Monday, September 19, 2016

Knitting with Rainbows: a different kind of book review

Knitting with rainbows: making the most of gradient yarns, by Carol Feller. Available through Ravelry, or at Carol's website.

The knitting content on this blog hasn't been exactly stellar over the last few years - long days, much travel and the advent of Twitter are probably responsible - but the book reviews have carried on.  Today, a combination of the two!

I've been enthralled by the number of dyers who've started to produce gradient sets over the last few years; and the very different definitions of gradients - some sets start at one point in the colour wheel and move to another; some are different intensities of the same colour; and everything in between.  Some have four colours, some 6, some up to 15... Some come as mini-skeins, some as a single graduated skein.

When I was doing embroidery City and Guilds, I had a couple of sessions with Jean Littlejohn; and she used to joke that she did Mulberry Silks therapy.  This consisted of standing next to a stitcher staring helplessly at a perfect, unopened pack of colourful threads, and intoning Open The Packet... Use The Thread.... And I've felt slightly similar with the gradient packs I've bought.

So this book is extraordinarily topical, and welcome.

There are eleven lovely projects; the one on the cover particularly attracts me; and this pair of long, long handwarmers is beautiful.  There are cowls, and hats, and scarves, wraps and shawls of different shapes, at least half a dozen of which I'd love to make.  In many cases there are two versions of the pattern made with different gradient sets, giving a completely different effect.

This is way more than a book of patterns, though; which is what I love about it.  There's a lot of excellent practical information which helps a knitter lose the slight apprehension which comes with something which looks so perfect in the packet you don't really want to take the skeins out of the bag.

There's advice (and a table! Love tables...) on which techniques might go best with which type of gradient, and on what to do when your gradient set has a different number of colours or different yardage to the ones in a given pattern.  And the fun idea of creating your own gradient sets out of leftovers, sometimes by doubling up the yarn to give the effect you want.

At the back, there's also information on joining those pesky mini-skeins, combining gradient packs for larger projects, and how to break up the sets in different ways.  And there's a short bibliography (which makes my librarian's heart glad...).

Full disclosure: I was sent the eBook version for this review. It's a book I would willingly buy, and think is excellent value both for the patterns and for the number of ideas and the inspiration Carol gives to the reader.

Carol's running a KnitALong for patterns from this book over on Ravelry; so now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to drool anew at my Sparkleduck gradient set, and ponder what to cast on...

Sunday, September 04, 2016

2016 books, #56-60

Port mortuary, by Patricia Cornwell. London: Sphere, 2010.

Sometimes I wonder why I keep reading Scarpetta novels.  This is one which is brilliant in some ways, and then intensely annoying in others.  Scarpetta's called back from Dover air force base, where she's been dealing with the bodies of US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, to her own centre to deal with the mysterious case of an unknown man who continued to bleed after death... or was not dead when shut up in Scarpetta's mortuary's fridge.  And Scarpetta's husband Benton Wesley is, she suspects, working for the FBI again.  This is an entertaining and gripping read, even while you want to knock the heads of everyone involved together and tell them to get over themselves... I think the most irritating aspect of it is the invention of more back-story which has never been mentioned but is still an overwhelming consideration for Scarpetta...

Ordinary grace, by William Kent Krueger  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013.

It's 1961 in Minnesota. Frank is 13, with a father who's a Methodist minister and a mother who thought she'd married a lawyer; a mother who directs music beautifully, and an older sister who plays the organ and is about to go to Juilliard; and a younger brother who stammers...  And then that summer a child with a learning disability is killed on the railway tracks; and everything explodes.

This is a beautiful book.  A heartbreakingly beautiful book.  Many books are compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, as this one is in the reviews; and in so many cases this is just rubbish.  This is more knowing in tone; but has an added degree of absolute clarity. There's a murder, but it's sort of incidental.  The writing is so clear, and luminous, and there are some utterly perfect passages here.

Read this book.  And if you have any influence, get this guy a UK book deal; I can't get a single one of his others from the library...

A particular eye for villainy, by Ann Granger [audiobook]. Read by Laurence Kennedy and Maggie Mash. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2012.

Thomas Tapley, the neighbour of Scotland Yard Inspector Benjamin Ross, is found murdered with the traditional "blunt instrument" in his rooms. Lizzie Ross (née Martin) realises she saw him only hours earlier, being followed across Waterloo Bridge by a clown.  When Tapley's cousin, a QC appears, the plot thickens.  This is set in 1860s London, but Lizzie and Ben are unconventional enough as a couple to make it a fascinating read; and the geography is pretty good.  The readers are excellent.  I've no idea whether these books would be better read in order as I've come in in the middle of a series, but have ordered the first in the series from the library....

The corpse bridge, by Stephen Booth [audiobook]. Read by Mike Rogers. Oxford: Isis, 2014.

The Corpse Bridge is the route taken for centuries by mourners from local villagers to the burial ground across the river. When the local landowner announces plans to turn the burial ground into a car park, bodies start turning up along the traditional route...  Back at work after the awful death of his fiancée (I'm sorry, but you don't expect this to be spoiler-free, do you?), Cooper's also got to deal with Diane Fry, about to move, finally, to Nottingham, and still with her TV in the back of his car. The plot here really is secondary to the characters, although it's not bad; and there's a very surprising twist at the end.

The beautiful mystery, by Louise Penny [audiobook]. Read by Adam Sims. Oxford: Isis, 2012.

A body is found in the abbot's garden of a remote island monastery in Québec, a monastery nobody had known about until a recent recording of Gregorian chant had brought them to the outside world's attention.  One of the monks has been killed, presumably by someone else within the monastery. Gamache and Beauvoir travel over to the island and investigate, but bring their past history with them, and this is exacerbated with the arrival of a hated senior colleague.  Meanwhile tensions within the monastery also emerge.  This is very good, and ends on a real cliffhanger as far as the characters are concerned.