The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

The Universal Language November 16, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects,Musings — Cailyn @ 3:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

Ok, my marathon of knitting that I referred to before is mostly over.  But it paid off, because I’ll soon have another pattern up on Knit Picks!  More details on that when it’s published.


You may be wondering why I haven’t written anything about my big trip to Russia.  Did something really embarrassing happen there?  Did we unleash an ancient evil sleeping in Lake Baikal and have to trick the demons into matryoshka doll traps, then swear never to tell anyone what had happened lest someone try to free the demons to gain ultimate power? 


No, not really.


I’ve been thinking about writing a “personal story” for one of the fiber publications about my trip.  I haven’t completely decided what will go into that essay or even if I will try to publish it, but I didn’t want it to look like I had just cribbed the essay from a blog post.  So I haven’t written anything about the trip here yet.  I think I can at least narrow down what won’t be in the essay at all- I started an outline of the knitting/fiber parts of the trip and realized that there was just too much there for a short essay.  You’ll hear all about it sooner or later, just that some parts may be much later.


As you may know, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, I am a stitch dictionary addict.  All it takes is one motif that I haven’t seen to make me buy the whole book.  It might be a sickness, really.  I have books in English, French, German, Japanese, and now: Russian.


When we set out for Russia, I wanted to bring home two souvenirs: a Russian knitting book and a spindle (that story will be later).  All I needed was a good bookstore to find a knitting book, I knew.  I was sure that I could find the craft section of the store and from there find the knitting subsection.  I was right, although it took until almost the end of the trip to get to a big bookstore that wasn’t just Pushkin’s fairy tales or tourist guidebooks.  In St. Petersburg, we went to Dom Knigi, or House of Books, which is located in the old Singer Sewing Machine Company building; you can see the old Singer logo on top.  This place was great- I felt just as comfortable there, despite the different language and alphabet, as I do in any bookstore in the US.  Bookstores and libraries are my second home; I could have spent hours there.




Dom Knigi has three floors.  I did a quick walkthrough of each floor, through the Russian teen-fiction and the self-help books and the multi-language souvenir section.  I didn’t see a craft section and honestly, I got a little worried despite my confidence about bookstores.  Maybe there wasn’t a craft section- But then I found it, tucked between the travel and cooking shelves.  The end cap with pictures of embroidery and crochet was a dead give-away.  I started by pulling books off the shelf at random (I put them back!) to find the knitting section.  It started after sewing and ended at crochet; sound familiar?  I have to apologize for not having a picture of the shelf in question… I was determined to find the perfect book before I had to meet Lowell at the entrance (I also had to find the bathroom in that time!)


“But, Cailyn!” I hear you interrupting.  “Can you even read Russian knitting patterns?”


Don’t interrupt!  I’m getting to that part.


I have rules about foreign language books.  1, it can’t be just a book of sweater or hat patterns; those require actual reading.  That usually knocks out most of the books on the shelf.  It also can’t be a “learn to knit” book, which takes care of another ten books or so.  2, it has to have charts.  Bam, there goes half of the remaining books.  I couldn’t actually read the spines of the books, so I had to pull each book off the shelf and look through it to see what it was.  There were some interesting sweaters (think 1980’s) and lots of “learn to knit” books.  I found some books with some charts but mostly patterns (and not very stylish ones at that).  But finally, I found my book. 




It’s a small, thick book, about 5” by 8” but 2” thick.  I have no idea what the title is, but it’s full of knit/purl, lace, cable, and colorwork stitches.  There are a few full-fledged patterns at the back, but mostly it’s a stitch dictionary.  And I don’t even need to read Cyrillic to enjoy this book.


Behold, the wonder of The Chart! (You can behold it bigger if you click on the thumbnail.)

SCN_0003   SCN_0004


It’s pretty obvious which stitches are knit, purl, a yarn over, or a decrease.  There are a few symbols that I haven’t deciphered yet in the slip stitch section, but a little trial and error will fix that.  You can bet that my next few patterns will incorporate something from this book.  I mean, look at those cute little elephants!


Next time you’re in a foreign country, I highly recommend stopping by a bookstore and acquiring yourself a stitch dictionary!  Just make sure it has charts.




PSA September 22, 2008

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 3:16 pm
Tags: ,

Say you want to design a scarf or a sock or a hat.  And let’s say that you don’t want to own ten different stitch dictionaries like a certain blog author.  This author doesn’t really understand why you wouldn’t want to own so many dictionaries… after all, there might be one or two stitch patterns that you don’t have in other books, even if most of the patterns are the same.  This author is insane.  Actually, this author might be heading over to Amazon to order the Barbara Walker Treasuries.  Hm, maybe she shouldn’t, due to the previously suggested insanity.


So, what if you’re one of these knitters without dictionaries? Can you never design that perfect item? Wait, there is hope!  A light at the end of the ball of yarn!  Check out these cool online stitch dictionaries for all your stitching needs!


Lion Brand Stitch Finder – About 45 stitch patterns, plus some trims.  The patterns are mostly knit/purl or cables (not much lace) and aren’t too complicated.  The pictures are good and show the whole swatch.  (Actually, now that I look at the pictures even closer… they look just like the photos in the Vogue guides. Hmm.)  Also has crochet stitches.


Knitting on the Net – A good collection of different stitch types, from knit/purl to cables, lace, and even some mosaic/slip stitch patterns.  Some of the stitches link to free patterns that use the stitch, which is nice.  Good pictures, but most don’t show the edge of the swatch.


Knitting Fool – This was my favorite before I started obsessively collecting dictionaries.  It’s a fairly massive collection of stitches but not all have pictures.  You can look at just the stitches with pictures here.  Looks like now the site has a fee to see all the stitches; you can only see about 400 of them for free.  Good pictures and you can browse by number of stitches, pictures, or alphabetically.


Jessica Tromp – This site has some amazing color work charts; Fair Isle, intarsia and more.  She’s also got some Aran cables, crochet, and knit/purl stitches.  The site is a little hard to navigate around.  It reminds me of websites back in the ’90s, just a bunch of text and maybe some tables with a sidebar.  But, if you can get around the page, it’s pretty worth it.  My biggest tip:  Don’t forget to scroll down.  The thing you’re looking for is most likely at the bottom of the page.


Abracadafil – For the really adventurous.  This is a French site with a number of pretty stitches, about 170 of them.  The biggest category is lace. There’s a few here that I really like and you’ll probably see them on a pair of socks soon!  You can find the translation of French knitting terms here.


Some of these sites I had used previously but some, like Abracadafil, I found through a forum post about online stitch dictionaries on Ravelry.  I love Ravelry!


Chapter 3: In Which… July 31, 2008

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 4:43 pm

…We Learn the Inner Workings of Our Author’s Mind

No, I didn’t just post a rocking sock pattern and then take off for Mexico with my imaginary ill-gotten gains.  It’s been very stressful here, which I’ll enumerate shortly.  I want to take a minute to say thanks to everyone who’s commented on the Danube Socks! I’m really glad they’re a hit and I really enjoyed knitting them.  I’m already planning another twisted stitch design… I think I’m hooked!

Why has it been so stressful here, you ask?  Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ll come confess.  I’m getting my wisdom teeth (all of them!) out next Monday.  And I’m scared to death about it.  Everyone says it’s no big deal.  Doctor says I’ll be so drugged up that I won’t even remember pre-op when I wake up.  Hubby says everything will be fine.  But I can’t stop thinking about it.  I’m having trouble sleeping and I’ve been nauseous all week.  Not fun.  Every time I think about it I want to smash something in pent up frustration-fear or want to cry (usually solved by a nice peaceful stash dive).  I’ve never had any kind of surgery before.  I like to think of myself as a fairly no-nonsense person, someone who does what needs doing, a cool head in a crisis.  But this has knocked me for one hell of a loop.

Anyway, long story short, I haven’t felt much like writing lately.  On the plus side, I get a drug named “Vicoprofen” for afterwards (can you guess what that drug is made of?) For some reason, that name really cracks me up.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was scheduled to teach some Girl Scouts this week.  I taught 6 classes in 3 days at a Girl Scout camp for girls 5th-11th grade.  It was pretty fun.  We made all kinds of chainmaille, tutorials for which will probably be up on the blog soon.  I also got to hook up with a good friend who I haven’t seen in a while who was also teaching there.  She took some of my adult classes on chainmaille and she’s done fabulous things with it!  Check out her Etsy shop and website.  (Just because I can’t make chainmaille anymore doesn’t mean that I can’t spread the word about it!)

So that took up a lot of time, time that I could have been knitting!  I’m trying to design a sock to submit to Knitty, which isn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped.  I’m using a great colorway (sorry, it’s a surprise!) from Blue Moon Fibers.  I also ordered a little something else… all I can say is that the yarn looks stunning in person!  I also snagged a copy of two of the old Harmony Guides, which I actually like a little better than the new ones.  So many pretty stitch patterns, just waiting to be knit into socks and mittens and gloves and hats…

Erm, excuse me.  I have to go knit.


First Review June 16, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Cailyn @ 4:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Since I’m nowhere near done with even the first Lupine Sock yet, let alone the pair and the write-up, it’s time to start a new feature! Book reviews. I love to go to the bookstore; it doesn’t even matter if I need a book, I just love the atmosphere. It’s especially great to browse through the craft books (and maybe buy a few of them.) But sometimes there’s a book that I really want to look at and the store doesn’t have it. I imagine this happens to a lot of crafters, because there are so many cool books and such a tiny section of the store devoted to our passion. (Really, why do programming and philosophy get more space than crafting? Those are far less important subjects.) We’re stuck buying the book online, where we can’t look at all the projects or read an excerpt (most of the time.)

I’ve amassed a decent collection of craft books and, while I’m not a professional reviewer or anything, I think I’ve got a decent grasp of what a crafter wants. As a public service to others of my ilk, I’ll be posting reviews of my craft book collection. (Let’s be honest, this is really just an excuse to buy more books. “Look, DH, I need this book to review on my blog! People have been asking for it!”) As this is my first review, I think I’ll choose my first knitting book that wasn’t Stitch & Bitch. I, of course, have chosen a book that already has quite a few reviews on Amazon. Go figure.

The Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns

At a Glance

The Good: Colorful, clear photos. A good sampling of knit/purl, lace, cables, and slip stitch patterns. Contains some very unique patterns. Uses both charts and written instructions.

The Bad: Charts and written instructions don’t always match. Charts can be hard to follow. No glossary of chart symbols. Index could be more useful.

The Review

I bought this book because it was the only stitch library at the bookstore and I really wanted to have one. I didn’t like it much right after I bought it, but it’s really grown on me. The pictures are bright and colorful. Each pattern is knit in a random color yarn (if there’s a theme to the colors, I haven’t figured it out yet.) Most of the photos are clear and it’s easy to see the stitch definition; there are, of course, a few photos that are a little hard to see but not many. It’s very fun to flip through, thinking of projects to make or laughing at some of the more outrageous patterns. Honestly, I keep it in my bathroom much of the time to look through and inspire me.

The Big Book has a wide variety of stitch patterns; it includes a little bit of everything. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that if you can only choose one book to buy, you don’t have to choose which pattern type you want (i.e. cables, lace) like the Harmony or Vogue guides. You get some of everything and the patterns range from easy to challenging. It also has some really interesting patterns (they categorize them as “creative stitches”) that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Unfortunately, because the book samples a variety of stitches, it can be hard or impossible to find something if you’re looking for a particular cable or lace pattern. The patterns are all named and there is an index in the front; the index is not a pure alphabetical index, though. It is divided into the same sections as the book. This isn’t a problem if you know the pattern you’re looking for is a pure cable, but who can remember whether that lace stitch is listed under lace or creative stitches? Not much of a complaint, but something worth mentioning.

I am a very visual knitter. I would rather work from a chart than from written instructions. Luckily, the Big Book has both. The charts can be crowded and hard to read on some patterns. The Book uses a horizontal line for purl stitches and a vertical line for knit stitches. For a pattern like Parallelograms, the chart looks like a magic eye. It’s very hard to decipher and would be easier if knit or purl stitches were a blank or shaded square instead. While there is a key for each chart, the key only shows the name of the stitch and not how to perform it. The written instructions have the steps for the special stitch though. Sometimes the written instructions and chart won’t match. I’ve heard that this book is actually a translation from an Italian book, so maybe some things slipped through the cracks. In cases where they don’t match, I usually go with the written instructions or I wing it. It can be highly annoying.


I’m not really sure what to say about this book, honestly. I think this is a good book if you’re looking to try out a bunch of stitches, looking for inspiration, or a gift (there’s bound to be something that pleases!) But it does have some problems that can be really frustrating. It’s also a good book if you’re like me and must be able to look through every pattern ever invented. I’ve seen better compilations, like the old Harmony Guides, but at least this one is still in print!

Next review: Favorite Socks