Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews

Since I missed a week, today you get three reviews:

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Four-star review of If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

The framework story is at time more interesting than the eleven unfinished short stories enclosed in it. It took a little getting used to the format of this book, but soon I no longer expected those shorter pieces to end. I realized before long that the titles of the stories formed a story of their own: a clever conceit. Calvino’s writing is so entrancing that I kept reading. I became used to his long, stream of consciousness sentences complete with the semicolons we’re told not to use in fiction.

I read this book for a class. It wasn’t the first Calvino I’ve read but one of the more entertaining.

The Traitor's Story

Four-star review of The Traitor’s Story by Wignall

Finn thought he'd been out of the game for six years until he realized he'd been under surveillance for at least two. He knew he hadn't betrayed his government, but had been corrupt. As the story switched back and forth between the present day and an event gone wrong we learn what's really going on. As a flawed hero, Finn is quite believable.

Irreparable Harm  (Sasha McCandless, #1)

Irreparable Harm by Melissa F. Miller

Sasha is a lawyer at a huge firm in Pittsburgh, but due to the untimely death of a more senior lawyer, the case against one of the firm's major clients, an airline, is assigned to her and she's drawn into danger. After a slow start with lots of explanations of legal procedures and the layers of management at the firm, the action picks up. I'm eager to read more about Sasha and Leo as she opens her own practice.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Knitting Blog

I've been away for a couple of weeks but found a few interesting articles before I left.

This one is from The Knit Club

How to Work With a Knitting Pattern

Today, we’re launching a new blog series on working with knitting patterns to help you get through what might seem like a jungle of information, especially if it’s your first time using a knitting pattern. Based on our knitting patterns, we’ll walk you through every step of the process, and you’re more than welcome to let us know in the comments if there’s anything you’d like us to cover. There’s no such thing as a silly question!
So let’s assume you’ve been browsing through Ravelry for a while, or maybe you found exactly what you were looking for on Pinterest. You bought a copy of the pattern and downloaded it, and now you’re ready and eager to start your new knitting project. But where exactly do we begin, what are important decisions to make before casting on, and how do we make those decisions?
Since it’s the first day of our #IceFlowersKAL (you’re warmly invited to join!), we’ll use this pullover design of ours to take a closer look at the pattern notes today. The pattern notes will be included in every well-written pattern and are a knitting pattern’s fact sheet, if you will. It might be prefaced with a different headline, such as “About the design”, “Details”, or “Pattern info”, but it should always include a few key details about the pattern. Here’s what it looks like in our Sustainablist patterns:

Ice Flowers Pattern Notes.jpg

Let’s take a look at all those details step by step, shall we? Sizing is a topic we’ll cover in a couple of days to give it the space we think it needs, so for today, a very brief look at it will do: we’re told that the pattern includes 8 different sizes, we learn about each size’s finished bust circumference, and about how much ease the pullover is recommended to be worn with and shown in the photos. For now, we’ll only need to have a rough idea of what size we’ll want to make in order to be able to determine how much yarn we’ll need. If you’re uncertain, we recommend measuring a favourite pullover’s bust circumference, ideally one that fits similarly to what you’re hoping to make, and going with the size that comes closest for now.


The vast majority of knitting patterns will indicate a specific yarn (or in some cases more than one) they’re designed for. There are countless varieties of knitting yarns, and what yarn we use makes all the difference for our knitting experience as well as for our finished project. Yarns are differentiated by their weight, fibre content, yardage, and other factors, such as the way they are spun. Our pattern notes page tells us the following:
Semilla Melange (DK-weight; 100% wool; 175 metres / 191 yards per 50 g)
What we learn from the example above is that Ice Flowers is designed for BC Garn’s Semilla Melange, which is classified as a DK-weight yarn, made from 100% wool fibres, and comes with a length of 175 metres per 50 g of yarn. When we take a look at the yarn producer’s website or yarn shops that sell it, we’ll also learn that Semilla Melange is GOTS certified and woolen-spun (as opposed to worsted-spun).
Now you can of course use a different yarn than the one the pattern is designed for, there are just a few things you need to keep in mind! Sometimes, you might want to work with a yarn that’s very different than the original yarn to purposefully create a specific effect, such as more or less drape, but for now, we’re gonna keep assuming that what we’re looking for is a yarn that’s similar to the original one.
First of all, you should know that yarns behave very differently in terms of drape and show off design elements such as colourwork, texture, cables and others very differently, too. It might be easy to think “Semilla Melange is a DK-weight yarn, so I can use any other DK-weight yarn and will end up with basically the same pullover”, right? Far from it. When substituting yarns, what we’d argue is most important is 1) fibre content and 2) making sure that you’ll get the correct gauge (more on that in a minute!), and the gauges you’ll be able to get with different yarns within the same weight or roughly the same yardage can be quite different. So the weight alone certainly doesn’t cut it.
For a finished piece that’s similar to the sample on the design photos in terms of drape, you’ll want to pick a yarn with a fibre composition that’s similar to the original yarn. In this case, this would be a wool yarn or a yarn with a high wool content, which is less drapey than, say, alpaca or silk, less fluffy than mohair, and less heavy than cotton. In terms of what the fabric will look and feel like, the difference between woolen-spun, which, in a nutshell feel more light, airy and rustic, and worsted-spun yarns, which typically feel rounder and denser, is not to be ignored (Sue from Blacker Yarns has a great article on it!). And what about colours? Knitting something, rather than buying a piece of clothing, is a wonderful opportunity to use your favourite colour(s), and we’d encourage you to really use it! What you might wanna keep in mind is that darker-coloured yarns typically don’t show texture and cables the way lighter colours do, and that different methods of creating colourways will give you different results, too: some yarns are dyed on a grey base, which typically gives a bit more depth than a white base, some yarns are heathered, which means there are little flecks of various colours, and hand-dyed yarns go from solid to speckled and variegated.
A quick recap: To make a project that’s as similar to the original sample as possible, you’ll want to choose a yarn that’s close to the original yarn in terms of various aspects, an important one of which is gauge. Which brings us to:


There’s so much to be said about gauge, a lot of which we included in a recent in-depth blog post on the thing with gauge. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting aspect of knitting, but it’s certainly worth taking a closer look at!
“Gauge is typically indicated over 10 x 10 cm or 4 x 4“, and specifies how many stitches and how many rows (for pieces worked flat) or rounds (for pieces worked in the round) are in a knitted square of 10 x 10 cm or 4 x 4”. […] From a knitter’s perspective, you can see gauge as an if-statement. To go back to our original example: If you have 20 stitches and 28 rows over 10 x 10 cm, then, and only then, your finished piece will measure what the pattern tells you it’ll measure. […] Over a pullover’s bust or hip circumference for instance, a difference of as little as 1 or 2 stitches per 10 cm can add up quickly and cause your sweater to measure several cm more or less than the measurements of the size you were aiming for.”
Gauge most importantly affects your finished project’s measurements, but it also affects what your handknit looks and feels like, and how it drapes when worn. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: don’t ignore it! You won’t regret learning a bit more about it, promise.


Without a doubt, the most important part of the Needles section is “(or needle size to obtain gauge)”. From the way you hold and tension your yarn, the style you knit to the needle size and material you use, there are many factors that affect your gauge, and as long as you get the correct gauge, it really doesn’t matter what needle size you’re using. If you’ve been knitting for a while already, you might have a feel for the way you knit and, for instance, know if you typically need to go up or down from the needle size the pattern suggests (though keep in mind that this varies from designer to designer, too!), and if you don’t, we’d recommend trying the needle size the pattern specifies first and experimenting with different size until you get gauge.


For most knitting projects, you’ll need a few things besides yarn and needles. Those could be blocking tools, a cable needle, a darning needle for weaving in ends or seaming parts of your project, scrap yarn or stitch holders for projects where parts of your knitting are being held while you work on other parts, stitch markers to indicate parts such as body and sleeves or repeats of a motif, a tape measure to determine for how long to continue working specific sections. Not all of them are crucial, and there are DIY or alternative options for many: using a spare double-pointed needle instead of a cable needle, scrap yarn instead of stitch holders, using safety pins instead of stitch markers or making them from scrap yarn.


This isn’t always included, but we like to specify the stitch patterns that will be used later on in the pattern notes so you can refer to them for swatching and in case you want to practice a little.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuesday Book Review

Suitcase Girl (Abby Kane FBI Thriller #7; Suitcase Girl Trilogy #1)

Five star review of Suitcase Girl

This is a thriller, the first in an Abby Kane trilogy, and I understand that the second picks up right where the first ended. Chinese girls are removed from a container ship and whisked away, but one turns up inside a suitcase in front of FBI headquarters in the Bay Area. Abby’s interest is piqued because the girl looks just like her. Told from a handful of POVs, we follow the investigation of the girl and the smuggling/trafficking ring. Tension remains high throughout this novel. It left me anxious to read on to find out what happened to Abby and the girl, dubbed Xiaolian by Abby’s mother-in-law. It also left me wondering whether Abby appears in any other Hutchinson books.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Knitting Sunday on Monday

I came across this article from Interweave comparing fisherman’s rib and brioche, which make a really similar fabric. But the underlying similarities are utterly confounded by a bewildering maze of terminology. It seemed that the fisherman’s rib and brioche methods had entered into the American knitting scene at various times under different names.

The Brioche Stitch: A History Lesson

One of the earliest published references to brioche stitch was Frances Lambert’s The Handbook of Needlework (1842). It described the brioche stitch (“bring the wool forward, slip one; knit two together”) and gave instructions for using the stitch to create a doughnut-like cushion. This cushion (and the stitch used to work it) was termed a brioche, “so called from its resemblance, in shape, to the well known French cake of that name.”
A century later, Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns gave instructions for “Brioche Stitch or English Brioche” as well as “Turkish Brioche,” but noted that the stitch was also known as shawl stitch, reverse lace stitch, oriental rib stitch, and point d’angleterre (English stitch).
Another common designation, “Shaker stitch,” describes a half-brioche/fisherman’s rib fabric (where the doubled stitches are worked every other row, instead of every row).
Elizabeth Zimmermann added yet another alias to this growing list of names in the 1960s, when her leaflet Wool Gathering introduced American knitters to a brioche stitch she called “Prime Rib.”
In contrast to this confusing riot of terminology,  Nancy Marchand (Knitting Brioche, 2009) notes that Dutch knitters use a single name—patentsteek— to refer to both fisherman’s rib and brioche techniques.

Fisherman’s Rib Versus Brioche Stitch


The distinction between fisherman’s rib and brioche can be best understood by examining swatches of the fabric with live stitches still on the needles. Swatch 1 illustrates the brioche method popularized by Nancy Marchant, based on a yarnover, slipped stitch, and k2tog. Swatches 2 and 3 demonstrate an alternate method using k1-below or p1-below (working into the first row of stitches below the live stitches on the needle) to create the same stitch structure. This method is commonly referred to as fisherman’s rib. By working into the stitch below the one on the needle, the stitch from the row below is converted into a slipped stitch, and the stitch on the needle into a yarnover.

Both the brioche and the fisherman’s rib methods create a doubled stitch, with both a stitch and a hidden float captured by each new stitch. The brioche method achieves this doubling horizontally, making a yarnover and then working it together with a slipped stitch in the subsequent row. Fisherman’s rib creates the doubling vertically, compressing a column of two stitches into one.


Although the resulting fabrics are almost indistinguishable, the two methods look very different on the needles. The brioche method creates an unusual set of stitches, with a yarnover lying on top of the slipped stitch. The fisherman’s-rib method is more straightforward, with recognizable knit and purl stitches. A variation on this method (Swatch 3) alternates k1-below and knit stitches. The underlying garter-stitch base is visible in the row just below the needles.


The fabrics have subtle differences. The different ways of working the stitch change the relative position of the hidden float, impacting the overall tension within the fabric. In the brioche method, the float is truly hidden, tucked exactly beside the slipped (visible) stitch. In the rib-based fisherman’s rib, the float is slightly twisted underneath the slipped stitch, creating a higher tension fabric. The garter-stitch version of fisherman’s rib has the widest, flattest fabric, with the float riding slightly above the worked stitch.

Working in Fisherman’s Rib

The recognizable structure of fisherman’s rib on the needles makes it friendly to newcomers. It also lets you leverage your knowledge of basic rib to experiment with a new stitch type. Fisherman’s rib can be manipulated by shaping or cabling in a manner similar to basic rib, but the k1-below/p1-below structure does require a few additional guidelines:
The floating yarnover must be held in place by the stitches at either side in order to maintain the fabric structure, so the k1-below/p1-below technique can only be used every other stitch.
This stitch structure must be maintained when shaping the fabric through increase or decreases. Unless the shaping takes place at the edge of the fabric, all increases or decreases must be double— adding or removing a set of two stitches, both the projecting k1-below stitch and the recessed p1 stitch.
Working into a stitch that has already been doubled releases the floating yarnover, so stitches may only be doubled once.


Needles: When working fisherman’s rib or brioche, use a needle two to four sizes smaller than you would for stockinette stitch. The extreme depth and three-dimensionality of the stitch requires much higher tension in the yarn than a comparable flat fabric.
Yarn: Round, sturdy yarns that resist flattening or compression will create the best stitch definition. Because the fabric has such deep texture, projects worked in fisherman’s rib may require up to 35 percent more yarn than a comparable stockinette stitch project.
Gauge: Fisherman’s rib/brioche fabrics are compressed vertically and spread laterally. When measuring gauge, it’s important to remember that each visible stitch “V” is the product of two rows. The various methods of creating brioche or fisherman’s rib fabric have slightly different gauges, so remember to check your gauge carefully if you’re substituting an alternate method.