Friday, July 24, 2009

Portrait of the Artist as White Rabbit

Although I'm not late, I'm in a ripping hurry. But I hate not checking in for so long, and as it happens there's news and some knitting to show you. I've been dying to show you the knitting for months, but as it was done for somebody else I had to keep mum until the client lifted the lid. The lid, it has now been lifted. And the client lives in Montreal, so I bet she shouted, "Voilà!" when she did it.

This is the Prairie Spring Tunic.

Prairie Spring Tunic

I designed it for Véronik Avery, in support of her new line, St-Denis Yarns. When Véronik asked me to work up a children's pattern for the first St-Denis magazine, I didn't know who else (aside from my talented buddy Carol) would be contributing; and it's probably a good thing I didn't. For starters: Ysolda Teague, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Pam Allen, and (of course) Véronik herself. Intimidating company, what? You can see the whole august assembly on Ravelry.

The yarn is lovely. When the big box full of different colors arrived, I knew right away I wanted to use every one of them. I also knew I didn't want the colorwork to look like it came from Fair Isle or Norway. Those are gorgeous, noble traditions–but they're already being nicely upheld and propelled by people who have far more right to them than I.

So the tunic has a motif that wasn't inspired by sea or snow. It was inspired by a sooty, crumbly bit of Prairie School terra cotta cornice on an otherwise unremarkable two-story building my neighborhood. I know. That's far less romantic than telling you I was moved by the site of a chamois munching on edelweiss* in the morning mist. But a fellow has to work with what's to hand.

Prairie Spring Tunic

If you're curious, Véronik says that retailers (including WEBS and Patternworks) will start receiving both the yarns and the magazine in August and September.

Additions to the Calendar

In August, I'm going to be teaching a whole bunch at dear, sweet Loopy Yarns:
  • August 8, Introduction to the History, Methods and Styles of Lace Knitting
  • August 15, Elizabeth Zimmermann's Tomten Jacket (plus Garter Stitch Jacquard)
  • August 22, Photographing Your Fiber
You can click here for more details.

And, much further from home, I'm making my first visit ever to the Pacific Northwest in September.
  • Seattle, Washington. Sept 2. Signing and stuff at Renaissance Yarns, in the evening (exact times TBA).

  • Spokane, Washington. Sept 7. Teaching "Introduction to the History, Methods and Styles of Lace Knitting" at Paradise Fibers. For more information, click here.
There may be some additions to the Washington trip, but that's what's confirmed for now. I'll keep you posted.

For now, the naughty naughty clock says I must stop and post this.

*I have no idea whether chamois eat edelweiss, and I'm too busy to check. Please don't feel compelled to enlighten me. My illusions are all I have at the moment.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Much Too Cozy

I have too much to do right now. I'm not worried, though, as my calculations indicate that I can easily nail every deadline on the calendar provided I only sleep for three hours between now and the end of August.

One of the things I do not need to do right now is knit a tea cozy. It's unlikely that I will ever need to knit a tea cozy. In spite of my otherwise rabid Anglomania, I seldom drink tea. I own a teapot, but it hasn't seen action in three years. A teapot that is never full of tea does not require a cozy.

Nor has anyone else asked me to knit a tea cozy. There are several people who are waiting for me to write things and draw things and photograph things. There are even people who are waiting for me to knit things–but not a tea cozy.

And yet, this afternoon while I try to keep my shoulder to the wheel and my nose to the grindstone and my feet to the fire and all sorts of other undeniably nasty expressions for getting work done, I cannot stop thinking about knitting a tea cozy.

Can't Get You Outta My Head

Not just any tea cozy, either. A so-called "bachelor's" tea cozy, with openings to fit over the spout and handle. This is of course a subtly misandrist label suggesting that unmarried gentlemen are too lazy and/or stupid to lift the cozy off the tea, but never mind. I still want to knit a "bachelor's" tea cozy because without the openings what you really have is a hat pretending to be something else, and I am bored of knitting hats at the moment, even devious undercover hats.

Of course, there is somebody who expects me to be knitting a hat. But I don't want to work on the hat, I can only thinking of knitting a tea cozy. And I have the most dreadful sinking feeling that before long, I will be knitting a tea cozy.

End of communication.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Nupp-tial Bliss

Today in the United States we celebrated Independence Day–the anniversary of our country's formal split with Mother England. It was a great moment in political history, worthy of fond remembrance even if it did mean that two centuries later I'd be unable to get a copy of Marie Lloyd, Queen of the Music Hall that will run in my DVD player.

It used to be the tradition on this day for every family or assembled group to read in full the Declaration of Independence. This is, sad to say, no longer common, as most folks are too busy rushing to the emergency room to treat third-degree burns from illegal fireworks or salmonella poisoning from improperly stored potato salad.

I'm fond of anachronism, so I've started reading it to myself. And I'm corny enough to get misty-eyed over the most famous passage:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men* are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

After that, I patriotically pursued happiness by blocking the Leaf and Nupp Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia.

Estonian Shawl 02

Working this piece was an uninterrupted tango of bliss and chocolate kisses. For once, I made it all the way from Point A to Point Z without committing a thundering whoopsie and having to rip back fifty rows. I don't expect to do it again. I think the Knitting Gods only hand out one free ride per customer.

Estonian Shawl 03

A boy can hope, though.

Estonian Shawl 01

[Personal to Nancy Bush: I love you. But you knew that already.]

Estonian Shawl 04

*In some parts of the country, it is customary to append here the phrase, "Except the faggots, of course."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Fleece to Face with Kristen Rengren

Dolores’s occasional series of author/designer interviews continues today with Kristen Rengren, author of an absolutely splendid new book of baby knits (from the always reliable Melanie Falick Books/STC Craft) that draws inspiration from the not-so-distant past.

DVH: Hi, I’m Dolores. Who are you? I can never keep track of these things.

KR: I’m Kristen Rengren. It’s nice to meet you.

DVH: You look familiar. Wait–did you used to dance at Club Whoopee over in Sauganash? And call yourself Amber Waves O’Grain?

KR: Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls. And possibly to some of the boys.

DVH: What can I get you to drink? I just finished the last of the Dewar’s, but there’s plenty of everything else.

KR: Maybe I should just have a Shirley Temple. It looks like you’re doing enough drinking for the both of us.

DVH: This is medicinal. Like vitamins.

KR: Sure. Okay.

DVH: Now, the Supreme Commander told me the last couple of these little chitchats were too loosey-goosey, so before we start I need you to agree to some ground rules. Let me see, where's that list? Yeah, here we go: no vulgarity, no inflammatory political statements, and no trying to take my top off. Is that clear?

KR: Are those rules for you or for me?

DVH: Oh, will you look at that–you’re right. So, you’re still welcome to take your top off if you feel so inclined.

KR: I thought this was a family show.

DVH: We have a very broad definition of family. Now, let’s get the official business out of the way so we can have some fun. What is it that you brought to show me today?

KR: I just wrote a book called Vintage Baby Knits–it’s a compendium of over forty vintage patterns from the 1920s through the 1950s, all rewritten for the thoroughly modern baby.

DVH: Groovy. We love babies around here, as long as they go home at the end of the day. Is this your first book?

KR: The first under my real name. All the rest have Fabio on the cover.

DVH: You grow more interesting by the minute. These are some very classy baby duds you got in here. When Debbie Bliss sees it she’ll have a freaking conniption. I think that would be fun to watch, don’t you?

KR: Well, I wouldn’t want to ruffle Debbie’s feathers, especially if she’s got as many pointy sticks in her house as I do. Vintage knitting has taught me a lot, but I’ve picked up very little in the way of vintage self-defense.

DVH: Hypothetical situation: you’re in a coffee shop minding your own business, having a latte, and Debbie comes at you from behind the bagel toaster with a butter knife. How do you defend yourself?

KR: I suppose in a pinch I’d have to hold up the Louise cardigan from the book, and just hope that she keeled over from the cuteness. I’m not exactly a knitting ninja, but I do know how to wield some heart-stoppingly cute sweaters. And I carry some size fifteens with me just in case.

DVH: Another hypothetical: you, me, Debbie. Wrestling in a big vat full of Jell-o. Your thoughts?

KR: I think I’d like to talk about the book.

DVH: Fine, play coy. Anyway, this is obviously a top-drawer production. No schmattehs, and the babies are all good looking. Must have cost a fortune. A-list baby models don’t come cheap. Were they difficult to work with on the set? Anybody throw a sippy cup at the makeup girl? Or wee on the furniture? Come on, you can tell me.

KR: I have no idea how they got those babies to sit still for so long on the set. My initial guess was duct tape and baby aspirin, but I think my stylist just turned out to be an astoundingly effective baby wrangler.

Actually I do know one trick the photographer used – she rustled up about twice as many babies as they needed for each shoot, and then just didn’t photograph the babies who cried that day. We had a super cutie for the Christening dress in the test photos, but she apparently cried like it was The Exorcist when they put her in it on the day of the shoot, so we ended up with a still shot.

DVH: Baby diva tantrums! We loves it. Hang on, though. I see a pattern for a stuffed elephant and a lion. Are those the only toys in the book? No sheep? You got something against sheep?

KR: Half the items in here are made of sheep. I thought it would be redundant.

DVH: Nice save. You know, you have shapely ankles just like Amber at Club Whoopee. Maybe she’s your sister?

KR: I have three sisters, but none of them are taxi dancers. At least for their day jobs.

DVH: I swear looking at these pictures makes me want to push out a flock just so I can knit the hoodie on page 22. You know a good place to meet rams in this city?

KR: You don’t even need a ram anymore if you hang out in the right places. Just look at Dolly.

DVH: Forget Dolly. Can I take a closer look at your ankles?

KR: What a coquette you are!

DVH: Mais oui, ma petite! La plume de ma tante! Baba au rhum!

KR: Maybe you shouldn’t take so much medicine.

DVH: I’m sure this thing is going to be a big-ass hit, so can we expect a volume two? Or do you have other plans?

KR: I’m already at work on a book of vintage kids’ knits as a sequel. And I’d also love to write a book of vintage patterns for women. The only trouble is that ladies in the forties and fifties wore such punishing under-things. I’m working on how women can get that look today without restricting any vital organs.

At the same time, I’m also working on original designs, because it’s just too much fun to design my own patterns, too. You can expect to see a bevy of vintage-inspired original patterns from me this fall and winter – for kids and grown-ups. If you’re lucky there might even be something for lovely lady sheep... provided you’d actually keep it on, of course. Don’t make me pull that camisole down again, darling.

Other than that, it’s world domination, getting the bathroom cleaned… you know, the usual.

DVH: In addition to all that would you be interested in dancing at Club Whoopee? I know a guy. I just need a good picture of your ankles.

KR: If you saw me dance, you’d tell me to not quit my day job and to stick to my knitting. I promise.

DVH: You’re being way too modest. Let me put some James Brown on the hi-fi and we can get down and funky. Here, I’ll start.

KR: Gosh, will you look at the time? I have to…go…wash my….eyes.

DVH: You’ll be back. They always come back.

If you'd like to enter to win a free copy of Vintage Baby Knits, click here to learn more about the contest being run by STC Craft.