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?

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