Books, Reviews


Olann and book review

Knit The Sky

Cultivate your creativity with a playful way of knitting

ByLea Redmond

Price £14.99

Publisher Storey Publications

ISBN: 9781612123332

Knit the Sky by Lea Redmond is rather unusual as knitting books go.  Most of the ‘traditional’ knitting books we love follow a similar format – pictures of beautiful designs, patterns for these designs, possibly a ‘How to’ and a ‘Help’ chapter and maybe even a ‘Suggested Resources’ section.  Lea’s Knit the Sky book is a little more unconventional.

The book itself is a beautiful publication with almost every page decorated with stunning illustrations from Lauren Nassef.  Open the book on any page and you’ll find yourself transported into your memories and off wandering through your thoughts.

“So what’s the difference” we hear you cry.

Lea encourages you to use your knitting as a method of recording your adventures and your memories.  Knit the Sky contains 32 inspiring ideas to use your knitting as a way of exploring your creativity.  There are patterns, but there’s not one photograph of a finished object in the book.  Instead Lea hopes to give you the little spark to create a truly personal project.  A ‘one of a kind’, unique to you, piece of knitwear.  It’s like journaling, but through the medium of knitting.

Some of you will know the Moody Blanket Lora made many moons ago.  Knitting two rows a day to create a garter stitch ridge in a colourway that emulated her overriding mood on that day.  In much the same way, Lea’s book encourages us to look at life through the lens of what matters to us and interpret this through our stitches.

There are so many inspiring ideas to choose from in the book, but we particularly love ‘Inching Up’, which sees you knitting a height chart scarf.  Beginning with the baby’s length at birth and adding inches every year until the baby becomes an adult.  Yes, it’s a long term project, but how lovely would it be to hand over the scarf to the recipient when they turn 18 or 21?  Also you’d never have to worry about leaving those pencil marks you’ve made over the years behind when you move house (speaking from experience).

The book is called Knit the Sky, but the ideas contained in the book are universal and could be used with other mediums too.  If you crochet, weave, spin, scrapbook, etc, you can still follow Lea’s suggestions.

Knit the Sky would make a fantastic gift for a crafty friend or loved one starting out on a new adventure.  For the most part the ideas contained are cheerful happy concepts, but we think it would be a great gift for someone about to go through tough times too.  The strength needed to knit a few stitches during some of our darkest times can help to make us stronger and should be cherished as much (if not more), than the lighter ones sometimes.

Olann and book review

Learn to Knit Block by Block

For beginners and up, a unique approach to learning to knit

By Che Lam

Price £10.99

ISBN: 9781782212744

Publisher Search Press

Che Lam is a knitwear designer who joined Drops Design in 2010 as an in house knitwear designer and now works freelance.  Learn to Knit Block by Block is aimed specifically at new knitters, with the introduction dedicated to ‘getting started’.  This section contains all the basic information a new knitter would find invaluable and includes a list of tools and materials, yarn qualities and the ‘all important’ tension square.

The book is very clearly laid out with the blocks grouped into categories. There’s a skill level indicator for each, a photo tutorial and a chart for each design.  All of the blocks have been knitted in cotton which gives a lovely crisp finish, ideal for photographing.  It would have been great to have an example of each square knitted in a woollier alternative too, as some of the stitches included truly come to life in a more ‘bouncy’ yarn.

The blocks cover a good range of stitches beginning with knit and purl, moving on through to some lace and cable patterns, and Intarsia and Fairisle are even covered.

Che draws the reader in with her use of colour for the blocks, which continues into the second section of the book – Personalise It.  Here Che encourages the knitter to put their new found skills to work to create some fantastic projects

The five projects included are all quite lovely and we’re sure more experienced knitters would think so too.  Sometimes we have a tendency to over complicate things because we feel that as experienced knitters we should.  However, when you look at the great effects Che has achieved with what are in effect knitted squares, it makes you evaluate some of the projects on your ‘to do’ list.

The Lace Poncho made up of different knitted lace blocks sewn together is extremely effective.  The Cushion Cover, which has been made with knitted blocks, is a much more portable project in which to use the squares and must less daunting than knitting enough for a blanket.

As we’re all about telling you as it is here at Olann and, we feel it would be remiss of us not to mention the photograph of the beautiful jumper at the beginning of Che’s book and how disappointed we were when we realised the design wasn’t in the book.  A little investigation and we discovered Che Lam actually publishes her designs as Handy Kitty.  The jumper, in case you’re wondering is called the Heather cardi/jumper.

Olann and book review

The Rowan Knitting & Crochet Magazine – 59

By Rowan Yarns

Price £12.99 approximately

Publisher Rowan Yarns

For those of you that have never seen a copy of the Rowan Knitting & Crochet magazine, let’s begin by giving you a little background information.  Published twice a year, it is much more than a magazine, it’s a hefty book by most people standards.  The magazine showcases beautiful Rowan yarns and designs alongside interesting interviews and articles.

Issue 59 includes two stories (design collections), Coastal and Kyoto.  Coastal is a collection of 18 designs, inspired by Coastal living and traditional Guernsey.  The collection includes designs by Martin Storey, Cirilia Rose, Marie Wallin, Amy Herzog and Carlo Volpi.  There are garments for both men and women, made using summery yarns, cotton, denim, linen and blends.  Our favourites in the collection would have to include Briston from Heather Dixon, Bingham a Sarah Hatton design and Darsham from Lisa Richardson.

To correspond with the Coastal Collection, there is a great article on the Guernsey by Sarah Brook, which contains some beautiful vintage photographs and gives you a little insight into these once traditional jumpers and how they are inspiring contemporary fashion trends.

Knitting Men are the focus of a feature by Katy Bevan, who highlights some of the more well-known male designers and champions the case for men to take up their knitting needles. The article moves almost seamlessly into a Rowan Designer Profile on Carlo Volpi, who designs knitwear exclusively for Rowan.

Kyoto, is a floral collection of 18 designs for women, inspired by all things Japanese.  Yarns have been selected with the warmer months in mind and several of the designs have been made using Kid Silk Haze, a beautiful yarn, perfect for any time of the year.

The jacket on the front cover Yamanashi, made me think of Zandra Rhodes, so I was thrilled to discover it is indeed one of her designs.  Other lovelies include Gifu, a lace t-shirt, and Miyagi, a slightly cropped jumper both designed by Martin Storey.  The textured wrap Niigata by Lisa Richardson is stunning and the use of colour and texture in Yamagata whilst quite subtle, still has that Kaffe Fassett ‘colourful’ stamp to it.

The magazine includes a look at the new brochures available and a detailed directory of all the Rowan stockists worldwide.

The book is available in some yarn shops or you can become a subscriber, which qualifies you for a regular newsletter and free yarn gift.

Olann and book review

Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom

Discover the Full Potential of the Rigid-Heddle Loom

By Syne Mitchell

Price £20.00 

Publisher Storey Publishing


You might have heard of Syne Mitchell already?  She’s the woman behind the much missed online magazine Weavezine. She also used to host the Weave Cast podcast (also no longer being produced).

Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom is the result of four years’ work; Syne spent exploring everything you can do with a simple loom.  We can safely say it is one of the most thorough books you’ll ever find on this subject and would make a great reference book for anyone thinking of buying a Rigid Heddle Loom.

The book contains a whopping 296 pages, with the first three chapters covering all the basic information. It begins with a brief history of weaving, before introducing the reader to the different types and brands of Rigid Heddle Loom.  There’s information on the necessary tools, choosing the right yarn, weaving terminology and preparing your loom.

Chapter four, Colour Theory in a Nutshell, is a fantastic resource for anyone afraid of colour. Syne explains the relationship colours have with each other when used together and discusses how to get the proportions right. She has also included a section on using hand painted yarn effectively in your weaving.

Projects are interspersed throughout the book and Syne actively encourages you to mix it up and use the information she’s provided to create your own project.  The wealth of information included on the different types of weave you can use on your loom range from plain weave, to twill, overshot and Shibori. 

Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom also includes a section on maintaining your loom, sewing your fabric and covering the stresses a days solid weaving can place on your body.

Syne has really thought of everything. We love the layout of the book, the techniques are explained in detail, clearly written and with close up photographs where necessary.  Syne has also included some very helpful ‘trouble shooting’ sections, throughout the book, great for pre-empting possible mistakes, before they happen.

The book includes all the basic information you need to begin weaving. It then takes you on a journey by introducing a wide variety of techniques, many of which will excite experienced weavers. 

One of Our Favourites
Olann and book review

100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet

A collection of beautiful blooms for embellishing clothes, accessories, cushions and throws

By Lesley Stanfield

Price £10.99 

Publisher Search Press Books


First Published in 2009 and now on its 12th print run, 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet is a ‘must have’ book for those of us that like to make.

The book begins with a little basic knitting and crochet information about stitches, materials, symbols and abbreviations.  Great for those of us that need the extra reminder on hand.

The second chapter, is where things get pretty.  The Directory of Flowers is given over to photographs of all of the beautiful designs contained in this book.  Grouped into colour families, you’ll find the Lavender on the same page as the Violas and the Daisies with the Snowdrops.

Whilst we all love flowers, they are part of a much bigger picture, so Lesley has also included designs for leaves and even a few fruits and vegetables too.  You will also discover the odd mini beast among the pages of the directory, we’re particularly fond of the bumblebee, without whom we’d have no flowers.

The instructions to create the designs in chapter 3 are organised into knitting and crochet and ordered by skill within each section. Each pattern is clear and easy to read and helpfully, the crochet patterns also include the charted instructions.

Lastly in chapter 4, Lesley has suggested some ideas of how to use her designs, including attaching them to Summer shoes or embellishing a notebook.  Before long you’ll be decorating everything with flowers and mini beasts.

Of all the 100 designs it’s actually quite difficult to choose a few favourites.  It goes without saying that Lora’s (aka LeftFootDaisy) love of daisies means she’s automatically drawn to the Lazy Daisy (design 44) and Deirdre loves Gerberas so her favourite would have to be number 82.  We also love the Centifolia Rose (46), the Cornflower (27), Rudbeckia (4), Chamomile (74) and the Large Citris and Small Leaf would have to be included too. The Borage flowers (51), would look beautiful if you knitted a good few and attached them to a cardigan in little clusters (off to write that down in a notebook now)

If you knit or crochet you may already have this book, but if not you’re going to want to make a space for it in your fibre reference library.