Review: One-Skein Wonders (r) and Designer One-Skein Wonders (r)

One-Skein Wonders (r): 101 Yarn-Shop Favorites, by Judith Durant, Storey: 2006, 240 pages. Paperback and digital editions available. Grade: A

101 Designer One-Skein Wonders (r) by Judith Durant, Storey: 2007, 256 pages. Paperback and digital editions available. Grade: A

So far I haven’t referred to Amazon reviews of the books that I subject to scrutiny on here, but this time I feel it is necessary.¬† I was wary before buying the ones I’m discussing here because I read some negative opinions about them. I want to spread some peace of mind all round the world and, hopefully, fewer people will debate with themselves whether or not to believe the harsher critics on Amazon. Additionally, I’ve decided to compare the first two members of the “One-Skein” series because some people don’t want to spend $20 (estimated digital price) and would prefer to just spend $10, forcing them to choose one or the other.

So, let’s start with the Amazon customer critiques, which are about as reliable as a Yahoo! Questions page. Most people who bought these books gave them five stars without leaving much commentary. The trouble comes from the fact that the more negative opinions are long, which seems to lend them authority. I think this is the problem with anonymous reviews, really, because the individual: 1) actually said something and took time out of his or her day to write; 2) the happy people clicked on stars and left it at that, looking like they didn’t read a thing of the book they bought; 3) the harsh critics got a nice “helpful” rating, which means their positive voters decided not to buy the product and never had the opportunity to experience it for themselves, because “helpful” here means “I didn’t buy it because I made up my mind a priori reading this opinion.”

It’s a waste of our time to go over specific commentaries. Instead, I think it’s best to generalize. I surveyed them quickly. Basically, it seems like a lot of the negative Nancies copied each other. So, according to some critics: 1) there are “too many errors,” 2) the word “one-skein” is meaningless because a lot of the projects use up less than one unit, 3) it’s disappointing to have a yarn in your stash you think you’d love to use only to discover you don’t have enough of it, and 4) it is necessary to understand the mysterious sorcery that is yarn substitution because everything relies on exotic, fancy stuff.

How many errors are too many? 18 of the 103 patterns in One-Skein Wonders (r) have mistakes in them, and they have been extensively corrected in the errata list on the Storey Publishing web site. But, this means that approximately 17% have problems. Is 17% too much? You decide. I’m more of an optimist. 83% have no mistakes at all. As for 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders (r), the stats are a bit more disappointing. 30 out of 103 have needed corrections, which means that roughly 29% are not written up accurately. Still, 71% are perfectly error-free. If you hate following along with errata and insist on spending your money on a book with fewer imperfections, the first of the series with an 83% success rate might be your choice if that’s good enough for you. My opinion? I don’t care, really. If by chance I choose to make something from instructions with errata, I just follow the corrections. Go Internet! You youngsters don’t know what it was like to knit or crochet something from a publication with errors, having to wait for the errata to come out in a magazine and remember to store the corrections some place and not lose them once you found them, which took some time. Not too long ago, it was a paper and wait game.

The next critique we must face is the opinion that the word “one-skein” is meaningless because a lot of the designs use less than one skein. I’m sorry Amazon reviewers, but that is sort of silly. This is not important, especially since the pattern notes state how many of a particular item you can get out of one ball. It’s so exact that there are directions for a mitten that tells us that one unit will make exactly five items – that last mit will remain unpaired with one ball only, so knit two pairs and use the rest for wrist warmers. Anyway, I like this information. If I want to knock out a bunch of one thing to give away to people, I can plan ahead and buy the right amount of yarn. I’m looking at you, “Wine Gift Bag” by Leanne Walker. To make these yarn counting people happy the title would have to be changed to Partial Skein Wonders. That doesn’t sound too catchy, does it? Again, I source my optimism: this set here is good for leftovers, too!

And then we have the whiner who complains about not having enough yarn for a particular project. I think that if you blame the book for the content of your stash you really need a couple of things: 1) an introductory course on logic, available in a college philosophy department near you; 2) a psychologist to help you understand how you – and only you – are responsible for your feelings. I mean, really!

Finally, the comment about “having to understand yarn substitution” made me laugh a lot when I saw it. It’s really easy. First of all, you need to buy some equipment: a microscope, some beakers, a Bunsen burner, litmus paper, the eye of two toads, a purple butterfly’s wings, the legs of an ostrich, the horns of five unicorns… If you think swapping one yarn for another is really problematic, let me help you: try the yarn you want to use and knit up a little swatch, preferably with the main stitch pattern the directions call for. Does the gauge on your swatch match the number indicated in the pattern? Do you like how it looks? If you have answered “yes” to these two questions you now have your official diploma in Yarn Substitution and you’re all set to legally practice this DARK ART at will, any time you wish.

Sometimes it’s tempting to pay attention to Amazon blatherers because it feels like their opinion must be better than our suspicions because they bought the book and took the whole thing in themselves while we did not. Now that I’ve glossed some of the most frequent negative opinions about the two One-Skein Wonders titles, I think we might judge some of these people as trolls, or just plain silly. The only observation that might be reliable or understandable is “too many mistakes.” This, of course, is subjective, but it really could be a valid reason to avoid a book for some people.

On the other hand, the projects in these two collections are really clever and help us yarniacs who tend to collect stray skeins here and there. Some are for crochet, too, even though the majority of them are for knitting. I think crocheters who don’t knit shouldn’t buy this book because the majority of the directions would be useless to them, but knitters who happen to crochet will be doubly thrilled. Both texts have the variety every knitter craves: bags, vests, socks, scarves, cowls, jewelry, various more accessories, and even decorative finishing touches to add to any project. In the original One-Skein Wonders (r) (2006) I particularly love: “Beaded Diamond Bag” by Diana Foster, “Crocheted Bag” by Deidra Logan, “Cozy House Socks” by Sue Dial , “Four-in-One Gaiter” by Nancy Lindberg,“Gossamer Shell Scarf” by Tamara Del Sonno,“Handpaint Highlights Socks” by Leah Oakley , and “Aran Tam” by Carol F Metzger¬†. From the 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders (r) (2007) collection, I really admire “Basic Cable Mittens for the Family” by Marci Richardson ,“Broken Rib Socks” by Kathleen Taylor,“Cable That Bag!” by Chrissy Gardiner,“Kat’s Hat” by Diana Foster ,“Simple Mistake Rib Vest” by Karn J. Minott , and “Tucson Lattice Shawl” by Nancy Miller.

As far as the difference in the titles goes, the second book’s starts with the word “Designer,” which seems to give it more pizazz. In reality, the different wording has to do with where the patterns came from. In the first and earliest published set, One-Skein Wonders (r) (2006), the designs are by pretty cool yarn shop owners who thought it would be useful for their customers to give them patterns that only need one skein. So, the word “Designer” is used for the second one (2007) because the authors are not shop owners or hobbyists. The projects, really, come down to individual taste. If you only want to buy one of these and not both, I would suggest checking them out on Ravelry. You can see finished objects as well as the photos provided in the books. So, go to One-Skein Wonders on Ravelry to see all the patterns for the first title and just click on Designer One-Skein Wonders to see what the second set offers.

Both books organize the projects by yarn weight. This is especially convenient for those times we are thinking about a particular skein in our stashes and want some ideas on what to do with it. This structure makes consulting the text much more efficient. I also like the practical presentation of the designs, with very precise information about yardage and the number of items that can be made from one skein.

I recommend both of these collections to knitters, as well as knitters who crochet, that have some stray yarn and are looking for inspiration. There is enough variety in both books to please just about everyone. Errata haters, I understand your hesitation. For me, personally, it doesn’t matter, just as long as I have access to the corrections so I don’t drive myself crazy while trying to figure out “what went wrong” in the middle of my project.

Review: 150 Knit and Crochet Motifs by Heather Lodinsky

150 Knit and Crochet Motifs by Heather Lodinsky, Interweave: 2011, 128 pages. Paper back and digital editions available. Grade: A+

I think it’s pretty obvious why I bought this book a few years ago. It’s for people who like to knit and crochet. Another motive for getting it is that I’ll never stop adding things to my library, especially motif books and stitch dictionaries. They provide me with lots of inspiration. Finally, I was eager to grab this title because it’s no-nonsense.

It’s just motifs and a handful of projects to illustrate how to use them. The book starts with a visual table of contents. A clear picture of each motif is presented and captioned with its page number. All dictionaries should be planned this way. It’s so much easier and time-saving to just see all the photos and decide which ones are appropriate for the project in mind. There are very few squares in favor of more interesting and unusual shapes. It’s delightful to see circles, leaves, flowers, and many other cool forms.

Although the idea here is to create interesting projects that combine knit and crochet, the reader doesn’t have to do that. I like the idea of combining the two crafts but I haven’t really got serious about it just yet. I see myself trying it out in the future.

After the motifs come five projects using some of the presented patterns: two beautiful afghans, a bag, and a cushion. The directions are very straight-forward and visual. I hope I have time in the future to try one out because they’re really beautiful designs.

At the end of the text comes a little tutorial on techniques. Among the more useful instructions are on how to fit motifs together and planning an original project.

Something that has come to mind while thinking about this book: It’s possible to combine stuff from this book with others from other catalogs, both knit and crochet.

This dictionary most certainly isn’t for everybody because some people only know how to do one craft or the other. I recommend this title to people who equally enjoy knitting and crocheting and would like to have a book with motifs made with the two methods. Anyone who is curious about creating original designs that combine knitting with crochet would also want to add this book to the pattern stash. I’m certainly not sorry I bought it. I hope in the future more references include a visual table of contents. It’s one of the strong points of this collection aside from the fact that I want to knit and crochet all the motifs now that I’ve perused it again!

The scarf didn’t see it coming

My blue lace scarf had no idea it was going to be finished. I sort of sneaked up on it and ended this very long project on Tuesday evening. This is also the second Friday in a row that I have an FO. So, I’ve got two reasons to be very pleased with my knitting.

 

 

You might recall that I made a deal with myself to knit one pattern repeat a day to get this finished. A week after I made this pact I did not stick to the letter of its law. It still helped me to make this promise to myself, though, because it was constantly on my mind. I’d be at the supermarket and the voice in my head would nag at me, “You haven’t knitted a repeat on your scarf in a few days!”

This design is called “A Man’s Scarf in Blue to Knit” by Inna Voltchkova. It took me about seven months to complete it. It’s a difficult lace pattern to follow because the repeat is several rows long. Consequently, I did not ever memorize this and had to have the chart in front of me the entire time I worked on it. Although the directions recommend using blocking pins, I simply washed my scarf and laid it out flat to dry on some towels, stretching it width-wise. It held the shape I wanted as it dried and the zig-zag pattern is very clear and crisp. So, if you decide to knit this blue number, you may not need to aggressively block it with a thousand pins, either. I used Zitron Filigran, a merino size 0 lace weight yarn which is very light and soft. A happy bonus with washing it: it gets longer because the wool expands quite a lot after having contact with water. I don’t know about you, but my scarf philosophy is: the longer the better.

A clever thing about this wonderful pattern is that the cables, just like the garter stitch lace, are reversible. The cables are actually k1p1, which allows them to look the same on both sides, as you can see in the photos.

You may not agree with the designer about men wearing this, but I totally do. It’s all mine and I’m going to wear the living daylights out of it. I think it’s suitable for men and women, actually. Anyway, I love to knit lace and tire of having to give it away because I can’t wear it. This is lace a DEWD can wear, if it fits in with his style. I shall wear it with my Levi’s denim jacket, so I think it will look fantastic on me and not the least bit strange.

I hope you knit and crochet a lot this weekend! I certainly plan on it.

Review: Stashbuster Knits by Melissa Leapman

Stashbuster Knits by Melissa Leapman, Potter Craft: 2011, 144 pages. Paperback and digital formats available. Grade: A+

Of all the books, leaflets, and digital patterns I have in my library, I ought to use this one, but I haven’t yet. I do have a ton of sock yarn scraps in my stash, as well as some stray skeins leftover from knitting sweaters that I should try to use up. When I decide to get going on this task, at least this book is waiting for me to use up my scraps.

Part 1 gives some very good advice on how to organize a yarn stash and get the scraps ready to use in a project. It’s very practical and straight-forward. Knitters who don’t know what they have in their stash or who frequently take a peak into it without being able to remember why they bought this or that skein will especially benefit from this how-to. I know what I have in my stash, but it is most certainly disorganized. If it grows any more I’ll have to tackle organization following this guide. The author includes a primer on joining scraps of yarn together to create a “customized variegated ball of yarn” and a very handy chart on how to substitute strands of yarn held together so that, for example, if you have some worsted weight and a few stray pieces of sport, you can combine strands of sport weight to knit it with the worsted.

Part 2 brings on the patterns. One of the most surprising aspects of this section is the variety of designs. Melissa Leapman didn’t leave out any type of project. There are sweaters, baby clothes, bags, bracelets, shawls, cowls, scarves, and the list goes on. It’s also very helpful that the patterns are organized by yarn weight. That way, if you say to yourself, “hmmm, I have a ton of sport yarn scraps” you can just go to that section and see if you want to use it up knitting this or that project. The variety of techniques that each pattern highlights is also impressive. Cables, colorwork, stockinette, garter stitch: All the bases are covered to bust any old stash.

As far as the patterns go, I like all of them. The photos definitely demonstrate that no one would ever know that they were knitted up with scraps. I think I would like to knit up just about everything. Of course, I don’t need everything in this book, so I won’t, but that’s how awesome the designs are. Just check out the “Cables and Colors” and “Sea of Blue” sweaters. They’re amazing. As a matter of fact, they’re so beautiful that they’re worth buying yarn especially to make them.

This book is for any knitter who is stumped about what to do with the variety of scraps lurking in the stash. Even if you have a mixed bag of stuff, with various amounts of sock, sport, DK, and worsted, you can combine it all to knit up something beautiful and stylish. I plan to use this book in the future, especially because I want to use up my sock yarn scraps and don’t see myself starting another afghan with it all.

Just a sock

Well look at me talking about a WIP on a Wednesday. I haven’t collapsed yet after getting home from work. My energy level is pretty good at the end of a Wednesday for a change.

And then we have Murphy’s Law at work. It’s WIP Wednesday, I’m all ready to write on this blog about it, and all I’ve got is a picture of a sock I started with Cascade Heritage Prints. I made sure I worked through a full color repeat before I photographed it. Now I’m lamenting that I left my knitting bag in the background but I think you can still appreciate the colors.

cascadeheritageprints

I’ve also been crocheting my sister’s pineapple shawl and knitting my blue lace scarf.

Happy Hump Day!

 

Three pairs of socks

I set a goal for myself: By June I’d have six pairs of socks completed. It didn’t happen. It’s logical because every time I set a knitting goal for myself I do not follow through. I have finished a lot of sweaters this year, after all.

The nice thing about goals is that they can be subjected to reassessment. I have reassessed my goal as unrealistic for this year so it is now in the trash.

I’m very happy with my socks. It’s too hot to wear them so I haven’t washed and blocked them yet. I’ll get around to that after I prep the last wool sweater for summer storage.

You might recall that the red socks have quite the history. I originally wanted to try a triangles stitch pattern but I didn’t like it so I went for cables. Then, I ran out of yarn. Last month I ordered more red sock yarn and finished them. The neon striped socks were really fun to knit as were the Arne and Carlos self-patterning socks that are to the left of the red ones. The red socks aren’t exactly looking good in the photo. Did you know it’s really difficult to photograph red things? I got fed up and left them as they were in the picture. The other two pair look fantastic.

Of course, I started a new pair of socks last night. This time I found a skein of Cascade Heritage Prints. More self-patterning yarn! I’ll post about them next week when we can really appreciate the pattern that emerges.

I missed WIP Wednesday so here is my sister’s crochet pineapple shawl in progress.

I’m happy with how it’s developing. I started with one pineapple panel and two shell panels. I then increased to three pineapples and then rapidly to seven. Now on every repeat I add one pineapple panel to each end of the shawl. I like how the self-striping yarn makes it a little difficult to see the pineapples but then they’re noticeable with a more careful inspection.

So, whew! Finally some FOs to share. This weekend, if I don’t drink any alcohol, I think I’ll work on my blue knitted lace scarf. Have fun, everybody!

Review: 1000 Great Knitting Motifs by Luise Roberts

1000 Great Knitting Motifs by Luise Roberts, Trafalgar: 2004. 288 pages. Spiral bound format available. Grade: A

This is a very straight-forward book. It’s a catalog of motifs. There isn’t much more here than knitting charts with color patterns. I think crocheters who enjoy tapestry crochet would appreciate this book just as much as knitters who often get into color work.

One reason why I love this dictionary is that all of the charts are in color. One of my issues with some of the older Fair Isle stitch pattern dictionaries is that they are printed in black and white, so it’s difficult to distinguish between colors if more than two colors are used in a single row. It’s not terrible if the charts are in black and white, but colored charts are just more helpful and easier to follow. I have decided to live with my older charts in black and white instead of buying the newer Fair Isle dictionary that Mary Jane Mucklestone authored a few years ago. I might buy it some day, but I also have some other stitch dictionaries that I’ve bought here and there at the newsstand around the corner and they’re also printed in color.

I also think this dictionary is fantastic because it isn’t just Fair Isle motifs, or only Native American motifs, etc. It has several from each tradition. On top of that, it has a unit devoted to modern graphs, including the zodiac, the natural world, and so on.

Finally, some of the charts are printed with different color combinations to offer an idea of what a pattern can look like in various palettes. This is not essential, of course, but it’s useful.

1000 Great Knitting Motifs is a must have if you can find it and enjoy color knitting or tapestry crochet. I think it has enough patterns to last a crafty person a lifetime. According to what I’ve seen on Amazon there are reasonably priced copies available second hand. The book technically is still in print, so it could also be ordered from the publisher or special ordered at a book store.