My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


A Book Review


I’ve been looking at Knitting With a Smile by Inger Fredholm online since it came out, but always hesitated buying it because it’s pretty darn expensive.

But I had an Amazon gift certificate so I ordered it last week. It arrived over the weekend, so here’s my review.

It’s a softcover spiral-bound book, full color, 120 pages. The Amazon price is $43.95. You can have a look at some of the pages of the book on the author’s website, a feature I appreciate. The book contains 36 original patterns for sweaters, shawls, dresses, hats, mittens, etc.

First the good:

The book is beautifully photographed and very nicely produced. It reads like a workbook and scrapbook of musings and observations, along with the knitting patterns. There’s a recipe for Swedish cinnamon buns included. I’ve enjoyed flipping through it and enjoyed reading most of the text.

The not-so-good:

I don’t really like any of the patterns. I realize that this is subjective and your mileage may very well vary. A lot of the patterns are based on traditional Swedish designs — I recognize some traditional motifs. But I do wish the designs were knitted at a much finer gauge. On the colorwork the motifs are so huge they look gaudy. I would like to see some designs using traditional motifs at 8 stitches/inch or finer. There are several different sweaters based on one single motif, one is a pullover, one is a cardigan, and one is a coat. All are knitted at the gauge of 23 sts/4 inches.

There are a few fair isles in the book and they use 2-ply jumperweight shetland, which I’m used to knitting at 32 sts/4 inches. These designs are knitted on larger needles and the gauge of one is 23 stitches/4 inches and the other 25 stitches/4 inches — way too loose for the yarn, I think. I don’t care for the colors chosen for much of the colorwork — I am no doubt spoiled from knitting Starmore fair isles.

There are two very simple lace shawl patterns. There is one pattern for a lace dress for a little girl that I think is adorable. The same pattern has been reworked for adult sizes, and I don’t like it nearly as well. There’s a lace cardi and a lace sweater and skirt set.

The writing is opinionated. Consider this quote from the section about lace: “A light thin lace shawl is always ‘right’ in fashion, but today we would not even think of knitting a wedding shawl thin enough to be drawn through a wedding ring like the old folks did!” Perhaps the author does not knit fine gauge lace shawls, but I know plenty of people who do. I think this statement is very telling — perhaps the author thinks that modern knitters are not interested in extremely fine gauge traditional knitting, but rather easier items based on traditional designs. I think she’d be surprised to find how many traditional knitters there are out there who would welcome a book of fine gauge designs.

Bottom line, I don’t think the book is worth the purchase price and I wouldn’t have gotten it if I didn’t have a gift certificate. I don’t regret getting it for free, though. I am extremely interested in traditional Swedish knitting and although I think this book has not done the best job of translating traditional Swedish patterns for modern knitters, some people may enjoy knitting the patterns. I did note that there is one review of the book on Amazon and the reviewer thinks the book is well worth the money. So as I said, your mileage may vary. Take my review for what it is — my opinion.

Hey guess what? I’m knitting a sleeve!


The First Heifer Raffle Drawing!

This afternoon I drew names for the first round of prizes in the Heifer raffle. The winners are:

Alison L. wins the wonderful instant sock yarn stash donated by Sheri Berger, The Loopy Ewe.

Carol McD. wins the beautiful Luminescent Haze yarn donated by Jenn Wisbeck, Midnightsky Fibers

Sharon H. wins the adorable cat shawl pin, donated by Rosemary Hill of Designs By Romi.

Congratulations and thanks to all! All winners have been emailed and have responded. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am delighted beyond words at what a success this project has been so far — we are well on our way to raising (and exceeding) $10,000 in donations. Pat yourselves on the back!

Lucy sez:


Wake me when my baby chicks get here.


  1. Wooooohooooo – I can just picture all those goats and chicks and other creatures on their way to a new home. Alas, not to Lucy’s home, but you’re sure to find some way of explaining that to her. Also thanks for the book review. I prefer the finer gauge things as well.

  2. Lucy really is in for a disappointment, poor girl….

  3. I am asking you this question in the most honest and curious manner,s. Are you ever hesitant to write book reviews that are at all ciritcal because your an author now? Probably no because of the book review you posted, so I guess I should say do you ever worry that your posting critical (constructive yes but still critical) book reviews will cause other people to write reviews on their blogs about your book that may be critical? You can delete this comment if you want I just curious. The more I get older the more I realize I wouldn’t want to be a writer or designer because, no matter how great you are people will still critisize you. My husband recently spoke at a conference and got an awful anon review on his blog and well the knitting worlds isn’t isolated from the nasties. Just curious!

    – Pixie

  4. Thanks for the concise review of the book and congrats to the winners of this weeks prizes.

  5. Thank you for the honest review. I’ve seen it listed on Amazon, but was on the fence about it. I know and respect your taste, so if you didn’t care for many of the patterns, that’s a review I can take to heart.

  6. I agree about the book. A friend bought it so I got to look through it. I was disappointed, and even more so knowing that I missed the recipe! My mom rarely made cinnamon buns but she did make toscakaka. Mmmmmm…

  7. The book review is fair and accurate. I’m not exactly sorry that I bought the book, but I probably wouldn’t have bought it, if I’d seen it before buying. FWIW, you’ve got me laughing with every post about Lucy and her chicks.

  8. Cinnamon buns are excellent — and I like eggakaka with them! (Thanks to my Swedish grandmother!) I, too, was somewhat disappointed in the book, but I feel that it is a worthy addition to my library. What books would you recommend as ‘must haves’ in Scandinavian (and particulary Swedish)knitting?

  9. Thank you for such a thorough review of Knitting with a Smile. I have no Amazon certificate at this time and would have been very disappointed at the large gauged designs. Do you think you will rework one of the patterns at a more civilized gauge? Or perhaps, you will just design more of your own Swedish designs!

  10. I’m guessing Elizabeth I will soon be ready to wear. Thank you for the review, not having done this kind of knitting, I might be a little misled on the patterns. I know Ms. Starmore knew what she was doing, one can tell by the availability and the prices ;)And I’m soooo excited to have the beautiful handspun by Jenn! That will be reserved for something very special. (my 1st official win!)
    I can almost see Lucy covered in “Chicklets”.

  11. I think I’ll save my money for something else, thanks for the book review.

    I think you’re going to have a a LOT of ‘splainin’ to do when Lucy’s chicks never show up … ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I had to break it to Leland and Stanton tonight that they wouldn’t be getting a baby goat sister named Wendy after all.

    They could hardly eat their hay. =(

  13. If only I had known Lucy wanted baby chicks. I told my daughter what I had ordered — the beekeeping kit…..and she said
    (not knowing about lucy’s wishes” that i should have ordered the baby chicks…
    maybe we can set up a “get lucy a feline or feathered friend” fund…

  14. If only I had known Lucy wanted baby chicks. I told my daughter what I had ordered — the beekeeping kit…..and she said
    (not knowing about lucy’s wishes” that i should have ordered the baby chicks…
    maybe we can set up a “get lucy a feline or feathered friend” fund…

  15. Wendy,
    What would you say to a knitter who has a hard time getting a decent gauge due to losseness? Using worsted weight and size 3 needles I get 4 stitches to an inch but I love fine gauge knitting.

  16. Lucy and her chicks are crackin’ me up! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Did I tell you, or did I tell you that you’d hit $10,000?? That is so awesome.

  17. I appreciate the honesty in which you wrote your review. I was especially interested in hearing about the fine gauge lace knitting, since I’m one of those knitters that would love a book on fine gauge lace knitting.

  18. I would like your opinion on Jane Sowerbury’s book on Victorian lace. I finally saw a copy but did not realy get a chance to look through it, i am just beginning on lace, and have always thought lace should be airy like the beautiful picture of yours.
    congrats to the winners and to the fund…. and maybe we can knit Lucy some chickies

  19. LOL at Lucy! Look out, baby chicks…

  20. Barbara-Kay says:

    Please post a brief review at Amazon, to tip off other knitters that it’s large gauge. Oh, and thanks for the insightful review in your blog.

    Could Lucy be diverted with yellow fuzz balls? A flock of them?

  21. Lucy, your quiet and steadfast devotion, indeed faith, in the coming of the chicks is exemplary.

    If I had some on hand to send your way, I certainly would.


  22. I also find that something knit on needles too big for the yarn looks sloppy. I’m not big on the see-through look either. Maybe when my tummy was flat and I didn’t have stretch marks in odd places. Thanks for the heads-up on what not to buy.

  23. Wendy, thanks for the book review. As siouxz also asked – any thoughts on the new “Victoriann Lace Today” book?

    Elizabeth 1 is looking good – your blog is always a good place to come when I need some inspiration.


  24. Thanks for the review. I hadn’t even heard of that one yet.

  25. Another Julie says:

    What’s the story with the Alice Starmore books – why are so many of them rare and out-of-print? Just check the prices on eBay to see! I was trying to find a copy of “Tudor Roses” but I don’t wish to pay $115 and up. I checked our local library database but they don’t have it. Is there a reason why the publisher doesn’t want to re-issue these books? I’m sure they would be bestsellers.

  26. Thanks for the review on the Fredholm book. I wonder why it’s so expensive relative to other knitting books of that general size. Any thoughts?

  27. I bought “Knitting with a Smile” but mostly because I took a lace class from the author and enjoyed her “ramblings.” I doubt that I would make anything from the book except for the feather and fan skirt. I would NEVER make or wear a knitted skirt, but she was wearing hers and it was very flattering and I actually thought it was cute. It was also great to see all of the sweaters from the book (on display at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis) and to hear the background stories. PS — her husband is a better knitter than she is.

    “Must have” Swedish book: Poems of Color by Wendy Keele on Bohus knitting.

  28. ’tis a puzzlement…. Maybe not all 2-ply Shetland is the same gauge?

    I saw the sweaters on display at the Swedish Institute too (most of them weren’t behind a barrier, so I was also able to feel them, and examine quite closely). The gauge seemed very suitable for the yarn she was using. The pieces were not “thready” at all, or limp-loose. I see in the back of her book that she has used her own custom-spun store yarn — maybe that’s the difference? Definitely seemed to be thicker (and higher-loft) yarn than the J&S 2-ply Shetland, but still with that wonderful heathering and depth of color, and Shetland “stickiness”. Also had a bit of a “rustic” appearance in the yarns, which greatly added to the character of the pieces. I was greatly pleased that the color of the actual sweaters was richer and darker than they appear in the pictures in her book.

    The stranded pieces in the book are definitely “2-color Swedish knitting”, and “old-fashioned Fair Isle” and not done with the finer-gauge yarn or the color shading subtlety the Starmore designs use. (but that’s not always a bad thing.)

    I enjoy your blog so much — thank you for the good pictures and enjoyable writing!!

  29. Denise in Kent,WA says:

    I’ll join siouxz in lobbying for a review of the new Victorian Lace book. I’ve seen a copy and would be very interested to see if your impressions have anything in common with mine.

    P.S. Lucy is the very soul of optimism! LOL

  30. Poor Lucy! Maybe you can knit her a “baby chick” to play with…or get her a kitty friend from the rescue. Now, there’s an idea!

  31. Thanks for the very imformative review. I appreciate your forthrightness, as often many people gloss over the things they don’t like as they don’t want to be critical. The information you provided was quite interesting and by giving factual information as gauge, etc. it gives one a good basis to forumulate an opinion as to whether or not to purchase for themselves.

  32. Thank you for the straightforward review. That’s what reviews should be, and all too often aren’t. The conventional knitting media, hungry for ad dollars, embrace every new thing with equal enthusiasm, which isn’t at all helpful to people who need some guidance. It also fails writers, designers, and publishers, who need honest feedback, and a chance to do better next time out. There are genuinely bad books, yarns, and patterns out there. Why not say so?

  33. I’ve always observed that your reviews are honest, and you give concise reasons for your opinions, so I respect them. Well done! I’ve never heard of the book, and probably wouldn’t have gotten it anyway (its just not what I’m into knitting at this point.)

    I do however COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU in your dissention from the author’s opinion about folks no longer wishing to knit “wedding ring shawls!” They sure as heck do, as a matter of fact, I’m making one for my daughter who is getting married next year.

    I respect your opinion, and that you only tout it as your opinion. You are always careful to state many good reasons why or why not, and while it may be less than pleasant for some, it helps many others, and most important….

    …the art.

    Which should always come first!


    And by the way. You have excellent taste in names!

    From the Wendy who knits in San Diego.

  34. Thanks for the book review. I don’t have a LYS or even a Local Book Store, so I order most of my knitting books online. I’ve been disappointed a few times and I really appreciate your honest review. As a regular reader of your blog, I feel like I know your knitting style, and I trust your judgement.

    BTW, I’m just about to finish a scarf based on your latest pattern, but out of Malabrigo. Lovin’ it. Thanks for that, too.

  35. Wendy, I am so impressed your efforts (and the efforts of all your readers. Wow!

  36. We need to start knitting Lucy some catnip knitted chicks!