Read an Excerpt
Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together
By Larissa Brown, Martin John Brown, Michael Crouser, Melanie Falick
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.Copyright © 2008 Larissa Brown and Martin John Brown
All rights reserved.
There's something timeless about sitting around with your fellow knitters and your works in progress. The warmth of a fire or a cup of tea, the clicking of needles, and the satisfaction of quiet talk—or no talk at all—has a completeness to it. Nothing more need be added.
It's an experience you share with nearly every knitter from nearly every time and place. Digging around in old travel-ogues, you might unearth a quote like this:
"I was tempted, after breakfast, into the ladies' cabin," wrote the intrepid female traveler Matilda Houstoun from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico in 1845, "where I remained because I was pleased and amused by what was going on. The wife of the captain ... took great pains to teach me the art of knitting, in which she was wonderfully skilled, and I in return, answered her questions about England."
Something about knitting seems to make it easier to listen and bond. When Matilda left the ship, the captain's wife gave Matilda the hat she had been working on. Matilda was charmed—she prized the hat "as a proof of kindness and good feeling." It was just one of a thousand friendships that have been sealed by knitting, much to the bafflement of less crafty types.
Today the experience is much the same—though it doesn't often happen by coal fires or in creaking ship cabins. This chapter looks at three places knitters are hanging out today.
Cafés dedicated to knitting and knitters are burgeoning in popularity. Combining a yarn shop with a casual venue to knit, eat, and chat means you have a dependable way to satisfy your craving for knitterly company.
Knitting circles and meet-ups can be found in every size and level of intensity, from intimate get-togethers of just a few friends, to a dozen or so gathered for a local stitch 'n bitch, to knitting "services" of the Church of Craft with enough participants to fill a lecture hall. These meet-ups are a way to see the same set of knitters again and again, compare progress on projects, and make friends along the way.
Finally, there are times when knitters just want to make a spectacle of themselves. Events like major league base-ball's stitch N' Pitch and Worldwide Knit in Public Day take knitting to the front and center of people's attention. For some it's just a good time, but for others it's a way of coming out of the closet and saying, "I knit and I'm proud."
At knitalongs like these, you want projects that interest you but aren't so complex they make it hard to socialize. When you set out to knit among friends, it's good to have a lot of simple work to knit on. Consider projects like the Doppio Gauntlets, French Press Cozy, or Olive's afghan. And last but not least, Genia Planck's mesmerizing Pinwheel Blanket is the basis for the first of Larissa's Knitalong Diaries, where you'll discover how a simple pattern can yield a flowering profusion of perfect little blankets, leaving knitters with a lot to be proud of, and just as good, a lot to talk about.CHAPTER 2
Sarah Hickerson has lived in a lot of interesting places in her life, from the rolling hills of Tennessee, to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, to two years in a tiny West African village called Koundian, on a stint for the Peace Corps. But nowadays she's spending a lot of time on the couch in the back of Mabel's Café & Knittery in Portland, Oregon. Sarah is a labor and delivery nurse-in-training at a public hospital, and Mabel's is a "knitting café"—a combination yarn shop and coffee bar. For a knitter with an extraordinarily stressful job, Mabel's is a perfect refuge. Most of the time, just being there is all the knitalong Sarah needs.
"I'm not just a regular, I'm the regular at Mabel's," she jokes. Three or four mornings a week you'll find Sarah on that couch, surrounded by cubbyholes overflowing with wool, cotton, and silk goodness, enjoying a double soy latte—an order the staff has memorized.
Though Mabel's can get busy in the morning serving commuters with coffee (in the evening, classes and groups can order beer, cake, and wine) there's a palpable calm to the place. For some reason, wireless signals for phones don't work well inside. People tend to tuck their devices away to beep another time. It's a place just a little bit removed from the world, which means it's the perfect place to play with yarn and enjoy sympathetic company.
Sometimes Sarah works quietly on one of her impulsive knitted projects, like the giant felted beet she's making for a neighbor's toddler. Sometimes she chats with whoever comes by. Usually, she does both. Her company over at the café tables might be an eight-year-old devouring a cookie and up to his elbows in a glittering fuzzball of novelty yarn, a group of glamorous women sharing tea and plucking away at scarves, or a new mom reaching around the curve of her slinged newborn to work a purl row. And if any of these knitters runs out of supplies or discovers a problem—with their double espresso or with the cable they're working—the staff is right there to help.
Sarah might be a little more enthusiastic than most, but she's hardly alone in her love for knitting cafés.
In recent years, knitting cafés have been popping up like dandelions on a summer lawn. Of course, people have long hung out around the big, inviting tables at yarn shops, or gone to knitting classes and events featuring food and drink. And in the United Kingdom and Japan, weekly or monthly knitting parties are often sponsored by restaurants or coffee shops.
But the full-time yarn shop and café combination is a relatively new and North American phenomenon. Suzan Mischer's Knit Cafe in Los Angeles was a pioneer, opening in 2002. Unlike traditional yarn shops, which vary in the degree to which they encourage industrious loitering, Knit Cafe was designed for full-time hanging out. "I just wanted to have a place where I had the music I loved, a cup of coffee and a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere," Suzan told the New York Times.
The idea spread. In New York, The Point Knitting Cafe asks customers to "eat, knit, and be happy." In Maine, the Knitting Experience Café beckons with its big red couch. North of Seattle, Washington, Village Yarn & Tea Shop specializes in tea alongside their cottons and cashmeres. Some, like Close-Knit Cafe in Louisville, Kentucky, offer free wi-fi for those who want to surf the Internet while they sip amid the fibers. At Lisbet's Knitting Cafe in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the coffee and tea are complimentary. And at the Sow's Ear, a knitting store and coffee shop in otherwise quiet Verona, Wisconsin, late-night knitting eves have been expanded due to unexpected popularity.
No matter where these cafés bloom, the basic idea is the same. Knitting cafés aren't just places to buy yarn, they're places people can meet and knit in comfort and company, and maybe even cross a few paths with people they'd never meet if they didn't have knitting in common.
"Conversations start with 'What are you knitting?' but from there, anything can come out of your mouth," quipped James, a New York fitness instructor and knitting café patron, to US News & World Report. Jocelyn, a knitter and photographer in Calgary, has a habit of going to a knitting café once a week, partly to meet people she doesn't have a lot in common with. The bond of knitting is enough to start a conversation, and tea and cupcakes don't hurt, either.
Knitting cafés strike a rare balance between a completely public site—where whipping out your knitting needles might make you stand out like a wayward purl on a field of knit stitches—and staying at home, where you can be yourself but surprises and inspiration are harder to find. At a knitting café, there is no shortage of supplies or advice. If you run into a problem, you can duck over to the counter for advice or grab a row counter from the sale bin.
It's such a perfect combination that for Liz Tekus, the owner of the Cleveland, Ohio, yarn store Fine Points, adding a tearoom to her shop was a natural evolution. She saw how much her customers were getting out of their interactions at the store. They were lingering, talking, and hanging out in the backyard, even though it wasn't officially part of the store. Casual encounters were becoming real friendships.
"Some of these women have serious things they're going through," Liz says, listing a few: divorces, sons at war, illness. The camaraderie of knitting together was obviously a great pleasure and relief for them. Rather than crack down on their loitering, Liz made a space for them to revel in it. "This is a place where they can escape from their lives," she says.
Back on her couch, Sarah Hickerson would probably agree. The scene at Mabel's—long stretches of peaceful work and conversation, without pressure to produce and compete—reminds her of the pleasant gatherings of women in Koundian, her Peace Corps village.
"It's a coming together of people, where we can sit and time doesn't really matter," she reflects. She'll have to go back on the clock and help deliver some babies tonight, but in all likelihood, she'll be back at Mabel's tomorrow. She's got a crazy idea for a knitted boat she wants to bounce off some sympathetic fellow crafters, and at Mabel's, she's pretty much guaranteed to find them.
Sipping and Stitching Around North America
Here are a few of the many knitting cafés that can be found in North America:
Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks, 8524 SE 17th Ave., Portland, Oregon; 503-258-9276; www.abundantyarn.com
Fine Points, 12620 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio; 216-229-6644; www.finepoints.com
Fringe! A Knit Cafe, 823 E. Third St., Tulsa, Oklahoma; 918-382-0411; www.fringecafe.com
Knit Cafe, 8441 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, California; 323-658-5648; www.knitcafe.com
Knit New York, 307 E. 14th St., New York, new York; 212-387-0707; www.knitnewyork.com
The Knitting Experience Café, 14 Middle St., Brunswick, Maine; 207-319-7634; www.theknittingexperience.com
Knit One Chat Too, #509, 1851 Sirocco Dr. SW, Calgary, Alberta; 403-685-5556; www.knitonechattoo.com
Lisbet's Knitting Cafe, 123 W. Court St., Doylestown, Pennsylvania; 215-230-9970; www.lisbetsknittingcafe.com
Mabel's Café & Knittery, 3041 SE Division St., Portland, Oregon; 503-231-4107; www.mabelscafe.com
The Point, 37a Bedford street, new York, new York; 212-929-0800; www.thepointnyc.com
The Sow's Ear, 125 S. Main St., Verona, Wisconsin; 608-848-2755; www.knitandsip.com
Village Yarn & Tea Shop, 19500 Ballinger Way NE, Shoreline, Washington; 206-3617256; www.villageyarnandtea.com
The Yarn Garden Sipperie, 1413 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, Oregon; 503-239-7950; www.yarngarden.net
Any knitting café worth its salt should be able to serve you a doppio con panna, or double shot of espresso with whipped cream, and this pair of arm warmers is reminiscent of nothing so much as that sweet little drink. They deliver a double shot of two colors of luscious yarn swirled together using simple cables, and are topped with a frothy, creamy edge of a special bulky wool. Delicious.
FINISHED MEASUREMENTS 7" circumference at wrist; 10" circumference at elbow; 14¼" long (to fit average adult woman)
YARN Malabrigo Worsted (100% merino wool; 215 yards/ 3½ ounces): 1 hank each #181 Marron Oscuro (A) and #161 Rich Chocolate (B); Blue Moon Fiber Arts® Leticia (100% handspun wool; approximately 80 yards / 3½ ounces): 1 hank Spring Fling (C)
NEEDLES One pair straight needles size US 9 (5.5 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge.
NOTIONS Stitch marker; cable needle (cn)
GAUGE 16 sts and 24 rows = 4" (10 cm) in Stockinette stitch (St st) using A
Colorways that are similar such as those shown, will blend subtly. The more different your colors are from one another, the more they will stripe.
C6F: Slip next 3 sts to cn, hold to front of work, k3, k3 from cn.
C6B: Slip next 3 sts to cn, hold to back of work, k3, k3 from cn.
Stripe Pattern (any number of sts; 4-row repeat)
*Work 2 rows with A, then 2 rows with B.
Repeat from * for Stripe Pattern.
With Long-Tail CO Method (see page 156) and C, CO 28 sts.
Cut yarn, leaving a 5" tail. Begin Stripe Pattern; work throughout entire Gauntlet.
BEGIN CABLE PATTERN
Rows 1 and 5 (RS): p11, K6, p11.
Rows 2, 4, and 6: K11, p6, k11.
Row 3: P1, yo, p2tog, p8, place marker (pm), C6F, p8, p2tog, yo, p1.
Repeat Rows 1-6 until piece measures 7" from the beginning, ending with Row 4 or 6.
Increase Row (RS): P3, m1-p, p3, m1-p, purl to marker, k6, purl to last 6 sts, m1-p, p3, m1-p, p3-32 sts.
Work even until piece measures 8" from the beginning, ending with Row 4 or 6.
Repeat Increase Row-36 sts. Work even until piece measures 10" from the beginning, ending with Row 4 or 6.
Repeat Increase Row-40 sts. Work even until piece measures 14", or desired length to elbow, ending with Row 6. Cut yarns, leaving 5" tails.
Change to C. Knit 1 row. BO all sts loosely knitwise.
Work as for Right Gauntlet, working C6B instead of C6F on every Row 3 of pattern.
Laces: Cut two pieces of C 3 yards long. Beginning at wrist, thread one piece through eyelets of each Gauntlet as if to lace a shoe. Tie bow at elbow.
French Press Cozy
There's something romantic and pure about deep, dark coffee in a glass French press. It conjures up visions of canal-side cafés or brisk, breathtaking campsite mornings. But the reality is that coffee in glass gets cold awfully fast. Generations of knitters figured out a solution for the tea crowd, and now this twist on the classic tea cozy will keep your coffee toasty while you sip over a long and deep conversation. Clean rectangular panels and a knitted-on I-cord edging reflect the mod designs of most French press pots, while a winding I-cord closure recalls the steam rising off your favorite poison.
YARN Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks Kona Superwash (100% superwash wool; approximately 100 grams / 245 yards): 1 hank hand-dyed by Abundant Yarn's Jenna Smaniotto using Stumptown Coffee Roasters coffee grounds as dye
NEEDLES One pair straight needles size US 4 (3.5 mm); one set of three double-pointed needles (dpn) size US 3 (3.25 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge.
GAUGE 26 sts and 37 rows = 4" (10 cm) over Ribbing Panel with larger needles, slightly stretched
NOTES Instructions are given for a 1-liter French press with a circumference of 12" and a height of 6½" from below the handle to just below the top lip. To modify the pattern for a different size Cozy, measure your press's circumference and height. Each ribbing panel measures 4" across when lightly stretched. Work the number of panels that creates a circumference that is about 1" smaller than your press's actual circumference. Add or remove columns of ribbing to achieve an exact desired measurement, but always begin and end each right-side row with one knit stitch.
Basic Ribbing Panel (multiple of 26 sts + 1; 1-row repeat) Row 1 (RS): K1, *p2, k3, p3, k5, p3, k2, p2, k3, p2, k1; repeat from * to end.
Row 2: Knit the knit sts and purl the purl sts as they face you. Repeat Row 2 for Basic Ribbing Panel.
With larger needles, CO 79 sts. Begin Basic Ribbing Panel. Work even for 4 rows.
Eyelet Row (RS): K1, p2tog, yo, work to last 3 sts, yo, p2tog, k1. Work even until piece measures approximately 6" from the beginning or to ½" below top lip of French press, working Eyelet Row every 8 rows, and ending with an Eyelet Row. Work an additional 5 rows of basic ribbing pattern. BO all but the last st.
Slip last st to smaller dpn, using Backward Loop CO (see page 156), CO 2 sts-3 sts on needle. Work I-Cord (see page 156) for 1 row. Turn Cozy so WS is facing you. Work Applied I-Cord (see page 156) around BO edge, right edge, CO edge, and left edge, making sure to pick up sts evenly. When I-Cord ends meet each other, leave sts on needle for bind-off. With second dpn, pick up 3 sts from beginning of I-Cord; graft to end of I-Cord using Kitchener Stitch (see page 156).
With smaller needles, CO 4 sts. Work 36" I-Cord.
Block lightly, being careful not to over-stretch ribbing. Weave in ends. Position Cozy on French press and lace up ties like a corset. Note: If you machine wash the Cozy, do so in a lingerie bag to protect the I-Cord.
Excerpted from Knitalong by Larissa Brown, Martin John Brown, Michael Crouser, Melanie Falick. Copyright © 2008 Larissa Brown and Martin John Brown. Excerpted by permission of Harry N. Abrams, Inc..
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