This week’s reads: Some theory, more practice

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Having recently enjoyed Ann Hood’s Knitting Yarns (2014), I was on the hunt for more knit-reads. Actually, when my hands aren’t on the needles, more than likely, my nose is in a book. This week’s nose-worthy reads:

1. In my quest for a starter sweater pattern, I’ve been feeling Kristina McGowan’s More modern top-down knitting. Inspired by Barbara G. Walker’s top-down technical work, the book has some really interesting top down spins on recent trends (top down yoga pants, hm). This is a “try-on-as-you-go” and often seamless knitting approach that sounds good to me (a beginner made anxious by the prospect of too-short sleeves). I would love to delve more into the theory of top-down garment work. My next step would be to go to the source and look up Barbara G. Walker’s Knitting from the Top (1996). Check out that cover!

2. I hope also to spend more time with Joanne Turney’s The Culture of knitting. A textile and design historian, Turney explores ‘knitting culture’ from a mostly cultural studies point of view. She tackles a lot of terrain, discussing the art and craft of knitting in relation to feminism, femininity/masculinity, identity, nostalgia, catharsis, narrative, politics and social movements, and the globalization of the garment industry. My only thought here is to ask why ‘culture’ is in the singular. Aren’t there multiple knitting cultures, or ways of engaging in knitting practices? This book deserves a good sit down – the kind of reading enhanced by ample cups of tea and positioning oneself by the window, slightly ajar, on a rainy day. I know so little about the wild world of knitting, and look forward to digging in.

3. In my quest to improve my colour work skills, I’m enjoying leafing through Nguyen Le’s Color Knitting with Confidence. The tagline reads “Unlock the Secrets of Fair Isle, Intarsia, and More.” Yes, please.

4. Finally, Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How artists work has been my bedtime read. The book is split up into dozens of short, 2-3 page vignettes, with details about the daily work routines of well-known composers, poets, novelists, painters, philosophers, and scientists. I’m struck by the sheer diversity of ways to live. But what the creators shared: they did not wait for the muse. Rather, they scheduled time to work, creating everyday opportunities for new ideas to flourish. Regularity, dedication, and dogged effort – in some biographies, to the point of self-imposed exile – filled in the blanks of capricious inspiration. Routinizing my work isn’t my forte, so I’m fascinated by those who can.

I also thought that Currey’s Daily Rituals could help artists along the way by including a quiz at the end, like the quizzes in teen magazines (“What your crush says about you,”  “Who’s your One Direction match?” etc.). With the help of a few multiple choice questions, readers could do the quiz “Which Artist are You?” and maybe gain some insight into how to design a creativity-enhancing lifestyle. 😉 Habit-wise, I suspect I bear some kinship with Samuel Beckett, as described in the book: at his best in the afternoons, he liked scrambled eggs, red wine, and writing in his workroom “for as many  hours as he could bear” (p.90).

Do you have a daily work routine? Things you must do to get into the zone? What practices allow your creativity to flourish?

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20 thoughts on “This week’s reads: Some theory, more practice

  1. That is a great collection of reading! I am currently reading Knitting Yarns by Ann Hood, will discuss it a little on a future blog post. The Culture of Knitting sounds interesting too. Thanks for the book info 🙂

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    1. Wonderful to hear that you’re reading Hood’s collection – I really look forward to reading your thoughts! 🙂 After reading your post, I searched up “A perfectly kept house…” The Chicago library system unfortunately doesn’t have it, but I put another one of hers on reserve, also about home dec. I can’t wait to dig in. Thanks again for the recommend. 😀

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  2. All such great reads! As for a starter sweater pattern, I began with Phoenix (a KnitPicks bottom up sweater) and then ran from there. I’m actually knitting my first top-down sweater (actually a cardigan) at the moment — so hopefully I can commiserate with you a bit! I plan to talk about the process and how it compares to a bottom-up sweater in an upcoming podcast 🙂 I love your ideas about practice and the everyday–so important. While I practice with yarn and fiber everyday (it totally de-stresses me), when I want to be creative, I try to set aside a long bit of uninterrupted time to do the math and the tinkering. Always so worth it. Thanks for the tip about the colorwork book! I had not seen that one!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Melissa. 🙂 I very much also benefit from the de-stressing powers of fibre, so I hear you! I recently took a (wee) sweater-knit off the blocking board and hope to write about it soon…How incredibly prolific that you’re working on a top down cardigan after the pullover! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the comparisons between TD and BU constructions. Happy Thursday. 🙂

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  3. Oooh, how interesting to have a look at your knitty library! The Culture of Knitting and Daily Rituals especially grabbed my attention… I’m always super-nosey when it comes to how and why other people work. I’ve never managed to stick to a routine myself (the closest I get is aiming to do all my online stuff in the morning over breakfast) so I’m really fascinated by anyone who can. Let me know if the book helps you figure it out!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Helen. 🙂 Routine is a tough one! I do admire people who can stick to one, and I know there are lots of benefits, but I also enjoy the freedom to follow my whimsy. I suppose somewhere in there, there’s a balance to be found! Happy weekend!

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  4. Just taking this opportunity to say hi and thank you for reading my blog, which enabled me to discover yours – books and knitting, we already have a lot in common. You’re in my blog’ovin’ feed now, looking forward to reading more from you.

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    1. Likewise, thank you for stopping by. 🙂 It was a delight to read about your knitting library, and your recent (frogged) yellow sweater story. It is an absolutely beautiful sweater, I think, but I admire your will to frog and get the best knit out of the gorgeous yarn. 🙂 All best!

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