Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No-Bull Book Review & Giveaway: Stashbuster Knits, by Melissa Leapman

Melissa Leapman is one of the veterans of the knitting industry: she seems to work tirelessly, teaching, writing books and publishing patterns.  Having met her in person, I can also tell you that she is funny and down-to-earth and fun. I was delighted to receive a review copy of her latest book, Stashbuster Knits: Tips, Tricks, and 21 Beautiful Projects for Using Your Favorite Leftover Yarn. Let's subject it to the No-Bull Book Review treatment.



Stashbuster Knits (Potter Craft) is a paperback book, 144 pages, approximately 9 x 9 inches. MSRP is $19.99; available for $13.59 as of the time of this writing through the link above.  In the introduction, Leapman good-naturedly (and accurately) describes the typical knitter's stash:
Some of this treasured collection consists of one or two extra balls of yarn purchased "just in case." Much of it is just partial balls--precious bits and pieces left over from completed projects. Then there are those times a single ball of this or that lands in the stash because it's something you are curious to try out, or perhps it was an irresistible bargain, happily discovered in a hidden sale bin.  And who can resist picking up yarn as a souvenir from vacations and business trips?
Leapman cannily notes that although we love our stash, we also find it guilt-provoking because we know "there's just so much potential in there, if only we could figure out what to do with it."  But first, she cautions, we need to know what in our stash, and be able to retrieve it.  Accordingly, part 1 of the book is devoted to stash organization.


Puzzle Play

Leapman begins by suggesting that the knitter aggregate her entire stash, then sort it. She uses a four-category system:  super fine/fine yarns (lace through sport weight); lightweight (DK); medium (worsted and aran weight); and bulky/super bulky (heaveir than aran weight). She helpfully includes the wraps per inch calculation, for balls of yarn that have lost their wrapper, and then includes a chart which gives rough yarn equivalents (e.g. 2 strands of super fine yarn equal 1 strand of light yarn). She gives tips for how to inventory stash and how to store it (with anti-moth tips). After some tips for what to do if you have too much stash, she covers some basic color theory, giving advice on how to combine colors, how to create a "magic ball" and other methods for randomly (or not so randomly) combining colors. Last topic covered is matching project to yarn, considering amount, laundering care and yarn weight/gauge.


Cables and Colors

Part Two is the project section, organized by yarn weight.  The first section, devoted to lace-, fingering/sock and sportweight yarns, contains 5 projects, the Boho Bangles (best for using up small quantities of leftover yarn), a striped market bag, a cowl,


Fire and Ice Cozy Cowl

a bias striped scarf and a baby kimono with zigzag stripes on the body and a geometric stripe on the sleeves.

The section on lightweight yarns (dk weight) includes the Harlequin bag,


Harlequin

striped mittens, a kid's rollneck sweater done in stripes, a ripple stitch shawl, and an intarsia sweater for men.


Sea of Blue

Worsted weight projects consist of an afghan done in multiple colors shaped like jigsaw puzzle pieces,
a tote bag, a cabled yoke sweater, a circular-shaped medallion jacket


Roundabout

a multicolored linen stitch wrap, and a fair isle-style men's vest.


Strathaven

Bulky and superbulky projects include a slouchy beret,


Urban Knitster Slouch Hat

a textured cap, a cropped cardigan, a zipped and hooded vest, and a throw.


Bravissimo Throw

Following the patterns is a brief refresher course on topics like how to join a new ball of yarn, how to make bobbles, intarsia, provisional cast-ons, methods of increasing and decreasing stitches, and finishing techniques.  A helpful section also gives the basics of reading charts.

One thing that is especially helpful, and appears throughout the pattern section, are little boxes with tips and suggestions for customizing the patterns.  For example, the sample garment for the men's sweater is done in a blue colorway, but photos are given of two alternate colorways, one in browns, another in neutrals.



For knitters who are nervous about selecting colors, or who aren't good at imagining different color combinations together, this is a great help.  Other boxes include tips on yardage (noting, for example, that colors used for one part of a sweater will require more yardage than colors used later in the pattern), ideas for tweaking size or style, and suggestions for how to best use scrap yarn in that design.

As one might expect, you'll find all the amenities that Potter Craft books are known for:  color charts, schematics, clear photographs, close-ups of design details. and an easy-to-read layout.  We've already covered the weight of the yarns used (everything under the sun).  Sizing is generous; men's sweaters run from around a 43-inch finished chest to 61 to 64-inch finished chest, andwomen's sweaters go from around 34 to 35-inch finished bust through 3X, around 48 to 55-inch finished bust.  The baby kimono is sized for 6/12/18/24 months, mittens are adult women's/men's; the child's sweater runs 2/4/6/8/10, and the rest of the items are primarily one size items (e.g. bags, throw, scarf).

Project count goes like this:

  • 2 throws/blankets
  • 3 women's sweaters
  • 2 men's sweaters
  • 2 hats
  • 1 pair of mittens
  • 3 bags
  • 1 cowl & 1 scarf
  • 1 bangle cover
  • 2 shawls/stoles
  • 1 baby's sweater
  • 1 kid's sweater

Summing up, Melissa Leapman presents a versatile collection of good-looking patterns designed to use small amounts of yarn and other leftovers from the knitter's stash. There's a little bit of something for everyone in this book, and the technical information on organizing stash and combining colors will be helpful for knitters who feel overwhelmed by their odds and ends. And thanks to the generosity of Potter Craft, I've got a copy of Stashbuster Knits to give away.  Leave a comment (one per person, please) no later than midnight, Thursday, December 1st and I'll draw a random winner the next morning.  Make sure you include an email address or some other way I can get in touch with you or I'll pick another name.  (I moderate comments, so if your comment doesn't show up instantly, please be patient!)




48 comments:

virginia said...

But does she give you tips on what to drink for intarsia courage?

TheQualityWatch said...

Sounds like a great book. You can't beat all those patterns for the price. But with the tips and techniques - priceless. Who doesn't have a stash that would benefit from some inspiration.

Elizabeth D said...

yes, please, I would love to have this book! I've taken two classes with Melissa, and would take anything she teaches -- even if it was something I was quite sure I'd never want to do -- she's that good.

Ardosa said...

Love the harlequin bag and fire and ice cowl!

Julie said...

yes please! Just sorted, ahem, some of my stash last week. Looks like a very helpful volume.

hemleeck said...

Would love a chance to win this book! I have a couple of Melissa's already and love them!

Bridget said...

You know, I am always trying to think of projects for the leftovers ... a whole book of them, I definitely want to see!

Corvi said...

This looks like a terrific book. I'd love one!

asp said...

Boy, does my stash need some busting! Looks like a nice book.

collegeknitting said...

Wow, I would love a copy of the book! The patterns look spectacular. Thanks so much for the awesome give-away. My ravelry name is gnomesbeatfaeries, or you can get in touch with me on my blog. Thanks agaiN!

SHELLY said...

I love the idea of this book. I keep a small stash, which means I often end up with just 1-2 skeins of something. I also tend to spin just 4oz of something, for the experience of spinning it, but that leaves me with not enough for a large project. I'd love to see what she says about stash organization, too!
bensmomshellyATyahooDOTcom

Sewfast said...

Oh what a gorgeous book! I would love to win a copy! Thanks for a great giveaway! Mary mdeeter@hotmail.com

Jennifer Denning said...

I have a lot of stash that needs busting. I'd love to win.

jen@losingtheshadow.com

grandmastatus said...

Great review, as always.
Looks like a helpful book. (my stash is outrageous)
rav id: grandmastatus

Megan said...

I would love to check this book out and thanks for the opportunity to win!

eightycarrots said...

Yay! I'm the first commenter! I love the puzzle pattern. Thanks!

La Tricoteuse Heureuse said...

Ohhhh, please help me with my stash! I'd LOVE to win this book.
jessica at myknits dot com

teabird said...

(Google ate my first comment)

This looks like a really useful and enjoyable book!

teabird on Ravelry

mellenknits said...

What a great idea for a book - I could certainly use help in figuring out what to do with all my left-over odds and ends!

Daisy said...

Looks good. Another great review. Thanks, Carol!

Emily HK said...

The descriptions of yarn wights/substitutions and help with color-mixing (I'm always wary) makes this book seem very interesting! Thanks once again for a great book review.

aemmeleia @ gmail. com

Karen S, Lykkefanten said...

Looks like a very interesting book, and I especially like the details with the different colour samples shown in pictures.

Mimi said...

The wide variety of yarns enticed me back to knitting about 10 years ago. I bought hundreds (it seems) of single skeins and single balls of wool. Most of the superwash wools have been knit into hats and mittens for charity. I'd love to win this book, so I could try to knit up the rest of that odd ball stash. Thanks.

Debbie said...

I would love to win! The puzzle afghan looks cool! Debbie H
gussek at hotmail dot com
gussek on Ravelry

ladydi115 said...

I love some of those photos you posted. this book looks like a lot of fun. thanks

Hillside said...

I love the fair isle vest - I would make it for myself!

Katinka said...

Melissa Leapman is crazy-prolific! I took a cabling class with her at Stitches West and really enjoyed it. :)

Jill said...

It looks like she has some good tips in there. I'd love to win the book, thanks! jborders(at)ucla(dot)edu

Heather said...

Looks like a terrific book. Since my stash is made up of "bits and bobs" it would certainly come in handy! It will be a great prize for some lucky winner!

e-mail: rrossetto@cogeco.ca

AllisonInPhilly said...

A helpful review, as usual! I like to further divide the stash into plant /other fibers and animals. Love the menswear patterns in particular! xo AEK

Mary Ellen said...

I'd love to win this!

CowGirlKnits said...

I tend to go on random ordering binges, or have leftover yarns from my yarn shop managing days. leftover uses would be amazing. :)

Lisa said...

Book looks great! I've had classes with Melissa, and she's very wonderful both as a person and as an instructor.
Aloha,

Lisa
tropicalknits@aol.com

Josiane said...

That sounds like a very useful resource! It's always nice to have fresh ideas for how to use those odds and ends that live in the stash...

Kitten With a Whiplash said...

The sea of blue sweater is similar to a design I was thinking about right before I had to mostly stop crocheting. It was going to be done with granny squares, and I never thought about transfering the pattern to knitting. Doh! Melissa's looks great! Thanks for the giveaway, I can be emailed thru my blogger profile.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your reviews, have added to my library more than once because of you, so it' would be awesome if this one could join the rest (the patterns are pretty awesome too)

Angela B

affiknity said...

I have several of these patterns in my queue. This book would be really great to downsize my stash.

affiknity on Ravelry

Lisa said...

I would love to win the book. By any chance does the book come with someone to do the actual sorting for you? I could knit and watch them do the work. Haha. Thanks!

Jessica Snell said...

I don't know if it's my frugal Scottish side, but I love figuring out how to use every little last bit of yarn.

My frugal Scottish side is also digging the idea of getting this book for free.

Mary Beth said...

Since I really need to organize my stash, this would be a great book to have. Thanks for reviewing it.

Bonnie said...

WOW! That book looks fantastic. I think the puzzle blanket is gorgeous.

Anne said...

I'd love to win this book! I'm Divarago on Ravelry.

Pam said...

The book looks great! I've organized stash by color, but this sounds like a much better way.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a beautiful book! Looks like lots of great ideas. Thank you for sharing the book with us.

Martha from Ohio
knit3purl2 on Ravelry

Jane said...

I enjoyed your review very much. The patterns look great but I was interested her suggestions for looking at and organizing stash. I think all knitters could use advice on using our stash.

emy said...

That intarsia sweater (sea of blue) makes me wanna knit for my husband who is going away early April next year on a 3 year overseas posting immediately! Talk about getting a head start! handworks AT gmail DOT com

Rhian Drinkwater said...

Ooh this looks great!

Linda said...

After calculating my stash in miles, I have to face reality and shop in my closet. Looks like this book could help!