Sunday, May 25, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Little Luxuries by Louisa Harding

At some point in every knitter’s life they decide its time to make a special gift. Louisa Harding believes that if you’re going to invest the time in a project, why not indulge in a fabulous yarn to make that knitting time special? Her new book Knitting Little Luxuries: Beautiful Accessories to Knit features 21 patterns for hats, mittens, scarves, purses, wraps and a cardigan, all knit in her own line of yarn.

Harding views these patterns as a "starting point," showing many of the designs knit up in multiple yarns and embellished with found objects, buttons, flowers, ribbons and embroidery. The items illustrating Knitting Little Luxuries have been embellished with treasures from her Grandmother’s button box. Her goal is to encourage knitters to make each piece as unique as the person creating it and customized to the recipient, rather than slavishly following a pattern.

The patterns in Knitting Little Luxuries are divided into four sections: Eclectic and Quirky where you "embrace embellishments to make your knitting one of a kind;" Textured and Modern, highlighting cables and interesting stitch fabrics; Pretty and Feminine that showcases luxury fibers, colour and lace; and Traditional and Folk that features fair isle with a twist.

Knitters who follow the latest trends will be eager to knit the Piper Purse, reminiscent of the cables purses carried by many celebrities this season. Those knitters entranced by vintage will be drawn to the Daphne Purse which is reminiscent of straw purses from the 50s, made unique by the addition of silk flowers.

Each pattern lists yarn requirements by weight (DK, worsted), followed by specific yarn information for the sample item. A small section on embellishment techniques is found at the end of Knitting Little Luxuries.

Free Pattern: Cecily Beanie (requires registration at Knitting Daily)

ISBN10: 1596680547
ISBN13: 9781596680548

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2007

Author Website:


Saturday, May 24, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Indigo Knits by Jane Gottelier

Jane and Patrick Gottelier, founders of the Artwork knitwear line, are renown for their fashion lines using indigo yarn. In Indigo Knits: The Quintessential Guide to Denim Yarn from the Founders of Artwork they share the techniques they have become known for in trendy designs for knit and crochet. Photographed in Cornwall, England, this is a beautiful book featuring the beach settings that are the perfect backdrop to show off indigo dyes.

Indigo Knits is a great way for beginning knitters to learn to work with cotton. More than half the designs are suitable for beginners and the boxy shapes require minimal shaping. The finished chest range for the adult sweaters (after washing) is 32” – 57.5”, with the average falling in the 36” – 46” range. Children’s sweaters range from 1-2 years up to 9-10 years. For those seeking casual, comfortable items that will develop the patina of well loved denim, there is much here to recommend. My picks are the Newlyn jacket or Abstract Art sweater.

For a book billed as “the quintessential guide to denim yarn,” I was expecting new techniques or unusual designs so I was somewhat disappointed to discover that Indigo Knits is mostly about the embellishments; that is, what is done to the garment after it is knit with bleaching, beads, sequins, weave stitching and distressing. While indigo yarn is by default considered “casual” (so firmly connected with everyone’s favourite jeans), I was disappointed that Gottelier did not push the boundaries of what can be done with this yarn utilizing full-fashioned designs. I wish that there were a few patterns which featured something other than a boxy shape.

ISBN10: 030735220X
ISBN13: 9780307352200

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: November 13, 2007


Friday, May 23, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Field Guide to Knitting: How to Identify, Select, and Work Virtually Every Stitch

The rise in popularity of knitting has led to a plethora of knitting books being published. Along with the books featuring beautiful designs or reflections on knitting, an important subset is the books on techniques and stitch patterns. Field Guide to Knitting: How to Identify, Select, and Work Virtually Every Stitch by Jackie Pawlowski falls in this category.

As knitters gain in experience and begin to experiment, they will reach a point when they need to acquire a stitch dictionary. With so many to choose from, how does a knitter decide? Like many other decisions it comes down to personal preference. Field Guide to Knitting: How to Identify, Select, and Work Virtually Every Stitch, as its name suggests, is structured like a birder’s field guide rather than a typical stitch dictionary. The colour photos of the swatches are numbered and found in the centre of the book. Each entry has a number to the left of the stitch name which corresponds to its photo. A table of contents is at the beginning but to find a specific stitch, knitters will need to reference the index at the end of the volume.

Like many other stitch guides, designers have selected a single colour to work each "family" of stitch patterns (edgings in brown, ribbings in purple). Each pattern has standard information included: general description and history of the stitch, best stitch gauge to achieve pattern definition, stitch properties, suggested uses of the stitch and the stitch instructions. One item not found in other stitch guides is evaluating the stitch pattern on the amount of yarn consumed (1 skein (efficient) to 5 skeins, the black holes of knitting), a very useful tool when planning a garment.

Field Guide to Knitting: How to Identify, Select, and Work Virtually Every Stitch is not designed to be a knitter’s primary stitch dictionary. Its small size, and approximately 200 stitch patterns and variations, make it a wonderful tool to pack in a knitting bag; however, knitters will want to complement it with an exhaustive stitch dictionary for their reference shelf.

ISBN10: 1594741581
ISBN13: 9781594741586

Trade Paperback
384 Pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: October 15, 2007
Author Website:


Thursday, May 22, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Sergio Makes A Splash! by Edel Rodriguez

Sergio loves water but not the deep kind. "When he’s around water, Sergio can be: relaxed, happy, funny, playful and silly." Which makes sense because Sergio is a penguin from Argentina, down near the South Pole. His three favourite things are soccer, fish and water - especially water - but when his class goes swimming Sergio is scared because he can’t swim.

Sergio’s friends quickly hop in but Sergio holds back, despite having on his floaties. Finally Sergio jumps in "but his aim is a bit off." He bumps and rolls into the ocean and disappears. Mrs. Waddle and his friends wait and finally Sergio pops to the surface. Sergio discovers loves the ocean and can’t wait to come back. "That was better than the rain, puddles, and a cold bath all put together," says Sergio.

Edel Rodriguez wonderful illustrations work brilliantly with the charming text of Sergio Makes a Splash!. The illustrations, created with oil-based woodblock ink, are printed in three colours – aqua, yellow and black – ensuring the colours pop and attract children’s attention. The first illustration diagramming "Sergio" is especially captivating, pointing out his height (1 foot), weight (1 pound), his curious smile and perky "wings." The text is printed in large letters and some are included in the illustrations as dialogue bubbles.

Sergio Makes a Splash! is perfect for children worried about trying something new, especially swimming. As Sergio says on the back cover, "This is a great book! It’s all about me!" Children are sure to agree.

ISBN10: 0316066168
ISBN13: 9780316066167

40 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 1, 2008

Author website:
Sergio’s website:


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

Having recently lost her mother, eighteen-year-old Rosemary leaves her home in Tasmania and travels to New York City to start her life. Possessing little more than $300, her love of books and her mother’s ashes, she sets out to explore the city she’s dreamed of for years. During her wanderings, she stumbles upon the Arcade bookstore and in a moment of unusually forward behaviour, begs for a job.

Thus begins her life among the bookstore’s eccentric denizens: Mr. Pike, the gruff owner who refers to himself in the third person; Oscar, the emotionally unavailable nonfiction specialist; Arthur, the art specialist who loves nude photos; Walter, the albino store manager; and Pearl, the motherly pre-operative transsexual. As Rosemary finds her way around both New York City and the Arcade, she discovers new authors and a love of Herman Melville. When she unknowingly becomes involved in an internal power struggle over an unpublished Melville novel, her new life threatens to disintegrate and she is left to choose sides.

Billed as a literary mystery but more a coming of age story, Sheridan Hay’s debut novel The Secret of Lost Things is a loving tribute both to Herman Melville and discovering one’s place in the world. In an interview at Backstory, Hay admits that this novel contains many autobiographical details. Hay worked at the famed Strand bookstore when she first arrived in New York City from Australia and she met many old, strange booksellers in the city’s bookstores. While pursuing her MFA she became fascinated with Melville’s work and came across the story of the missing novel. "When I learned that he'd written a novel that was lost, The Isle of the Cross, and read his letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Melville insisted himself into my bookstore narrative."

The Secret of Lost Things moves at a languid pace, appropriate as the action takes place inside the characters. In Hay’s novel, the search for the lost manuscript is secondary to the knowledge the search brings. Each character must lose something if they wish to gain something they perceive as being of greater value. Whether the bargains are good is left for readers to decide.

ISBN10: 030727733X
ISBN13: 9780307277336

Trade Paperback
354 Pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication Date: March 11, 2008
Author Website:


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Expectant Little Knits by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott

When knitters contemplate pulling out their needles to knit for an expectant mom, most are eyeing cute booties or miniature size cardigans for the baby. Few consider knitting for the mom-to-be; however, Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott’s new book Expectant Little Knits: Chic Designs for Moms to Be will soon see that trend change. Over a dozen designers have come together to create the twenty-two stylish and chic patterns to show off the baby "bump."

The first section of Expectant Little Knits provides an overview of contemporary maternity fashions and constructions techniques. The final nine pages cover basic knitting techniques. The pages in between feature stunning sweaters which have finished bust sizes of 27" to 50", with the average falling in the range of 34" to 44". The majority of the tops are sleeveless, featuring clever design elements including pleats, empire waists, discrete and not-so-discrete buttons for nursing, and lace in side panels. Each pattern provides a generic yarn description and yardage requirements and is suitable for beginning and intermediate knitters. It is only at the end of the pattern that the details of the model yarn are provided.

Of the twenty-two patterns, there is one coat, three dresses, eight tanks/tops, four pullovers, three cardigans, two hoodies, and a jacket. My favourite is the "Motherhoodie" shown in Noro’s Silk Garden which I’ve already made two of for pregnant friends. My only complaint about this book is that many of the designs are shown in mohair and alpaca which may be too warm for the average pregnant woman.

ISBN10: 1600591515
ISBN13: 9781600591518

128 Pages
Publisher: Lark Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2008


Friday, May 16, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

In the late 1970s, Argentina’s Videla 'junta' carried out a campaign of violence against its population, a "National Reorganization Process" comprised of the illegal arrest, torture, killing or forced disappearance of thousands of people, primarily trade-unionists, students and activists. Set during this turbulent time, Nathan Englander's first novel focuses on a poor Jewish couple, Kaddish and Lillian Pozan whose only son, Pato, becomes one of the approximately 30,000 people who were lost during this time.

A novel about community, identity and injustice, The Ministry of Special Cases illuminates not only a dark period in Argentina's history, but also that of its Jewish population. Embarrassed by their members who were pimps and prostitutes, the larger Jewish community refused to allow them to be buried in the community graveyard, requiring that they be separated by a wall and thus able to be ignored by "good people." Decades later, their children want to protect their "good name" and they hire Kaddish, the invisible Jew, to remove their ancestors from public record. As The Ministry of Special Cases opens, Kaddish is found chiseling away at a gravestone in a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Ares.

The juxtaposition of the secret "Jewish Reorganization," with the turbulent family dynamics of the Pozans, the self-policing of identity by the Argentinean population, and the broader political reorganization, makes for a complex novel about community, identity and injustice. Like the Jews who hire him, Kaddish now finds himself eliminating Pato's history as a student and free-thinker, by destroying his books.

Kaddish, a man who carves his own path in life, is often in conflict with his wife and son who see him as someone who can never get anything right. Lillian is exasperated by his futile efforts to make a living and the need to constantly save him while his son refuses to accept him. It is only when his son becomes 'disappeared' that Kaddish finally fulfills his potential, becoming the man Lillian had seen glimpses of when they dated. The irony for Lillian is that in losing her future, she gains a full partner in their marriage.

ISBN10: 0375704442
ISBN13: 9780375704444

Trade Paperback
352 Pages
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Author Website:


Thursday, May 15, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Bearing Guide to Life by Kathy Patrick

Kathy Patrick's love of books led her first to a job in a bookstore and then to every book lover's dream job – a publisher's representative. However, as independent bookstores began to face serious competition in the 1990s from the big box stores, Kathy saw her account base shrink as the independents started closing. But the loss of the individual accounts was nothing compared to the loss of her dream job when the publisher decided to eliminate her position.

After a short period spent hiding in her bed with books and boxes of chocolates, Kathy was talked into going back to her original career of beauty salon owner, only this time she was going to do it her way. Thus was born Beauty and the Book, the world’s only beauty salon/bookstore.

Shortly after the birth of her new venture, Kathy started her book club "The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas." There are very few rules; every member must wear a tiara and read the book of the month. The book club soon exploded across America and women in 70 chapters nation-wide were wearing leopard print, tiaras and hot pink.

Now Kathy shares her down-to-earth, tiara-wearing wisdom with everyone in her book The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. Written in a very conversational style, readers will soon feel like Kathy’s sitting in the chair next to them, drinking a glass of sweet tea, sharing book recommendations and chatting away like an old friend.

Each chapter shares anecdotes and inspiration from Kathy’s life, stories of family and friends, love, loss, and of course, her book recommendations. Part self-help, part inspirational, part memoir and above all about loving books, The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life will soon have you exploring your inner diva while you put on some leopard print, hunt for a tiara and run to the library for your next great read.

ISBN10: 0446695424
ISBN13: 9780446695428

Trade Paperback
352 Pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 2, 2008

Author Website:


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Through It: inspiring stories for times of trouble edited by Lela Nargi

I began reading Knitting Through It: inspiring stories for times of trouble a few months ago, sampling the WPA’s Federal Writer’s Project stories and the modern essays as time and whim allowed. The writings collected by Lela Nargi are fascinating, certain to appeal to knitters of all ages. Then, late in April, I got the news that my Grandfather was dying and something propelled me to pop this little book into my suitcase.

We arrived at my Grandfather’s bedside a few days before he passed away and I spent some of my time there knitting. At night in the hotel room, Knitting Through It was my reading choice and it provided comfort in the same way my needles and yarn did during the day. I read it cover to cover and then started over again. Suddenly the stories spoke to my grief directly and I found comfort in the generations of knitters who had experienced similar situations and found a way through it.

Knitters are aware of the therapeutic nature of knitting: it calms us during periods of stress, makes us productive during periods of trouble and provides comfort when we gift our work to someone in sorrow. We knit for victims of war and natural disaster, for the homeless and dispossessed, we knit for those grieving and by doing so, we share part of ourselves. Knitting Through It shares those traditions in words, providing comfort and community for knitters.

My Grandfather passed away on May 1 after a long battle with illness. His legacy of spirituality and hard work were passed down to all his children and grandchildren. When I remember this time, it will be with images of knitting; a fitting tribute since it was his wife, my Grandmother, who helped me gain proficiency in my knitting.

ISBN10: 0760330050
ISBN13: 9780760330050

224 Pages
Publisher: Voyager Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2004
Author's Website: