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Knitting It Richer

Jul 12, 2011

I think of myself as a knitter who loves context. It's never enough for me to knit a sweater Just Because: I want to know about the regional traditions that inspired the stitch pattern, the strange history of its construction method, the blend of influences that came together to inspire the designer. It might just be the trivia nerd in me coming out, but I like to know.

Noriko Sekiguchi's Nordic Jacket,
Interweave Knits.

When I sit down to plan an issue of Interweave Knits, I think a lot about knitting context. We like to group projects in stories that explore a technique, a fiber, or a historical perspective: Taken together, a few projects that interpret a tradition or technique in different ways can be more illuminating than a single one. They each tell a different part of the story—in a colorwork story, perhaps one pair of socks explores very traditional Scottish colorwork. Maybe a pair of mittens borrows from Cowichan pictorial motifs. Another sweater works with Nordic-style snowflakes. They all approach the same subject from different angles, traveling diverse routes and shedding some light on how and why we knit this thing that way, and that thing this way.

And knitting has such a long and crooked tail behind it that there's always something to discover. Every technique has been handed down from somewhere; every stitch pattern borrows from an older one. Explicitly or implicitly, every designer is influenced by myriad knitting forebears. It makes every piece of modern knitting a kind of delightful scavenger hunt as well as a new creation to top up the human knitting canon.


Galina Khmeleva's contemporary
Orenburg Lace Triangle, Interweave
Knits
.
Galina Khmeleva's traditional
Orenburg lace Shawl, PieceWork.
When I look through a new issue of PieceWork, the historical links and context for each project tap deep into my knowledge junkie's brain. Here, then, is the mirror image of my modern knits with roots in tradition: traditional knits that spring directly from pages published long ago and artifacts in museums. I sometimes like to look through PieceWork and Knits together, finding connections and relationships between ideas or pieces between the two magazines. An authentic-as-can-be lace shawl from Orenburg in the one; a current reinterpretation of Orenburg lace in the other. Real needle lace in PieceWork; vintage-lace-inspired knitted edgings in Knits. Even when the connections aren't explicit, you'll see how this craft of ours rolls on, with designers and researchers continually adding to and borrowing from the knowledge stash.   
And knowing about your knits, whether old or new, is always fun. It makes the knitting richer—the sweater or mittens or what-have-you take on the weight of all the knits and knitters that influenced them. I like to think it even makes them warmer.

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Cheers, 


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