Thursday, 8 December 2011

Cast On and In Colour. . .

I spend about two hours each day commuting because I live in mid-town Toronto but work in Mississauaga. Fortunately it's only one long bus ride, preceded by a 15 minute walk that conveniently goes by at least three good places to pick up a latte. But I really don't mind the travelling because my latest daily obsession is listening to podcasts and what better place than on the bus?  

I've just recently discovered Cast On and am really enjoying it.  Yes, it's a knitting podcast.  It's created by Brenda Dayne, an American knitter and designer who moved to the Welsh countryside over a decade ago, and along with playing some really great music, she recounts her adventures with her craft (she spins and dyes as well as knits), has interviews and guest pieces by other knitters, muses on how knitting can encompass a whole life philosophy, and generally lets listeners eavesdrop on her little corner of the world.  She frequently makes me laugh and thus I generally arrive at work in a good mood.  I started with some of her latest episodes and then went back right to the beginning in 2005 and am listening to them in order, one on the way to work and one on the way home.  So far I've encountered everything from an audio essay on the sounds of wool (I know I'm strange, but I can listen to sheep baas endlessly), to an interview with an Oxford zoologist on silk spun by tropical spiders, to a very funny piece about a men's knitting club stressed out with all the xmas gifts they have to complete.  It's also SO comforting to know that even experienced knitters still have meltdowns, still have to rip back hours and hours of work, and it's all okay. Shownotes, photos and links to the things she discusses are always added on her blog/website located here.

One of the things Brenda also does on this podcast is to review knitting books and this is how I heard about Lorna Miser's The Knitter's Guide to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn, published last year.  I promptly got my hands on a copy and spent hours last night delightedly pouring over it.

My grandmother taught me to knit - just the basics - when I was quite young, and over the years, I've occasionally picked up the needles and done the odd very simple project. A garter stitch scarf was pretty much the extent of my talents.  The "wow" moment that really got me determined to improve my knitting skills came - like many knitters, I'm guessing - when I first encountered a stitch dictionary.  My mind boggled at how several hundred patterns could be created just by knitting or purling in different combinations.  Well, the beauty of Miser's book is that it's essentially a stitch dictionary but especially for variegated yarns - those balls of gorgeous combined colours that suck me in everytime I visit a yarn store. I'm always buying them for my stash and then I never know what to do with them, since I'm really not that interested in knitting socks - yet!

I love, love this book and I have several swatches excitedly knitted last night to prove it.  Miser explains how to categorize all the different types of variegated yarns - machine produced and hand dyed- and to separate them into "calm" and "active" colourways, and then each succeeding chapter shows you different techniques to combine them in your knitting, whether by adding complimentary solids or using patterns that will highlight (or minimize) the colour striping or pooling, or adding different textures into the mix.  There are 65 stitch patterns and 20 projects for using them - two of which have immediately gone to the top of my future project pile.

Noro - here I come!

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