Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: Museum of Kitschy Stitches by Stitchy McYarnpants


“…The Museum of Kitschy Stitches, a collection of the most groan-inspiring crimes against hand-crafted fashion ever to assault the senses.”

Based on Stitchy McYarnpants’ description of this book, it is understandable if a reader hesitates before picking up The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: a Gallery of Notorious Knits. McYarnpants has been delighting readers by investigating crafting’s most embarrassing moments and exposing them to the world’s scrutiny on her blog. Hideous hats, granny squares gone mad, and more are featured in all their awful glory.

In The Museum of Kitschy Stitches (the book), McYarnpants has selected the best of the worst and added her own juicy descriptions to the devastating fashion choices. In her preface to the first chapter “Hoodwinked: Never Trust a Homemade Hat”, McYarnpants advises: “Choose carefully, for in the turbulent waters of fashion, the fish stinks from the head down.”

Many of the designs in The Museum of Kitschy Stitches are sure to induce nightmares but none as completely as the hat featured on page 17, a particularly abhorrent ski mask. McYarnpants counters the horror with her trademark wit inducing gales of laughter in readers ending with this outrageous statement: “Oh, how rude of me! Let me introduce you. This is Leatherface’s more sadistic cousin, Yarnface.”

This is perfect coffee table reading material, a great conversation starter and the perfect cautionary tale for when good knitters go bad. As Stitchy McYarnpants says: “Remember, only use your knitting powers for good.” An important lesson for us all!

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1594741115
ISBN13: 9781594741111

127 Pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: June 2006
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: The Northampton Wools Knitting Book by Linda A. Daniels


Quintessential New England sweater patterns fill The Northampton Wools Knitting Book: the Shop Patterns by Linda A. Daniels. These thirty-four original patterns are customer favourites designed by Daniels during her two and a half decades of running Northampton Wools. Also included are several designs created for Charlize Theron to wear in the movie, The Cider House Rules.

The Northampton Wools Knitting Book is the perfect collection of patterns for beginner and advance beginners. The patterns are divided into sections by skill level with the first two (Little Things and Simple Sweaters) containing projects perfect for the beginner looking for something more than a simple garter stitch scarf. The fourth section (Stitch Pattern) features challenging stitches that build on basic sweater construction for the knitter moving beyond the basic projects.

Scattered throughout are a few patterns sure to engage the imagination of the experienced knitter. The Reversible Cable Scarf features ingenious cables twisted in a way that looks the same on both sides of the scarf. The Fancy Watch Cap, designed by KeriAnne Shaw (an employee of Northampton Wools), features many examples that highlight Shaw’s love of getting every detail exactly right.

The final section features children’s patterns from Northampton Wools, Too, the store opened in 2003 to expand Daniels’ business. The patterns in this section cover designs from infant wear to four years.

The Northampton Wools Knitting Book is a sure winner for the beginning or intermediate knitter on your Christmas list.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0881506834
ISBN13: 9780881506839

115 Pages
Publisher: The Countryman Press
Publication Date: September 2006
Store Website (coming soon):


BOOK REVIEW: Spin to Knit: the Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn by Shannon Okey


Have you ever been in the yarn store wishing that a particular specialty yarn came in a different color or contained beads rather than eyelash? Perhaps you wished that beautiful alpaca hand-dyed came in lace-weight rather than bulky? Many knitters naturally take up spinning as a way to design yarns to fit specific projects and to gain a better understanding of the individual characteristics of the various types of fiber and the methods of yarn construction.

In Spin to Knit: the Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn, Shannon Okey walks new spinners through the basic information required to begin spinning: fiber, spindles, wheels, and techniques. Spinning can be done on traditional spinning wheels; however, for those wishing to try this craft out before making an investment in tools, Okey provides instructions to make a basic spindle and a “lazy kate” out of supplies you may have around the house.

While the first half of Spin to Knit covers tools and techniques, the second half contains patterns designed for handspun yarn. Whether you have 25 yards or 2500 yards of spun yarn, Okey suggest methods to incorporate the yarn into a knitted project. The felted Mammoth Tea Cozy designed by Laura Jefferson is the most unusual project in Spin to Knit. The majority of the projects are sweaters and accessories, designed to highlight the beauty of handspun fibers and allow the individual characteristics of the yarn to stand out.

Scattered through the book are profiles of fiber artisans or those who make spinning tools. A resource directory is included at the back and contact information is also included at the end of each profile. Spin to Knit is a great resource for any knitter wishing to learn more about spinning.

Orangina, a sample pattern from Spin to Knit, can be found in the Fall 2006 edition of Knitty, an online knitting magazine.

Power Station Hat, one of the fun hat patterns, is available free on the Spin to Knit website.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1596680075
ISBN13: 9781596680074

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: October 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting for Peace by Betty Christiansen


For as long as people have been knitting, they have been knitting for other people. Often called “charity knitting,” “community knitting” or “knitting for others,” knitters have been bonded by a desire to make the world a better place, “through handmade gifts of love and peace.”

In Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time, Betty Christiansen has interviewed knitters across America to find out how knitting was helping people around the world. Christiansen set out to find the stories behind the movements and to collect them into this unique volume, sharing how “we can, stitch by stitch, inch the world in a more positive direction.”

In each of the first four section – Peace and War; Peace on Earth; Peace at Home; and Peace for Kids – Christiansen delves into the organizations making a difference through knitting. She explores their history, how they are being the change they wish to see in the world and how knitters can assist their efforts.

Some are organizations such as Lantern Moon and Peace Fleece, companies making a difference by providing employment, income and self-reliance for producers. Others are aid organizations such as Afghans for Afghans, an organization providing warmth to families in Afghanistan. Scattered throughout are patterns appropriate for knitters to make and donate to the featured organizations.

The final section, “Knit for Peace,” provides helpful hints for finding projects not covered by Christiansen, for individuals and for groups. Knitting for Peace has projects sure to appeal to everyone and is the perfect gift for the compassionate knitter on your gift list. Since a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Knitting for Peace will be donated to charity, this is the gift that gives twice.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584795336
132 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: October 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Knit 2 Together by Tracey Ullman & Mel Clark


Most people are familiar with actress Tracey Ullman for her zany sense of humour and the eccentric characters she created over many years. What most people won’t know is that she is an avid knitter who learned to knit at age four but for most of her life was only able to knit long “holey” scarves, never having learned the mysteries of increases and decreases.

That all changed when Tracey discovered that knitting was enjoying a renaissance and knitting stores were offering both classes and yarns that weren’t anything like the “tightly wound, bottle green acrylic type” of her youth. Soon Tracey had made a new friend in Mel Clark; the owner of wildfiber, a knitting store in Santa Monica, California. The two decided to collaborate on a knitting book geared to knitters like Tracey, who “may be just starting out but quickly realize that they want to learn new skills and take on a challenge.”

Featuring more than 30 of Mel Clark’s original patterns, Knit 2 Together: Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun is definitely not your grandmother’s knitting book. This is fun knitting for people who don’t mind being noticed; knitting inspired by Tracey Ullman’s kooky sense of humour. What other knitting book would include a pattern for a knitted gym slip, complete with bloomers (called Witches Britches); a tutu tea cozy or an anemone-inspired messenger bag?

Although the book doesn’t include the pattern for Tracey’s knitted dreadlocks, the sense of fun needed to make your own and wear them is definitely present in this fabulous book. So grab a cuppa, your best girl-pal and kick back with Tracey and Mel for a good dose of giggles and inspiration.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584794844
ISBN13: 9781584795346

168 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: October 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs Using Organic Yarns by Louise Harding


Inspired by the organic yarns encountered on a visit to America, Louisa Harding decided to design a collection reflecting her “philosophy of new life and new babies: keeping them wrapped in as natural an environment as possible, just like the one they’ve come from.” The result is Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs using Organic Yarns, 21 patterns for mother and infant for their first eighteen months together.

Harding has provided patterns in organic wool and cotton, as well as wool/cotton blends. Her designs range from layettes to nursing sweaters to toddler sweaters and matching stuffed animals. With an ever-increasing range of organic yarns to choose from, Harding has deliberately selected simple designs to allow the natural beauty of these yarns to shine.

With many books and pattern leaflets of infant designs available, a knitter may well ask what recommends this book besides Harding’s name? The simple answer is that these patterns provide basic shapes upon which to build your own designs. The classic hats, booties and toys can be adapted to suit the style of any expectant mother, making this a book you will use for years to come. The more complex answer is that the nursing sweaters Harding has designed are unique and flattering and a “must knit” for the expectant mother on your gift list. These are designs you won’t find in any other knitting book.

With a new nephew on the way, this book arrived at a timely moment. I have some organic cotton in my stash that I’ve been itching to try and the “Harvey Kimono” looks like just the pattern to make for his Christmas arrival.

Louisa Harding is an internationally renown knit designer best known for her work with Rowan Yarns as an in-house designer. She and her husband Stephen Jessup created the “Miss Bea” line of knitting books.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1596680105
ISBN13: 9781596680104

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2006
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Nature: 39 Designs Inspired by Patterns in Nature by Norah Gaughan


When I first heard that Norah Gaughan was publishing a book of knitting patterns, I was very excited. Her patterns have always delighted me for they tend to incorporate her love of science, as well as interesting knitting shapes and construction. Knitting Nature: 39 designs inspired by patterns in nature did not disappoint, within moments of opening I had found countless patterns I wanted to start knitting immediately.

Knitting Nature takes its inspiration from the book The Self Made Tapestry by Philip Ball. Gaughan found it in a bookstore and as she explains “it was filled with patterns and shapes that I knew would relate to the shapes I wanted to use in my knitting.” The patterns in Knitting Nature, as the title implies, draw their inspiration from the natural principles. Gaughan explains it best in an interview found on the website: “I was definitely approaching nature from a physics point of view. Rather than looking to the things we associate with nature (like leaves, flowers, and trees), I found in natural objects the examples of physical principles.”

The patterns are unique and look incredibly challenging; however, as Gaughan states in her introduction, “I like things to look complicated, but have an underlying simplicity.” The patterns in Knitting Nature are organized by their underlying shapes: hexagons, pentagons, spirals, phyllotaxis, fractals, and waves.

Knitting Nature includes a wide range of patterns, from skirts to sweaters to accessories. The designs themselves range from fairly basic scarves to very unique outfits, sure to provide something for every taste. An added bonus is the truly stunning photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy. Knitting Nature is a recommended addition for any knitting library.

Norah Gaughan, is the design director for Berrocco Yarns and has been working in the design industry for more than 20 years. An internationally known knitwear designer, her work has been featured in all the major knitting publications. Knitting Nature is her first book.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584794844
176 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: April 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Luxury Knitting: The Ultimate Guide to Exquisite Yarns by Linda Morse


When knitters enter a yarn store today, they have an endless selection of fibers from which to choose. Increasingly, some of those choices are high end, luxury fibers with equally high price tags. Most knitters would relish to opportunity to knit with cashmere, but want the exactly right project to warrant the cost.

Luxury Knitting: the Ultimate Guide to Exquisite Yarns Cashmere ? Merino ? Silk is designed to help knitters over the hurdle of purchasing luxury yarns. The culmination of Linda Morse’s personal journey searching for the most superb yarns, she chronicles time spent talking to yarn suppliers, testing fibers, reading books about textiles and touring the factories making these exquisite yarns.

More than just a book of patterns, Luxury Knitting explains just what makes these fibers so special and helps knitters understand the characteristics that make them so exceptional. By understanding the yarns, knitters are better able to turn them into exceptional pieces, which will be cherished for years to come, and understand the price tag associated with the fibers. Morse helps knitters understand why one type of cashmere is better than another and which luxury fiber is best suited for the piece you wish to make.

Luxury Knitting is required reading for any knitter wishing to undertake a project with these yarns. While the patterns may not appeal to all, the information contained in this volume is essential. Once a knitter understands the properties of these special fibers, she’ll be better able to select the appropriate yarn and pattern for that special project, resulting in an investment piece she’ll wear for years to come.

Linda Morse is the owner of String, a high-end knitting boutique found in the heart of New York City’s fashion district, which specializes in providing knitters with the most luxurious yarns available. Luxury Knitting is her first book.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1931543860
ISBN13: 9781931543866

128 Pages
Publisher: Sixth & Spring Books
Publication Date: November 2005


BOOK REVIEW: Andean Inspired Knits by Helen Hamann


Helen Hamann presents her first book of knitwear designs, Andean Inspired Knits: Designs in Luxurious Alpaca, a collection of patterns inspired by the pre-Columbian textiles of her native Peru and South America. Along with the exclusive designs, Hamann includes details about pre-Columbian culture, the origins of alpaca and their development through this rich period in Peruvian history.

Due to the dry desert conditions of coastal Peru, textiles dating as far back as 2000 B.C. have survived to the present day, providing an extensive pattern library. Textiles were highly valued during the pre-Columbian period, used as regional currency with the best alpaca fabrics being surrendered to the monarcy as tax.

Hamann utilizes alpacas for the patterns in Andean Inspired Knits, choosing the textile both for the role the animals played in pre-Columbian Andean culture and for the unique luster, warmth, softness and durability. The traditional patterns from which Hamann draws her inspiration were rendered in alpaca or llama. For this book, she works from the five cultural periods existing prior to the Incan empire: Paracas, Nasca, Huari, Lambayeque and Chancay.

Experienced knitters will enjoy Hamann’s approach to form and fit, her non-traditional silhouettes using short-rows and the bold geometrics dominating her designs. Many of the design elements that make her collections popular on the fashion runways, are featured in Andean Inspired Knits. Beginners will find inspiration in Hamann’s designs and colour choices. Duplicate stitch and embroidery are utilized to reproduce some of the detailed patterns of Paracas, Huari and Lambayeque textiles.

Helen Hamann, a native of Peru, is an internationally known knitwear designer and founding member of the International Alpaca Association. She currently resides in Decatur, Tennessee.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1931499934
ISBN13: 9781931499934

Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: September 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Greetings from Knit Café by Suzan Mischer


After leaving her high profile job as VP of Specials and Documentaries at CBS to become a stay-at-home Mom, Suzan Mischer dreamed of opening “a place with great yarn, coffee and tea, music and books, and comfortable welcoming chairs where people could relax.” Four months later after finding a designer to share her vision, and the right location, Knit Café opened on July 1, 2002 in West Hollywood, California.

In the intervening four years, Knit Café has become a refuge for knitters and the community, with regular groups meeting in the evenings and students from the private school across the street wandering in for after-school knitting. Over the years, some basic patterns have developed and these are included in the 30 original designs featured in Greetings from Knit Café: a Classic Sweater, a Chanel style Jacket, Knit Café’s Kid’s Club Skirt and a Basic Hat with sizing from baby to large adult.

The patterns here cover the spectrum, offering a broad range of patterns. Rather than presenting a range of sweaters or a book of patterns relating to a specific topic, Mischer has chosen to showcase a range of unique designs guaranteed to satisfying every skill level and taste. Within Greetings from Knit Café, knitters will find patterns for: boxer shorts; an Oscar-worthy Red Carpet gown; a keyboard cover; a polo shirt with subtle shaping; a denim messenger bag with lots of detailing; a saddle blanket; a terry bathrobe; a fabulous stripped bikini; and yarmulke.

An especially useful feature is the exercise section following the patterns, which should help knitters avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and adopt proper posture while knitting. Knitters wishing to create the patterns featured in Greetings from Knit Café should first visit the store’s website, where a few corrections are provided to the book’s patterns.

Greetings from Knit Café features photos and anecdotes from the store and Mischer’s customers, providing knitters with an armchair journey to this eclectic, yet welcoming store.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584794836
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: July 1, 2006
Binding: Hardcover
Store Website:


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