Gift idea / What I’ve been up to

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been very busy with work and also focusing on finishing a gift pack for my sister for her birthday. I got the last item finished just in time. It’ll take over a week for it to get to her so I had to work quickly. It took me nearly two months to finish up this care package.

If you’re wondering about what to make for people as gifts: If you don’t feel like making a sweater or don’t know a person’s measurements a whole bunch of small items is a really nice gift. If the receiver is a fellow knitter or crocheter it will be really very much appreciated. Fellow crafters know how much time and effort it takes to make a bunch of homemade items. My sister loves to knit and crochet in her spare time so I know she will love this care package I’m sending to her from far away. I knit her two scarves, a pair of cotton socks, and I crocheted two decorative items for her vacation home.

I decided to make her stuff that she can use now and other wearables she can save for later. It’s a gift pack that will extend her birthday for a few months.

Review: Knitting Brioche by Nancy Marchant

Knitting Brioche by Nancy Marchant. Cincinnati, OH: North Light Books, 2010.  256 pages.
Grade: A+

So I got one of the books on my wish list! I actually downloaded the iBooks version.

I am very impressed with this book. Of course I tried one of the techniques before I purchased it. In fact, the author is generous with her knowledge so we can all try before we buy: she has a web site that teaches some of the basics of the brioche stitch. I tried out her two-color brioche instructions, loved the results of my swatch, and decided to purchase her publication.

In her Introduction Marchant tells the story of how she came to write about brioche knitting. Born in the Midwestern United States she moved to the Netherlands where she discovered this elegant ribbing. I suppose her history with this fluffy fabric could be considered a kind of love affair or a type of thirst for knowledge. After years of experimentation she developed new ways to employ the stitch, discovered new patterns, and designed her own garments.

Following the Introduction comes a historical and technical summary about the brioche stitch. Her history of it is as informative as it is interesting to read. The technical summary is, of course, essential since it details the basic methods of its execution as well as the way to “think in brioche.” This manner of thinking means to treat slipped stitches with their accompanying yarn overs as one unit. It’s truly amazing to read everything that flows from this sole concept.

The first chapter, “Working the Brioche Stitch Using One Color,” explains the four basic ways one can knit the brioche stitch and its relationship to other kinds of knitting. Since I have Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns I did not learn much new from this chapter aside from the different ways one can achieve the same resulting rib pattern and learn more about how to “think in brioche knitting.” For those who are not familiar with this kind of fabric: reading this chapter will make it very clear how to make it. More significant for me is the masterful manner in which the author shows her audience how to think in brioche to knit this way. She makes it all very easy to understand and reproduce.

This innovative manner of viewing knitting indeed opens up a new dimension of possibilities as revealed in Chapter 2, “Working Brioche Stitch Using More than One Color.” The techniques described here are of immense value to me because I really like to discover new reversible fabrics and patterns that look elegant on two sides. After making some swatches I know that when someone looks at something I make in two color brioche they will ask me, “Wow! How did you do that?”

The “Brioche Stitchionary,” the topic of the third chapter, is as awesome as the previous one. It is a tour de force on the many possibilities of employing the brioche stitch to make novel and interesting fabrics. There are patterns here that use as many as five colors at once, other kinds of reversible fabrics, and striking textural designs. Many of the patterns are actually new twists on old, familiar ones, such as “Stockinette Brioche Stitch” and “Four-Color Moss Brioche Stitch.” Anyone not satisfied with a new way to make reversible fabrics will be satisfied with the huge variety of new stitch patterns that Marchant has devised.

Chapter 4 is about “The Design Elements of Brioche Knitting,” including information about increasing, decreasing, how to make cables, and much more useful instruction. This chapter and inspires one to think up ways to add both color and texture to knitted fabrics.

The fifth and final chapter, “Projects,” is just that, original designs with easy to follow instructions for sweaters, vests, scarves, hats, and other items for men and women. I want to try all of them. Even better: the author notes when a pattern was intentionally designed to be used as a base to design other garments. She even offers bits of advice on how to begin altering some of her patterns. Her intent was not only to offer her audience some nice instructions. She wants us to make her patterns our own and advance this method further.

A lovely bonus: the photographs are crisp, clean, and attractive. The knitting samples were all created with care and dressed up for photography. There isn’t a single garish looking picture in this book. I am as impressed with the professional design of this text as I am with the techniques it clearly explains.

I recommend this book to any knitter who wishes to learn a whole new way to knit, design, and create beautiful fabrics. The instructions are written in plain English and the methods are fascinating. It’s truly a pleasure to read and a creative inspiration.

I used up the brown "Caiman" Berger de France yarn I bought on sale

I decided to use it to make a diagonal rib lace scarf for someone really special . It was lots of fun to make and really easy to tame with some good old fashioned blocking.

I used the stitch pattern provided by Ann Budd in her The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns. I’ll say that her book is indeed very handy. The other side of this scarf is also very attractive:
It’s so awesome on both sides that I can’t decide which one I like the most. I’d call both sides the “right side,” in fact. The best part is that the person who will receive this scarf doesn’t know that I still had yarn leftover from the liquidation sale I found. The last time I was at her house she asked me “It was a liquidation sale, huh?” I gave her daughter a scarf in a different color way for Christmas (a mixed violet color in Fisherman’s Rib) and she’s done nothing but rave about her daughter’s scarf, how warm it is, how lovely it is, etc.
My thoughts are that if it looks this fantastic on the blocking table it will look even better around her neck accompanied by a smile on her face. I can’t wait to give it to her. It’s one of those “no reason whatever” kinds of gifts. The best kind.