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I have just a small finished object today, my very first pair of knit booties. But they come with a long story! (And, to thank you for reading the whole story, I’m also including a book review and giveaway at the end of this post.)
I have a friend that I haven’t seen in ages. She used to date (and then was engaged to) a friend of mine from college. There were about 3 or 4 years when the three of us would get together very frequently and have a great time. They lived in a nearby neighborhood for a few years and then they moved to the Boston area, but I actually kept in touch and visited regularly for some time. Then there was a lot of upheaval in my life in 2007-08 and, at the same time, they broke up and this friend moved to California. I haven’t seen her since then and now we are “Facebook friends.” (You know what I mean – I think about her, occasionally see a status update, but haven’t actually called or written in ages.) Via Facebook, I learned that she got married and eventually that she was pregnant. She actually kept a rather entertaining weekly blog during her pregnancy which I only discovered in about the eighth month. The humor in her posts reminded me why I enjoy her friendship so much, so I decided to make her newborn baby girl some gifts.
Since we haven’t seen each other in about 5 years and I am completely pressed for time, I decided that my standard baby gift (a blanket) was out of the question. I also didn’t want to buy any yarn, so I started looking for a group of smaller projects that I could make with stash. And that’s where these cuties come in.
I had a second ulterior motive. I recently received a review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum from Barron’s Educational Series. As the self-professed world’s slowest knitter, I figured I had to time myself making at least one project from the book. I decided that if I could make one of the projects in 90 minutes, a normal knitter might be able to do it in 30.
The Broad Strap Booties seemed the perfect solution:
- A pattern fit for a baby (check),
- Made with small amounts of yarn (check),
- In a yarn weight where I have some “girl colors” in my stash (check),
- In an easy care (machine washable) yarn (check).
I’m looking at Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers and Baby Blueprint Crochet: Irresistible Projects for Little Ones, both of which I won in blog giveaways (yippee!), for inspiration for some other small items to include in the package.
For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis. And to learn more about the Ripple Mania CAL giveaway, open to all readers on earth with prizes donated by Leisure Arts, Lion Brand Yarn, Magique Enterprises, and Red Heart Yarn, check out this post.
I recently received a review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum from Barron’s Educational Series. The book positions itself as “a collection of knitting projects that you can really fit into your spare time…creating fun and imaginative pieces in a half-hour or less.” The concept appealed to me totally, especially since I knit extremely slowly, but I’ll admit that I was dubious that anything can be knit (by me) in thirty minutes or less. The book comes with a few disclaimers that put me more at ease. Finishing is not included in the 30 minutes, and when the project is for multiple pieces (e.g., a set of mittens), only one piece can be made in 30 minutes. Ok, perhaps there is such a project out there.
The book includes 60 projects, most of which are small and can be made with stash yarn, or which are made with bulky yarn or two strands of yarn held together. You can tell that Carol is primarily a teacher, because the book is organized by skill level (40 Easy projects and 20 Intermediate projects), and then sub-divided by technique. At the beginning of the book, there is a gallery of project photos along with the page where you can find the pattern. Some of the patterns include a technique marker (e.g., Cable Knitting) on the side of the page. These techniques are explained in a 14 page illustrated section at the end of the book.
I made the Broad Strap Booties (pictured on the cover) to test out the 30 minute theory. I gave myself 90 minutes per bootie since I know that I knit extremely slowly. (As a reference point, it took me 25 minutes to make half a gauge swatch for the pattern – 22 stitches by 15 rows.) I was able to complete both booties (not including swatching but including knitting and assembly/finishing), in just under 2 hours and 15 minutes. I consider that a resounding success.
What I liked about this book:
- Each project is photographed several times from different angles. The projects appear against a white background in the gallery, then again in “group photos” every few pages (with each item numbered for reference to the pattern), and then again on the pattern page. This gives you a really clear idea of how the finished project will look and is also visually interesting.
- Even though I personally don’t see myself knitting some of these projects (e.g., a Dali mustache), everything inside is actually very cute. None of the projects “look” like they were thrown together in 30 minutes or less.
- Most of the projects are great stashbusters.
- There is an opportunity to try out techniques like shaping, cables, beading, or colorwork on a small and low-risk project. The technique section in the back includes a “Practice This” box which directs you to the appropriate patterns using the technique.
- If you tend to procrastinate on gift knits, this could be a great “go to” resource for inspiration.
What I don’t like about the book, or what’s missing:
- Like other paperback books, it doesn’t lay flat so it is difficult to knit and read at the same time. There are front and back cover flaps that you can use to hold your place, though.
- When a pattern includes charts or a template, those are in the back rather than next to the pattern page, so you will need to flip back and forth a bit.
- Though most projects are clearly made with just a small amount of yarn, the patterns list the full size of the skein used for the project. For example, the booties that I made used about 34 yards in the main color and about 9 yards in the other color, but the pattern just mentions that I need two balls of Rowan Handknit Cotton DK (93 yards each). I think the book could get more mileage as a stashbusting book if Carol included the approximate yardage for each project. Instead, the knitter needs to guess whether they have enough yarn in their stash for any given project.
- On a related note, it would help if the weight of the yarn was listed for each project. If it isn’t part of the brand name (e.g., Rowan Handknit Cotton DK), then there aren’t many clues about the yarn weight. I’m guessing the Rowan and Coats yarns that Carol used for the book are ubiquitous in the UK, but it would be great if it was easier to make yarn substitutions.
- While arranging the book in order of difficulty is a great idea, it is hard to find projects by type (e.g., women’s accessories) with this system. It is difficult to determine the scale of a project from the gallery, so it would be helpful if the index listed projects by type. (The baby projects are listed as a category in the index, though.)
Unfortunately, the patterns are not posted on Ravelry yet and you can’t “search inside the book” on Amazon, so it is hard to get an idea of what is included if you don’t see the book in person. I would recommend this book for a beginner, advanced beginner, or newly intermediate knitter who likes to make small, portable projects. If you are trying to bust some stash and enjoy gift knitting, this could also be the right book for you. The book includes 60 projects, which is more than you would generally find in a book at this price point, but many of the projects are primarily decorative. I think this would be a fun book to use when knitting with children or teens since the projects are cute and fast to make, and the accessories are on trend. If you are a more experienced knitter or like more detailed/involved projects, then this is probably not the book for you.
Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.
To kick off the last minute holiday gift making season, I’m giving away my review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum, courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series. This giveaway is open to all readers with a U.S. mailing address. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, November 29, 2012.