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1,000 Hideous Sweaters You Will Never Wear

When I first become obsessed with some new passion, be it knitting, gardening, musical theatre, or people surnamed Hemsworth, naturally I want to know more about it. How does one purl successfully? What climate zone is my garden in? Is a "musical" different from a musical comedy? Are any of them single, and do they mind that I'm not?

And usually I can find books, articles, and web sites that neatly address most of my concerns, even if the purling situation was a bit complicated at first. But that's not the be-all and end-all of obsession. I want to know what does it feel like to be a gardener, and luckily there are heaps of books about that, from Tottering in My Garden, to Down the Garden Path, and hundreds more. Answers about a life in musical theatre are easily gleaned from the better theatrical biographies or memoirs, from nice (Donna McKechnie) to dishy (Patti Lupone). But almost all knitting books consists of patterns, techniques, or instructions, sigh, and no information about how it feels to become a knitter.

A trip to one's local library or bookstore is likely to turn up nothing more than variations on these imaginary books:

  • 1,000 Hideous Sweaters That You Will Never Wear

  • How To Knit, Stupid

  • Cutesy Teensy Weensy Whimsical Forest Fairy Thingummies

  • Gorgeous Patterns for Garments That Look Great! (on People Of a Different Sex or Body Type than You)

  • Weird Knits from Michael Wyrd, Featuring More Pink Lace Shawls for Men

  • The Inverted Twisted Norwegian Tufted Bobble Stitch, Made Easy

  • Kaffe Fassett's "I Have More Patience Than You" Book of Very Big Things

  • Miss Elizabeth Shelton's Collection of Unlikely Traditional Stitch Patterns

  • Too! Much! Color!

  • A Mis-shelved Book About Weaving or Origami

  • Even More Socks (The Sequel to More Socks (the Sequel to Socks))

  • Mostly Pictures Of Models Pretending to be Mothers Who Write While Wearing Beige and Cream

  • 25 Things You Can Make With One Skein, Just as Long As It's a Hat or Cowl

  • Drift ... (or Breath, or Whisper, or Sand, or Glovebox or Bagel ... almost any single word will do)

I managed to get my hands on a couple of books about the history and practice of knitting, which, as an academic at heart, I desperately needed, but it wasn't until I began reading the works of the Yarn Harlot herself, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, that I was fully satisfied (I'm sure she would get a kick out of imagining she's fully satisfied thousands of knitters around the world!) Here, at last, were books that explained not how to knit, but how to be a knitter (which is a very different thing).

Elizabeth Zimmermann, while supplying a good deal of instruction, ladles in considerable soupçons of wisdom about being a knitter (I think it's acceptable usage to employ 'soupçon'—you can have a lot of a little bit of something if it happens often enough), and she is a wonderful counterpart to Ms. Pearl-McPhee. They're both saying the same thing most of the time, but they come at it from different sides, so-to-speak (I think EZ is a bit "you will succeed despite the occasional mess-up, while SPM is more "you will mess up, despite the occasional success!")

I haven't gained as much pleasure from the occasional compendium of writers writing about knitting, who seem to collectively land on individual essays about how they tried but failed to knit, or their mother knit, or they want to knit, none of which are satisfying reads for someone like me.

(Please don't waste any time trying to find the specific books I've warned you against—despite evidence to the contrary, they really don't exist, although books very much like them are very much available).

Off the Needles

  • Hat (using Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible Pattern #52 for its motif) ... speaking of too much colour! (but I love it).

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Itineris Shawl (I'll pretend it's a scarf. I'm 2/3 through the third repeat)

  • Sophie's Universe crochet project #1 (doing extra rounds, to turn it into a queen-size bedspread, I'm on round 121, or 8 past the official stopping point))

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 38 of Hexagon 8)

  • Caldwell Vest (up to 8th stripe of the back)

  • Grey Intarsia Vest (my own pattern, almost finished the first set of squares which will be more like rectangles, I think)

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