Friday, January 28, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The multitude of books is making us ignorant—Voltaire

If you don’t know who Voltaire was, I suggest you read something other than a knitting book.

Bookbrained, Part Uno
My second passion, besides knitting, is reading. While I don’t often discuss my current non-knitting reading, the fact is that I am seldom without a book in my bag. Most likely, it will be a mystery—I have a fascination with true crime as well as fictional crime. I like to think it has to do with my sense of justice and my love of finding solutions. History is another big favorite, especially British history, the Battle of Gettysburg, World War II and the history of New York City.

Right now I’m attempting to read Postcards From the Edge, which I’m finding unreadable. I am making no emotional connection to Carrie Fisher’s writing, probably because I never did drugs or alcohol while manic or depressed.

In terms of knitting books, my cup runneth over. For the better part of 25 years, I have collected as many knitting technique books as my wallet could bear, and believe me, during the lean years of my youth, some of those books were hard won. What I would do was to read bibliographies of books that I owned, and then go out and buy the books listed in the bibliographies. In this way, I built up my library in bits and pieces, even though I often bought knitting books on faith alone. I have one wall filled with these books now, plus back issues of everything from Vogue Knitting to Threads to Spin Off to McCall’s Needlework & Crafts to the late, lamented Handmade.

I have been asked by many people what books I would recommend. And that’s a damned difficult request. I could write reams on that subject. But let me give you a few titles. Many of you probably already own these books. If you don’t, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by investing in them.

When I was first learning to become an accomplished knitter, I depended heavily upon Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books. Although I don’t subscribe totally to her percentage system—it has its issues, particularly in the calculation of sleeves and armholes—I think their value lies in teaching a knitter to think for him/herself. EZ’s designs were often clunky and ungainly but there is much to learn from her, even if you just read rather than do.

Another fine writer in the old style is Mary Thomas. Her two books, Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book and Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns, have withstood the test of time, for sure. And let’s not forget the Barbara Walker Treasuries of stitch patterns. Absolutely essential if you want to do your own designing. I use these more than any other books I own.

As far as reference books are concerned, I own Principles of Knitting, Vogue Knitting Book, and the Maggie Righetti books. I almost never use POK. I don’t like it, I find myself at odds with some of June Hiatt’s proclamations, and frankly the book is too unwieldy to be handy. VK’s book is fine and has all the basic stuff. But Maggie Righetti’s books, Sweater Design in Plain English and Knitting in Plain English are superlative.

My latest favorite reference books are IK editor Ann Budd’s excellent books o’ patterns, The Knitter’s Handy Book and The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweaters, which give you patterns in different sizes for different weights of yarn. If you’re too lazy to do the calculations, these books are absolutely perfect. I own the Handy Book, Elly got the sweater book for Christmas. I can’t be bothered figuring out the calculations for gloves, tams, and so on, and I’m more than happy to let Ann do them for me. I enjoy doing sweater calcs but Elly can’t do them, so the sweater book is perfect for her.

So, how many books should you own and what type? More is always good but make sure that you get value from what you buy. If you want to learn how to become a better knitter, buying technique books is important but reading them and practicing what you read is even more important. I tend not to buy pattern books because pattern books are not cost-effective as a rule, although I don’t miss a Jamieson’s book, I own all but one of She Who Sues At The Drop of A Kilt’s books, and of course, the Lavold Viking books.

There are lots of knitting books that focus on specialized areas, like lace, Fair Isle, and so on. If you’d like, I’ll talk about those books in my next entry.

Obligatory Blah-Blah Knitting Shit
Haven’t been doing much of interest other than working on the China vest and plying the cranberry merino, so I don’t have any pictures at this point. I absolutely have to set up the yarn meter and measure the Wensleydale so that my mother can figure out what pattern she wants to use.

Knitting survey on the KL? Shut the fuck up. No one cares. And fortunately, thanks to Ms. Merrick and others, they’re supposedly putting a halt to the incessantly perky and self-serving survey posts. Lisa did a great send-up survey, which she sent to the KL. Naturally, it was not allowed by the List Moms; however, they did allow Lisa to remain on the KL, much to her disgust. Too bad.

Anyone who gets their asses thrown off the KL is a fine human being and should be awarded the Croix de Guerre. Allons, enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est tres handy. Or so the French might say.

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