Showing posts with label Cooperative Press. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooperative Press. Show all posts

Friday, 11 March 2016

Cast Iron, Cast On: A Review

Today we're going to look at Cast Iron, Cast On, written by Becky Herrick and Calley Hastings, and published by Cooperative Press. Cast Iron, Cast On offers a bit of a twist on the usual knitting pattern book by being a combination pattern book and cookbook, and the recipes and patterns are seasonal so that readers can cook and knit their way through the year. And why not? Knitters tend to be multi-crafters who like to make other things from scratch, and we all need to eat. Even though I don't much like to cook (although I can), I am thinking I'll be trying some of these recipes. However, I'll be focusing on reviewing the sweaters in this post, with perhaps a few drive-by comments on the food, as I am neither a food critic nor even a foodie.

Cannella. We begin with December. The recipes are for chocolate bark and deep winter infused holiday vodkas, to which I would not say no. The first knitting pattern for the month is for these lovely little gift bags, which would be such a great way to use up odds and ends of yarn. The idea is to use the gift bags for the chocolate bark, but of course they'd be useful for so many other things: sachets, jewelry, fragile Christmas ornament storage.

Lavandula. The second pattern for December is a hooded wrap. It looks a little long and unwieldy to me, but for the sort of woman who doesn't mind a bit of fussing over her accessories, this might prove a quaint and warm addition.

Bluegold. For January the pattern is for an open front cardigan. It's an attractive, relaxed look on the whole, though I'm not thrilled with the way the collar sits around the neck. The recipe of the month is blueberry jam cobbler, which I must make for my father, a lover of all things blueberry.

Bovinae. A very simple yet pretty pullover for February. I love the yarn combination, and this would be the perfect unfussy sweater for skiing or working around the house. The recipes are for brioche burger buns with curry sunflower seeds and goat cheese stuffed hamburgers. They're making me want lunch, and I just finished my lunch.

Saccharum. I wish I liked the front of the March pattern as much as I love the back. The ribbing and maple tree stitchwork looks fantastic, but the front looks fussy and ill-fitting. The recipe is for maple mini pavlovas, which sound like a great way to use up some of the 5 litre jug of maple syrup currently sitting in my freezer. Why would a single woman living alone have so much maple syrup on hand, you ask? It's an annual gift from my father, who, as my mother puts it, all but drinks maple syrup and thinks everyone else does too.

Taxara. The April pattern is... okay. The lines are good. I think such a simple pattern calls for a more interesting yarn choice than was used here, as this sample looks rather bland, which probably accounts for my general lack of enthusiasm. The recipes are dandelion fritters with chive horseradish sauce and dandelion green, bacon, and radish salad. Perhaps I'll get up my courage to try those sometime. Strangely, although dandelions have always been a very commonplace sight for me, I've never tried a dandelion recipe, perhaps because my mother imbued me with her view of dandelions as the bane of her existence, always spoiling her lawn and garden.

Lactuca. May's pattern is a ruffled skirt. I can't get on board with this one, which looks like an upcycled bedskirt to me. I do think I might like it better if it were in a solid colour and on the right person, namely someone other than me and half my age. The accompanying recipe is for fresh nasturtium and pea shoot salad, which looks... less like a salad than like the aftermath of an earthquake that happened to combine the table's floral arrangement with its garden salad.

Cucurbita. This is quite simple but well designed enough. The recipe for June is for a hearty-looking summer pasta with zucchini, squash, and goat cheese.

Sola. This would make an attractive throw or baby blanket, but I don't think too many people have enough picnics to justify the work that would go into a special purpose knitted picnic blanket. See also: picnic baskets, which so many people get for wedding and bridal shower gifts and which wind up at thrift stores. The napkin version makes a little more sense to me as it could be used to line a bread basket on a dining room table. The recipes for July are garden picnic pockets, which look like an interesting variation on a certain French vegetable pastry recipe I sometimes make, and luscious blackberry oat pancakes.

Sativus. I don't like either the look or the concept of this knitted apron that is the first August pattern. It looks what remained after the original top part wound up in the meat grinder, and that's a lot of work to put into something that's bound to get stained before too long. The first recipe for August is Dukie's cross-cut pickle, which sounds a good bit like the pickle recipe my mother makes, and which in turn reminds me that I've been meaning to have a go at making those for myself pretty soon. I've been trying to make sure that I learn to make all my 77-year-old mother's best recipes, such as her famous Christmas fruit bread, while she's still around to give me the recipe, as well as any advice I might need.

Mentha. The second pattern for August is this little top, which I rather like. The lace detailing at the shoulder and sides is pretty, though I'd consider loosening up the fit a little. This pattern is paired with a collection of infused green summer tea recipes featuring herbal and fruit pairings.

Calais. The first pattern for September is quite a lovely tam and mitts set, which looks both nicely detailed and beautifully draped but also well suited to casual clothes. The reverse colourway is a nice touch. The accompanying recipe is harvest pesto cornbread, which looks as though it would be tastier than the plain, rather dry "Yankee cornbread" recipe I use.

Puncia. The second pattern for September is this absolutely exquisite lace stole. That's definitely the best lace pattern I've seen in some time. The recipes paired with this piece are fall roasted reds with crispy seeds and parmesan, and red quinoa, spinach, and feta salad.

Braeburn. I like this one except for that rather sloppy looking hood and unfinished neckline. The recipe for this October pattern is boiled cider apple dumplings, which look mouth wateringly good.

Cervus. Nice simple sweater with a front panel of textured stitchwork to add some visual interest. This is a very decent basic sweater, but I do dislike the "longer sleeve with thumbhole" look, as that always looks like the arms are both too long and have holes in them to me. This is easy enough to correct if you feel the same. Alternatively, the cuffs can be worn folded back. The recipe for November is hearty mashed potatoes with shiitake mushrooms, and venison steak with a thyme, butter, red wine sauce.

Oleracea. This is a very cute and rather original hat design. Unfortunately I can't quite get away from the unfortunate marriage of this hat with the recipe for Brussel sprouts and cranberries braised in cider. The photo of those little green balls of vileness in the cast iron pan have become inextricably associated with the motifs on the hat, even though they don't look much at all like Brussel sprouts. I will try to forget about the Brussel sprouts and love the hat on its own merits, but it will be hard in the same way as keeping up a friendship with a good friend whose new spouse you simply can't stand is hard.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Modern Lopi: A Book Review

Today's post is a review of Modern Lopi: New Approaches to an Icelandic Classic, written by Lars Rains and published by Cooperative Press. Let's get down to looking at the Icelandic-inspired goodness within, shall we?

Asymptote, Men's Version. Lovely. The yoke's pattern has such a wonderful rhythm to it, and those grayish greens work so beautifully with the gray main colour.

Asymptote, Women's version. The Her version is also lovely.

Clapping Music. Not a bad-looking hat. It can be worn inside out for a different look.

Gimli. I like this design overall, but don't know if I care for the unusually deep yoke, which has a foreshortening effect on the torso.

Hildur. Very much like this one with its Fair Isle style yoke pattern and wrist bands. The colourway is lovely. Rains is clearly a very talented colourist.

Rúntur. This sweater was named after Iceland's infamous bar crawl tradition, with the implication being that this sweater was knitted by a drunk person who got it partly inside out. The concept is witty, but the execution looks lumpy and, well, too much like it actually was knitted by a drunken person.

Katla. Classic Celtic cabled sweater, with the difference that it was knitted with Lopi. It is rather on the big and bulky side, but sometimes a woman just wants a sweater she can cuddle into.

Hornstrandir. The basketweave stitch and blues and grays of this scarf are meant to represent the choppy waves and rugged cliffs of Iceland's fjords. It's an artistic concept and piece and yet is still a scarf that most men would be willing to wear. Nice work.

Winter Blueberries. Warm and wearable and attractive, and it will give you a chance to take your nicest shawl pin out for an airing.

Westfjords. The variation of stripe widths gives this piece more interest than the average striped hat.

Monsina, women's and men's version. This is pretty, but it is really, really big. Don't be afraid to neaten up the fit of any of these sweaters if you wish, and to add waist shaping.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Amazing Lace: A Review

Today we're going to look at Amazing Lace: 13 Handpainted Shawls With and Without Beads, written by Sharon Mooney and Cheryl Potter, and published by Cooperative Press.

Entourage. Not a bad little cowl. The stitchwork gives it a nice finished look, and it's quite practical. I'd have gone with different buttons.

Hankie Panky. This is pretty but much less practical than the previous piece. This is intended for tucking in a pocket in such a way that an inch of lacework is left coyly visible, for daintily wiping away a very few manipulative tears during a moment of conflict with one's beloved, for waving fond goodbyes to friends departing on ocean voyages, for strategically dropping in the path of attractive strangers so that common courtesy obligates them to return it to you. In other words, I can't imagine a real use for this one unless it's to practice lace knitting or possibly line a bread basket or candy dish, but perhaps you can. I don't know your life.

Kingfisher. Pretty little shawl that isn't so elaborately lacy that it can't be worn with everyday clothes.

Serengeti Sunset. Nice piece. Its small scale would make it easy to wear. One of the photos on this pattern's Ravelry page shows its maker wearing a charcoal and light gray version over a denim jacket, and it's a good look.

South Seas. A more traditional full-sized shawl. I like the slightly ruffled edges.

Feeling Groovy. I'm not finding this mish-mash of colours and stitches too appealing, and the scarf is so big it would be a little awkward to wear.

Sing Me the Blues. Thanks to this design, I'm adding "what an elegant, beautiful poncho," to the list of phrases I never thought I'd say and yet have. The stitchwork is beautiful, the beading is lovely, and the piece drapes incredibly well.

Grand Finale. This is pretty, but I'm finding the sporty stripes are at odds with the elegant lacework.

Punting on the Thames. Quite attractive. The garter and mesh stitches and the latticed bands of stockinette stitch work well together.

Purlieu. The stitchwork, beadwork, and shaping are fine, but I'm not liking the stripes, which make this design look more than a little Christmas tree skirt-y.

Et Tu. This one is like some afghan your grandmother cobbled together out of odds and ends of yarn for your birthday and that you pretended to like but then gave to your cat.

Cheryl's Shawl. This one's gorgeous. The stitchwork and shaping is exquisite, and the pearls set off the teal yarn.

Entre Nous. This one makes a very skillful, creative use of the entrelac technique, which tends to look bulky. Here the entrelac section of the shawl becomes a fun and feminine ruffle. The colourway hurts my eyes a little, but that's easily changed.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Aurora Borealis Mittens: A Review

In this post we're going to have a look at Aurora Borealis Mittens, written by Shannon Okey and published by Cooperative Press, the publishing company that Okey founded.

In the interests of full disclosure, before I get started on the review, I should probably say that Shannon Okey and I are both longtime members of, though I don't think we've ever had any more direct contact there than that of commenting on each other's posts. But as I informed myself a little more about Okey's work preparatory to writing this post, and found out that, besides heading up her own publishing company, she has a long string of craft books to her credit and was formerly a columnist for knit.1 as well as editor of the British knitting magazine Yarn Forward, it amused me to recall that the Metafilter community, at least in its early years, was sometimes considered by outsiders to be a bunch of slacker nerds typing away in their mother's basements with Cheeze Doodle-stained fingers. While we may have some members like that, we also have a lot of very accomplished members who, like Okey, are very productive high-achievers in real life with their own not inconsiderable online following. Not incidentally, the crafting community is well represented on Metafilter.

But to get to the review. Aurora Borealis Mittens offers some sound and even creative advice on technique, offering knitters a number of ways to customize its patterns. There are no fewer than seven cuff options detailed in the opening pages, along with mitten-specific advice on how to swatch and wet block, and a tip on how to economize on expensive hand-dyed yarns (by sharing a large skein with another knitter who is also making mittens).

Solveig Mittens. Pretty, and super warm, thrummed mittens. I like that an old rose was used for the thrummed stitches, as they look like little hearts.

Sigrún Mittens. These mittens are actually liners intended to be worn inside another pair of mittens. Very practical for those whose blood tends to run cold.

Fannar Mittens. These mittens are felted and can be embroidered after being felted. They're very plain. These are meant to be worn as an outer mitten (with or without a liner) so I'd want to either use the embroidery technique or go with a more interesting yarn.

Thora Mittens. From the pattern description in the book: "These mittens are named after a specific Thora: Þóra Borgarhjörtr, one of Ragnar Loðbrók’s three wives. Ragnar, who you may know from History Channel’s excellent series Vikings, was actually a historical figure, and married to one of my foremothers." Way to name drop that impressive little ancestral factoid into your mitten pattern book, Okey! Pretty pattern. I think I would want to make the cuff a little longer than they are on the samples. These are longer length mittens than is usual (Okey is making sure there's no bare wrist exposed between the wearer's sleeve and mitten cuffs, which I'm on board with), and the short cuff makes the proportions look a little off to me.

Nordic Stars Mittens. These are back of the hand and palm-side versions of this pattern, done in different colourways. It's a pleasingly intricate pattern.

Aud Mittens. Love the play of colour against the pale bluish-gray background here.

Halldora Mittens. The pattern in this one (and the zig zag stripes on the palm) shows to good effect in the white and teal used here.

Aslaug Mittens. Love the contrast from front to back and detailed cuff used here. Don't love the pointy mitten tips. I know that's a standard feature of mitten design, but it always looks so silly and awkward to me.

Eydis Mittens. The black devices are supposed to look like spears but look a little too much like spiders to me here. If they look that way to you too (and you're not into spiders), going with a different colourway should solve that problem.

Astrid Mittens. These have a striking, graphic appeal to them.

Iðunn's Garden Mittens. The colours used here are gorgeous and work really well with the floral pattern. They make Iðunn's garden sounds like a fabulously exotic and vivid place that I would want to visit.

Freydis Mittens. Very pretty and inventive interpretation of the snowflake pattern.

Sindri Mittens. Bold star pattern, and this colourway really makes it pop.

Dagmar Mittens. "Flowers reaching for the sky" on one side, and "a restrictive gate" on the other side. These seem like the perfect things to wear on a skating rink date with a beau one is feeling iffy about.

Gulla Mittens. Pretty pansy and striped pattern mittens.

Nordic Stars Tam. And finally we have a bonus hat pattern, to help you use up the yarn left over from your mittens, and that you did not want to have to share with another knitter. You could adapt this pattern to suit any motif from any of the patterns above.