Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pleasure Principle

When I used to care for elementary school children, I made friends with a precocious and inventive 7-year-old second-grader who liked to check in on my progress as her father dropped her off in the morning.
One day she had a brainstorm. “I’m going to buy you a knitting machine, Cassandra, so you can knit a sweater all in one day.”
“That’s so nice of you, Julia,” I said. “But the first thing I would do is knit you a really long scarf in your favorite color.”
To her, knitting was a means to an end — a finished sweater — and she wanted to give me a gift that would hasten its completion. Much like the reaction of many people uninitiated to the pleasures of the process, she misunderstood why I knit. Like a really engrossing book you don’t want to end, a knitter’s work-in-progress is to be relished, patiently and perfectly executed, to be unraveled many rows down or “frogged” (think rip-it, rip-it) when necessary, restitched endlessly if need be.

So it was with great satisfaction that I at last discovered a book full of patterns that shared my design aesthetic, simple yet substantial projects to be savored.
Flipping through a book on the library’s new acquisitions shelf, I came across “Simple Style: 19 Innovative to Traditional Designs With Simple Knitting Techniques” by Ann Budd. The cover has a mossy green, olive and earth brown variegated wool sweater with the sleeves knit lengthwise with a big seam down the center of the front and back, boldly joining the two halves.
Inside were a couple dozen sweaters, a shawl and two skirts, minimalist and quietly lovely, each in its own way.
A cream A-line skirt knit lengthwise in two pieces, front and back, achieves its modest flair with short rows and judicious placing of eyelets at the hem.
A mustard-colored man’s-style v-neck vest is knit generously enough to hit just at the hips and a coordinating tie drapes the waist. In the place of side seaming there is a generous band of ribbing, providing just the perfect amount of stretch. It’s the type of vest you see in the store and buy in every color available, and use to anchor your fall-into-winter-into-spring wardrobe, since it’s knit in merino wool, cool enough for spring with a tee underneath, and warm enough for winter layered over a turtleneck and under a blazer.
The most stunning piece, and equally ambitious, is the sleeved shawl, really a seed-stitched cardigan knit in burnt umber alpaca yarn, with a fat braided cable in place of buttons, placket and neckline. The twist is one side of the front is knit extra long, a rectangle meant to be tossed over the shoulder and to fall down the back.
The quandary is … which one should I spend the next few months fingering first?

Simple Style: 19 Innovative to Traditional Designs With Simple Knitting Techniques, Ann Budd, Interweave Books, $24.95.

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