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All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Who is the Yarn Harlot? She is the inner voice of knitters everywhere. She writes what all of us are thinking, and she writes what only she could think of (and it’s up to you do decide which is which).

In this, her third collection of knitting and non-knitting-related essays (although she does try to use the word “knit” at least once in each, even if it’s in the last line), you’ll find some old favourites as well as some new ones. Returning are her elaborate love/hate letters to inanimate objects, mostly knitted ones. Missing are her hilarious “Dear Designer” letters; although, there is one that could have disintegrated into one if not, I think, for her personal relationship with Nancy Bush and a healthy realization that this particular train wreck was not, this time, the fault of the designer.

Appearing for the first time is a treatise on… *gasp!* — crochet. (Yes, I have a new appreciation for it now because of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Who would have thought it possible?)

Also returning are her insights into life, knitting obsession, and the insanity of teenagers. It’s clear that the Yarn Harlot spends most of her time thinking deeply and philosophically about all things yarny and yarn related, and we all get to benefit from her musings. As usual, she had me laughing out loud, and, unexpectedly, she about had me in tears a couple times, too.

Because of our dear Yarn Harlot, I could tell my husband that that it’s okay that I am a crytoscopophiliac because there’s a word for it and because apparently everyone else is one, too — except, of course, for him. He still thinks I’m crazy, but I think he’s about used to it by now.

I also discovered that it’s the non-knitters who are insane time-wasters, not me. Yay! (Some may beg to differ, but I prefer to be biased towards my own hobby, thankyouverymuch.) I don’t think I really needed her to tell me that, but it was nice to hear it just the same. Actually, I think that’s why we all love her so much: she makes us feel good and normal and like productive members of society, like knitting is the only sane thing that is holding the world together at its seams. (They are kitchener-stitch seams, of course.) And really, who doesn’t want to feel like that, while having a good laugh over a cup of coffee and a one-point knitting project?

I’d say that the Yarn Harlot has done it again.

And if you’ve read her books or blog before, you’ll know what I mean.

(And if you haven’t, and you like yarn or knitting even the teensiest little bit, then for the love of all things woolly, go and read something by her right now. You won’t regret it.


All Wound Up is due out in October, and I am privileged to have read an advance copy from the publisher for the purposes of review. They didn’t tell me I had to like it, but I was pretty sure I would. I love being right!

You can pre-order your copy here:

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin

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knit, Swirl!

Eye candy. Inspiration. Drool-worthy. Shelf jewelry.

And all those words describe only the book. What you can make with this book deserves a whole new set of adjectives.

A “Swirl” is a sweater. Or is it a jacket? Or is it a piece of art that you can wear? It’s definitely a chance to pick your favourite yarn and really show it off and enjoy it. It’s also a way to use up large amounts of yarn from your stash.

The construction behind the Swirl involves a circle or oval, knit from the outside in, which then morphs into an additional shape that forms the sleeves and neckline. This is all knit in one piece, then joined together by sewing one seam under the arms. That one seam provides some structure to the garment, which is largely drapey. The collar is basically made by the top of the circle or oval, folded over. Some of the Swirls can be worn either right-side-up OR upside-down, giving them a lovely versatility in collar size and letting you choose your look for the day.

The book knit, Swirl! is basically one pattern, repeated in all its variations of shape and yarn type. Since your Swirl can be either a circle or an oval, with either off-centre or on-centre sleeves (creating either large or small collars to complement either long or short waists), it really can take a while to choose which variation of the Swirl you would like to knit first. Some are more tailored looking, while other are more flowy and artsy. The creator of the Swirl really took her time working out all the differences in stitch count for the varying gauges and fits, and she provides great directions and tips for choosing your perfect Swirl. For the visually minded, there are also detailed diagrams for each variation.

I loved the photos and layout of this book. Each Swirl is shown in different ways, so you can really see what they look like on. Since we knitters obviously can’t try on our clothes before we make them, it’s great to have lots of visual clues beforehand to help with our decisions. The only problem is that every single photo is so pretty, I wanted to choose them all! And I also want to wear my Swirl on a beach, with wind gently tussling my hair, enjoying the coziness of the luxurious yarn on my neck. (But since a Swirl uses as much yarn as a blanket, I think I’ll have to settle for something a little more economically feasible than a cashmere blend. Boo.)

But, the good news is that the Swirl I’ve settled on is knit up in worsted-weight merino, and I can get that at Knit Picks for a pretty decent price — and it feels good on, too. (I love my Classic Lines Cardigan, knit up in Knit Picks lace-weight merino; it feels like I’m wearing a light yet cozy cloud.) Now, the hard part: choosing a colour. Oh, and finding the space in my ever-growing queue!

So, what are you waiting for? Go knit a Swirl!

[box]Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. But, I only recommend things I actually like and use myself.[/box]


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Amigurumi Knits by Hansi Singh

First of all, I have to say, “Kraken!” How could I resist a book with a pattern to make a giant squid? (My giant squid is here, if you want to see it.) Not to mention the hermit crabs (Seriously! How did she figure out the math for that three-dimensional, stuffed spiral that makes up the shell? I am in awe.), the earthworms, the unconventional veggies (eggplant, anyone?), and the Loch Ness Monster. This book is a treasure trove of weird, little-boy-obsession patterns. Which works well for me, because I have four of them.

Now, as to the specifics: there’s the standard how-to section, with instructions on grafting, picking up stitches, and short rows, all of which are heavily featured in her patterns. The short-row shaping, especially, is extensive. There are tips on stuffing your toys and finishing them up, too. One thing I liked was that many things had minimal sewing required; most appendages are knitted on by picking up stitches. (Except for those darn hermit crab legs. They, of which there are many, all had to be sewed carefully inside the shell opening, hiding the stuffing and not mangling their directionality as I went. Ick.)

Another plus: many incomprehensible written instructions were made clear by pictures illustrating what she meant. Some things just can’t be expressed adequately in words, and I’m very glad I didn’t have to try to read the designer’s mind. Having said that, there were a couple spots where I looked for the pictures and didn’t find them. That, after knitting up the other, really well documented patterns, was really disappointing. So I guessed as best I could, and things worked out well. (But if I hadn’t started off with the Kraken, I don’t think I would have fared as well.)

My current love of the book, after having knit up the Kraken, two Hermit Crabs, and two Loch Ness Monsters, is about 4 out of 5 stars. I will never again knit another hermit crab as long as I live, if I can help it. But the Loch Ness Monster was a comparatively simple knit, and if you add some crinkly plastic gift wrap into the flippers to make them crackle, they can make a great and …unique… baby gift. My son has requested a giant-sized squid to use as a pillow, but I’m hoping he’ll forget that request.

After having so much fun with all the short rows (I’m not kidding) and finally understanding what they’re for and how they work, I’ve found that my knitting in general has gotten a lot better. This book was one more step on my way to becoming a really great knitter.

Oh, one last thought before I go: don’t be afraid to stuff! My poor little menagerie has gotten a little floppy since I made it. Poor Orangey, especially, can barely even hold his head up, poor dear. (Yes, my kids are extraordinary namers. I believe the formula is “pick its defining characteristic, then add a -y to the end of it.”)

Let me know what you thought of the book. Have you made any of the other patterns?