“Being a writer who still uses ink to write out, and then cross out, each early draft of a manuscript,” novelist Michael Ondaatje writes in his foreword to Jason Logan’s incredible book Make Ink, “I had to meet him.” Ondaatje had been given samples of Logan’s inks made from peach pits, clam shells, kerosene — his specialty, and the subject of his book, is creating ink from foraged materials. When they met, “it felt like being introduced to someone with the skills of some lost medieval craft.” The fact that Ondaatje still writes in ink is astonishing, but also, what kind of craft book includes a conversation with the likes of Ondaatje, and artwork by a panoply of creatives (or “visual thinkers”) from artist/illustrator Gary Taxali to painter Hiroaki Ooka* to writer Margaret Atwood? We’ve got bookstore aisles for literary fiction and creative non-fiction, but a literary craft book is a different breed of cat. And one I’m highly on board with — albeit belatedly, as this has been sitting on my desk since September, waiting for me to notice how great it is.
There are loads of craft books so pretty you might happily put them on your coffee table and never do anything more than flip through them admiringly. Others you actually crack open and make things from. As beautifully written as it is photographed and designed, this one begs to be read from cover to cover, like a good essay collection, whether or not you ever attempt to make your own inks (or for what purpose). Especially if you’re the sort who enjoys learning the obscure histories of things — like, say, Oak Gall Ink:
“… an inerasable ink called iron gall, oak gall, or, more recently, registrar’s ink. It was the ink of record for weddings, funerals, and contracts; before that it was the ink found in one of the oldest surviving Bibles, the Magna Carta, and Beowulf. It was the favored ink of da Vinci, Victor Hugo, Bach, and the US Postal Service. This is an ink with a pedigree.”
Oak Gall is black, yes, but like any good dye book, this one is full of recipes for an entire rainbow of colors, to be used in art making or writing, on paper or fabric, presumably. I’m particularly smitten with the aqua blues of Copper Oxide Ink, and although I may not ever make any, I love knowing it’s possible. And look forward to reading every page of this gorgeous book.
. . .
Also, not a book but I recently discovered that natural dyer Kathryn Davey (who I took a class from several years ago) has a full-length tutorial on her blog for dyeing with avocados. I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time and can never find enough info to feel like I know what I need to do. It’s so simple that most dyers, when asked, go “oh it’s the easiest, just boil ’em up and add your yarn or fabric.” But … pits or skins or both? How much dye matter as a ratio to the water? Do you need to worry about mordant? Thaw the pits if you’ve frozen them? Strain it or what? I have so many questions, and Kathryn’s is the most in-depth blog post I’ve seen.
Wandering around Ravelry late last week, I ran across a new-to-me designer named Leeni Hoi and fell for her lovely halo-y sweaters knitted in fingering weight yarn held double with a strand of silk-mohair. This is one of the tricks I remember being awed by when I first took up knitting, and I have bought two or three skeins of silk-mohair over the years with a plan to try it, and yet I’ve still not done it. Which is ridiculous, because in addition to creating an incredibly soft and supple fabric — just look what it does for these three beauties — it’s also a good way to boost fingering yarn to a gauge I’m happier knitting at, while still creating a garment lighter than a worsted-weight sweater. Win/win/win.
ABOVE, TOP: Shimo Sweater has a pretty cables-and-bobbles motif that dovetails neatly into the hem and cuffs
ABOVE, BOTTOM: Vaña Sweater is a simple reverse-stockinette pullover with a few graphic lines of ribbing to set it off
BELOW: Uhuru Sweater looks like a super-basic pullover, but offers the surprise of a triangular detail at the cuffs and back of neck
If you haven’t seen all the great responses on Wednesday’s Q for You — or haven’t weighed in — don’t miss that, either.
Happy weekend, everyone!
IN SHOP NEWS: For the first time this year, I think, we’ve got all three colors of the Town Bag in stock, all three colors of the waxed canvas Field Bag (camo! plum!) and all four colors of the plain canvas Field Bag. (Although very few of some, so use that Notify Me button if you run into it!)
On my sewing list for quite some time has been the Hudson Pants pattern from True Bias, with the intention of sewing this ostensible sweatpants pattern in a woven fabric, as I’ve seen many people do. But Mac Housley has put me over the top on it — she tells me she’s sewn at least 6 pairs, ranging from flannel pj’s (for the whole family) to the sage green pair above, among others. I’ve mentioned Mac twice in Elsewhere lately — in the context of @meetmakersofcolor and her fantastic Love to Sew Podcast interview (please tell me you’ve listened to it!) — but today I’m here to tell you I have a Maker Crush on her, straight up. It’s not just the Hudson pants, but her energy and openness and apparent willingness to dive right into whatever tempts her. Mac stopped crocheting (hopefully not forever) after her grandmother died fifteen years ago and is eager to learn to knit, but she has taken up sewing in just the past few years and is already a powerhouse thanks to that aforementioned diving-in mentality.
In addition to her joint ventures @meetmakersofcolor and @sewalteredstyle, and the blog of the same name, her @macsmakespace account has become one of my favorites in recent months, and I particularly love her ongoing IG Stories wherein she checks in regularly about works in progress and so much else. If you’re not already following her, I’m sure you’ll find her as relentlessly inspiring as I do.
In addition to my shawl-collar vest idea and the navy pullover I still haven’t quite sorted out, the other thing I’ve had in mind to possibly knit for myself this year — making alternative use of a sweater quantity of wool in my stash — is a textured wrap. I’ve still never knitted a scarf, but have always wanted to knit a big blankety wrap of one sort or another. Some contenders:
MIDDLE RIGHT: Castlemilk by Cecelia Campochiaro, sequence knitting which could be easily scaled wider
BOTTOM: Heure d’Hiver by Emilie Luis, I’d leave off the fringe and elongate the ribbing
BELOW: En Voyage by Espace Tricot, just shortened a bit
Plus there’s still Julie Hoover’s Wallace from last year’s Favorite New Favorites, which is probably in the lead. But I’m also recalling how much I loved knitting the stitch pattern of my Channel Cardigan, and thinking that could make a lovely wrap as well.
— I love this piece by my collaborator-friend Jen Hewett (above) on being a creative and a recovering perfectionist. For me, being one too, this bit about her great grandmother is the perfect tiny life lesson: She was a talented cook, but sometimes her cakes didn’t rise properly. “My mother never called those failures,” Auntie Maude said. “She’d slice that cake, pour some cream on top, and call it a ‘pudding.’ And we loved those puddings.”