I was up there in my room, reading some directions. That's something I find I like to do when I have a few minutes to myself--I don't know about you. How to put on furniture polish, transfer patterns with a hot iron, take off corns, I don't care what it is. I don't have to do it. Sometimes I'd rather sit still a minute and read a good quiet set of directions through than any story you'd try to wish off on me.
~Eudora Welty, The Ponder Heart
I learn a lot from reading patterns, knitting along in my head and moving my hands in the air, simulating the techniques I'm following line by line. I store away new shaping ideas, or nifty cast ons, or shawl increases. It's a no-stress way to increase my knitting foundations, with no predicting when or how I might ever use the information.
Because I love reading directions, I love collecting knitting books (and spinning and dyeing and weaving books--ecumenical fiberist that I am). One new book that I've been dipping into a lot is Spinning Around by Jeannine Bakridges (published by Schoolhouse Press). Jenny uses her expert spinning and natural dyeing skills to interpret classic Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen patterns. The book is divided into three sections: Spinning, Color, and Knitting. There is a remarkable amount of information crammed into this 144-page book (Schoolhouse Press tends towards the "no-white-space" style of page layout, preferring quantity of information to modern spareness!). I was particularly looking forward to the Color section and I was not disappointed--solar dyeing, yay! And I love the protective work box Jenny developed from a cardboard box and some plexiglas for working safely with powdered dyes. The spinning section is filled with good information, although speaking honestly I must admit that my spinning style can best be described as "enthusiastic and uncontrolled" so I am not a credentialed reviewer of spinning information; I just know that I learn new things as I dip into this section.
The knitting section shows 22 projects based on EZ patterns, yarns dyed and spun by Jenny or her friends. Each pattern is accompanied by a description of the fiber and dyes used (there is a breakdown of exact quantities used at http://www.schoolhousepress.com/corrects.htm), equipment used, fiber preparation techniques, drafting and a million numbers indicating rations and twists per inch and the stuff that enters my ears and converts to blah-blah-blah immediately. Let's just say there's a lot of information about the yarns! The message I got was that I can make the right yarn for my project. (You might remember the series of articles in Spin Off magazine where designers presented patterns to Jenny and she determined what the best yarn would be to realize those designs--inspirational.) The knitting instructions appear to be straight out of the source (which is indicated). I'm an EZ/Meg fan, some might say to an obsessive degree!, so I was surprised to see a pattern I'd never noticed before: the Halter Top from Spun Out 10. Well, I went to my trusty binder and there it was--such is the power of color and pattern to transform a design I'd never looked at twice into something quite interesting. And frankly I'd never thought I'd want a Moebius Vest until I saw the version in this book.
One of the reasons I have responded so well to this book is that I like hearing the author's voice when I'm reading; Jenny's comes through loud and clear. I especially loved her story of the grouse that inspired the cover scarf.
The knitting instructions seem a bit brief to me--I wonder whether someone not well versed in EZ's style could follow them happily. I'm not a good judge of this, being steeped in her methods. But really, if you haven't read EZ's books there's no time like the present to get started! What are you waiting for? There is no one better to imagiknit with than EZ. Meanwhile, I'll be imagidyeing while waiting for the weather to warm up....