Tag Archives: Cookie A

My favourite knitting books

Now that we’ve got a little more space, my knitting books and patterns have a space all of their own.  While the paper patterns need some love (they’re currently just shoved haphazardly into a binder), I love seeing my books organized and accessible.  Which got me thinking about my favourite knitting books.  Not all books are created equal, there are some I regret buying, and others whose cracked spines bear witness to how much I love them (and how useful they are).  So here’s a round-up of my favourite titles (so far!)

My knitting reference shelf

My knitting reference shelf

Mitered mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

Mitered mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

Favourite classic: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac.  There is a reason that Zimmerman’s name is synonymous with knitting for many people.  This book is full of fantastic patterns (mitered mittens and baby sweater on two needles are two of my all time favourite patterns!). But what seperated the Almanac from her other titles is that it’s a great read on its own.  Zimmerman shares her thoughts and life as a knitter. Her directions are by her own admission “pithy,” but for me that just highlights the history of knitting as something shared (often orally) through families and amongst a community.  A must read for any enthusiastic knitters.

Favourite sock books: I’m going to cheat here and name two Wendy Johnson’s Socks From the  Toe-Up and Cookie A’s knit.sock.love. Socks From the

Gusset heel toe up socks (from Wendy Johnson's book)

Gusset heel toe up socks (from Wendy Johnson’s book)

Toe-Up was one of the first books I bought. It is a fantastic beginners book – she explains every necessary technique clearly and concisely, and there are enough variations to keep any knitter busy for years. I still return to this book when I want something to knit in the car or while travelling (the type of project you can knit without consulting the pattern very frequently.)  I have knit nine of the 23 patterns in this book, several of them many times, and I keep coming back.

Monkey socks from knit.sock.love (pattern also available free on knitty)

Monkey socks from knit.sock.love (pattern also available free on knitty)

When I started to outgrow Toe-Up, I began looking around for a more challenging toe-up book, since by that point I was convinced that toe-up was the only way to do it.  When the owner of my LYS suggested knit.sock.love, I was skeptical, since all the patterns are cuffdown. However, one look at this beautiful book changed my mind.  Gorgeous enough to be a coffee table book, knit.sock.love is a book that inspires ardent admiration.  There are regular knit-alongs for this book on ravelry, and a surprising number of people have conquered all 19 patterns, including the cabled knee highs (there are 2!) and intricate diagonals.  I see knitting through this book in the way that many view reading all of War & Peace (which I have done!) or running the Boston Marathon (which my knees will never agree to!). It’s a big project requiring patience, perserverance and time (hopefully one day I’ll have enough of all three).  I have made my way through HederaWedgeMonkey, and Mona, and they are so beautiful; it’s no surprise that so many people love this book.

My youngest niece and her Project Linus blankie

My niece and her Project Linus blankie

Favourite beginner book: Betty Christiansen’s Knitting for Peace. This was actually my first knitting book, and it’s one I highly reccommend for beginners ready to branch out from their first hats, scarves and mitts.  The book contains great, simple projects for blankets, shawls, hats, toys, sweaters and socks.  The basic patterns don’t require special or expensive yarn to look good, so it’s also great if you’re still at the stage where you’re reluctant to drop significant money on yarn, or your hometown doesn’t offer more than the selection at Michael’s and Wal-Mart.  It’s full of information on how to use your knitting to make the world a better place. Inspirational, simple, useful.

Narragansett sweater by Thea Coleman. I can’t wait to make this!

Favourite imaginary book: Thea Coleman’s Baby Cocktails.  Ok, this one doesn’t exist (yet?), but it should, my ravelry queue is filled with her patterns, and Vodka Lemonade is on my needles now.  Her directions are clear, concise and accurate.  Each design shows a clear attention to how they will fit on a woman’s body, and each pattern has a wider variety of sizes than you are likely to find at the mall (I’m guessing sizes 0-20).  I love that her patterns are simple and plain enough to be wearable and fashionable.  Each one has simple embellishments or details that make it special and different, without making it fussy or dowdy. Somebody in publishing please offer this woman a book deal!


I’d love to know what books you think are missing from my shelf – What are your must-own pattern books?


The lure of multi-colour sock yarn

Basic gusset heel socks in Studioloo Bootsie (elephantgirl)

Basic gusset heel socks in Studioloo Bootsie (elephantgirl)

I just finished these socks in my favourite basic sock pattern, gusset heel basic socks by Wendy Johnson. They were made from impulsively purchased Studioloo Bootsie (yarn spun and dyed by a local artist) in elephantgirl. I loved watching the colours materialize, although I did hope they would pool a little more organically. Admittedly, the stockinette got a little tedious, but I’m a dedicated sock knitter. There’s something very satisfying about wearing a handmade pair, especially in this unseasonably cold and wet weather.

_AWN3315Whenever I drop in to a yarn store without a specific project in mind, I’m inevitably drawn to yarn like this; there’s something irresistible about the skeins of soft, gorgeous, striped, multi-coloured sock yarn.  Nearly every impulse purchase in my stash is a single skein of sock yarn in several saturated hues.

The problem (other than the obvious cost): what to do with them?  When I buy them, I tell myself I will find a choose a challenging new sock pattern, but in reality, most textures look muddy in multi-coloured yarn.  There are some rare exceptions, like Cookie A’s fab wedge socks, but there’s only so many pairs of those I can make.  And so I have a number of flat socks and an even larger number of gorgeous, unused stashed skeins.  What are your favourite patterns for multi-coloured sock yarn? I’d love to hear your suggestions for this part of my stash!

Some of my sock stash: (left to right) Studioloo Bootsie in Birthday Cake, Cascade Heritage Paints in Wild Roses and stashed yarn of unknown origins

Some of my sock stash: (left to right) Studioloo Bootsie in Birthday Cake, Cascade Heritage Paints in Wild Roses and stashed yarn of unknown origins

Happy Valentine’s Day to … Me!

My pink Hedera socks in madelinetosh merino

My pink Hedera socks in madelinetosh merino

This year, I’m stuck working late on Valentine’s Day (which is also my birthday!), so I decided to treat myself to a little gift: these holiday coloured-pink socks (Hederas free on Knitty and in Knit. Sock. Love).  Like many knitters, I often get caught up in working through a long list of Christmas and shower gifts and toddler sized sweaters are so fast and satisfying, I haven’t knit a sweater for myself in almost two years. When the last socks I knit for myself wore through earlier this month, I realized it was time to make something just for me.

So when I noticed the Knit. Sock. Love. knit-along on ravelry, I decided it was a perfect oppurtunity indulge.  I love how soft and cozy the madelinetosh merino is, even in this pretty, simple lace. I’m happy that they’ll be keeping me warm at work tonight.  And don’t worry, I have a little something for my long-suffering husband too,  I just didn’t knit it this year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My wedge socks are done

My third pair of holiday socks are done!  It is now looking increasingly likely that I will not finish the remaining three pairs before Christmas (and I may, gulp, have to brave the mall at the last minute), but I will perservere.  Overall, these socks (Wedge socks from knit. sock. love.) are clever and I love the way the short rows look in multi colour yarn like this.  The socks are worked in a series of short row (back and forth) wedges that give it the garter stitch sections.  The beginning of the row is rotated 180 degrees each time you repeat, so that the thin and thick ends of the wedges alternate.  I have no idea how Cookie A conceives of inventive ideas like this, but I really like it! It’s hard to find a pattern that works well for multicolour yarn, or one that is as co-ed as this one is.

Wedge socks in ONline Supersocke (1167)

Wedge socks in ONline Supersocke (1167)

I did encounter a couple of technical hiccups that I will avoid next time:

1. The garter stitch wedges are really stretchy.  I made these in medium and I’m a tight knitter, and they are easily the biggest socks I’ve ever made.  Make them at least 1 size smaller than you think you need.

2. When I got to the first toe, I was convinced that I had made a mistake, since the pattern made it seem as though the toe short rows should be worked off-center.  I checked ravelry and googled errata, and there is no mention of a typo or mistake in this pattern, so I will assume the mistake was mine.  I’m still not sure if the toe short rows are intentionally off-center here or if I made a mistake when rotating the rows (you mark a new beginning of the round at least 8 times in this pattern, so if you make one mistake, it will be translated all the way down).  Rather than make myself crazy searching for the source of the problem, I just lined the short rows up with sides of the toe (working the toe across the sole stitches) and they look great.  On the second socks, I was much more careful with couting the rotations, but still had the same problem.

3. They absolutely, positively must be blocked. They’re an absolute collapsing mess when they come off your needles.

Musings on a Wedge sock

Wedge sock in Online (colourway 1167)

Wedge sock in ONline supersocke 100 (colourway 1167)

I’m halfway through my third pair of holiday socks, and I’ve come down with a bit of a case of second sock syndrome.  As I cast on my second Wedge sock and flipped through knit. sock. love. to pick a pair for to cast on for my great-aunt, I imagine that I felt a little like Julie Powell felt about Mastering the Art of French Cooking: a heady mixture of awe and inspiration, with more than a touch of stubborn determination to complete the task at hand, no matter how long it takes (because I’m not crazy, right?)

Much like French cooking, sock knitting is the art of making something mundane truely beautiful and special.  Like cooking someone a fantastic meal, the time and care involved in knitting a pair of socks is a way of making something quotidian memorable and fantastic.  And like French cooking, sock knitting has it’s innovators.  These wedge socks are one of the few patterns that has made me stand back and ask, “How did someone come up with that?”  Like moebius knitting or Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket, these socks are not simply a clever variation on an existing pattern – they seem (at least to me) wholly new.

Innovating in knitting is not easy, it involves a deep understanding of knitting as a mathematical discipline, and an ability to craft really lovely clothing that people want to make and give.  It is also not always something that comes with credit: the genius who developped the kitchener stitch (a method for grafting the toe of socks that I used to finish this wedge sock) remains the stuff of urban legend.  Herbert Kitchener, the 1st Earl of Kitchener is credited by wikipedia with devising it for use in Red Cross sock knitting, during the First World War.  However, there is a major lack of evidence to support that; the kitchener stitch, may in fact, have originated on this side of the Atlantic at sometime between the wars.

Before the contemporary era of ravelry and knitting blogs, knitting skills were passed down orally, through families, and so their origins become nearly impossible to trace.  Like me, many knitters still remember their first time picking up needles on their grandmother’s couch or across a well worn kitchen table.  It’s part of what is so appealing to me about knitting – skills and ideas are rarely owned, but shared across generations, so that they can be used and improved.

My grandmother before she passed, and my son (he's wearing a Rocketry Cardigan in Dream in Color that I knit when I was pregnant)

My grandmother before she passed, and my son (he’s wearing a Rocketry Cardigan in Dream in Color that I knit when I was pregnant)

When I knit, I feel like I am in conversation with my departed grandmothers, and the grandmothers that taught them to knit, on and on backwards through a community of women (and men) who took the time to think about how to do things better and differently and who crafted beautiful, practical objects to keep people warm – whether they were for the small children in the backyard or for the young men on far off battlefields in Europe. Today, I’m grateful again, to have had such magnificent grandparents, who continue to share their skills and their wisdom.

Sock blocking and other “Monkey” business

My completed Monkey socks in madelinetosh

I have successfully finished my first cuff down socks! It felt a little like driving on the other side of the road, but I kind of liked it.  It turns out I have been avoiding cuff down socks for no reason. Although the socks required two of my most dreaded knitting skills: picking up stitches (along the side of the heel) and kitchener stitch (to join the opposite sides of the toe together), those were relatively easy hurdles to jump (with the help of some youtube tutorials and the very clear instructions at the back of knit. sock. love.)   I chose Monkey socks by Cookie A to start me off in this new direction for a number of reasons:

1. Of all the socks in knit. sock. love., they seemed the most approachable, and I’ve been anticipating actually using this book for months.

2. They are wildly popular (with over 16000 projects on Ravelry), and I presumed that that many people can’t be wrong.

3. They’re lacey enough to be pretty, but solid enough to be warm.

While I’m pretty happy with the results, I’m a little underwhelmed; their enormous popularity and the overall beauty of knit. sock. love.  set my expectations very, very high. They’re cute, but they’re not spectacular. To be fair, that may also have to do with the disappointing way that the colour was distributed in stripes in this yarn.

The Monkey socks, before and after blocking

They were also socks wildly in need of blocking, which launched me on a new adventure. I’m usually pretty lazy when it comes to details, so I tend to do as little blocking as possible.  It isn’t essential for everything. Many objects come off your needles looking great, but in general the more complicated the texture, the more you need to block (this is especially true for lace).  Blocking can give your knit objects shape, and can even rescue the odd stretched out or otherwise misshappen sweater (even if you picked it up at the mall).  Basically, you wet the knit garment and carefully stretch it into shape, leaving it that way to dry.

My homemade sock blockers (made from a dollar store Christmas placemat)

Previously, I have just dampened my socks and pinned them down, but these socks clearly demanded more discipline.  I looked online for sock blockers, but found this set of DIY instruction instead.  The suggestion to use a placemat was ingenious.  After a quick trip to the dollar store, I had these.  I traced the wooden sock holders at my local yarn store, and added a hook at the top, so that my socks could hang from the shower curtain rod as they dry.  Success!