Tag Archives: Thea Coleman

This year’s first Christmas present

Lots of blue: my blue lemonade cardigan, the picnic cedar table my dad made for us, and some flowers from my mother-in-laws garden

Lots of blue: my blue lemonade cardigan, the cedar picnic table my dad made for us, and some flowers from my in-laws garden

I know what you’re thinking, but after trying to finish 7 pairs of socks in as many weeks last year, I’ve decided to space this year’s presents out a little bit.  I just finished blocking this Vodka Lemonade cardigan in Cascade Ultra Pima for my mother-in-law.  She loves bright saturated colours, and spends her winters in Florida, so this light cotton cardie seemed like a great idea (hopefully she thinks so too!). I love Thea Coleman’s designs, this one has just enough lace to be unique, without sacrificing wearability.  So lovely!

The clever lace motif and seed stitch border at the bottom of the cardiga

The clever lace motif and seed stitch border at the bottom of the cardiga

While the fraught relationship between a woman and her partner’s mother has become a tired cliche, it definitely doesn’t apply here. I am lucky to have such a strong and caring woman in my family. I’ve been pretty blessed in the role model department, and she’s one that I’m grateful for everyday (and it’s not just for the free babysitting – I swear).

The pattern was a pleasure to knit, and the recipient a pleasure to knit for. I’ll make sure to include a picture of it on in my holiday round-up this winter.

 

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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?

3 surprisingly simple sweater solutions

Recently, I’ve been knitting more sweaters, and as with all knitting projects, sweaters can present a few irriating little problems.  Fortunately, there are some brilliant knitters working on solving these problems.  These three really simple techniques are among my favourite recent discoveries:

A hoodie for my son - you can see the underarm marker and  faux seam (in garter stitch) in the centre

A hoodie for my son – you can see the underarm marker and faux seam (in garter stitch) in the centre

1. The faux seam. (from Ann Budd’s Top Down Sweaters)  I love knitting sweaters in one piece. You avoid so much hassle, since there is no seaming and usually less purling.  In general, I think sweaters constructed using this method look much neater and are easier for beginners.  However, seams can stabalize a garment and keep it from twisting and torquing.   Fortunately, Ann Budd included this little tip in the introduction of her reference book on top down sweaters: construct a fake seam under the arms by using a different stitch pattern for a single stitch under the arm.  For example, slip a stitch or purl a stitch every second round to create a slip-stitch or garter stitch faux seam, as you can see photographed here.

The underarm gap on yellow scrap yarn: a bottom-up lifesaver!

The underarm gap on yellow scrap yarn: a bottom-up lifesaver!

2. The bottom up gap. (from Alana Dakos’ Watermelon pattern) Many knitters will complain about bottom up sweaters, because of one major irritation: how difficult it is to knit the first few rounds after joining the sleeves.  When knitting a bottom up sweater, you knit the torso, and sleeves seperately, and then join the sleeves to the torso on a single circular needle.  The added stitches make the first few rounds tight and frustrating.  Fortunately, when I encountered the directions for joining the sleeves on the watermelon cardigan this week, I actually gasped. How had I never encountered this before? Why doesn’t every bottom up sweater pattern contain this direction? The simple solution: Set about 20% of the arm stitches on scrap yarn. Put a corresponding number of underarm stitches on scrap yarn.  This creates a little gap at the underarm and makes knitting the first few rounds so much easier.  The gaps are easily closed at finishing time, using kitchener stitch. Brilliant.

3. The flat cardigan edge. (from Thea Coleman’s Vodka Lemonade pattern)  Most cardigans call for a button band or zipper that flattens and squares off the vertical edges of the sweater.  However, when a simple cardigan calls only for a single button loop, like the Watermelon cardigan, or is meant to be worn open, like the Vodka Lemonade cardigan, the edge can look unfinished.  Fortunately, this pattern has a simple solution for a beautiful squared edge.  While it requires a little bit of attention, it’s well worth the work: the first and last stitches of each row are slipped on one row, and knit through the back loop on the other.  As you can see, it does a spectacular job making the edges of the cardigan neat and tidy.

A nice flat edge, no blocking or finishing required

A nice flat edge, no blocking or finishing required (Vodka Lemonade in Cascade Ultra Pima)