Over here!

August 14, 2013

Hey! You’ve found the old blog. All content from this blog, as well as all Knitting Kninja patterns, can now be found at knittingkninja.com. Hope to see you there!

 

Ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties

October 26, 2012

I’ve long been a fan of the awesome Teresa of Canary Knits, so I’m super excited to be the next stop on her blog tour for Ghosts, her new ebook!

Ghosts is not your typical knitting ebook. The knitting patterns are interspersed with essays exploring the very concept of ghosts and how they are tied to a culture’s exploration of death, gender role, technology, and history. It’s hard not to gush, because honestly, this sort of detailed research paired with art and crafting is pretty much my favorite way of looking at the world. Teresa’s research and analysis is fascinating. She starts with the Western tradition of ghosts, the one that is probably most familiar to an American or Canadian reader. We quickly learn that what seemed familiar is in fact a new myth in a historical progression of changing understanding of the returned dead. The transparent, vaporous humanoid forms that we think of as ghosts are a Victorian creation.

Galoshans, a lacy batwing sweater

A fun little digression in the book is a list, written by King James I of England, of rules for deportment upon encountering a ghost. It is apparently very important to avoid asking questions of the dead, being not only very rude and prying, but also somewhat useless, as good spirits would only wish to speak the word of God and naughty spirits are all about lying to you.

Calavera Catrina, a gorgeous bonnet like those found on Day of the Dead figures

Interspersed with these fascinating histories and definitions are photos of Teresa’s gorgeous patterns, each inspired by a particular tradition or myth surrounding ghosts. Galoshans, the lacy batwing sweater depicted above, was inspired by the idea of costume and disguise, but its white, light, transparency and flowing shape call to mind our Victorian ghosts with their fluttering, sheetlike appearance. The Calavera Catrina bonnet looks to Mexican Day of the Dead figures, referring to a 1910 print showing an elegant female skeleton in an elaborate flowered bonnet.

A print of a Calavera Catrina.

The book takes us outside the Western tradition and experience to explore realms of the dead less familiar to those steeped in Western tradition. Teresa’s elegant Hirtodama mittens are inspired by Japanese portrayals of blue glowing orb-like spirits.

Hitodama mittens, knit in dense linen stitch

It’s a joy to see meticulous research on such a rich and fascinating topic linked to the artistic manifestation of the thoughts inspired by the research. There is an almost abstract quality to Utukku, a capelet inspired by a monster of Akkadian and Summerian legend. According to Teresa, “Alû could envelop its victims like a cloak and squeeze the life out of them, and lived in darkness.” While this cloak is considerably more benign, its many ribbons add a visual touch that is beautiful at the same time as it calls to mind many tiny arms or tentacles poised to squeeze.

Utukku, a beribboned cape

There are 11 patterns in total, and you can see them here on Ravelry. Ghosts is a real labor of love and creativity, and I hope you’re feeling as inspired by it as I am!

If you’re interested in winning a copy of the ebook, Teresa has generously offered one up. To enter, please leave a comment telling me about which pattern is your favorite and why, or with a ghost story or legend of your own. I will do a random drawing of the entries on Friday, November 2nd. Happy haunting! (And don’t forget to include an email address in your commenter info so that I can contact you if you win!)

Fall KAL Reboot

September 3, 2012

So when I was thinking of doing a KAL I forgot two important things. One, in places that are not here, it’s been kinda hot. Like, living on the surface of the sun hot, apparently. And while it’s been warm here, it really hasn’t been hot and I’ve never much felt deterred from knitting this summer. I don’t blame people in hotter climes for being adverse to setting a hefty pile of wool onto their laps in the midst of a day that calls more for lemonade than hats and I certainly don’t blame them for not thinking of joining a knit along when it’s hot out!

Two, I wanted the KAL to keep me in touch while I’m back at school, but I hadn’t yet started and didn’t have an idea of exactly how my time would be spent. I HAVE started now, and I have a better idea of how my time will be used.

With all that in mind, I’d like to start over with the knit along idea. I’d still like to have one! And I’d still like for everyone to participate. But I’m going to make this easier on all of us by moving the start date a little later, extending the time period (including the time period to use the discount code), and offering some fun prizes from my stash as well as some pattern prizes.

The knitting itself will take place in the month of October from the 1st to Halloween, so a great time to get started on holiday gift knitting. And anyone who finishes a project and posts a picture in the finished projects thread will be eligible for a random drawing for any one of the prizes listed below. I dug through my stash and found some real beauties! I can barely bear to give them up, but really, what’s knitting without sharing? To join in, post in this thread in my Ravelry group!

Now: prizes!

Garden Series

First off, I have this half skein of Creating from A Verb for Keeping Warm. It’s a gorgeous warm caramel yellow, dyed by Adrienne at Verb using a natural plant dye made from Maroon Coreopsis. It’s part of the limited edition Garden Series, and I fell in love with it at first site. The half skein is enough to make a pair of mitts, which is what I’d planned on doing with it!

Imagination

Next, I have a kit for Dorothy. It’s in Knit Picks Imagination in Castle Walls and Ruby Slippers, which is enough to make a shawl the opposite of mine (grey on a red field rather than red on a grey field), but I will order a second skein of Ruby Slippers so that you can choose to go either way with the pattern!

Chronos 1

Here is the skein that it’s breaking my heart to give up, but really, the joy of BFL/Silk is meant to be shared. I have a skein of Orange Flower BFL/Silk Lace in Chronos. It’s a glorious grey brown skein with the shine and softness of BFL/Silk and it’s just amazing. I sincerely hate to give it up, but I wanted to offer something truly special for this knitalong and this is it. Orange Flower’s always been hard to get and now it may be discontinued at the end of the year, so this is a great opportunity to get a really rare skein of yarn. This skein would be fabulous with any of my shawl patterns, or heck, someone else’s shawl pattern!

Finally, patterns! I will give away two copies of Jolie with Pointy Sticks. The small patterns are great for gifts and a lot of fun to knit!

I hope you’ll join me and I look forward to autumn!

Back to school, possible KAL, knitted things

August 23, 2012

I’ve been incredibly behind hand on keeping up with knitting related social thingies. (I’m sorry. My brain is completely out of whack.) School starts on Wednesday and normally that would herald an exciting influx of time available for knitting and writing and cleaning, but this year I start school on Wednesday along with the kids! It’s so so exciting and so scary at once. I’ve cut down on my submissions to books and magazines because I have no idea what my time will look like, but I’m hoping to keep Knitting Kninja alive as I become a full time student. And that means finishing old series I’ve let fall by the wayside and releasing new patterns and trying to write in this blog when I can.

SO! In that spirit, I am proposing a knit along. Mosey on over to my Ravelry group, Dangerous with Pointy Sticks, and post in this thread to tell me what pattern you’d like to knit. There’s a coupon code for 20% off any individual pattern that you can use to get started. I will be adding yarny and pattern prizes after I comb through my stash and find some pretties.

As to what I’ve been up to on the knitting front, I have been working on a new sweater pattern for wee ones. You can see an in process picture below.

Twin sweater

It’s knit in Quince and Company Lark and I am completely smitten with this yarn. You guys. It is so round and plump and lovely to knit with, I can’t even tell you. It is the perfect yarn for cables, truly a knitter’s yarn.

I have some other, more secretive projects underway, but I’ll update with those as soon as I can! In the meantime, I hope to see you for the KAL!

Jolie with Pointy Sticks

August 18, 2012

Well! It only took me AGES, but I finally have a little collection of accessory patterns available, just in time for autumn.

I’ve talked a little about the philosophy behind this collection as I’ve worked on it, but I’m going to mention it again. The idea behind this collection was to create a somewhat cohesive set of accessories that could be mixed and matched to offset a fall and winter wardrobe. Like most knitters, I have an absolute ton of hats and cowls and mitts and such, but they’re often knit in isolation from one another and can’t really be worn together without making me look a little crazy. Watching old movies, one of the things that struck me about the curated wardrobes of the actresses was how well the accessories worked together. I wanted to create small patterns using minimal amounts of luxury yarn that would create a set of accessories that could be worn as part of a well matched wardrobe.

Myrna 3

Myrna cowl and mitts

I’ve listed two sets as individual patterns, meaning that while there are six patterns listed for the collection, there are actually instructions for eight different accessories: two hats, two cowls, two shawls, one set of mitts, and a cravat.

So let’s talk a little about the patterns! You’ve seen Rosa and Dorothy before.

Rosa and Dorothy

Rosa has been updated to include a second, larger size, and a second suggested yarn. Both suggested yarns are from Rocky Mountain Dyeworks. I love the rich colors that Hasmi, the creative force behind Rocky Mountain Dyeworks, teases out of fibers. The original red Rosa was knit in Bow Falls Fingering, a tight BFL. The new version is knit in Kicking Horse Sock, a merino/bamboo blend with a soft hand and oodles of drape. I asked Hasmi if she had any colors suggestive of a yellow rose, and she dyed me THREE absolutely gorgeous shades, which I alternated to create a subtle gradient from light to dark. I absolutely love the result. If you previously purchased Rosa, you should have received an update to the pattern, and if you wish to purchase the whole collection, the price of Rosa will be automatically discounted at purchase.

Dorothy is included in this collection as well, the only way to purchase the pattern through Knitting Kninja. Unlike my other shawl patterns, Dorothy is a raglan shawl, which makes it easy to drape over the shoulders and wear. It’s also easy to wrap around as a scarf. I used Knit Picks Imagination sock yarn for this version, an alpaca blend that adds a fuzzy halo to your knitting. Each section is fast and fun to knit, with a great deal of texture.

Clara

Clara is a bobble and lace hat. I don’t always love bobbles, but there’s something about a bobble hat that I adore. I have a saved picture in my files from ages ago of a bobble hat with diamond lace and I knew I wanted to make something similar one day. Clara is that something similar. It’s a one size hat, because the lace makes it very stretchy in order to fit a wide range of head sizes. Clara’s lace comes together in the decreases to make a star shaped top that just added to the fun little details. Knit in Sanguine Gryphon Traveller, it’s a warm hat despite the holes. I suggest substituting Cephalopod Yarns or Verdant Gryphon Traveller. Each skein is enough to make at least two hats.

Edith

Edith is a beret and cravat set knit in A Verb for Keeping Warm Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is a gorgeous silk/merino blend with a somewhat rustic hand. The beret is covered in little twisted stitch cables that interlock and wind up the hat. They are echoed slightly in the ruffle cravat. The hat comes in two styles, a shallow beret (shown) and a slouchier version for those who want a little more substance. You can make a shallow beret and a cravat in any size from just one skein of yarn, which makes this a good value for an expensive and luxurious yarn.

Ida

Ida is a colorwork cowl knit in the inevitable Malabrigo yarns. Inevitable, because, let’s face it, I love Malabrigo. I am not the best at colorwork, so the thick Malabrigo Worsted made this a breeze, since it knits up fast and limits the amount of colorwork you actually need to do. Stranded colorwork meant a lot of loose strands inside the cowl and I was worried about snagging, so I used some Malabrigo Lace to knit a lining. If you haven’t knit with Lace, it’s kitten soft and just a delight against the skin, which means that my cowl is unbelievably warm and soft. I made it a bit oversized to compensate for the extreme warmth of a stranded, lined merino cowl.

Myrna

Finally, Myrna. Myrna hasn’t gotten a lot of attention on Ravelry since I added it, but in some ways, it’s my favorite pattern in the lot. Knit in Sanguine Gryphon Bugga!, I wanted to utilize what I think is the absolutely perfect stitch quality of the yarn. It knits up more neatly than almost any other yarn I’ve worked with, and I wanted to show off the color and quality of the yarn. Myrna is knit on small needles to create a neat, stretchy set of mitts with negative ease. There is nothing fancy about these mitts other than the yarn and the button tab. They’re simple as can be, but perhaps because of that, they’re my favorite to wear. The matching cowl uses stripes of stockinette and a textured slip stitch lace pattern that creates little half moons all around. Another button tab pulls the cowl down in front and turns the stripes into a gentle accordion shape.

The whole collection is available for US $16.00.

Digital books from Melanie Falick

July 20, 2012

I was really excited to get a chance to review a number of new digital editions of Melanie Falick/STC Craft books. I really love the quality, layouts, and gorgeous photography that they utilize for their knitting books, and I was very excited to get a chance to look at these books on one of my portable devices. The iPad is quickly becoming my favorite place to store knitting PDFs and books, as I can take it along with me and I don’t lose it as easily as I tend to lose paper patterns.

The first thing then to know is that, unfortunately, the file format of these books is currently incompatible with the iPad or the Kindle. The books have to be read in something called Adobe Digital Editions, and although they are saved in an epub format, they cannot be opened in iBooks. For me, this meant that the only place I can read the review copies is on my large desktop computer. I think these editions would be most useful to someone who owns a laptop, which I unfortunately do not. In the meantime, I’m just going to have to hope that Apple and Adobe hash out their differences and make it easier for the consumer.

If you do have a laptop, and you like to take it with you to coffee shops and knit (this is what I imagine people with laptops do, because it’s what I’d do if I had a laptop) then I think these digital copies of some really great books could be ideal for your purposes. You don’t have to lug around a library’s worth of hardcover books to be able to access the pattern you want, nor do you have to photocopy the pattern and risk losing a sheath of papers. Instead, you could be sitting at a table, laptop open in front of you, sipping a tea, and working on a cute little hat for a friend’s new baby. See how glamorous your life is?

The two books I looked at were Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson and Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick. Joelle Hoverson is the brilliant mind behind Purl Soho, and she’s a master of color and texture as well as elegant and striking simplicity. This makes her a really ideal author for a Melanie Falick book since their aesthetics are very compatible.

The colors of some of the photos were a little faded in the compression, but overall the images were clear, bright, and cheery. In some cases, an entire page of the publication was composed of a single picture, something that I think works better in a print format, since it’s more integrated into one’s view of the page spread. It wasn’t distracting, but I’d have preferred to see these photos moved into a page with text so I could mentally pair it with the words. All page numbers and pattern names were clickable, making it easy to navigate to a referred to example. In the case of pattern names, the navigation took me to the page on which the pattern started, often skipping a photograph of the item in question, so a little back tracking was necessary. This is something I think might be more seamless on a touchscreen device, leading me once again to hope for a resolution of Adobe and Apple’s differences!

Both books are excellent in their own right, and I enjoy the simplicity and elegance of the patterns. The Baby Bonnet from Last Minute Knitted Gifts is a gorgeous example of a simple concept made special through a combination of interesting textures and elegant color. Weekend Knitting has nearly 40 patterns including a couple of beautiful examples of two color brioche stitch. The nice thing about both of these books is that the patterns can serve as base recipes from which the knitter takes off and adds his or her own touch. The examples provided really show the effect color and texture have on a simple knit, so it’s easy to extrapolate and add a personal touch in a way that can be a little harder with a more complex pattern.

While I would like to see these books available in more formats, the quality of the patterns, photography, and the convenience of an ebook lead me to recommend them to those who have laptops. For the rest of us, our day may be coming soon! If you’re interested in trying a free pattern to see what it’s like, enjoy this pattern for the Airy Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.

Summertime and the livin’ is woolly

July 9, 2012

Ice cream yarn

I don’t really have anything to share right now, so enjoy this photo of Nora eating yarn ice cream that she dyed herself. The flavor is Raspberry Sunset, she says!

Dorothy

June 27, 2012

KnitPicks catalog Dorothy

Yesterday I opened my mailbox to find the Knit Picks catalog with my Dorothy shawl on the cover! Dorothy is a shawl I designed specifically with Knit Picks yarns in mind. It’s a two color raglan with very simple patterning that changes often enough to hold one’s interest throughout. It starts off with an easy slip stitch pattern that creates great texture, then moves on to an eyelet stripe, and finally ends with a very simple chevron lace.

You can purchase Dorothy as a kit (and at a discount) in one of two color pairings, or as an individual pattern. I had originally envisioned the shawl in red and white, so I’m thrilled that Knit Picks used that same color combo for their own version. I hadn’t pictured the brown and lime shawl, but I love it. It’s got real pop and a completely different character than the red and white shawl. (And it’s actually not far off from my swatch, which was knit in brown and hot pink.)

I will not be offering Dorothy as an individual pattern through Knitting Kninja, but I WILL be including it as a bonus pattern in an upcoming ebook that I have been struggling to finish. I hope you like it as much as I do! I think it’s a really fun summer accessory. I still need to get a good photograph of my own sample, which is knit in a completely different yarn (though very similar colors) to the version shown here. Knit Picks was out of the Stroll Tonal in the colors I wanted at the time, so I ended up using Imagination, their alpaca blend sock yarn. I really enjoyed using it and it created a rather lovely texture to my sample.

Cinnamon toast

June 25, 2012

Cinnamon Toast

I have this cardigan. It’s my favorite cardigan. There’s no good reason why it should be a favorite. It’s boxy and loose and cropped and it’s made of acrylic and I bought it in high school. It’s the dull mint color of hospital walls, and yet, somehow, it goes with everything and it’s comfortable and I love it. For years now I’ve been thinking I should knit a new version of my cardigan in nicer material than acrylic and in more colors than dull mint. What you see above is the result of getting off my tuchus and actually doing just that.

It currently lacks buttons, but that’s my new cardigan, modeled on my old cardigan, and I love it! It’s knit in Tosh Merino Light in Rosewood, a lovely brown with warm pinks peeking out every so often. I thought Rosewood would work as a neutral without being so neutral as to be dull. I think it does, at that. It did grow a bit more than I’d calculated, which was great for the sleeves, less so for the body. I had intended to make the sweater oversized, but it’s still a bit larger than intended, something I intend to correct with the next sweater. Because this is absolutely the first of several of these cardigans! Everyone needs a plain cardigan, I think. I may write up a pattern next time.

Oh, one more thing – I had trouble deciding how I wanted to knit the button bands, and in the end decided I wanted vertical bands. But I’d already knit the sweater and hadn’t incorporated vertical bands into the pattern. I don’t think my solution is perfect – it does create a little horizontal edge where it joins – but I made what I think of as afterthought bands. Knit vertically, they join to the sweater as you knit them, with the last stitch of the row being knit together with the edge stitch from the sweater on every right side row. It joins every to every other row on the sweater and I think makes for a really nice, sturdy band. Next time I’ll knit it straight into the sweater, but it’s a decent solution for the indecisive.

The male gaze in knitwear design: the female gaze

June 23, 2012

This is a continuation of the exploration of male gaze in knitwear photography. For the working definition of male gaze as I’m using it, click here. For the second installment, about the spouse as photographer, click here. For the third installment, about the crafter’s gaze, click here. I hope to do a second installment of the crafter’s gaze in future. If you are interested in contributing to this series, either as a photographer, or as a writer, please contact me.

Of all the topics I set for myself on this subject, none has given me more fits than the female gaze. In her original essay, Laura Mulvey defined the female gaze as identical to the male gaze, suggesting that the male gaze is so internalized that women look at themselves through male eyes. I think there’s a great deal of truth to this, but since that essay, many feminists have challenged this notion or set out to essentially craft a female gaze. However, most definitions of female gaze that I’ve found have been explicitly heterosexual. I think this is missing a distinct facet of female existence. Firstly, the experiences of homosexual women are excluded, and secondly, if the male gaze is internalized, as I’d agree that it is, even the heterosexual female gaze includes appreciation of the female form.

I found this while searching for female gaze images. You’re welcome, nerd ladies.

We are trained from birth that women are beautiful, that the female form is more graceful and lovely than the male form, and that it is not only acceptable, but encouraged, for women to look at each other not as potential sexual partners, but as competitors and partners in beauty. In this way, any developed idea of female gaze cannot exclude both appreciation of and criticism toward the female form itself. It is also important to note that the concept of male gaze as developed by Laura Mulvey was done in the form of a single essay written as a polemic, so nuance was deliberately excluded by Mulvey herself. Any broader application as applied by me or others is layering a lot of extra material on top of a groundbreaking concept that was deliberately limited to film.

With those caveats in mind, trying to define the female gaze and then apply it to knitwear photography becoming a daunting task. For this purpose, I am going to separate knitwear from the equation temporarily in order to develop a working definition of female gaze. I hope then to return to the previously introduced concept of crafter’s gaze and to expand upon it to show where it overlaps with female gaze in knitwear photography.

Returning to the origin of male gaze in film, let me tell you about a movie I really love, even though it’s hugely problematic in a number of ways and probably demonstrably not that great a movie. (And a HUGE bomb, making back only a 6th of the money spent on it.) Strange Days* was a 1995 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. It is one of a small handful of intended blockbuster action films directed by women, and as such it has the potential to give us some pictures that might be a bit different than those offered by typical action movies.

Like this.

In the above image, the person offering protection is the woman. The male (main, it must be noted) character, played by Ralph Fiennes, is shown to be corruptible and corrupt, weaker both physically and morally than his bodyguard, played by Angela Bassett. The striking thing about the picture above, to me, is both that it portrays real tenderness, something I was unable to find in other stills of action movie actors, and also a protectiveness of a woman toward a man she loves and desires. Look also at how both characters are dressed. For once, a woman in an action movie is wearing clothing appropriate to action. The man, by contrast, wears a shirt unbuttoned almost to his waist. It looks slovenly, in part because of how we have been taught to see male exposure versus female exposure, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that in this scene, the person showing more chest is the man. The man who is being portrayed as vulnerable and desirable despite his many faults.

It’s not a complete reversal of action movie tropes, but it’s an interesting shift that I think actually incorporates a lot of the ideas behind what I see as a heterosexual female gaze – the male gaze is not absent, but it is co-opted. We are able to see the man as an object of desire, but our view of the woman isn’t first person, either. We are still seeing the world through the eyes of the male character, but we’re offered some intriguing glimpses of a world in which women also have a gaze.

More soon, looking at where the female gaze intersects with the crafter’s gaze.

*Please note, should you wish to watch Strange Days, that it is a movie rife with violence, the most disturbing being the sexual violence, of which there is a great deal. There is a huge trigger potential with this movie, so keep that in mind before you watch it – I don’t want to be the cause of disturbing a whole bunch of people! As I say, I love the movie, but it is very problematic.


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