MKG Cable Gram - Volume 21, Number 1
I finished my first sweater!! It fits and it’s gorgeous and it’s warm and cozy and I made it! That just feels so incredibly good. It’s also one-of-a-kind, since I modified a basic Pure and Simple pattern with a cable edging from Nicky Epstein’s Knitting On the Edge. For buttons I went to Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, where they were incredibly helpful in finding something that was chunky enough for the yarn weight I used and special enough for my unique creation. They even encouraged me to lay the sweater out and place all six buttons down to see how they were going to look before I decided whether to buy them.
Of all my knit Christmas presents, the fair isle monkey hat was probably the most popular. One thing I learned, though, is that worsted weight is really just too thick for color work. The monkey hat is so sturdy it can stand up on its own -- it’s like a little Christmas topiary. Which probably means it will be more of an art object than a worn garment (so now I’m an artist -- I’m not complaining). Another big hit was the kitty hat from a pattern in the first Stitch ‘n bitch book by Debbie Stoller. I added some Lion Brand Fun Fur yarn to the ears and cuff to make it more furry. Still on the cat theme, I made catnip mousies from a pattern in Stitch ‘n bitch Nation. According to my sister, her cats went ga-ga over the mousies and have happily ripped them to shreds, so I might have put a wee bit too much catnip in them.
The thing I like about the Stitch ‘n bitch books is that they have patterns for ridiculously silly things, like the kitty hat for adults. What’s sometimes frustrating about both of these books is that the patterns can be hard to follow because thedesigners seem to have made up their own shorthand and aren’t following any kind of standard notation. Some of the patterns are not very elegant, either, and I’ve had to modify basic elements like shaping.The same is sometimes true of Teen Knitting Club, but the projects -- including a choker, squiggles scarf, and head kerchief -- are so cute that I doubt most kids will care about a few clumsy directions. In contrast, I find that Interweave Knits consistently features elegantly written patterns, including the leaf cravat (read: fancy-pants scarf) by Teva Durham in the Winter 02/03 issue, which I made two of for Christmas presents (and now I want one for myself).
About the only person I didn’t knit a Christmas present for was my very deserving husband, so now that the Christmas rush is over I’ve started making him a sweater. That was after we looked at about 17 million different patterns, give or take. Why was it so hard to find a pattern he liked? I don’t think it’s him, he’s not what I would call fussy about clothes. It was just hard to find something more interesting than a Mister Rogers sweater but not so froo-froo that only Carson Kressley of the Fab Five could pull off wearing it in public. We finally settled on a loose-fitting cardigan from Jo Sharp’s Knitting Bazaar collection. The herringbone stitch pattern on the top half is very subtle, which in practical terms means knitting with smaller gauge yarn, which means it’s going to take a lot longer to finish than my worsted weight sweater. The yarn he chose is Rowan’s felted tweed, which is a soft wool blend that’s really nice to work with and doesn’t split.
Sometimes I’m in the mood to immerse myself in knitting, but without actually picking up any needles, and lately I’ve found the perfect book to satisfy this craving: For the Love of Knitting: A Celebration of the Knitter’s Art is a collection of art, essays and stories all about knitting. Talk about elegance, this is the coffee table book for knitters. It’s full of delicious color photographs of yarn, old knitting patterns and advertisements, and new art like Debbie New’s Labyrinth of Rebirth featured on the cover and Karen Searle’s wire Spirit Throne, featured in our very own Textile Center. The black and white pre-WWII photos include a shot of knitting schoolboys from St. Paul that accompanies the memoir When Knitting Was a Manly Art. A few of the pieces are reprinted from other publications, but even if you’ve read them before, the pairing of text with artwork brings them to life in whole new way. One piece I’m especially fond of is an original story by Amy Votava called The Afghan, because it gives readers -- probably knitters -- the gift of hearing from someone who received a charity knit just how much of a difference it made in that person’s life.
If you’re really feeling like a couch potato (or should I say "when?"), check out Knitty Gritty on the DIY channel, a new show about knitting. But wait, before you roll your eyes about another hipster horning in on knitting, take a look. Host Vickie Howell gets all the big names on her show -- Lily Chin, Melanie Falick, Sally Melville, Vicki Square -- and with the faboo "knitty cam" you get to watch these designers in action, close up, demonstrating their projects step-by-step right before your eyes. If you miss something or want to see it again, you can find any episode online (at the website diynetwork.com) and watch video clips of the techniques as many times as you want. I just love technology, don’t you?
Books mentioned in this article are all available in the Textile Center library.
Look for Knitty Gritty on diynetwork.com