Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Test Knitting: Benjamin Snood from We Are Knitters

Last month I had a few very busy days devoted to all-day knitting in order to test a kit from We Are Knitters.The Benjamin Snood will be part of their spring/summer collection this year and I opted for cotton yarn in grey and aquamarine. I must say that the colours on the website look far more vivid than they really are: I was expecting the aquamarine to be far more turquoise rather than the pale green you see here. Still, it goes really well with the light grey I matched it with originally and I am very happy with this colour combination.

What's in the kit?

 You get two balls of yarn in a choice of colours, 5 mm knitting needles, the pattern, a sewing needle and a label. It all comes in recyclable paper packaging and a cardboard box, which I really liked. It is all reusable.

Who is it for?

The kit is aimed at beginners, which is reflected in the straightforward construction of the snood. It is knitted flat in stockinette until 10 colour blocks have been completed. Then the ends are simply sewn in and the snood's cast on and cast off edges are sewn together with the help of the needle provided in the kit. You also get a label to sew into the garment if you like. I did not add it to this snood since I don't like labels sticking out from the knitting. Also, it is a bit difficult to sew it in when dealing with worsted weight yarn or heavier.

My overall impression

Even though these are not my usually kind of colours, I really like them together. The cotton is very soft and smooth (I did have a knot in one ball, though), but also quite splitty so that you have to be careful to catch all the plies when knitting into stitches. This is made difficult by the needles included in the kit because they are unusually sharp and pointy at the very tip. I am used to wooden needles being fairly blunt, actually. Of course, you can always sand down the tips if you don't like them. Sanding is generally something you may need to do. The needles are coated, but the tips of mine weren't smooth enough and splinters caught on the yarn, so I filed them down. Now they are perfectly smooth and it made finishing the snood much more pleasant.

Personally, I would have liked the snood to have some sort of edging to keep the sides from rolling in. Also, I am a fan of proper grafting and would normally use the kitchener stitch to connect the ends. However, I do realise that this may be too much to include in a beginner's kit.

So if you know someone who has just learned to knit and you want to give them something special, this kit or another from We Are Knitters would be a good choice.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Review: Big Book of Knitting

It is, as the name says, a big book! Published in 2013 by Dorling Kindersley Ltd. and 320 pages long, The Big Book of Knitting contains 100 knitting projects suitable for knitters of all levels. Personally, I would say it is particularly aimed at beginners and intermediate knitters. All necessary techniques are explained and shown in photographs so you should be able to make everything published in this book. Like other knitting books by the same publisher, there is also a little stitch library at the back of the book.

Striped tassel-end scarf

What's in it?

There are projects of all kinds: from smaller things such as hats and scarves to jumpers and even blankets, cushions, bags and more. The book is divided into three main sections covering clothes, home and accessories, and basic equipment and techniques. The first of these sections covers cardigans, sweaters, hats, scarves, gloves and socks. For the home, they have compiled blankets, cushions, bags and toys while the final section covers anything and everything from yarns to techniques, stitches  (including colourwork), embroidery on knitting, seaming, blocking and more. Quite comprehensive! There are also a glossary and index if you need to quickly find something specific. 

As always, the clothing patterns cover the usual sizes for children and adults (S-XL), so if you are a plus size like me and don't know how to alter patterns to make them fit, these patterns are a bit useless. Of course they are still great for knitting for others and there are some stitch pattern details that look interesting enough to incorporate into other projects.

Wave and shell throw



Even though the section on techniques is fairly large and varied, it does not allow for much detail in the descriptions. The patterns are, without a doubt, the main focus of this book. Personally, I found the mere presence of a techniques section to be a bit annoying because I expected only patterns. All the information found in it you will either already know or it can be found elsewhere thanks to numerous online tutorials in writing and video format.

I think I would like the book more if it were focused on just one or two things. As it is, it tries to offer a little bit of everything and therefore moves on too quickly from anything that interests me. There are a lot of patterns that do not appeal to me or seem to simple or too playful for my taste. It is, after all, a book meant to appeal to a general, wider readership and knitting community.

I would recommend The Big Book of Knitting to beginners who want to learn more. If you are an experienced knitter, this is not a good choice and you would be better off looking for books with a specific focus on pattern types and techniques you are interested in. I imagine this book would also make a great gift to someone you know who has started knitting more recently.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A Yarn Story: The New Wool Shop in Bath

There is a new wool shop in Bath! A Yarn Story opened its doors in November 2014 as part of The Shed on the outskirts of the city. I first met Carmen, the owner, at our local knit club when she was thinking about opening her store and was looking for a suitable location. 

Carmen's selection of yarns, needles and notions is amazing: apart from some well known yarns, you will find lots of products from indie artists whose wares you will seldom see elsewhere. You can purchase wool, needles, crochet hooks, all manner of notions and accessories, spinning fibre, magazines, and my favourite wool wash, too. If you can't make it into the store, the website has a shopping cart so hold on to your wallet (or don't!) when browsing the online shop.

If you do get to visit A Yarn Story, you may also find a few familiar items such as my knitting needles with felted toppers, row counter bracelets, and stitch markers that you can pick and mix as you like.

You can follow Carmen on Twitter @ayarnstory or find more ways to connect here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Hocus Pocus Self-striping Socks

Remember The Knitting Swede's self-striping yarn I wrote about in December? It's finally knitted up into socks. And they are so lovely! the colours are so vivid and pretty that I decided to knit a pair of plain socks instead of adding some sort of patterning like I usually do. I think this may even be my only pair of plain socks ever so far.

This has also been the first time I was able to knit socks with 2 mm needles instead of my usual 2.5 mm. The socks fit perfectly, even the ribbing along the cuff isn't too overly stretched. I am hoping that this will remain the case even after the first wash. I think I will stick to handwashing these just in case (I should do that more often anyway).

 I used a simple k1 p1 ribbing here for a snug fit and chose the Eye of Partridge heel because I love the texture of it. What I really like about these broad stripes is that despite knitting a heel flap, the stripes are not that much narrower between cuff and foot. Usually, unless you knit the afterthought heel, your stripes are interrupted while you use the yarn to knit your heel and gusset. It worked out really well for my Hocus Pocus socks and you can barely tell the difference. I wasted a lot of time fretting about it in advance, so I am very pleased the stripes turned out fine in the end.

Look at that pretty heel! It sits well and the socks feel good when I wear them. Who knew knitting a plain pair could bring so much joy?

The tip of the toe is a bit pointy so I could really have bound off a few rows earlier, I think. However, I am sure it will widen eventually. All I want to do now is put my feet up and admire my socks!

What is your experience with self-striping sock yarn? What kind of heel do you knit when you use this type of yarn? And do you mind if the stripes are interrupted when you knit a heel like mine? Let me know.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Review: Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook

A book I had on my Amazon wish list since its publication in 2011 was Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius's American publication The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Last Christmas it became mine at last and I have enjoyed looking through it and comparing the different wool breeds, but I know it is not the kind of book I am ever going to read from cover to cover. It is a reference book, but far more interesting, ideal for dipping in and out of. As a spinner, this book is a wonderful addition to my library and if I ever wonder what on earth to use a certain yarn for, this book will be able to help me make a decision, too.


What you get

The book is packed with photos of over 200 different fibres, both in their spun and unspun state. I especially like the presentation of the wool from the unwashed fleece all the way through to the knitted sample. It gives me a clear visual of what a fibre or yarn will give me if I knit it up.

There is a lot to learn about what each type of wool is best used for, the history of the breed, and best of all, the book includes pretty much all breeds worldwide. There are maps on the inside cover marking where you find each breed, which is wonderful to see. More importantly, though, the book does not restrict itself to sheep breeds alone. There are also chapters on yak, goats, bison, dogs, horses and more!


Who is it for?

The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook is really well-priced, I think - you get a lot of information and great photographs in 336 pages of this heavy hardback. The index makes it easy to find what you are looking for, should you have questions about something very specific. It is not just a book for spinners and knitters, however. Anyone working with wool will benefit: felters, crocheters, dyers, weavers, and more.


What you won't get

I like how the book is structured, too, and so clearly organised in easily digestible chunks. If you are expecting knitting patterns and other projects, you will be disappointed as this is solely a reference book, albeit an incredibly beautiful and well-produced one. The text reads like you would expect from a reference book, so be prepared if you were hoping for an entertaining read instead.



If you are looking for a comprehensive book about fibre, this may be the very best you can get. This is why I had it on my wish list in the first place. I do not know of a book that covers any more and is presented as beautifully as The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Now, if there is an equally good book about vegetable fibres for spinning, then I'll be all set. 

It is incredible to think that the authors have sourced and worked with all the fibres they present in their book. There are so many sheep breeds alone that I had never heard of before opening this book and now I want to spin them all!