Friday, 31 August 2012

Book Review: Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd

'Sock Knitting Master Class - Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers' by Ann Budd is an excellent and comprehensive book on knitting socks.

It's exhaustive. The answers to any questions you may have had about knitting and designing socks is in here. Ann has written an excellent introduction and challenging intermediate book for those looking to expand on their skills.

There's a free DVD included with Ann Budd professionally demonstrating the different techniques of sock knitting and design. She explains the different knitting needles you can use and the differences between toe up and toe down construction. Also the 'frightening' kitchener stitch is demonstrated by Ann really slowly and clearly. She's an excellent teacher. She's funny, easy to understand and you feel confident when listening to her advice.

There is also a kitchener stitch description inside the book for you to follow after you've watched the DVD to remind you of the process.

There are both toe down and toe up socks in here. There are 10 top down designs to follow and seven toe up socks in the book. The first 47 pages are devoted to explaining yarn and gauge, heels and toes. There are sock patterns in here from Cookie A, Nancy Bush, Cat Bordhi, Ann Budd herself and Melissa Morgan-Oakes amongst others.

The standard of the book is extremely high and it's all been excellently produced, including the DVD. The photography and colours of the sock designs are beautiful. You feel really inspired as you flick through.

Ann Budd says 'For years now, I've worn only handknitted socks because they look and feel so good. Although I often fall back on a basic pattern when knitting socks for myself, the number of innovative and exciting designs continues to astonish and inspire me, which is how this book came to be.'

This book explores such techniques as cables, twisted stitches, lace, stranded colorwork, entrelac, shadow knitting, and intarsia worked in the round. It's such a lovely guide to intermediate sock knitting.

There's a brilliant bibliography at the back of the book which is extremely useful if you want to explore Ann Budd's books further. There's also a section on sources and websites for yarns. There are 16 in total. There's a glossary, a section on increases, knitting in reverse and short rows too.

'Sock Knitting Master Class - Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers' by Ann Budd is published by Interweave Press and is available from Search Press here.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Book Review: Crocodile Stitch Fashions by Lianka Azulay

'Crocodile Stitch Fashions' by Lianka Azulay is an unusual crochet book featuring an innovative stitch.

At eight projects and 43 pages it's more of a booklet than a hefty tome but the quality of the patterns more than make up for this. It's also easily portable and you could take it away on holiday with you or to work and back.

Crocodile stitch is 'formed by a two row repeat: a row of V-stitches (dc, ch 1, dc) followed by a row of scales (or shells). This is a fairly easy pattern to execute and is fast to memorize' says the book's author.

The result is a really thick chunky textured fabric as you can see from the pictures.

There is one shawl (on the front cover), a hood, two pairs of wrist warmers, three hats and a neck warmer.

As usual for an Annie's Attic publication the step by step photos are very clear and the instructions are completely accesible to the beginner crocheter. There are stitch abbreviations at the back of the book, a yarn conversion weight chart, an all-important US stitch to UK stitch chart (a US single crochet is a UK double crochet and the book is American), a pictorial stitch guide to everything from chain to a treble crochet increase and a page of metric conversion charts.

'Crocodile Stitch Fashions' by Lianka Azulay is out now from Search Press.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Finished Refuge Blanket!

I have finally finished the Refuge cot blanket for the Simply Knitting Magazine campaign.

The details of how you can knit or crochet a blanket or teddy bear are here. The deadline is December 1st so you have another three months to pick up your crochet hook or knitting needles to help out.

There was a scary moment last week when I realised I had crocheted all the squares 17cm by 17cm instead of the required 15cm by 15cm. I'm not used to having to knit tension swatches as I never really knit anything that needs it, and besides the book I took the pattern from (which shall remain nameless) said all the squares in the book would crochet up to 15cm by 15cm in a DK yarn. I must be an incredibly loose crocheter but hey ho!

Luckily I had started each row fresh so I just had to unravel the outer cream row of all the 24 squares. I managed to salvage some yarn from this to use to crochet the pieces together.

I found this project just as satisfying as I did last year. It was an amazing feeling to finish a project I may not have had the patience to finish ordinarily. Something propelled me and I loved that feeling that my enthusiasm for the charity helped me through the lack of attention I sometimes have when getting to the middle and towards the end of a project. OK, by lack of attention I mean crocheting the ends!

I may knit or crochet another one before December 1st but I will most likely knit some bears : )

Hope you enjoy knitting for Refuge too if you decide to participate.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Vegan Carob Cheesecake

I baked myself a carob vegan cheesecake a couple of days ago. Followers of my tweets will know I had difficulty obtaining the biscuits due to one health food shop being shut for a week for refurbishment. So it was especially pleasurable to finally find the biscuits and bake the cheesecake.

I hadn't been able to find a recipe for vegan cheesecake which didn't involve vegan cream cheese or vegan cream. I was never a fan of cream when a non-vegan and I'm certainly not now. Vegan cream is definitely not my cup of tea. So I was delighted when I found this recipe with just tofu in.

You will be able to find all the ingredients in your local health food shop or your normal supermarket. Some 'normal' digestives are dairy free although may have been produced in a factory alongside products which contain dairy and may not be strictly vegan.

I found the recipe in the 'Green Harvest' book which may be familiar to vegans, although I have altered it quite a bit.


100g of vegan digestive biscuits
2 tablespoons of vegan margarine ('Pure' available in all supermarkets)


1 packet of silken firm tofu (the type of tofu must be silken and firm)
1 tablespoon of carob flour (or cocoa powder if you prefer a stronger chocolate taste/aren't caffeine free)
2 teaspoons of vegan margarine
1 and a half tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of soya milk

Preheat oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4, fan oven 160C). Crush the digestive biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin. Melt the 2 tablespoons of margarine in a pan then add the crushed biscuits. Press this mixture into an 8 inch round tin and leave in the fridge. Then, using a blender, mix together all the topping ingredients. It will be quite thick so give it a stir halfway through then blend again. Pour this mixture over the top of the base, and place in a pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes. Usually when you can start smelling the cheesecake it's done. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then place in the fridge to cool further. Serves 8.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Book Review: Liberty Cross Stitch: 24 Designs to Sew by Hélène Le Berre

'Liberty Cross Stitch: 24 designs to sew' by Hélène Le Berre is a beautiful book full of exquisite original cross stitch designs paired with delicious Liberty fabric.

Hélène has mixed and matched her cross stitch designs perfectly to produce highly original work to be treasured.

The book is divided into three sections - 'Just for you,' 'In the home' and 'For baby.' With eight projects in each section there is a good variety of patterns. There are three bags, a cushion, a book cover, a rattle, a garland, some slippers, a tea pouch, a placemat, some photo frames and a hair accessory amongst many others.

The project above is from the 'baby' section but would look great in an adult bedroom or craft room.

The projects are very well organised. There is a small section at the start to tell you exactly what you need such as the measurements of the fabric, right down to the details of specific thread needed to sew one button.

There are six pages of full size patterns at the back of the book that you won't have to enlarge on a photocopier. Before that there are 18 pages of cross stitch patterns which are colour coded and labelled with the thread codes next to the colours.

The projects are based around Liberty fabrics and they are clearly identified in the materials section but you could always use other fabric of your choice if you could not find them or if they have been discontinued as the author says in the back of the book.

I think this is a wonderful book if you love sewing and cross stitch. It's a great book for beautiful presents for people you love as the delicacy of the cross stitch will make it look laboured when it has actually been relatively easy.

'Liberty Cross Stitch: 24 Designs to Sew by Hélène Le Berre is out now and published by Search Press.

Thank you to Search Press for sending me this book to review.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Organic Scarf

A while ago, in May, I ordered a skein of Cornish Organic Wool as a rare treat. I wasn't sure what I was going to knit but I loved the colours. I started knitting it on 6mm needles and started a scarf which I increased every knit row. It went well but it was increasing too fast. I was worried about having too many stitches on my needle at the halfway point.

So I ripped it and started again. This time I knitted on 7mm needles. I tried a swatch and it seemed to feel chunkier as a result of being knit loosely. I also increased every fourth row instead of every knit row. I'm happy with the looser knit and the more gradual slope. I've used up half my skein so I know I'm halfway. So now I'll start to decrease every fourth row so the thinner parts will hang down around my neck. It's 65cm so far so should be 130cm by the time I've finished. I think that'll be ok to wrap around my neck. Fingers crossed!

I love self-striping sock yarn. It's beautiful. I must admit it doesn't always display its promise when wrapped in a hank but once you start to knit the stripes look amazing. I love this!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Book review: Papercutting through the year by Claudia Hopf

'Papercutting through the year' by Claudia Hopf is an excellent inspiration book for those who are looking to take up a new craft or for those looking to expand their collection.

There are 275 patterns in the book. They are themed by season and many of them are geared towards celebrations such as Christmas and Easter.

There are birth month flowers and zodiac signs.

The patterns are grouped by themes - New year's day, Martin Luther King Jr day, Groundhog day, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, (one page each), Valentine's Day, (12 pages), George Washington's birthday (one page), St Patrick's Day (two pages), Spring, (seven pages), April Fool's Day (one pattern), Easter (five pages), Arbor Day (one pattern), Earth day (one page), May Day (two pages), Mother's Day (one page), Memorial Day (one page), Flag Day (one page), Father's Day (one page), Summer (12 pages), Independence Day (three pages), Labor Day (one page), Autumn (four pages), Columbus Day (one page), Halloween (10 pages), Day of the Dead (one page), Veterans Day (one page), Thanksgiving (two pages), Hanukkah (one page), Winter (two pages) Christmas (14 pages), Birthday (one page), Certificates (two pages), Zodiac (six pages), Chinese Zodiac (six pages), Birth month flowers (12 pages).

I thought it had a strong American slant to it at first but even though it has a lot of American only celebrations in it they come to just 14 pages out of the total of 126 in the book. Summer, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Birth month flowers and Christmas are the main themes with the most pages. So if you love cutting out flowers, ghouls, hearts and christmas trees this is certainly the book for you.

The book has two introductory pages at the beginning with clear instructions on how to cut and copy the patterns from the book. Advice is given on how to cut and the different types of effects you can create such as painting with watercolour and framing on a mount of black paper.

I love paper craft. It was one of my favourite crafts before knitting, crochet and felt took over a few years ago when I started out online. This book is such good value for the amount of original patterns contained in the book. If you are thinking of trying paper craft or if you have your kids at home with you for the holidays and are looking for a new way to entertain them buy this book.

You can buy 'Papercutting through the year' by Claudia Hopf from Search Press here.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review.
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