Picture Book Picks: Knitter Appreciation

What knitter hasn’t had the sad experience of working for hours on a gift item, only to discover that the recipient doesn’t like it, never wears it, or hid or gave it away? I like to call it UGGS: Unappreciated Gift Giver Syndrome, and I still avoid it by mostly knitting just for me. But UGGS also rears its ugly head in fiction, so here are three picture books about knitters looking for a little appreciation. As an added bonus, they all happen to be animals.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown.

Published in the UK and Australia before hitting the States, this book stars a sweet if slightly dim owl who loves to knit. Unfortunately, her strigine friends refuse to wear the brightly colored clothes she creates. So, she travels around the world (in various partially-knitted forms of transport) in search of some happy knitwear recipients. She tries the rain forest, the African plains, and the Arctic before getting a bit homesick (and running out of yarn). When she gets back home, she discovers that the other owls have come to appreciate her and her gifts. The storytelling is a little clunky, but the watercolor illustrations are adorable, even if it does look like Annie is knitting with two very large iron nails in a rather peculiar style. (It’s probably very hard to knit with wings.) I take issue with the depiction of penguins frolicking with polar bears up in the Arctic – it’s a pet peeve of mine – but they’re so darn cute!

Derek the Knitting Dinosaur, by Mary Blackwood, illustrated by Kerry Argent

In this rhymed-text import from Australia, Derek is a little green dinosaur with a problem. His brothers, Fang and Fearless,  are big, fierce, scary dinosaurs who roar and stomp and fight while Derek just likes to sit inside, knitting and chatting with his friend Montmorency (a cute but quite toothy spotted mouse). Fang and Fearless aren’t all that bothered by Derek’s homebody ways, but he seems to worry that he should be more like them. When the weather suddenly turns colder, Derek’s brothers come to him for the one thing they can’t scare up: some warm clothes. The book closes with Fang and Montmorency agreeing what a good thing it is that “dear little Derek / would rather just sit, / and go / knittety / knittety / knittety / knit!” And Derek himself seems to be pleased enough to have finally found his place. Blackwood conveys an important message about appreciation of differences without being didactic, and Argent’s illustrations are charming. They also add some additional humor; there’s just something about the knitted underpants that makes me giggle.

Knitty Kitty, by David Elliott, illustrated by Christopher Denise.

“Clickety-click. / Tickety-tick.” A grandmotherly cat, complete with half-glasses perched on her nose and a cozy red shawl, sits in an armchair by the fire, knitting up a hat, a scarf, and mittens for three little kittens to wear while playing outside. They’re warm and cozy during the day, but having dressed their snowman in the knitwear, they find themselves chilly and uncomfortable in their sleeping basket at bedtime. Knitty Kitty, of course, has a solution; she curls up along with them in the basket. Denise’s acrylic and ink-on-paper illustrations depict a quaint little country cottage. While Knitty Kitty herself is very human-like, the kittens definitely act like kittens. They pounce on tails, wrestle with the mittens, and poke curiously at a stray ball of yarn. It’s easy to feel the energy of the three little kittens contrasted with the cozy room. A lovely twist on the Three Little Kittens nursery rhyme, this would be a good choice for a bedtime story.

Book Review: Little Knitted Creatures

Yes, another book review. But it’s a knitting book, and a fantastic one at that!

Little Knitted CreaturesLittle Knitted Creatures by Amy Gaines

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When this book arrived at my library, I was so charmed by it that I carried it around the staff room, reading passages to anyone who would listen. Unusual for a knitting book, right? Well, this is one unusual knitting book.

The 26 patterns are absolutely adorable, but what makes this book really special is the fact that they all have stories. The creatures are split into groups, and each group photo is paired with an introductory description of who they are and what they’re doing. The gnomes, hedgehog, squirrel, and mouse, for instance, are holding a meeting to discuss efforts to preserve the Big Cap Oak tree, while the frog, owl, ladybug, and bee are staging a production of ROMEO & JULIET. Then, each individual pattern has a little backstory of its own. (Oh, the poor nervous frog!)

The instruction pages for each pattern are clean and visually appealing, with a nice big font and plenty of white space. Special techniques are clearly illustrated where necessary, with general instructions at the end of the book. The yarn requirements are given using the CYCA Standard Yarn Weight System, while the specific yarns used for each photographed model are listed at the end of the book. In the General Instructions, the knitter can find the yarn weight chart, a needle size conversion chart, and explanations of abbreviations used. This information makes it easy to substitute yarns and understand unfamiliar terms.

I can hardly wait to cast on for just about every creature in this book, and I sincerely hope Amy Gaines puts out another book soon!

View all my reviews

Picture Book Picks: From Sheep to Sweater

I’ve been working on a big project in the Picture Book section at my library lately. It’s made me think about the fact that you can find a picture book for just about any topic you can imagine. Including, of course, knitting. And spinning. And weaving. (I haven’t found crochet yet, but I’m sure I will.)

Being me, I was drawn to the yarny yarns. Want to hear about a few of them? Of course you do! You know, books make fantastic holiday presents for the kids (and adults, for that matter) in your life. I checked all of these out from my library for review. The Amazon links don’t net anything for me, in case anyone is wondering, since they’re not affiliate links.

The Surprise by Sylvia Van Ommen.

Originally published in the Netherlands as Verrassing, this is a wordless picture book. That’s right, no words, just pictures. Give this one to a pre-reader and have her tell you what’s happening as a scooter-riding sheep turns her own wool into a special sweater for a friend. From shearing to spinning to knitting, it’s all there in the brightly-colored gouache illustrations.

Feeding the Sheep, by Leda Schubert, with pictures by Andrea U’Ren

Step by step, through the seasons of a year, a mother transforms her sheep’s wool into a sweater for her daughter. In each watercolor spread, the little girl asks, “What are you doing?” and gets a brief explanation. By the end of the book, the little girl is ready to take on the tasks herself. This one is especially good for a spinner-to-be.

Farmer Brown Shears his Sheep: a Yarn about Wool, by Teri Sloat, with illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott.

This adorable book is the third in a series about Farmer Brown, and it seems to be sadly out of print. After being shorn and left with only fuzz in the chilly Spring air, the sheep follow Farmer Brown around as he takes the wool to be dyed and spun into yarn. The perplexed sheep end up tangled in the yarn before Farmer Brown realizes what’s going on, but all ends happily once he knits each of them a colorful, comfy cardigan to wear. The bouncy rhythm and easy rhyme, plus the giggle-inducing pictures, make this a winning picture book, so I’m sad to see that it’s only available through third-party sellers on Amazon, and not at all at Powell’s. Get it second-hand, or check it out from your local library to share.

Yarn!

Fear not, my yarn-wrangling friends, Points West has not been given entirely over to the running. (Actually, I haven’t run since Halloween. Since I’m registered for another half-marathon in late February, this is less than ideal.) It’s just that all the knitting I’ve been doing lately has been unbloggable. But you can now see two of those recent projects in the latest Knit Picks catalog: the Inferno socks and the Burst socks, both patterns available as IDP selections. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy doing those catalog samples? I get to try out different yarn lines and new patterns, and I don’t have to figure out what to do with the finished object. And I get paid for knitting. It’s kind of awesome.

When I haven’t been knitting up catalog samples, I’ve been frantically working on K’s poor neglected Christmas stocking. Yes, the one that should have been done for last Christmas. If I want it to be done for this Christmas, I absolutely have to finish the stitching by early December, so I can hand it off to K’s co-worker, who has graciously done the sewing-together part of the two previous stockings for me, and get it back before their Winter Vacation starts. I realized recently that in the entire chart, there are no blank squares. Every single little square on the front of that stocking has some sort of stitch in it.

K's Stocking in Progress
Argh! Faceless Santa!

While I’ve been cross-stitching and knitting up projects that come with their own yarn, my stash has been mysteriously multiplying. I accidentally caught two Wollmeise updates over at the Loopy Ewe (twitter can be a dangerous thing, my friends). I kept the yarn out on my desk for a while, just so I could admire it. And then I decided to clean my desk. When I went to put away the yarn, I discovered that the stash bins were completely full.  I honestly have no idea when that happened.

And yet, yarn keeps arriving. Saturday, I came home from the CLC Fall Gala (which was fabulous) to find a package waiting for me. It was the final TLE Club shipment for 2010, a package I had been awaiting since getting a spoiler about it on Ravelry during last year’s club.

Final 2010 TLE Club
The Best Club Package Ever

I knew the blue Bugga! was coming – that was the spoiler I saw, and it was what sealed my decision to go for the second year option in the Club. I didn’t know about the Entrelac stitch markers. I love Entrelac stitch markers. I bought some directly from her site early last year, and I use them all the time. Also, I am utterly torn between the cabled hat and the lacy socks.

You know, since the yarn bins are full, I think I might just have to wind up this yarn and make something out of it right away. I know, you’re very sad for me.

Change of Plans

This morning, I skipped my scheduled early morning run – week 6 day 2 of the Couch to 5K.  It wasn’t just so I could sleep in (with a three-year-old in the house, there’s no such thing). It was because tonight, I’m going to do something that I haven’t done in in 10 years: I’m going on a group run.

In 1999 and 2000, I lived in Chicago, just off Addison and Lake Shore Drive. Chicago runners probably know that location, since the Totem Pole is a popular meeting spot for running groups. My first week in Chicago, I walked down Broadway to a vitamin store that had a whole bunch of flyers for various races. I went in and chatted with the lady behind the counter, who quite suddenly asked me, with a charming British accent, “Are you a lesbian?”

She then told me about Frontrunners, and I went running with them several times. They’re a fantastic group, and I’m not just saying that because the first time I went running with them we all went out to Joy’s Noodle and Rice afterward.

That was the first and last group I’ve run with. I’d like to meet up with the local chapter, but the timing just hasn’t worked out. I’ve looked several times for a group that was close enough and met at a convenient time. A few months ago, a yoga teacher told me about a somewhat-local running store with weekly group runs. At the time, I was working the same evening as the run, and then I started working two evenings per week and didn’t want to miss a third evening with my family. But this week, I am on vacation! And what better way to spend a vacation evening than checking out a new-to-me shop and running group?

Fret not, I’m also planning to do a little knitting this vacation. Clearly, the Universe was unhappy to hear about my knitting apathy. A few test knitting opportunities fell my way yesterday, and I’m still working on my entry for the Loopy Ewe Mini-Challenge:

Lotus Blossom Tank in Progress

I’m not entirely sure the tank is going to fit me. Maybe I should go run a bit more.

New Yarn!

Just when I was feeling apathetic about my knitting, these showed up in the mail:

Mini Skeins!

Little bitty skeins of yarn from the Impatient Knitter 4.0 swap.

I love that one person put a label on. I wish I’d done that. Somewhere out there are two knitters with tiny little 5-ounce skeinlets of Wollmeise who don’t even know it.

I’m pretty sure that the blue/white/silver skeinlet at the bottom right is one of mine – Yarn Pirate merino/tencel in “Icicle”. See? Without labels, I’m not even positive which one was from my own submissions!

Just a Little Crazy

It’s not that I hadn’t heard of the Sock Yarn Blankie. It kept popping up in podcasts and here and there in the Ravelry Forums. As cool as Shelly’s Blankie looked, I just didn’t have any desire to turn my scraps into a real, honest-to-goodness project.

And then Stacy started talking about it, too. She mentioned another lovely blanket, and then I stumbled on Elizabeth’s gorgeous project (also, she has the best blog name ever).

Somewhere in there, I reached the tipping point, and this happened:

The Beginnings of Insanity

I have been keeping sock yarn remnants neatly balled up in a drawer of my card catalog cabinet, like they were just waiting for this project.

Growing Blankie

I swapped several remnants with Stacy, joined the BlankieMania group over Ravelry, and found a mini-skein swap to join. I shipped off an envelope full of yarn.

Mini-Skeins

I can hardly wait for my new mini-skeins to come in.

Growing Blankie

Marching to the Finish

Even though I didn’t make it by the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics, I was determined to finish my Greenjeans sweater. I finished the last few rows and sewed on the button this morning.

Greenjeans

I am not in love with the button after all. I need to take it off and move it inward (away from the bound-off edge) anyway, so I might replace it entirely.

I decided to try out the timer setting on our camera, with mixed results:

Mr. Greenjeans

It’s an incredibly comfortable sweater, despite the sleeves being a teeny bit too long (which was completely my own doing).

Mr. Greenjeans

Pattern: Mr. Greenjeans, by Amy Swenson, from the Fall 2007 issue of Knitty
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, about 12 balls
Needles: US8 and US7
Notes: Thank you, Amy, for writing the instructions for picking up the neck-/buttonband the way you did. If I had realized ahead of time that I was about to pick up 262 stitches, it probably would have given me more pause. Since my row gauge was off, I did extra rounds on the sleeves in between decreases, and I made the sleeves full-length. I also made the body a little longer.

This was a really nice, clear, straightforward sweater pattern.  It’s been quite a while since I made a sweater for myself.  I should make some more.

Around and Around and Around

Look, I made yarn!

A Little Bit of Handspun

It’s about 10 yards, worsted to bulky weight, 2-ply Coopworth from that class I took at Stitches West.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, though. Maybe a scarf for Lil Miss’ Addy doll.

We didn’t really cover finishing the yarn in class.  (I’m sure it’s in the notes packet we got.)  I soaked it in cold water, and now I’ve read that you’re supposed to dunk it in hot water to set the twist. Spinners out there: Do I need to soak it again?

I am finding spinning very satisfying (when it isn’t making me want to throw my spindle across the room in frustration). This is good, since I already seem to be building up a nice stash of roving.

Roving Stash

And I keep “window shopping” on etsy. Next thing you know, there’ll be a spinning wheel in my den. And possibly a sheep in my yard. At least then we wouldn’t have to worry about mowing the lawn, I guess.

More Books, No Reviews (Yet)

Lately, I’ve been spending many a lovely Sunday afternoon at my favorite LYS. Unwind has comfy chairs and friendly people, and it’s great place to be while K watches tv and Lil Miss naps.

But yesterday, I skipped over to Knitter’s Studio instead. For two reasons:

Yarnagogo and CrazyAuntPurl

Rachael and Laurie.

There were a dozen or so of us gathered in the back room of the store. It was cozy and friendly, and we had a blast. Rachael read from How to Knit a Love Song, Laurie read from Home is Where the Wine is, and we all knitted away a good couple of hours. And, of course, they took some pictures of us:

Yarnagogo and CrazyAuntPurl

They are both such clever and hilarious ladies, and together they were so much fun I’m not sure it was entirely legal.