Starting this month, there’s a new feature on High Country
Knitwear: a series of Tips, Tricks, & Techniques that
came out of teaching newer knitters, or knitters new to a
specific technique, or knitters who had missed learning about
little things, like ball-winding or joining yarns, that somehow
got skipped when they were learning. There’s also a guide to
using the internet to help with substituting yarn if you like a
pattern but can’t afford the specified yarn, or don’t like an
unsuitable one. I’ll be adding to TT&T from time to time. Let
me know if there’s a specific one you need.
And we have the first of the photographs
in. On the left is Cynthia Grosch’s cowboy hat, done as a sample
for La Lana Wools of Taos, New Mexico. She said she found the
hat fun to knit, and the instructions good.
On the right is Christine Neece’s hat, for
which she followed the HCK pattern, but designed her own band in
honor of her favorite college football team, Colorado State
University’s Rams, with ram’s heads in the green, gold, and
white college colors. If you’d like to do one for
your favorite team, we’d love to see it and run your chart for
other fans, if you’d like.
Inspired by Christine’s efforts, and having
promised a cowboy hat to bison rancher Ron Miskin, of Buffalo
Gold yarns, not to mention an order from a customer in Boulder
(and any stray Buffalo Bills fans), here’s a Bison band.
Then I got an order from a Texan, and did
a Longhorn band for that, earning a nice mention on the
Knitter’s Review forum for good customer service. If not
skilled, at least enthusiastic and willing!
Beyond these great first projects, I’m
interested in where you think knitting—especially your personal
knitting--is going, and how it’s changed over the last two or
three years. What have you tried recently that you wouldn’t
I’m seeing—from my small spot on the
map—some really positive shifts. A lot of people learned to
knit, over the last ten years. The boom in fueled a boom in
novelty yarns, some good, some unspeakable, but good at
disguising those first uncertain projects—the wavy-edged, garter
stitched scarves that helped those thousands of knitters knit
their first projects, many of which needed a little
camouflage. There have been any number of beginner books,
books on knitting one-skein patterns, or knitting with big yarns
on big needles.
But there are lots of challenging new books
coming along, on techniques revived from traditional ones, but
with very fresh twists. A heartening number of older books
either never went out of print, or are back in print, including
those of Elizabeth Zimmerman, Barbara Walker, Sheila McGregor
(many of these from Schoolhouse Press, which stocks a full
selection of its own books including those of Meg Swansen, and
many from other other publishers, many reprints of older books
and especially of lace patterns, and a range of new ones (http://www.schoolhousepress.com/index.html
) Among the newer books, I’m especially taken with Knitting
Out of Africa by Marianne Isager, Latvian Dreams by
Joyce Williams, and Inspired Cable Knits by Fiona Ellis.
What I’m seeing is almost bound to attract
knitters who are gaining new skills very rapidly. One member of
my old knitting group first took up knitting about four years
ago. These days, she’s making a series of glorious Norwegian
and Fair Isle sweaters for her whole family, and recently bought
five goats, a guard llama, and a spinning wheel to try her
skilled hands at a complementary craft. She no longer has to
keep the pasture mowed; the goats are keeping it as neatly
so many lawnmowers.
I am seeing more people tackle lace, which
I have yet to try, and more people knitting socks, to which I
came late. I’m seeing fewer people like the woman who looked at
something I was working on, and said, “I’d love to knit like
that, but do you have to count to do it?” I wasn’t sure whether
she meant. That she didn’t like to count? That she had math
anxiety on some unheard-of scale? I assured her that, yes, you
did, though markers helped with keep track. I didn’t convince
her, I’m pretty sure of that.
I am seeing fewer people making serial
felted handbags for themselves and for friends and daughters and
daughters-in-law. Either everyone already has one or two, or
the excesses of some of the designs such as—love it or hate
it—Nicky Epstein’s enormous swan bag represent the culmination
of a great idea that turned into a fad, but for which most of
the really great designs came early on, as is often the case.
However, one of my local yarn stores, My
Sister Knits, (http://www/mysisterknits.com) in Fort Collins,
Colorado, recently did a fundraiser with felted bags. It
donated pink yarns of the knitter’s choice to make handbags for
auction at a breast cancer fund-raiser. It’s a small shop, but
they got a hundred bags, of every type and kind, from tiny
evening bags to big knitting totes. The shop was generous with
its yarns, and the knitters were generous with their time and
thought. Their joint effort is raising considerable money for a
But I am not seeing that only a few more
people making garments. It isn’t lack of skill; I think it’s
some trouble with finding good, workable, wearable patterns, and
a lack of confidence. For some people, it’s a matter of
concern about sizing, a subject that Jenna Wilson, aka The Girl
from Auntie, has covered in a remarkable article for Knitty.com
In that, she gives all the details of choosing a suitable
pattern, working out size and ease, and making it come out so it
fits, becomes the wearer, and generates that response that is so
satisfying, “Oh, that’s beautiful! Where did you get it?” I
bet if I ever finished her pattern for the gorgeous Rouge Hoodie,
it would really turn heads, but I haven’t started it yet.
Where yarn stores emphasize costly yarns,
the economics of hand-knitting sweaters are problematical, too.
What the magazines put forth is too often either odd or ugly,
beyond the budget, or so much a part of current fashion that
many of the patterns would look dated in the time it took to
make them. And if you’re past your twenties, what would you
do with a midriff-baring sleeveless sweater, and a pair of
matching arm-warmers, anyway?
A recent issue of a popular knitting
magazine had not a single editorial feature of sweaters for men,
nor one for children. It had some gorgeous sweaters, including
two from name designers that required only about $300 worth of
cashmere each, but an equal number that, for both design and
workmanship, wouldn’t have placed in a knitting competition for
What about those of us who knit for our
families and friends?
I’m talking to more people who feel let
down by the conventional knitting media, and their embrace of
the next new thing with uncritical enthusiasm. Many older
knitters feel shut out by the emphasis on marketing to the young
and hip; good reviews for bad books; uncritical enthusiasm for
every new product and overpriced yarn; for the fading novelty
category in patterns and yarns. On the positive side, great
classic yarns and patterns are enjoying a revival, and really
bad ones have taken a skewering by the late, hilarious, You Knit
What blog, and its successors.
I’d like to find out what you’re knitting,
or would like to knit. What are you trying that you wouldn’t
have tried a couple of years ago? Lace? Socks? Color change?
Patterned stitches, including cabling? I don’t see much
enthusiasm for reviving the fussy all-over patterns of the 40s
and 50s. I do see a revival in classic Celtic cabling, and in
all kinds of color-change work.
And are you knitting for yourselves, for
family and friends, or for one of the many fine knitting
charities? Garments instead of accessories? And what books,
periodicals, and internet sources have you found to help you? I
figure we’re all still learning, and can best do it together.
Your contributions would be welcome.
In that regard, I do have to mention the
good quality standard yarns--a limited selection but at very
http://www.KnitPicks.com Have we all found them yet? Worth
a look, anyway.