Sunday, February 22, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.--Will Durant

Remember those hideous Knitter's bios? With a number of dead writers/designers listed? A few weeks ago I mentioned Heinz Kiewe, one of the "designers" who Knitter's is hoping will rise from the dead and write his short bio.

Heinz Edgar Kiewe--Crackpot or Historian?
Well, something of a crackpot, to be honest. Kiewe (1906-1986) was a Prussian-born self-styled "textile journalist" who ran a needlework/yarn shop called Art Needlework Industries Ltd. in Oxford, England from about 1940 until the late '60s. He also published several books about needlework--Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania is still available from Dover, I think.

However, Kiewe's dubious place in knitting history may be that of Promulgator of the Great Aran Sweater Myth. Kiewe actually purchased one of the first commercially available Aran sweaters in 1936, loaned it to Mary Thomas for her book, and then proceeded to cook up a fairytale theory about the Irish knitting these sweaters for centuries. Richard Rutt goes into great detail about Kiewe's theory in The History of Hand Knitting:

Heinz Kiewe perceived a connection between Aran knitted designs and ancient Irish art. He never claimed that this was a scholarly theory: he accepted it as an intuitive perception...So he began to describe Aran knitted patterns in terms of the 'white shirt of monotheistic cultures.' Before long, publicists for wool spinners were crediting Aran knitting with thousands of years of history...

Much of this nutsy nonsense comes from a book Kiewe wrote in 1967, The Sacred History of Knitting. In the early '80s, when I was knitting editor for MacKnit, a machine knitting magazine, I spent a good deal of time researching Aran knitting history, to the extent that anyone can research knitting history in this country. I met up with an English machine knitter and historian, Kathleen Kinder, who was the first to challenge the notion that Aran patterns were symbolic and that the Irish had been knitting these sweaters from time immemorial. Kathleen had done an enormous amount of research and I suspect that Richard Rutt used many of Kathleen's theories as a jumping-off point.

I own a autographed copy of this bizarre book, found in a used bookstore 20 years ago. And it is most bizarre. Some of the chapters: Discover of the knitted priestly Ephod on Cyprus; Jerusalem Knitting; Sculpture in Convex Stripes--did it signify knitting?

You get the picture. Here's Kiewe at his looniest, verbatim:

Are the Aran patterns a sign, a witness of the revelations of the Holy Book?

Yes, indeed we confirm them to be ornaments of religion--symbols of the divine "geometrical speculations" of the Near East. What was the importance of the symbol of interlacing? The bond of Man with God and Religion (from re-ligare--to bind "the religious"--person bound by monastic vows, etc.).

The plait? The Holy three stands of hair ribbon or straw, the plaited holy-bread of the Old Testament, they are symbols of a devout family bound up with God.

Do we need now to explain the deep religious meaning of the names of the Aran patterns?

Enough on Kiewe. The book does have some interesting info on Jersey and Guernsey knitting, due to Kiewe's friendship with Gladys Thompson, author of Patterns for Guernseys and Jerseys.

And here's an interesting article I found, if you don't know too much about Aran knitting.

However, I would highly recommend Rutt's book, recently back in print. It's a fascinating read.

Ain't Worth the Paper It's Printed On Department
For crissakes, now the Dweebs are bitching about the new matte paper VK and IK are using?

Better they should bitch about the content therein.

Of course the matte paper is cheaper. I prefer it, myself. No glare.

Do I feel an impending knitting-on-planes thread coming? Or perhaps we haven't had sufficient discussion of copyright issues?


INKnitters Redux
Just want to mention this issue of INKnitters again because of a superlative article I've just finished reading, The Method of Three. Diane Piwko, the editor, has written a coherent, cohesive explanation of how to resize patterns, one that I've always subscribed to but have never seen written about. And she includes a very good sizing chart, one of the best I've ever seen. Worth the price of the magazine for this one.

But more than that is her honest, up-front evaluation of what's wrong with knitting patterns these days. As she says, "It seems most designers do not want to take the trouble of designing a fitted sleeve cap and armhole, the most attractive shape for anyone's body. Instead, the difficulty level of patterns is being 'dumbed down' into dropped, or square set-in sleeve styles, and INKnitters is as guilty as all the other magazines. Acceptable, but the larger the person is, the less need there is for extra fabric puckering out at the underarm...The Method of Three starts with an advanced level--a fully-fitted sleeve/shoulder line, and lets you do any simplifying of the pattern and garment shape from there."

What she say. Frankly, few knitters are seamstresses. I've always felt that the classes I took at Stretch 'n' Sew, a now-defunct chain that sold jersey knit fabrics and patterns for the fabrics, were worth their weight in gold, insofar as I learned how to deal with knitted fabric and how it acts in a garment. If you want to make sweaters that hang well, fit well, and look good, you need to have an understanding of clothing construction as it pertains to knits. I probably sew as well as I knit, although in recent years I have not had the time to do much sewing. But my sewing knowledge has stood me in good stead with my knitting, no doubt about it.

That's it for this entry. I need to attack my spinng wheel and finish off a bobbin of merino/silk/angora. What a mess that is to spin. And pounds of it left to do. I'll be working on redesigning the blog over the next month, so it can go up on And starting DBA courses. And trying to finish the Lavold Ran tunic. And trying to teach Beth to knit. And getting a business trip to Boca Raton the beginning of May.

Shall I whinily request the locations of Boca-area yarn shops from every Yahoo knitting list?

Nah. I'd rather spend my free time poolside being rare and handy.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.--Tom Stoppard

Or perhaps skill without imagination gives us warshcloths.

Getting It All Together
I realized yesterday that I had not posted anything in almost two weeks.

Why? Life, like a black hole in space, was simply annihilating my free time. Or perhaps I should say, work and my general orthopedic problems have been keeping me from blogging. And kept me from seeing my knitting friends last weekend. Bah.

So, what to do? There are several factors keeping me from writing during the week at this time. One, my job has been consuming larger and larger amounts of my time and energy: The company is up on the block, which means that there is constant chaos and rumors flying; Andre, my unindicted co-conspirator at work, is leaving the company, which probably means a chunk of his database work will go to me; as a result, I will be taking classes twice a week in database administration and programming (Oracle and SQL) at night starting March 23. That means homework too, and lots of it.

Egad. When I get home at night, the best I can do is glom at the TV with John, get a few rows knitted, and go to bed. When you sit at a computer all day writing, it's tough to come home and do it again for an hour or so. Christ, I'm going to be 54 in April and I'm living the life of a 30-year-old.

Solution: Write the blog on the weekend. I can't and won't give it up. So I'll be writing the blog on Saturday or Sunday every week, and then probably running my mouth in the Comments like the rest of you during the week. I still want to move the blog over to but that will have to wait for a few weeks, I think. I'll let you know when the blog moves.

Sound like a plan?

The Mags
I finally stopped at Barnes & Noble to see what was out. I flipped through Vague Knitting but was too uninspired to pay for a copy. Didn't even bother with Knitter's. However, I did pick up a copy of INKnitters. Jesus, I wish they'd change its name--absolutely terrible. The INK hits you right between the eyes--more appealing to rubberstampers than to knitters, I would think.

This could be a good magazine if they had some sense of style. As usual, the garments and other projects are mostly hokey, with color combos your color-blind brother would choose. The only pattern I liked were some toe-up socks done in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock that used handpainted yarn extremely well. The technical articles, by and large, are generally very useful, although the one article about how to knit continental was more confusing than anything else. Bad pictures don't help people learn.

But INKnitters is filling the technical void left by the other magazines. Knitter's, which began by being the technical bible, hardly has any technical articles anymore. For new (and not-so-new) knitters, magazines are a lot cheaper than buying tons of reference books. I don't know how the new, hot, chic, hip hobby of knitting will morph into a higher level if the magazines don't take it there.

One last thought: As a buyer of other fiber/needlework magazines (spinning, quilting, embroidery, etc.), why is it that the design quality of projects in those magazines is so much higher than that in knitting magazines? Even counted cross stitch, which has its own share of tacky designs, has magazines with decent designs.

The Chubbettes Overcome Work Implosion And Rally for Knitting
Word up. Heh heh. Our Wednesday Stitch and Bitch at TCI has gone by the wayside, since we're all working through lunch these days. We've lost one member to the great TCI "they're selling us" exodus. However, the other day, Beth from Marketing stopped me in the hall and asked me a very good question about knitting. I pose it to you: Is it better to learn from someone or to learn from a book?

My answer to her was "Both." You start with someone showing you the basics, get those under your belt, and then use books to further your knitting education. So of course, I offered to teach her to knit. My friend Mary, who I taught to knit 2 years ago, wants a refresher course. God knows how we'll find the time to do this, but we all need a break from the relentless work.

No, my students do not learn to knit warshcloths, scarves (unless they want to), or baby blankets.

They're taught to be rare and handy. And they are.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Football is a mistake. It combines the two worst elements of American life. Violence and committee meetings.
George F. Will

Super Bowl Sunday. An excuse to overeat and overknit.

Getting almost 3 inches done on a sleeve means sitting in a crowded volunteer fire department eating buffalo wings and other junk, drinking birch beer, and asking John WTF is going on now?

Somehow I missed the Janet Jackson tit display at half-time. What a pity.

The truth of the matter: I only understand baseball. Pitchers and catchers report this month. Football is over. Thank God for both.

More on Lavold Errors
These mistakes keep popping up like zits on a debutante's face. It so happened that Elly, with two leftover Silky Wool skeins, decided to do the Gram hat from the Viking Knits book.

She got confused reading the directions and called me for clarification. After the welt, the directions read, more or less, to inc one stitch at the end of each row. And then, there's a stitch count, which actually belongs to the mittens directions and has nothing to do with the hat.

This is not on Lavold's page of corrections on her website. So I suppose I'll write her.

Blog Redux
I stupidly managed to delete the e-mails from my new web host, which included my .ftp password, so they've just last night resent them. Once I get home tonight, I'll spend some time getting the blog onto It's not hard, it just takes some time. All the graphics need to be uploaded as well. You will need to use after today, so bear that in mind.

I'm looking at various and sundry templates to use for my blog redesign. Over the next few weeks, I imagine I will find something to my liking, with code that I can modify for my peculiar tastes. Or perhaps not. We'll see.

List Snooze
It's astonishing how many unread Knit U and Knit List digests I have piled up in that cyber bathroom I call my Inbox. Frankly, I find I'd rather play online poker than read the lists, when I have some spare time.

The stethoscope cover really did me in, though. Lately, my dependence upon others, such as Loopy and Kathy, to fill me in, is shocking.

I can't read that crap anymore. Knit U is so overmoderated, it's almost funny. Threads appear and just as quickly disappear, never to be mentioned by other readers again. For a list with supposedly 5,000+ members, there's not the volume of mail you see on the Knit List, which is also moderated.

I imagine that someone will tell me if and when the Tiny Diva and the X-men do a naked happy dance.

The Knit U Website
Train of thought on Knit U continues unabated. The X-men have finally decided to redesign the site. It's still ugly but at least it's now less cluttered and more easily navigated.

However, they've kept my favorite site page--the Knitter's Pros biographies. What a fucking scream this is. The Tiny Diva's bio is a classic, trust me. If you're a designer/writer/teacher, you can write your own bio and post it here. The reader quickly discovers who is articulate and who is a dope.

And there's some interesting people on this list. One of whom hasn't been around in quite some time.

Yep, while scanning their Pros in search of some lunchtime entertainment, I discovered that they've listed at least one knitting luminary who's fucking dead.

That's right, demised. Ceased to be. Not pining for the fjords. (Apologies to John Cleese.)

Can you find the dead knitting celeb?

I would love to create a bogus persona and see if they'll let me in to write a bio.

Could I be subtle enough to get away with that, yet blatant enough to zing them with a bio?

I may be rare and handy. Subtlety is not my strong suit.