Sheep Sorrel by Pam Allen, done in Falkland Aran (Claret colourway) by Debbie Bliss.
The New York Times T Magazine cover article about Dries van Noten
I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.
The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.
You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.
Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.
Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.
Do a mini-swatch
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits. Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.
I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.
On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.
This survey in no way claims to be a comprehensive list of all knitting magazines published in Germany. It is however a list based on what you would find in any well-stocked local supermarket or yarn shop.
Publications by Yarn Companies – like the one above, the yarn companies are now putting out their catalogues, which look more like Fashion magazines. Filati from Lana Grossa, and Made by Me – Handknitting from Rico. Depending on which yarns the LYS carries, you’ll find a variety of these magazines in yarn shops, but also on the magazine racks in supermarkets, bookstores and even railway stations.
Publications in women’s magazines – like Brigitte. Although Brigitte has recently branched off into the yarn market. They have launched a wool line, in cooperation with Lana Grossa, they publish a yearly knit-issue, and have launched a Special Edition Brigitte Creative magazine, with patterns and kits for sale. Another notable magazine venturing into patterns and yarn and kits is Landlust, which started out as a magazine celebrating living the good life in the countryside. Their patterns turned out to be so successful, that it seems only natural that they now offer the yarns (lovely tweedy yarns).
Publications by craft companies – for some strange reason (probably post-war Mad Men era publishers and ad-men deciding what housewives wanted) most of the craft-focused magazines have girly names like Ana, Diana, Verena, and Sabrina. There’s also Häkeln for you (for crocheters) and a Stricktrends (Knittrends).
A solid exception is Burda, well-known for years in sewist circles, they started out with Burda Stricken, and has recently responded to the growing market for more creative crafty magazines by putting out a Burda Creative with a wider mix of interesting craft projects.
Following this upsurge, we also saw the introduction of Mollie Makes in German, and of course, The Knitter, more or less recycling years-old material for German knitters.
One final note: International knitting publications from the US (like Interweave) and the UK (like the english version of The Knitter), are available mostly in railway stations or in the larger chain bookstores. Vogue Knitting is called Designer Knitting outside the US.
Where do you prefer to get your knitting magazines?
I know so many people are talking about this book. There is reason. It’s actually about time that someone wrote down and gave a name to so many of these concepts that have been swirling around the knitting community for a while now. In much the same way that the Slow Food community has changed the way many of us think about and even talk about food, it is my wish that Slow Knitting and the concepts outlined here, will change the way we think about our craft and the connection it has to the wider natural world around us. Well done Hannah Thiessen!
The concepts at a glance:
- Source Carefully
- Produce Thoughtfully
- Think Environmentally
- Experiment Fearlessly
- Explore Openly
You can find the patterns included by various designers here. Katie Meek’s photography is stunning, allowing the yarn to be the main attraction, while not detracting from the atttractive designs. My favourites from the collection are
Karen Templar’s short guest essay, Reflections on a Slow Wardrobe is both moving and inspiring. And yes, it fits perfectly that this book has launched in Slow Fashion October. The book is thankfully more than the sum of the patterns it contains. Each concept is covered briefly in a chapter, with yarn profiles and patterns to round them out. There is also particularly tempting Yarns for Thought, which I feel barely skim the surface of important topics like Handmade, Organic, Free Range, Innovation and Wanderlust.
I’m looking forward to taking part in the global discussion around the concepts of Slow Fashion and Slow knitting. Of course there’s a Ravelry Group with discussions and knitalongs (KALs) in the works.
There are now a few brave independent yarn dyers doing amazing things with wool and various fibre blends. Here are a few that I know about:
Wollmeise is the nickname of Claudia Höll-Wellman (her husband is the Rohrspatz, and it’s a bit of a play on bird names plus their hobbies – she likes wool and he likes metallworking and Rohr is German for a metal tube or pipe), who just seems to have not only a hand for making lovely colours, but also very inventive colour names as well. She got started in 2002, when she couldn’t seem to find the colours she wanted to knit with. She has grown a very large and devoted following, and quite frankly has put her small town of Pfaffenhofen in Bavaria on the knitter’s world map.
She’s recently opened a brick and mortar shop and occasionally holds open days and sales, that have people all over Germany stopping off in Pfaffenhofen. If you can’t get there in person just yet, you can have a browse around her very modern and efficient web shop (in German and English) and look at the shop on her Panorama Viewer. Gorgeous!
Dye for Yarn & Dye for Wool
I love the story of how two scientists, met at work and discovered their shared love for shawl knitting. Cordula Surmann-Schmitt and Nicole Eitzinger also couldn’t find the laceweight yarns they wanted on the German market, so they decided to try their hand at importing and dyeing them themselves. Their Etsy shop DyeforYarn started in early 2010, while their second shop DyeforWool was started in October of the same year. They also opened an In Real Life shop in Fürth near Nürnberg (Nueremberg).
They have a quirky sense of humour, which comes out in their yarn names which often have to do with death, decay and things that may not sound so appetizing (Splitted Lime and Naughty Piglet above are good examples), but when translated to yarn are just lovely, show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. They do fairly small batches in lace-, fingering- and DK weights, so it’s crucial to get a sufficient quantity of yarn all at once.
It’s quite a treat to browse through their Etsy shop, especially their Cabinet of Wonders and their Cabinet of Horrors, special sections with skeins they think are particulary beautiful, and not quite successful respectively. They also do a lovely Advents calendar in the runup to Christmas, which is also worth checking out.
Jule Kebelman is a textile designer and teacher who lives just outside Berlin. She also produces small batches of organic plant-dyed regional wools. HeyMamaWolf is small but is definitely worth watching, as Kebelman is working with and sourcing her wool regionally (ie in Germany), although many yarn companies prefer to source outside Germany as the wool isn’t considered fine enough. Plus she gets some amazing colours using plant dyes.
If you know of any more intrepid independent yarn dyers in Germany, or wider Europe or wherever you are, please drop me a line and let me know.
5th Anniversary PomPom Quarterly – I know it’s been going on since summer, but I’ thought I’d wrap it all up here. How time flies: PomPom Quarterly is 5 years old. A high quality, gorgeous magazine.
My favourite this month are the Soumak fingerless mitts by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. Why only one this week? I’m kind of over PomPom’s seeming fascination with the cropped sweater silhouette. I’m not sure it’s flattering on every body shape. And not every knitter wants that twee look.
35th Anniversary of Vogue Knitting – Vogue Knitting is celebrating 35 years in its current iteration (the brand is actually 85 years old, but age is just a number, and if you can dance like a 35 year old at the ripe old age of 85, well then!)
Editorial Director, Trisha Malcolm does an interesting interview with Kara Gott Warner on the powerpurlspodcast. There’s also a link to the free collection of 35th anniversary patterns. My favourites:
First Episode of Vicki Howell’s The Knit Show – if there is anything more conducive to binge watching and/or binge knitting, it is Vicki Howell’s new project. We donated to the Kickstarter fund to get the show off the ground, and now it’s here. And it is a delight!
I know I should be objective, and I will objectively tell you that I wanted to be charmed, and I was. It is a sleek production, fluid, interesting with high production values. I felt she rushed along Oejung Kim from Loopy Mango in episode 2 a little bit. Some of the demo knitters’ hands were shaking (from nerves). And Howell often had to remind knitters to turn the work to the camera more. So, a few hiccups there.
Talk about ready-made community. She called us ‘hivesters’. My geek girl preened! Of course I’m a hivester. Yarncrafts rock! (Just had to get that out! #feelsomuchbetternow) The set decoration threw me for a bit of a loop, as the retro feel just screams 70s. However, she seems to have chosen the bee hive motif, calling it a ‘knit hive.’
“A nod to the knitting bees of old and the modern, “hive mind” mentality that refers to the gathering of stitchers, either physically or virtually, for the purpose of supporting and sharing a common passion for knitting, crochet, crafts and creativity.”
-The Knit Show website
I’m only one and a half episodes in, but so far I want to knit all the patterns I’ve seen:
I also VERY much enjoyed the talk with Skacel’s Ingrid and Karin Skacel. Especially Ingrid. Ingrid is a very astute business woman, who emigrated to the US and opened her import business because she saw a niche in the US knitting market. And so Skacel is the US distributor of Zitron, Schoppel and Addi. So although Karin was more fluent and everything, I’d love to hear more from Ingrid (she’s sitting there sweetly, looking like someone’s favourite grandma who gives the best hugs and handknit socks, when really she’s also the woman who made circular needles BIG in the US) about her knitting journey over the years.
Just because someone is searching for words, doesn’t mean they don’t have awesome stories to tell or cool things to teach us. So kudos to The Knit Show for being inclusive.
Looking forward to more binge watching.
I went to a local Heimatmuseum (most districts and cities in Germany have some form of Heimatmuseum or association,which has permanent exhibits about the history of the specific area), the Pfinzgaumuseum to take a look at a private collection of summer shoes, called ‘Bambus, Binsen, Birkenrinde’ (Bamboo, Birchbark) .
The private collector, Hildegund Brandenburg, an architect made these shoes while away with her family on holiday. According to the exhibition information, it all started more than 20 years ago during a holiday in Norway. She described how her children were bored out of their skulls. So, the idea was to get the kids out to gather natural materials to make a house. She ran into some tree bark and decided to make sandals for the kids.
“I imagine myself to be a woman from prehistoric times, who has to make shoes for every family member every day.”
She often uses glue, needle and thread, but mostly restricts herself to using her swiss army knife. Her ideal shoe is one that is made of only one material, and quick to make.
She further describes how, compared to architecture, where the timeframes can be very long (from idea to completion), making a shoe is almost like instant gratification. After a while, it seems, she would make only one shoe ( I guess as a souvenir, once her kids were grown), as she wasn’t interested in repeating the process.
One shoe, highlights the real challenge for her: getting to know the materials intimately (characteristics, life period and stability, static and dynamic limits, and compatibility with other materials), and solving the thorny problem of how to connect the various parts. Each shoe tells the story of the holiday – from the Mediterranean palms, cork from Corsica, tree bark from Northern Europe.
I had expected twenty shoes, quaintly displayed, and was pleasantly surprised to see over a hundred sandals spread out on shelves. The museum did attempt to provide some extra information about the various regional plants used. This exhibition belongs in a museum of applied arts or the shoe museum in Hauenstein, with more space and resources to show the shoes and their materials properly. What would interest me, was how prehistoric people solved that summer shoe problem…
It has taken me a while to milk the Internet to find Information about this unusually (by today’s standards) reserved designer.
Daniela Gregis was born in 1959 in Bergamo, Italy. She was a doctor’s daughter, who later trained as a herbalist. She started working in Fashion when she launched her first label Ok’am in 1987. She collaborated with Naj Oleari on various Projects, and since the 1990s has been working on textile research. She currently lives and works in the Bergamo region of Northern Italy.
She, too is a maker. In interviews, she has said that she had an aunt who crocheted, and taught her. She recalls that her first shawl was out of orange synthetic yarn. Her use of knits and crochet in her collections underline the connection with the artisanal, slow means of production.
At the end of her catwalk presentations, all her workers and tailors come out and take a bow with her. She honours and celebrates not just craftsmanship, and the handcrafts (she includes embroidery, handwoven baskets, knitting and crochet in her work), but also of materials (wool, linen, silks). At the same time, she doesn’t shun modern Technology, so she will show handpainted- beside laser printed silks.
Her passion is Japanese culture. These influences can be seen in her designs, which are often sold alongside Comme des Garcons, at IvoMilan and Dover Street Market.
Her current collection, Triciclo, (italian for tricycle, but also has that idea of three cycles) starts with a model in head to toe black and evolves (in roughly three cycles) to a colourful bright red silk evening gown.
“In Fashion, avant garde … presumed forward thinking, artistry, unconventional designs, new forms, structures and an extraordinary touch that separates the ideas from the Mainstream.”
– Barbara I Gongini
We might be tempted to think ‘old woman clothes.’ They are actually quietly avant garde, in the sense that they are experimental, and still pushing the boundaries of form, construction, and how people think of or wear clothes.
For makers, each collection provides a master class in how to incorporate handknits and crochets into a wardrobe: her hats, handbags, collars, mittens, muffs, scarves, Pullovers, necklaces, wraps and shawls are a shout out to makers everywhere.
Daniela Gregis’ website
Ivo Milan’s Radical Fashion blog
Selvedge Magazine profile
Profile on D-art.it
Agnautacouture’s 2016 blog post correcting another fashion Blogger
Designer Barbara I Gongini on avante garde
I watched this film with my in-laws and kids recently. I was struck by how differently we viewed the content matter of the film. My kids loved that the children didn’t have to go to school, and hated that the mom had died. My in-laws loved how free-thinking and independent the kids became. I was struck by the colourful knits and the idea of self-sufficiency woven through the film.
It wasn’t until I was explaining to my father-in-law that Viggo Mortenson’s T-shirt was from African American politician Jesse Jackson’s (and not the cowboy outlaw Jesse James’) failed presidential run, that it hit me: Almost all the clothes the family wore was thrifted.
Whereas some of it might have been adjusted or embellished, the clothes were reduced to their original function: to cover and provide warmth. Seen that way, it’s absolutely irrelevant that the T-shirt was from 1988.
These days clothes mean so much to many, shaping and projecting their identities. Or the identities they would prefer to project. Never have we been freer to wear what we want, how we want it. So free, in fact, that a refusal to follow any types of norms of society is also a clear message. Although it may be a message that the intended audience doesn’t, cannot or will not read correctly. This theme is played out constantly through the film: two value systems constantly clashing. Thesis and antithesis.
So what is this anti-fashion message? My guess is that clothes should be about us, and how they make us feel, rather than about labels. The mom wanted everyone to come to her funeral dressed in their brightest party clothes, to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death. How can anyone be sad in a bright red disco suit? Or Missoni lookalike hotpants? Or a killer whale onesie?
Do your clothes make you happy?
Link: The New York Times review and interview with the costume designer.
It’s taken me a while to connect all the dots from my visit to London.
Busy city. Fashion metropole. Jam-packed city centre streets even on a drizzly sunday afternoon. The bustle. Of tourists on a monday. Constant.
Rising in crescendo in the Top Shop. Latest styles hot off the runways. Teen girls trying piles of clothes for the right thing. Twens popping in for a new blouse after work. Shoes piled high in the discount bin. Costume jewelry, handbags, all the things. But made where? And by whom?
A lifestyle blog about all things Scandinavian
knitting, crochet, other string tricks, and forays into other creative endeavors
modern knitwear and crochet design
Crafting a life with fabric, fiber, and floss
Bold knitwear for fashionable women