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The High Country Knitwear Newsletter

Thank you so much!

You’ve made High Country Knitwear’s debut weeks a success by any measure. Hundreds of you dropped by, many of you downloaded the free pattern, and far more of you than we expected bought patterns. For Solas Website Design, HCK set something of a record for speed in being listed on such big search engines as Google, MSN, and Yahoo.

But what impressed me was how many of you took time to write, and not just to make corrections, but to talk about knitting in ways that warmed my heart. The reader who called the site and her newly purchased patterns, “warm, approachable, handsome, and professional,” made me feel that, if we had done all that work but had only that single reader, it would have been worth it to hit the mark we were trying for.

Once, when I showed a new pattern to a yarn shop owner, she said, “…but our trade doesn’t knit garments…” I looked around. She was right.

On the table was a pretty wire server filled with knitted and felted cupcakes. On the walls were a big array of felted handbags, and little felted bird house ornaments, and a great many scarves in novelty yarns; on a shelf were Hallowe’en pumpkins; on the floor were crocheted and knitted felted rugs. That may be the moment when the idea for this website crystallized.

What I love about knitting is its long history, which comes from economies of scarcity, in which men and women learned to make practical clothing without waste, often accomplishing marvels not just of utility, but of actual beauty. The cupcakes and decorations, in their lack of usefulness and as the product of this most useful of crafts, made me faintly uncomfortable; I don’t much care for fads.

At HCK, “our trade” apparently knits clothing and accessories to keep people warm. Some of us are fashion knitters, but we aren’t fad knitters. We seem to share a love of great, wearable classics, many of them with updates that make them look fresh once again, and odds and ends of the crazily whimsical such as the Bison Scarf. One for our side!

I also heard from a striking number of people who have been told they knit wrong. What? There is no wrong way, we’re agreed on that. If we’re comfortable and get the project finished in good order, we figure we’ve done it right. Two for our side!

And to all of us, the internet is an ongoing revelation, with blogs such as WendyKnits and Mason-Dixon Knitters and Yarn Harlot and so many more it is hard to count; discussion groups of all kinds; thoughtful reviews, such as Knitter’s Review, that really do the job of telling us what’s good and what’s not, an area that conventional media have abandoned; online magazines such as Knitty shopping opportunities of all kinds, not just for yarn, but for DVDs for learning techniques and making charts (mine is from Knitting Software.com, and is called Stitch and Motif Maker) , gear for blocking hats, blocking wires, and other things that yarn stores don’t stock. Newest of all are the growing number of podcasts, a couple of which I’ve tried on reader recommendations.

Through all these media, through swapping tips and techniques and laughing at insupportably bad books and yarns and designs, strangers have become friends through virtual knitting groups and shared interests. For those of us who live in communities with no great selection of yarns beyond the local Wal-Mart or hobby shop, and no regular knitter’s group, it’s all we have. For some of us, the sorority atmosphere that can pervade yarn stores and knitting groups isn’t quite for us, and the traditional media, falling for every next-new-thing that comes along, have let us down by embracing enthusiastically every new fad—in yarn, in books, in patterns--that comes along.

Some of you mentioned how much your local stores, if you have one, emphasize high-end yarns and fashion, and neglect the knitter who has the skills to make mid-priced yarns such as Cascade, Plymouth, Paton’s, and Brown Sheep into garments and accessories of great beauty and utility—an irresistible combination, I think.

One Manhattanite seemed to have opted out of her local choices: a blue-haired grandmother store, a purple-haired-and-piercings punk store, and a store full of 20-something hedge fund managers with entitlement issues accessorized with Jimmy Choos. A few of you mentioned your favorite sources, including a wide variety of internet retailers, and such good E-Bay merchants as Jannette’s Rare Yarns and Putuco.

Some of you asked which of the patterns would be best to make for Christmas.

1)Mittens and fingerless mittens, of course. If you haven’t tried the fingerless ones, I’d urge you to make these for commuters and busy moms on your list. With those, the wearer can juggle keys, a morning paper, a laptop, and a latte, and swipe a card at the ATM without taking off, and losing, a mitten. If you make a pair with doubled cuffs, your mail deliverer will love you forever. And you can knit with them or use a keyboard, when the thermostats are turned down.

2)I like all the scarves, but for a special woman on your list, especially the caroller’s hooded scarf, which is universally becoming.

3)For men or women, the cowboy hats, which are fast to do, look great, and impress people all out of proportion to their actual difficulty or cost.

4)This month, I’ve finished revising my Socks 101 pattern and its instructions and charts, for one lighter and one heavier pair of crew socks. It’s the pattern I wish I’d had when I began knitting socks. Soon to come: Socks 201, the fitted knee socks, plain and fancy.

Thanks to you all, especially Miriam and Liam of Solas Web Design, who waded right into a kind of site they’d never done before, and did the work beautifully and quickly; to my daughter Mollie, my biggest fan; Jean Dunbabin and the whole Cascade Yarns crew for their encouragement and enthusiasm, who have now listed HCK on their website, under “Designers”; Shannon (of caroller’s scarf and hood) and husband Dave, and Cathy and husband Brad; Terry, and his collies Tanner and Chelsea, who fed me coffee and wine and conversation and a memorable dinner out, as the work went on; Josh and Katie of the cowboy hats; and Wendy of Wendy Knits, and Kay and Ann of Mason-Dixon, for introducing their readers to HCK.

Send pictures of completed projects when you have them, and before you wrap them as gifts! I’ve just begun a new shawl-collared pullover—an updated version of an once-common work sweater on #9 needles, circular to the armholes, and derived from the old English and Irish ganseys. If it works well, I’ll do the instructions not long after I finish updating Socks 201 and getting them on the website.

Knit On,

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