catching up on some reviews

Since we’re still painting and now laying some flooring, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I barely touched any of the “fun” stuff I brought up to the house this weekend (6 books and 4 different knitting projects and my spindle). However, last night during a bout of insomnia I quick scribbled up short reviews of a few of the books I finished recently. (Warning: This is a long post!)

There are three categories of books one of which reveals something I hope to get to properly soon, when I first started my serious pursuit of this category I wasn’t planning on purchasing a house!

In the craft books there are two slender titles: Floral Stitches & Socks from the Toe-up:

Floral Stitches: An Illustrated Guide Floral Stitches: An Illustrated Guide
by Judith Montano
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First: hardcover & spiral bound. Woo hoo!
Second: The process from photograph to drawing to graph paper sketch to stitch and thread suggestions was remarkable. I felt a little disappointed by the actual samples of each flower but found overall this to be an inspiring and useful guide.

Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits
by Wendy D. Johnson (website: Wendy Knits)
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Sitting in a crowded, delayed, and AC-less subway car in mid-August is not the best way to gain a favourable impression of any book. Regretfully it was those conditions which lead to my first impressions of this book, formed while skimming quickly through the patterns and melting on the platform: “meh”.

I knit my socks toe-up and I feel I can follow most standard recipes in my sleep. I didn’t see anything that excited or inspired me.

Last night I sat down to draft this review and decided to give the book another chance, with a glass of cold water and the AC running just enough to cut the humidity.

I had obviously skipped the first 29 pages. These opening pages to the book are a delightful resource with those not familiar with the toe-up technique or without a solid resource (such as the Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handknitting). I will say the technical drawings are gorgeous and kick the RD Handbook’s arse.

If you are a newish sock knitter and haven’t yet figured out how toe-up and top-down differ; if you do not own a reference guide nor any stitch dictionaries, then I think this could be a good investment for you.

If you are a knitter looking for a reference to give you plug-and-play numbers to knit with at different tensions (yarns) and foot sizes, I suggest you pair this book with a pencil, some paper, and Sensational Knitted Socks or New Pathways for Sock Knitters to assist you in figuring out different sizing more easily and receive the most mileage out of this book. (Note: if I missed this and it’s in the book, please let me know!)

If, however, you own several stitch dictionaries along with other reference materials demonstrating toe shaping and various bind offs, I’m not really sure what you’ll get out of this book.

Breaking it down a bit more:
The technique section — 4.5 stars
The patterns — 2 stars for inspiration and individuality (Guess who’s been watching too much Iron Chef? Sorry).

Overall it’s a nice book and I’m happy to see a compilation of many of Wendy’s patterns but I’m not quite sure where it fills the niche on my bookshelf, but it might very well find a happy home on yours.

Only one food-related item was finished:
Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too
by Shauna James Ahern (website: Gluten Free Girl)
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For years now, I’ve left this book on the store and library shelf. I’ve read Ahern’s blog for years (on and off) in the same way I’ve been gluten-free (on and off) since sometime in 2004. With the house we just purchased and all the energy I’m pouring into that, I knew I had to be better at what I put into my mouth. Wheat has that affect on me, even if I don’t have full-blown celiac. The first week left me super lethargic and with a never-ending headache. It took me a while to recover from the physical work. I knew then that wheat had to go.

When I first flipped through this book in the store I was disappointed to find lots of text (I know I know, me upset to find narrative) and what I thought of as few recipes. I finally found my GF recipe fix in 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster so I had the ability to give this book a go on its own merit.

I’m not sure what exactly made me resubscribe to Ahern’s blog or to place a hold for this at the library, but I’m happy it did. It’s not perfect — other reviews I’ve read have complained about the repetitive nature of the narrative. During this read-through, I found it comforting. When I think back upon my childhood I remember the foods most. I remember the joys and the surrounding events. I remember the iceberg lettuce and wanting Velveeta cheese (which mom veto’d for many reasons). Am I repetitive in my storytelling? Yes, but Ahern does it with ease and delight.

Within the narrative Ahern offers very sage advice.. and I sadly returned the book without completely copying some quotes which struck me as the golden nuggets — on page 154 of my copy she writes something along the lines of “Instead of searching for pale substitutes” as to why she doesn’t rely on $8 gf bread from the freezer aisle to form the basis of her gf diet. That was the line I needed to read. Why am I trying so hard to remake those cheerio breakfasts and my mom’s thanksgiving stuffing? There are so many different cuisines out there that are inherently gluten free that I shouldn’t feel left out. Sure sometimes I’ll crave a grilled cheese sandwich but that’s ok, there’s a bread for that need and more importantly I don’t need to eat it every day.

Ahern’s words have pointed me from my rut of “I must recreate meals and make them GF substitutes of what I used to make” and into the path of trying something different. Or familiar. Last week I brought home a package of celery hearts and cashew nut butter and have been in heaven with the tastes and textures and not missing crackers at all. I eagerly await apple season and some local-ish cheddar to fulfill my pretzel snacking needs. Though I really do enjoy the ener-g crisp pretzels.

Is this food memoir for everyone? No. Take heart the words of Doris Lessig: “Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don

Reader interactions

One Reply to “catching up on some reviews”

  1. You do – or do you? – realize that you are totally my “knitting books to borrow from the library” reference.

    Those first 29 pages of Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits are not to be missed; I’m now a good 3 inches into my no-longer-scary first toe-up sock. Incentive was the book’s diagrams and explanations, and small quantities of someone else’s left over stash yarn – superwash! I stopped when I realized I will need to “graft” to get as far as the heel. :-(

    (And went promptly back to the sweater in progress. . . )

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