Monday, 24 January 2011

Knitting season - book reviews

It is officially the knitting season in this household, not that anyone else is taking part*, just that the knitting bag is now a permanent feature in the living room as my thoughts turn to hats and scarves and gloves (but let's not mention the glove gone bad incident again).

It's been a chance for me to rediscover all my well-thumbed and newer knitting books, including this pair that were sent to me by Quadrille to review a long while ago: Simple Knittingby Erika Knight and Blankets, Bears and Bootees by Debbie Bliss. The reviews never got published at the time due to the arrival of the small person, so I'm revisiting the books now.


Blankets, Bears and Bootees is everything I want in a knitting book at the moment - lots of projects for tiny people - so mostly achievable in the the curtailed knitting time I have . I've cast on for the teddy blanket in exactly the colour palette of the book (I know it's lazy, but the pretty silver grey and the tan and beige colours are part of what drew me to the pattern in the first place). As ever, however, I only discovered the errata after blithely knitting on for a few full rows of 100-plus stitches! The patterns use Debbie Bliss's own baby cashmerino yarn (bought at a bargain price from hejhog)- I have yet to knit with a more lovely baby yarn, it's so super soft to the touch and stands up so well to washing and wearing (these legwarmers were worn to death by my daughter and are still looking pretty good!).

The baby booties with a bear on the sole to match the blanket are also on my to-knit list, and also the trio of little baby shoes, earmarked as a baby gift for my friend who's expecting her first baby early this year. Other projects include a very baby-boutique jumper with a zig-zag edged detail, a covered baby book, some cute fair isle covered hangers for the nursery and pretty bears and rabbits to cuddle (these too would make lovely gifts). On a somewhat larger scale, we have the giant penguin beanbag, though I must confess I'm pretty sure I have neither the patience nor the staying power to see through such a large project (so much stocking stitch in one colour would probably send me to an early grave, though if you're a tv knitter then this would rattle along on the needles without too much concentration required).

Simple Knitting would make a fantastic present for someone learning to knit, or a past knitter wanting to pick up their sticks again. It's styled like a Japanese craft book, with pretty graph paper contents page (I'm a sucker for graph paper; might be why I married a mathematician) and beautiful shots of needles and yarns. It not only covers the basics, like casting on and off, decreases and increases, but also has lots of information on following patterns, correcting mistakes and aftercare of your knitted items. There's also a stitch library, including some lovely textured swatches which I definitely plan to knit up.


Each pattern in the book has a little 'masterclass' section, going in to more depth on the individual techniques needed to make the piece. The projects, using some beautiful yarns in a neutral palette, range from those which could be gifted, like a cabled hot water bottle cover and an intarsia tea cosy to practical designs like the long fingerless gloves and moss stitch bag. I particularly liked the round buttoned cushion and the striped knitted throw, though I'm not sure I could carry off the pared down aesthetic in my chaotic home!

*As I finish typing this post (they're generally a 3-day plus affair these days) I have won over the girl who has completed her first two rows of wobbly solo knitting. I'll crack 'em all given time :)

My own knitting efforts have been somewhat hampered by the fact I've had my wrist in a splint for 10 days after a fall when out ice-skating with some of the other mums from school. It wouldn't have been quite so embarrassing if I hadn't been a bit of a ringleader for the entire expedition. And I wasn't even doing a triple salchow or anything! According to my dad, going ice skating when you have a small baby is 'tantamount to rock climbing', and though I have to stress that I didn't actually have the baby with me, I will admit that the timing wasn't ideal, and I do feel like a bit of a lemon!


  1. oh dear, poor you, hope you heal well xxx
    great reviews, I love the photos from simple knitting xxx

  2. Oh dear, hope that heals quickly for you Helen. lovely book reviews. i do like it when someone lets us know what they think x

  3. Oh no I hope your hand heals soon! I made the mistake of trying to take the kids ice skating last weekend - in my defence I had seen that they did toddler classes at the rink, so it must be possible right? Let's just say the very nearly 2 year old did a great re-enactment of bambi despite the aid of me and a penguin.

    Well done on getting your daughter hooked on the knitting. Those are some lovely books.

  4. beautiful books! Do hope your wrist heals quickly too, ah Torvil and Dean have a lot to answer for!

  5. Ouch for the hand, but thanks for the reviews. I have long been able to'knit/purl', but never, ever thought I could actually make anything beyond a plain scarf. The patterns looked more confusing than the foreign languages I studied! However, somehow the bug caught and I've just finished a scarf with repeating V-cables, bobbles, seed stitch etc. Chuffed? I'll say!

  6. The simple knitting looks really good...actually all these look good. I have not ice-skated for years!!

  7. Ouch! I hope that you have a swift recovery.

    I just came across that baby blanket on Ravelry today, while looking for a Debbie Bliss pattern. I haven't been able to find her yarn in local stores, though. I always like to feel yarn first, so have yet to try buying online.


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