Monday, 30 June 2014

More Power to Your Knitting Nell!

New York-trained and based Canadian soprano Melanie Gall hates knitting, but knitting (which totally doesn't hate her) has lured her into its meshes, as knitting tends to do. Gall's sister Deborah is an avid knitter, and in 2009 the two sisters launched a podcast called The Savvy Girls, in which they "take a playful and thoughtful look at knitting, travel, and life". Members of their audience began to write to Melanie and Deborah in order to tell them about knitting songs dating from World Wars I and II. Melanie Gall began to get interested in this subgenre of music and to collect old knitting songs. Once she had over a hundred wartime knitting songs, she decided to use them to write a show. And so the one-woman show, More Power to Your Knitting Nell!, came into being. More Power to Your Knitting Nell! is the story of Sadie Goldstein, an aspiring singer who gets a singing gig playing "Knitting Nell" on a radio show intended to promote knitting for the war effort during World War II. It would be a dream opportunity except for the unfortunate fact that Sadie hates knitting.

More Power to Your Knitting Nell! was performed, among other venues, at Fringe Festivals in a number of locations including Orlando, Edmonton, London, and Winnipeg, in a knitting store in Calgary, and at the National Museum of Military History in Luxembourg where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. If you were weren't able to take in any of these performances, the video above offers a quick preview of Gall playing Sadie Goldstein playing Knitting Nell.

Gall has also uploaded a video of her show performance of "I Wonder Who's Knitting for Me Now".

And here is a video of Gall's performance of "Soldier, Soldier Dear Unknown".

In 2012, Gall also recorded and released an album called Knitting All the Day, which contains the knitting songs she used in the show. You can listen to samples of each song and purchase the CD itself at CDBaby.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Knitscene Fall 2014: A Review

Knitscene has released its Fall 2014 issue. Knitscene has taken a turn for the classic with this issue, and added some good menswear. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

The Dauphine Cardigan. Classic cardigan with a bit of a twist in its play of cables.

This is the Clocktower Kimono. I quite like this piece. It's got a seventies retro vibe, and yet it feels very 2014, and it also has a certain relaxed elegance.

The Dauphine Hat. Clever design of interlacing cables.

The Steampunk Pullover. I like this pullover, but I'm not sure if your average steampunk aficionado will. Steampunkers are given to sniffing that sticking gears all over things do not make them steampunk, and given that this is otherwise a modern sweater with a gears motif, it might not pass muster. It does with me, as this is a striking design cleverly worked out, and the overall shape is good.

Deer Isle Pullover. Solid classic piece.

The Block Island Sweater. I quite like this one, but the dirty-looking colourway here is really pretty awful. I had to squint at the pictures to make out the details. In an attractive colourway this sweater will really sing.

The East Neuk Hoodie. This is an updated take on the guernsey with a lot of surprise details in it, including pattern on the back of the shoulders and hood and elbow patch detailing. Nice work.

The Bournemouth Cardigan. Not too thrilled with this one. It's fine in general, but those pockets bother me visually. They look too much like they should be top opening pockets.

The Plum Island Pullover. The female counterpart to the Deer Island Pullover, which works just as well for women. I take it we're going with a hunter/gatherer gender divide in the names?

The Rockland Socks. It's hard to go wrong with a classic cabled sock.

The Eastbourne Sweater. This isn't a bad piece overall, but I'm really not liking those sleeves. The fullness combined with the length is so unflattering. At that width I'd make the sleeves full-length or shorten them to a cap length. Alternatively, if you want to stick with the elbow length, make the sleeve more fitted.

The Kittery Hat. This designer has translated a traditional guernsey stitch pattern into colourwork, and it's worked out quite well. I like the finishing touch of a line of red around the edge. Nice piece.

The Vista Scarf. The texture of this piece is so visually satisfying and polished that it needs no other details.

The Lory Shawl. A simple piece with a bit of contemporary appeal in the raised rib pattern.

The Stout Scarf. Classic houndstooth scarf. It might be fun to try making this one in an offbeat colourway.

The Larimer Scarf. Nice piece if you (or the intended wearer) can handle the bulk.

The Roslyn Farm Scarf. As a Canadian, all I can think when I look at this piece is that I would have called it the Canadian Tire Scarf, as it looks like a free promotional item featuring the Canadian Tire logo. It's not a bad piece in its own right. I wouldn't do it in red and green, though, as that is both too Canadian Tire and too Christmassy.

The Soldier Canyon Scarf. Very attractive and wearable classic scarf.

The Baleshare Cardigan. This sits so badly, flopping and sagging all over, that even the model isn't able to make it work. Was this sweater named the Baleshare cardigan because one is supposed to share it with a bale of hay?

The Glenveagh Mitts. Cute, fairly basic little fingerless mitts. I would have some fun with my yarn and button choices with this pattern in order to punch up the look a little.

The Callanish Cardigan. I think I would make this one as a single-breasted design. Double breasted designs are always so limiting because they don't look good worn open and aren't comfortable to sit in when buttoned up. I do like the design otherwise. Jacket styling is tricky in knitwear because knits don't quite have the properties to make design elements like a notched collar sit just right, but this designer has managed fairly well. The button cuff detailing is a nice touch.

The Bluestack Sweater. Oh, I like this one! Very eyecatching graphic design and I like the drawstring details at neck and cuffs. I'm not sold on the colourway but it would be a lot of fun to come up with my own.

The Ballyshannon Cardigan is another solid classic piece with its shawl collar and back cabled panel. The owner of this sweater will get lots of wear out of it.

The Berneray Pullover. And a final fine classic piece, with a bit of added distinction in the slightly different stitchwork used in the collar, cuffs, and hem.

Monday, 23 June 2014

When in Rome, Knit as the Romans Do

The picture above is of a Roman dodecahedron, so called because of its dodecahedral shape, with twelve flat pentagonal surfaces. Over a hundred of these little bronze or stone dodecahedra, which date from the second or third centuries, have been found in Europe, in locations ranging from Wales to Hungary to Italy, with most being found in Germany and France.

The use or reason for these dodecahedra are something of a mystery, as there's no mention of such objects in the Roman literature or artwork of the time. Possible suggested uses include: candlestick holders (one found dodecahedron had wax in it), dice, survey instruments, a tool for determining optimal planting dates for winter wheat, gauges to calibrate water pipes, army standard bases, or religious artifacts.

Martin Hallett thinks he may have solved the mystery. He had a scale replica made from 3D print outs, and set to work with some yarn to see what could be done with a dodecahedron. Turns out they make a useful knitting nancy for making gloves, or as they might have called it in Roman times, a knitting dodecahredria or knitting nicé.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Creative Knitting Autumn 2014: A Review

Creative Knitting is celebrating its tenth anniversary with the release of their Autumn 2014 issue. Congratulations to CK, and let's have a look at the patterns in this issue.

The Alabaster Cardigan. Quite like this one, but then I have a weakness for this sort of warm, comfortable, textured cardigan. There's a certain casual elegance to them.

The Argentine Cowled Tee. I'd like this one if it weren't for that drapery hanging randomly off the front. It looks like some sort of dressing room mishap.

The Hinterland pullover. I don't usually care for the mullet hem, but I actually kind of like this one. Because it and the black panels are the only distinctive touches on this otherwise basic sweater and they work together, it has a certain smartness.

The Ocher Shell. I do like this one, which has both a good shape and eye-catching stitchwork, though the colourway isn't appealing. An attractive solid tone yarn would be a better choice here, because the design is so interesting on its own.

Simply Cozy Sweater. This is dead simple, but the woman who owns this sweater will probably get more use out of it than she would out of three or four fashion editorial-type designs combined. For very basic designs like this, go with a really beautiful yarn in a luscious colour. It'll elevate the resulting sweater into something special.

Trio of Cables pullover. I like this one on the whole, but my one quibble is that the edgings used here at neck, hem and sleeve aren't quite working. They make the sweater look unfinished. I'd maybe work up some sort of lace pattern similar to that used within the cable motifs to use instead.

The Uncommon Cabled Cardigan. I'm wishing we had a full frontal view of this cardigan, because I don't feel I can really be sure it looks good until I've seen one. It might look gracefully draped, or it might look sad and bedraggled. The yarn used here is a lovely colour and looks soft and delightful.

The Balla Vest. Not liking this much. It's square and bulky in a way that is going to do most women no favours.

The Bobble Fun Scarf. Good texture in this piece.

Double Triple Cowl. This one's fine when worn doubled around the neck instead of worn single as it is here, where it looks like a sad flat tire.

Levin Cowl. This also looks nice when worn doubled around the neck.

The Serendipitous Stripes pullover is the cover design from the very first issue of Creative Knitting. It is an appealing piece and an easy, flattering way to wear horizontal stripes.

The Sestina Tunic. This design looks less than half-baked and that dreary yarn choice is not helping. This would not be flattering on most women.

The Sugar Maple Hat is quite cute.

The Vortex Necklace. Not too impressed with this one. The shape is good but rendering it in yarn makes it look too clunky and more like a bit of sweater appliqué on the run than a piece of jewelry.

The Fabiola Cowl. I very much like this cowl, which is pretty and simple and wearable. I wouldn't make it in green or red, though, as that might occasion some Christmas tree skirt jokes.

The Loughmore Cardigan. This one's lovely. The shape is good, the collar sits well, and I like the use of the graphic style cables instead of a more traditional curved cable design, which gives it a welcome modern twist.

The Lyrical Lace cardigan. Quite like this one too. That lace block pattern is actually something quite fresh. I don't recall ever seeing anything just like it.

The Windsor Cardigan is the cover look from this issue, and I think deservedly so. It's very pretty and graceful and yet so wearable.

The Outland Throw. I don't care for this one. I can't see a coherent design in this picture of it, and I don't like the colours.

Wheatland Basket. Cute baskets.

Wyoming Set. These are a little too 4-H beginner knitting project for me.

The Arvada Cardigan. This is very pretty. I love the colours and the shape is rather stylish.

Eme's Dress. This screams "I just wanted to use up some scrap yarn any old how". Scrap yarn projects are not supposed to look like scrap yarn projects. This would be cute in a more unified colour scheme.

Irresistably Darling Cardigan. This is VERY cute, fresh, bright, and pretty. This designer knows how to work with colour, because all those different colours work together so well and the design is so integrated.

A collection of five baby hats. I don't like the purple ruffled one at top right, because the ruffle is just too exaggerated and overscale, but the rest are cute. These are projects you can use some scrap yarn for.