Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I love Arctic Lace!

Check out I'm A Knitter And I Vote later today for a wrap-up of yesterday's excitement (I'll try not to gloat too much, but yay for a rebalance of power! I don't want a one-party system, especially when the party in power isn't my party!). But this post is all about one thing - lace. And in particular, Arctic Lace, the latest book from author and knitwear designer extraordinaire, Donna Druchunas.

This book focuses on Native American lace knitting in the North American arctic, where they produce wonderful clouds of lace out of quivit (which comes from the musk ox, of all things). Donna follows a quivit trail to the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative, owned and operated by "approximately 200 Native Alaskan women from remote coastal villages of Alaska".

Now, knitting with Musk Ox yarn sounds kind of strange. They are big and, frankly, don't look very soft.

I've never tried quivit before (baby camel is about the most exotic thing in my stash), but let me share with you the first paragraph from the introduction. If this doesn't make you want to knit quivit lace, I don't know what will!

"Picture yourself surrounded by the softest fiber you can imagine. Skeins of yarn, tufts of fleece, delicate knitted lace envelop you. The nearly weightless fiber has the texture of a cloud. The yarn is fine and fluffy, with a hand that reminds you of a kitten's fur. The lace drapes like fine-woven silk. As you touch the lace scarves - in natural taupe and soft, muted colors - you notice a gentle halo lightly framing the stitches, adding a dimension of luxury not quite like anything you've ever seen. Softer than merino, finer than cashmere, lighter than silk, the fiber you are touching is quiviut, the down of the musk ox."

Intrigued? Makes me want to hop a plane to Alaska tomorrow! The first half of the book talks all about the cooperative, the knitters, the history of Native Alaskan knitting and, of course, the musk ox and its wonderful fleece (including how the quivit yarn is produced, starting at the source). There are tons of pictures of the co-op women plying their trade.

As a woman and a knitting business owner, I am always fascinated to learn about how other women make a living with yarn and needles. Like the Bohus knitters in Sweden and the lace knitters of Estonia, women all over the world have and continue to contribute to their local economies by producing wonderful knitted garments. It would be nice if it were easier to actually knit for a living in this country, but that's a discussion for another time!

The second half of the book is where the serious lace knitter can get down to business. Donna starts with an excellent tutorial on how to knit lace. Her "Lace Knitting Workshop" is a great place for the lace novice to learn the basics. She covers everything from chart reading to fixing mistakes to what effects different needle types will have on your finished product. She covers all the basic lace stitches complete with step-by-step pictures. At the end of the workshop are a series of sample swatches where beginning lace knitters can practice their techniques before heading on to a more difficult project.

And finally, after you've learned how to properly manage your lace knitting, she starts in on the projects. All of the projects in the book are "inspired by the culture and art of the Yup'ik and Inupiat people." There are projects for all level of lace knitter, from scarves to vests to fingerless gloves. My only small complaint about the book is that the pictures are not in color. The photos are great, but I was left craving more visual stimulation. I guess that means I'll have to knit up a scarf or two so I can look at them in full color! It doesn't detract from the book - I just found the photos on the cover so yummy that I got a bit greedy.

The last chapter in the book is all about how to design your own lace and would be a great place to start if you're interested in designing but don't quite know where to start. She also includes a resource section where you can find numerous places to get your own quivit.

I am very happy to have this book in my collection (and, just so you know, I bought the book and volunteered to review it - it wasn't provided gratis for me to review, although Donna will be mentioning my pattern site as a thank you). As many of you know, I don't really have time to knit others' patterns and so I need knitting books with some real content in them. This has it, and I know I will be referring to it and enjoying the history of the Oomingmak knitters often.

You can get your own copy at your local bookseller or online at my favorite place, Schoolhouse Press, the publisher, Nomad Press, as well as Amazon, etc. I'd also like to mention that Nomad Press is a participant in the Green Press Initiative, which is working to make publishing an environmentally sustainable endeavor. You all know I'm extremely supportive of that! In addition, Donna is contributing a portion of her royalties from the book to the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative. Now, you've heard me mention before how little knitting book authors actually get paid per copy, what with the super-discounting of Amazon and the likes, so the fact that she's donating some of her hard-won proceeds back to the women who inspired the book speaks volumes, in my mind.

Thanks, Donna, for a great book and giving me the chance to review it! If you're intrigued and want to read some of the other posts on Donna's blog tour, check out her blog for more details.


Anonymous theknittinggirl said...

I am happy to finally see this book mentioned in someone's blog. I am blogless, alas, but purchased this book a few weekds ago. It is everything you said!

5:23 PM  
Blogger NorCalKnitter said...

I have a picture of my socks for this week on my blog.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog!!! Your title Byline says it all!!!! I laughed out loud!! As the knitting mother of 3 (ages 6, 2, and 4months) I can certainly relate!!!! Keep knitting!!!

10:34 AM  
Blogger keohinani said...

hi chrissy!
i'm writing to inquire whether you are again accepting prize donations for your SAM2 :) :) :)

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost bought some quivit a few months ago!

I'm still working on your November Sockret Pal package. Should be out to you before Thanksgiving!
-Your Sockret Pal

4:52 PM  

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