Cozy Knits from the Coast of Maine


Cozy Knits from the Coast of Maine is a new e-book from Stacey Warner of Bullywoolies and Warner Graphics. Its a beautiful publication, which I would expect from Stacey, and a wonderful collection of patterns. There is even a recipe thrown in at the end! Full disclosure: I knit two of the designs for the book, and they were fabulous.

Stacey used Maine hand-dyed wool in her designs, and chose names for them  that visitors and residents to mid-coast Maine will recognize: Mount Battie Cardi, Beech Hill Pullover,  Snow Bowl Hat, and Penobscot Bay Hat, to name a few. In this collection of seven patterns, there are many cables, some color work. Two of the sweater patterns are rated Easy, and the rest of the patterns are rated Intermediate. The patterns are all available on the Bullywoolies website individually for $10, or you can buy the e-book of all seven patterns for just 24.95!

Knitters who love the area around Camden, Rockport, and Rockland will love this e-book. If you are looking for a gift for a friend who knits and you want to give something that reflects Maine, this will fill the bill.

I'm looking forward to Stacey's next e-book!

Day 5 and 6 and a Few More Hours ....

I worked on getting the neckline and front bands of the Beekeeper Cardigan over the last week, and it took about 5 or 6 hours. Then I knit the left sleeve on Saturday, and I knit the right sleeve on Sunday. It took me a whole day to knit one sleeve! Like from 9 in the morning to 10:30 at night! I need to get faster.

Anyway, I succeeded in completing my Beekeeper Cardigan in about six and a half days.


I finished it just in time. This is it, hot off the needles, with the ends hanging out, unblocked, like a newborn baby, all wrinkly. Blocking will help it considerably, as well as weaving in the ends.

This KAL was the biggest one that I have ever been a part of. More than 1181 people endeavored to knit the cardigan in four to eight days, depending on their size (my size required 5 days, oops). So what is the big deal? Why did so many people sign up for this?

  1. It was billed as the "4-day KAL" to make a whole sweater with DK weight yarn in a textured pattern. It was intriguing, it seemed impossible, yet Marie Greene assured us that it could be done. People had done it last year. Before the KAL, Marie Greene and another test knitter did it to prove it could indeed be done. And, in the end, lots of people knit this sweater in four days. One knitter even knit four beekeper cardigans in the duration of the whole KAL, which was a little over two weeks! 
  2. It is thrilling to watch so many people helping each other to be their best, to find that they could do something that challenged them. I challenged myself, and it felt good. It also felt good to help others.
  3. When you are part of a group all working on the same project, you feel dedicated to achieving the end. You cheer each other on, you commiserate, you make friends. You want to do it again after it is done. 
  4. It is good to use Facebook to do something that enriches the world in that way, to actually look forward to posts and find success stories and to cheer each other on. 
  5. I learned a lot about sweaters and how they are made! I learned that knitters can and will knit full  sized gauge swatches with different needles, as hundreds of knitters in this KAL did! I learned that blocking makes a ton of difference in the finished sweater! 
  6. I saw beginning knitters who had knit only a little while and who had never ever made a sweater, knit this sweater with the little bee pattern and they succeeded! Wooooooohoooooo! I was so proud of them!
  7. I got a glimpse of what Marie Greene did to organize a huge KAL like this one, make it run smoothly, make everyone feel good about themselves .... all while she was putting the finishing touches on a book that she has written about sweaters. She was pretty amazing. I pre-ordered her book.
  8. I miss knitting the little bees.

Sheeps Socks, and a Wonderful Thing!

My sheep socks are done:

FullSizeRender (85)

Now it just needs to get cold enough to wear them! They are sooooo beautiful ... but there is a lot of end-weaving-in to do.

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I wove in the  ends as I knit, and I am glad I did.  There would be approximately 65 ends to weave in for one sock, and even for someone like me who doesn't mind weaving in ends, that is a lot. So if you are one of those people who has sweaters in the closet, all knit, just waiting to have the ends woven in, beware! You may need to find a weaving-in buddy that you can trade something with. Just sayin'.

My friend Barb and her husband Mark stopped by for their annual visit the other day, and it was great to see them. Look what they are lending me for a whole year:


Five audible knitting books! It's a Wonderful Thing!! I am so thankful to have good friends. 

Here is my next project:

Purple yarn

This is purple yarn for an Aran coat sweater for a little girl who loves purple! I'll tell you all about it next time!


Fall colors ...

Fall Colors

Trees over the camp

I took these pictures when I was in Winterville at the end of September, but they were stunning and colorful!  I love seeing the crisp reds, the playful yellows, and the magnificent oranges.

I love reading, too, and one of my favorite books to read in October is Headstones and Monuments by Steve Ogden. 


It's a delightful collection of scary ghost stories (but not too scary!) that will entertain you on the dark, windy nights leading up to Halloween. If you like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, you will like Headstones and Monuments. Remember telling ghost stories at night around the campfire? Yeah. It's a collection of that kind of really good ghost stories. And Steve's artwork is excellent!

I love new fall mittens:


Orange, my favorite fall color, and dark brown. Both are handspun yarns; one I spun before my stroke (the dark brown; I think it was Coopworth), and one after (the orange, which I got from Sharon in Nova Scotia; it's Romney, I believe), so they are blended together, the before and after, making a new whole. Like me!

The pattern, previously a Mystery Mitten Knit, is Soria Moria vott, and it will be featured in Tori Seierstad's mitten e-book coming later this autumn. Tori makes good mittens! Until the book comes out, you can join the I Make Mittens group on Ravelry, and follow Tori's progress.

Book Review: Faux Taxidermy Knits by Louise Walker

I got the chance to review a wonderful book for the quirky, whimsical and curious: Faux Taxidermy Knits, 15 Wild Animal Knitting Patterns by Louise Walker. Face it, have you ever secretly desired a fox stole, alligator bag, or a tiger rug, but you don't feel great about killing the animal to have it? Well, now you can have it and no animals will be harmed! This book has 15 patterns for things such as a moose head mounted in traditional taxidermy fashion, a mink stole, hedgehog slippers and and owl tea cosy.

Mink 02 

  Mink close up
I love the way their beady little eyes stare up at you, with love and mischief, not like the dead eyes of a real mink stole that make you say EWWWWW. But that may just be me. I am not a big fan of zombie minks. 

2Owls 01

Isn't this tea cosy the sweetest thing ever? This book is a British publication, so it just had to have a tea cosy, as well as a badger head. 

You can buy the book at Stitch Craft Create, or browse the whole selection of books in their bookstore. Books that caught my eye in browsing were Edward's Menagerie by Kerry Lord, Craft Bomb Your Bike by Shara Ballard (mostly because the name sounds slightly dangerous yet with a heady sense of crafting), and Knit Your Own Boyfriend by Carol Meldrum ("And the best thing about a knitted boyfriend? He doesn't answer back!" LOL).

I decided to make a project from Faux Taxidermy, the very last one in the book: Bear Coasters. Here is a picture of them in the book:

Baby Bears

So cute!

You have to knit two pieces for each one, and a couple of ears.  (The last time you saw them, they were swimming in my sink.)


Knitting them was easy. There were three mistakes in the pattern, all of which were probably an editing error, and none of them were so bad that I couldn't remedy them easily. In the event that there were any mistakes that were insurmountable, I think you could get a quick reply from the publisher -- they are great people, and crafting is clearly their passion. 

Sewing the pieces together and stuffing the head, legs and arms came next, which was the part that I was most worried about, since I am knitting with only one hand. But in the end, I got it done, and here they are, my own faux taxidermy:

Bear Coaster

I wished I had had a view of the coasters without a cup on them, so here ya go:

Front view

Back view

I love them! They were really fun to make, too. Each bear took me about 5 hours to knit. You can probably sew them together much more quickly than I can! 

Wolf 01


Thanks to the fantastic publisher, I have a free copy of the print book Faux Taxidermy to give out to one person who comments either here or on Facebook by midnight eastern standard time on September 22. Enter and you may win a free copy! 

There is a blog hop about the book too, so if you want to see what others are doing, click here to go see! 

Faux tax banner4


Wave bye-bye

Book Review & Giveaway: She Makes Hats, by Robyn Devine

The book She Makes Hats by Robyn Devine (Asymetrical Press) is a wonderful true story of a woman's search for her own knitting niche. Robyn started out learning to knit from a co-worker, and was immediately drawn into the fabulous world of a yarn shop. Along the way, she discovers the reason why she likes to make hats: it was her watching her little brother Dan in a hand knit hat, though she didn't know anything about knitting at the time. 

Soon she decided to work on a goal, inspired by watching her husband reach his goal of completing a triathlon, and also being inspired by The Art of Non-Conformity, a web site by Chris Guillbeau who challenged himself to visit every country in the world by his 35th birthday. What goal would she choose? To knit a hundred hats in a year, of course!

This was a big goal for a relatively new knitter. You have to knit a little every day. She started a blog, Starting out slow, she found that she was quickly turning out hat after hat at a surprisingly easy pace. She finished the goal in far less than a year, and she kept on going.

Robyn knits other things, but always comes back to hats. Hats are her knitting comfort food. She especially loves to knit for babies and kids. She knows that hats she gives to friends who have had a baby will be appreciated,  and their child will be loved by a circle of people. But some babies come into the world in a different circumstance:

"But the other babies, the ones born in the hospital down the street to mothers who didn't want to be pregnant, to families living below the poverty line, into houses full of a lot of things that aren't warmth or security or sometimes even love? The babies born on dirt floors to mothers who don't yet know they are HIV-positive, supervised by midwives with little to no training, their umbilical cords cut with rusty knives, and wrapped in dirty rags because that's all there is? Those babies are really the ones I want to knit hats for, the ones I end up buying extra skeins of baby-colored yarn for." -- Robyn Devine. She Makes Hats (Kindle Locations 409-413). Asymmetrical Press.

We have all been there. We knit through the things that tear us apart, we find solace in the repetitive motion of our hands, dancing tirelessly with the yarn and needles. It gives us a chance to be with others, yet not talking. Just being. Robyn Devine understands this, and she goes further -- she makes hats, for all sorts of people, and in doing so, she changes the world.

"Something amazing happens when I knit. My love becomes something tangible. All the negative thoughts that barrage me fall away and I am left holding a hat that will be placed on the head of an orphan somewhere in Russia, or on the head of a homeless vet somewhere in Omaha. And suddenly the breadth and scope of my life seems enormous." --Robyn Devine. She Makes Hats (Kindle Locations 623-625). Asymmetrical Press.

Every knitter strives to knit, first of all, but then what? What direction do you go in? I knit lots of things, but nothing in particular. I could never knit a hundred of any one thing. I think what I liked best about knitting was teaching it, every day bits of learning that occur when a knitter needed help. I don't get to do that very often anymore, and that's okay. I still knit.

She Makes Hats is a short book that you can read in a couple nights, or one night if you are obsessive about it (I know who you are!). Robyn Devine's book is sold as a paperback ($10.80 USD) and as a Kindle edition ($4.99 USD) through I also urge you to stop by her cool web site,! 

I am offering a free e-pub copy of She Makes Hats to give away. Just leave a comment either here on my blog or on my facebook post about it by midnight EST on May 4, 2014, and the random number machine will pick a winner! 

She Makes Hats is being published by Asymmetrical Press, a publishing house in Missoula, Montana run by indie authors, for indie authors—publishing for the indie at heart.

First Day of Spring

Yup, Spring is finally here, or will be around 1:00 p.m. they tell me. Not that we can tell by the sun when that will be, because it is raining here! Oh well, it will help melt the snow ... until more falls at the end of the week. Sigh. 

The good news is, we have a winner! The Random Number Generator chose Michelle to be our winner of the book giveaway for Knit the Alphabet! Go look at her blog, Stitches Be Slippin', it is fab! 

I finished Harriet, after 14 months of intermittent knitting. I would knit this design again; it was really fun to knit. The design is by Lisa Lloyd in her book A Fine Fleece, which is out of print I think, but Amazon has few 'bargain books'  -- they had 8 new copies still available this morning from $8.04, and they listed 13 used copies that sold from $6.82.  


This poor photo is a result of laziness on my part. Sorry. The wooly board is set up on the cat food table (complete with cat grass! Thans, Lynne!). I'll get better pictures after I get the buttons on. I have buttons that are the right size, but I ordered some gold-ish tinted flower buttons that I hope will make the gold-colored tweed pop in the purple sweater, and they will be here next week. 

Knit the Alphabet!

On Valentine's Day I got an email from a man ... it was actually someone from the publisher, Stitch Craft Create in the UK, telling me about this new book: Knit the Alphabet: Quick and Easy Alphabet Knitting Patterns by Claire Garland. I remember saying to my sister in law over Valentine's Day dinner that I really didn't think I would review it, because knitting little things and stuffing them -- even before I had my stroke -- weren't really my cup of tea. Some of my loyal readers will recall an unfortunate pre-Ravelry Easter incident now known as "Frankenbunny". It was frightening. 

But the more I thought of it, the more I thought of all the cool gifts I could make with the many, many odd balls that I have stashed over the years. And the many, many Kindergarten and early childhood teachers that I know who would love this book, the people I know who are in the print business who decorate their houses with letters, the owners of boats who would love the name of their boat in their house or on the boat, the parents of smart little kids who would like things besides enormous stuffed giraffes and giant jaguars ... so I said I would review the book! Stitch Craft Create has very generously offered a giveaway -- a copy of the book too! Details at the end of my post!


I started out my review thinking I would knit a word, a name maybe. Maybe my name -- Beth. It's short, I could knit it in a short time. I allowed a week to knit the four letters, figuring each one can't take over a couple hours to knit. 


I looked over the book then. It is a beautiful book! There are wonderful, winsome images of letters used as decorations for the home, used to spell out simple words such as "OK" or "LOVE" or initials, such E&K.


The bold colors are reminiscent of pre-school without being overly child-like, and there are some beautiful hand-drawn examples of each letter of the alphabet that look like they are made out of yarn. The book has a brief welcome from the author, and then gets right into the alphabet letters.



Each letter comes in three sizes: small, medium and large, achieved through using different sizes of yarn and needles. Small letters use fingering weight yarn and size 1 (2.5mm) needles, medium letters use worsted (Aran) weight yarn and size 8 (5.0mm) needles, and large letters use bulky (chunky) weight yarn and size 15 (10mm) needles. Usually you use two sets of circular needles for the knitting and you use double-pointed needles to hold stitches til you get back to them, but since I only have one hand because of my paralysis after my stroke, I had to use a couple sets of double pointed needles. 


I found the directions very clear and accurate. There was a point where the words didn't really make sense to me, but when I looked at the knitting, it became clear. Also, I wondered why the directions said something like "k 1, kfb, k 22, k 22, kfb, k1". Why not just say "k44" in the middle? But it was clear if I had two circular needles -- "k 1, kfb, k 22" was on one needle, and "k 22, kfb, k1"on the other.


The book also includes three non-letters: an ampersand (&), a heart in outline form, and a star. At the end were a Techniques section where there were instructions for making striped letters, abbreviations used in the book, basic equipment, yarns, gauge, and a good, clear explanation of knitting, including casting on, the knit and purl stitches, increase and decrease, binding off, Kitchener stitch, knitting in the round, making up, and how to stuff your letters. The cast on was especially helpful for me, because often the letters start with a cast on such as is used in a toe up sock. This 127-page book was truly a little gem!


So, how did my name go? It took me about 6 hours of time to knit and stuff and sew only the first letter of my name. So much for quick! But I  add that I can only knit one-handed, so a two-handed person is probably much quicker. Also I started with the letter "B", which is more time consuming than, say, a letter "I". 

At the beginning, when I had this, I was thinking, what have I gotten myself into??


That is nine needles -- four to hold stitches and five that I was knitting on! But it wasn't even scary. I got over my fear of letting go of needles long ago, and the directions were incredibly clear and easy to follow. It was actually really fun to knit, and I think that the result was a really cute "B":


I was very pleased with the result! I'm excited to knit more letters now!

Clair Garland has a wonderful blog over at Dot Pebbles. You may remember her book Knitted Babes, but she has many other books! This new book, Knit the Alphabet, can be had on the Stitch Craft Create site as well as on Amazon ... or, you could win a copy right here, courtesy of Stitch Craft Create!!! Just leave a comment on this post or on the Facebook post about it by Wednesday, March 19, at midnight EST and I will choose a winner first thing on Thursday morning! 

Now go see what everyone else is saying on the blog hop for Knit the Alphabet!

Follow the Yarn: The Knitting Wit and Wisdom of Ann Sokolowski, by Reba Linker

I am pleased to be part of a virtual media book tour


Follow the Yarn: The Knitting Wit & Wisdom of Ann Sokolowski by Reba Linker is more than a knitting book. It’s a journey through a life-changing episode in Reba Linker’s life, disguised as a simple knitting class. This book-within-a-book starts out telling how Reba, at the urgings of her friend Chaya, took a local learn-to-knit class at the Central Queens Y in New York. There, she met Ann Sokolowksi, who was the instructor. A retired teacher, Ann was no cupcake; she didn’t sweet talk her students, guide their hands or even show them her knitting technique. Instead, she said, “Etch this on your eyeballs!” when there was something that was a really important bit. 

This book is filled to the gunnels with twenty-three chapters of knitting wisdom from Ann, including how to care for knitted garments, yarns and tools (“Beware of crapola!”), increasing and decreasing, basic stitches - garter stitch, stockinette stitch, ribbing, seed and moss stitches, and the like. This is not a pattern book. While you will find a couple really basic ‘patterns’ for things in it, it is far more. In that way, it is a little bit like Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears -- to Elizabeth, and Ann, knitting was much more than a hobby. It was a way of thinking, of living. Ann didn’t need to teach knitting at the Y; she did it because she couldn’t NOT do it.

Communication was everything to Ann, and she communicated knitting topics, but she also imparted a great deal of wisdom about everything, about life itself. She made a gift of her time and energy freely, to everybody. It wasn’t for everybody, but those who stayed surely got a lot more than knitting instruction from Ann. She was a remarkable woman in a time when women were just starting to begin making choices that now are considered normal. A single woman, she adopted a baby in another country, the first time anyone had done that. She was a brave woman, a self-confident woman.

This self-confidence was imparted to Reba Linker who, through Ann and through knitting, helped find her own way through some family troubles that she had never dealt with. Ann had a gift of seeing the good in people, dealing with them on an even level of repect and acceptance, and it was this feeling that Reba sought and found.

Follow The Yarn is 194 pages, and it costs $19.95. Beginning knitters will find much there, and experienced knitters will enjoy learning about Ann’s life. Ann had a lot to teach us all. 

Learn more at All who sign up for Reba's newsletter from now to the end of the tour will be automatically entered in the Tour Contest for a chance to win Great Prizes.

Extra chances to win will be given out at and

Follow the Yarn is available at

Upcoming Knitting and Crochet Books in 2013

There are some truly great books coming out next year! Check these out:

1. 100 Scandinavian Motifs: The Knitter's Directory by Mary Jane Mucklestone.  (There's not even a cover image yet.) You know if MJ makes it, it has to be good. I already pre-ordered this book. She's taken 100 of the best designs from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faeroe Islands, and showcased them with a hand-knitted swatch, with easy-to-read charts and a reverse colorway. She has included five designs at the end of the book. I can't wait! Coming out September 10.

2.  Scandinavian Christmas Stockings: Classic Designs to Knit for the Holidays by Mette Handberg. Following in the same Scandinavian line, this is a collection of brightly-colored Christmas stockings, complete with an alphabet for personalizing each family member's names (or dogs and cats!). There's also a nice collection of stocking caps, patterned mittens, and leg warmers, too. And don't worry, you'll have time to knit them; the book comes out July 1, 2013.

3. How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior. I put this book on here because I love the title, hehe. I don't even have a tea cosy, and I don't have the patience to make one. I'll just have to drink my tea fast! But for those people who love to make them, this book is the ticket. The author has an outrageous imagination. I'd kind of like to see the "Betty the Burlesque Dancer" tea cosy. (Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd write!). Loani Prior's fans can try their hands at a knitted purse, or a double-knitted scarf. If nothing else, this book is creative and funny! It comes out June 1, 2013.

4. Free-Spirit Shawls: 20 Eclectic Knits for Every Day by Lisa Shroyer catches on to the bug for knitting shawls that's got everyone knitting. Socks did it a few years ago. Ravelry's most poular patterns of all time has 13 of 35 patterns for shawls. They fit everyone, they're relatively easy to knit, and they make great gifts. I don't know if anybody ever wears them, but knitters do, and nobody else really matters, right? The book is divided up into Color, Lace, Simplicity, and Texture. This book is coming out May 21, 2013.

5. Patterns for Pooches by Anne Burton is based on the designs she's sold successfully on line, designed from necessity: she brought home a Boston terrier pup named Bean, and he didn't like the frigid Nebraska winters. She knew some basic crochet and set about making him sweaters. (This book is for crocheters only.) Her style is simple, with a quirky sense of humor! It comes out May 1, 2013.

6. Light and Layered Knits: 19 Sophisticated Designs for Every Season by Vicki Square. I like Vicki Square's books, and this one looks as good as the rest! These designs are fluid and fashionable, sized to fit almost anyone, and they are good for layering in a casual or workplace setting. Good for summer knitting, they are knit in silk, linen. cotten and bamboo. I think this looks like a fantastic book, with styles that are truly wearable. It comes out just in time for summer knitting, too: April 30, 2013.

Free Knitting Book

This book might be a good puzzle for you: Exercises in Knitting, by Cornelia Mee. The Kindle edition is free, but there's no illustrations and there's no key to help you understand the terminology.

I had to use my search engine to figure out the publication date (sorry, my brain was fried by writing NaNoWriMo). "MDCCCXLVI" translates to 1846. Before the Civil War. Yikes. 

Cornelia Mee is the "Authoress of a Manual for Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work", and she published her third thousand (!) in London on Fleet Street.

So it's no wonder that my feeble little brain can't figure out what "First row: -- Seam 4 stitches, cast on 6 stitches, seam 4, cast on 6 stitches, and repeat," means. Upon further perusal, I think "seam" and "seamed" means "purl" and "purled".  Just a hunch. 

Even the titles are difficult to figure out. What the heck is a "penwiper" and why would you want to knit one? It's knit in three colors of "German wool." I somehow want to make one.

Unfortunately these are just pattern stitches I think; the number of stitches don't seem right to cast on. A comforter only takes 39 sitches. On the other hand, maybe a comforter is a kind of scarf. On the other other hand, there are pattern for garments (I know this because there are sleeves): there's a pattern for an "Under Spencer". Interesting!

Anyway, sometime I think unraveling Cornelia Mee's projects would be quite stimulating. But not right now! 

Three New Books

There are three new books on Amazon that sound really good! 


Unfortunately, I can't use this, because I can't use circular needles, but you can bet I would have it on my shelf  if I could: The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges, by Ann Budd. Her other 'Handy Books' are wonderful, and I've used them several times, so I know that this one will be good, too. Anyone who likes knitting seamless sweaters that require little finishing will love this book. She offers five different styles: circular yoke, raglan, modified-drop shoulder, set-in sleeve, and saddle shoulder, and they are available in different sizes and gauges. I think it's a good springboard for designing your own sweaters! It's available now!


I was intrigued by Knitting Hats and Mittens from Around the World: 34 Heirloom Patterns in a Variety of Styles and Techniques, edited by Kari Cornell. The designs feature well-known names such as Beth Brown-Riensel, Donna Druchunas and Lily Chin, and they're from all over the world: Scandinavia, Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, China, Peru, and the United States. It has found its way onto my wish list! It's available to buy now.


I know I haven't done much reading lately, but I do like to read, so this book is my kind of book: Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books by N. Lohr. The designs are inspired by characters in books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Great Gatsby, and Moby Dick. These types of things fascinate me. I can picture a dress from Holly Golightly  of Breakfast at Tiffany's, or a cloche from Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, but I marvel at what N. Lohr has come up with for Moby Dick, or the Chronicles of Narnia. A guernsey swweater for Ishmael in Moby Dick? A scarf for Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia? You'll have to guess for now, because this book won't be out til November 27!


Books Not Burned

On this last day of Banned Books Week, I'd like to spotlight some books that weren't burned as was intended, so we can reflect on the good that comes out of keeping literature. 

Virgil Reading the Aeneid

1) Virgil's Aeneid -- Virgil wanted his Aeneid to be burned when he died, because he felt it was unfinished, and as such, not as great as it should be. Luckily, the emperor Augustus Caesar ordered his two literary executors, Lucius Varius Rufus and Plotius Tucca, not to have it destroyed, and instead ordered the Aeneid to be published with as few editotial changes as possible. Yay Augustus!!

Emily Dickinson

2) Emily Dickson did the same thing, but she gave instructions in her will to her sister Lavinia "to burn all her papers." Can you imagine? Putting pressure like that on poor Lavinia? Well, Lavinia did burn some correspondence ... probably to appease Emily's ghost; she did not burn her notebooks and loose sheets, which contained nearly 1800 poems. If Lavinia had burned everything, Emily Dickinson would probably be known only as a minor character in literature, a footnote at best.

Franz Kafka

3) Franz Kafka also wrote to his literary executor Max Brod that he wanted all his "diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, to be burned unread." Good thing Emily wasn't as specific in her request to Lavinia!  But Brod told Kafka he wouldn't honor it when he died; silly boy for writing it in a letter to Max before his death. Brod published the whole thing. If he hadn't, we would only have a few short stories published during his lifetime.

Monte Cassino Abbey and Monastery

4) Two German officers, Lt. Col. Julius Schlegel (a Catholic) and Capt. Maximillian Becker (a Protestant) sent the Monte Cassino archives to the Vatican at the beginning of the Battle of Monte Cassino in World War II. Because of the fourteen-centuries of Benedictine abbey there, the German commander ordered troops not to use the abbey for defensive positions, and told both the Vatican and the Allies of that decision. Allied reconnaissance spotted German troops in the Abbey, which had a beautiful view of the surrounding area, and on February 15, 1944, the abbey was destroyed by 1,400 tons of bombs dropped by American bombers. Thank goodness for those two German officers, who saved all 1500 years of the abbey's records, 1400 irreplaceable manuscript codices, as well as saving the collections of the Keats-Shelly Memorial House, which had ironically been sent to the Abbey for safe-keeping in December, 1942.

Burning banned books is bad. Saving books from burning is good.

Book Review: New and Up-Coming Crochet Books

There are some really great books coming out that are for the crocheters in the crowd. Here's a few that I've picked out:

1) Tunisian Cables to Crochet by Kim Guzman. If you're interested in this book, you better jump on it, because there are only 5 left in stock at Amazon. This book takes Tunisian crochet a bit further; I didn't even know there was such a thing as cables in Tunisian crochet, but now I want to try them! This little booklet is a good way to learn. Apparently, you can order now, though the product details say it's comimg out October 1.

2) Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs: Creative Techniques for Joining Motifs of All Shapes by Edie Eckman. This book is a must-have for all crocheters! Love making the pieces for an afghan or outfit, but hate joining them? Edie Eckman will show you how to turn that all around. Also available in a Kindle edition. It's coming out October 23, 2012.

3) The Finer Edge: Crocheted Trims, Motifs & Borders by Kristin Omdahl. I remember my Aunt Phoebe used to crochet miles and miles of lace edgings for pillow cases, towels, even sheets, and I thought they were so pretty. This book reminds me of them. Who wouldn't want sheets or towels with handmade lace edging on it for a wedding gift? Or a Christmas gift? In this book, Kristin Omdahl shows you how you can create fabrics, use trimming ingeniously in garments, use your creativity. She even has patterns. This book will be available January 8, 2013.

4) The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs for Time-Honored Traditions by Dora Ohrenstein. What can I say, I'm a sucker for Tunisian Crochet. Featuring patterns from several designers, and having 20+ stitch patterns, this book promises to be a hit. It will be out February 26, 2012.

5) Blueprint Crochet Sweaters: Techniques for Custom Construction by Robyn Chachula. Finally, someone has written a book for crochet that I have been waiting for! It's a book on sweater design, written for crocheters, the first of its kind. I have it on my wishlist. This book could revolutionize crochet designs, putting the tools into the hands of crocheters everywhere, making it possible to get a set of patterns like Yankee Knitter patterns or Pure and Simple patterns in yarn shops, but for the crocheter, not the knitter. I always thought that somebody should do a collection of patterns like that, basic designs for the beginning crocheter, and now maybe someone will, now that the design basics are published. This wonderful book comes out March 5, 2013, and I can't wait!

New Knitting Books

I was looking on Amazon and I found a whole slew of books that were still in pre-order that looked quite interesting.

1) Crochet Noro: 30 Dazzling Designs -- I don't usually like Noro patterns, but this looks intriguing.

2) French Girl Knits Accessories: Modern Designs for a Beautiful Life by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes -- looks like a good collection of accessories, coming out in September, perfect for gift giving.

3) November Knits: Inspired Designs for Changing Seasons by Kate Gagnon Osborne and Courtney Kelley. It says it's a "must-have resource for this year". I'd like to find something that inspires  me the way that A Fine Fleece does. It's due out in October. 

4) Finish-Free Knits: No-Sew Garments in Classic Styles by Kristen TenDyke. While finishing doesn't bother me, and I can't knit with circular needles, I thought some people would like this very much (my sister, for example). It sounds pretty clever, actually, designing pockets, button bands, collars that are attached without knitting.  This comes out December 11. 

5) Shades of Winter: Knitting with Natural Wool by Ingalill Johansonn and Ewa Andinsson. While this focuses on organic, natural yarn and beautiful photography, we all know that what really floats our boat is good projects.  I'm gonna bet that this book has that too.  November 6 is the release date of this book. 

6) Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting by Cap Sease. Oh.My.Goodness.  120 ways to cast on . . .  80 ways to bind off . . .  I want this book!! It's coming out right away too, August 20. 

Books I'm Reading

I finished First Shift - Legacy by Hugh Howey. A lot a people said it was slow, that it was disappointing, but I loved it. I think people were dismayed by the fact that it was a prequel, set down in the middle of everything, when they were expecting that the exciting story would continue.

I'm convinced Hugh Howey has a cunning plan, and we will all look back after he has written the whole series and understand his choices. Now he has set up several possible outcomes for the characters in the story, and I can't wait to hear what they do.


The other book I am reading is The Mongoliad: Book One (Foreworld Saga) by Neal Stephenson and a whole other bunch of people: Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E. D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, and Copper Moo. It takes place in the Mongol Empire in the thirteeth century, and so far there are storylines everywhere from Bulgaria to the Khan's palace.

Right now they seem to be focusing on three different sets of characters. The first is the story of a woman named Cnán and the men known variously as the Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae, the Shield-Brethren, or the Monks of the Red Rose. In any case, they are heroic knights sent to kill the Khan. Cnán is helping them, and falling in love with Percival.

Then there is the story of Gansukh, a Mongol warrior, sent to court by Chagatai Khan, the Khan's brother, ostensibly to control the Khan's excessive drinking, but he not sure how he will do that. The Khan's advisor has given him the services of Lian, a beautiful Chinese slave, to help him understand the complicated protocols Gansukh; falls in love with her and so far he's blundering about helplessly in court.

The newest plot involves Kim, Last of the Flower Knights, and Zugaikotsu no Yama, a street brawler with a mysterious past, both captives, as they plot to overthrow the Khan.

This book is seriously convoluted, fascinating, heady with swordplay, overwrought with intrigue -- in short, like the Mongol Empire itself. I can't wait for the second book!


Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey

I started reading the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. Despite being named Wool, there is no knitting in it. It's a sci-fi masterpiece that will astound you, even if you don't like sci-fi. The characters are remarkable, real, well-written. The setting is far in the future, and mankind has been living in this Silo for so long that they have forgotten a life outside. To go outside means death. Luckily every now and then someone does something to get a death sentence, and is chosen for cleaning: going outside to clean the cloudy camera lenses to let people up top to see outside. The view worsens from the grimy toxins that constantly blow in the wind.

Wool was originally a series of short stories written, at first, in NaNoWriMo. The series grew; Howey self-published them in Kindle format as well as print. His editing is perfect. The book is selling like hotcakes! People read it, share it, talk about it with their friends, write blog posts about it. Rick Riordan even Tweeted about reading Wool. It's good to finally hear of a self-published author getting the recognition he deserves!

It's interesting that even though Wool has no knitting, the chapters -- the five separate stories that make up the omnibus -- are headed "Wool", "Wool 2: Proper Gauge", "Wool 3: Casting Off", "Wool 4: The Unraveling", and "Wool 5".  

It's a great series, anyway, and I heartily recommend it. I am reading the prologue now, First Shift - Legacy. I think it will set a background for the next short stories in the series. I look forward to finding out what happened!

Old Books

I started buying up copies of Alice Starmore's books just about the time they started going out of print. I looked on line, in little out-of-the-way yarn shops everywhere we went, and I think I found all the ones I cared about. I lost my copy of Stillwater, though. I am so bummed. But, I have all the others. 

I was going through my books the other day and found these:

AS books

American Portraits, and A Scottish Garland, by Alice Starmore. I forgot I had them. Jade Starmore is the model in American Portraits; she looks so young! These are booklets more than books, I think. American Portraits had seven designs, and A Scottish Garland had eight. Included was the sales slip for them, from the New Hampshire shop I got them from, for $23.50 each. That was a lot to pay for a booklet, but I could see the way things were going, and I paid it. 

I looked the books up on Ravelry. A Scottish Garland said nothing about the price, only that it was out of print; but on the other one it said, "American Portraits, published 1994, out of print, used prices $175 - $200."


Then I looked on Amazon, and they had 4 copies of Scottish Garland from $135 - $220. Huh. I guess I got a good deal. 

So then I felt like knitting something from them, because I got such a great deal, and decided that the pink Fleur de Laine that has been in my stash since the 90's (around when these booklets were published) would be great in Columbia:


Fleur De Laine is long discontinued too. I  will get some satisfaction knitting a discontinued pattern with a discontinued yarn. But that's a ways in the future; however, it is good to make plans.

Geoffrey Chaucer, I'm Sorry

I got to wondering why Chaucer never wrote about knitting. I mean, it seems like the obvious thing to do on a journey, as in The Canterbury Tales. I was building up steam about how our literary history is male based, and therefore men in charge of literature would never think that knitting would be important enough to be in anything they wrote about, when I discovered that knitting didn't really catch on in Europe until the 15th century ... and Geoffrey Chaucer died in the year 1400. He was about 100 years too early. Otherwise he would have started his Tales with

"Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
Wettens the lambe and laves the woole,
The spinerre makes suche lettil threed
To hie to kniterres evaerywher..."


Homespun Handknit

I looked at my steadily-accumulating handspun yarn and thought, I should knit that into something. But what? I don't know how many yards I have of any of it. A little bird whispered in my ear, "You've got to get creative!"

I started by pulling out my old copy of Homespun, Handknit, edited by Linda Ligon. I love this book. I had it practically memorized back in the late 80's. Today I rediscovered it and it was love all over again. 

It was published in 1987. Back in the 80's and early 90's, there was no internet to speak of. I got my first AOL account back in 1992, and the World Wide Web was unveiled about a year after that. I had forgotten how much the world  -- my world -- depended on books back then. There were hats of all types, mittens and gloves, simple knitting and fancy. There were a few socks; socks hadn't really caught on yet as the Monster of Knitting that they are now. Looking back at that book, I was amazed at the complexity of knitting and the basic, easy knitting that was represented so effortlessly. 

There's a new version, called All New Homespun Handknit, edited by Amy Clarke Moore. It's got lots of pretty pictures and some very cool designers. It's on my wish list, and I'd like to have it, but it can never match my old love. 

Anyhow, I didn't figure out what to do with my handspun yarn yet. I'm still thinking. I'd love to hear what your favorite thing to do with handspun yarn is!

Book Review: The Diamond Age

I recently finished Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. I think I can enumerate Neal Stephenson up there with Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut, those weird, funny, mind-stretching guys who write. I wonder why I haven't discovered any women who write like that? Something to ponder.

The Diamond Age centers around Princess Nell in a steampunk sort of world, where Neo-Victorians ride on robotic horses and build huge builings in the sky made out of diamond that is from a matter compiler. A lot of the action is in Shanghai, and in the Leased Territories, and towards the end it takes place underwater. 

Nell is a little girl who lives in a dirt poor neighborhood with terrible parents, and her brother Harv lives with her too. Harv is her parent figure in this uncertain world; he teaches her things, and takes care of her. One day he brings her The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer, which he stole from a Vicky (Victorian). The thing is, it's a very special book, and it teaches her to read and so on. 

The narrator of the book is a real person named Miranda, who slowly begins to think of herself as Nell's mom. She witnesses, through what Nell says, horrible things in Nell's life. It messes with poor Miranda's head, so Carl Hollywood, sort of her agent, feels compelled to help her. Meanwhile, John Hackworth, the unfortunate creator of the book, becomes involved in all sorts of adventures. You see, his creation of the book was ... illegal. He was supposed to make only one copy of the book, and it was for the grandaughter of a noble, but he also secretly made two. One was supposed to be for his daughter, but it got stolen before he could give it to her. 

Nell struggles and overcomes her demons, rises in society, and she becomes the real heroine. One thing I really like about Neal Stephenson's female characters -- they are strong women. Amy Shaftoe in The Crypt0nomicron was also a very strong woman character. I find it quite fascinating that such a macho man as Neal Stephenson seems to be could consistly create such strong women characters. I like it. 

Neal Stephenson is a very Dickensian writer, too, in the level of details he gives about people and scenery, and Nell's story, rising from the depths of society to the very top, is like something out of Dickens, too. 

He ended this book the same way as The Crytonomicron, abruptly. That's one thing I don't like about his writing. But, it's very masculine of him; he was done with the story, so he just ended it. And really, he said everything that needed to be said. I guess I just wanted to keep hearing his voice :)

Book Review: Knitting Cat's Sweet Tomato Heel

I recently caved and got Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel Socks, an e-book; it will have 11 designs in it, and currently has 9. I love the front cover shot of a bluebird flying away with a sock! Very clever indeed. (No birds were harmed in getting the shot, hehe.)

First of all, I must say that Cat Bordhi has once again proved that she is the Steve Jobs of knitting. She has published an incomplete e-book, and will be adding to it regularly. The book was intended to have only 9 socks, but she says "I’m having so much fun designing these socks that I can’t stop." Who knows what we will end up with? There may be whole sections about designing your own sock; the possibilities of this kind of publishing are endless, and I look foward to what she will do. It's a perfect medium for Cat Bordhi, as everything she does is a little bit different. I think this changes everything.

I love the way Cat Bordhi writes. There is a playfulness that comes through, probably because she used to be a teacher. She describes the inside-out pockets in her "Hidden Treasure Pocket Socks" as puppy ears; I love that. On her "Hither and Yon" socks, she uses clear beads on the front of her socks, to let the color of the yarn show through, and multicolor beads on the back, to surprise passersby. A little surprise is always good!

The book has 9 patterns currently; two more are forthcoming. The patterns for the individual sock are available as single copies for $6.00, or you can buy all 10, plus a thank you gift of the last design which won't be available separately, for $20. If you are planning to knit more than three socks, you should buy the book. Each design uses the Sweet Tomato heel, which I blogged about here. Each design is also written for toe-up and top-down construction - a wonderful thing -- and written for one long circular, two circulars, or double-pointed needles.

Each design is highly adaptable in different sorts of ways, and I can use it as a springboard for other ideas. There is something for everyone in this book. All of the socks are sized for women, but children and men are also included in most of the designs, and babies are included in two designs. Cat's instructions are very clear, and while a bit wordy, it's necessary to follow them exactly in a few places. I think adventurous beginning knitters will do fine with this; it's the more advanced knitters which may tend to just go, thinking they know how the design works, and have to frog back. One of the good things (and bad things) about having had a stroke is I don't think I'm right about anything anymore, so I have to pay really close attention! It helps me, but it's aggravating as hell.

This is a great book, and I am looking forward to trying all the designs. Kudos to Cat Bordhi for this format! Another thing that's great about e-books is that I can take it anywhere -- my iPhone, my iPad, my MacBook, in print. Like Cat's designs, it's highly adaptable. :)


What I Have Been Reading

While I was not knitting due to my poor hand, I was reading, and I finished up two books. 

One was Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, by Lisa Randall. It was a fascinating book, but I found myself just reading the words in a couple of places. You know how it is; you read the words and you can understand each of them, but you don't really understand what she's telling you. There were a couple places like that.

I disagreed with her about religion, surprisingly. I didn't realize I was so religious. She spends a chapter contrasting scientific and religious perspectives, and I thought I was all over the scientific perspectives, but I grew increasingly more uncomfortable about it. A lot of what she had to say came from being a scientist through and through. She's a theoretical physicist, for goodness sakes. I guess I am a little more whimsical on my outlook on life.

I loved her discussion of scale of matter in the Universe. Interestingly enough, I found this website on Facebook when I was reading it (and they say there's no God, pfft). 

She spends a lot of time talking about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and since this was my primary reason for wanting to read this book, I can tell you, I was not disappointed. It is magnificent in the way that works of art are magnificent. It's like building the Eiffel Tower and then putting it to work finding answers to questions about the nature of the universe. It is  a wonderful piece of machinery.

The Higgs boson, the strange subatomic particle that physicists have been trying to find, is one of the things that the LHC was built for. When Lisa Randall wrote the book, it hadn't been found yet; recently, I read an article that they are closing in on it, and physicists everywhere are totally excited, the way knitters are when they find yarn on sale.

I learned a lot from this book, I found it interesting, and I look forward to what is in store for future searches.

I also finished Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History, by Patrick Hunt. You may recall that the last time, I was about to enter King Tut's tomb. Well, I did; after that I went on to Machu Picchu, Pompeii, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Thera, Olduvai Gorge, and the Tomb of 10,000 Warriors in China. All were very interesting, and I may have bookmarked a few more books to read about Thera. I liked his discussion of Machu Picchu best of all. I think some places are magical, and it sounds like Machu Picchu is one. There wasn't, for me, the one-time teacher of world history, much that I hadn't heard before. But there were a few surprising gems, like most of our surviving Roman artwork is from Pompeii. That was pretty cool. I didn't know much about the Dead Sea Scrolls, like how many of them there are -- 850 to 1000! And I didn't know much about the Tomb of the 10,000 Warriors. It is amazing how that discovery has stimulated archaeology in China, and the technology was more advanced than had been known before it was discovered. I think as a whole, technology has always been more advanced than we knew, and discoveries like this prove it.

Now I'm reading Cryptonmicon, by Neal Stephenson, a work of fiction, for a change. It's got some mind-bending weirdness going on with a few characters, and it reminds me a little of Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. Stay tuned.

(Photo credit)

Some Knitters Walk into a Bar ...

I just got a fabulous new book: Pints & Purls: Portable Projects for the Social Knitter, by Karida Collins and Libby Bruce. I got the Kindle edition, so I can read it on my Mac. 

This book is perfect for going out to the bar and taking your knitting with you. I have done that a lot of times, so I know and recognize much of what Pints & Purls says to be true. It's so much fun to go out to a bar and have drinks -- or no drinks, if you're the designated driver! -- and this book will help you. 

In "What Is Social Knitting?" is a very funny, yet very acurate, description of a knitting-friendly bar, with helpful tips on lighting, timing, the crowd, the volume, and "Beware of the Singles Bar!!", unless you are looking for that sort of thing. In the words of Libby, "Essentially, you’re looking for your personal Cheers."

They've got "Drink Ratings" for the projects, from "Designated Driver" (the most fiddly and complicated) to the 4-drinks projects (Way Easy), with three steps in between. Their patterns blend a little fun in too, especially for the Designated Driver, in the Gusset part of the Fox in Sox pattern: "At this point, the drunks are asking you to drive them home. Tell them you’ve reached a critical point in the creation of your sock, and pass them the mixed nuts on the bar. They can probably use the salt."

The patterns are wonderful. There are 28 projects in the book. I really want to make the Linden Wrap/Shawl, and the Weaving Way socks, all the felted bags (But I may have to have a few extra seams, since I can't use circular needles; the same goes for the very lovely sweaters, too), a wine cozy in Hogwarts colors, right down to the very easy K.I.S.S. Cowl and Legwarmers. And who doesn't want a felted Six-Pack Carrier?? 

Throughout the book are little helpful hints about treating stains (caused by spillage; excellent information about doing knitting triage in a bar), having a night in where you have pints & purls at home (complete with a drink recipe and a dip recipe!!) or having a tasting party with yarn, wine, and chocolate, adventures in felting and why it is good for you, and a lot more others. This book makes very entertaining reading, as well as knitting! Well ... for knitters, anyway.

The photography is also very entertaining! I especially like the one for the Tie-One-On Scarf. Very cool shot of using beer cans to curl your hair. 

Anyway, I like this book, and I haven't really heard of it. It came out January 2012, so it's pretty recent. It is featured in Lime and Violet's podcast apparently, but I don't listen to it, so there ya go. I really like that it's a Kindle book too, so if a person wanted to, they could take the book with them to the bar on their iPod or iPhone or Kindle or whatever, makes it trés portable. 

Now I'm off to go knit on my knitting :) I'd rather be knitting in a bar! And hey, there's no way I can be the designated driver anymore, so hmmm ... I like it!

Prehistoric Textiles by E. J. W. Barber

I finished this wonderful book, Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean by E. J. W. Barber on February 7. I have learned so much about animal and plant fibers, how people started spinning them into long lengths of yarn or thread, the tools they used for spinning, the different types of looms they used and the range of places they covered, types of weaving they did, the colors of the dyes they used, and so much more. Each topic is studied and explained thoroughly, with the specific things that were found to back up each theory and why there are so many questions. This book is so amazing. It isn't for everyone; I found it a bit tedious to get through in places, ironically, in the Discussions --the chapter "Word Excavation", where the author examines in detail the word origins, how they changed and migrated through linguistics, was a bit hard to get through. I have developed an allergy to Greek words, it seems. Yet, it was a very healthy thing to do. I feel like I just ran a marathon. It was hard, but I learned a lot. I think it is a good book for anyone who likes the fiber arts, especially spinning and absolutely weaving, and archaeology and history buffs everywhere.

When I got this book, I knew it would be "awhile" before I read it. I needed time to process the information. I was going to read it "someday", when I retired, whenever that would be. After my stroke I had little else to do but read and knit, and eventually write, and it seemed like a good time to start this book.

I have learned about the questions that remain unanswered. Textiles are such an incredibly important thing, but they are also among the first things to disintegrate. I wonder, if textiles had been preserved as well as metal, would we perceive our past as so war-filled? Wars leave a legacy of metal and stone things ... weapons, armor, defensive things like forts. What do we have from women's work, arguably more important than anything that men have done? It is more fundamental than anything done by men. It is because of the patient and unending work of women that men succeeded in their "work". Sometimes we have only a scrap of metal that was wrapped in some cloth that oxidized, so that it showed the weaving that was it made of, to show us what went on for thousands of years, until the next bit was found. There are so many questions left unanswered, so many questions that need to be resolved. 

There are excavations going on now, that will always be on-going, that will provide little bits of information. It adds up, like every stitch and every row of knitting that we complete. Archaeologists are a heroic lot, like knitters. Some of them are weavers as well, like Elizabeth Barber, and I am very glad she is!

Bloody Scots

Does anyone else find it funny that Diana Gabaldon lives in Scotsdale, Arizona? Or is it just me? I wonder, did she choose to live there because of the Scottish characters in her books, or did she choose Scottish characters because of the name of the city? It's a chicken or the egg kinda thing. Unfortunately, the name is due to Winfield Scott and George Washington Scott, early settlers, farming in the desert, and thus the tantalizing predicament fizzles. 

I finished Diana Gabaldon's seventh book in the Outlander series, An Echo in the Bone, and liked it very much. It was better to read it after taking a little break, I think. I read a review on Amazon that said the book was boring, much more so than the others, but I think perhaps the reviewer just had to have a break from the story. I didn't think the book was boring at all. Actually, I thought it was pretty exciting! There was a lot of cerebral action, though; there was intense sadness, a partnership that I was screaming, "No! No!" to but which was necessary to save one person's life, a kidnapping, more movement into the future by Someone, a love affair that compares to Jamie and Claire's, and you find out about Ian's Indian wife. Quite exciting. 

Now I am caught up and have to wait for the next book, dammit. At least it won't take very long; Diana Gabaldon is supposed to release it sometime in 2013. Considering An Echo in the Bone was released in 2009, and people have been waiting for four years while I have to wait only one, that's pretty good. Sigh. Waiting sucks, though.

I still haven't finished Pre-Historic Textiles, but I am reading the "Discussions" at the end. I hope to be finished soon! I am reading a really good book about physics and scale and religion and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that I am about halfway through. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Book Review

I recently bought 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory, by Mary Jane Mucklestone. It is a book that every knitter should have, and I would say that even if I didn't know that Mary Jane was fabulous.

Basically, the book is in two sections, "Essential Skills" and the "Motif Directory". I found the 2-page "About This Book" to be very helpful too. This is meant to be a real working book, a book that you really get down and dirty with, and it will help if you know what it can do before you start. I am blown away with how Mary Jane, in a very efficient, Fair Isle fashion, was able to get  so much content in so little space so clearly. It's an amazing book.

The Essential Skills section has just the right information that a knitter needs to get started. MJ talks about Shetland wool and how and why it is wonderful it is for Fair Isle knitting, but she also talks about other yarns too, and what you may need to do differently if you use them. She talks about needles and other equipment you will need. There is a very good section about gauge, and how to make a gauge swatch properly, as well as how to choose a gauge properly. See, this is about designing your own sweater or mittens or a cushion ... all you need is a little guidance and it will work.

Then comes casting on, circular knitting, how to hold the yarn (three ways; I will need to look at the left hand method and practice it), stranding and yarn dominance, weaving (again, she has clear pictures, and I am especially keen on the weaving with the left hand), and increasing and decreasing. It's like I asked Mary Jane to show me exactly how I can do Fair Isle, and she wrote me a book. She wrote the book for everyone, really, but secretly, I think it's just for me! 

She also put in correcting mistakes and joining pieces together, the oh-so-mysterious steeking process, which is not mysterious at all with all the wonderful pictures, and blocking and finishing. There's a good explanation of color theory, too. She finishes with some design principles and planning your project. If Mary Jane had stopped there, it would be a very helpful book. 

But no. Now comes the meat of the book.

She starts out by putting a motif selector, pages of just the photographs of the actual knitted motifs that Mary Jane knit, with the design number and the page to find them. How helpful is that! The Motif Directory pages have a stitch and row count; the motifs are organized by the number of rows they use. Every page has a black and white chart for knitting; an easy to read color chart in the knitted motif's colors, as well as a color variation chart. Columns next to these charts are an easy way to keep track of what colors are used in each row, pattern (left column) and background (right column). Amazing. 

There is a large actual photograph of the knitted swatch that you can see up close, every single stitch. She has a black and white all-over chart that you can use too. And finally, there is sometimes (from Motif 186 up) a mix-and-match suggestion demonstrating how to combine motifs to make large desings. Heavenly!

Mary Jane has been addicted to Fair Isle ever since knitting a hat way back when, in the fall before we went on our first yarn show, but she has been addicted to color and fiber, and a joy to be around, her whole life. She used to work with me and Brenda, the original owner of Unique One, and she was a breath of giddy inspiration even then. She came and visited me a few times after I had my stroke, and showed me the piles of the motifs she was making for her book, and I was so proud of her. I'm so glad she wrote this book, and I look forward to many more.

Whether you want to create a whole Fair Isle sweater or just make some thrilling fingerless mittens, this book is one that will keep you designing forever. I am gonna try me some Fair Isle just as soon as I get my courage up, but now that I have this book, I think I can do it. I used to knit with two colors using both hands, keeping one color in each hand, but after my stroke, I thought I couldn't do it. I can't knit like that anymore, but I might be able to knit Fair Isle using a new technique. It will be hard at first, like everything I am learning, but I can do it. (I can hear a very loud little bird, chirping in my ear, saying, "Believe!!")

A Programmer, a Creative Person and a Knitter Walked into a Bar...

What a trip THAT would be. The programmer would absent-mindedly order a vodka martini while she continues to program her app on her iPhone (there’s an app for that!) ... the creative person would order a sparkling water while furiously making plans for an animation involving one scotch, one bourbon, one beer ... the knitter would order a single malt scotch, neat, pull out her knitting and drift off dreamily, planning her next knitting project. Or they could all be one and the same person. Creativity is a wonderful thing.

I read a book a few years ago, Drawing on the Artist Within, by Betty Edwards, who also wrote Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Drawing on the Artist Within is about improving one’s creativity, a practical guide, a series of steps to take, as it were. I found it fascinating. At the time, I needed some way to be more creative with my knitting designs, and I found it to be helpful. 

Shortly thereafter, I took a class from Sally Melville on creativity at a yarn show I went to in Long Beach or San Diego or somewhere, and she touched on some of the same points from that book. She had us do a few exercises in the class and it really made the book come alive. Who knew that creativity could be learned like that? Or maybe it was just uncovered, maybe it was there all the time. Hmmmm.

So now, my life is pretty different. I feel like I am standing on the brink of something, ready to take that step that will take me off in a different direction, but I am not exactly sure what direction it is. Quite a quandry! I think I should re-read, or re-peruse, Drawing on the Artist Within to get some ideas. Regardless, I will keep on knitting, because it’s in my blood, literally. One of the first things I worked at was learning to knit again, even before I could walk. I don’t know where I will end up, what I’ll be doing, but you can bet on one thing -- I will be warm :)



I finished a couple books recently, and I'm working through a third. Sadly I have not read more on Prehistoric Textiles, but I will. It got put in a weird place and it's not easy to get to, whereas the other three are right here on my computer. 

All three I started a while ago, then set them aside for various reasons. Kind of like those knitting projects, hehe. But like the knitting projects, they weigh on your mind until you have to just finish them off. 

I finally read the sixth book of the Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes  by Diana Gabaldon. The American Revolution is underway and Claire and Jamie have a lot going on. I am glad I took a break; I really enjoyed this book and now I want to read the last book in the series. I might not have liked it so much if I hadn't taken a break, and as I recall, people told me that they had taken the same sort of break, and then picked it up again and loved reading it. I thought, silly people, I can read anything, I read Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for Heaven's sake, this is just a love story. 

They were right. You can't take that much love without a break. And then there's the constant worry about Jamie, always in danger, and Claire, and Roger, and Bree ... everybody's in trouble so much!!! It's wonderful! Yet exhausting. I needed a break. And I can't wait to read the final book in the series, An Echo in the Bone. It is a really great series.

Last summer I started to read The Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Captive by Kathryn Lasky, a young adult novel, and the beginning of a large series, a fifteen-book epic about some very special owls. The book has 218 pages, and I stopped about page 58. I picked it up two days ago and finished it, but I am not going to read the rest of the series. It's a wonderful story, exciting as all get out, but maybe I have a thing about owls as characters or something, I don't know. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Maybe I have to be in the right mood for it.

Now I'm reading Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History by Patrick Hunt, Ph. D. It goes from the Rosetta Stone to Macchu Picchu to the 10,000 warriors of Imperial China, one chapter encompassing one famous archeological discovery. It's a bit of fluff really, the chapters don't give me much that I didn't know already, but as an introductory book of archaeological wonders, it does the job. If I was still teaching, I'd love to have this book in my classroom library. It's a really good, though basic, discussion of the events, with an emphasis on what effect they had on archaeology and on the world in general. I'm about to enter King Tut's tomb right now, pretty exciting! I think I'll make a cup of tea, pick up my knitting, and join Howard Carter as he is about to make the discovery of a lifetime. Wish me luck!


(Clip Art from Discovery Education , colored by moi.)