‘Knitlandia’ by way of New York

Knitlandia 1

When I first saw the title of Clara Parkes’ new book, Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World, I knew I had to read it. After I read the fantastic Washington Post review (without a knitting cliche to be found!) I knew I was going to buy the actual book. While I generally prefer audio- or ebooks, this written documentary of our wonderful community was getting a coveted space on my desk.

As luck should have it, I learned that Clara, who founded online magazine Knitter’s Review more than a decade ago, was going to be doing a reading and signing at the Strand bookstore, a 20-minute walk from my apartment. So, last night, I found myself in the store’s third-floor rare book room, surrounded by musty first editions and, of course, by my people.

Clara started off her talk lamenting the way knitters are often presented in popular culture — she actually bet a friend 50 bucks that the Washington Post review would reference grandma. Fortunately/unfortunately, she lost. She mused on why there aren’t any knitting documentaries (I’ve said the same thing to my husband while bemoaning my lack of filmmaking skills) and explained that this was her written version.

“I wanted to present us to the world,” she said. “It’s my attempt to kind of capture as many butterflies as I can.”

Clara and her famous 'claramels,' which she gave out to lucky knitting trivia contestants.

Clara and her famous ‘claramels,’ which she gave out to lucky knitting trivia contestants.

Knitlandia takes the reader on a journey from Taos, New Mexico, where Clara met and befriended legendary natural dyer Luisa Gelenter (who purportedly left Julia Roberts starstruck when the actress spotted Luisa in a grocery store years ago) to the familiar turf of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds on the third weekend of October. In a chapter about the first Vogue Knitting Live in New York City in 2011, she makes the perfect observation about what happens when you bring knitters together:

A funny thing happens when more than one knitter gathers in a public place. A solo knitter, presuming she is a woman, quickly fades into the backdrop like a potted palm or a quietly nursing mother. We are a cultural metaphor for invisibility–something Agatha Christie knew quite well when she gave Miss Marple her needles and yarn. What better cloak of invisibility from which to observe the evil-doings of the world? A single knitter is shorthand for “nothing to see here, move on.

But when knitters gather, we become incongruously conspicuous. We are a species that other people aren’t used to seeing in flocks, like a cluster of Corgis, a dozen Elvis impersonators waiting for the elevator.

Of course, that’s how we’re seen to outsiders, but one of the things I love about this community is how comfortable it feels. When I walked into the massive third-floor room last night, waved over to the third row by my friend Regina, who was nice enough to save me a seat, I was greeted by a number of familiar faces: there was Susie of Chiagu, Gretchen from my Sunday knitting group, Yoko from my weekday knitting group, not to mention the knitterati, including dyer Jill Draper and fellow Manhattanite Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting, who just wrote a blog post about the event, as well as a blurb on the back of the book (I have to admit to feeling a little Julia Roberts-like and am still kicking myself for not introducing myself to Kay afterwards).

Nearly everyone was decked out in beautiful handknits.

Nearly everyone was decked out in beautiful handknits.

But still, even surrounded by knitting celebrity, it all felt incredibly warm (and no, not just because of all the handknits). Before Clara signed my book, she asked if she could take a photo of me in my West End Girl, which I wore for the occasion. It’s nice to be a citizen of Knitlandia.

IU book review: Mini Skein Knits

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Image ©Connie Santisteban

Image ©Connie Santisteban

I have to say, I was pretty excited when Connie, the talented photographer of my Rhinebeck sweater and also an editor at Lark Crafts, emailed me about reviewing their latest book, Mini Skein Knits: 25 Knitting Patterns Using Small Skeins and Leftovers ($14.95 U.S./$16.95 Canada). When I blogged about knitting at the newspaper I used to work for, I was approached a few times about reviewing books, but they were usually for designs I wasn’t really interested in — yes, I can see the appeal of super-chunky baby knits, but not of knitting “sleep sacks” that are mainly meant for newborn photo shoots and not much else.

© Lark Crafts

© Lark Crafts

On the contrary, this is a book I can definitely see myself knitting from — and I already have a few patterns in my favorites. The idea is that collecting mini skeins is so addictive, whether you buy them yourself or participate in mini-skein swaps, or both, but it can be tricky to figure out what to make with them. This book has a great variety of patterns, from simple coasters and coffee cozies, all the up way to beautiful sweaters, including two (A Mermaid Darkly, pictured below, and the Rainbow Cardi) designed by Sweater Expert, and the creator of my Rhinebeck sweater pattern, Yelena Dasher.

© Lark Crafts

© Lark Crafts

There’s also tons in between — scarves, socks, shawls, cowls. My favorite — and the one I favorited first — is Jess Kallberg’s Head in the Clouds Hat, pictured at the top of the post. I love the subtle scallops, and I think it will be the perfect pattern for the mini-skein set from Pigeonroof Studios that I purchased ages ago — like, before Indie Untangled even launched (I was going to make a pair of gradient mitts, but I generally haven’t been gravitating toward projects much smaller than hats). The yardage information is fairly detailed, so useful if you want to swap out mini skeins and use up leftovers.

© Lark Crafts / Touch of Color Legwarmers by Susie Dippel

© Lark Crafts / Touch of Color Legwarmers by Susie Dippel

Aside from the lovely patterns, the two things I like most about this book are the beautifully styled photographs, which still show off the important parts of each design, and the prevalence of indie dyers, including IU’s Astral Bath, Kim Dyes Yarn and Western Sky Knits (not to mention, Madelinetosh, Orange Flower, Julie Asselin, Dragonfly Fibers and The Copper Corgi…). If you frequent this site, I’m pretty sure you will love this book.

Connie and Lark Crafts have generously offered up a free copy of the book to a lucky Indie Untangled reader. To enter, comment on this post by the end of the day Sunday, Nov. 15, with the pattern (or patterns — I know it’s hard to pick just one!) you’d most like to knit. You can see them all here on Ravelry. The winner will be chosen via random number generator.

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner, Lynn!