Books lately

Books lately

I know I normally let books stack up for six months or a year before I tell you about them, but there are two new releases that are too good to let sit!

Above is Slow Knitting: A journey from sheep to skein to stitch by Hannah Thiessen, who defines “slow knitting” as “a conscientious choice to respect our materials and the people who make them, but also to respect ourselves and time we devote to the hobby we adore.” Hannah asked me two years ago if I’d be willing to write a little essay for this book, and I was inspired by the way she framed the question she wanted me to answer. I think it’s been about a year and a half since I actually wrote it, and I’m happy that it’s finally out in the world, because it’s my favorite thing I’ve written about what handmade clothes mean to me. But that’s just one page of the meaty book Hannah has put together! It’s broken down into five chapters: Source carefully, Produce thoughtfully, Think environmentally, Experiment fearlessly and Explore openly. Each chapter expounds on what that means, and each includes two patterns plus the stories of the yarns used. The 10 patterns are designed by Pam Allen, Veronik Avery, Julia Farwell-Clay, Carol Feller, Meghan Ferdandes, Norah Gaughan, Bristol Ivy, Kirsten Kapur, Michele Wang and Jennifer Wood. And it’s a gorgeously designed hardcover with lush photos by Katie Meek. I look forward to reading it!

Books lately

Also, my friend Andrea Rangel’s second book just hit the shelves and it’s a doozy. Alterknit Stitch Dictionary contains 200 punchy, graphic colorwork motifs, along with guidance on how to use them in projects and/or designs, followed by a handful of fun patterns by Andrea. It’s given me itch to do some colorwork, quick!

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PREVIOUSLY in Books lately

Books lately

Books lately

In addition to the two gems that went into the shop recently (ALJ and The Artisan), there have been a lot of beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking books piling up on my table over the last … uhhh .. nine months or so that I’ve been wanting to tell you about. Here they are all at once!

The New Garconne: How to Be a Modern Gentlewoman by Navaz Batliwalla has no DIY angle and isn’t even specific to slow fashion, per se, but the women featured are the sort who take their wardrobes seriously — in the sense that they add pieces with thought and intention and expect to wear them for years, whether they’re bought new or vintage. I.e., the normal attitude from the days when we didn’t need a special term for it! It’s a collection of interviews with a variety of women — artist, fashion editor, perfumer, etc. — about their clothes and their lives (peppered with informal shots of their homes and workspaces), followed by a one-page tribute to each of the key wardrobe elements and a bunch of great street-style shots of additional women of great style. It’s beautifully designed, fun to flip through, definitely on the aspirational side, and I’m rationing the 14 interviews for myself to make it last a while. (Hardcover)

The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees grew out of the wardrobe-planning blog Into Mind, which you may remember me raving about here. It’s an encyclopedic guide to re/building a wardrobe, with guidance on everything from choosing a color palette to understanding what works for you to being a more conscious consumer. It’s quite dense and I haven’t gotten to read any of it yet but have seen lots of raves, and would love to hear below from anyone who’s spent real time with it. (Paperback with French flaps)

In Search of the World’s Finest Wools by Dominic Dormeuil and Jean-Baptiste Rabouan is a big, gorgeous glossy coffee-table book — a tribute to the farmers and herdsmen around the globe (from Australia to Central Asia to South America and beyond) who are literally preserving ancient traditions on which we all depend but who are under increasing global pressures. From the intro: “We must never forget that a splendid cashmere garment worn by a model in a Paris fashion show only exists thanks to a Mongolian nomad … . [Rabouan’s] photographs capture the beauty of traditional methods of animal husbandry, amplified by the magnificence of diverse natural environments. However, this beauty must not blind us to the difficulties facing wool growers everywhere. … [C]an we do enough to ensure the survival of the last guardians of these beautiful and rare fibers? Their disappearance would take with them part of the history of human civilization.” It’s stunning from cover to cover. (Hardcover, sent to me by the publisher)

Color Confident Stitching: How to Create Beautiful Color Palettes by Karen Barbé (I love her) is the perfect intro to color for those who didn’t go to art school and study color theory (as I tend to forget not everyone did). It’s not a textbook — it’s slender and beautiful and accessible — but it’s a fantastic overview of how color works and how you can make it work for you, from how to use and think about the color wheel, to how color affects us and our moods, to how to create a palette for your next project, whatever it may be — colorwork yoke, cross-stitch sampler or living-room decor. In the back of the book are a handful of lovely stitching projects, incorporating embroidery, cross stitch and duplicate stitch on knits. (Paperback with French flaps, sent to me by the publisher)

Cocoknits Sweater Workshop by Julie Weisenberger is one I’ve mentioned before but wanted to include here anyway. This is Julie’s master explanation of her modified top-down methodology which leads to sweaters with English-tailored shoulders and set-in sleeves rather than the common top-down raglan method. She describes the process in the front of the book, explains how to calculate and track the numbers you’ll need, and all of that is followed by eight (highly adaptable) sweater patterns and a detailed run-through of the abbreviations and techniques they employ. Another gorgeous book, and I’m dying to try out her method!

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PREVIOUSLY in Books: A Year Between Friends

 

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A Year Between Friends

A Year Between Friends

It’s been a while since I saw a book I felt compelled to feature here, but then a copy of A Year Between Friends landed on my desk the other day. Do you remember 3191 Miles Apart? (If not, that link won’t help!) It was the blog of two friends — Maria Alexandra Vettese (“MAV”) and Stephanie Congdon Barnes (“SCB”) — that took the form of missives between them about their lives in Portland ME and Portland OR, 3191 miles from each other. They stopped blogging a couple of years ago to concentrate on this book, and while I haven’t exactly read it cover to cover, it appears to have been well worth it.

Just like the blog, the book is a combination of short letters, casual photos, craft projects and recipes, but in this case, it’s organized by month. January, for example, contains a letter from each of the friends; a few pages of scene-setting photos; recipes for buttermilk scones, a Good Luck Frittata and Warming Up Tea; musings on a winter home; a tutorial for making and using beeswax spoon oil; another for felted patches for mending socks; and a winter day trip from each of the Portlands. Whereas June contains the letters and photos, recipes for Summer Strawberry Pie and Raspberry Ripple Yogurt Pops, an essay about solstice in Maine and a tutorial for sun-printed napkins. There’s a lot of natural dyeing, some hand-stitching, even thoughts on cleaning out closets and cabinets. Perhaps the most valuable tutorial of all, though, will be the pinecones. Do you remember when I posted about their leather pinecone keychain way back when? I still get inquiries about how to make it, four years later. While the version in the book (complete with templates) is written for silk-backed wool with a ribbon instead of a lobster clasp, I feel like it could be easily adapted for leather (and might have to give it a try).

There have been a lot of very formulaic craft books lately — a series of project tutorials in a nearly identical presentation, some better than others. This book is much more intimate: smaller and thicker, paperback, filled with the personal photos and personalities of these women, and I look forward to spending more time with it.

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PREVIOUSLY in Books

Hot Tip: Count your cable crosses correctly

Hot Tip: Count your cables correctly

I’ve written before about my aversion to being on publishers’ review-copy lists, but when I heard Norah Gaughan had a book about cables coming out — with photos by Jared Flood, including the one glimpsed above — you know I signed right up for an advance peek! The mailman dropped it off yesterday and I would like to curl up with it for a few days, please. Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook (currently available for preorder) is an incredible compendium of over 150 cable motifs, along with a dozen garment and accessory patterns and all sorts of Norah wisdom, like the little nugget she kindly allowed me to share below.

You know how I love knitting cables, but one thing I struggle with sometimes is counting the rows between them, given that by their very nature they distort the fabric. I’ve taken to pinning a marker in an adjacent plain stitch in the same row, and counting from there. But Norah has a much simpler and more foolproof tactic, which I will quote verbatim rather than paraphrasing:

“At the point where your cable crosses, there is always a small hole. For some reason the hole tends to be larger on the left side of the cable for most people, so that’s the hole I use in my counting technique. I put a finger into the opening from the back of my knitting, then use the same finger to open up the ladders above the hole so I can more easily count the ladders. When counting ladders, the first one is the cable crossing. So, if you count 7 rows above the hole as in the photo above, you’ve worked the cable + 6 more rows.”

Brilliant! By the way, it’s just a month until I get to meet Norah in person at the Knitting With Company retreat and I’ve heard there are still some spots available. So if you’d like to spend a few days knitting with Norah and me — plus Julie Hoover and Catherine Lowe — in a cozy lodge by a scenic lake, get your registration in!

ALSO — SPEAKING OF GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN OCTOBER, if you’re wondering whether Slow Fashion October is happening again this year, the answer is YES ABSOLUTELY YES. I’m just still pinning down the details yet — so watch for more on that very soon!

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Abuse your swatch

Elsewhere: Cowichan edition

Elsewhere: Cowichan links edition

Although I picked it simply because I loved it and wanted to knit it, I had hoped the pattern pick for the Fringe and Friends Knitalong this year (Pierrot’s Cowichan-style Geometric Vest) would stir up some interest in Cowichan sweaters — despite the fact that it’s Cowichan-style and not an authentic Cowichan. Happily, there’s been even more questioning and discussion than I had imagined. I have a Q&A coming up with panelist Andrea Rangel about Cowichan Valley and the people and their sweaters, which has always been part of the plan, but I thought I’d preface that today with a special edition of the usual Elsewhere links list: a Cowichan edition. These links should offer some background as well as some specific guidance for those planning to knit along.

Note, too, that I have a conversation coming up on Monday with panelist Meri Tanaka in which we talk about Japanese patterns, how to read them, and specifically how to read this one. So if you’re nervous or having any difficulty interpreting the chart, look for that on Monday. For now, some links—

HISTORY

Cowichan knitting history at Wikipedia (somewhat flawed, as all Wikipedia entries are) which also talks a lot about the wool

The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters
PLEASE READ BEFORE CLICKING: Panelist Kathy Cadigan told me about this documentary before the knitalong kickoff, and it’s been mentioned both in the comments here and on Instagram. This is a pirated film — it was based on knitting designer Sylvia Olsen’s thesis and is on YouTube without the filmmaker’s permission, so it is a copyright violation. Sylvia herself is conflicted about this, as discussed in this blog post of hers, because it’s apparently the only way to see it. Follow your own conscience.

The Cowichan Sweater of Vancouver Island, a great piece on how things went terribly awry when the Vancouver Olympics committee tried to make a Cowichan the official sweater of their Olympics, shared by Alina in the comments

BOOKS TO CHECK OUT

I am not in possession of any of these, but plan to rectify that asap! Some are out of print, but used copies can be found—

Salish Indian Sweaters: A Pacific Northwest Tradition by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts

Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts (pictured above, photo courtesy of Jess Schreibstein)

Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater by Sylvia Olsen

Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns by Sylvia Olsen

Thanks to @kathycad and @thekitchenwitch for the recs.

HOW TO TRAP FLOATS

Several of you have seized on Kathy’s comment in Meet the Panel about trapping the floats on every other stitch, which is how true Cowichan sweaters are knitted. We don’t know of a tutorial online that’s specific to Cowichan, but this technique is also called the woven method of stranded knitting, and Kathy sent me two fantastic links:

The first — the two-handed Fair Isle technique by Philosopher’s Wool — is a great intro to the two-handed method of stranded knitting, in which she also demonstrates trapping floats every other stitch when working from the knit side of the fabric.

The second — Weaving two-handed Fair Isle in purl and knit by Jodie Gordon Lucas — shows how to work the same technique from the purl side, which you’ll do if you’re knitting colorwork flat.

RESOURCES

A few people have asked where they can buy authentic Cowichan sweaters — i.e., from the Coast Salish tribespeople — or how to make a donation. I have googled but don’t feel good about linking to anyone selling Cowichans online without having a way to say for sure that they’re dealing fairly with the Coast Salish knitters. If anyone reading this does know of a sure, reliable resource that sells online, please let me know or leave a link in the comments below. And that goes for any links you think are worth sharing! This list is certainly far from comprehensive, so bring it on!

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Wabi Mitts kits are back in stock at Fringe Supply Co

IN SHOP NEWS: The time is right for my Wabi Mitts, and the kits are now back in stock in all 8 gorgeous colors of Habu’s incredible linen-wool roving. And if you’ve been looking for any of the sold-out sizes or colors of bone and horn buttons — either the narrow-rim or concave styles — look again! We got a bunch in this week. Get those and more at Fringe Supply Co.

Thanks for a great week, and please have an amazing weekend!

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PREVIOUSLY IN #fringeandfriendskal2015: Meet the Panel! (full series here)

Good reads

Good reads

There have been a lot of good books piling up on my table lately—

Home & Away: Knits for Everyday Adventures by Hannah Fettig
I loaned Hannah a few Fringe Supply goods to be used as photo props for her latest book and she sent me a copy in return. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with it — such a beautifully photographed, beautifully produced book! It’s a collection of 8 sweater patterns (and 1 hat) but it’s also a compendium of all the basic info you need if you’re new to sweater knitting — from choosing your size to picking up stitches for the edgings.

Madder Anthology 2: Simple Pleasures by Carrie Bostick Hoge
I bought the digital version when it was first announced and forgot a print version would be landing on my doorstep one day. Great collection — as I raved at the time — and another gorgeously produced book.

Nordic Knitting: Thirty-one Patterns in the Scandinavian Tradition by Susanne Pagoldh
This is the out-of-print gem mentioned in my post about Jules’ Faroese shawl. My friend Kate brought her copy to Columbus for the trade show in May so I could have a look at it, and wound up sending it home with me — on loan, mind you. Her last words to me that weekend were, “You have to send that book back.” And I better do it soon, but will definitely be acquiring my own copy.

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack
This was sent to me by a very kind reader (another Kate!) and I am beyond in love with it. Spivack asked sixty-some notable people (from John Hodgman to Rosanne Cash and Rachel Comey) to tell her the story of a single garment in their wardrobe — “memoirs in miniature” — and they’re SO GOOD. Each day when I need a little brain break, I open the book and read the next one, and I’m sad I’ll run out of them in a couple of months’ time. Probably the appropriate thing to do when I reach the end is to send it on to the next person, but this one will be on my shelf (or maybe my bedside table) for life.

Fix Your Clothes by Raleigh Briggs
I bought this little zine from Have Company and it’s the most charming and useful thing — all handwritten and illustrated, of course, and covering everything from emergency fixes to proper mending and darning techniques to dealing with buttons and zippers. Love.

Yokes by Kate Davies
My admiration for Kate Davies is well-documented and naturally I bought her new book when it published a few months back. The subtitle is “Eleven signature designs, with stories of the sweater that changed the shape of modern knitting,” and it starts out with an incredible history of the yoke (across regions) that I can’t wait to sit down with someday soon.

Similarly, I’m incredibly eager to get may hands on Susan Crawford’s book, Vintage Shetland, which isn’t published yet. Crawford — a self-described “knitting anthropologist” — has spent four years painstakingly creating patterns for 25 pieces from the Shetland Museum. The patterns and writing and photography (of Shetland, the museum pieces and the pattern samples) are all done and the printing is being crowdfunded. Her Pubslush campaign started today, so you can find out lots more over there.

On Seattle and Shetland

On Seattle and Shetland

I’m on a plane to Seattle today — tending to some very important FSCo holiday business, being a guest at Tolt’s Stitch Night (Thurs 6-8, are you coming?) and seeing a pack of my favorite knitters, some of whom are also in town for Tolt’s anniversary celebration this weekend. I’m sad that I have to board a plane on Saturday at the same time Gudrun Johnston is giving a talk at Tolt about the history of Shetland knitting. If you have to choose between going to Tolt when I’m there and when Gudrun’s there, you should totally choose Gudrun! She’s signing her new pattern collection, The Shetland Trader Book 2, in the morning and then the talk is from 1-3. For those of us who are going to miss all that, at least there’s the book, which she was kind enough to send me, and which is lovely. It was shot by Kathy Cadigan (whose photography skills, coincidentally, are the chief purpose of my trip) at the end of that Grand Shetland Adventure I wailed about missing out on a few months back.

The book contains nine patterns: four pullovers, a cardigan, a tank, a hat (two variations), a stole and a cowl, and it’s heavily Shetland inspired — from the yarns to the stitch patterns. But as Gudrun explains in the Foreword, it was also very specifically influenced by Belmont House, where the photos were taken. The house is on Unst, as far north as the Shetland Isles go, and the restored 18th-century estate lent its color palette to the garments as well as the photos. So there’s a lovely symbiosis about it all. My favorite patterns are the ones pictured above: Northdale colorwork pullover, Snarravoe twisted-rib and lace pullover, Hermaness Hats, and the Sandwick striped cowl for being so unexpected. You can see them all (and get the book for yourself) at Ravelry.

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One quick note: DG will still be here packing the Fringe Supply Co. orders while I’m away, but today is Veterans Day, so there’s no mailman to hand off today’s orders to till tomorrow.