For the hands and the feet: two new books.

From Martingale & Co. this week, we received two new books. One will help you clothe your hands, and the other, your feet. Let’s take a closer look.

There are many ways to knit small circumferences in the round, and it’s a good thing, too, because preferences vary from knitter to knitter. Some love double points and some loathe them. Some are happy using the magic loop on one long circular, while the mere thought of magic loop knitting sets others on edge. Some prefer knitting small circumferences like mittens or socks on two circular needles, and this new book is for them. Knitting Circles Around Mittens and More, by Antje Gillingham, is a collection of patterns for mitts and mittens using two circular needles.

Along with the patterns comes helpful information about modifying existing patterns to use two circulars instead of double points, as well as instruction on knitting two mittens at once. If knitting in the round on two circulars is your kind of thing, this book may be, too.

Now, for the feet: Knitting Scandinavian Slippers and Socks, by Laura Farson, is for lovers of colorwork. Many of the patterns use worsted weight yarn to create cushy slippers, but some are for fingering weight yarns, as well. Here are some of the stranded designs you’ll find inside:

Take a look at these and other new books next time you’re in the shop.

Knitting with Two Colors.

Back in November, I wrote about two of my favorite new colorwork resources: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs. I remember the feeling of contentment I had in placing those two on my bookshelf at home, thinking, “This completes my colorwork library.” That, however, was before Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors appeared. Now, having seen this new book from Schoolhouse Press, gaps appear in my colorwork library where none existed before. Where was the technical detail on preparing for and cutting steeks? The guidance on altering existing colorwork patterns, and designing your own? Ways to incorporate shaping into a colorwork sweater without completely confusing the patterning? The hows, whys, and whether-or-nots of various hems, borders, and necklines? Why, here they are, calmly and clearly explained by these two most experienced colorwork knitters, Swansen and Detjen.

Knitting with Two Colors is neither a book of sweater patterns nor a book of colorwork charts, but truly a book of techniques, a slim paperback volume that is absolutely bursting with information. I can imagine no better companion to Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting or Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs than Swansen and Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors. Colorwork enthusiasts, and anyone else who’s curious, should take a look at this book, and take home a copy if there’s an ambitious colorwork project in your future. Find it on the teacart.

Folk Socks.

Here is an older book, made new this year with revisions and updated content. First published in 1994, Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks is back in print and back on our shelves.

With its long historical preamble, various heel- and toe-shaping techniques, and colorwork patterns, Folk Socks is right up my alley.

In thumbing through this excellent book, I was particularly struck by a simple pair of socks, knit in gray and white with only one small stranded motif.

With the abundance of stitch dictionaries, sock books, and color combinations I have available, I’m likely to add more color, more patterning, more complication to my colorwork socks, all in an attempt to try as many new things as possible in any given sock. These socks, and this book, reminded me that beautiful socks need not be covered from cuff to toe in patterning. One well-chosen motif can go a long way. And oh, this book has me aching for more colorwork socks!

Come by the shop to see Folk Socks for yourself, and be talked into colorwork sock-knitting by yours truly.

Two new colorwork resources.

It seems we’ve been getting tons of exciting new books this fall, one right after another. I confess, I’ve added about four new knitting books to my collection at home in the past month alone. Two of those have already been carefully reviewed here on the blog, but the other two have not yet had their moment in the sun. Given my proclivity towards stranded colorwork, it may come as no surprise that these two new titles focus on that technique in particular.

Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting is exactly what it sounds like: a book of charts. Not a book of sweater or hat patterns with charts, just a book of charts. Starmore begins with a chapter on designing simply shaped, drop-shoulder colorwork sweaters, and ends with “A Word on Colour,” but in between, she leaves the knitter alone with pages upon pages of charts. The charts are organized by place of origin, so that in flipping through the book, one can glimpse the color-knitting culture of Norway, then Sweden, then Russia, then South America, and onward. In addition, Starmore also offers charts she’s adapted from ancient manuscripts, architecture, carpets, jewelry, and stonework, and encourages knitters to do the same. Colorwork charts are easily invented, after all–graph paper and a little color knitting experience is all that’s needed.

Mary Jane Mucklestone’s new 200 Fair Isle Motifs is similar to Starmore’s Charts, but focused on the particular Scottish colorwork tradition for which it is named. The book begins with clear tutorials on all kinds of techniques used in Fair Isle knitting, from swatching to steeking to correcting mistakes. For those overwhelmed by the endless possible color combinations (all of us?), there is a little tutorial on color theory. Then come the 200 motifs. Mucklestone has organized these motifs by the number of rows and stitches in each pattern repeat, making it easy to find a pattern that divides evenly into the number of stitches you’re working with on any given project–hat, socks, sweater, etc. Each chart is shown not only in the traditional black-dots-on-a-white-grid style, but also in a color photograph, a color variation, and an all-over version, giving the knitter a jump start on adapting these patterns for many uses.

These two books have me itching to cast on for something new. I am utterly overwhelmed by the number of half-formed knitting ideas rushing around in my mind, which is, by the way, a most pleasant experience. I am so excited by these two books, which complement one another beautifully. Until I figure out exactly what my next colorwork project will be, I’m enjoying simply poring over Starmore’s black and white charts and Mucklestone’s brightly colored motifs, inundated with ideas.

Hello, Briggs and Little Sport.

Recently I completed a project that had been stuffed in the bottom of a basket for about a year. I’m not a monogamous knitter, but lingering unfinished projects do bother me a bit. Every once in a while, I’d remember this particular project, a half-completed colorwork vest, and worry about it a little. Would I ever finish it? Why did I put it down again? There must have been something intimidating ahead in the pattern, something scary enough that I’d hide the whole thing away and spend a year knitting other things. When I pulled out the pattern, an out-of-print Meg Swansen gem called the Square-Rigged Vest, it was immediately clear why I had stopped when I did. After casting on at the bottom edge and knitting happily round and round in the color pattern, I’d reached the armpit, where I’d have to plan for steeks. I’ve cut my knitting before, but something about the little bit of math and boldness required for this next step tripped me up. Coming back to it a year later, I was pleased to find myself excited rather than nervous at the prospect of steeking, and in a matter of weeks the whole project was done.

The yarn is Briggs and Little Sport, an unsung hero of a yarn. A rustic, single ply, 100% wool yarn, Briggs and Little Sport is quite affordable, comes in an astonishing array of colors, and has a sticky quality to it–all of which make it perfectly suited to stranded colorwork knitting. Once knit, the stitches cling to each other, which is handy for steeking, since it takes some serious pulling and stretching for the cut stitches to unravel.

Briggs and Little Sport is often passed over, I think, because it isn’t soft to the touch. It took some time to get used to it, but soon my fingers were accustomed to the texture of the yarn and enjoying the process. I was promised by those who had knit with it before that it would soften with washing and I can’t tell you how right they were. It’s not cashmere or anything, but then, that’s exactly what I love about this classic, wooly yarn.

If you’re considering a colorwork project, Briggs and Little Sport is certainly worth your attention, but I’ve seen it used successfully in other ways as well. Marion and several of her students have made February Lady Sweaters holding the Briggs and Little doubled to obtain a worsted-weight gauge. When I searched for the yarn on Ravelry, I found that many knitters are using it for socks, shawls, mittens, and hats, as well as sweaters. Come by the shop to visit this unsung hero and consider how you might make use of it. See you soon!

Summer reading.

Last week, Anne and I unpacked two boxes of books, almost all of which were new to the shop. We quickly made space on the teacart for them, and filled it even more quickly. As I’ve explained here before and as regulars have come to expect, the teacart is reserved for the newest additions to the shop. Because of the great quantity of new titles, however, we’ve had to spread out our most recently acquired books. There are simply too many to squeeze onto one teacart. We decided instead to tuck them in wherever they would fit, which is all over the place. Let me point them out to you here.
Our books are loosely organized by theme, with similar books sharing a shelf. So our newest books on colorwork joined their friends on the colorwork shelf.
The newest sock knitting books found a home with the other sock books, with the sock yarns close at hand.

Knit Noro: 30 Designs in Living Color snagged a space with the Noro pattern booklets and other technique books that play well with Noro yarns–entrelac, brioche, etc. These books are in the Noro corner, just above the Noro yarns.
Our newest books, pictured and unpictured, in no particular order:
Sock Knitting Master Class, by Ann Budd
Socks for Sandals and Clogs, by Anna Zilboorg
The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, by Margaret Radcliffe
Norwegian Knitting Designs, by Annichen Sibbern Bohn
Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting
Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition, by Alice Starmore
Charts Made Simple: Understanding Knitting Charts Visually, by JC Briar
Knit Socks! : 17 Classic Patterns for Cozy Feet, by Betsy McCarthy
Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure, by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott
How to Knit Socks: Three Methods Made Easy, by Jeanne Stauffer and Diane Schmidt
Knit Noro: 30 Designs in Living Color
Knit, Swirl!, by Sandra McIver
365 Crochet Stitches a Year: a Perpetual Calendar, by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss
Armenian Knitting, by Meg Swansen and Joyce Williams
I’ve just picked up my copy of Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, which should keep me busy for quite some time, reading, admiring, and planning. Serious, beautiful knitting tomes like this one are by far my favorite kind. If you’re seeking some knit or crochet inspiration, my recommendation is the right book–one that excites as well as educates. Come by the shop to find it!

Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply.

Last week we welcomed two new colors of a yarn we’ve had for a few years now, Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply. As with the rest of the Debbie Bliss yarns, Rialto 4 ply comes in a beautiful range of solid colors, and they’re designed to look wonderful together. The more colors, the merrier.

Rialto 4 ply is the fingering-weight answer to Rialto Aran and Rialto DK, all springy 100% superwash merino yarns with excellent stitch definition. Debbie Bliss has great pattern support for all three, of course, but I’ve had great fun using Rialto 4 ply in my own design experiments. I’ve knit three pairs of socks with this yarn, and one crazy sweater. I’ve shared the socks here before, so now it’s the sweater’s turn.

Which is just to say, having spent a sweater’s worth of time with this yarn, I feel I’m intimately familiar with it. It’s wonderful for fair-isle knitting, though not in the classic sense; it’s a smooth, superwash yarn, so you probably wouldn’t want to steek it. Still, the true solids are just right for crisp colorwork patterns.

And now there are two more colors to choose from. The more, the merrier.

Julia shows off.

As regulars at the shop are probably already aware, I’ve become preoccupied with knitting socks of late. Since I’m six and a half pairs into my sock knitting career, I thought it might be a good time to share my progress. Ready for some show and tell?

Cascade 220 Superwash Sport.
Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine.
Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply.
Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply.

And what am I working on now? But of course:
Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply.

I have designs on a Zilboorg-style cabled cardigan out of the Shenandoe Farm yarn, but that’s only if I can peel myself away from my #2 double points. If you’re in need of some sock-knitting enthusiasm, I have plenty to spare: come by the shop and we’ll talk socks. Many thanks for enduring all those pictures of my feet!