Tuesday, February 6, 2018

E pluribus unum, y'all...

A few weeks ago I was standing near the Rhode Island State House, craning my head to see--over an ocean of hand knitted pink Pussyhats--some demonstrators dressed as brick walls with misogynist quotes (colored bricks) from The Donald. The demonstration wasn't as inspiring as last year's event in the same venue, but the number of Pussyhats was definitely higher and heartwarming. I wore my last-year's model, and so did my companion--I'd knitted it for her--but I was dismayed to see that hers was full of moth holes. I will not provide a replacement, harumph.

This event put me in mind of a quintessentially American motto--viz. the Great Seal of the United States, and random pennies in your piggy bank--which also, interestingly, expresses my thoughts about knitting reference books. Some of you may own knitting stitch dictionaries, and if so you will notice that they all share a lot of basic content, but each one contains stitches that are unique. You may have discovered this if, like me, you were on a search for a particular kind of stitch and needed to consult several dictionaries before locating what you wanted. After such a search you understand that technical information is not generally contained in one volume, no matter how encyclopedic it purports to be.  It's the aggregate of your knitting references that creates the Repository of Knowledge--e pluribus unum, indeed.

So, too, with more elaborate compendia of knitting information and technical facts. Recently I had to write a piece about mitered squares, so looked through several volumes in my library to see what could be gleaned. The answer was:  very little.  Deborah Newton's definitive Finishing School provided the most sophisticated-yet-accessible discursus on the value of mitered corners on knitted garments. There was little to nothing in anything else--most surprising, actually--so I forged ahead and wrote with only the benefit of my practical knowledge. However, a few days after going to press, I received a review copy of Vogue Knitting:  the Ultimate Knitting Book (Soho Publishing, 2018) and discovered in it two solid pages about mitered squares--more than ever were dreamt of in my philosophy, for sure.

Since then I've consulted this tome several times, always finding what I wanted, and more. Most impressive, perhaps, is the clarity of the illustrations. I'm one of those people whose brain starts to melt the minute I see a diagram, particularly one that illustrates knitting loops and needle insertion into said loops.  Daunted by such schematics, I usually try to learn a new technique by watching a video on Youtube, or asking a friend to demonstrate. To my amazement, I taught myself how to cable cast-on (and very quickly, too) from the diagrams on page 34 of this Ultimate Knitting Book!  The book is written with a creative knitter in mind--someone who wants to understand garment construction, or who wants to acquire (or add to) a useful skill set. A beginner could benefit from this book, but it might also seem overwhelming--my sense is the target audience has at least a few years of experience and seeks new challenges, whether in garment construction, finishing techniques, or just making something she knits as well and as beautifully as she can.

It's no surprise that the text was written by a gaggle of contributors as well as "the editors"--four people listed up front, also as "the team"--and these experts have provided a wealth of knowledge based on practical experience. So once again, e pluribus unum--this book contains multitudes (to reference another American icon).