Review: Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno

Yarnitecture is a valuable book and great reference for both the new and experienced spinner. #ontheshelfreviews #handspunyarn #knitting | withwool.com

Yarnitecture is one of the more recent additions to my spinning library. It had been on my radar for a while and I finally bought it after flipping through it at the bookstore. My first impression was that it was a beautiful book with striking photos and a clear layout. The paper felt nice under my fingers, and the book had a nice weight. It felt like an expensive reference book that was pretty enough to hang out on the coffee table.  

When I got beyond that initial skim, Jillian Moreno's Yarnitecture proved to be jam packed with spinning information and help. I would have loved to have this book when I was learning to spin. There’s a chapter about different fibers. It talks about the different kinds of drafting methods with photos and instructions. There’s info about plying, details about spinning balanced yarns, tips for sampling, and so much more. And sprinkled throughout this treasure trove are little side notes to back up the main text. For example, there was a note about leaders, those helpful pieces of yarn that feed your yarn onto the bobbin at the beginning of a project. I learned to spin on a spindle and knew what a leader was and it’s name. But when I got my wheel and sat down to spin, I didn’t know how to correctly get the yarn through the orifice and onto the bobbin. I didn’t know if the “leader” for a wheel was still called a “leader”. How do I look something up online or in a book, if I don’t know what it’s called? A few clumsy google searches told me a leader is a leader and I was able to set up my wheel.

Yarnitecture is a valuable book and great reference for both the new and experienced spinner. #ontheshelfreviews #handspunyarn #knitting | withwool.com

This story brings me to my next point. Yarnitecture is a great reference with photos and step-by-step instructions that covers a lot of the questions and problems a spinner might face. While it’s not the end-all-be-all of spinning references, it gives spinners the knowledge and correct words to ask questions, whether online or in person, and continue learning about their craft.

Earlier I said that I would have loved to have this book when I was learning to spin. What about now that I spun miles of yarn on spindles and a wheel over several years? What if I’ve spun yarn thats reasonably consistent, made from several different constructions, and suited for different purposes? What if you’ve done the same? Yarnitecture still has value to an intermediate spinner because the book’s main goal focuses on spinning yarn for a purpose. Maybe that purpose is making yarn for a particular pattern or spinning enough yardage to make something bigger than a hat. Yarnitecture provides a method and thought process to think about spinning yarn beyond the lone skein. Now I love spinning just for the fun of it as much as the next spinner, but I want to use my handspun too. There’s far too many beautiful skeins just waiting for me to find that one perfect pattern. If I’d put a little more thought into the process at the beginning, I could be wearing and enjoying my handspun instead of keeping it in a bin because I don’t know what to do with it.

And making a sweater’s worth of yarn for myself (and the Bearded One too) is on my spinning bucket list. I’ve never spun that much yarn for one project, but I feel like Yarnitecture has given me a blueprint that I can use to tackle that goal. 

In this vein of making yarn with an end project in mind, Yarnitecture includes 12 patterns for handspun yarn by well-known knitting designers. There are shawls of course, but also a variety of sweaters and accessories. Every pattern includes the usual knitting pattern preamble notes as well as detailed information about how the handspun was spun so you can recreate the yarn. And you’ll actually want too because the patterns are beautiful. I’m very tempted to spin and cast on for the Maya Cardigan by Kirsten Kapor, the Hive Mind mitts by Adrian Bizilla, and the Rigby Cardigan by Bristol Ivy.

Let’s sum up. Yarnitecture (<<— affiliate link!*) is a great book for new spinners just getting into the art of making yarn, and intermediate spinners who are interested in spinning for larger projects. It has clear photos, detailed step-by-step instructions, and lots of helpful information. Definitely give it a look and consider adding it to your spinning library.

*This review contains an affiliate link which means, if you decide to buy through that link, I’ll get a small commission. My opinions of this book are unbiased and totally my own. I wouldn’t recommend this book if I didn't think it had value. Thanks!

Review: Stranded Magazine #1: Warm Weather Issue 2016

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!&nbsp; Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

I first heard about Stranded Magazine back in March when I was reading Andi Satterlund’s blog Untangling Knots. I’ve enjoyed reading Untangling Knots for years and I’m always interested in knitting magazines, so I signed up for the Stranded mailing list. When the first issue was released I went through the look book. The photos were beautiful and the styling hooked me since it reminded me of my own recent cross-country trek through the Southwest desert. There was a good variety of patterns ranging from shawls to tops to mitts. A few clicks later and it was downloading.

On The Pages

Stranded opens with all the usual magazine content and then gets down to business with an interview with Cirilia Rose about designing commercial yarn. There’s a tutorial about cabling without a cable needle, an essay about the perils of packing the right knitting for trips, and a 101 about how to start English Paper Piecing. The photos for the tutorials are clear and large enough that I can zoom in to get all the un-pixelated details. There are also ads but there only 6 in the entire issue.

The bulk of the magazine is all about patterns. It is very clear, even just skimming through, that the 6 patterns are part of a collection. There is a unified color palette of warm oranges, yellows, and blues that definitely evoke a summery vibe. They’re also geared toward’s being road trip knitting. There are small and large projects, simple and complicated projects. That said, the patterns appeal to both warm and cold weather knitters. 

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!&nbsp; Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

The Rabbitbrush - a cropped, short-sleeved cardigan - is exactly what I picture when I hear Andi Satterlund’s name. It’s perfectly styled as an extra layer over a dress. Satturlund has one other pattern in the collection, Median, which looks plain from the front but has a lace panel running down the back. 

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!&nbsp; Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

The Route 99 - a turban-inspired hat that uses slipped stitches - couldn’t be from anyone except Lee Meredith. It’s a bold and graphic take on a simple technique that’s been pushed to a new level by an interesting construction. 

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!&nbsp; Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com
Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!&nbsp; Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

I’m usually drawn to triangular and crescent-shaped shawls, but Bottle Cap by Erin Birnel has gotten my attention. The lacy stripes seem like the perfect showcase for a variegated yarn or one with a long gradient. Pit Stop, a pair of fingerless mitts also by Birnel, have grown on every time I’ve flipped through the mag. The pattern uses less than 100 yards and I can’t help but think I’d like a pair for when my hands get cold at the keyboard. Plus, I can think of a few people that would like a pair.  

Stranded’s first issue, Warm Weather 2016, was released in April and it’s a wonderful new knitting e-mag. Check it out!&nbsp; Review: Stranded Magazine: Warm Weather 2016 | withwool.com

The Interchange Socks by Ariel Altaras was the first pattern to catch my eye in this issue. I am firmly in the toe-up sock knitting camp and the socks are cuff-down but the pattern seems easy enough to flip around if you’re so inclined.

Every single one of the patterns includes a clear schematic in metric and imperial as well as several “lifestyle” and close-up detail photos. It’s nice to see that all the pieces actually seem to fit the model too. There’s no weird bunching or sagging where there shouldn’t be. The patterns are written in a mix of line-by-line instructions and charts as needed. Thankfully, the more complex charts take up an entire page so they’re easy to read. If you hate working from charts, fear not, they’re all written out line-by-line too. With the exception of the mitts and shawl, all the patterns include a number of sizes. Both tops are written in 7 sizes from XS to 3X and the Route 99 hat is easily customizable for both circumference and depth. I would have liked to see a third size on the Interchange socks though. 

When you want to print the patterns and stuff them in your project bag, all the ink eating, extraneous stuff - photos, schematics, descriptions, and supplies - is kept to the first few pages so you can print just the instructions. There’s even a handy note in the table of contents so you can print what you want without scrolling through the entire magazine - that’s a small detail that I really like. 

Screen Time

So, since this is a digital magazine, how does this all look on the screen? Initially, I set it up to view as a 2-page spread on my 13” laptop and full-screened it so I could get the magazine experience. The photos were beautiful, but the text seemed small and occasionally cramped. I had to zoom in to comfortably read the articles, then zoom out to see the full-page photos which killed the typical magazine experience for me. However, reading the magazine on a tablet or phone as the 1 page spread was a much better experience. The photos were beautiful and easy to read. On a tablet, the text was much easier to read and I’m used to zooming in to read text on my phone anyway. 

Final Thoughts

There were two reasons that I bought this issue. The most obvious is that I liked the patterns and wanted to make a few of them. Good, relatable styling helped too. The second is that I wanted to support a magazine with a model that I would like to see flourish more often in the knitting industry. When you buy a copy of Stranded, you get every article, tutorial, and pattern included in it’s pages for $16. Getting 6 patterns for $16 is a pretty good deal with you do the math. What’s more, is that every designer get’s a portion of that $16 from every magazine sold in addition to their flat payment for creating the pattern. Yes, it’s a more expensive than the usual knitting magazine but both the knitters and the pattern designers win.

I’m looking forward to the second issue, Mild Weather 2016, and to see how Stranded evolves in the future. Definitely take a look whether you like to knit for warm or cold temps.


Title: Stranded Magazine: The Warm Weather Issue 2016

Released: April 2016

Schedule: Published 3 times a year

Format: Available only as a PDF download - no print option - and only through April 2017

Price: $16

Where to Buy: Directly from their website, strandedmag.com, or through Ravelry (no account required)

*All photos copyright Andi Satterlund. 

Review: The Field Guide to Fleece

When I bought The Field Guide to Fleece last week, I thought it would be helpful when I eventually went to a random fiber festival. Or when I was looking up wool and fleeces from indie dyers and farms. I definitely didn’t expect to use it 2 days later at the spinning guild meeting.

Southern-Cross-Fibers-Tequila-Sunrise.jpg

At every meeting, the guild holds a raffle for fiber or books or yarn. I spent $3 and split my 6 tickets between some roving and a washed fleece. Didn’t win the fleece but I did get the roving. There was no label, only a few notes on the bag. It was just enough info to find out the roving was the January 2012 shipment of the Australia-based Southern Cross Fiber Club. The colorway, Tequila Sunrise, is beautiful and on a completely new to me wool, Texel.

On a lark, I looked at The Field Guide first instead of searching though a few pages of search results. On page 204, was an entry for the Texel which is originally from the Netherlands and bred mainly for meat. It has a staple length of 3-6” and, while lacking in luster, spins up to make a lofty, air-filled yarn. The fiber is nowhere near soft but good for hardy blankets, pillows, and mats.

Field-Guide-To-Fleece.jpg

The Field Guide to Fleece by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius is a steal at $14.95. It alphabetically details 100 different sheep breeds with photos and clear, detailed information. Everything from breed history and characteristics - staple length, micron count, and fleece weight - as well as how the wool takes dye, its best uses, and how readily the fiber felts. Every entry has a photo of the sheep and a close-up of an individual lock next to a ruler. The book is a wonderful pocket-sized resource that’s worth buying both for new and experienced spinners who need a good, quick resource. 

Review: Ply Issue One

PlyReview1.jpg

I first heard about Ply in January 2013 when the magazine’s Kickstarter campaign was making its rounds. Edited by Jacey Boggs, the magazine’s goals were both simple and bold: inspire new spinners, teach in-depth techniques, celebrate the diversity of spinning, support handspinning around the world, and act as a record for the spinning community. Ply met its funding goal and then passed it to raise a total of $34,455. Six months later in June, Ply was released to the world. 

In July, I finally signed up for a subscription and I blame Tour de Fleece for pushing me over the edge. My main goal for this year’s Tour was to learn and practice new techniques. Subscribing to a magazine that promised to teach, inspire, and document spinning seemed like just the ticket to keep my own personal Tour de Fleece going. So, I spent the remainder of my Paypal funds, plus a little extra, and waited for the magazine to show up in my mailbox. 

 When the first issue arrived, I was pleasantly surprised since it seemed more like a book than something you’d buy from a newsstand. The cover and paper are heavier than the everyday magazine. It felt weighty and full of information. Time to read it cover to cover. 

I’m usually guilty of skipping the first few pages of a magazine and going straight for the more interesting articles or knitting patterns. Not this time. Reading through “From The Editor” and later “Behind the Curtain: Why PLY?”, I was struck by how much passion Boggs and the rest of the team have for spinning as well as creating a top notch magazine. The enthusiasm isn’t limited to just those two articles but shows on every page. It’s infectious. Half of me wanted to keep reading and the other half wanted to get spinning. Sadly, reading while spinning is not a skill I’ll probably ever master. Or even attempt. I stuck with the reading. 

Ply’s first issue follows the appropriate theme of firsts. The articles cover everything from the very first spinners to buying your first fleece to the development of spinning wheels. The various articles are enough to grab the attention of new and experienced spinners alike. They are detailed without being boring and accompanied by useful photos. “Corriedale: The Ideal First Spin” covers a number of prep and drafting methods. Each sample and its knitted swatch is clearly photographed to show the differences.

PlyReview3.jpg

Besides from the 13 articles, not counting tips and reviews, in this issue, there are 3 separate spinning tutorials. There’s a 2-ply color progression yarn, corespinning with goat locks, and a simple worsted 2-ply. The only true in-depth tutorial is for the corespun yarn which includes step by step photos and instructions. The other two tutorials assume that you know already know what you’re doing. You’re given the complete material list, the basic process, and the finished yarn’s stats. Basically, a jumping off point to do your own thing. 

Each of the three yarns is paired with a knitting pattern. A shawl, sweater, and baby sweater, respectively. I really like this idea because even if you don’t want to knit the pattern, you still get some idea of what to knit with those precious skeins of handspun which might be one of the harder parts of spinning. 

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to read the first issue cover to cover and repeatedly flip through it, Ply meets its goals. It’s inspiring and, undoubtedly, a strong reference not just for spinning but for history and community as well. Definitely forwards my Tour de Fleece goal of learning new things. These magazines will have a prominent place on my shelves and I’m looking forward to the next issue. 

In a post from September 1, Boggs wrote that Issue 1 was officially sold out. The good news is that Issue 2 will be mailed out starting September 6. Get one while you can. It’s worth the price.

PlyReview2.jpg

The Sweet Tomato Heel

Williamette1.jpg

I could wax poetic about how I started these socks last December when it was cold and when I needed purse knitting. I could write about how much I wanted to knit this pattern and have a new pair of socks. I could write about how fun it was to knit them despite having to slog through the cuffs. I could write all of those things but the main reason I knit these socks was to knit another set of Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heels.

Pattern: modified Willamette Socks by Sara Morris

Yarn: Cascade Heritage Paints - 9872

Needle: US 2.25 mm

December 14, 2011 - May 16, 2012

@Ravelry

WilliamWIP1.jpg

Cat Bordhi, I like the way you think. 

The process for knitting this short row heel isn’t hidden away in a pattern and you don’t have to be able to divine the mysteries of the universe to figure it out. The Quick Start Guide at the beginning of the book gives you everything needed to knit a a pair of socks this way and even a bit of troubleshooting help before diving into the patterns. Later in the ebook, she works out how to knit a padded, reinforced heel using this method. There are numerous diagrams, clear step-by-step instructions, and lots of helpful tips.  For example, instead of wrapping and turning when working the short rows, she uses a lifted increase to close the gap between stitches. Two versions of short row heels that can be knit from the cuff or the toe and numerous patterns aside, just that epiphany was worth the cost of this ebook to me. This video shows the technique off nicely. 

Reinforced heel flaps with a short row turn are still my favorite heel, but the Sweet Tomato is such a close second. It’s relatively easy to knit, uses less yarn, and - best of all - fits so well. The question of fit was the main reason I stayed away from short row heels to begin with but the tomato is so easy to modify on a foot by foot basis.

Williamette3.jpg

The first few pairs of Sweet Tomatoes that I knit taught me a few things. The first pair I made for myself and got the method in my brain. The second pair I knit for the Bearded One’s giant feet and they fit him just as well. The third pair - this pair - I knit in a fingering weight and decided to add a mini gusset to get a little more room in the gusset. The gusset made the fit all the better and saved the instep pattern from disruption since the heel is knit over more than 50% of the stitches. I also needed a fourth wedge instead of the three I needed in worsted weight socks. Such an easy change to make. 

I think I’ll be using this heel for a long time and for many, many pairs of socks. 

Review: Discovery Socks for Insouciant Sock Knitters

WIP_DiscoverySocks.jpg

I've been making good progress on the scarf but it's definitely too big to bring with me about town. Socks, however, are wonderfully portable and I've always got one (or two) with me. Currently on the needles are The Discovery Socks from Cat Bordhi's latest book Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.

When I first heard about this book, I was thrilled since Bordhi's first book in this series, New Pathways for Sock Knitters, revolutionized how I thought about and knit socks. Once I heard more about the book though, my excitement started to wane. Usually, I knit the toe, figure out gauge, and make the rest of the pattern fit.  This new method would add in a few more rules. Also, in regards to sock knitting, DPN's are my one true love and I wasn't pleased about having to switch to circular needles even temporarily. These annoyances aside, I decided to buy the book and try it out anyway because I don't want to be so stubborn that I keep myself from learning anything new.

Now that I'm on the cuffs of both socks, I can give a better review of the book. The first part of the book is full of clear, detailed instructions and illustrations for all of steps neccessary to make a pair of socks with this method. The second part is a collection of different patterns, of which the first  socks you knit form the base, that range from basic ribbing to complicated lace. There's even a question and answer section at the back of the book which details how make a few modifications for a better fit. Even better is that the process is pretty fun and that includes snipping a stitch to open the leg. 

While fun,Personal Footprints does have a few downsides. One, it's almost impossible to make socks for other people using this method if you don't get a trace of their foot first and then have them try on the sock-in-progress to make all the measurements. Second, if you don't get the same gauge on every pair of socks you knit, you're going to have to make more footprints. I miss the freedom of finding out my gauge and going from there without trying to match it to a preexisting pattern. Third, the star toe is the only toe used in this book because it echoes the heel and determines when the heel starts. This takes a bit of the guess work out of knitting a sock but what if the star toe doesn't fit your foot well? The standard toe fits me much better and I think I've figured out how to substitute it for the star toe without mucking up the rest of the pattern. More on that later.

Despite the downsides, I'm happy I bought this book and tried out something new. At this point, I'm well into the cuff on both socks and they fit wonderfully, aside from that toe. I doubt that this will ever become my default way of knitting socks but I will definitely use this method again.

P.S. The sushi stitch markers are part of a set from The Opalescence. She also blogs as The Akamai Knitter.

P.S.S. I recently won the Snow Cat Hat pattern from Cozy. I can't wait to cast on. Thanks Cozy!

Review: The Joy of Sox

Sox1.jpg

@Amazon: The Joy of Sox: 30+ must-knit designs

@Rav

When I feel like getting out of the house and don't have anything particular to do, I usually end up over at the bookstore. This little quirk of mine means that I know the stock of the knitting section pretty well.  One day, The Joy of Sox by Linda Kopp, appeared on the shelves and I couldn't resist looking it over. Then, I couldn't resist taking it home.

Once home, I settled in and gave it a closer look. The Joy of Sox is a parody of The Joy of Sex and all of the book echoes this theme. The tutorial section is rife with innuendo and the pattern photos and intros focus on couples. Even pattern names join in the fun with names like A Roll in the Hay, a sock with a stitch pattern based on wheat sheaves, and Quickie Socks, a pair of quick to knit socks done in worsted weight. Small knitting "confessionals" are also strewn throughout the book along with helpful hints concerning everything from color pooling to sock recycling.

Underneath this playful facade, Joy of Sox is a very detailed and informative book. The tutorial section covers basic sock anatomy, to how to adjust socks, and basic recipes for heel flaps and short row heels. How to knit socks using DPN's and circulars (1 or 2) are also included. There is no bias towards toe up or cuff down socks as techniques for casting on and off for both types of construction are included. All 32 patterns have nice, color photographs that show off the socks and their details from different angles. Unfortunately, some of these photos are a bit small which can make it hard to inspect specific aspects. The patterns appear to be well written and, when necessary, included large, legible charts. Depending on the pattern, written versions of the charts are also included. 

What really made me fall for this book, besides from the attention to detail, was the variety of patterns. Socks are knit both from the toe and cuff and come in a variety of heights from anklets to thigh highs. There are patterns for fingering weight socks up to worsted. Ribbing, cables, lace, color work, and even bead knitting all have a place. With all of these choices, I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites. I want to knit both of the thigh high patterns, Takeout for Two and Girl's Best Friend Thigh Highs. Cyber Flirt, a sock that bears cabled emoticons, also looks like a lot of fun. Surprisingly, I've fallen hard for several color work socks despite the fact that I've haven't knit anything like that before. My personal favorites include From Russia with Love, Toe to Toe, Boyfriend Socks, and Snow Bunny. However, my favorite pattern of them all is Afternoon Delight by Silvia Harding which is a lacy knee sock with beads. With instructions like "impale bead onto hook," how can I resist?

Sox2.jpg