Knitting Around the World

knitting_World_cvr

Knitting Around the World

I would love to blame the complexity of this book for my lack of blogging, but truth be told,  I finished the book some time ago. I have no valid excuses other than life!

This slim volume was put together by the editors of Threads Magazine in 1993 and includes a wealth of material for those interested in the history of the knitting craft.

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Knitting Around the World – back cover

Knitting Around the World  includes more than a dozen different topics that were once articles in Threads Magazine.

Aran_knitting

Aran Knitting – Alice Starmore

Starting out with the renown Alice Starmore and Aran knitting is a great way to introduce the reader to historical knitting. Alice, who lives in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland and has written extensively on the subject is the perfect person to author this feature. Included on the next few pages are Aran cable patterns and an outline of how to design an Aran pullover.

bohus_knitting

Bohus Stickning – Margaret Bruzelius

The less well known Bohus Stickning from Sweden is written by an old associate of mine who seriously researched this colorful knitting style. With charts on the following pages, the reader can easily experiment with Bohus knitting.

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Another Swedish knitting technique

Also called “two-strand knitting”, this technique seems mainly used for sturdy mittens and socks. A pattern for the socks shown in the photo is included in the book.

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Illustrations drawn and photographed

After Fair Isle knitting and Argyles, there is a short article with illustrations and photos of techniques for managing stranded knitting by author, Maggie Righetti. I have included here as an example of the clarity used in Threads Magazine on each subject. They always go above and beyond to make the reader understand techniques.

 

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Historical Shetland Lace

I loved the inclusion of historical articles with photos, illustrations and a workshop on creating simple versions of the knitted lace.

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Knitting from the Faeroe Islands

While not as well known as knitting techniques from the British Isles, this is nevertheless and interesting style of knitting and well-written piece of history.

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Fair Isle Tam making – Alice Starmore

Knitting Around the World begins and ends with Alice Starmore – coming more or less full circle.

Should I keep this book? I’ve thought long and hard on this one. The subjects are interesting and varied. Would I knit from the book – probably not. I’m hoping the next knitter who gets it will love it! Sadly, it’s not going back on my shelf.

https://www.amazon.com/Knitting-Around-World-Threads/dp/1561580260/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1489005645&sr=8-3&keywords=knitting+around+the+world

Book of Wool – Chapter 3

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The Knitter’s Book of Wool

The whole chapter today is on breeds of sheep broken down into five categories.

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Meet the Breeds

By the time I got from page 38 to page 78, I was introduced to more breeds of sheep than I ever imagined existed. Clara has broken them down from the finest fleece to the most course.

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Breed Categories

The chart on page 40 gives a good overview of all the breeds covered in the following pages. There are 37 types of sheep. Many were breed from combos of other sheep to refine the best qualities of the bred sheep. Lots of history throughout these pages.

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Sweet Fern Mitts

When I first started writing this blog several years ago, I thought I would make a project from each book I covered. Silly me! That lasted for one book – The Book of Yarn. When I saw these mitts – I said – why not? I’ll post a pic of my work-in-progress soon.

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Finewool breeds

This is an example of a spread from the finewools section. Each breed is discussed, a chart covers the facts and the chart is followed by a lock of fleece and finished skein of the yarn. This reference section makes it worth keeping the book on my bookshelf!

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Longwools

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Down wools

The final page of Chapter 3 features a list by month of various fiber festivals around the United States. There you will see many different sheep breeds.

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Fleece Friendly Fiber Festivals

http://www.amazon.com/Knitters-Book-Wool-Ultimate-Understanding-ebook/dp/B004IK8PYG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453411911&sr=1-1&keywords=book+of+wool

 

 

 

Canada Knits – The end!

Canada Knits by Shirley A. Scott

Canada Knits by Shirley A. Scott

Today I’m happy to report that I finally finished Canada Knits. Never thought I’d finish this one! I love reading it. This book was packed with info about the evolvement of knitting in Canada, but the heavy text slowed me down.  As I remember, I ended Part 1 with Canadian Yarns.

Do I want to keep it? I enjoyed the reading and loved all the interesting photos – some black/white a two color sections. That said, it’s not a book that I really want to keep on my “forever” shelf. Sorry “Shirl the Purl”!

Here’s a photo of the Amos Little mill (that evolved into Briggs & Little). Small mills such as this one were often the advent of today’s larger yarn companies.

Amos Little Mill

Amos Little Mill

The Lux Knitting Book published in 1939 is part of the wartime Canadian effort.

Lux Knitting Book - 1939

Lux Knitting Book – 1939

Sporting life in Canada influenced knitting. Curling, imported from Scotland in colonial times, created a need for fine-gauge sweaters and hats.

Canadian Curling Team

Canadian Curling Team

Missionary work in Eastern Canada added to the number of knitters. Young girls were taught at an early age.

Knitting girls in Labrador

Knitting girls in Labrador

http://www.amazon.com/Canada-Knits-Craft-Comfort-Northern/dp/0075499738/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1444845167&sr=8-1&keywords=Canada+Knits

Canada Knits – Part 1

Canada Knits by Shirley A. Scott

Canada Knits by Shirley A. Scott

Reading this lovely book has slowed me down. Lots of text and an incredible historical story have made this a book to savor. I plan to read it all no matter how long it takes!

On a positive note, I’ve sold about 9 or 10 books. Off the shelves and out of the house. I some how feel a bit lighter. Onward! It’s given me new inspiration and hope that eventually my library will be a manageable and I’ll know where to find every book I own!

Why do I even own a book of the history of Canadian knitting? Is it my Canadian roots? Is it because I had met Shirley Scott (aka Shirl the Purl)? I really have no idea why I bought this book and have never read from cover to cover. It was published in 1990 so I have no excuse not to have read before now. Well I say – better late than never!

Canada Knits - back cover

Canada Knits – back cover

What have I found out so far? I’ve covered how knitting came to Canada and knitting from sea to sea. In Chapter 3, I learned what Canadians knit which includes war knitting, baby knits and some historical knits including wool long johns for year-round wearing. Can you only imagine?

I’m in the middle of Canada’s knitting yarns. This will be my next post.

Do I like the book? Yes. Is it worth a read? Yes. Will I keep the book? I’ll let you know next time and include a few more great pictures.

http://www.amazon.com/Canada-Knits-Craft-Comfort-Northern/dp/0075499738/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443042802&sr=1-1&keywords=canada+knits

The Knitting Way – Chapters 4/5

The Knitting Way

The Knitting Way

My journey through The Knitting Way continues. Chapter 4 was such a long chapter that I thought that would be the discussion of this post. Somehow I got momentum going and whizzed through Chapter 5 as well.

The Knitting Way - Chapter 4

The Knitting Way – Chapter 4

 

So Chapter 4 – Once Upon A Time – The Stories of our Projects. This chapter talks about the history of knitting and those who were the historical authorities, discusses Elizabeth Zimmermann’s role in knitting evolution, and personal knitting histories of the authors. I felt very connected to this chapter as it is a world I know and love. The discussion (over 2 pages) on my long-time buddy Kristin Nicholas was delightful. If you don’t know her work, google Kristin. She has written a number of well-thought of books. I might review her latest – Crafting a Colorful Home once I finish this book.

This chapter also features well-known and unknown knitters and their stories from Mary Thomas to Mr. Rogers who wore cardigans knit by his mother. I’m being brief here, but it’s really an in-depth and well-written section.

Chapter 5 - The Bearable Lightness of Knitting

Chapter 5 – The Bearable Lightness of Knitting

The basic premise of this chapter is how not to be a perfectionist knitter and enjoy the process. There is some good advice for what you can do with a disappointing project. Also, knitting with yarns that are not really yarn – ribbon, fabric and even spaghetti!

The Knitting Way - Quad Socks

The Knitting Way – Quad Socks

In Chapter 5, Janice makes easy socks in a light worsted (DK weight) yarn. The idea is that if you have 4 socks you can mix and match and don’t have to worry about losing one or having it wear out. If you have 4 colors of yarn to make the socks, you can mix and match to use up all 4 balls, but ultimately when you finish, they will all be color connected. This is a project I’d like to try.

 

For next week, Chapter 6 is about making time for knitting. This is a pretty long chapter, but I’d like to make it through two chapters once again.

http://www.amazon.com/Knitting-Way-Guide-Spiritual-Self-Discovery-ebook/dp/B00CBY4OMS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423156322&sr=1-1&keywords=the+knitting+way

Aran Sweaters and the big finish!

Man_AranAranKnitting

Today I went through the original Aran Knitting (hardcover, 1997) and the new and expanded edition Aran Knitting (trade soft cover, 2010). Most of the original sweaters were included in “new and expanded”. Some were recolored and rephotographed.  I really didn’t feel that the difference was really great in the update. I loved the red-haired model from the original book rather than the brunette used in the revised book, but that doesn’t really matter in terms of the sweaters.

The man’s sweater above is shown on the new book as the cover sweater on a woman. It was the one I’ve chosen to knit, even though I haven’t made much headway on the knitting.

The other sweaters (a few shawls and hats) are mainly classics that perfect for knitters who love cables. I was thinking that the two shawls (a bit heavy for shawl wearing) would be terrific as throws if they were made slightly wider. A few of the sweaters are a bit long with an ’80s vibe. That could be easily changed by a knitter with some skill in adaption.

My review of two sweaters in the expanded issue:

Boudicca’s Braid (Celtic Art based). I really don’t like this one. I would say “hate”, but that’s a pretty strong word. This cardigan doesn’t add much to the book that is until this sweater based on one-color beautiful designs.

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Eala Bhan (Alice designed this for herself). This is modern and beautiful. I do love this cardigan. It has very long instructions, but she says it’s not difficult to knit.

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The final section is based on designing your own Aran sweater. I think it would be best used to help adjust a pattern, but for someone who wants to create a unique sweater. There is two pages that discuss blocking, seaming, making tassels and fringe and the care of wool garments. There is also “a word from your sponsor” with info on buying Alice Starmore Yarns. I do think this is really good for those who want to make the sweaters as they appear in the book.

Alice gives a web site – alicestarmore.com – which didn’t seem to go anywhere when I clicked on textiles. I also looked at virtualyarns.com where yarn, books and patterns by Alice can be obtained. This site seems good and up-to-date.

I give this book a thumbs up.

Worth keeping and having in my library. At this point I might keep both copies as I like the man’s version in the early book and the woman’s in the later version. One day I might have to choose and give up one or the other…..

Aran Cable Stitches

Aran_Cables

This book is going very slowly, but this week I feel like I made headway. I got through the text heavy  speculations on when Aran Knitting actually started. In the end in the final speculation Alice believes that the reality is that the first ’40s and ’50s – much later than anyone else dared to say. By the time I got through it, I’m not sure that I really care anymore. Aran Knitting is still interesting to many knitters – especially those who buy this book!

So from there I went on to Aran Patterns – Yeah! All the stitch pattern photos were knit in Alice Starmore Bainin (an Aran weight wool). It’s actually a really good yarn for the stitch pattern which appear crisp and stand out well from the reverse stockinette background. The light plum color photographed very well. Actually better than off-white and definitely better than a dark shade.

This is a meaty section – from page 52 through page 99. A great reference library for cable lovers.

I thought I knew lots about cables, but I did learn more than I thought I would from the book. For me, this is the most important factor in my own personal “keep or lose” in book reviews.

First, There is a good chart key, although the actual symbols are not ones that I see generally used in US publications. I give Alice good marks on including excellent illustrations/drawings of how to create various cables beginning with the simplest cable crossings.

Alice covers many cable variations from double cables to diamond shapes cable formations filled with bobbles, seed stitch, and twisted stitches. The honeycomb panels – I hate. The plaited cables – I love. The surprise was the openwork patterns.

What did I learn?

1) A problem I’ve often had is to figure out what row to actual make a cross. The drawing of “counting rows between cable crosses” shown from the back of the work makes so much sense. Why didn’t I ever think of that before?

2) A good tip – decrease stitches before binding off so that the bind off does flare out.

No, I’m not quite done with this book. In my next post I’ll talk about the designs shown in the book. I want to look at the original book to see if there are any new ones added. As we say in publishing – tk (to come)!

 

What is an Aran Sweater?

define_Aran

Great trip to UK. Not so great for my blogging. I feel a bit stuck in the Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore book. I know once I read Alice’s conclusion, she goes into Aran stitch patterns and then into actual sweater designs. The light at the end of the tunnel is coming…

I staggered through Alice’s conclusions on Construction and Style. The circular Scottish and/or British Gansey  was the beginning point for the final very commercial Aran Sweater (knit in flat pieces). Then she went on to how the patterns occurred. I’m not sure I completely understood the whole concept. Some of it came from designing sweaters and patterns that could be easily commercially executed. Some of the patterning came from ideas based on the original Gansey concept.

The best and most concise think I learned was how Alice defined the Aran Sweater.

1) Handknit garment of flat construction (in pieces)

2) Composed of of vertical panels of cabled patterns and texture stitches

3) Each piece of the sweater has a central panel flanked by textured patterns (usually somewhat mirror each other)

4) Made of heavy, undyed cream wool – not always

After that “Ah ha Moment”, I decided to stop for the moment. These pages are really text heavy – in small type I must say. I’m not sure that is a good thing. Not light reading!

The sweater above is a good example of a Classic Aran Sweater.

 

Alice concludes the mystery of the origins of Aran Sweaters

 

 

men_Aran

In my last post, Alice was off to study sweaters in the Dublin National Museum of Ireland.

In my recent reading she dissected 4 garments beginning with an early piece (donated in 1937) from Aran that had the structure of a Scottish Gansey. Her dissection was complex and through. Actually, I was awed by her knowledge of knitting structure.

From the first garment, she concluded that what began as circular knit garments without seams evolved into Aran Sweaters knit in pieces. This seems to have been done to allow a knitter to work with textured patterns without being a mathematical genius needed to work out some of the shaping points in the sweaters.

One remarkable conclusion made by Alice is that Aran women learned Gansey knitting skills from Scottish sources.

Also, Aran sweaters (often called f) were not made as a fisherman’s garment. Will talk more about this in my next post.

I want to talk more about Alice’s conclusions, but I’m off to visit the UK tonight and have a plane to catch! I’ll be silent post-wise for a couple of weeks. Sadly, I’m not visiting Aran, although it is on my bucket list!

 

Aran Knitting – Take 2!

StEdna_man

OK – I really have been reading the background on Aran Knitting. It’s really hard to put it into words, but here’s what I’ve learned about the history of Aran Knitting.

Aran sweaters were not seen until the last 40’s and 50’s. Many of the myths for this knitting style were generated by Heinz Edgar Kiewe (1906-1986). Kiewe organized production of Aran sweaters based on a photo that was published in a book by Mary Thomas (no relation to me). Many of the sweaters were knit in the Western Isles of Scotland as there were not enough knitters in Ireland. So much for the Irish knit theory!

Alice Starmore believes that before her book called The Celtic Collection (1992), “celtic” cabling had not been seen in knitting.

Another myth debunked – Aran Sweaters are not traditional Fisherman’s garments. See my photo of the guys in the last blog post.

Here are a few books who offered history of Aran. These books were almost the only available books in the 80’s and 90’s when I was an editor. We thought of them as historical Bibles:

Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans – Gladys Thompson (1955).
Important in development of Aran Knitting. By the way, Aran was not mentioned in the title until 1971 when published by US publisher.

The Complete Book of Traditional Aran Knitting – Shelagh Hollingworth (1982)

Traditional Knitting – Michael Pearson (1984)
Michael (who I met years ago) cast doubt on Kiewe’s theories.

A History of Handknitting – Richard Rutt (1987)
The English Mr. Rutt was also known as the knitting Bishop.
His theory is that the origins of Aran Knitting may have come from the US.

Irish Knitting – Rohanna Darlington (1991)
Rohanna also talks about the US Boston connection by an immigrant woman.

Basically what I could learn is that the fisherman gansey may have been the origin of what we know as the Irish knitting tradition.

In the next chapter, Alice travels to Dublin to the National Museum of Ireland and talks about 3 garments (photographed in the book) and gives her conclusions. That to come!

In the meantime, I’ve been swatting. Gauges for the Na Craga (woman) Washable_Ewe

and St Edna (man) sweaters.
StEdna_swatch

 

A lot of knitting and ambitious projects!