My current work in progress:

Stornoway, designed by Alice Starmore from her book Fishermen’s Sweaters, knit in Frangipani 5-ply guernsey wool in the Aran colorway, on a 3.0mm needle.

Sensitive Blog Readers Take Note

Warning: some content and a photo in this blog entry may alarm you.

My sock-in-progress has been looking pretty smug after your comments about its beauty. But imagine my surprise when I caught it on the photocopier at the office this morning.


My worst fears were quickly confirmed. Yes, it was photocopying its butt.


Fortunately, I caught it before it created a pdf of the copy and emailed it to everyone at the office. (We’ve got one of those whoop-di-do machines that can email pdfs straight from the copier. But we have no microwave or refrigerator. What’s wrong with these people’s priorities?)

You know I am scraping the bottom of the blog barrel when I resort to candid photos of my sock-in-progress photocopying its butt. Apologies to sensitive readers.

Moving on.

This sock is being knitted from the Yarn Pirate superwash wool, not the wool/tencel blend. Call me weird, but I’m not overly fond of tencel blends for socks. I can’t give you a rational reason for that, it’s just not to my liking.

Mary asked:
Do you swatch for socks, or have you knit so many of them that you really don’t need to, anymore? If you do swatch, do you knit your swatch in the round, or do you just knit a flat square?

If I’m knitting from fingering weight sock yarn, I don’t swatch, because I know from experience how many stitches I need. Any minor differences in the yarns don’t really matter, because I am knitting socks with negative ease, so all that happens is that I have socks of very slightly varying snugness.

If I’m knitting socks from something other than fingering weight, then I do swatch. But just barely — I just knit a tiny square to measure.

Beth in WI asked:
Why the tapering interest in Cromarty? Is it that once the repeats are memorized, there’s nothing new to do?

It’s not so much that my interest in Cromarty is tapering, it’s that I’m bored with all knitting right now. I’ve not even thought about what I’m going to knit after Cromarty — I simply can’t muster the enthusiasm. I’ve been putting in less time every day on my knitting as well. I’m not concerned, though. Even though my knitting mojo has deserted me at the present, I know at some point my enthusiasm will return.


Lynette asked:
I am a beginner/advanced beginner, and was wondering what books you would suggest as “must haves” for the beginner, both as reference, and as patterns beyond scarves and basic wraps. Is there a remedial lace book? Intarsia? General sweaters? I know that once we get to intermediate and advanced, knitters will differ as to what is essential in their libraries, but could you help out a beginner?

I need some help on this one. I’ve been knitting since I was a tiny tot, so I don’t really have much experience with must-have books for beginners that are currently available. Anyone want to weigh in with opinions here?

In a blatant and shameless attempt to keep you coming back here when I don’t have much of anything interesting, I will give away something really nice. Details in tomorrow’s blog entry!

Lucy is intrigued.


“Hmmmmmmm . . . ”



  1. Beginning books –

    Elizabeth Zimmerman “Knitting without tears”
    Sally Melville – “Knit One” and “Perl One”
    Stephanie Pear-McPhee – “Knitting Rules”
    Vogue Knitting Very Easy Knits
    Wendy Johnson “Wendy Knits”

    Lucy looks adorable as always!

  2. Sounds like it may be time to break out the spinning wheel(s). I’ve been thinking about that myself as a way out of the winter doldrums.

    I just got some Yarn Pirate sock yarn myself, and am hoping that the tencel will be pleasant to knit with… more like silk than like cotton. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Too funny. Your sock has a nice butt.
    My favorite reference books are StitchnBitch and Vogue Knitting. For on-line help, I love with its great videos.

  4. I must say, I find it a relief to humanity that you, Wendy, can get bored with knitting. How long can we go on? One needs a change every now and then?

  5. I, too, am relieved to hear that someone else (and a much more experienced knitter than I) gets a little Knitted-Out at this time of year.

    As to good books for beginners/advanced beginners, I learned most of my knitting skills from books (apart from the basic knit and purl, which was lodged in my consciousness early in life), and I’ve found Vogue’s big knitting reference handy, with good clear illustrations. And Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Patterns is great for basic things like mittens in all sizes. I also have her Handy Book of Sweater Patterns but found that I quickly outgrew it. But the book that really taught me to understand knitting and fitting and changed the way I approach practically every project was: Knitting from the Top, by the ever-fabulous Barbara Walker.

  6. Seems that no one who has commented so far is a combination knitter. As one of the weird sisters, I found Annie Modesitt’s Knitting Heretic to be a revelation. I could never understand why most instructions made no sense to me. Her explanations made it possible for me to “translate” so that I could get the effect the designer intended.

    While the Walker books are wonderful resources, I was offended that she calls my knitting technique “wrong” and insists (in the intro to Vol. 2) that I “must” change. Phooey. It works for me and has for 35 years.

    Also, the old Reader’s Digest Complete Guide everyone keeps mentioning has a great section on crochet for those of us who need that skill so seldom we can’t remember how: Simple, clear and even a series of illustrations for left handers.

  7. I’ll second the recommendation of Sally Meville’s new(ish) books. I’m not really a “new” knitter anymore, but they’re still some of my favorites.

  8. Wendy you do not know how badly I needed a laugh this morning. Thank you.

  9. I appreciate having advice from other knitters on good books.

    As a newbie knitter, I have enjoyed:

    Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s “Yarn Rules”
    Ann Budd’s “Knitter’s Hndy Book of Sweater Patterns”
    Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Knitting Without Tears”

    and, a couple of books for inspiration, such as Lavold’s book on Viking-inspired knits.

  10. books on my shelf that I refer to all the time:

    Nancy Wisemans Finishing Techniques
    Ann Budd handy book of patterns.
    and those lovely Stitch Dictionaries… I have only one, but hope to get all 4 eventually.

    For getting your MOJO back… a Fiber Fair.. I went to Stitches West.. my mojo is out of control right now!!! so much beautiful yarn and needles, and beads and buttons.. OH MY!!!

  11. Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy says:

    I’ve found online stuff to be even more helpful than the books. There’s Knitting Pattern Central, Knitting-and, Knitting Help (with videos!), Wendy Knits, Nona Knits (and Nona Swatches), See Eunny Knit, Annie Modesitt’s site … so many I can’t remember them all! Simply reading patterns is great for learning how stuff fits together. Interweave’s stitch illustration/instructions seem the clearest to my eyes, though everyone’s different!

    If you’re addicted to paper:
    Our gracious hostess’ “Wendy Knits”
    Yarn Harlot’s “Knitting Rules”
    Stoller’s “Stitch & Bitch”

    As to knitting content here: I come to see Lucy! Love me some Lucy … ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. I love me some sock butt! Oh, wait. Ahem… Lovely sock, Wendy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Another vote for “Big Book of Knitting” by Katherine Buss. The photos & illustration are VERY clear and easy to follow. Plus it has the most comprehensive finishing technique section I’ve ever seen.

    Wendy, I wish I had the knitting blahs right now. I burned my hand badly last week and now I can’t knit ๐Ÿ™ And my kit for the Poetry in Stitches cover sweater just arrived, too!

  14. When I first learned to knit, it was from Melanie Falick’s “Kids Knitting: Projects for Kids of All Ages”. I figured if it was meant for kids to understand, and I couldn’t grasp it, I wasn’t meant to knit. Thankfully, it explained everything very well!

    Then I got Knitting For Dummies and The Idiot’s Guide To Knitting/Crochet. Then I got Knitting Without Tears. Above all else, Elizabeth Zimmerman has influenced my knitting outlook (use the pattern as a guideline, not as the end-all-be-all letter of the law). Her humor and writing gave me courage to knit what I want, where I want, how I want. Once I learned that there was a knitting presence online, I immediately joined a massive email list, where people were *so* not like EZ. They were judgmental and intimidating, and all they wanted to do was prove themselves superior and right. I hated them.

    For new knitters, it’s important to know that you can achieve the same results several different ways. You can knit continental, english, or combined. You can knit socks on 4 DPNs, 5 DPNs, 2 circs, 1 circ, or not at all. You can use a cable needle or you can cable without one. You can use straights, or you can use circs for everything. Whatever is best for you, do it. Other people will snottily mention that they have a different, superior method, but don’t let it bother you. Find your groove. Know that your groove can change. Be happy when you knit.

  15. I’m a big fan of Handknitting with Meg Swansen and Vogue Knitting Quick Reference: The Ultimate Portable Knitting Compendium. I’ve also heard really good things about Stitch ‘N Bitch and Stitch ‘N Bitch Nation, although the patterns in them aren’t so much to my taste, so I don’t have either.

  16. I’m curious about the swatching for socks. If you jut knit a small square do you do it back and forth? Don’t you find that your gauge changes when you go from straight knitting to circular knitting?

  17. My question is about your silver needles from Celtic Swan Forge. I usually use bamboo needles for socks, but I find they warp very quickly. Before I shell out the money for the Celtic Swan needles, I wanted to see how they are holding up for you.

  18. First two knitting books I ever bought were Wendy Knits and Knitting Rules – they gave me the incentive to learn more. Best reference books I’ve bought are Teach Yourself Visually Knitting, The Knit Stitch, and a great little book for miscellaneous problems – The Knitting Answer Book.

  19. If you are about to make the jump to sweaters and are intimidated by “getting gauge”, may I recomment Jacquline Fee’s “The Sweater Workshop”. Based on EZ’s % system (and with the blessings of Elizabeth Zimmermann herself), I found it more flexible and approachable than “Knitting without Tears”.

    for sock inspiration, I like the Nancy Bush books.

  20. One can’t go wrong with any of EZ’s books. Yes, some of the garments may look dated, but there are excellent techniques and tips to be gleaned from these books.

  21. Oh My god, Wendy! You crack me up! That little party animal sock. I’m sure after the beer it had in today’s post, it probably wore a lamp shade on it’s…..head? TOE??
    thanks for the laugh!

  22. I am an advancing beginner and really enjoyed Jacqueline Fee’s book, in which you make a sampler that looks like a sweater for a fish, among other things — it built my confidence to practice a variety of techniques in a smallish project — and she has a wonderful, opinionated writing style.