Monday, August 26, 2013

The golden, golden rule

Last week my sister, cousin, and I were in the Amherst, Massachusetts area, poking around the Montague Book Mill--"Books you don't need, in a place you can't find" is its motto--having a lovely day when I came across one of those archetypal bulletin boards that flourish wherever green people congregate.

Perhaps in perusing the above photo, your eyes were seized by the same notice that captured me.

This reminded me that even though it's still August, it's not too early to think about knitting something to contribute to a cold-weather clothing drive, whether it's a hat, scarf, a pair of mittens--or even a kid's sweater, if you're feeling ambitious. I recently researched the history of charitable knitting for an article that's just out in the latest Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2013.  It's called "Knitting for Charity:  The Perennial Spirit of Giving" (pages 18-23) and as I worked on the piece,  I found it fascinating to learn that knitting for charity in this country dates to the Revolution (at least the records do--possibly the practice began even earlier). When you knit an item for charitable distribution, you join a great historical continuum of American knitters. That's kind of wonderful, IMHO. 

The article provides a list of databases for charitable knitting, some of which are keyed to specific regions of this country and even the world. If you'd like to donate a knitted something to a charity closer to your home than the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, or that serves a specific population (like veterans, Afghani children, preemies), you can find the perfect match for you on one of these. Anyway, this is a shameless plug: the article is a fount of information, and if you buy the magazine you get a bunch of excellent patterns and articles as well!

The Montague Book Mill is a great place to visit. There's a good café downstairs, and you can have a meal or just a drink--including alcohol--at a table overlooking the Sawmill River. And you can buy a lot of books you don't need, but will thoroughly enjoy.

Charitable knitting works two ways. One is to knit something and give it away. Another is to raise money, through selling knitting or through a related endeavor, like the sale of a pattern or a book of patterns, then donate that money to a cause. Such is the mission of a book (published by Sixth and Spring) that's been around since last year: Knit Red: Stitching for Women's Heart Health, by Laura Zander of the Jimmy Beans Wool company.

You can buy it from Jimmy Beans Wool, or on Amazon, and a portion of the proceeds will go to heart disease research. For the price of the book you get thirty lovely, classic patterns by major designers like Deborah Newton, Nora Gaughan, Ysolda Teague, Nicky Epstein, Tanis Gray, and Martin Storey (to name only a few), plus interesting insights from the designers' biographies, a bunch of heart-healthy recipes, and some practical medical advice. Perhaps if you're too busy to knit something for charity, you'd consider buying the book instead, and contribute to funding medical research?

Well, here's the moral of my disquisition.  Whatever you want to do is fine--just don't knit there, do something! Regardless of the intended recipient, it's the charitable act itself that sends lots of good energy into the world.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What goes around...

Now that I'm a grandma-to-be, I'm recycling the sweaters et alia designed and knitted for Son the First in 1979. Some moth-hole repair is warranted, but all things considered, they're in decent shape.

Catch my posts on KNITTED TOYS on the Lion Brand Blog starting on Monday August 12th! (Yes, I am behind the times, as always....)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer reading that lasts all year

Reading Knitologie by Lucy Main Tweet (Glitterati, 2012) is like listening to a thoughtful, interesting  friend who happens to knit really well. Written in a cordial manner that blends personal narrative with lucid directions, it's the kind of book that gives you ideas by the armful, many of which are incidental to the book's principal topic--how to incorporate alphabet letters into handknits--but all of which are absorbing, practicable, and life-enhancing.

For example, some of Ms. Tweet's good ideas are about basic, knitting-worthy colors--she favors blue and white, blue and yellow, certain neutrals--that work well with almost anything and provide a canvas for the imagination. It's a relief to find someone who isn't obsessed with black, tangerine tango, or kelly green.  She also has great ideas about storing yarn oddments and ball bands (in glass jars, so they're visual incentives).

Then there are the clear graphs of letters you can knit, plus a couple of icons, a paw print (inspired by the author's Coton de Tulear) and a heart. While many people could graph their own alphabet, how nice that these are already charted, saving knitters valuable time! Most of the photos show these letters in monochromatic designs, an embossed or damask effect, but a few are in contrasting colors, and those letters really pop. Since some of the patterns are for useful kid items, like scarves, caps, and mittens, I'd prefer to go the CC route, so garments can be quickly identified when rummaging through the nursery school Lost-and-Found box.

The book itself is beautiful, thanks to the teamwork of Ms. Tweet and the book's designer/principal photographer, Sarah Morgan Karp. It says something good about the publishing company--Glitterati--that they'd encourage such close collaboration, and that's one of the reasons the book is distinctive. The layout of letter charts, pages for notes, the patterns themselves which showcase the letters, even a clever integrated ribbon bookmark--all express the care and attention that distinguish a fine book from one that is merely packaged.

One last point--by focusing on the knitting of integrated letters, Knitologie delivers what it promises; that is quite satisfying.  Many knitting books covering a lot of material end up being uneven in content and technical advice.  Knitologie suggests a range of possibilities, offering, as it does, a basic tool kit rather than a project-based format.  Its pattern options, like pillows and mittens, have the dual purpose of teaching a knitter to do the basic work, and making her aware that that she can transfer the technique to her own designs.

P.S.  I almost forgot to mention that Lucy Main Tweet lives in Massachusetts. Hurray, New England!