Showing posts with label literary knits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literary knits. Show all posts

Friday, 8 May 2015

Defarge Does Shakespeare: A Review

Today we're going to take a look at Defarge Does Shakespeare, edited by Heather Ordover and published by Cooperative Press. The word "inspired" is used loosely here. Thre is a total lack of stomachers and codpieces in this collection of Shakespearean knitting patterns, but then this is all to the good as such patterns wouldn't be much use to anyone but a costumer. And now, before pox marks appear on our noses and our organs of increase are wither'd, let's get to the review.

These are the Lover's Tangle Socks, which were inspired by the complicated travails of the four young lovers in Midsummer's Night's Dream. They're quite pleasing in appearance and appear to be very well constructed.

Midsummer's Evening Wrap. The lace work on this piece is lovely, but that rectangular shape is always a little awkward to wear.

Fairy Queen Tea Cozy. This is more than a little twee for my tastes, but I have to admit it's adorable. The level of detail and skill that went into this design is really impressive.

Malvolio's Yellow Stockings. Very nice kneesocks. Love the texture.

The Very Sole of Wit socks. Nice. The angled stitchwork above the heel is a bit hard to see. I'm not sure I'd include it.

The Yellow Gartered Dude Abides socks. These are rather eye-catching and nifty. They look less Elizabethan to me than like what some young sporty type would have worn with his Oxford Bags in the 1920s, but this isn't a bad thing.

I would definitely skip the "garter" option on these socks, however. They look silly and it would drive me mad to have them flapping around my shins all day long.

Viola's Stockings. Cute socks, and I like the concept of the beaded tops, which can be kept hidden away like the fact of Viola's femininity.

Taming of the Shrug. This is graceful and romantic enough for a bride, and wearable enough for everyday life.

La Serenissima Stole. Very pretty and simple lace stole.

Prospero's Bookmark. This bookmark is actually a knitter's bookmark rather than a bookmark for controlling men who keep their daughters isolated on small and sparsely populated islands: it has charms to weight a book's pages open so that the knitter can knit and read at the same time, and a little pouch suitable for holding stitch markers, a measuring tape, or whatever else a knitter needs.

Unparallel'd necklace. Not too impressed with this one, but I think I would quite like it if it were crocheted in silver-tone wire and used some more striking beads rather than interpreted in the materials used here.

Sonnet 73 Gauntlets. Like these, which have a well-constructed, polished look to them.

Diamonds in the Ruff. Not impressed with this collar, which has a bit of that "random project from craft club that I'm trying to make work" look. Collars like this also tend to look better styled over a crewneck top or sweater than worn on bare skin.

Desdemona's Handkerchief. This project is the most literal of the book, as it is made to match the description of the first gift Othello gives Desdemona: a handkerchief with strawberries on it. It's a cute idea, but I always pictured Desdemona's handkerchief as being finely sewn and delicately embroidered. I also don't quite know what use one would make of this knitted handkerchief, but there are instructions for making an afghan-sized version in worsted weight.

Simple Comfort Shawl. This designer of this shawl posits the theory that Lady MacBeth's murderous impulse might have stemmed from the loss of the child she endured before the events described in MacBeth took place, and speculates that what Lady MacBeth might really have needed were things that were not available to her in her day: professional therapy and medication, or failing that, comfort and support from her husband and others in her life. This is a nice, simple little piece designed to be knit quickly and given to someone who is having a difficult time in life. I'd choose a beautiful yarn for it, because as is usually the case with such simple pieces, a gorgeous yarn really makes it.

Mother's Comfort Shawl. This simple shawl pattern, with its fallen leaf motif meant to represent the loss of a child, really deserved a better yarn than it got.

Lady M Sweater. Quite like this one, which is wearable and flattering and simple enough to go with lots of other item's in a woman's wardrobe while having all the detail it needs to make it interesting.

Ravel's Sleeve of Care cardigan. Not a fan of this one, though it does have some very attractive detailing, because it sits poorly and will make most women who wear it look frumpy and dumpy.

Fair is Foul cowls. This designer has provided two cowls designs: one for bright spring days and one for cold dark winter days. Both would be quite attractive additions to any woman's collection of accessories.

Titus A's Awful Nice Pie. This would make a hell of a Halloween candy dish.

Tamora's Torc of Vengeance. I find the lines and texture of this piece pleasing, but I am a little hesitant to give it a pass. This design is knitted of yarn with stainless steel content, and yet it still looks a little too much like yarn to me to be quite successful as a necklace.

Lavinia's Gloves. Quite an attractive pair of gloves. I like the cable detailing around the fingers, which is a distinctive touch.

Petard Pants. The striped pair on the right looks like a serviceable pair of soakers, but the flowered pair on the left looks rather ridiculous. It's really never a good idea to attach a lot random crap to your knitting.

Ophelia's Scarf of Death. This looks a little twee to work for a grown woman unless you leave off the flowers, but I think it might be quite suitable and pretty for a young girl's grade eight graduation or prom. Do make sure that you call the scarf something else and that the ceremony isn't to be held on a boat or waterfront property.

Ophelia's Garden Mittens. Really lovely mittens. These will grace even the darkest and coldest winter days with the promise of coming spring.

Lear's Socks. A classic and dignified-looking sock pattern.

Mrs. Lear's Scarf and Mittens. Very handsome scarf and mittens set.

Exeunt, Pursued by a Bear. I wouldn't mind exeunting if I could be pursued by this bear. Cute little vest. I think I'd make a shorter hood, as this one appears too long for its little wearer and the resulting gaping isn't adding to the effect.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Stitching in the Stacks: A Review

Stitching in the Stacks: Librarian-Inspired Knits, edited by Sarah Barbour, begins with a foreword by Jessamyn West. No, not the author Jessamyn West, who has been dead for thirty years, but the very-much-alive librarian Jessamyn West. (Full disclosure: I've had some online interaction with Jessamyn West, as she and I are both longtime active members of the MetaFilter community, which she also used to moderate.) Her foreword speaks of how difficult it can be for a librarian to keep her or his body temperature at a comfortable level in a library, where there are many staff and visitors as well as the books and the server to consider, and says that it is for this reason that the twinset is such a librarian cliché. I can believe it, especially when I consider that the branch of the Toronto Public Library nearest to me, which is a tiny storefront, has its checkout desk set so close to the front door that I feel guilty whenever I enter or exit the library in hot or cold weather. Those at the desk get another blast of hot or cold air whenever the door opens, and it's constantly being opened. The librarians who sit there are always properly sweatered in cold weather. Jessamyn West also writes that a lot of librarians knit. Again, this is no surprise given that the librarians at my local library all knit, and that knitters are generally a very literate and literary crowd. And given all the librarian memes and stereotypes (at least ten of which occur to me immediately), a librarian-themed collection of knitting patterns seems like a great idea. It has a lot of scope and is sure to find an appreciative audience of book-loving knitters.

And speaking of book-loving knitters, I have an e-copy of this book to give away. Visit this blog's Facebook page before Sunday, December 14th at 10 pm EST for a chance to win a copy of Stitching in the Stacks.

Let's take a look at the 28 patterns in this book now.

Belle Greene Shawl. This shawl was named after Belle da Costa Greene, a librarian who was instrumental in creating what is now known as the Morgan Library and Museum, and who sounds so fascinating I'm adding her to my list of subjects to read up on. This shawl, which is lovely, uses two lace patterns that were popular in the Gilded Age when Belle began her career.

Hypatia. This top was named after the last librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria. I like the openwork texture, and this item would make a useful summer cover up. The cropped length isn't for every woman, but it would be a simple matter to lengthen it.

Man of Letters. This vest was named for Ben Franklin, founder of America's first lending library. I'm divided on this one. I very much like the letter motif, but don't care much for the shaping, which looks a little odd and unfinished, and I can't imagine even the most sartorially liberal men of my acquaintance wearing this piece. I think I'd be mostly like to use this pattern by borrowing the letter charts to combine with the style used in another pattern.

Ranganathan's Mitts. These mitts are named for and inspired by S.R. Ranganathan, a librarian and mathematician whose Five Laws of Library Science are considered basic principles of modern library science. Two of the laws appears on the back of these fingerless mitts, which have a clean, striking design, are well-shaped, can be knitted in either a male or female version, and also lend themselves to filing and shelving. Very probably S.R. Ranganathan would have approved. In a sidebar, the book also offers a helpful article on incorporating typography into knitwear.

Carnegie Vest. This vest, of course, is named for Andrew Carnegie, a self-educated and very wealthy man who used his self-made fortune to found many public libraries in the United States. I quite like this vest, which is a modern take on a classic men's look. One can make basic stripes look new and interesting by varying the width of the stripes and using a great colourway, and that's what's been done here.

Book Woman Jacket. Very much like this design, which was named in honour of the Pack Horse Librarian Project, the U.S. government's solution to creating jobs for women and getting books into rural areas during the thirties and forties. The idea of a horseback-riding librarian sounds like something out of a John Wayne movie — if the Duke had ever been smart or cool enough to match wits with a librarian. This jacket is very well-shaped (love the sit of the collar), has great texture, and looks like it would look well worn open, which tends to be a problem with double-breasted styles. Do make sure you knit it the right size for the intended wearing, as seeing it pull open a little as it does on this model detracts somewhat.

Gotham City Twinset. This twinset is named after fictional librarian Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl. I'm liking the concept of a short-sleeved pullover with a matching capelet, but I don't know if I like this particular example. The proportions used here don't work together all that well and the resulting look with its two horizontal lines isn't too flattering.

Ms. Paroo sweater. This design was named for Marian Paroo, the librarian from The Music Man. Not a fan of this one. The pockets and the gathered sleeves give it a fussy, frumpy look.

Bunny Watson. This piece designed as an homage to Katherine Hepburn's role in the 1957 movie Desk Set. I like the vest, which is well-shaped and has a nice design touch in the form of a half-belt in the back, and I can definitely see Katharine Hepburn wearing it. For a role, that is, because in real life Kate Hepburn never gave a damn about looking well-dressed.

Aurora Teagarden skirt. This skirt was named for the librarian and heroine of Charlaine Harris's mystery novels. It's a lovely and very wearable skirt. This particular colour scheme isn't doing it for me but I am enjoying imagining this piece in all the many other colour schemes that would suit it.

Mystery Novel Cover. If you've been wanting to try illusion knitting, this design might be both the perfect starter project and a good way to tell the rowdy group at the library study table next to yours to pipe down a little.

Name of the Rose Vest. This piece bears the name of the Umberto Eco mystery novel about a mad, book-eating monk, and this vest is intended to be a modern take on the monk's habit, with cabled detailing meant to reference the Book of Kells. I do like the cabled detailing, but this needs better shaping and detailing.

Party Girl. This pretty, lacy snood is named for the 1996 movie, Party Girl. Is the snood coming back? [Checks Ravelry's pattern database.] Hmm, seems like it might be back already, and I am not against it as it does seem to look fetching on some women. Not on me, alas. If I put one of these on I'd look like a high school cafeteria lunch lady of the meanest and most miserable order.

Dewey Decimal Hat. This hat features the Dewey decimal number for knitting (746.43, as if you didn't know!). Super cute idea, and a cute little cap.

Jessamyn Mitts. These mitts, as you might have guessed, are inspired by Jessamyn West (again, the one who is alive and a librarian and wrote the foreword, not the dead one). They're good design. The ribbed cuffs fit well and the detail on the back of the hands is pretty and interesting.

Oranges and Peaches shawl. This pretty spiral shawl's name references a (hopefully apocryphal?) story of the reference librarian who is trying to help a student find a requested book, Orange and Peaches, for his biology class. Now you get to play reference librarian for a minute and see if you can figure out what the title is supposed to be. Buy the Stitching in the Stacks book if you get stuck, as it has the answer.

Nancy Pearl Mitts. These mitts are named after another librarian, Nancy Pearl, who wrote the Book Lust series, is a regular commentator on NPR and has her own local television show. The mitts are very pleasant looking with a good shape and nice lace work.

Metadata Scarf and Cowl. This scarf and cowl again references the Dewey decimal number for knitting by coordinating its rows of colour to the numbers in 746.43. The result is a colour scheme that works well and has a pleasing texture.

Old Reed. This skirt uses the Reed College colours to pay tribute to its Gothic library. Can't say I care for this design. The pleats are too thick to lie well and pleats that don't sit right are terribly unflattering.

Open Book Cardigan. Very attractive cardigan. The texture's great and I especially like how nicely finished the edges are.

LOC Bookweight. This item was designed as a tool to keep books open. I'd rather use whatever's lying about on my desk than something like this, which would be another item to keep tidy and clean.

Study Session. An attractive pencil case for grown ups.

Coffee Press Cozy. This cozy features both the Dewey decimal number for coffee and the Library of Congress classification and will help keep the librarian in your life caffeinated. I love the colours used here.

Stereotypical. This is a pretty eyeglass case, but I don't find soft glass cases very practical as they leave spectacles vulnerable to being smashed. I'd want to adapt this to fit over a hard-sided eyeglass case.

Bibliort bookmark. I've always rather liked finding odd little things in library books that were left behind by previous readers, but I never knew those old bus tickets, receipts, cryptic post-it notes, shopping lists, and bookmarks had a name: bibliorts. This design is supposed to be a garter belt, supposedly left behind by a previous reader, which will leave one imagining the back story and wondering if there was a hip flask to go with it. It is a very fun idea, if a little too obtrusive a bookmark for me.

Ex Libris. Lovely and very witty cover for an e-reader.

Athena's Bookends. These are very prettily designed, but not terribly practical. Bookends need to be dusted regularly, and these would have to be washed several times a year.

Bookworm. How adorable is this bookwork? Every library should have one.