Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guess The Weather

You’ve got it! More rain. Good thing I got to see that blue sky last night, huh? We’re breaking records and after it was so dry all summer and fall, it feels rather damp. I was right about my socks too — they’re still not anywhere near dry. No photos today. But I do have another book review. And I managed to zip out between the worst of the rain clouds to get some groceries so now I can stay home in dry comfort. Though I have some cleaning to do in the basement because a friend is coming over tomorrow for another dye day. She gets to do the traveling and I don’t have to go anywhere. Neener-neener.

Book Review Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas

The Eskimo knitters of Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers Co-op create lovely handknit souvenirs of Alaska in fine qiviut yarns. Donna got hooked on their story as well as on lace knitting and combined the two into a very fine book, black and white printing notwithstanding. Fully half the book tells about the people (apparently Eskimo is still ok to use in Alaska while Inuit is proper in Canada), their villages, the reintroduction of musk ox to the state and the genesis of the co-op. It’s a fascinating story though I feel we’re only touching the surface because Donna didn’t want to pry which is culturally very rude. I can respect that. The women are required to knit only the lace pattern designated for their village or area and it is obviously a serious job for them, not a pastime. The extra money would be very welcome in a land where jobs, especially for women, are few and the distances one must travel to work are long. Knitting can be done while caring for home and family and they don't have to pay for the very expensive qiviut yarn, just $2 per year membership in the co-op.

The second half of the book contains beginner lessons on lace knitting which are very simple and clear. There are 3 practice swatches increasing in difficulty and fineness of needles and yarn. Then there are a number of patterns for accessories (lots of scarves, a couple of hats, wrist warmers, hand warmers, “nachaqs” or hoods, and a simple vest). All of the lace is charted and Donna goes into an explanation of designing your own. Even an experienced lace knitter can get something out of this. What I especially like about her designs are that they are inspired by ones found in Yu’pik and Inupiat clothing and utensils and are not the same as the co-op’s. There is no feeling of “cultural appropriation” here. She has made them her own and inspires us to find our own lace inspiration perhaps in unlikely places.

I think Donna’s combination of writing and knitting skills show to their best advantage in this book. She obviously wrote the book that she wanted to read! I hope more authors take this tack. How many loosely-themed pattern compilations do we really need? I’d be much happier with an in-depth look at the knitters, their environment and culture and examples of what makes their work special. Like this one. And I didn’t even miss coloured pictures.

In other crafty news, of course I started another pair of socks. This time they’re for T-Man because he’s really starting to like wearing nothing but handknit socks. (Oh wait. That doesn't sound right. He does wear clothes and shoes with his socks!) The things I will do for the guy who pays the bills and allows me to stay home and knit! The yarn is Fortissima Socka, colour 1084 which is 2 strands of natural grey, one strand of black and one strand of variegated red/yellow/turquoise. It’s quite subdued but with a bit of zing from the brighter colours. He likes it anyway. I’ve found I must have some simple knitting available at all times. Unlike most knitters who like a challenge or they get bored, I tend to put challenges aside for the simple stuff I can work on while reading. It’s becoming a bad habit that I will have to fight or I’ll never get to the more complex things that I want to knit. I have the skills. I just have to work on the patience part.

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