Saturday, 29 September 2007

Book review: knit knit

The pictures are taken from Knit Knit: profiles and projects from knitting's new wave, by Sabrina Gschwandtner (2007): Stewart, Tabori and Chang. The following designs - cover art, Fibreglass Teddy Bear by Dave Cole (the head alone weighs 400lbs), City of Stitches, Isabel Berglund, and Convertible Cardigan by Wenlan Chia.

I guess it had to happen sometime, knitting gets on the ascent, new designers are established, old designers are rediscovered and someone has to come along and document it. To paraphrase Derek Walcott, she's the scribe capturing moods and words while the knitting designers wrap their heads with yarn and draw blood with needles, so to speak.

On one hand, as an English graduate, I appreciate of the power of words, of the fact that paper is the perfect techology: easy to produce, easy to access and short of fire and acid it is relatively sturdy. I'm also aware of the fact that getting studies published is one way to give a hobby validity. On the other hand, I tend to approach such efforts with caution, because such offerings tend to veer on the stuffy and underwhelms one.

With Knit Knit, I'm glad to say that I'm wrong.

What helps is that Ms. Gschwandtner is a knitter, and the maven behind knitknit magazine, so the love for the craft is apparent and makes for easier reading. A caveat however, if you're looking for a knitting book with pretty pretty clothing patterns, this is not the book. You do get a couple of great garments by Anna Bell (Bridie) and Wenlan Chia (see cardi above), but the book isn't focused on garments. You get patterns for a 1000lb teddy bear, a knitted room calling for 150 balls of 50 g cottons (for a start!) and mini sweater earrings (about 1/44 of an inch).

Because I'm pressed for time, I'll just break the comments down into pros and cons.

Pros: Designers all, the great, the good and the quirky. Some designers have I haven't even heard of before (Catherine Lowe, with her 35 page knitting patterns) and other designers that I've seen around the internets, but never really investigated the scope of their work (Dave Cole's ginormous American flag done with earthmovers). There are the populist designers - Norah Gaughn, Teva Durham and Erica Knight - and other designers that you might not necessarily know, but you might know their patterns (the Knitta Please posse). The book is lavishly photographed, the interviews are interesting, and the patterns are inspiational.

Cons: The patterns are quirky, some of the designers probably shouldn't be in there (in terms of influence on knitters or knitting), and it's a book that would be more for the coffee table than the patterns actually being used.

Overall, I do see myself getting this book eventually (this is not my copy, it belongs to my friend, Pat) and I'm torn between giving it 3 or 4 stars out of five. I can't give it a five, because it doesn't seem like a book I could use, but it's really pretty.


Just thought I'd show you where I am with kim so far.

This is Kim from the first Rowan studio. If you look at my Ravelry page (or just google 'Kim' by Sarah Hatton) you'll see the finished knit. Essentially, it's a ribbed and cabled boob tube.

At first, this pattern stumped me because it was so badly written. You had to increase stitches whilst casting on and with instructions such as this: Row 1 (WS) K2 [0:1], (P1, inc purlwise in next st P1, K2 P2* to last 11 sts, K2 P2, inc purlwise into next st P1) 0 [0:1] times... only to find that there are TWO Row 1s and it was enough for me to leave the pattern and yarn in my knitting bag for the next five months!

But the weather draws cold, and one needs warmth without bulk, and this is the ticket. It will also look good over a simple T-shirt or top. I can't wear felted tweed against my skin, more the pity. It would be a cool top for the summer.

So, details, no?

Pattern: Kim by Sarah Hatton Rowan Studio 1
Yarn: Rowan felted tweed x3 skiens in pine (a deep mossy green, not so blue/spruce as in the top left photo).
Needles: 3.75mm + 1 cable needle
Size: small - it's best that you knit this with negative ease, just so that the tube stays up.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Sarah Hatton - my new favourite designer.

Okay, so Ms. Hatton isn't a new designer. She started working with Rowan from issue 37. But she's really come into her own between 2006 to now. She has a new book out with designs for the whole family, with the new Rowan wool yarns. Look here for a total browse.

She has also done the sweetest designs for felting to the point where I'm thinking of buying it just because.... even though I don't do felting.

I do like Ms. Hatton's style. It's a wink to the classic without being too stuffy, high fashion without being too OTT.

Oh! Also, have you seen Martin Storey's new work. A few of the jumpers are actually simple enough for my hubby to wear. Well done indeed.

Are there any new designs y'all are gung ho about?

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Stick a fork in me because Blithe is done!

Also, because I'm as plump as roasting hen.

Pilates, here I come.

Pattern: Blithe, by Kim Hargreaves. The pattern is very well written: there's alot going on in the pattern, but it spells it out so that you can do it at once. The pattern is interesting, and has a lovely tailored result to it. The next time I do this pattern, I'll do it in the round, because the stocking stitch (the back piece) damned near killed me with boredom.

Yarn: Paton's 4ply tumble rich yarn in chocolate. The yarn sucks: plasticky, splitty, the less said about that the better. In retrospect I should have used the yarn provided. Next time.
Mods: Different yarn, short row shaping for shoulders.
Size: 34" - could have gone up a size - or lose a stone! Will do the latter.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

I got tagged by hunnybunny!

So the rules are simple, use the letters of your middle name to describe yourself, and then tag five people. True story, I used to go by my middle name in prep school. I still think its a friendlier name than my first name. Once I reached high school, I had to use my first name.

Dang, I have been at this for an hour, halp?

Creative. I like to be creative, hence the love for knitting.
Harried, I tend to be rushed all the time.
Eager to learn new things.
Rhythm I can dance very well when no one's watching
Y - my favourite question to ask
Loyal- intensely so. It's a bad habit though.

No tags here, but feel free to try.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

On being that girl

When I grow up, I want to be a zephrstyleknits girl. I want to be able to dress unconventionally, to slink hither and yon with my own breeze as I move from place to place, garments gently swaying in the wind.

I want to be that girl.

The girl that makes men stumble when she does that smile, the tongue between the teeth (the trait which looks more beguiling and childlike than childish and retarded), the quirk of the eyebrow showing amusement. The quick shrug of shoulders that is more eloquent than words.

Yes, that girl, the one that makes old men stand a little straighter and feel a lot younger. The one that every guy falls just a little in love with, the one where all women want to be her best friend, because she's smart and non threatening.

That girl wears something like this: a simple knitted top teamed with a lacey camisole, smart trousers and a flower tucked behind her ear. Look how cunning the top is, cap sleeves, garter stitch, a lacey cropped swingy tunic in a colour that doesn't ask to work with anything. It is enough to be cute. Look at the oversized shell buttons! Look at their placement and the leather thong!

I've been squeeing like a mad, mad thing ever since the pattern was posted.

But the the thing is, like my friend Helen says, I'm not that girl. I am more sporty casual, with a knitted hoodie, fingerless gloves and a fatface bag strapped across my body. Instead of smart pants I wear jeans, and hiking shoes.

I'm the sturdy girl, the one who has to think thrice before knitting something, because once knitted, it has to reflect my style, the casual, the sturdy, the solid. Someone who wears a hoodie, because she takes public transport (as well as being a pedistrian) and for whom clothes are more than an expression of personality, they are also a comfort and a home (hoodie up to protect the neck and face, pockets for mp3 player and phone).

To be honest, I need to take more risks in knitting.

I'm trying to get out of the mindset of dark colours, and sturdy shapes. With knitting, I can and should be able to experiment (within reason) with colour, and shapes, and try to explore my inner unconventionality. If I don't like it, I can rip it back, right? I tell myself. On the other hand, my knits have to reflect my way of living, my personality and the fact that I expect these knits to pay for themselves by me wearing them to death.

That top is too cute to be worn to death. It's a top designed for clever layering, for mild summer knits and college days. It's for that girl with laughter like a brook and her tongue between her teeth. It's not a top for hikes in the peat district, with a knapsack on my back. *sigh*

It's okay, I've gotten used to being sturdy girl, but damn it, I want to be that girl, and tear down my bloody stupid topdown to use the yarn for Juliet.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Baby's first swatch

Today was a lovely day, so I got my camera and started taking pictures of my stash to upload to Ravelry (to the people giggling in the penny section, shut up. I mean it).

The stash is a fearsome thing, and you should go and look at my lovely stash - but I digress. While digging through my stash, I found the first swatch I ever did.

It felt so strange, in my hand, this swatch. It is more than just a piece of knitted cloth, this is the culmination of a yearning to create, to hold colour. It is a true mark of me being here, even when I'm gone.

I don't know if I've ever told you about how I started knitting.

Like many things in my life, it started with Harry Potter.

Harry Potter belonged to Gryffindor house, its colours a blaze of sun and heart, red and gold. I always wanted a Harry Potter scarf, to have my neck warm against the bluster of raw wind that we in Nottingham get from time to time, but the scarves were too thin, too bulky, not gold enough, not red enough, too thin, too thick.

There were a lot of possibly mabyes, but honestly, nos.

I knew I'd get my Harry Potter scarf, it was just a matter of when.

Inspiration struck when I was on the tram one night in December, when I heard a jangle of metal, and saw a girl knitting a scarf. Her needles were shiny pink metallic things, turning a thin piece of string into something substantial, something useful.

She was knitting her boyfriend a scarf, she said, and my divine architect was moved.

"Yes," I remember saying, being charmed by the ease and skill of her craft. "I want to do that, I shall learn to knit a scarf."

There was a John Lewis in the town, and they had yarn, and then I found out that my Spanish friend knew how to knit. I asked her to teach me how - and we bought this yellow yarn (the top colour is accurate) because it was bright - a bit of sun to hold in one's hand- to keep the gloam of winter away.

We also bought 4mm needles. That night was a Friday night, we huddled in a gothic bar, and Maria showed me how to do the long tail cast on.

Then, I struggled through the knit stitches. It was difficult, because Maria didn't know the terms in English (she learnt to do this in Argentina) and her way was awkward. Undeterred, I found a tutor at school (I was doing classes there), and she taught me the knit stitch, then stocking and rib. It was brilliant to know the myriad possibilities with just two sticks, two stitches and a piece of string. Two, it seemed, was the magic number!

After that I got the Stitch and Bitch book and that's all she wrote. I knitted a pink scarf, then a lace scarf and moved on to jumpers. There was so much to learn and so little time and hooyah, see the hill take the hill.

Strangely though, I haven't gotten around to knitting myself a Harry Potter scarf. I knitted one for a friend in the US (a fellow HP fan) but never one for me.
I couldn't knit this scarf in cotton anyway - it wouldn't keep!

And also, I don't think I'm a Gryffindor anyway, thumping on ceremonial drums about my goodness and bravery. I'm interested in how things work, and am insanely loyal to a cause. I veer between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, but the latter house colours seem much more me.

This swatch tickles me pink, because I can see my progress in the space of two years (it seems I started knitting in 2005) in terms of twisted stitches and uneven tension.

All I know is, this swatch is the reason why I love knitting - you can literally hold time and memories in your hands, like a personal pensieve**.

It's odd, the first swatch. I shan't throw it away at all.

** In the HP books a pensieve is a container that holds your memories for a time (you fish them out of your head/temple with a wand), while you look at them, rather like a three dimensional moving image. There's more to it, but not everyone who reads the blog is an HP fan.
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Friday, 7 September 2007

My next project

So, the other day, I was in Cornwall on a holiday. My hubby likes camping, and since his like for it outweighs my disinterest, I go. I don't mind sleeping on the ground, or coooking my meals outside. I even like the time away from the hum of electrical appliances, and the seven mile hikes. I don't even mind sharing a toilet, or using a chemical one.

But what I hated was the shower arrangements. The showerblock was fifteen minutes away, and I'd get up in the morning, clad in my shortsleeves and boxers and stumble to the showers. I'd move briskly halfway, because it was so cold, and mumble under my breath about the lack of a hoodie.

To be honest, I hate the ready made hoodies. They tend to bag too easily (no matter how expensive) and just look a certain way. I thought to myself, "C'mon Jazz, you're a knitter, knit something".

I know I wanted a hoodie that was snug, that I could wear it around town- as well as on a camping trip - something warm enough to wear around an English campsite, but flattering enough to wear it to a big city. It had to be warm, and kinda stylish. I knew that cables would figure into it somewhere (for the warmth), but I didn't want it to be too fussy, as cables can be if you're not careful.

Then, I saw this 'Central Park Hoodie' from Knitscene, and it was a wrap.

Unfortunately, I can't wear tweedy yarn against my skin, and since I tend to wear shortsleeves under my hoodie (layering, it's what's for fashion), the itching was a no no. I wanted to knit it in Jaeger extra fine merino yarn - but the colour that I have 9 balls of (shade 546) is finished. The yarn itself has been discontinued for a couple of seasons now.

The one I got was like an auburn (dark red orange colour), but the nearest is a burgundy, and I do not like that colour. I'm not feeling the urge to try and gather other potential balls by using ebay either.

I might knit Valpuri in the Jaeger instead. It's a nice top that would work with layering, a long sleeved shirt underneath.

Blame my friend Pat for the sudden interest in Cables.

I shall.

So I'm knitting Central Park Hoodie in Rowans all seasons cotton. In a colour called military . The texture of the colour is more like Rowan denim after it is knitted up.

From my research (reading blogs), it seems that the ASC takes cabling nicely, and the acrylic gives the cotton a 'spring like' loft, so that sagging should be minimal. I've knitted with a cotton/acrylic blend before, and it's really a good mix.

I'm tempted to knit the entire thing in 4mm needles (instead of 5.oom)- a tighter knit should guard against the sag, but I'll have to swatch first, and do some Math. I've ordered an extra ten balls of ASC (it was going cheap) so that I can have yarn to do so.

But not before I finish my Blithe. I'm doing the back now, and when I settle, I'll do the sleeves as well.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Blogger, why you do this to me?!

I was really going to give this entry a snappy title, like "Back in the Saddle Again." or "Knit 'em in, and purl 'em out" but Blogger refuses to let me load my pictures. Auuugh. *stabbity at blogger*

Anyways, if you're interested in my pictures, you can have a butchers here at my flickr account.

I'm almost finished with the front of Blithe. The reason why it's taking so long (relatively) is the fact that I'm doing both fronts at the same time. I can't say that I'd recommend the yarn I'm currently doing it in - Patons diploma gold 4ply 'wool rich' yarn. First, it's splitty, then it just feels like plastic. I'm no yarn snob, because I like Paton's Haze, which is a rich cotton/acrylic blend. That's very soft, and really lovely to knit with. This diploma gold is terrible - even my cast on looks raggedy (cable cast on) For the back, I'm going to try a tublar cast on, just to see if it's any neater.

Anyways, have been swimming around at ravelry, and I have come to the conclusion that Norah Gaughan is a goddess. She is so clever! Everything she designs is worthy of a second look. Her designs are articulate and intellectually engaging.

I'm panting after this catalogue/booklet - her first designs for Berroco yarn in book form. But Berroco doesn't ship outside of Canada, and another place is quoting $16.90 US *dies* for shipping a booklet to this side of the pond. The book itself is $15.95 US. *dies again* I can see at least four things I'd like to knit, especially this piece. So brilliant! I'm only sorry that I can't get the particular yarns (merino) that are comparable to the Berroco gauge, but I'll try.

Anyways, that's it for now. I need to finish vacuming and get some lesson prepartion done for my class at 13:00.