Archive for the ‘ebook’ Category

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, “AlĂ» 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!)

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.

Collection design and me

May 14, 2011

First things first – thank you to everyone who entered my raffle for earthquake relief in Japan, and congratulations to Natalie, Rosemary, Jenny, and Hanne, who won the prizes! I sent them off yesterday, and ladies, my apologies for the weird handwritten notes in blue marker. I couldn’t find grown up writing implements. Yup.

It’s been a long week. I had all three kids at home for a lot of it, and then I caught whatever bug they had, which meant that there was one ugly day where they were getting better and I was coming down with what they had, and they had a lot more energy than I did and basically ran the show all day. There was also one blessedly easy day where two of the sickies slept for the vast majority of the day, so I suppose it evens out.

Heyo! I’ve returned, slowly, to the ebook I was working on prior to Understory. I had it in my head that it was best not to show anything from that enterprise until it was done, but frankly, that no longer seems to make as much sense to me, and I can’t quite remember why I had that idea. I’m planning for the collection to have 9 or 10 accessory patterns, but which ones are still in flux.

The general idea is that each of these projects, with the exception of a shawl that is not pictured, would use relatively small amounts of yarn, enabling a knitter to get some pretty matching accessory sets out of one or two skeins of yarn. I like this idea because, I hope, it would give knitters a chance to try some luxury yarns without spending as much as one would on yarn for a large project. I also got excited about this because, like many knitters, I have a lot of pretty scarves and hats and mitts and other cool weather accessories and most of them cannot be worn together without making me look a little silly. Matching accessory sets can make an outfit look neat and tailored, and I’m hoping that many of the items in the collection can be mixed and matched as well.

As it stands, I’m currently planning on the collection consisting of two hats, two shawls, one cowl, one neckwarmer, one mitt set, a pair of boot socks, and a headband. Work on it is sporadic, as it comes between deadline projects, but I’m still excited about it.

This is the first ebook I started, but has become my second ebook. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I thought I’d talk a little about how I plan a collection. I don’t claim to be speaking for anyone but myself, and I suspect there are better, more efficient ways to work. However, for me, a pattern or a collection starts with a color palette. I want the different items in the collection to be harmonious with each other, but also to showcase different colors. I also think color can set a mood and a connecting theme behind a variety of disparate items.

In Understory, the colors were meant to reflect the setting of the collection – the understory of a forest after spring rains. The basic palette was suggested by Hannah Thiessen, and I had some leeway to choose my own colors, picking spring greens, yellows, greys, and a flash of bright red. The current project, Jolie With Pointy Sticks, is somewhat vintage inspired, more urban, and has a palette primarily of reds and yellows with beiges, golds, and purples, not currently in the picture. I have an idea board for a future collection as well with a completely different palette of bright and dark colors meant to convey youth and energy.

Colors tell a story, whether we mean them to or not, and it seems to me that any design is itself a story that we’re selling. There are many patterns out in the world, but the ones that speak to us as knitters and consumers are the ones that tell a story we want to hear or be a part of. My personal rule for knitting patterns is that I have to have fun knitting them myself before I’m willing to sell them to other people. I also try to tell stories I want to hear. None of us can please everyone, and I think in trying, we tend to create something pretty bland that doesn’t reflect our personal vision. (The painting experiment form of this is Komar and Melamid’s Most and Least Wanted series, in which they created paintings based on polling information from different countries.) This isn’t to say that the opinions of others should be disregarded outright, but that if a project doesn’t speak to you, it probably won’t be one you invest in wholly. I start with colors because they set a tone, literally, that lets me know which way I want to go with the project as a whole.

The colors sort of direct the aesthetic for me a bit. The reds and yellows I picked are less high school mascot colors and more warm tones that I have seen used in a lot of vintage dresses. I started looking at movie stills and vintage fabrics and picking up on ideas and details I liked from them. The end results are not necessarily going to reflect their inspiration to everyone who looks at them, but if the story is harmonious to me, the projects fun to knit and wear, and the end result feels whole, I think at least I can be comfortable with what I’m offering.