Behaving Naturally

I have been studying natural dyeing techniques and spinning yarn in my free time since I have been done with school. Though my interests in all things textile related have always been present the need for all natural textiles and fiber products has not.

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I have been spinning yarn on my new drop spindle and I love it. I love watching the fluffy fiber take shape as I determine the thickness and twist of each bit of yarn. I have yet to fill up my spindle but I am really close. I cannot wait to get it off the spindle and practice plying and natural dye techniques.

Since I have been home from college I have had the time to catch up on my reading, both English major-y stuff and studying of dye and fibers.

dyeI received The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes from my local library and have been marveling at the exquisite photography throughout it since then. This book contains recipes for a wide spectrum of naturally colored dyes made from plenty of accessible ingredients. The book also gives you some tips on creating your own garden of plants for dyeing as well as how to grow them indoors as well. After perusing the book I am really excited to try out dyeing with blackberries and turmeric. I plan on investing in my own copy to have as a reference.

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The other book that I have been making my way through is The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. This book is all about the animals that produce usable fiber. The intro is informative and even gives definitions of the technical terms used to describe and grade different fibers. As a newbie to choosing the right fiber to spin I have found this book to be incredibly informative. If I was to teach a course on fiber types, this would be the textbook.

Among these crafty things I have also read, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and Post Office by Charles Bukowski. I am currently reading Cloudbreak, California:  A Memoir by Kelly Daniels. Kelly Daniels was once my creative writing professor at a writer’s workshop/retreat when I was in high school. His memoir is full of drama and I cannot recommend it enough to those looking for a good summer read.

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Boyfriend Sweaters–Not Just for Boyfriends

f3bf5e98b1dbcabadcd2fc9f970f6038Bruce Weinstein and Jared Flood  have joined their knitting superpowers once again to create this book. Weinstein knows how to design classic unisex garments while Flood knows just how to photograph them. These two knitwear superstars have created a book that is both useful and beautiful to look at.

Boyfriend Sweaters” is divided into four different technique chapters that focus on the said technique. These chapters are, Line and Drape, Texture, Reversibility, and Color. Each chapter begins with an introduction into the technique and a list of tips and how-tos that will be used in the chapter. After this intro section there are four or five projects dedicated to the techniques explained. Each chapter is then concluded with a brief personal essay. These little essays are a sweet way to end each chapter as they are both informative and a cute look into Weinstein’s life. The first essay addresses the curse of the boyfriend sweater, that being that if you make a boyfriend a sweater while you are just dating that your relationship will be doomed.  Though I don’t expect any issues to come about, this was something I did not know and wish I had known before I spent two months making my boyfriend the Jared Flood designed sweater ‘Brownstone.’ Another essay talks about Weinstein’s connection with one of his father’s sweaters that he stumbled upon after his father’s death. Each one is a nice little anecdote that made the book more about the process of making a sweater than about the end product.

Bruce Weinstein

Bruce Weinstein

One thing about the book that I found particularly interesting were the tips on each project page that are intended to help the knitter choose more masculine or feminine colors for the patterns. Weinstein really worked hard to make a book that is not limited to a just female or just male audience. I appreciate his attempts at creating flexibility among knitters.

At least half of the sweaters in this book seem to be worth making, while the other half are able to be adjusted to be worth making as well. I am not a fan of intricate color work or off center zippers, or zippers on a knitted piece of work period. These factors turned me off of many of the patterns but I do believe these offensive features can be easily removed and replaced to conform with my classic knitwear preferences. The best sweater in this book is one that I  plan on making immediately as a Christmas present for my Dad. It is the Shaker Cardigan with can be found in the ‘Texture’ chapter. It is a simple button up v-neck cardigan in a classic shaker rib stitch. It is pictured in a lovely heathered chocolate brown in the book. I know that if I made this sweater for myself it would be the only thing I would wear for the rest of my life. Throughout the book I have found that Weinstein’s designs are their strongest when he sticks to a simple, clean cut, and natural style.

Although the book is entitled “Boyfriend Sweaters” not all of the projects are sweater patterns. When I discovered this I was a little disappointed as I had hoped for a comprehensive collection of classically shaped sweaters that can be easily adapted to fit and represent the style of the people I would make them for. Where there could have been  five more sweater patterns, there were four scarf patterns and a hat pattern. And of those extraneous patterns only three of the scarf patterns are worth looking at. I have no idea how the double knit scarf and hat in the Reversible Section even got into the book. The colors used are garish and the patterns are way too gaudy to be in a book of natural toned sweaters. Perhaps this was the publisher’s choice as they know that the majority of knitwear book buyers are older ladies who enjoy this sort of thing.

Overall, I am glad to add this book to my collection of reference and pattern books but it did not quite meet my expectations. I would recommend it to knitters who are looking for jumping off points for their own designs. For Weinstein’s next publication I ask him to add a pattern for a simple, shawl collared cardigan in a natural fiber and tone. If he publishes nothing else in his life, let it be that pattern.

Book Review–Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 2 (Cables)

51C+0dO-fXL._SS500_Cables are my absolute favorite thing to knit. I love to watch them come into their shape as I finish each row. Of course, with all things I love I over use them and get bored quickly. To to beat the cable boredom I had forced upon myself, I picked up the “Vogue Knitting Stitchionary” cable edition. This 200 page book was definitely what I needed to pull me out of a designing slump.

The book is divided into five different cable sections, those being: Easy, Diamonds and Pretzels, Braids, Allover, and Combinations. These five categories offer a ton of variety and cover all skill levels. I have yet to try any new cable patterns but I have been marking some of my favorites so I know what to try first.

The book’s layout is incredibly simple with the stitch swatches being the center of attention, as they should be. Each stitch sample has both written and charted instructions. Having this option to read from the written version or chart is incredibly practical. Also, as I generally read from the written version, it will help me to become more familiar with the charting symbols.

I would recommend this book to all the cable lovers out there as it is sure to inspire you to create something great.

Super Stitches–The Must Have Book Series For All Designers

The world of free patterns for handmade items is endless. Unfortunately most of those patterns are made by old ladies who haven’t looked in a fashion magazine since 1975. So, when searching for patterns I often give up and turn to a set of books for stitch inspiration. These books are Super Stitches Knitting and Super Stitches Crochet. These two books offer hundreds of stitches that can be adapted to create miraculous hats and cozy afghans that bear your signature style.

super stitches knittingSuper Stitches Knitting is a true piece of art in itself. The photography is simplistic and clean and the sample swatches are created from quality materials and a beautiful color palette.  This book has an extensive ‘knitting basics’ section that covers yarn, abbreviations, how to read charts, basic techniques (knit, purl, cast on, bind off), and caring for knitwear post-production.This book showcases a thorough sampling of all stitches you might want to try and even includes some fair-isle color work charts and motifs in the back of the book.

 

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Super Stitches Crochet is a much more practical book. Though the swatch photography style is much the same as Super Stitches Knitting, the actual stitch swatches were created in an exclusively retro variety of colors. Though this design choice does not detract from the helpful qualities of the book it is distracting to look at lovely stitches in putrid colors. This book also has an extensive ‘crochet basics’ section that covers basic technique (chain, single crochet), abbreviations, how to read charts, and how to care for your pieces. The book offers a huge variety of mesh-type crochet stitches as well as an extensive section dedicated to Tunisian crochet techniques. If you are interested in Tunisian crochet this book is a great resource this as much of the free information you can access online is muddled and confusing.

These two books are must-haves for designers, due to their great basics review section,  clear stitch tutorials, and sleek design.