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The High Country Knitwear Newsletter

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 tackle before?

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 trimmed asCalling All Knitters! 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 wonderful cause.

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 (http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEspring05/FEATspr0TBP.html).  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 Brownies. 

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 modest prices--from http://www.KnitPicks.com  Have we all found them yet?  Worth a look, anyway.

Knit on,

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