The Year in Review
It's safe now—2004 has slipped into the past. Let's turn our heads around and look back at what we've left behind.
When in Doubt: Accessorize
After several years of rapid growth, the knitting community finally relaxed in 2004 and adjusted to its new, significantly larger population.
Our basic yarn needs are under control, so vendors created a whole new market: accessories for the "knitting lifestyle."
This was the year for beautiful handmade knitting bags and needle cases in bright colorful fabrics. Megan Reardon—the creative genius behind Not Martha—has started selling her own handmade knitting needle cases in brilliantly colored fabrics under the name The Organized Knitter. I've seen one of her cases up close, and it was almost too beautiful to use.
Another upstart, Boogybags, offers simple but elegant fabric totes in varying sizes, as well as knitting needle cases and accessory bags. For those with more generous budgets, Woolybully's vividly colored knitting bags in luxurious materials may be just the ticket.
We also saw two excellent new books in 2004 for those of you who'd prefer to make your own bag. Emma King's 25 Bags to Knit contains charming, Rowan-inspired handbags and shoulder satchels, many of which are delicately adorned with beads, bobbles, seed stitch, or simple stripes. The totes are small to medium and tend to be of a similar, classic rectangular shape.
From where I sit, felted bags seem to far outnumber knitted bags, which makes Eva Wiechmann's Pursenalities: 20 Great Knitted and Felted Bags very timely indeed. Her bags varied more in shape, and many of them included more elaborate adornments and varying styles.
Discovering Bill Schmidt and his Turn of The Century handmade rosewood and wild cherry knitting needles was my biggest delight in 2004. Each needle is "freehand turned," meaning that no shaping tool was used to make a particular design—it's truly shaped by hand. They remain my most cherished needles.
But Bill is not alone in the handmade knitting needle market. I also spotted new hand-turned knitting needles from Tom Diak of Grafton Fibers. They are available in a larger variety of exotic and composite woods in sizes 5mm and up.
Talk to the Hands
Our hands are our instruments, so it makes sense to take good care of them. In 2004 we saw an increased interest in products specifically formulated for knitters, spinners, and other fiberartists.
Fiberartist Elaine Benfatto introduced her own line of skincare products developed specifically for people whose hands are often damaged by detergents, irritants, or dry winter air. Elaine is the woman behind Urban Spinner, and her skincare products are available in her new online store, Handworks Products.
Knitting-skincare pioneer Heal My Hands continued to generate a steady stream of happy customers with its creamy, intensely concentrated cakes of hand, lip, heel, and elbow balms. For those who love their pooches, there's even Heal My Paws!
Our hands got another treat this year: hand knit rings from Pearce Creations. Available in two designs and two finishes, these unusual designs were made from impressions of real hand-knit swatches. The impressions were then reduced in size and used to form models out of which the rings were cast in sterling silver. Very intriguing!
The Knitting Spirit
The accessory boon is the handmaiden of the knitterly lifestyle, and several books push the envelope by talking about the knitting spirit and way of being. Two particularly notable—and very different—books talked about the spiritual side of knitting in 2004.
The first, Tara Jon Manning's Mindful Knitting, looks at the spiritual rewards of knitting through the eyes of a Buddhist.
The second, Susan Jorgensen and Susan Izard's Knitting into the Mystery, introduces us to the worldwide ecumenical movement of women's "knitting ministries," where women gather to pray and knit for those in suffering or celebration. The book is more about prayers than patterns, reflecting concepts from both mainstream and not-so-mainstream religions and spiritual traditions.
On the complete other end of the knitterly way-of-being spectrum, Suss Cousins released her West Coast answer to Melanie Falick's Weekend Knitting in her new star-studded book, Hollywood Knits Style. Blending patterns with decorating, cooking, and entertaining tips, Cousins tends to drop names like some of us drop stitches.
Documenting the Journey
Knitting-themed journals were on the rise in 2004, especially ring binders and custom-printed looseleaf inserts. Bernard Works' Knit Notes Journal is an 8.5" by 5.5" binder with cute inserts for notes, pictures, graphs, references, etc. It retails for $24.95.
If size and sophistication are more your speed, the beautiful silk-bound Knit Couture Planner is an 8.5" x 11" three-ring binder that retails for $60 and offers more classically styled inserts for projects, gifts, needle inventory, notes, and yarn stash information.
Both journals are cute, and their looseleaf binder styling makes them adaptable to multiple uses. Call me picky, but I'm still looking for the special knitting journal that's yet to be born.
And finally, lest your computer feel left out of the fiber fun, Habetrot Press released three fiber-themed screen savers in the fall. Each retails for $10 and features more than 50 images pulled from the public domain. Just pop the CD in your computer and let the software install itself.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. For every book or accessory mentioned here, there are at least 10 more waiting in the wings.
The knitting world is our oyster, and 2005 is already unfolding. I look forward to sharing its knitterly bounty with you. Happy New Year everybody!