.

Debbie said...

I would love this book! I do use her magic cast on for socks, learned it from Wendy Johnson's sock book. Debbie H

Carolyn said...

I learned to use Judy's Magic Cast-On when I knit my first toe up sock a couple of years ago. Since then I have made only toe up socks (approx 8 pair) and have always started with this cast on. The book looks fantastic!

Anonymous said...

I could use a new cast on technique and that is reason enough to covet this book, but it has such pretty patterns, too. Add me to the drawing, please!

Miss Amy said...

Magic cast on is AWESOME!!! Love how it makes the toe of my socks look. Thanks for the chance to win a book.

B Radley said...

I have used the magic cast on before, although, since I'm mostly a top-down sock knitter, I always have to look it up when I need to use it. I'd love to have this book and make those Bobsled mittens. Tres cute!

Bonnie said...

Thanks for having the giveaway! I have used the magic cast on, although I usually knit socks cuff down. I'm not familiar enough with it to be able to do it without written instructions, but I would love to become more familiar! It's a great technique.

Marilyn said...

Would love to learn this magic!

Jane said...

I use Judy Becker's cast on for toe-up socks. I read that she created this method when home sick on her couch. Very impressive! I never thought of using this cast on for other items. The book looks great!

Connie said...

I would love to learn the Magic Cast-On. Socks are still a struggle for me and I think this may be the trick I need to make it easier! Thanks for the chance to win.

greyowl60 at yahoo dot com

katrog said...

Have just this week used Magic Cast-On for a pair of toe up socks. Love it, and this time I my hands understood how to do it:) I'm very intrigued by the idea of variations on it, and its application to projects other than socks.

Evelyn said...

How amazing to read your review and about the magic cast-on. I just taught myself the magic cast-on (and blogged about it recently) and am in love with this method. I hope the number generator picks me!

Marie said...

Serendipity--I was googling the YouTube of Judy's cast on for the Cat Bordhi socks in Clara's new book...and catching up with my "favorite blogs" reading. What joy to discover a whole book by Judy. I have never tried this cast on, but have seen it referred to in patterns. After mastering a short row heel in Clara's book, I'm now game to try a toe up sock and this ingenious cast on.

Sandra said...

Thanks for doing this comp.
It looks as if this book is going to be a very valuable addition to any keen knitter's library, and this keen knitter would definitely like it!!!

Anonymous said...

Magic cast0on is one technique I haven't tried yet. But after your review of this book I will!

Catdoc said...

I have not yet tried on the magic cast on, but toe up socks are next on my queue to try. Thanks for the great review.

Anonymous said...

hi- is it too late? Just saw this - what a beautiful book!

Martha from Ohio

Anonymous said...

I just used the magic cast-on to start my latest socks from Blue Moon - a little fiddly, but wow, does it look good.