Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Reviews from Around the World

Literally and officially a ton of people contributed to Knitting Around the World. They  contributed historical background, commentary and edits on text, their personal and professional knitting stories, photographs, and just general good will. Not surprisingly, a lot of these people are knitting experts of one stripe or another. And over the course of the past few months, their own, excellent, books have been trickling in to me through the mail.

Lis Stender’s sweet little volume, Knit Tajarutit Greenlandic Wrist Warmers, shows you how to do just that. There are five patterns offered in all, and of them, the oak leaf is apparently the most traditional. Shown with silver beads on burgundy yarn, they certainly are dazzling. But if, like me, you’re a novice bead knitter and not sure you can handle the most challenging pattern straight out of the gate, “Black Gold,” with its repeating small crosses, and “Hearts” are good for simple starters. 

I made “Aurora Borealis” as a gift for a friend’s 50th birthday. The instructions were perfectly clear and once I got the hang of placing the beads as I knit (a snap, really), the wristlets stitched up in no time. The only minimal challenge is stringing the beads onto the yarn in the first place, which is more tedious than difficult. Both the wristlets and the booklet itself will make great holiday gifts. And if you need even more inspiration, check out the autumn issue of Keitodama for a few more pattern ideas. 

Estonian knitting has captured the imagination of so many knitters over the past couple of years. Including, most recently, Carla Meijsen and Hilly van der Sluis of the Dutch Knitters. (Some of you may also know Carla from her Sampler M knit along.) The two have just released Warm Hands: Estonian Mittens and Wrist Warmers, a pretty volume written in both Dutch and English that documents the women’s journeys through Estonia to learn about knitting there. Photos throughout do a good job of showing techniques (like two-color stranding and various braided cast-ons), as well as some more personal aspects of their trips. Eleven mitten patterns in all – some traditional (like the snowflake motif from Helme in southern Estonia), some hybrids (like my favorite, featuring windmills); plus two patterns for (beadless) wrist warmers, each using several Estonian knitting techniques.

Three other Dutch knitters – Henny Abbink, Anke Grevers and Connie Grevers – have dedicated themselves to preserving certain knitting traditions from the region of Gelderland. They wrote about gebreide mutsen (knitted bonnets) for KAW; these, they reported, were worn in the late 19th century by farm women who could not afford to buy lace bonnets, at a time when all women, at all times, kept their heads covered, even when they slept. Gelderse Gebreide Mutsen features 2o bonnet patterns they worked out and recreated themselves. Gebreide Kralen Tasjes gives the same treatment to beaded coin purses – yes, more bead knitting! Both books are written in Dutch only, but the charts are straightforward, and the photos alone might inspire you to pick up some (tiny) needles.

I wrote a through review of Annemor Sundbo’s book, Knitting in Art, for Twist Collective several issues ago. Pretty much anything Annemor writes is well-worth reading; she’s the Norwegian knitting historian/archivist supreme, and it’s fascinating to track with her all the various ways in which traditional knitting impacts art, fashion, and daily life. She’s got a brand new book out, which has yet to show up on her website, but be sure to stay tuned.

Finally, some knitting that appeared not in KAW but in Astounding Knits – and aptly so. Because Alasdair Post-Quinn isn’t kidding when he calls his creations Extreme Double-Knitting. We’re not just talking about patterns that duplicate on the reverse side here. Post-Quinn has worked out an elaborate method for stitching up one pattern on the right side, and a whole other pattern on the “wrong” side. You’ll find the pattern for perhaps the most remarkable of these, his “Falling Blocks” hat, in this his first book. There are also patterns fallingblox aficionados will recognize from Post-Quinn’s blog: the “Four Winds” hat, with its nifty little trick of managing to have the letters of the compass points successfully reverse; the “Whorl’d Tree” bag; and just to make sure I’m sticking with themes here, “Wrist Chakra” wrist warmers; plus much-needed instructions and explanations galore. I heartily recommend this for all you knitting brainiacs out there.  You know who you are.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Live" on Subway Knits

Thanks to Maria of Subway Knits fame, who trekked all the way from Queens to Brooklyn a few weeks ago to interview me about Knitting Around the World. I sure do love to chat about knitting with like-minded souls. Check out the podcast!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Big in Japan

“Do you have a favorite chapter in Knitting Around the World?” Why, yes indeed I do – thank you all for asking!

While it’s true that in my research I explored the history of a slew of fascinating techniques native to many noble countries, I admit, I have a soft spot for Japan. And likewise, for its somewhat underreported knitting traditions.

Thanks to the expert assistance of Jun Miyamoto, my “correspondent” in Tokyo, I was given a view onto what is a rich, conflicted, still-developing, but not entirely new art/craft in the country – in fact, the knitting historian of Japan, Yoshihiro Matsushita, postulates that Japanese knitting dates back at least to the times of the samurai, and to samurai themselves.

In the U.S., knitting has lately become such an accepted and integral feature of our culture – it permeates daily life, fashion, craft, art, to such a degree that some younger knitters may find it difficult to remember a time when this was not the case. But the various facets of Japanese knitting life that Miyamoto reported on illuminated a community still somewhat in flux: an old guard determined to maintain rigorous, professional standards of technique and construction, versus a new generation of knitters looking for a modicum of creative freedom.

Members of Tokyo's Stitch 'n Bitch group. Photo by Jun Miyamoto

Thanks to the Internet, writes Miyamoto, “the new generation can read EZ’s words for themselves and see how contemporary knitting goes far beyond what Japanese culture has to offer, from Nora Gaughan’s newest stunning designs, to Dave Cole’s American flag swatch made with gigantic knitting needles and a pair of excavators. Now we can freely combine dignified, stringent chart knitting techniques and relaxed, unconfined knitting methods, right alongside our computer screens.”

Honestly, I can’t wait to see what develops!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jeanne d'Arc: The Costume

Here is Ada in all her knightly splendor, just as we were heading out to collect our requisite 100 lbs. of candy.

My only gripe: metallic yarn knit in the round on metal needles is quite the slippery challenge.