Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hey, what's the Big Idea?

"Books do furnish a room."
                               --Anthony Powell

So maybe you’d like some new knitting books for the holidays, or maybe you’d like to give one to a dearly beloved knitter?  Here are three that recently crossed my desk.  They’re all clever and meritorious, and  I shall rank them in order of technical difficulty.

The easiest, technically, is The Knit Parade, by Rebecca Rymsza (Collins & Brown, 2013). This book’s Big Idea is that you can individualize a generic unisex sweater (crewneck, long sleeves) with graphic intarsia images. Stars, keys, telephone receivers, hearts pierced by lightning, leopard spots—you’ve always dreamed of a sweater decorated with these kinds of motifs, right? Each motif ties in with a pop song—that aspect is way past my realm of consciousness, but perhaps you know a teen-at-heart who’s plugged into this current, and you’re looking to knit her/him something transiently cool and tragically hip. At any rate, the patterns are clean and simple, and offer an encouraging introduction to basic intarsia. Who knew intarsia could be this funky?

Then we have Classic Elite’s Shawls, Wraps & Scarves:  20 Ideas, 3 Ways (Sixth & Spring, 2012). The Big Idea here is, as the title says, multiple garments from a single stitch pattern. Maybe this doesn’t seem earthshaking, but each of the twenty prototype patterns is distinctive, and each is worked up in different yarns to different lengths and different proportions. It’s actually quite magical to see how a master pattern can yield differing results as the variables of yarn, needles, etc. change. The photography is really good, the garments beautiful. This book is my pick of the three, if you want to go with only one. It provides the most bang for the buck, if you think of its contents as really sixty patterns rather than twenty, and in terms of these patterns’ shelf life. They’re classic, elite, and will never go out of style. 

The most interesting of the three is Irish Schreier’s Reversible Knits (Lark, 2013). The Big Idea here is training a knitter to become adept at knitting garments that have no wrong side. It’s an excellent technical primer; there’s a lot of good information about stitch/fabric composition (including a small swatch lexicon that offers painless trialing of the techniques), and about fixing mistakes; and there’s an array of designs, ranked in difficulty from Beginner to Experienced, that combines beauty and technical expansion at every level. This is a book for a dedicated and curious knitter…in fact, I’m probably going to start on one of its patterns very soon!

So there you have it—three very different knitting book possibilities; together they’re fairly representative of what the annual crop of knitting books yields. Attractively designed, interesting to read, gimmicky to varying degrees, and offering solid technical advice, they’re good gifts for any knitter, including you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Knitting New England...

...rather, knitted whimsy outside the only LYS in Melk, Austria (population 5,000), where I was last week.

I once attended a lecture on images of knitting in art, in which the lecturer opined that yarn bombing is a form of graffiti. Sometimes it is, I suppose, especially when the yarn bombers choose particularly noisome shades of acrylic, like neon lime green or Day-Glo pink.

Bicycles are apparently objects ripe for yarn-bombing--cf. the photo on this blog, last spring, of a yarn-bombed bike in Charleston, South Carolina. Perhaps it's the odd angles of the frame in contrast to the roundedness of the wheels that offer so much opportunity to practitioners of this so-called graffiti. Actually, I think in these bicycle examples, "graffiti" is a misnomer. Yarn-bombed bikes provide eye-catching advertising for their charming yarn stores, sort of like the shop-signs of yore that featured images of a merchant's or artisan's specialty.

Zum Wildern Mann, Passau
Anyway, I went inside Melk's LYS, "Frau Wolle," and poked around, and felt very much at home.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Earbud sleeve: a free pattern!

Some weeks ago I walked around New York City noticing how everyone was wearing earbuds, or, if their ears weren't plugged up, they had with artful insouciance slung earbuds and attachments around their necks or stuffed them into breast pockets as if they were spaghetti ascots. Instinctively I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be able to carry this off, because I am woefully maladroit in the tech-toys department, and deliberately uncool.

Perhaps this explains why it's impossible for me to keep my earbuds from tangling, no matter how carefully I roll them before stowing in a cute book-replica box that had once held a bar of soap. I pondered this a while. It then struck me that I could perhaps knit a cord cover, so that I wouldn't have to spend twenty minutes trying to straighten the buds before using them. (Proof of uncoolness: I use earbuds only to talk to H on my cellphone. This is because he claims to be unable to hear me during cellphone chats if I'm holding the phone near my face.)

I cast six stitches onto a #2 dpn, picked up another #2 dpn and began knitting an I-cord with leftover sock yarn. After an inch I decreased, over two rows, to four stitches, then stuffed the base (the plug) of the earbud wire into the knitted tube. The only thing one needs to keep in mind while knitting an I-cord tube around a wire, is always to bring the yarn around the back of the wire each time a new row begins. Work with a small ball of yarn, too, to keep the process manageable.

I continued to knit until the entire wire was swathed in I-cord up to the fork, where the wire divides to each earbud. At this point I consulted the Knitting Goddess, who advised me to increase to eight stitches, using the K1 M1 increase, then put four stitches onto a holder.

I continued knitting first up the left wire, then, picking up stitches at the fork, up the right wire.  I stopped when I got to the microphone, although you might want to stop earlier, and I cut the yarn, leaving a four-inch tail.  I removed the dpn.  The tail was threaded onto a yarn needle, and the needle drawn through the open loops, the yarn cinched, the tail cut, the end woven into the tube.  The same closure was effected for the left wire.  Et voila!

The next step was to figure out what to call this garment. I thought Earbud Sweater would do, but my pal, Pink Mohair, saw it yesterday and said, "It's not a sweater, it's a COSY." Then Neuroknitter saw it today and spontaneously announced, "It's a SLEEVE--an Earbud Sleeve." Amen to that!

So here it is--an Earbud Sleeve that keeps your wires from tangling! In a world where so little can be controlled, how thrilling is that?!

Photo credit:  R. Grahn

The next "IT" accessory?          Photo credit:  R. Grahn