Book: Japanese Inspired Knits

I’m not sure how many knitting books libraries generally have, but I do kind of feel like the Wellington City Library has quite a few. Over the last few months it has become my guilty pleasure to roam the knitting section, whenever I’m around. A while ago I picked up Japanese Inspired Knits by Marianne Isager as it seemed like something different to look at.

I’d heard about Danish designers Marianne and her daughter Helga Isager before, as well as their line of knitting yarns. As a matter of fact, I’d been roaming the web quite for quite a while for an affordable option of buying some of Helga’s gorgeous patterns, not many of which seem to be available as .pdf downloads, but that’s another story.

When I saw the Japanese Inspired Knits book, I was drawn to it not necessarily because it contains many garments I myself would like to see in my wardrobe, but because each and every single item seems to have an unusual construction or at least incorporate techniques and stitch patterns that one does not see all that often (in my humble opinion). It is really exciting, for example, to see double knitting used as a decorative element on part of a garment as in the Stone garden jacket, and to explore the entrelac technique used in Winter in Tokyo. Of course, when assessing wearability, we have to bear in mind that the book itself was published back in 2009.

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The Carp, The Sun and Summer in Tokyo by Marianne Isager. Photo credit: Interweave Press

It’s interesting that in the introduction to the book Marianne mentions that when she was first invited to participate in an art exhibit in Tokyo, her garments, which she considered to bear quite a bit of Japanese influence, were to her surprise perceived as “very Scandinavian”. In the book Japanese Inspired Knits, she ties each of her twelve designs to a month of the year and gives a brief background on the cultural relevance of that particular month which served as an inspiration to her patterns.

As for garments I would wear from the book, I’d say there are three in particular which caught my eye. In sync with my current summer knitting interest, I find The Carp quite attractive. Although, being constructed from over 150 squares, this would be a knit that could keep me entertained until the end of my days. I’d also consider a more closed neckline and  a waistband of sorts to close off the bottom of the top. I really quite like the two-colour garter stitch-like texture, which Marianne calls stockinette with garter ribs.

The Large Suns version of The Sun sweater of course appeals very much to my obsession with baggy/oversized sweaters. I think I’d prefer to see it without the intarsia pattern, but of course, it might become just too boring. Maybe use Marianne’s two-colour garter ridges here for the body?

Finally, with my latest endeavour of the cropped raglan sweater means I’m kind of into this kind of thing right now. So, I cannot quite ignore Summer in Tokyo. Although I’m not entirely convinced by the colour combination and the pattern on this one, I might put it on my list of possible colourwork sweaters. After all, I could just make use of the instructions and create my own chart pattern.

Books for knitters: Stitch’n bitch

One good thing about not having to write a dissertation any  more is that I can read non research-related things without remorse. Another good thing is that I can knit – almost – without remorse. Unfortunately, for now, I’m not that good at doing the two simultaneously. Nevertheless, I figured that since I cannot knit while I read, at least I can read about knitting…

Taking things to a more serious ground, I’ve been curious for a while to have a closer look at some of the much acclaimed books about knitting. Luckily I’ve found that the Wellington City Library as quite a good collection of them. After some nagging Chan recovered his long lost library card, and hence I came into temporary possession of the legendary Stitch’n bitch: The knitter’s handbook by Debbie Stoller – among other volumes.

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Image from Wikimedia Commons

To be honest, a late-comer to the knitting revival, and completely ignorant of knitting history and knitting culture, I was quite sceptical  – I mean stitch’n bitch, seriously? And that lady with the cowboy hat on the cover?! But with this book topping a list called Must-have knitting books on Goodreads, there should be something about it, right? As I soon learnt the title in fact makes more sense than it might seem at first sight… As it appears, the use of the term stitch’n bitch to refer to social knitting groups goes back to World War II.

What about the book itself? After a quick read through, I think I have two main thoughts to share: Firstly, I wish somebody had pointed me to this book when I first picked up the knitting needles a few years ago. Secondly, I’m really glad to have read the introductory chapter talking about the craft of knitting and women.

I don’t know about you, but I often experience that with so much information and so many options out there, it is quite difficult to find just what you need. And this is not only true for knitting. I remember that when I set out on my adult knitting venture a little less than two years ago, I would learn from family and friends who were only slightly more experienced, and try to look up information about materials and techniques online. These latter efforts were sometimes time consuming and weren’t lacking in dead ends. Often I would find out later that there was a better way of doing something, even things I hadn’t expected to involve any special technique. However embarrassing it sounds,  I’d never heard of weaving in yarn ends or seaming techniques… so I’d just “invent” my own solutions, only to find out much later and accidentally, that well… that wasn’t the best thing to do.

I guess one can avoid these problems if there is a knitting class available and more a striving knitting community around. But I had no idea even about how to find these, if they were at all around at the time. So this is why now I wish a Stitch’n bitch volume had miraculously appeared on my door step back then. It all would have been much easier.

The book provides easy to read explanations of everything a beginning knitter wants to know. From choice of material and tools, basic cast on techniques and stitches, to shaping and finishing techniques, as well as correcting knitting errors and the basics of colour knitting. And not only that, being a modern knitting companion, it also speaks about contemporary knitting groups, the online knitting community and resources for knitters, be it personal blogs, web pages, Ravelry, knitting books and magazines. Just reading through all this made me realize how much I’d learnt from here and there on my own account.

The other point I mentioned above relates to something I have always thought of as more of a personal struggle of mine. I love knitting and I love crafting things with my own hands in general, but I often feel discouraged when realizing how long it actually takes. I cannot avoid thinking that there certainly are more productive / useful / acceptable ways of spending my time. Plus knitting has this stigma of not only being incredibly time consuming, but also something older women / housewives are supposed to do. The words of a good and much looked-up-on friend of mine often resound in my head: “Why waste time and energy on something that can be more efficiently done by technology?” And note that this particular (and I cannot emphasize enough: much loved and appreciated) friend is a hobby endurance athlete, dedicating hours on hours to training.

But then Debbie puts it right. Knitting – and other “women’s” crafts – are, of course, a tradition to be continued. And – most importantly – they are hobbies that are objectively not less cool than woodcarving or playing sports commonly associated with men. It just somehow so happened that in the midst of the feminist movement chores traditionally done by women – including knitting – came to be looked down on, while in actual fact they are things that should be treasured and done with pride. This is an idea to hold on to in my opinion.

 

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is the subtitle to the latest issue of the Pompom Quarterly. Rather ironic to post with this title right now, as it has been one gloomy beginning-of-autumn day here in Wellington. Although I had had the digital download for some time now, I didn’t have a good thorough look through the magazine until the print version arrived at our door step at the end of last week. And what a pleasant surprise! It came with a little handwritten note. This might not be a novelty factor to those who have ordered copies from the web site.. for me this was the first time, and I’m completely in awe at this really heart-warming gesture (little do I need for happiness, right?) Thank you Pompom!

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The 2016 Spring issue of Pompom celebrates natural beauty, that of yarn and the creatures it comes from. Accordingly, all patterns offered are presented in undyed natural colours. This is probably the reason why most of the projects hadn’t conquer my colour-loving heart on the computer screen, so I mainly ordered this issue because of the Delineate summer top I mentioned in an earlier post. But now that I had my share of the smell of real paper and a chance to have a closer look at the rest, I really do feel like I have to knit most of what is in this issue…

My new favourite is the Right Angle top by Georgia Farrel.  It is totally me, and I just can’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before. I really need to teach myself to pay attention not only to things knit up in bright eye-catching colours. A close second is the Unfold cowl from Yuliya Tkacheva. As a matter of fact, I was on the verge of designating some newly acquired NZ yarn to it (more on this in a latter post), when I noticed it is crocheted and not knit… Although there is an illustrated crochet tutorial in the magazine, I will leave this project to gloomier winter evenings. Next up is Rhombille by Gina Röckenwagner, looking super interesting and super cosy and quick knit in aran weight yarn. And I also have my mind set to Striated from Nicki Merrall. This last one might actually be the first of these plans to materialize as I think it might be a good project to put the surplus yarn from the Carpino to use. Also, it seems easy and small enough to become a fun carry-around knitting project.

So many cool patterns in one magazine, that’s what I call a good investment… (years of knitting in there…)

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Photos: Amy Gwatkin (Pompom)