In Review: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

The first chills of autumn found their way to our neighborhood over the last week. With them have come cries of distress from my girl whose hands were freezing each morning as we walked to school. No, that’s not right. They weren’t freezing, they were FREEZING — spoken as only a true knitter’s child who has never known the discomfort of cold hands or head. Partly to get her stop complaining and partly because it’s what I do, I promised to knit up some mittens for her. She could pick the yarn & help me design them and I would ensure that her hands would not be cold on the way to school again. She accepted the plan of action & muddled through the chilly morning yesterday.

After school yesterday over her snack, I gave her some yarn options. She emphatically selected a skein of Greenwood Fiber Works Handspun.

image_medium3I selected this braid of fiber last year on my birthday from Susan’s Fiber Shop…

image_medium2And spun it up during the Tour de Fleece this summer into a skein of bulky/super bulky, Navajo-plied loveliness. My daughter has loved it since it was on the wheel, so it’s only fitting that she get it.

Rather than sifting through Ravelry for a pattern that fits my needs, I grabbed my favourite book for this situation: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs by Ann Budd. Here’s how it works:

1) Flip to the chapter on what type of item you want to knit (i.e. mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests, basic sweaters — yes, they are all in this book!).

2) Select the size you want to knit, preferably using the measurements of the person for whom you are knitting.

3) Knit a swatch with your chosen yarn.

4) Read through the basic design elements included at the end of the chapter & decide which — if any — you’d like to use, or continue on with the basic no-frills pattern.

5) Follow the instructions for your designated gauge & size, incorporating any design elements you desire.

6) Enjoy your simple, custom garments & accessories.


Now I know there are probably some of you out there who this scares to death. ‘Work without a pattern? Uh-uh, no way!,’  but I promise that as long as you take a few moments to understand the layout of the book it is really very simple. It’s as basic as understanding how to check gauge & read a chart (not a lace chart, they call it a ‘chart’ but it’s just an excel-like spreadsheet). Oh, wait. You don’t know how to do that?  There is an excellent explanation on how to knit a swatch and read it on page 6  complete with a great illustration. There is also an in-depth explanation of how to interpret the charts within the book — they are pretty straight-forward to begin with, but just in case the author walks you through it. Perfect! Really, this is do-able for all knitters with basic skills.

There are many books from this publisher & author as well as many other series that are specifically written as a kind of blank canvas for design. Frankly, it can be overwhelming for most knitters, especially those who aren’t particularly fond of math. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs is a great place to start though. I love that it includes the most basic accessories and presents basic design so simply. As a spinner, I especially love that I don’t necessarily have to have slap a label on my handspun — super bulky, bulky, worsted, etc — it doesn’t matter here. What matters is that I knit a swatch at the density I wanted for these mittens and it was 3 stitches per inch. Voila. With Ann Budd as my guide, I cast-on and was off.

Because I knew I would be tight on yarn & I was free-styling a bit, I knit these mittens 2-at-a-time. This means that they will definitely match and I don’t have to make notes as I go if I don’t want to. No stressful attempts at re-creation on mitten #2 because it is already done — that is my kind of approach for this kind of project! In the interest of full disclosure, the mitten pattern did not go down to the 3stitches per inch for gauge that I needed, but there was enough information there for me to easily make adjustments (and really, trust me when I say I am not a math whiz so this is do-able for most with enough patience). Because I am a new spinner I found that my yarn was actually a bit heavier on one end of the skein — the joys of handspun! — so I ended up adding a couple extra rows to the body of the lighter weight mitten before decreasing so that I would have the hand length I needed. When all was said & done, I finished my girl’s mittens last night and she awoke this morning to her brand new mittens.

Disclaimer on following photos: Now when I asked her to get dressed for school today, I also mentioned that I wanted her to pose for photos with her mittens for me. What she came out wearing was a hot pink tuille skirt, Hello Kitty t-shirt, neon striped knee socks, and completely different color family striped fleece pullover. And fuzzy ugg-type slipper shoes. Not exactly my dream for showing off these mittens, but she was adamant and I was not interested in a fight over the matter. We compromised and rolled up her sleeves a bit for the photos.

on kneeThey are sweet & colorful and soooooo my girl!

close-up on kneeI will say that at 3stitches per inch, getting the thumbs to look normal was a bit of a challenge, but I managed.

off handOverall, I am so very happy with the results of these basic mittens — the ease & speed with which I was able to knit them up, the fit, the colors — they are just perfect for my girl. Most importantly though, she loves them & her hands are warm. She wore them from the moment she woke up until she walked into school. I believe the above photo and a bathroom break or two were the only moments they weren’t on. She even refused to take them off for teeth brushing! I think I am safe to declare mission accomplished here.

If you are looking for this kind of basic no-fuss patterns that you can easily customize or maybe just looking to dip your toes in the waters of design or maybe you are a spinner who is having trouble knitting with your handspun, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs. It is guaranteed to fit the bill & be loads of fun to use!


And the Winners Are…

When I look back over all the changes the past year has brought into my life and what I have learned from them, there is one lesson that stands out from the rest. That is the power of two little words: ‘thank you’. They are two little words that are easy to take for granted. We are all busy & sometimes we forget to employ them in our harried moments.  Sometimes we even don’t acknowledge them when they are said to us. They pack a punch though and what we can never forget is that there are people on the other end of those words. People who will remember when we take the time to sincerely use them. People who will not forget when we fail to say that simple ‘thank you.’

This year has brought many ups & downs for me and my family, but throughout I have seen examples — both big & small — of gratitude that have really touched my heart. I have come to understand that there is no greater grace in everyday life than just remembering to say ‘thank you’, in having gratitude for & being mindful of all the things in this life that others do for us. From friendly & helpful associates while shopping, to my neighbors who picked up our mail while we were away, to my husband who works long hours so I can stay home with our kids — there are gestures both incredibly small & tremendously big that all deserve acknowledgement. It is one breath, one moment, but those two words that can be worth so much.

In this way, it has become my own personal goal to use them unabashedly. To be mindful of each of these encounters and to remember to take the time every day for these two little words whenever they are appropriate & deserved. There is nothing I do in this world that is done in a vacuum and to those who help me & take part in making my life so good, well, they deserve to hear a ‘thank you.’ It is because of this ‘mission’ that for each comment on my anniversary blog I attempted to offer a personal ‘thank you.’ Each of you took the time to write such wonderful, touching, inspiring, and encouraging words. It has so warmed my heart to know that in my own little way I have been able to touch your lives, even if just a bit. It has been my privilege & great joy to be able to share my experiences, adventures, & stitches with you. It’s been an honor & great fun to chat back & forth with those of you who have emailed or commented on posts. Thank you for being a part of Sure, I do the bulk of the writing & sharing here because it is my site, but it is together that we get to make this place truly special. Thank you for helping me build this little corner of the interwebs — it would not be half of what it is without you!

And now, the news you’ve all been waiting for… the winners of the giveaway!

My daughter was very excited to help with the drawing, so we went old school — each of you got your name on a little slip of paper, those who had referrals/were referred got their extra entries, too.  Each paper was the same size & folded in the same manner.

20130826-090730.jpgThen my assistant mixed up the entries in our very official bowl and drew two names.

First, winning this skein:20130822-140534.jpgis….


And second, winning this skein:20130822-140542.jpgis….

20130826-090745.jpgtera (referred by shadowlillies)!


Winners, I will need you to email me at — knittingsarah [at] gmail [dot] com — two bits of information:

1) Would you like your skein wound into a center pull ball or sent as a hank?

2) The name & address to which you would like it shipped.

Please let me know within the week so I can get the yarn shipped out to you. Should any of the winners not contact me within 10days, I will redraw for that prize.

Thank you everyone for your kind words and this wonderful first year! Here’s to many more!

Happy Anniversary *GIVEAWAY*!

Today is a special day for me — it marks one whole year since I officially introduced my Knitting Sarah site and gave it a proper address at For someone with no formal web or photography training, it was a big & intimidating undertaking for me. I had no idea if I would be able to construct the space that I wanted. Of course, it didn’t help that when I first started building this site, I didn’t exactly have a clear vision of where it would take me or what it would become. Years and years ago when I start blogging, it was more about snapshots & less about words simply because with a young family that was all I had time for. In building this site I hoped that I would be able to continue with the projects that I had going — my ‘Today on my needles…’ serial, for example — and also create a little more room for words; reflection, humor, advice, reviews, and — most of all — a place for me to more fully document my work & my life. After a year, I feel like I have made myself a rather lovely little home here at and I could not be happier about that fact.

A huge part of the warmth I feel here is thanks to you — my readers. Whether you realize it or not, I am excited to answer your questions & respond to your comments. I so love hearing from old friends, past students, and new friends alike. As my view count marches swiftly on toward 20,000hits, I am humbled and so glad to have each of you here with me as I discover and explore what it means to be a knitter & spinner today and how the fiber arts fit in with my life as a wife & mum. Whether you read this because you are in my circle of family or friends, you love nature & the outdoors, you’re a birdwatcher, a mum, a knitter, a spinner, or whatever the draw — I just want to say thank you. I appreciate that you take time out of your day to read my stories & look at my photos.

To show my appreciation, I am offering a giveaway!  Hooray! Two lucky readers will win a skein of handspun yarn spun by yours truly.

The first skein is my ‘Hitting the Road to Rhinebeck’ from Susan’s Fiber Shop — dyed exclusively for Susan’s by Frabjous Fibers I spun this into a roughly worsted weight 3-ply.

20130822-140534.jpgA blend of wool, bamboo, silk, & tencel, this blend is about 150yds and is the perfect colorway for the upcoming autumn.

The second skein is the Caravan colorway, also from Frabjous Fibers. Spun into a heavy worsted or bulky 2-ply this 100% merino wool is sure to be nice & cozy!

20130822-140542.jpgThis is skein is roughly 90yards of soft, smooshy wool.

I did my best to pick season appropriate colors so that you could knit it up right away should you be one of the lucky two winners. Of course, as I am writing this I realize that actually is hemisphere biased… well, how about we call the colorways gender neutral. That’s good, too, right?!  Please know that this is handspun yarn — the weight & yardage is my best estimation & there will be irregularities within each skein. If you haven’t spun with handspun yarn, get ready to enjoy a very different kind of yarn!

In any case, to enter the giveaway simple leave a comment below. Refer a friend & get him or her to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment & I’ll give you BOTH an extra entry. Entries will be taken through 10am CST on Monday, August 26th, 2013.

Thanks again for a great year!