Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan, photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006, 2012.
I have always loved Norah Gaughan's work. It's not that she thinks outside the box. The box is simply irrelevant. She approaches each design in a specific, individual way and accepts it for what it is if it grows up to be something other than what she imagined.
I admire that.
Take the cover photo for this new paperback version. Inspired by the hexagonal forms of slowly cooled lava, Norah constructed a top made solely of hexagons (with some wedges removed for armholes). The result is one of her most flattering garments.
For the skirt at right, she made each row of hexagons a little bigger than the one above it to make an A-line shape. The shapes on a turtle's shell are similarly different sizes. This skirt is knit, then turned inside out to wear. The reverse stockinette stitch looks great, but it's the definition in the hexagons (made from picking up stitches on the knit side) that really sings to me.
The hexagon chapter also includes one of Norah's signature long coats (the Hex Coat) with hexagon trim. It's a simple piece with lovely lines. There's plenty of knitting interest in the front, and the moss stich back is good meditative work.
I just may have to make a vest version of the design at right. Click on the image for a link to its Ravelry projects. Norah envisioned the center panel as leaves and little stems, but it turned out to look like a certain little sea urchin.
Whereas hexagons fit together to create flat surfaces, pentagons make a round construction. Norah crafted a yoke of pentagons for her Swirled Pentagon Pullover, and the entire body of them for the Bubble Pullover---fascinating stuff. I have to say, the project pages for these two were very enlightening. Most of the projects look better than the book photos. The bubble pullovers are very flattering on most people (not so much on the model) and I especially like the swirled pentagon variation without the turtleneck.
The next chapter celebrates spirals. I love the one-page introductions Norah gives each chapter, detailing the various forms these shapes take and how they manifest themselves in nature. This chapter is inspired by the logarithmic spiral such as a seashell or horn which "grows larger and larger at a constant rate as the creature making it grows." For an Archimedean spiral, see Knitting from the Center Out.
The Cowl Pullover, despite its tame name, is a glamorous garment with a giant seashell-like sleeve which becomes a collar at the end of it. This piece is sewn and split for the body opening, leaving the cowl and sleeve whole. Ingenious! I love all the patterns in this chapter---especially the Ram's Horn Jacket, the Shell Tank, and the Cabled Spiral Pullover.
The next chapter is Phyllotaxis. It's basically an arrangement of double spirals with the spirals going opposite ways at different speeds. (Don't worry, Norah explains this very clearly.) My favorites are the Roundabout Leaf Tam, which uses the spiral in its construction, and the Sunflower Tam.
Fractals are featured next, to my great delight.
As well as the Ogee Tunic and the Coastline Camisole and Skirt (which I adore), they inspired such subtle designs as the Branching Aran Guernsey and the Frost Jacket. Another of my favorites is the Serpentine Coat which has a fractal motif around the yoke.
Last up is Waves, with the Vortex Street Pullover and the Turbulence U-Neck as eyecatching examples. But Norah features so many appealing unisex sweaters in this collection, I just had to show you one.
Look closely at the Reflection Aran Pullover and you'll see there are thicker lines and thinner lines. All the lines are 4 stitches long, but the thinner ones are mini cables. Norah constructed a chart so that once a line hits the side of the panel, it bounces off at the same angle as the approach.
The Recommended Reading list includes several books on pattern formation, science, and math, as well as the more common knitting references. I'll have to look some of these up.
Sizes are usually XS - XL with chest sizes around 36 - 52" (although they go as low as 33" and as high as 60") and hip sizes from around 32 - 52". The child's Target Wave Mittens come in 3 sizes, but the Sunflower Tam in only 2 (18" and 20") and the Droplet Hat in only 1 (20"). The lower portion of the tam is in ribbing and stockinette. It would be a simple matter to cast on a different number of stitches and just make sure to end with the right number before the sunflower portion. (This is assuming the head you want to fit has a circumference of less than 38".) Likewise, the Droplet Hat could be adjusted near the brim. And of course there's always the option of knitting at a different gauge.
This book is a beautiful and inspiring ode to patterns in nature. I recommend it for everyone---even if you don't know the first thing about knitting. Norah's clear explanations may just motivate you to find some needles and yarn and get to work!
Disclosure: Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent Kangath a free copy of Knitting Nature for review. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Stewart, Tabori & Chang or Norah Gaughan.
I have to admit, I was one of those people who assumed that everybody's head is the same size. I mean, I'd actually heard that head size varies very little after the age of 6. So when I used to try a hat on in the store and it didn't fit, I always put it back with a disgusted, "What were they thinking? This won't fit anybody!" It was only later, when I realized how big my head is in comparison to most people's, that I understood.
I suspect what was meant by "varies very little" was "in comparison to height" (or something of the sort). Normal adults can have head circumferences from 21" - 27" (53.5 - 68.5 cm) while normal heights range from around 4'8" - 6'3" (1.4 - 1.9 m). (These figures were culled from multiple websites and were surprisingly difficult to locate. Average height is a much more common statistic.) That means head circumference has a 6" (15cm) variance compared to 19" (~.5 m) for height.
That's a much smaller difference, but it's not exactly nothing. Knitting is stretchy, but 6" (or even 3 or 4") is a lot to ask. Those of us with above-average head size know better than to try to knit a 20" (51 cm) hat for ourselves, even taking negative ease into account. (Most hats should have about 2", or 3 cm, negative ease.)
I recently read an article that said head size is increasing (albeit incrementally). Adding multiple sizes to a hat pattern doesn't usually require a huge amount of thought or space. (Of course, there are always exceptions. Still, a pattern or book that acknowledges the big-headed minority just may entice us into a purchase.
Loop-d-Loop Lace by Teva Durham, photographs by Adrian Buckmaster, pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011
This is the book to learn lace with. It goes from mesh and eyelets to more complicated designs with bulky yarn for instant gratification, fine yarn for extended pleasure, and some of everything in between.
This is also the book to expand horizons. Interesting pieces worked in fascinating ways in exotic stitches for stunning results. Simple constructions with a twist. Unusual solutions to age-old design problems, like the top-down eyelet shirt that is shaped with specially treated yarnovers.
This is the book, whether you're feeling impressive or uninspired, to keep on your coffee table. Glowing models in gorgeous garments, tidbits of wit and history, and Teva Durham's methodical encouragement. I learn something new every time I pick it up, and I've already read it cover to cover several times.
The first couple chapters contain charming and inventive designs such as a military-style jacket, a leather cord belt, knee socks, pillow covers, and bloomers. But I want to highlight the designs that come next, starting with the Samplers chapter.
The cover sweater, the milanese shower bolero, features four distinct yet related lace patterns. The stitches progress from the Shower Stitch on the lower bodice to the Milanese Stitch on the sleeves and are separated from the Wing Stitch on the upper bodice by a raised line of stitches. The ruffled border is actually a variation of Bear Track lace.
The skirt of the shetland shawl dress is a Shetland shawl placed on the bias. A shawl with spaghetti straps is sure to stay on! I am always looking for other ways to wear the beautiful lace patterns that adorn these shoulder coverings.
The gorgeous tiger and snail folkloric blouse has the makings of a fable in its name, but that is not its only attractive aspect. For one thing, it's red. I love red lace. The sideways snail shell edging is worked first, then stitches are picked up for the body and sleeves. There are cables around the drawstring neckline to act as ruching. Teva was inspired by Eastern European dance costumes when she designed this piece, and it shows both in the shape and the extraordinary level of detail.
The Thistle Bodice below is from the Doily chapter and is a virtuosic reinterpretation of Marianne Kinzel's Balmoral doily. The thistle's calyx is featured several times in the doily and takes center stage in the top, manifesting itself at three major focal points.
The patterns are clearly written and well laid out, with plenty of white space around the charts and clear schematics. Measurements are given only in inches. Although there are two sizes for the sock, there is only one size each for the two hats (17 1/2" and a very stretchy 19"). Skirt sizes go up to 2X (52" hip) and most sweaters go to XL or 2X, with notable exceptions being the eyelet tee which is offered in Girl's 4-5T through Women's Medium and the rose trellis blouse which goes to 5X (60" bust).
Adrian Buckmaster's photography is masterful, capturing both the knitterly details and garment "story." Close-up pictures of swatches are also included throughout.
Most impressive of all is that Teva finished this book after the death of her three month old baby boy. In her words, "I know that it is in the nature of humans to create and invent . . . extraordinary objects despite the limitations and trials of everyday life. This is perhaps our best quality."
Disclosure: Kangath reviewed a copy of Loop-d-Loop Lace from her personal library. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Stewart, Tabori & Chang or Teva Durham.
I knit the Palm Leaf Wrap for my daughter's dance teacher and asked my daughter to make a sachet to put in along with it. She loved the idea, and we went to Red Stick Spice to get some good smelling herbs for it.
She chose quite a few (and paid for them herself!) because she wants to make extra to sell at Port Hudson Organic Farm this summer. This sachet is made from an old T-shirt, but she also bought some little squares of fabric to make more.
This sachet is filled with her special mix of chamomile (relaxing), peppermint (wards off insects), and cloves (repels silverfish). It smells wonderful. She also bought thyme, lavender, and a tea called ginger twist. I'm going to let her use some dried sage and rosemary from our window box, and fennel and fenugreek seeds that I've had for twenty years. She's also welcome to our allspice seeds, bay leaves, anise stars, vanilla powder, and some rose petal tea which I never quite managed to acquire the taste for.
She always has some project going on in addition to her other activities. I really admire that. She's a very industrious kid!
Hat Couture by Theressa Silver, photography by Aedan Studio Photography, pub. Cooperative Press, 2013
At last! A collection of hats that would fit my large head! Maybe that's not sufficient reason to review a book, but that was what tipped the scales for me, and that's what I told Elizabeth at Cooperative Press, who, as it turns out, is also "of the 24 inch head persuasion."
But I digress. These hats are not only available in large and small sizes, they are incredibly stylish. Named after famous female icons (mostly from the movies), there are pillbox hats, slouchy berets, cloches, and more. A baker's dozen in all. Most make use of either the basic flat top or basic round top detailed in the Tools and Techniques section, which also covers yarn (stiff and "sticky" preferable to super-soft and drapey for these structured hats), sizing (loud cheers), blocking, buckram inserts, embellishments, and stretching. That's a lot of material fit into two pages of pleasant reading.
Then come the designs, each with a short introduction describing the personality it was named for. Entertaining quotes from such notables as Margaret Atwood, Frank Sinatra, and George Bernard Shaw pop up throughout and add to the fun.
I haven't worked any of the patterns yet, but the cover hat, "Marlene," will be first. My son walked in the room when I was reading about it and announced, "I would wear that!" Get in line, buster.
Some of the designs, like "Grace," are pure decoration and must be secured to the head somehow. I don't really understand hatpins, but I guess if I needed to use them I'd figure them out. And if any hat would tempt me to use them, it would be "Bette."
Patterns are clearly laid out and all the yarn used is currently available. I could wish for the yarn to be identified by weight or ball band gauge, but this is a rare luxury and the yarns are all major brands which are easy to find.
Hats are clearly photographed from many angles, and the models (Brandi Shea Frederick, Natalie Olson, and Shannon Schott) outdid themselves embodying the characters suggested by Theressa's hats. If you can't decide whether to commit to the book, check out Theressa's Choose Your Own Hat-venture Mystery Knit-A-Long (which comes with a coupon for $2 off the complete book).
I recommend this book for anyone interested in learning by doing, hat fanatics, and those who want to knit for stylish but large-headed people. Also good for fans of the mid-20th century fashion, movies, and celebrities that inspired this collection. I'm looking forward to getting started!
Disclosure: Cooperative Press provided this copy of Hat Couture to Kangath for review purposes. Kangath was not compensated for the preceding review. All opinions expressed in the review are the blog author's and are not necessarily the opinions of Cooperative Press or Theressa Silver.
gluten--bad; salad--borderline; potatoes--good
So I was checking these pages and trying to make sure that for every food to avoid I eat a couple foods that are good for my thyroid. And I have to say, I felt great. Then I stopped. I wish I could say I did this as part of a conscious experiment, but I just got busy and distracted and I didn't plan or shop or cook.
And there was a difference. I feel more tired, and irregular in more than one sense.
So I'm going back to the somewhat-diet. I'm going to go ahead and exclude cheese and kefir from the bad list, as they don't seem to hurt me. But gluten and soy are definitely to be used in moderation, and probably sugar and strawberries, too.
As I said before, I'm not actually eliminating anything, just trying to balance. And it seems like it worked!
It seems like ages since I finished this, but it's taken awhile for me to set up the tripod and get photos. I did manage a few today, but it was hard to get my hair and the collar where I wanted them at the same time. Maybe I'll take more photos later. I just wanted to get some while the irises were still here.
I truly love this jacket, but the sleeves fit a little tight in the upper arm. I didn't fix that when I tried it on before I knit the rest of the body because I wasn't sure I would have enough yarn. Well, it turns out I do---so here's my plan.
I'm going to undo the sleeves, holding the picked-up stitches on needles as I get to them. Then I'll redo the body, starting with the sleeves. I find myself wanting more yellow on the coat, so I'm going to do the cuffs in yellow, then knit the sleeve with more room in the bicep, then do the back, then reverse the process. I might see whether I can figure out a different way to shape the cuff while I'm at it. I love the shape, but not the little panel of stockinette stitch that comes before the end of the cuff (outlined in red below). It makes a flat place that sticks out ever so slightly from the ribbing below it, and I'd like to either extend it so it starts at the beginning of the cuff, or find an increase method that does away with it.
But this isn't going to happen right now. I have enough on my plate for the next few months. You'll be hearing more soon.
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