Hello! At the start of 2018 I didn’t want to set any goals or make any plans. I was living with a lot of unknowns and wanted to avoid adding self-made responsibilities to my plate. As 2019 dawns I have answers to many of those questions and they make me want to approach this year differently. I try to keep this space devoted to my crafting, but I’m going to briefly share an update on my health, as it’s the motivation behind all of this. I have chronic colorectal cancer, which means that my at least with current medical treatments my disease cannot be cured. I’m going to be doing chemo every other week for the foreseeable future. There’s a rhythm to the cycle, and I’m ready to have some goals to work towards, wherever I may be each day.
I love crafting books, and I’ve amassed a huge collection of unread ones. This year I’d like to get through all my unread paper books, most of which are craft books. You can see the list of all these books on the associated Goodreads shelf here. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites on the blog, starting with Kate Davies’ Handywoman later this month.
Thanks to a night of sleeplessness earlier this week, I went through my entire pattern and fabric stashes and set up an exciting queue for myself. Sewing has been hard for me the past year – between pain and exhaustion it has seemed out of reach to accomplish the physical tasks involved in getting projects going. With the mental work of this queue done, I am ready to tackle my fear and go for these projects. At a sewing weekend later this month I’m hoping to add some much-needed knits to my closet with a new dress and a couple new tops. My goals for the year include a jumpsuit and pants, both firsts for me.
My knitting was side-lined last year when I developed carpal tunnel (Listen to your bodies, y’all! Don’t push through pain!). I took 2 months off entirely, and since then have been working on it in PT. I can do some knitting know and hope to increase my stamina in the coming months. For the Ravelry Project Challenge I set a goal of 6 projects – definitely on the list are a bunch of boxy cropped sweaters and I’d also like to knit up some accessories with some kits and other perfectly matched skeins in my stash.
To make sure I hit new year’s blog post bingo, I have to include that I would like to blog more regularly this year 🙃. But truly, it is one of my goals to get back to weekly posting. I’d like to include more writing about crafting, and not just my personal projects. If you have something you’d like to hear my thoughts on, you can tell me in the comments below or email me from the contact section!
Looking forward to another year with you, dear readers! And, if you do want to keep up with my health, you can read about that on my cancer blog at bearingthewait.com.
Some crafty books are filled with information you want to file away for later, knowing that your next project will be improved by your new knowledge. And some crafty books make you want to immediately pick up your tools and put what you have learned to practice right away. Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno is one of the latter kinds, making me wish I could lock myself in a room with the book, a spinning wheel, and a pile of fiber.
The concept of Yarnitecture is comparing designing a yarn to designing a house. The blueprint is your yarn vision, the foundation is the fiber type, and the frame is the fiber prep. Then you start spinning and the walls are your drafting method, and the roof is your plying method. The paint is your approach to color and the front door is the finishing. Knitting with the yarn she calls the landscaping. The book closes with a section called housekeeping with 12 knitting patterns (with a few crochet and embroidery accents) with guidelines for the sort of yarn to spin for them.
I’ll admit that I went through the first few chapters wondering what I would take away from this book. I’ve read half a dozen descriptions on fiber type this year. I know about fiber prep and drafting. And then I hit the part where she measured the twist lost in the singles by plying – nearly 30%. What? Whoa. I didn’t know that. And the samples showing the difference between a yarn with 2 plies of the same fiber blend and a yarn with 2 plies of different fibers. Holy crow I want to try that. I am even the owner of the same colorway on 2 fiber types, so that is definitely my next spin. This book does a wonderful job of breaking down how to be deliberate about each step of yarn creation.
The chapter that most blew my mind was on color handling. I knew lots of ways to split up my fiber to play with color, but it had never occurred to me how drafting style or yarn width of number of plies change the effect of color in the yarn. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed my color blending experiment earlier in the year. As I mentioned then, I like blending colors but don’t enjoy carding. Jillian’s idea of drafting 2 different colors together is incredibly intriguing.
As much as I talk about the fact that I don’t plan my yarns, I do enjoy keeping track of measurements of my yarn. It makes me feel like I know the yarn and frankly I just like numbers. I will definitely be adding twists per inch to my statistics. One of the things I enjoyed seeing Jillian address is that what makes a beautiful skein of yarn is not what makes the best yarn to knit with.
I walked away from this book not only with a list of new techniques to try and numbers to ponder, but with a renewed reverence for spinning. As a creator of yarn and cloth I am part of a thousands year old tradition, yet one where there is still room for experimentation and play. In the section on finishing there is a picture of a swatch knit from weighted yarn before and after washing. The post-washing swatch is gnarled and alive with the twist energy from the yarn. When we make yarn we are pouring our energy into it and trapping it there forever. Jillian repeatedly highlighted how alive handspun feels compared to commercial yarns, and her explanation about machines keeping the yarn under tension is a good one, but I also think we can feel the energy transferred from a pair of human hands into the yarn.
That wraps up this year’s crafty reads! I’m still making my schedule for next year, I’ll announce it here when I have it. Let me know if you have books you want to hear about!
I want to be a weaver. I can’t complete all the sewing and knitting and spinning projects I have in mind, so it’s hard to justify immersing myself in a new craft. But I am obsessed with handwoven kitchen towels and I daydream about creating yards of cloth to sew with on a floor loom. This month I decided to read On The Loom: A Modern Weaver’s Guide by Maryanne Moodie to scratch my weaving itch.
The book has a lovely introduction about how Maryanne got started with weaving – after a lifetime of interest in vintage cloth, she came across a loom at the right moment in her life to fall deeply in love. She experimented and researched and figured it out as she went. I love the fearlessness she describes in her journey. My first instinct is always to pursue perfection and I find it so inspiring to hear the process of artists who approach making differently.
The first chapter is all the how-to information you need to start weaving. From the tools involved (including how to make your own looms of various types!) to fibers to color theory to a number of weaving stitches. Everything you need to know as a beginner is there, in writing and illustrated with lovely photos.
The remaining chapters are weaving projects – for rectangular, round, and non-traditional looms. If I were to give in and start weaving, the stitch sampler and rag rug projects are where I would start. While I read the chapter on non-traditional looms I thought to myself, “This is so beautiful but not for me.” But I have noticed myself looking differently at the world around me, wondering, “Could I weave on that?” The railing on our porch seems like it would be so cozy as a weaving, and I could use up all my scrap yarn.
I don’t doubt that one day you’ll see my weaving projects on here, it’s just a matter of how long I resist. Books like On The Loom make it harder! Are there any crafts you secretly want to learn but are holding off for now? Let me know and join me next month when I read Yarnitecture.
I didn’t want to let go of that Rhinebeck feeling, so this month’s crafty read is Ysolda Teague’s The Rhinebeck Sweater. It is a book of sweater patterns that make lovely Rhinebeck sweaters, a celebration of the festival, and an incredible look into the lives of small yarn producers.
This was actually a re-read for me. I purchased the book at Rhinebeck in 2013, right when it was released. Ysolda was staying in my Rhinebeck house and everyone else was buying one and I was swept along into joining in. That was my first Rhinebeck, and when I read back through the book this month I realized that visit and my subsequent read of this book were the start of a paradigm shift for me as a crafter. As a handspinner I was already into breed-specific yarn, but I thought I had to make it myself. I had never considered where the wool I knit came from or where it was turned into yarn or the people who did all that work.
The Rhinebeck sweater alternates introducing a sweater pattern designed specifically for the festival with a story of a yarn producer. You learn about sheep shearing on a primitive island, buying a yarn mill because you were able to keep it running, and a chemist whose runs her dyeing process like a lab bench. I loved hearing how people ended up in this industry – some have grown up in it and others only converted when a fiber animal literally bites them on the behind. I think any fiber artist could learn about a new aspect of how their materials are created through this book. The sweater patterns are a treat, each a different approach to making the perfect garment for the experience you like to have at the festival.
These stories really resonated with the discussions I have been having lately in the fiber community. Slow Fashion October had the theme this past week about known origins, buying materials that you know the provenance, and here is a whole book of them. On Twitter, Jill Draper (the subject of one of the profiles in the book) asked if she should be louder about the fact that her yarns are milled just for her and are all domestic. We spoke about the fact that I think you cannot beat that drum loudly enough. I want to buy exactly that kind of yarn, but I need to hear it over and over to remember who offers it. At this year’s Rhinebeck I was once again staying in the same house as Ysolda and we talked about what it is like for her to be a yarn producer, now that she creates her own yarn, Blend No 1.
In the introduction, Ysolda talks about how it took her a long time to warm up to Rhinebeck, and that reflects my experience as well. It can be overwhelming, and the experience is so short, that it can be years before you feel like you have done it properly. It was a lovely reminder of my journey from harried initial festival-goer to seasoned pro with a usual agenda and favorite booths to return to. Over and over the yarn producers interviewed said they love to talk to consumers about their yarns and their process. That’s a step I am only beginning to take, and a goal of mine for next year. Next month I’ll be reading Maryann Moodie’s On the Loom, and in December Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno. I picked both of these up this year at Rhinebeck and cannot wait to read them!
Edited to add! This post was timely! Ysolda tells me the book is 20% off today, 10/31/16, on both Ravelry and her site with the code “sheepandwool”.
Clara Parkes has a very specific point of view with regards to knitting: her focus is yarn. Yarn being put in a position to shine and complement our FOs. So The Knitter’s Book of Socks is not about math or fit, it’s about how to perfectly match a sock pattern and a yarn.
The book starts by defining what we want out of a sock yarn. Socks work hard getting stretched over our feet just to be worn and then getting walked on all day, often in sweaty shoes. This means that a good sock yarn needs to be flexible, durable, and breathable. This will allow it to fit over our heels without dropping at our ankles, and last more than a single wear, and let us forget that our feet can be humid little monsters.
Next we get into the specifics of different fibers and how well they perform as sock yarn. She compares them to each criterion to make sure we end up with a lone fiber or a blend that supports our sock knitting goals. Often blends yield the best results – you can get the benefits and mitigate the negatives of each component if you get the percentages and the structure right.
A book about choosing yarn for socks wouldn’t be complete without covering yarn structure. Ply by ply we learn about durability, as well as whether the yarn tends to enhance or obscure texture based on how the strands naturally fall against each other and the shadows they make on the knitted surface. The last topic before the patterns is different stitches you can use for strength and elasticity.
The patterns are a fantastic range – from indestructible to house slippers, from vanilla to rainbow sprinkles. They’re wonderful if you already have a sock yarn you love and need a pattern to match it. And if you fall in love with a pattern and don’t have an appropriate skein in your stash, each pattern has a great description of the kind of yarn best suited to it.
This is a great continuation in Clara’s series of books about yarn and how best to use it. Her love of fiber arts is evident throughout. And it is a fabulous source for patterns for unusual sock yarns.
Sorry this month’s crafty read went up late. I really wanted to do Ysolda’s The Rhinebeck Sweater this month so I think we’ll do two crafty reads this month. Let me know below if there are more books you want to hear about.
For years I have used the same sock pattern/recipe – David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook. It has a table for you to enter your measurements and every time I knit a sock I pull up the saved file on my phone and follow the well-trod ground. It fits me well, but as I have seen other knitters post about their different heels and gussets and toes I have wondered if maybe my one true sock was still out there waiting to be discovered. So this month I read Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley to see if I could find something better.
I was impressed from the first chapter, when the author revealed that she got 500 people to give her their detailed foot measurements. She analyzed the data to determine what an average foot looks like and how to write a pattern to fit it. There’s a section to enter your own foot measurements and then handy charts to see if there are any places your feet deviate from average and would benefit from pattern modification (which is covered later in the book!). One of the most valuable things about the chart is it makes it far easier to knit socks for someone else – if they give you a single measurement (shoe size, foot length, foot circumference), you can plug it into the chart and end up with a pretty well-fitting sock.
The next chapter is more sock knitting tips – the best way to measure gauge, yarn weight equivalents when holding multiple strands, avoiding ladders, and how and wear to reinforce your socks. By the third chapter you’re ready to learn how to make a sock – she talks through both top-down and bottom-up construction in theory and then in detail, section by section. There are tables to plug in your stitch count and find the numbers for each section as well as the formulas to get your own stitch counts if your feet don’t fit the standard dimensions.
My description of the book is pretty factual because that’s what the book is like. It isn’t about what it feels like to wear a well-fitting sock or the author’s journey to appropriately-sized knits. It is math and tables and charts to follow and end up with awesome socks. I know this will be a reference I return to year after year and I won’t have to dig to find the information I am after, it will be plainly available.
The final two chapters are mostly math and theory. First she covers how to add stitch patterns to socks – what and when to adjust and what can be kept the same. Finally she discusses adjustments for non-average feet. One thing I really liked about this section is that she presented the situation (longer and skinnier than average, for example) and then several solutions. It felt like she pulled out all the stops to give every foot a path to the socks they want.
Of course I had to measure all the adult feet in my household after I finished the book. My husband and I both have average feet, but even still I want to experiment with some of the suggestions for non-average feet. I think my husband would enjoy some of the toe shaping variations she suggests. Next month I am going to further my socks reading with The Knitters Book of Socks if you want to read along!
I adore my well-planned wardrobe. Putting intention into coordinating the shapes and colors and pieces was transformative for my crafting. I have always been a product crafter, but now in particular I know that new items will have a place in my closet. This is thrilling because I know that everything I make will be worn and loved. So, I was very eager to read this month’s crafty read, Lotta Jansdotter’s Everyday Style, which is an invitation to explore the author’s uniform.
The book has five core sewing patterns with variations – two tanks/tunics/dresses, one shorts/pants, one skirt, and one coat/jacket. The text is split into seasons, showing versions appropriate for each season, modeled by wonderful figures in Lotta’s life. At the end there’s a section showing the pieces remixed and restyled. Together it is a delightful representation of the patterns – I walked away with a great sense of the pieces overall and which one I was most excited to add to my wardrobe (an Esme tunic!).
Scattered throughout the book there are also fanciful accessories – patchwork scarves, tasseled shawls, fabric necklaces, giant pom-poms, and bags of every shape and size. Oh, and my new obsession, bias tape shoelaces. Accessories are such a fun source of variety in a uniform wardrobe. As quick, easy projects they can be an introduction to making for yourself for beginners, or a way for an expert to update a beloved ensemble without a huge investment of time.
This book has both information and inspiration. It really covers the five key pieces – suitable fabrics, styling ideas, fit – and includes the patterns for them are in the back to create your own. It also covers what Lotta likes in her wardrobe and provides plentiful inspiration there. What it doesn’t cover is how to find your own uniform of pieces. There is plenty of inspiration for how great a wardrobe made of a few pieces can be, and is a great jumping off point for further research on the topic.
Are you interested in the materials I would recommend to develop your own capsule wardrobe or uniform? Let me know and I can make it the topic of a future post! I would also love to hear if there are any books you recommend for future crafty reads.