Tag Archives: review

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.

Deutschland! (Part I)

I’m back from my two-week vacation in Germany! There’s just so much to tell that I’m going to divide my report into multiple posts (probably one for each city we visited, plus one special entry for Wollmeise).

Part I: Landed in Berlin

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After another production of “The Flying Dutchman” / I landed in Berlin

(Rufus Wainwright: “Perfect Man”)

As our last two trips were to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Berlin by comparison is huge. My legs hurt from trying to walk everywhere.

Tiergarten

Won’t you walk me through the Tiergarten / Won’t you walk me through it all, darling

Doesn’t matter if it is raining / We’ll get to the other side of town

(Rufus Wainwright: “Tiergarten”)

We walked in Tiergarten on a very cloudy, humid midday. Birds sang and we saw very few people. The place was definitely one of my favorites.

When me emerged from the peacefulness of the Tiergarten, we were confronted by the huge screens and beer advertisements of the UEFA “fan area”. Then it was empty, but on the eve of the Germany-Greece match half a million people gathered to watch the game there.

Food-wise, we mostly relied on restaurants listed on HappyCow.com, or improvised with Asian places that seem to be hugely popular all over Germany. Also, if we had stayed in a place with a kitchen, the numerous eco-supermarkets would have served as fine; they always seemed to have soy milk, soy cheese, tofu and vegan candies. Still, a few times during the vacation I was forced to eat just pommes frites, or pasta arrabiata, ohne käse” bitte (without cheese, please). 

For my daily dose of caffeine, I relied very heavily on Starbucks. Probably slightly more expensive than the local average cup of coffee, but they also have free wi-fi and don’t charge extra for soy milk.

Since we visited so many restaurants, I’m only going to give the highlights of each city. In Berlin, our favourite was Vaust (address Pestalozzistrasse 8; info on Happycow here). The dishes showed some imagination, in my opinion:

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A watermelon “steak” with peas and rice. It was really good! I do love tofu, but it’s nice to eat something else sometimes.

Our other favourite was Veggie Chinese Gourmet Cuisine (infopage here). Really good value for the price, but we had severe problems getting understood in German or English. The service, while extremely friendly, also wasn’t the fastest. Still, the best Satay Tofu I’ve had:

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Because I knew I was going to the Wollmeise store later, I did hardly any yarn shopping in Berlin. I only visited one shop, Handmade Berlin:
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The cafe kept dear BF happy while I browsed. I did in the end buy one skein of a locally dyed sock yarn (Yarn Edition Socks by Tulliver).

 

 

Copenhagen!

This year, my busy April also included a trip!

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My Travelling Sock Picture (à la Yarn Harlot). The sock is the second of the pair (first one was finished before we left).

Although I had knitting in my bag for most of the time, I actually knit very little during the trip. Most knitting was accomplished on the plane to & from Copenhagen. I also managed a few rounds while waiting in line at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. I even received a few comments from another Finnish tourist who was also a knitter. I gave her the address of the yarn store in Copenhagen I had already visited. Speaking of which…

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The store is called Sommerfuglen, you can see it behind the water fountain. It’s not the only yarn store in the city, but I’ve understood it is the best. I didn’t buy very much since a lot of the US import brands would be cheaper for me in Finland, because of the current Danish Krone-Euro -exchange rate. But it was the first time I saw Namaste bags in person. I have one I bought online and was seriously tempted to get a different one.

That’s pretty much all the knitting-related stuff about our trip. But I have some excellent restaurants to recommend!

For starters: I got all my information about where to get vegan food in Copenhagen from HappyCow. It has always served me well. If I went travelling in Finland I would also check the restaurant reviews from Animalia’s website.

Firefly

Homepage here

We went here on the first night, rather exhausted from a day of travel. It’s all-vegan and pretty near some of the other places we ate at. The place looks rather trendy which I always find scary, but the staff was friendly. At least on a weekday night, other customers seemed to be tourists as well.

The dinner was excellent -too pricey to be eaten every week but a perfect beginning to our vacation. I especially loved the desserts:

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I had raspberry cheesecake (the “cheese” made from cashews), the BF ate buckthorn berry sorbet. I loved the cake so much that we actually went back to Firefly another day, just for desserts.

Green Sushi

Homepage here (we only visited the restaurant on Gronnegade)

There aren’t that many places in Helsinki where you can get good vegan sushi, so in Copenhagen this restarant was a must. It isn’t all-vegan, but had a decent selection and vegan items were clearly marked on the menu.

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I had the 11-piece vegan set for lunch. Yummy! Very reasonably priced too. We came back another day for dinner and weren’t disappointed then either.

Naturbageriet

Homepage here

As the name suggests, this is a bakery. It’s pretty small but located near the Firely and Kalaset (see below) restaurants and had good vegan carrot cake 🙂

Kalaset

Info here

Very laid-back, nearly packed on a Saturday afternoon. Not all-vegan (or even all-vegetarian) but again, everything was clearly marked on the menu. I had the vegan burger:

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The (homemade) ketchup was like a revelation and the burger plenty big. Also: good beer!

SimpleRaw

Homepage here

All-raw, all-vegan, small place with a very Scandinavian decor. Menu was only in Danish but the waitress offered help (and I still remember some Swedish). We shared a meze-plate that had small portions of everything (pretty good, especially the lentil steak) but were too full to try the desserts. They looked delicious, though.

Finally, I have to mention Kokkeriet. It was recommended to us by a vegetarian couple, yet it’s by no means a vegetarian restaurant. I have no idea how they got the idea to eat there. However, I can testify that if you notify the restaurant ahead of time, they can prepare a vegan menu that is well-thought-out and definitely suitable for special occasion dinners.

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.

 

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:

Projects

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. 

Best…

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 

Book

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!)

Pattern

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…

Designer

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.