Ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties

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!)


11 Responses to “Ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties”

  1. delighted Says:

    Just in time for Halloween, my mother and her partner of several years bought a house together. A mansion, actually. Only after closing did they discover that it’s reportedly one of the most haunted houses on our state. Apparently many years ago, a young maid in the house became distraught over a failed romance and hung herself from one of the balconies. They say some nights, you can still see her making her final climb up the grand staircase, toward her invisible rope.

    I’m very glad they don’t take possession of the house until -after- Halloween.

  2. Sheila Says:

    I love the Uncanny socks. I’m on a bit of a twisted stitch kick at the moment and have some yarn I won at my LYS that just may need to become those socks.

  3. Christine Says:

    Love the Utukku! The ribbons add great texture. Wouldn’t it be pretty in a deep red like the bonnet above?

  4. Audry Says:

    I think the Hitodama pattern is pretty neat. Those lights often show up in video games. It’s neat to see a knitted version.

  5. Denise Says:

    I like the Aberrant hat and the ectoplasm cowl. Cool!

  6. ritainalaska Says:

    saw the uncanny sox and fell in love! love sock making and twisted stitches … great pattern, as are all of the patterns in this fun book. thanx for the chance to win a copy.

  7. melanie Says:

    I love the Progression shawl. Love worsted weight, and love the colors.

  8. marigayle Says:

    I don’t know which I like better-the bonnet or the Uncanny socks. I probably wouldn’t wear the bonnet, but I would the socks, so I pick that. I love twisted stitches!!

  9. kniterly Says:

    I’ve been thinking about tackling the Calavera Catrina. Its cute with a vaguely Victorian look without being too over-the-top and I love the colour. Plus I have this thing for Dia dos Muertos ever since I did an undergrad anthro thesis on it, so there you go 😉
    kniterly at gmail dot com

  10. California Craftini – Interweave Knitting Lab Edition | Craftini: My Daily Cocktail of Yarn, Beads and Paper Says:

    […] East Bay’s Knitting Kninja is the most recent stop on Teresa of Canary Knits’ blogtour. Check out the stuff from teresa’s new ebook of patterns, […]

  11. Caitlin Says:

    I love the Calavera Catrina. Dia de los muertos is fascinating! But what I’m really excited about is how this book mixes patterns with essays. I did my grad thesis on medieval European ghosts – I’d love to learn more about ghosts in other cultures.

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