You probably all know about Ravelry.com by now. (As I write this post, 5105 Ravelers are online, on a Tuesday afternoon.) Ravelry is where I usually find my pattern inspiration, and I suspect that I likely spend more time browsing Ravelry than I do actually knitting.
But this post isn’t about Ravelry. I recently received an email about another fascinating resource: The Knitting Reference Library. This online database is a project by the archivists at University of Southampton in England, who have scanned and uploaded 164 books, magazines, and pattern booklets since December 2015. The oldest item I’ve come across so far was published in 1847, but the collection also includes some amazing patterns from the 1970s and ’80s. (Oh yes. They’re glorious.) Most of the items are only the cover photo, but a few of them are complete patterns that can be downloaded as PDFs.
While I don’t think I’ll forsake Ravelry for the Knitting Reference Library just yet, it is amazing to see the evolution of styles (both sweater and hair) over time, and it is lovely that University of Southampton is recognizing the value of knitting and its history. This is a website I will be checking up on periodically as the project continues. You can visit The Knitting Reference Library here, or check out a great article about the collection by Ayun Halliday on openculture.com. I especially love Halliday’s suggestion that “[s]ome enterprising librarian should get cracking on a sub-collection, Fashion Crimes Against Male Knitwear Models, 1960-1980”. There are photos, and you should see them. Just maybe don’t knit those ones.
Dear, Ms Walker,
I have always had such deep admiration and respect for you. I own all your book. All of them. Multiple copies of some of them. You have inspired me more times than I can count. So much so that I am working my way through your first stitch dictionary, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Like walking the Camino de Santiago or climbing Glastonbury Tor, or The Hajj, this is a pilgrimage, of sorts. I want to stitch in your footsteps, in your honor, and the honor of my own knitting heritage.
But, oh, my ever lovin’ wool…am I bored with this first chapter! Simple knit and purl combinations are so beneath me. There’s not enough there to engage my not inconsiderable talents, but just enough to keep me from being able to completely zone out. Neither a rugged slope that I have to pay attention to climbing, nor a smooth pathway that I can skim across without really noticing, these first patterns are like a gravely dirt road; tedious but with occasional potholes to fall into or sharp stones to trip over. Gee whiz, I can’t imagine how you disciplined yourself to work all the swatches in the photos. Or did you? Maybe you farmed them out?
As I mentioned in my last blog post (look here if you want to read it), I am a woman of many interests and hidden depth. Well maybe not so hidden, and maybe not even all that deep. But my point is, I’ve had a rich meditation practice off and on since I was a little girl. I’m also a writer, short stories usually, but at least one novel and many, many personal essays. So I’m familiar with the phenomenon of resistance and the sensation of writers block. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m dealing with here. Like with any other discipline, I can come up with all kinds of excuses for why I’m having a hard time. It’s boring. It’s beneath me. I have other important things to do…like cruise Pinterest or update my favorites on Ravelry. I need to blog about my knitting instead of doing it. You know. Anything to keep me from actually ploughing my way through the less exciting bits.
But, Barbara…may I call you Barbara?…if you could put your mind to writing all these things down, I can bend myself to the task of knitting my way through them. It really is a meditation, a pilgrimage, a prayer. I’ve figured out how to keep my mind engaged while I’m in the gravelly parts. I’m going to work every stitch, but I get to make the rules about how I accomplish it. I’m going to allow myself to skip around a bit and intersperse the simpler stitches with some of the more complex ones. And I’m going to work several at one time so I can break up the monotony.
My dear Barbara, I am determined to get through them all. If you have any stories to share about how you over came writer’s block, or knitter’s block, please share them. I’d love to know how your creative process works. Meanwhile, here are my versions of Waving Rib, Basket Weave, K1-P1 Ribbing, Twisted K1-P1 Ribbing, K2-P2 Ribbing, Twisted K2-P2 Ribbing, Mistake Stitch Rib, and Embossed Moss Stitch Ribbing. I’m looking forward to Baby Cable Ribbing, Little Hour Glass and Braided Ribbing. I’m going to make it fun and satisfying, and praise your example with every stitch.
P.S. When I did the Basket Weave, I started on the wrong side so the photo shows the back. I decided to leave it as is rather than re-do it, and count it as done. I couldn’t face doing it again, and I get to make up my own rules, right?
It’s no surprise that I take a lot of inspiration for the work I do from nature and history, but the place I probably get the most from is other artists around me. In this post I would like to share a few of them, and hopefully inspire some of you as well! Be sure to click on the images to go to their pages.