Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Best of Boston

The City of Boston and charity knitting have been much on my mind recently, the former because of the horrific Marathon bombings of April 15th, and the latter because I'm writing a magazine article about said topic. I was in Boston yesterday for a meeting near the bombing site, so betook myself over to Boylston Street.

What can I say? If you happened to arrive from Mars yesterday, you'd have no idea of the mayhem and tragedy that occurred almost exactly two weeks ago. There are a few boarded up windows to notice, flags flying at half staff, a strong police presence, and this small spontaneous memorial around a newly-planted tree.

Knitters, ever generous, often contribute their work to people and organizations that  can benefit from hand-crafted warmth. But there's not a whole lot a knitter can do to assuage the pain of the bombing victims and their families. However, one company, Classic Elite Yarns, has dedicated the proceeds from a downloadable and beautiful shawl pattern, White Clover, to the One Fund Boston which serves the Marathon victims. This company's thoughtful gesture is something any knitter can easily support. The pattern itself is timeless, so if you can't knit it immediately, you won't have to worry about its going out of style.

White Clover, designed by Susan Mills, for Classic Elite Yarns

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yarniana: let the games begin!

For the past year or so I've been the happy recipient of review copies of knitting books, so it seems proper to dedicate some space here, maybe once a month, to telling y'all what's riding the latest incoming wave. Some of these volumes will be familiar to you, or at least their authors will, and others will be novel and amazing. I shall offer my humble opinions, and feel free to agree or not. (Full disclosure:  I prefer to review only books that have what I define as merit. Life is too short to read, or review, unappealing work.) Since summer approaches, I'm going to start by reviewing books that offer heat-friendly knitting, inasmuch as they're dedicated to small or lightweight projects.

So here it is, The Vogue Knitting Ultimate Hat Book (Sixth & Spring Press, 2012)

Maybe the grandest thing about this compendium of designs that have appeared previously in Vogue Knitting magazine, is its educational value. If a knitter were to make each one of the fifty (50!) hat patterns here, s/he would come away with a very full knowledge of knitting technique and knitting propriety, by which I mean that the designs are perfectly suited to the kinds of yarn required. (For example, one would not be advised to make the Double-Knit Hat designed by Elli Stubenrauch in a yarn heavier or less elastic than the fingering-weight called for, as that would most likely doom it to failure.)

One side of the Double-Knit Hat, designed by Elli Stubenrauch.

So, if you followed the directions as written, you'd practice (and perhaps learn for the first time) double knitting (i.e. reversible!) and intarsia. And you'd come away with a clever and useful little cap. Though I'm generally not a big fan of pictorial knitting, I must admit that I find this design, called "bird on a wire," very adorable.

The other side.

The designs are prefaced by short sections on the history of hats, anatomy of hats, and types--the latter offers useful images of basic hat shapes--and there's a mercifully brief boilerplate discussion of basic techniques. (At least there is no seemingly-obligatory section on "how to knit," which most knitting books, no matter how advanced, compulsively repeat.) The patterns themselves reflect a range of designers, from well-known (Deborah Newton, Pam Allen, Norah Gaughan) to up-and-coming (Jacqueline van Dillen, Mari Tobita, Anna Al). The fifty designs as a whole reflect the delightful way that modern knitting incorporates the textile heritage of Europe, Asia, and the Americas through technique, motif, color, and style. 

Does it have any limitations at all? Yes--these are designs intended for women, though some, like the chullos, trapper, beanie-style, and aviator hats could easily be adapted to fit those of the male persuasion. But apart from that, it really is, as the title claims, an ultimate compendium. Great photography, clear layout, instructions, charts, and timeless designs--it's really one of the best knitting books I've found, and the list price of $24.95 (obviously even less if you buy through a discounter) is quite modest considering what's included.

Isn't this pilbox by Mari Tobita elegant? And just think what a good cabler you'd be if you knitted it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Postcards from the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl of 2013

What I liked about this event: friendly folks, beautiful yarn, fiber animals, and a great sense of knitting community.

Knitting designer and ER physician, plus two progeny, all modeling Mom's handknits.  www.casapinka.typepad.com

Friendly Shadow Pines alpacas modeling fawn-colored fleece outside of Eneri Knits, Exeter RI.
Barn of knitting people at Mt. Hope Farm.
Above:  Stitchy McYarnpants and the collected works of Stitchy McYarnpants

I bought this mug from a talented Rhode Island potter.  Check out Rising Sun Earthworks
Linda Perry of Thistedown Studio was one of several vendors of beautiful hand-dyed yarns.

The Slater Mill Guild was well represented.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So much for spontaneous knitting...

Yours truly is not in a good mood.

I had this idea a while ago that I'd just sit down and improvise-knit a shawlette in a beautiful yarn by Nashua called "Grand Opera" (whose name I like as much as its tactile qualities), and this shawlette got to a certain point, then turned into a UFO. Recently, though, I found a reason to finish it--it became clear that a friend, who is ill, could really use it--and off to work I went.

Then I ran out of Grand Opera, and it took me a while to figure out how to finish the edging ruffle.

I'm adding a tipping of Misti Alpaca Handpaint in a colorway called Maple Gray, which sounds kind of New Englandy. It looks fine. The only problem is that a metal end of the Addi Turbo circ I was using decided to disengage itself from the cord yesterday. GRRRRRRR!!! This is the second time in two years that an Addi Turbo has crapped out on me. The first time I returned the badly-behaving (and I shall add, expensive) needle to the company and it was swiftly replaced. Now, however, I no longer have the packaging...though I will make a valiant attempt to effect another exchange. I do not understand why these needles are so cantankerous. It's not as if I abuse them. Has any one of you, gentle knitters, experienced similar problems with these otherwise acceptable needles?

So I am trying to figure out if this UFO will ever leave the premises. (Maybe it wants to live here forever and is indicating that via paranormal behavior?) Tomorrow commences Day 1 of the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, and I have plans to participate. I might have to bite the bullet and buy another size 5 circ.

Lola has picked up on my mood.