Tag Archives: books

The Winter of My Discontent

So the same hand/arm pain that stopped me from knitting for 4 months in 2010 came back at the end of January this year. In April I started seeing a physiotherapist and things are looking up now.

That is the short version. For the long version, continue reading.

Spring came exceptionally late to Finland this year, so when I say that this was a very long winter for me, I mean it both literally and figuratively. I have been mostly healthy all my life and did not react very well to the possibility that this problem with my hands might be chronic. When I stopped knitting, I also stopped visiting blogs and Ravelry -not only because I thought it best to limit my use of the computer, but because i was angry, like a jilted bride at someone else’s wedding.

I did try other crafts, sewing mostly, since it didn’t seem to affect my hands or arms. But for the most part I have used my extra time baking and reading. Between February and the end of April I read at least 10 books: All the Earthsea books (LOVED them) by Ursula Le Guin (including The Other Wind), 75% of Les Miserables (still working through it), Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogol, Teemestarin kirja by Emmi Itäranta, The Passage by Justin Cronin, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid, Bossypants by Tina Fey and This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart.

From the Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl I also picked up the Couch-to-5K plan. I started in April and have just completed the 5th week.

In April I also started seeing a physiotherapist. I have modified my work environment & posture and done my “homework” (various stretches) meticulously and it appears that my hands and arms are getting better. I was given permission to do crafts and so, on the first warm day this spring, I picked up the needles again.

I am slowly working on a hat.

If you have similar problems: please, do not be stubborn and continue through the pain! STOP knitting and consult a doctor. Do something else. If you’re open to trying other crafts, sewing might be a good option. Chrissy from the Snappy Stitches and Manic Purl podcasts also turned to sewing (and jogging) when hand pain stopped her from knitting (interview here).

I am most definitely not happy about not being able to knit for months, but it did make me read a lot and get some exercise, so maybe there is a silver lining.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still far from being back to normal. Knitting content will be very scant on this blog for some time, but I might post a book review or two as well as some baking-related stuff.



It Is the Time (for Hat Knitting)

This fall has been great for knitting hats. First Woolly Wormhead’s pattern collection Classic Woolly Toppers came out, then the Finnish hat book Pipo on Pääasia, and, finally, Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Hat Book was published in November. Interweave’s hat book Weekend Hats is still on the shelves, too.

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Classic Woolly Toppers is the smallest collection with 10 patterns. The Vogue book is at the other end of the spectrum with 50 patterns. Weekend Hats and Pipo on pääasia hold the middle ground with 20-something patterns.

I have already written a review on Weekend Hats, which you can find here. But what about the others?

Classic Woolly Toppers is part of a series, in a way: the previous ones have focused on sideways construction, kids’ hats and cables. CWT has mostly knit-and-purl patterns but offers many hat styles, from newsboy cap to cloche.

Woolly Wormhead’s collection is self-published and available both as an ebook and a printed version. I do sometimes feel that she is overly fond of purling, but her patterns always include multiple sizes and are constructed in a knitter-friendly way. The pictures show the hats well and in this particular collection some hats are shown on more than one model.

Pipo on pääasia is a collaboration of four designers who have previously contributed to the Finnish online magazine Ulla. The book includes a wide variety of hat styles in many weights and has a highly useful technique section as well. The pictures triumph over those in the Vogue Knitting in every way: they are clear and beautiful yet keep the hats as the main thing.

My biggest peeve is of course again the lack of sizes. However, each pattern does also tell you the model’s head circumference, which helps me when I’m deciding how many modifications I need.

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Hat Book is divided into 5 sections: basic shapes, cables, lace, colour and embellishments. Out of the 50 patterns maybe 20 have been previously published in the Vogue Knitting magazine. The designers range from the famous (Norah Gaughan, Deborah Newton) to never-heard-of.

Again, most patterns are written for one size only. This does not surprise at this point -what is far more puzzling is the lack of charts in some patterns that I think could have benefited from them. There are also huge pictures of many of the hats, but that does not guarantee that any of them shows the crown (I strongly dislike sloppy decreases, and lack of pictures always makes me suspicious). Yet I can’t say I regret buying the book: with 50 patterns, the price per pattern is very small, even if I knit only some of them. I also often find the fashion-conscious pictures very inspiring, if not always that useful.

Now With More Speed

It seems that there are still a few things I can do very fast, once I set my mind to it: reading, and socks.

Even after ripping out two UFOs, my knitting basket has been overflowing. Although I’e always been a multi-project knitter, this still annoys me somewhat. It means that I can knit for hours on various things and still see very little process. It certainly doesn’t help that I had a large-ish shawl in progress. 

So I got an itch to knit socks. Simple, stockinette socks; for the past year pretty much all patterned socks have ended up in the UFO pile.

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Pattern: None. CO 72 sts, 2×2 ribbing for 16 rnds, short-row heel. 

Yarn: Handu MCN sock, colourway “onnen oikotiellä”. Bought at the same time as the yarn for my beret-turned-cowl.

I started the socks on last Wednesday and finished them on Monday. For me, a pair of socks in 6 days is pretty phenomenal. We did have a long weekend in there, sure, but that also meant cooking, cleaning and travelling.

They are incredibly soft, reasonably lightweight, and might actually still be useful before the summer.

I had just finished the socks and blocked them when I got another idea: download the free sample of The Hunger Games

I’m pretty sure I only heard of The Hunger Games this winter, and mostly through Twitter. Then, when the movie premiere approached, I saw it mentioned in papers. The first plot descriptions I read did not make the whole thing very tempting, and in retrospect some were just misleading. Then of course the film reviews started pouring in, and the BF expressed interest in going to see it. I decided to give the book a try.

Now, I did read it in a day. But that’s not very uncommon in my case, and does not automatically mean high praise. Although lately my reading has mostly consisted of individual articles or random chapters from books that might be useful for my thesis, when I do read for pleasure, 12-hour marathons are my forte. The Help took 24 hours, most Dorothy Sayers books the same. And I read three Connie Willis’ novels in a week. In the end I liked all of them more than The Hunger Games, although I have to admit the book isn’t without some merits, either.

Hunger Games is fast-paced yet still has a relatively well-structured plot. The heroine is an interesting character. The writing is at times surprisingly vivid and the struggle for survival portrayed well: it is convincing but not too gory.The violence was what initially perplexed me -a YA  book about teenagers killing each other?- but is is as a whole handled in a way that suits the tone. Being aimed at teens, the book is also a very easy read and requires very little effort from an adult reader.

But. The story would have needed some more flesh. As it is, the world-building is very minimal (especially given the dystopic setting that provides plenty of opportunities), many characters barely more than their hair colour and the love triangle forced and unnecessary. My knowledge of the Twilight series is limited to half of the first book (a bad Mary Sue fanfic, if you ask me), the movie trailers and a few interviews on Conan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone thought the love triangle would attract the teenage girl audience. 

In spite of its flaws, The Hunger Games was a pleasant surprise. The main character shows such promise that I’m willing to belive that the rest of the cast improves as well in the remaining two books. I will almost certainly end up reading them, and I’m now relatively eager to go see the movie too.


Knitting Book Essentials

Good morning all! Today has started with sunshine, coffee and the new Knitty. Not too shabby for a weekday morning.

I’m not really too keen on massive spring cleaning, but I have to admit that the increasing amount of sunshine does make me rather more aware of dust in random places. Like for example our bookshelves. Although I do not buy as much fiction books as I used to, knitting books and magazines take a lot of space as well. And when you add to this the 20-odd library books I have lying around for studying purposes…

My knitting library isn’t huge, in my opinion (and the curious can check my library through my Ravelry profile -I keep it up to date), and yet I’ve realized that I still could manage with far less books. In fact, if I had a really limited amount of space, I could manage with 6 books:

1. Knitting without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann

This one really has been invaluable. I’ve used her sweater patterns with most of the garments I’ve made, even when I’ve technically been knitting someone else’s pattern. Nor does the book take much space, as it’s a pretty slim (but large) paperback.

2. Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush

Although I own more sock books than any other type of knitting books, I find myself using the same few over and over again. I’ve knit some of the patterns in Vintage Socks just as-is, and used stitch patterns from others to adapt to my taste. I also love the history section and the feeling of a long tradition the book evokes. The physical book is rather heavy but it’s also spiral-bound. That means that it stays open, which makes it easy to check directions while knitting.

3. Weekend Hats by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre

I’ve already written at length about this book, and yes, it does have it faults. Yet I have used it and continue to use it. It’s not very expensive, does not weigh too much or take too much space. Definitely a keeper.

Althiugh books 1 & 2 also provide enjoyable and useful reading material, I would still categorize them as pattern books (and no. 3 as solely a pattern book). The rest of the books are on the list because of the reading experience -while I might make some of the patterns, they aren’t really the point. These are the books I read when it’s so hot I can’t knit, but want to read about knitting.

4. Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann

What could I say that hasn’t been said already? If you haven’t read it, please do so at once. I own the small paperback edition, which makes the book perfect take-along reading, but there is also a more recent hardback edition with colour photographs.

5. The Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Although I like the other Yarn Harlot books as well, this one’s really my favourite. It is both useful and fun, again presented in a handy paperback form.

6. The Gentle Art of Knitting by Jane Brocket

I came across Brocket’s earlier book The Gentle Art of Domesticity at the library about two years ago, and have since borrowed it more than once. I started reading her blog (http://yarnstorm.blogs.com/) and naturally found out about the knitting book that she was writing. I bought The Gentle Art of Knitting from the Waterstone’s in Amsterdam when we went there on vacation last spring. Although the book does have patterns, Brocket also writes about inspiration and colour and personal memories, so that the patterns do not really feel like the main point. The majority of them are very simple and if I ever knit any of them, I think they are more to be used as inspiration than strict step-by-step instructions. I’m pretty sure the writer would approve. As a physical object, the book is very quaint and large enough to serve as a coffeetable book.


2011 in Review

After a very meh New Year’s Eve (I was at work), today the year 2012 is starting to look much brighter. It’s even snowing as I write this, finally!

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The view from our living room window, slightly enhanced with iPhone apps.

I wanted to write a short review of my knitting life in the past year before moving on, so here goes:


In the past year I knit (finished) 30 hats, 5 scarves, 2 cowls, 2 sweaters and one pair of socks. The difference between 2011 and 2010 is quite obvious then -in 2010 I knit 14 pairs of socks but only 2 hats.

Even though I have given some hats away, I still have so many now that some have been used only once. Predictably, the one lonely pairs of socks has seen a lot of use. I really should knit more, but when have I ever knit something just because I should?

The project that I’m most proud is rather hard to decide. On the one hand there’s Wondertunic -it was an old UFO that I managed to save & finish, and it also fits surprisingly well. But it wasn’t my first garment nor was there anything particularly difficult. My Dam hat (from the Urbanista pattern by Woolly Wormhead) on the other hand was my first intarsia project, and I even managed to adapt it to make it fit better. I haven’t used it much, but I am rather proud of it.

Some Big Things

There are two things that obviously affected my knitting life in 2011. Firstly, I couldn’t knit at all until March due to hand pain. Once I could start knitting, small accessories seemed the best choice since I wasn’t sure whether the pain would come back and force me to leave bigger projects unfinished. 

Becoming (nearly) vegan in 2011 also had a huge influence on my knitting. Although I have continued to knit with my stash yarns (and so am still using wool), all new yarns I’ve bought have been vegan. 


New Yarn

Now this is easy -my favourite new yarn is the vegan handspun from MaidinEngland’s Etsy shop 🙂

One of the projects I mentioned in last post was knit out of her yarn. This time the picture should work: 

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The pattern: Eriikka by Suvi Heikkilä 


Weekend Hats, obviously. I was super-excited about it and have knit multiple projects out of it. The best book that I haven’t knit anything from is Scandinavian Jacquard Caps from the Japanese Let’s Knit-series. I bought it from Amsterdam on my vacation.

Knitting Technique

Cable cast-on. I’m really extremely lazy and stubborn when it comes to trying something new, and usually just use the cast-on taught to me in 7th grade. Woolly Wormhead uses the cable cast-on in many of her patterns, and finally I decided to try it. It has made my cast-on edge tidier, usually it’s way too loose (yes, I am indeed the only knitter in the world who never has to worry about edges being too tight!)


One that I haven’t knit -Escargot hat from Knitty. Fabulous!

One that I did knit -the Aquitaine shawlette. It’s free and a very clear pattern.

Although I did also use many awesome hat patterns, the necessity of nearly always adapting the pattern to fit me is a bummer. Although there is one exception, who nearly always offers multiple sizes…


Woolly Wormhead.

Knitting Tool/Accessory

HiyaHiya 40cm metal circulars. They are lightweight, reasonably priced and don’t smell like some of my Addis. I got mine from Villavyyhti. Incidentally, the opening of that store is also The Event of 2011.

So that’s that. I’m not making any resolutions for 2012, but I’m hoping to finish at least one fair isle project and to finish/otherwise get rid of some big UFOs. We’ll see. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Weekend Hats

A (knitting) book review, as promised. I hardly ever write these but that’s because I usually can’t think of anything useful to say. This time I can.

Cecily Glowik MacDonald & Melissa LaBarre (+ contributing designers): Weekend Hats

Interview Press, October 2011

The book on Amazon and on Ravelry.

As someone might have noticed, I’ve been on a hat kick for quite some time now. And while there are lots of patterns available online, I’ve come across very few hat collections in book-form (the only one I actually can think of is Cathy Carron’s Hattitude). So I could hardly wait to get my hands on this book and bought it as fast as possible.

So far I’ve knit 4 patterns from Weekend Hats and have plans to knit many more. So yes, it has been a useful book. There are some patterns that I don’t think I’ll ever knit -but since you get 25 patterns for $15-25 the price per pattern is still very reasonable.

The book is lightweight enough to carry around but still big enough to have a readable font-size and good pictures. Interview Press books generally have really nice photography, and Weekend Hats is no exception. There are multiple pictures of each pattern, usually one or two from the side and a view of the crown decreases. The Greenery Beret is probably my favourite, or possibly The Leaves Long Beanie

I do, however, have some quibbles.

Firstly, I’m disappointed with some of the crown decreases used. In some of the patterns, the stitches are decreased very abruptly by simply knitting 2tog all around. This produces a bunched-up crown, which is rather annoying in a hat that otherwise would be very pretty. Luckily the majority of the patterns do have the decreases arranged better, so this isn’t a reason to abandon the book altogether.

My second complaint might not affect others but it’s my continual pet peeve: hat sizing. My head is approximately 59cm (or 23.2″), which, I’ve come to realize over the years, means that most store-bought hats won’t fit, headbands are just a dream and (most disappointingly) a lot of the knitting hat patterns have to be tweaked to fit me. So I was not surprised to find that none of the patterns as written would fit me, but I was hoping that they would have at least two (or possibly even three) sizes offered. Many independent designers do this (eg Woolly Wormhead) after all, and it’s becoming quite common in sock patterns as well. But the vast majority of the patterns (by my quick count 21 to be exact) have only one size. And one of the four that do have multiple sizes is the Brier Toque that I have already knit: while it does indeed have two sizes, they are for head circumference 45.5-53.5cm and 51-58.5cm. In a very manly pattern, I would have hoped for bigger sizes.

Obviously re-sizing most of the hats is not too difficult (and if you’re a woman with a head circumference of 56cm…I envy you) and I have, after all, already knit four patterns from Weekend Hats. So a nice pattern book, definitely. Just slightly less spectacular than what I hoped.

Hat knitting: the bookish edition


Here’s my Rikke hat. I love the colour of the yarn -at first glance it appears just brown, but in the right lighting you can see subtle shades of purple and green. Very forest-y, I think. My progress has been slow because I’ve been attempting to read at the same time (actually pretty easy on the knit rounds, somewhat more difficult to manage on the purl rounds.)

The second book I picked up after The Help was just as good although very different: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Very hard to classify, that one. An atmospheric, quirky horror story. Some review/analysis compared it to Henry James’ Turn of the Screw but luckily it really wasn’t much like it at all, since I heartily disliked James’ novella.

Now I have started Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women and it is looking good so far. I can hardly believe my luck, since usually only about one out of five books I start reading turn out to be any good. And now three in a row? Better knock on wood!