Knitting Book Review: Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere (2010, Rodale Press, 242 pages, 26 projects. Source: personal purchase.)
By: Julie Turjoman. (Turjoman provides the editorial content; 26 contributors provide the knitting projects; Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed does the photos.)
Nutshell: 25% blogs/designers most knitters already know about unless they’ve been living under a rock, 25% oh THAT’S who that is, 50% projects you may or may not want to knit.
Background: I didn’t come early to the knitting revolution. I know there are some online communities dedicated to knitting that have been around for nigh on decades (the Knit List listserv springs to mind) but I personally didn’t discover the crazy, teeming world of knitting-related blogs and websites until I impulse-bought Mason-Dixon Knitting back in 2006 and got the needly bug. (I wish I had earlier; might have avoided the gauge issues that torpedoed my early attempts at knitting in the late ‘90s!)
I found Kay and Ann’s blog through their book, read all of the back entries, and visited every blog on their sidebar blogroll. I also lurked heavily on the Mason-Dixon Knitting Knit-along blog (which now seems to be, sadly, defunct) and from there realized that there were a lot of people JUST LIKE ME who liked to knit and wrote interesting and helpful and sometimes hilarious things about it...and I had a newborn baby and a newborn obsession (an actual baby, and knitting, respectively) so I spent A LOT of time holding a nursing infant with one arm and clicking on links with the other to see if people had written anything new that day. (This was before I discovered Google Reader. I like to think that the link-clicking built character.)
Nearly six years later, I still have a healthy roll of blogs, not all completely devoted to knitting, that I keep up on. I’m also a Ravelry member, occasional blogger, and voracious knitting book reader.
I was interested to read Turjoman’s book because the concept seemed clear: how has the internet, specifically the market shift represented by blogs and Ravelry, changed the world of knitting? I could not have been more her target audience if I’d auditioned.
Synopsis: Turjoman’s book features 26 bloggers-slash-designers-slash-knitting celebrities whose work has gained notoriety and prominence in large part due to their online presence. These folks range from the incredibly prolific and famous-for-knitters, such as Clara Parkes, Norah Gaughan, and Jared Flood--to the relatively unknown, such as Sean Riley, Hillary Smith Callis, and Jennifer Hagan. The book is divided into two sections: Garments and Accessories, which include a variety of sweaters, jackets, hats, socks, mitts, and scarves/shawlettes, all beautifuly photographed by Flood. Turjoman introduces each design with a two-to-three page article on its designer, focusing on his or her body of work, style, and connection to/thoughts about the online knitting community.
Sample: Soon after starting her blog, Kirsten [Kapur] was approached by Amy Singer, editor of knitty.com, about contributing a pattern to the online magazine. “That’s the wonderful thing about the whole explosion of the online knitting world: we get to find out about the new, up-and-coming designers, and they get a venue to work in.” The publicity from her appearance in Knitty gave a huge boost to her profile and her blog traffic. (176)
Woot: I’m impressed with the variety of designers featured. Some are the predictable online rockstars; others were new to me, and each feature article competently showed the designer’s journey and how the internet helped them on their way. The designs are, for the most part, fresh and interesting, and each is a clear reflection of its designer’s style. I added a few projects to my ravelry queue and a few blogs to my Google Reader after finishing this book.
My particular favorite designs: Jennifer Hagan’s Global Cable Coat, Wooly Wormhead’s Lenina Cap (and not just because it’s named after a character from Brave New World), and Ysolda Teague’s The Orchid Thief Shawlette. (I have a skein of Dream in Color Starry just waiting to be made into that last one.)
Meh: The subtitle says “Personalities,” but I beg to differ. Because Turjoman chose to write each profile in the third person, incorporating quotes from each designer, the profiles have a sameness that, when read cover to cover (‘cause that’s how I roll with the knitting books), gets a little tiresome. I also found her transitions awkward and, occasionally, as in the sample above, I had a hard time following how the quotes fit with the editorial commentary. If I were her editor, I would have tightened up each profile--two pages, tops--and focused more on revealing the designer’s voice through her or his words, not through the writer’s editorializing. Have Sean Riley TELL the reader in his own words that he was sad he had to close his yarn shop, don’t write awkwardly maudlin sentences like, “Despite heroic efforts, the economic downturn of 2009 forced him, with great sadness, to close the shop. In his sadness, he thought he’d take a break from knitting altogether” (206). Using “sadness” two sentences in a row like that is bush league writing.
Another meh: weird little sidebars (Knitters’ Guide to Essential Blogging Terminology) that define supposedly-blogging-related terms like Etsy, meme, ISO, and frog. Yes, I suppose it’s possible that folks new to the online knitting community might not know them, but they seemed like space-filler to me. I would have rather have read sidebars that showcased the designers’ writing (they are all supposedly bloggers, no?), favorite blogs, or best/most popular designs instead of tired, google-able terms that most computer-savvy knitters already know.
Boo: No real boos, here. A reasonably solid book, competently written, clearly well-researched, nice variety of patterns and projects. If anything, it needs to follow through on the promise of its premise; let the personalities of the knit-o-sphere shine on the pages, through their stories and their designs. Most knitters will find the profiles of interest, and I’d guess there are at least a few patterns of interest as well, although there is a noticeable lack of patterns for men. Also, a quick search for errata reveals errors in 10 (!) of the 26 patterns. What was that I was saying about an editor?
Audience? Female knitters with a computer who may or may not read blogs; knitters who are interested in expanding their knowledge about how the online community has affected and is affecting knitting.
Sequel-worthy? There is certainly no lack of designers who are using blogs, Ravelry, and other online media to create careers. The combo of personality profiles and patterns has great potential (for alliteration, apparently.) The question is whether the book publishing cycle is nimble enough to keep up with the online world.
I hope this review is helpful! I plan to continue to go through my shelves and highlight books--some new, some not--of interest to other knitters. Let me know in comments if there are any unanswered questions, or features you’d like me to consider adding, As with any review, my comments are intended to educate, illuminate, and entertain; your mileage may vary.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Knitting Book Review: Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere (2010, Rodale Press, 242 pages, 26 projects. Source: personal purchase.)
Monday, November 21, 2011
I've noticed an interesting linguistic trend of late: saying "gifted" instead of "given" or "gave." As in, "A swap partner gifted me this yarn."
Why the difference?
It seems like folks are using "gifted" to emphasize the intent behind the yarn or object. If it's bought as a gift with the recipient in mind, it is "gifted" yarn. (No word on whether using gifted yarn makes one a gifted knitter.) If the yarn is simply passed on for free, it has been given.
Here's the distinction:
Example 1: My sister-in-law had bought some yarn thinking she would knit or crochet a baby blanket. She tried, gave up, and then stuck the yarn in a closet. When I started knitting, six years ago, she passed the bag of yarn on to me. She gave it to me.
Example 2: By contrast, when I started knitting, I became semi-obsessed with Noro Kureyon after seeing these armwarmers in Stitch and Bitch Nation. My sister was living in Japan at the time, so I (erroneously) assumed it would be easy for her to find Noro over there, and I asked for Kureyon for Christmas. She couldn't find any, at least on Okinawa, so she searched the interwebs for the perfect color combo for me and I received a bag of shade 124 (now sadly unavailable) for the holiday. I finally found the perfect pattern for this yarn in Carol Feller's Spoked Cardigan, and now have a gorgeous striped sweater made from the yarn she gifted to me.
Given is great; gifted is better...and we now have a new verb in our lexicon!
Posted by Dana at 8:24 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Back from vacation, back from teaching at a workshop, back to my dropped projects and cozy house...
We have been enjoying what feels like our first weeks of summer. Consistent, warm weather (warm for here: low 70s); relaxed days; denial about the amount of work that has to happen before my students walk through the door after Labor Day.
Since the days themselves feel like a lovely mosaic or collage, in which I flit from thing to thing, mostly free of drive or focus, I thought a blog post in that format--a winding path through my summer brain, if you will--would be appropriate.
1. War and Peace. My book club decided to tackle this monolith over the summer. We are all teachers, and after reading Anna Karenina last summer, we thought another Tolstoy was just the thing. I'm struggling. I've read tons of 19th century lit as well as lots of historical fiction (which is what Tolstoy was writing: the book was published in 1869 but set in 1805-1812) so that's not the issue...it's just that I don't have enough historical "hooks" to read the book without constantly consulting the footnotes and Wikipedia and the list of characters. When I get in flow, like during our week on Camano Island, I really enjoy it...but it's a daunting task. It wouldn't have been easier during the school year, though, so I'm continuing on. I won't say slogging, because it's not a slog, its just like rolling a boulder up a hill when you're constantly being seduced off the path by flowers and bunnies and gins and tonic. But you really need to get this boulder up the hill!
2. Wil Wheaton. I am just enough of a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fan to be inordinately excited that I discovered Wil's blog and his podcasts...and I'm just enough of an oblivious semi-fan that I didn't hear about them until TWO YEARS after he first put them out. Just finished listening to "Memories of the Futurecast," where he reads excerpts from his book Memories of the Future, which covers his memories and pretty funny synopses of the first 14 episodes of the series...the series which is now, conveniently, is on Netflix Streaming. The kids and I watched a bit of episode one today while we were folding laundry. My son said, astutely, "This looks like 'Galaxy Quest.'" Sigh. The perils of watching a parody before one has seen the source material.
(Note 1: Wil Wheaton was the one and only boy I ever cut out of "Tiger Beat" and put up on my wall. What that says about me, I don't know.) (I do know; it says I'm a mega-nerd and completely proud of it.)
(Note 2: Wil has a beautiful, touching post on his blog about the 25th anniversary of the film "Stand By Me." If you saw this movie in the '80's and loved it, read this post.)
3. Couch-to-5K. I have been a runner on and off since I was in college. It is absolutely the best way for me to enjoy exercise and get in shape...but it's also a tough habit for me to sustain and I tend to binge and crash. After a year with some tough health stuff, it became very apparent to me that being a super-slug and feeling sorry for myself was not the way to regain fitness. I'm on week 5 of this Couch-to-5K program right now, and am feeling great! Got new Nike Free running shoes, am not having any trouble with my joints or shinsplints, and signed up for a local 5K for the end of September. Given my personal set of issues, I'm not sure if I'll ever tackle more than the 5K length (doesn't it seem like everyone is doing half-marathons now?) but we'll see...
4. Ysolda Teague and Carol Feller. Knitters: run, don't walk to get a copy of Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague. I love it so much that I have already spilled coffee AND wine on it. I also already knit the sweater Skelf in one crazy gulp back in June/July and it may be my most favorite thing I've knitted EVER.
If Ysolda is like a knitting rock star, Carol Feller is like the cool indie band that's just hitting the circuit. I ordered her book Contemporary Irish Knits pretty much sight unseen (only a few patterns are up on Ravelry now, but they all look like winners) and as soon as I hit "confirm order" on the Amazon cart, I started to notice her name everywhere--Interweave Knits, Knitty, Twist Collective--I just didn't notice before that a bunch of patterns I love were all designed by the same person.
5. The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik. I've been having trouble paying attention to War and Peace in part because of Ms. Novik's fascinating series. Again, I'm late to the party, it already being six books--but my husband and I are really enjoying the heck out of what feels like a combination of Jane Austen, the non-cheesy parts of Anne McCaffrey, and Patrick O'Brien.
All right, people: my actual to-do list ain't getting any shorter, and then I can go back to my honeybee-like existence
Posted by Dana at 10:32 AM
Thursday, July 21, 2011
My daughter and I have been into nursery rhymes lately. Her fledgling reading skills are blossoming (excuse the mixed metaphor) with texts that rhyme and have predictable patterns and rhythms.
So as we were reading Mother Goose the other night, I stumbled over this rhyme, one I'd heard as a child but never really thought about before.
Draw the latch,
Sit by the fire and spin,
Take a cup,
And drink it up,
And call the neighbors in.
This isn't a fun rhyme to teach counting or a silly rhyme to make children laugh--this is emotional instruction! Coping skills passed down as a poem!
If you are feeling grouchy or overwhelmed,
Take some time for yourself,
Be comfortable and do something with your hands,
Have a cup of tea (or something stronger?!)
Then, open the door to company.
Mother Goose's version is, of course, more catchy.
Most knitters will agree that knitting can get them into a flow state, the same one experienced by athletes, or anyone engaged in something absorbing and enjoyable. And repetitive activities are proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. (Dr Oz says to choose doing the dishes over watching TV to wind down!)
I love the idea of women generations ago recognizing that solitude + spinning + tea = Serenity Now!
OK, fellow Crosspatches, do you find that your knitting or other handwork helps you to recharge?
Posted by Dana at 6:38 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
There wasn't very much that was lovely about that apartment complex. It was old-ish and musty, surrounded by newer, jazzier gated complexes, with bad parking and scary laundry rooms and a pool continually closed by maintenance issues.
We chose it because it was the least expensive option while we lived on one income in this hot, hot, place so far from home. This place of cockroaches and strange poky grass and hibiscus and great food and bad pollution and oil and music and sprawl.
But the one thing I loved there were the live oaks.
I don't know what makes a live oak different from just a regular oak, but they are beautiful. Soaring, knobbly branches; tiny, lovely acorns; scratchy, weathered bark. They decorated our neighborhood and our courtyard, and during the three months I both lived and worked in that dingy little apartment because my boring unfulfilling office job ended abruptly, I would open the windows and listen to the breeze (when there was a breeze) blow through their lovely, gnarled branches, and dream of the Northwest.
No tree here--maybe because we have so many, an embarrassment of riches--makes me quite as happy.
So, when I saw Rosemary Hill's pattern for the "Live Oak Shawlette" in the latest issue of Knitscene, it just spoke to me.
This half-circle shawl flew on and then off my needles in a crazy-fast way--just a couple of days (and couple of long Tour de France stages) from cast-on to bind off.
It's pictured here about two-thirds bound off, as I caught the waning gray July-in-the-PNW light. Tonight it's going to take a bath and then get blocked to its more lovely, leafy, tweedy glory. I'm not even sure what its fate will be...like the adventure that took us so far from home and taught us so much in the land of live oaks, I'll let the universe guide me.
Posted by Dana at 9:17 PM
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Do you like bright colors? Many many bright colors, in different patterns, the more the merrier? If so, you and Miss E would get along. She is a fan of all things bright, and at age nearly-five she can pull it off with aplomb.
Posted by Dana at 4:23 PM
Saturday, July 09, 2011
I do a lot of reading--so I've decided, inspired by my friend Laura, again, to begin posting, on occasion, reviews of what I read. I'll do fiction, knitting books, other publications--whatever's on my bedside table. Let me know what you think!
Posted by Dana at 5:03 PM
Sunday, May 01, 2011
I first read this poem in high school, taking a practice test for my AP Literature class. I think its unexpectedness paired with my need to ANALYZE-THIS-IN-40-MINUTES-GO! indelibly printed it on my mind.
The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky
And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.
Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.
I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.
Thanks to Laura of What She Read for this blog hop!
Posted by Dana at 1:54 PM
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted by Dana at 8:11 PM
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted by Dana at 7:53 PM
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish is: Fictional Characters and Literary Figures You'd Name Your Children After...
- Laura, as in Ingalls Wilder. I also have two lovely friends named Laura, plus a much beloved cousin, so this name is a natural fit in my life. (The name Almanzo, however, does not make the cut.)
- Max, of Where the Wild Things Are. Who wouldn't wish for an imaginative, boisterous, amazing boy such as this?
- Rita, as in the lovely Meter Maid.
- Meg, Margaret, Megatron--Miss Murry of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet (and many other companion books) who guided me through quite the ugly duckling phase myself. Although why she and Calvin named one of their daughters Polyhymnia is quite beyond me.
- Claire, of the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. Though the books' quality has ebbed as the series has worn on, and on, and on...Claire in Outlander is a feisty, sexy, smart heroine we all can love and hope to emulate.
- Edward. Or Jacob? I can't decide. (JUST KIDDING!)
- Neville, as in Longbottom, as in the unsung hero of the Harry Potter books. He's one who, though not ordained by any prophecy with overwhelming responsibility (though he COULD have been), chooses love, good, and Herbology despite daunting odds. Neville is The Boy Who Chose. And can't you see a cat named Neville?
- Penny, as in Lane and also as in the love of Dr. Horrible's life.
- Pearl, as in Prynne-Dimmesdale, the girl who took what life handed her [mother] and lived to fight another day--in Europe, far away from those nasty Puritans.
- Bryony. Bryony is one of the brave piglets in Mr. and Mrs. Pig's Evening Out, by Mary Rayner, the first book I ever read--really read, not just memorized--a book that is quite possibly (I'm just realizing) the headwaters of my Anglophilia and love for sunny texts with dark shadows.
Posted by Dana at 4:50 PM
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Posted by Dana at 5:05 PM
Saturday, January 22, 2011
A prompt posted by my friend Laurie over at That's What She Read. Do pay her a visit. (Of course, she already has a bajillion visitors and commenters whilst I doodle with my thoughts about knitting and unfinished posts...but still going to plug her because she's Just That Good.)
Posted by Dana at 10:55 AM
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Posted by Dana at 5:21 PM
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Meet Tweedy Pine. It's a man-sized sweater.
- stop working on the sleeves to conserve original dye lot
- finish fronts using original yarn, unraveling sleeves (sniff....sniff) as necessary
- add a navy stripe to sleeves in consultation with recipient of sweater (want something that says "sporty sweater!" not "dorky kindergartner!")
- finish sleeves and neckband with new dye lot
Posted by Dana at 1:16 PM
Saturday, January 08, 2011
I sneakily scoped their shoe sizes, possibly causing them to think I had some sort of fetish.
Thanks to the magic of Ravelry, I discovered a modification to the French Press Slippers pattern that let me do them in one piece--mildly fiddly, but nothing in comparison to the seaming I normally do.
Posted by Dana at 1:16 PM