Saturday, November 01, 2008

Speaking of Knitting

October, 2008. Never have I ever had such a busy month–not even in college, when our final exams were painfully stretched out over multiple weeks.

After nearly fifteen years I still contemplate those two dreadful swatches of winter and spring with undiminished horror. One was either sleeping, eating, prepping for a test or taking a test; and both sleeping and eating were curtailed in order to leave more time for prepping.

Once, halfway through the ordeal, a friend persuaded me to unwind by leaving campus and heading into Boston to spend the afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts. Unfortunately, I was an art history major. Instead of losing my cares for a couple of hours in the loveliness, after fifteen minutes I had a panic attack in front of a Renoir and fled back to my books.

October has felt a bit like that. I was either traveling to something or from something; or packing something; or shipping something; or drawing something; or photographing something; or writing something; or signing something; or writing about traveling or packing or shipping or drawing or writing or signing.

Notice, among all those -ings, the absence of knitting.

Not that there wasn't any. It's just all been small and simple, and some of it (like the patterns for the next column in Knitty) I can't show you in advance or Amy Singer will get all huffy.

But I am heartily sick of not blogging about knitting. Today, although a gaggle of -ings has clustered around my ankles to scream for attention, I'm shutting them all in the bathroom so I can show you the latest sweater for Abigail.

The knitting itself is as plain as plain gets: Baby Pullover #214 from always-reliable Knitting Pure and Simple. Top-down, raglan sleeves, highly recommended without reservations. My only changes were to work a seed stitch collar and cuffs, instead of rolled stockinette.

Bird and Berry Collar and Cuff

The yarn, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in "Aslan," was pretty all by itself. But when the sweater was finished I wasn't happy with it. Handsome, sure. But dull. No dash. No surprise. A dish of ice cream with no cherry on top. Rock without roll. Mary-Kate without Ashley.

During my infrequent, unoccupied moments at home I'd pick it up and turn it over and squint at it, and then throw it back into the workbasket. I briefly considered slicing the front to make a cardigan with Fun Buttons, but I've had no time to shop around for Fun Buttons.

Then I opened one of the doors on the stash cupboard to hunt for something and three or four small balls of leftover Dream in Color from Abigail's Tulip Jacket fell out. The memory of a bird I'd seen pecking at a bush on Fremont Street knocked up against the memory of a embroidering the Baby Kimono, and a Eureka Moment ensued. (Passers-by in the street heard only a soft popping sound, but for me it was a great relief.)

I consulted briefly with my embroidery books, made a few preliminary sketches, and turned the pullover into "Bird and Berry."

Bird and Berry Front

One sleeve, the back, and the front all have the same sort of vine growing from the bottom up. It's just a feathered chain stitch with two-stitch "berries" sprouting at random.

Bird and Berry back detail

On the front, one of the vines has a little brown bird perched on top, with a berry in its beak.

Bird and Berry Front Detail

If you haven't tried embroidering on a piece of knitting, I highly recommend it. I liken it to working cables. For example:
  • a well-chosen motif can add immensely to the success of a project;
  • it's much simpler to do than it looks, given a little study and practice, and;
  • to the uninitiated, it looks like magic, and you are not required to disillusion them.
By happy chance, there's an article by Pam Allen about embroidery for knitters in the new holiday gifts issue of Interweave Knits. (The same issue is absolutely crawling with Panopticon sheep, by the way.)

Little Book News

The hometown launch for It Itches happened on Sunday at Arcadia Knitting an oh, what a merry crowd. It was a charge to stand in the same spot where'd I'd seen Debbie Stoller and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talk about their work, and read aloud from mine. I wanted to hug everybody who took the time to come say hello. I think I probably did hug about three-quarters of you. I'm turning into the Leo Buscaglia of knitting.

Word is that the book is hitting the store shelves and (finally) landing in the mailboxes of those who placed pre-orders back when it was nothing but a pile of crumpled, ink-stained paper with a terrified cartoonist in the middle.

I spotted it in the wild for the first time at the Borders on State Street, and because I am a shameless, sentimental geek I took a picture. Sue me.

Ask for it by name!

Holy crap. Right there next to Louisa Harding. And me, just a simple girl from Kansas with a pair of tap shoes and a dream.

Meanwhile, several folks have been kind enough to write about it, including The Knitting Scholar, who gave me the royal treatment–an interview and a review. I've also chatted about it on "Ready, Set, Knit," the WEBS Podcast; and the KnitPicks Podcast.

Shop News

The Guys with Yarn 2009 Calendar is back in the Etsy shop, and a new batch of prints and gift enclosure cards will follow on Monday. The 2008 tree ornament and its ancestors are still available in the Cafe Press shop, where I'm hoping to launch new variations on the 1,000 Knitters bags and shirts this week.

50 comments:

Sandy said...

You deserve to be a sentimental fool Franklin. You've done good! I've already loaned my (your) book out to friends who can't wait for Christmas to get their own copy!

I'm glad you are back to blogging. I was getting a bit worried about you! And Abigail's sweater is adorable!

Sarah JS said...

Franklin,
First I'm glad that you are all right. The black hole of blog posts had me a tad worried. But I figured with the book (THE BOOK) coming out, I figured you might be up to your ears in attendent business. (THE BOOK rendered me much needed escapism this past week. Thank you, thank you. Can't pick my favorite part ...)

And the sweater garnered a full-fledged "Awww! How wonderful!" response. I think I really must start knitting for my very young friends ... after my "must make for Christmas" list has been taken care of.

Take care!

nosenabook said...

I, too, found "It Itches" in the wild and took pictures. Or at least I think I took pictures. Unfortunately I was too unversed in phone camera to save them.

Oh, I bought one of the two books, and laugh out loud regularly when I peek into it. (Travel is keeping me from reading as much as I'd like just now.)

CatBookMom said...

Adorable sweater! And like all your other fans, so glad to read a new blog post. I have shown THE BOOK to all my knitting friends, and I send you 'virtually' all the giggles they had.

All this couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

monica said...

Congratulations Franklin, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy :)

I will have to go and pick up my copy. I could use something new to read as well as a good hearty laugh.

pdxknitterati said...

The sweater embellishment is just right, not too much and not too little. Which is what I'd expect from you. Beautiful. Abigail is a lucky child.

Congrats on the book! Dropping hints for Christmas around here.

Anonymous said...

Abigail's sweater is darling! What a great idea to embroider on it, and such a sweet motif you chose! Now I'm itching to start a kidlet project, and I promised myself I'd work only on the stuff which needs finishing. And there's a lotta stuff!!! I am stopping to make a Kitty hat for our Japanese student, though. :) I'm glad to see you posting. I miss when you don't get a chance to. samm

Leslie said...

Kristin Nicholas' "Colorful Stitchery" is a good place to learn embroidery and how to embellish knitting (and other things).

I must admit to reading the print off your book at B&N. I felt so guilty I took it to the cash register, blank pages and all ;-)

Ruth said...

I do love embroidery on knitting. If only my mulitple, fruitless attempts at embroidery didn't look as if they were done by drunken wildebeests.

Beautiful sweater.

Lynne E. said...

Husband (not a knitter) grabbed my Amazon copy of IT ITCHES, before I could even look at it, and read all of the cartoons. His conclusion: "Very funny. I'm sure that the cartoons I didn't understand are very funny, too." Thanks for a delightful book--the knitters' insider-joke cartoons are the best of all!

--Deb said...

The sweater is adorable--I love the vines (which really DO "make" it).

And, the interview was a pleasure--you're welcome back to Knitting Scholar anytime! I was so glad to meet you at Rhinebeck, too--crazy/crowded as it was (grin).

anne marie in philly said...

just purchased "interweave knits" today. the minute I saw the sheep on the TOC, I thought, "that looks like dolores' cousin." and damn if I wasn't correct!

will be entering the contest.

and have put the little book on my holiday wish list...

am waiting patiently for my calendar too...

have a great week! smooches! :-)

Kristen said...

Final exams over multiple weeks?! My god. I always knew you ivy league types were nutso! ;)

I've missed you... Glad to see an Abigail sweater again!

meezermeowmy said...

Abigail will love the sweater. I predict her mother will have trouble getting it away from her to wash it!

That is the perfect blend of Franklin the fiber artist and Franklin the paper artist. Bravo!

kerrylinnet said...

I've missed you. My week is not complete with out words of wisdom from Franklin or the adventures of Dolores. I've read the little book cover to cover, twice. You should be very proud of yourself

Elizabeth L in Apex, NC said...

On Abigail's sweater... What a beautiful finish to a lovely, simple little knit. Really attractive and well-executed!

(And I love Leo Buscaglia, really I do. I have the best memories of seeing him on public television as a child, and reading his books later on... Love's the answer, man.)

Anonymous said...

Love the embroidery on the sweater!
Margie in Maryland

Joanne said...

Your book, "that little green book" as the yarn shop owner described, sold out in 1 weekend. She has reordered.

Congratulations!!!!

Yvonne said...

The book has made it's way over to this side of the pond and is being greatly enjoyed!

My DH has taken to calling me Margaret Dupree but thinks you may have the underestimated the size of the stash..... see you on the 13th

Lisa said...

Congratulations Franklin! And the sweater is just so darned cute. My husband's brother just got engaged TODAY and boy oh boy do I hope he and his bride start making babies soon, just so I can make a sweet little sweater like yours.

quinn said...

Never underestimate the power of tap shoes.

Evelyn said...

My copy arrived a few days ago, and I especially like the essays. The cartoons are cute too, but I miss Dolores! Congrats on your book!

Geek Knitter said...

Your book was spotted in the wild here in my hometown, but I didn't' have my camera... so sorry.

Denise said...

I've been wanting to do silk embroidery on a plain knitted sweater. One of these days I'll get around to it.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I bought the last copy of It Itches this afternoon at the awesome new INDEPENDENT book store called LEGACY BOOKS here in North Texas. I'm going to call them in the morning to support them (and you) and order copies for all my knitting friends.
I showed about half the cartoons to my hubby and he said, "These are really funny." And he even got the one about Fassett!
Hope you'll do volumes and volumes... and perhaps an alternate series with Miz. D.

Dyepotgirl said...

Congratulations Franklin! Your book is wonderful! I wanted to meet you when you were signing books at Rhinebeck, but alas, I couldn't escape our booth! Fortunately, Morgaine helped me out and I was able to get an autographed copy! The book is so much fun to read that I finished it for the first time the very next morning (I'm an early riser.) and just loved it. I think one of my all time favorites is the cartoon with the gypsy fortune teller. What a riot! It's a great gift to be able to make people laugh.
The sweater is adorable and the embroidery just pulls everything together. Somehow I missed the blog on the kimono, so I had to go back and read it. I just love those dragonflies! They're wonderful! Glad that you finally got to post about knitting again. So, have you started your Christmas knitting yet?

Judith said...

OK, I finally got the calendar ordered. I'm looking forward to having this in my crafting room. Oh, and I'm still having a great laugh with "It Itches." Some of these look like they should be in the New Yorker. Has your agent attempted to submit them? These are great cartoons!

TheSockKnitter said...

"And me, just a simple girl from Kansas with a pair of tap shoes and a dream."

Have I told you lately that I ♥ you?

And ENA's® new sweater rawks!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the work you did on your book. It has sustained me daily during some tough working hours, four coworkers lost loved ones last week and a dear friend had surgery, all last week. If not for the smiles I got from dipping into your book daily, and from my farm animals, it would have been a lot tougher. I am glad to see your blog post and very glad you did the seed stitch border, I was considering that very edging on a pattern of my own head's design and seeing Abigail's sweater has clinched it. See, you not only make me smile, but inspire me as a knitter, thanks, you are a gem!

LittleWit said...

Your October was definitely a full month. Once your world stops spinning you can pat yourself on the back for getting so much accomplished. :D

Anonymous said...

Franklin,

It feels odd to comment on your blog because as I begin to write, it's like I'm writing to a friend. Such are the ways of our bloggy, podcasted world! I just finished listening to your interview on the knitpick's podcast. It was very entertaining!

Your baby sweater looks great with the embroidery. Very clever, you are!! A few weeks ago, I knitted the pure and simple baby sweater in a soft denimy wool for my yet to be born first grandson. It was a pure and simple pattern, but without raglan sleaves (?).

I love embroidery and am working on a bib for new baby. It's going to have an owl on the front, a pattern from Sublime Stitching.

Congratulations on your book. I will pick one up someday soon! Get some rest.

Marsha

Stephannie said...

Can you post what embroidery books you think are most useful?

I'm having to use embroidery to tie together a sweater I just made and really didn't find a lot of info after some cursory on-line searches & reviewing all my old Interweave Knits. (Currently I'm just trying out some chain stitching and little flowers....)

I'll be checking out whatever the public library has to review on my own, but it's good to get other opinions esp if the library doesn't have a book that happens to be particularly good.

thanks much!

Nonna Sue said...

I was at my knitting group earlier this week and my friend had her copy of the book on the table. I started to read it and had to force myself to stop because I want something left for myself when my copy arrives. Thanks for a great book and welcome back!

New Jersey Laura said...

Gorgeous sweater. What a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Loved Abigail's sweater, gorgeous.

Congratulations, does it still seem like a dream or is it now real?

Jacqueline

alice said...

Franklin,

That embroidered baby sweater about gave me a milk let down! Honest to God,Franklin, that is the dearest, scandinavian sentimented- no disneycrap- twee and charming little sweater I have ever seen. This is further proof that you are a genius and you thought all that art history at the proper back east college was in vain! That birdie is just perfect.

Seanna Lea said...

Glad that you are able to come up for air! Hopefully you'll be able to get a bit more of one now that the book is more fully launched and what not!

Karin said...

I love the embroidered sweater.

Debra Simon said...

I can't believe you mentioned Fremont St in your blog! I received my calendar last week and almost freaked when I saw that you live in my old neighborhood. I grew up on the 3500 block of Fremont and went to LeMoyne Elem School. So did most of my aunts, uncles, cousins, sister and brother. My grandparents owned a 3-flat some of us lived in. (My mom had 11 bro & sis) I love, love, love the calendar, although I will probably have to hang it in my craft room as my husband will think it strange to hang by the computer.

I also love what you did to Abigail's sweater. I'll always remember how you included Fremont St in one of her many sweaters. I have 2 young granddaughters to knit for. It's wonderful as the items go so fast!

Get some rest before you start your holiday knitting!

knititch said...

kristin nichols has always made me want to embroider on knitting. the only thing i have done so far is a technique where you use a crochet hook as a tapestry needle and that was great. i absolutely adore that little brown bird. it is way too cute and makes for a cherry. so aslan means lion i suppose in persian and then adorned with a little bird...

it reminds me of my friends not so caged bird that he has named after obama..

Patti said...

so glad you're back! I loved all the little sheep in Interweave, although I have as yet to sit down and count them. I'm listening to your podcast now with Knitpicks. Love the embroidery on the sweater, what a clever fix!!! Can't wait to see it modeled on little abigail. THE BOOK is on my christmas list... if I can wait that long.

StringPlay said...

The Leo Buscaglia of knitting! Priceless! Thanks for the chuckle.

Knitting Kris said...

I love what you did with that sweater! The embroidery is fabulous! I knit the sweater for my niece last Christmas, and for my youngest daughter last fall. It does need a little something. I copied the flowers from Harlot's sweater, but didn't have the guts (or the time) to embellish last year. Maybe in the future....

Cynthea said...

I think the embroidery on Abigail's sweater was an inspired idea!

Suzanne B said...

You deserve your "moment" of seeing your book on the shelf. I LOVED the book.

And, OMG, Abigail's sweater...well it is just too darn cute!!!

psmflowerlady said...

OK - it's election day - How is Dolores doing in the polls? T

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Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure you mean Ashley without Mary-Kate. :-)

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