We can get yarns almost anywhere, and we can connect with millions of knitters online. So what makes yarn stores special anymore?
Simple: They're still the only place where all the beauty of knitting comes together at the same time: the community, the inspiration, and the immense tactile pleasure of picking up a skein and burying your nose in it. You can't bury your nose in a screen. Trust me, I've tried.
A Book is Born
Yarn stores are also incubators for a seemingly endless creativity. Not too long ago, five friends and colleagues came together at the yarn shop in Minnesota called The Yarnery. With the store's encouragement and generous support, they decided to collaborate on a book, which quietly launched in March.
The premise of Wearwithall is simple: Designs that work, that are easy to customize, even easier to complete, in a collection you'll keep coming back to again and again. Many people have tried to accomplish this, not all have succeeded, perhaps because not everybody shares the same definition of "easy" or "timeless."
But if anyone stands to succeed at this mission, it's people connected to a yarn store. Yarn shops are the front line of the knitting world. Spend time in one and you'll quickly see where the waters are troubled—which designs and techniques pose the greatest challenges, which yarns the biggest problems.
By virtue of their steady stream of customers, the authors of this book had access to a constant focus group that was ready and willing to review, test-knit, and provide knee-jerk reactions to every design.
Really more of a booklet, Wearwithall measures 56 pages total and is easily tucked into most knitting bags. It features 13 designs total: colorful mittens, a simple slouchy hat, a scarf and cowl, stole, baby blanket, baby sweater and tunic, toddler's cardigan, child's vest, a gorgeous women's cardigan, a man's zip-front sweater, and a linen table runner.
I saw the stole (literally that's its name, "Stole") when I was at the Minnesota Knitters' Guild's Yarnover event this spring. Everyone in the Yarnery booth was oohing and aahing over the gorgeous colors, inviting textures, and extreme simplicity of the design, which uses Isager Alpaca. The kits sold like hotcakes and were soon gone.
The carefully selected designs come off like a great first date that ends too quickly. You didn't have time to discover that annoying nervous tic or hear about the scary family. All you know is that you like what you saw, and you wish there were more.
All the designs share a common aesthetic while reflecting the slightly different perspective of each designer. Everything is an intriguing blend of simple and nuanced, the designers walking that fine line between inspired stitchwork and unnecessary complication.
Photography, too, is both minimal and evocative. No surprise there, as the photography was provided by veteran fiber-arts photographer Gale Zucker.
A Smart Site
The companion Web site is a lesson in how the Web site for a book should be. It has errata and the bios of all the collaborators. There's a blog, plus the beginnings of a section called "Pattern Variations" to show even more ways to adorn and customize the projects.
But my favorite is the yarn page where each project is listed with clear thumbnails of the yarns used, the name of the colors, and a link to where you can buy that yarn online at the Yarnery. Yes, you're buying yarn online, but you're supporting a physical space where knitters gather—and one that encourages creativity among its customers and colleagues alike.
Back to the book's promise: Designs that work, are easy to customize and complete, in a collection you'll keep coming back to again and again. Does this book live up to those lofty ambitions? My answer is an emphatic yes.