Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book 'em, Franklin!

Karen B. and Franklin H.I am in luff with this man's intellect, twisted wit and emotional clarity. Yes, I could gobble him up because he's beyond adorable but that's beside the point. Today is the day for titters, tee-hees, guffaws and outright belly laughs, courtesy of one Franklin Habit.

Franklin continues the book tour in support of his just-released collection of sketches and short essays entitled, "It itches." This is a little book (only 6" x 6") with lots of humor and heart. It perfectly captures the oddities, foibles and sometimes obsessive nature of our fibery pursuits in a way that only Franklin can.

Although this is his first book, Franklin has been making us laugh for some time now as he chronicles the exploits of an imaginary cast of characters, including a saucy sheep named Dolores and Harry, the often gullible skein of yarn. While the book features neither of this well-known duo, there is an amazing thread of fiber humor that keeps you turning the pages. My current favorite is a re-imagining of conversations and thoughts of historic figures as knitters. Marcel DuChamp. A megaphone and boa constrictor. Ha!

I caught up with the author at Chicago's Loopy Yarn. Hopefully, the tour will be in your neck of the woods sometime soon. I know Franklin is in London now and set to cruise back on the QE2. Too bad I'm not travel-sized like Harry :o)

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Running with Knitters!

Colleen, Subway Knitter 9-2008I've been a busy woman lately! Between starting occupational therapy and hobnobbing with the knitterati, I haven't had a moment to myself.

Ha. Who am I kidding? The truth is that I'm slowly trying to get back in the game, reconnecting with friends of the yarnish persuasion and making a few small things, like a baby hat and one (yes, one) toddler-sized fingerless mitt from some yummy fingering weight leftovers. No pattern, just rib, gusset and go.

I did finally meet Colleen, aka Subway Knitter, in recent weeks. We gabbed like fiends over the Sunday buffet at India House. Smart lady with a beautiful smile. I wish that we'd had more time but planes to catch, etc.

The Book Report
Hot off the presses, we have Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne of Mason-Dixon fame "Knitting Outside the Lines". The cross-country book tour hit Chicago this weekend, and I caught up with the FO show and tell at Loopy Yarns. Just one pass through the latest hardcover tome and I've got at least 5 patterns marked. Big plus? They signed one just for me. And the other people standing in line. OK, I may not be special but I do declare (in my best Southern belle imitation), this sophomore effort is worth your time.
Mason-Dixon KnittingPatterns in the book shown here include the Stephen Colbert socks, Dotty, Kiki Mariko.

Franklin and his new book, It ItchesAlso spotted in the crowded two-story store were Mary Neal Meador, Bonne Marie Burns (ChicKnits) and Franklin Habit (The Panopticon) with the first copy of his new baby, "It Itches".

Franklin, beaming like a proud papa, lovingly passed around the new book, delivered late last week after months of intense labor. "It Itches" will be officially launched later this month in upstate New York at Rhinebeck. More tour dates are available here.

This last bit is kinda cool and I rate it as my favorite scene of the night. Here we have Ann Shayne, on her break from the book signing upstairs, shyly asking Franklin for his autograph on the special Loopy Yarn bags he designed.

Franklin signing Ann's bagI do love my knitters! They welcomed me despite my long absences from their midst. I'm just bummed I couldn't make it to YarnCon this year though, on second thought, my wallet is probably grateful.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mail Call and Miscellany

Let's review.
Mea culpa, y'all. I have been remiss in sharing a few of the goodies that arrived at my door over the past few weeks. Let's start with the new books and wind up with a couple of gifts.

Gaughan Vol. 3 and Malabrigo Book One
I'm not sure how, but I was able to find the somewhat elusive Volume 3 of Norah Gaughan's (offsite) design series for Berroco (above, left) shortly after it became available to the public this summer. Just as she's done in other collections, Ms. Gaughan has managed to innovate in a space that has become a little bit too "same this, same that."

Some of my favorites of the 16 designs in Volume 3 include the Eastlake Sweater and the Assemblage cardigan, with its deeply textured collar and cuffs. For me, Strawberry Hill is the one sweater that has me wondering how the heck Gaughan even conceived of this design. It is both structural and fluid, while retaining quite a bit of visual interest. I'll never knit it but snaps to Gaughan for the eye candy and inspiration!

Malabrigo, Book One (above, right) seems to have a different mission altogether. According to Malabrigo's Tobias Feder, designer Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton named each of the 17 designs after Uruguayan cities and towns. While they do not achieve the level of high concept design, the very approachable sweaters, vests and accessories do a decent enough job of showcasing Malabrigo yarns.

Finding publicly sharable photos of the designs has proven a bit difficult, but if you're a Raveler, you're in luck (Ravelry links). Carmelo, the design pictured on the cover, is a heavy favorite within Ravelry. I tend more toward the hat-scarf-mitten combos myself, with Mercedes riding my fave wave. I also like Arapey, the one lace shawl in the book, with its faint arrowhead motif.

One thing I noticed is that almost all of yarns used in Book One are solids or nearly solid. While Malabrigo certainly has a respectable depth in solids, I think some attention might well have been paid to their rich palette of painted multi-color yarns. It's hard to find designs that do justice to handpaints - especially in garments. Perhaps these yarns will show up in a future folio.

I wanted to embrace this book as something special because I'm such a fan of the yarn. Sadly, nothing "blows my hair back." Color me disappointed with the freshman effort.

Treats from a sweetie.
Gifts from a friend!
You know how it goes with this online knitting community. We met in person just last month, though we found our way to friendship through blogging long before then. KnitPastis said something was on the way but gave no hint as to what it might be, except to say that it was handmade.

I opened the pink tissue paper and fell instantly in love with my Amy Butler fabric knitting project bag. I'm totally digging the pale and darker striped blue background with the brownish gold leaf motif scattered here and there. Enough for me? Most definitely. Not for this petite person who believes in having dessert everyday. My "icing" was two balls of Crystal Palace kid merino in a lovely shade of deep pinkish red. Such an unexpected, but completely appreciated, gift to brighten the day.

And then there came a giant thud!
I haven't been making the blog rounds lately. It's not because I've taken a sudden dislike to crafting. Oh, no. The reason is much more self-serving than that. I can't open Bloglines without feeling the pull of temptation.

I don't watch network or cable news, so I subscribe to several national and international sources to fill my news junkie needs. Unfortunately, the nasty business of presidential politics has become too extreme for me, with the lies, accusations and seemingly willful ignorance of too much of the voting public. Lately, I've become so infuriated with each story I read that I have called a halt to its constant consumption.

My thoughts (and my stomach) are churning, churning. I have this low hum of irritability and agitation that is not conducive to my well-being. So instead of reaching for another antacid and a sedative, I think I'd best let sleeping cats lay and stay away from the political cacophony.
Nikita, Sleeping On A Sunny Afternoon
Pax wobiscum

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Banned Books

Rowan New Shapes coververboten
(from Merriam-Webster Online)

Main Entry: ver·bo·ten
Pronunciation: v&r-'bO-t&n
Function: adjective
Etymology: German, from Old High German farboten, past participle of farbioten to forbid (akin to Old English forbEodan to forbid), from far-, fur- for- + biotan to offer FORBIDDEN; especially : prohibited by dictate

Now that Fantine is officially finished, I thought I'd take a look at one of the other long-desired items on my wishlist: Anise. I walked over to the bookcase where I would have sworn I placed my precious NewShapes and it was not there. Just. Not. There.

I could feel my blood pressure rise as I pulled out all the recently reorganized books in the office. Next, I took everything off the top of the WIP armoire. Lastly, the yarn closet, where I apparently trapped an orange cat who had, unbeknownst to me, tagged along on my search.

I'm pacing now. How could it be MISSING? I fought so hard to get that damn book and now it's GONE?

I first purchased this book in August from an online retailer who claimed to have the book in stock, but did not. The following week, the owner contacted me to say that it would be available and shipping to me within the next day or so. It never showed. I waited a month for that book. Can't say I don't have at least some patience. I never heard back about my refund request either. Grrr. But who's going to go ballistic over $16.95? No, I will not name the shop publicly.

By this time, the book had become more widely available in the US, so I bought it from the lovely (and speedy) Knitter's Palette. It arrived and I hugged it, then promptly put it at the top of the stack of books on the bottom shelf in the office.

That was last week. This morning, I decide to double-check yarn requirements for Anise and see what else I might queue for the making (or at least dream about). I reach for the book and no soap. Am I just not supposed to have this book? Ja. Verboten.

Was my desire for it too strong and thus the knitting universe is doling out a bit of Rowan-lust punishment? I don't think I rate that high on the naughty knitter charts for this kind of treatment, thank you very much.

If you were me, would you tempt fate and buy the book one last time?

ETA: Oh, how wise are my readers? Very. I found the errant Rowan tucked out of sight on another bookshelf. It had slipped behind a box of patterns. Now don't I feel a bit sheepish for blowing a gasket.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Let's Review

Nicky Epstein Green SweaterYes, the Chicago Bears closed out this terrific season without bringing home the prize. Like our baseball teams say, "Wait 'til next year!"

Moving on. I thought I'd do something a bit different today and review some of the high (and low) points of Nicky Epstein's third book in the series, "Knitting Beyond the Edge". The quick and dirty take on this book? I really liked it from the inspirational design perspective. There are some things that are, at best, impractical and, at worst, shall we say not the best use of good yarn. I know. Eye of the knitting beholder.

Epstein Pink braided cablesAt first, I thought Ms. Epstein would really have to stretch to find material for another book on edgings and embellishments. What I found was not rehashed work from the first two books, but some really original implementations of that work in the cuffs & collars, necklines and edges from this latest tome. The majority of the book's 155 pages is devoted to beautifully photographed cuffs & collars, with corners and necklines occupying second and third place, respectively. Those looking for extensive examination of "closures" (the last title chapter) will be sorely disappointed as this consists primarily of button-band treatments.

Epstein lilac cuff and purple bowsSince one of my goals is to awaken the creative design beast within, I was happy to see quite a few things to enjoy and adapt as takeaways. I've photographed a couple of my faves from the book for this review.

If you're at all uncertain, borrow the book or check it out at a local bookstore before you make the buy decision. That way you'll know if your money will be well spent.

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