A Good Yarn

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Thursday night I saw "Outside the Actor's Studio: 10 Years of the Scrimshaw Brothers", a series of comedy one-acts from Joshua and Joseph Scrimshaw. The Scrimshaws are hilariously funny and immensely popular around here. Most of the bits they did were great. There was one piece that didn't work for me. But it was a fun show and if you're looking for something light and fun to do tonight, their last show is at 10:00 at Bryant Lake Bowl. They're doing a couple of other shows between now and the end of the year, though, so if you can't make this one, check out one of the others.

Last night I took in this movie:

The film is based on a book written by Dennis Lehane, the author of "Mystic River". This one is the 4th in a series featuring Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. The film is directed by Ben Affleck and stars his brother Casey at Patrick. I was stunned with how good Casey Affleck was. I've seen him in a few other films and he's always sort of annoyed me and seemed like a second rate character actor, but he very successfully carries this film. It's set in South Boston, where a 4 year old girl has been abducted. The girl's mother is an alcoholic and drug addict who seems more than a little too happy about being the center of attention. Her older brother and his wife hire Patrick and Angie to help find their neice - thinking that their neighborhood ties might get them access to people and information that the police don't have. The film is a very satisfying mystery thriller, which kept me engaged throughout - I really, really, really had to go to the bathroom (those movie sodas are so huge!), but I couldn't leave because I didn't want to miss anything. There's also a whole other level to the film, though, that explores right vs. wrong and Patrick struggles with doing the "right" thing - but how do you know what is the right thing. That's something I struggle with all the time in my work and so I found it just absolutely fascinating and so well-done. I would highly recommend this film.

I was lucky enough to get a few more knitting books to review and I'm woe-fully late in getting to that. It seems like I'm always rushing off to one thing or another, and I really wanted to give myself some time to carefully read and review these books. So, finally, here I am. First up is my very favorite:

This is another book where the sub-title is a very nice description of the book: “24 Original Designs Updated for Today’s Knitters.” Mr. Fassett takes some of his beloved patterns from the last 20+ years and re-imagines them – sometimes just updating the color schemes to be more contemporary, but sometimes taking a motif from a sweater or coat and applying it to a smaller accessory like a bag or pillow or scarf. I’ve been a huge fan of Kaffe Fassett since I started knitting and his first new knitting book in ten years doesn’t disappoint.

Kaffe Fassett emerged as a knitwear designer using yarn in knitting like a painter’s palette. He tried to break the myth that color knitting is really complicated and beyond the reach of a beginner knitter. He continues to preach that gospel with this new book, with many picture captions describing how simple the garments are to knit, using just one or two colors per row, even though there are dozens of colors in the full garment. He only uses stockinette stitch and most of the designs are very simply shaped. There are no gigantic oversized coats or sweaters as Mr. Fassett used as his canvas with these designs originally, but there are some simple rectangles and squares in the form of afghans, pillows, stoles, scarves and sweaters and vests with very little shaping. These are not tailored or close fitting garments, but rather knitting artworks that are wearable.

The book itself is hardcover, but there is no dust jacket – which I like because I hate beat up old dust jackets. The book is drop-dead gorgeous and even if you don’t want to knit any of the projects, it would be a lovely coffee table book, so I appreciate the hard cover. According to Mr. Fassett’s introduction, the pictures were taken at Charleston House in Sussex and I agree with the designer that this is a perfect backdrop for his designs. Most of the garments are shown in more than one picture and there are quite a few pictures that are very nice close-ups, so you can really see the details. There are also a few pictures that are just extreme close-ups of the knitting – you can see the pattern and design, but you can’t tell if it’s a sweater or blanket or pillow. Mr. Fassett appears in some of the pictures, looking as gorgeous as his designs.

The book opens with an introduction from the designer and then a gallery of the designs, which is a feature I really like. It gives you a quick overview of what’s in the book if you’re just looking at it in a yarn or book store and if you’re trying to remember if a certain design is in that book, it’s nice to be able to look at one page. The first half of the book shows the pictures of the designs and a few pictures of just the house. As I mentioned, it is really beautiful. There are also comments for each of the pictures, with Mr. Fassett talking about how easy or difficult the design is or where he came up with the idea for the motif or even giving some ideas for other color palletes you could use. If colorwork still seems too daunting to you, there is one design that is strictly striped, but still uses many different colors and maintains that “Kaffe Fassett” look.

Mr. Fassett is a Rowan designer, so it’s not surprising that all of the yarns used in the book are currently available Rowan yarns – mostly Cotton Glace, Handknit Cotton and Scottish Tweed. As with most Rowan designs, the sweaters aren’t generously sized. Most of them fall within the range to fit a bust of 32” – 44”. Some of the sweaters and vests only come with instructions for one size. However, the designs do include a pretty generous ease and are simple shapes, so it wouldn’t be difficult to fiddle a bit and make it either smaller or larger. All garments have a schematic and they are all knit from charts. Since the chart is the full garment, some of them may need to be blown up to see them well. Some of the charts are in color, so if you made a copy, you’d need to use a color copier. A lot of the motifs are fairly easy to memorize, however, so you may not even need to refer to the chart that frequently. There is one page with a short description of some knitting techniques – such as intarsia, fair isle, blocking, sewing, reading charts and getting gauge. The book is almost entirely just pictures and patterns that speak for themselves.

If you're a veteran KF knitter, you'll eat this book up. If you're a fairly new knitter, I'd urge you to give it a try - knit up one of the pillows and see how fun and easy it is to knit up 20 different colors in one project. As for me, I always wanted to knit the Foolish Virgins Sweater and never got around to it. Now I can knit the Foolish Virgins Scarf and try my hand at a number of different KF motifs.

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