Sunday, August 29, 2010

And that made all the difference

Same pattern.  Different yarns.

Left:  worsted, edged with Artyarn.  Right: cashmere, silk, merino blend edged with Noro Silk Garden.

If you'd like the pattern, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Though very fond of this vine and leaf design, I'm preparing to try other embossed patterns. Everything happens in the fall, does it not? As I write this, summer's doing a last-gasp heat wave, but the handknitting, as it were, is on the wall. The season of mist and mellow fruitfulness approaches.

NB: two days left before The Poetry of Knitting Contest closes!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Coming to the Langworthy Library Knitting Association meeting yesterday, I passed a car in the parking lot whose license plate read "BKIND." These wise words carried over to the meeting, where Jane, knitter par excellence and founder of the group, was busy instructing eight-year-old Amity, and her mom, in knitting. By now our collection of donated needles and yarn is large enough that we can provide materials for anyone who might stop by and want to learn to knit.

Jane is an excellent teacher--soft-voiced, clear, and patient.  She gave Amity a quilted knitting tote, and after she and her mom left, those of us remaining speculated as to whether they'd return. School starts next week, and things will get busy. But we are hoping...

Jane's passion is knitting socks, and she's designed a good basic pattern which I hope to post fairly soon. It led me to the completion of my first pair...and inspired by that project, I'm now knitting my third. When I brought my first pair to a recent meeting, I was given a Blue Plastic Yarn Needle to betoken my initiation. This is a tradition Jane established.

And here's a photo of Jane modeling a recently-completed pair of socks, knit in a beautiful German organic wool, Zitron.

For more examples of Jane's spectacular work, check out her website, Spirit-Sisters.

(I've been wondering if any of my readers are involved with library knitting groups in Rhode Island and elsewhere in New England. I'd be interested in hearing and writing about them.)

Well...time to pick beans in the garden. Before ending, however, I'll remind you that The Poetry of Knitting Contest closes on August 31st, in only five days. Submissions so far have been delightful!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes the best things are, you know. For example, who would have thought that purslane, a common weed-like infiltrator of otherwise impeccable gardens, is now the salad ingredient du jour, selling at chic venues like the NYC Greenmarket for upwards of six dollars a bunch?

 Find the purslane in this photograph!

Oh what does purslane, you may ask, have to do with Knitting New England? Simply this—that there are many knitting-relevant surprises in our own bailiwick, hiding in plain sight. The most recent discovery for me is the American headquarters of a fabulous European-based knitting magazine, Verena, in Providence, Rhode Island. And I was fortunate last week to have a conversation with Margery Winter, its American editor-in-chief.

Margery Winter, a RISD graduate and former editor of Vogue Knitting, comes to Verena with an extensive background in knitwear and fashion design, yarn development, and a fabulous fashion sense. The latter reinforces one of several major distinctions between Verena and other hand-knitting magazines. 

Verena patterns are haute couture far above and beyond what we usually see in American knitting magazines, and cause a serious knitter to think long and hard about what and how to knit. After all, if you’re going to put hours and hours of your life into knitting a garment, don’t you really want it to look amazing? Verena patterns—and at about 80 per issue, there are substantially more than in other knitting magazines—allow you to make a couture piece that you could probably not otherwise afford, and give you a real sense of how the European fashion industry operates in terms of fit, details, and finishing. The magazine's lavish photo spreads, too, are a pleasure, and as an additional bonus, the women's plus-sized, men’s, and children’s patterns Verena includes are definitely not your grandmother’s idea of hand knits. 

 Command Central at Verena, USA, in Providence.

I realize this sounds like a shameless plug, and I guess it is. I’m totally entranced by a preview copy of the Fall 2010 issue, which features a fabulous hooded vest on the cover, designed by none other than Providence’s Deborah Newton. The magazine can be purchased at some LYS and at Barnes and Noble, but it sells out fast.  Maybe the best way to get your own copy is to subscribe via the Verena website. Margery says the website will be totally redesigned and improved by mid-September. Even now, however, it’s still a good read and an interesting overview of the print publication.

As for my conversation with Margery, it was, to say the least, enlightening. Margery brings to the world of knitting a vision that’s new to me (and, I’d imagine, to many American knitters). She thinks about yarn, shaping, sizing, and impact from the perspective of the fashion designer who drapes and measures to fit, who plays with texture and color in unusual ways, and who understands the knit itself as fabric rather than stitches. But the bottom line, she says, is simply this—that “in fashion, as with art and beauty, there’s a universal denominator. People respond in a common way to what is beautiful. I’m searching for beauty. It’s a passion.”

Well, how inspirational is that?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sox on the beach...

I'm beginning to understand why so many knitters focus exclusively on socks.  They offer a lot in one little package. The patterns are three-dimensional and require no sewing, the work is easily portable, and within small parameters there are interesting technical challenges. If you knit socks with variegated, self-striping, or self-fair-isling yarn, it's thrilling to watch the colors unfurl.  If you knit socks that are cabled, argyled, or lacy, your socks will be lovely beyond description.  Hand-knit woolen socks feel better on your feet than any machine-made sock you can buy (except maybe for cashmere).

Socks may always be fun to knit, but in the summer they're really pleasant because, unlike the back of a sweater or an afghan, they don't cover your lap with a lot of thick material.  And you can easily knit en route to any destination--assuming, of course, you're a passenger.

Our destination, the Charlestown, Rhode Island beach--a.k.a. "Blue Shutters"--was beautiful today. It was our first trip of the season to the ocean.

We were surprised to see a new sign with a list of no-nos, including "rough and injurious activities," "nude sunbathing," "alcoholic beverages" and "glass containers." I infer that tobacco, drugs, loud radios, sandcastle smashing, and working with sharp pointed sticks are all ok.

(Fortunately, I saw only one person wielding sharp pointed sticks, and I wasn't about to report her to the authorities.)