I noticed recently that there is a whole bunch of books and magazine articles dedicated to making “quick and easy” crafts. I know there are a lot of newbies who’ve just discovered yarn and fibres and beads, but not everyone wants instant gratification. Or at least I don’t. I’m way past the newbie stages where thick novelty yarn and big beads will attract me. I want something that engages my attention, teaches me something new and gives me a glorious feeling of satisfaction when it’s finally finished. I’m not afraid of complicated, long-term projects or ones that might need some tweaking along the way. Thin yarn, tiny beads and elaborate charts don’t scare me. Luckily there are some designers catering to more experienced folks such as myself. But there seems to be more of the simple stuff out there.
I’ve also noticed that it’s the same thing with craft classes as it is with books: Level 1 has many options and there might be a Level 2 offered occasionally, but forget it if you are beyond those early levels. The reasoning is sound: vastly larger numbers sign up for the beginner level and less for each subsequent level because either they feel they don’t need further formal instruction or they decide the subject is not for them. Unless you are able to attend a rare “master class” (and that usually means travel and greater expense) you are on your own if you want to advance further. Learning on your own is good if you have the ability and discipline necessary but not if you need the more one-t0-one and hands-on help of a live instructor. At least the Internet has some great useful resources especially since video is more popular now. Also there are DVDs such as the several series by Lucy Neatby. You can’t normally stop the teacher and make her do it over and over until you get it! I was pondering this subject while I was teaching what well may be my last class of baby spinners on Wednesday evening. And it’s a great class so I’m feeling fine about being there. It’s not the students fault — I’ve just lost my teaching mojo. I’m retiring. Heh! We’ll see how long it lasts. Yes, there is another instructor (an old acquaintance) in the wings to take over from me.
Hey, did you know that yarns, like clothing, are larger by stated size than they were in the past? Baby yarn was closer to laceweight, fingering was finer than today’s common sock yarn and worsted weight was considered really heavy and usually only used for outerwear. Most sweaters were knit in sport weight or finer and were quite closely fitted. Bulky weight came about more recently to satisfy the knitters who wanted to complete articles quickly. Clothing styles were oversized to compensate for the extra bulk, thus somewhat defeating the speed factor! Another way to reduce bulk is to make lots of holes, such as Doris Chan’s “exploded lace crochet.” But the garments that get worn and loved and don’t go immediately out of style are usually finer gauge and gently fitted. There seems to be more of this type of design recently, which is a trend I’d like to encourage.
So did the knitters of the past worry about finding the exact yarn for their pattern or even use patterns at all? Were they able to adjust their knitting to fit their body shape? Did they complain about “sleeve island” as they knitted into the home stretch of their sweater? They certainly didn’t have today’s plethora of wonderful yarns in every conceivable fibre (and some you might never even have thought of) and a jillion lovely colours, variegateds and handpaints. Yarn choices were much simpler then so it was easier to gain experience with a single yarn that you could use in future projects. I do that with common sock yarns and don’t swatch any more, just dive in with the usual number of stitches. And people didn’t have as many clothes as most of us, even the less affluent, do today nor did fashions change drastically every season. They expected garments to last more than a few months, perhaps as long as a decade with care. What a concept! Might be easier on the environment if not on the general economy. Of course if you think the current styles are really unflattering, you might want them to change!
Speaking of fashions old and new, today I got this book which I’d been waiting for:
The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters: A Knit-to-Fit Workshop by Lynne Vogel. I haven’t read it from cover to cover yet, but I have to say it’s not as dazzling to me as Twisted Sister’s first book on socks (which, contrary to the title is actually a great tutorial on dyeing and spinning rovings). The sweaters are pretty much all the T-shaped variety, without fitted armholes and sleeve caps and there's no dyeing or spinning information at all. The styles look bulky and somewhat dated to me. I used to make similar sweaters with drop shoulders or batwings back in the ’70’s and ’80’s but now prefer something that doesn’t bunch up under my armpits and that skims the body while somewhat defining what passes for my waist. All the styles in here are loosely fitted and straight-sided. “Knit-to-fit” obviously doesn’t mean fitting the body closely by Lynne’s definition. The patterns are actually guides giving you a chart in which to insert your own numbers to achieve your sweater. Question: is this oversized fit coming back into fashion or is this just an easy style to work with in learning how to design with your handspun or other chosen yarn? My favourite, the cover sweater (the model is actually sized for a child) is a hint of the fun things you can really do with handspun and there are some more delightful inspirational sweaters (but very minimal instruction) in the gallery section. Now I’m going to have to read the book more carefully to see what gems are contained in the text — as opposed to just looking at the pictures! I’ll let you know if it improves my initial feelings about this book. Or not.