Maybe because it's the stressful holiday time of headless-chicken behavior, but lots of stuff has gone kablooey in the past few weeks (think late-night visits to the ER, pet health issues, loss of communications owing to Hurricane Sandy, Thanksgiving, dear friends undergoing the surgical knife), hence the scarcity of my posting. As well, I've been perpetually losing things in the chaos of my incompetent housekeeping, resulting in anguished moments and serious meltdowns. Also, it did not help that H thought it was important to give his twelve-year-old grandson lessons in gunsmanship last weekend. But that is life. At some point I pick myself up, dust myself off, and ask these Important Questions: Does what you're looking for Really Matter? What if you had to do without it?
The answers are invariably "No," and "I'd be just fine." The rational (and smallest) part of my brain then feels smug and superior, and the crybaby part hides sulkily under the covers. Until the next hysterical eruption.
So...a few weeks ago three knitting books to review came into my life, and I wanted to tell you about them earlier but too much of mundanity intervened, and, additionally, I had no idea where I'd put them in my many-mansioned house. However, they recently surfaced and there's still enough time for you to buy one or all if you're motivated by my reviews, before the holidays are mere ghosts of Xmas past. (Depending on how prosocial you feel, check them out at your local independent bookstore, your LYS, or on Amazon.com.)
The best and most wonderful of this trio is Sock Yarn Studio, by Carol J. Sulcoski. (Lark Crafts, 2012).
Most of us sock-knitting enthusiasts have leftovers in our stashes, and Sock Yarn Studio is good at suggesting how to make use of these. Beyond that, there are excellent ideas for clothes and accessories designed specifically to showcase beautiful, interesting sock yarn. If you enjoy knitting largish items on tiny needles, this is a good book for you. There are sweater, capelet, vest, and afghan patterns, all done on #2 and 3s. Then there are less voluminous things, like mitts, scarves, shawls, throw pillows, and caps, for knitters with short attention spans. The best thing about this book is that most of its patterns (a compendium from different designers) are attractive and well-explained. Sulcoski's prefatory sections on technique and inspiration are also very good; she has a delightfully direct approach, beginning with the question "What is 'sock' yarn?" So I say, this is a worthwhile addition to your own knitting library, especially if you do or don't knit socks and admire sock yarn, and maybe you should drop some hints if someone you know is trying to figure out a present for you.
The other two books have their merits, but to be perfectly honest, I have to say "Proceed with Caution," as the design quality is uneven. If you are a knitter interested in doing small projects with luxury yarns, have a look at the latest volume by Iris Schreier (founder of the luxury yarn company, Artyarns), One + One Hats: Thirty Projects from Just Two Skeins (Lark Crafts, November 2012).
Obviously, the hats on the cover are attractive, and there are a few of comparable beauty inside. However, there's also a number of patterns so peculiar that you'll find yourself staring in disbelief. Does this matter, though? It does if you want maximum value for your money, I suppose. But then there is the cookbook analogy.
Let's say you buy a cookbook on the strength of one recipe you've been served at someone's house and thought a real winner. Then, having purchased this cookbook and trying some of the other recipes, you discover that most are ok but nothing great, and some are just plain awful. Does this mean you wasted your money?
I guess the answer is not really. I think of the wondrous gingersnaps I've made zillions of times over the years, from The Picnic Gourmet, a 1977 book filled with otherwise forgettable recipes. So, all I'm saying is caveat emptor.
And then there's Cathy Carron's just-published Short Story: Chic Knits for Layering (Sixth and Spring, 2012).
If you are between the ages of fourteen and thirty and extremely slender, you'll probably look very good in most of these designs, which are youthful verging on infantile. If you're a "mature" sort of person (31+) and a pretty good knitter, you might adapt a number of these designs, making them more user-friendly and flattering by extending the bottoms of these sweaters by about eighteen or so inches. I realize the lengthening process is counter to the book's Big Idea, but that's my humble opinion. If you're going to spend all that time knitting something to wear, it ought to be something that flatters and can be loved for years on end.
Yet... there are good ideas in this book as well as in the two others--ideas about color, form, and texture--that can be useful, and even inspiring. They're all three worth the read, even if that's all you do--just read them.
As for moi, I was inspired almost immediately by the idea of using sock yarn for non-sock purposes (thank you, Carol Sulcoski), and, whipping out the #2s, I made myself an elbow patch for an ancient, beloved, and ripped-at-point-of-extreme-wear cashmere sweater (machine made) that I've owned for almost twenty years.