Let’s Hear It for the Boys of Knitting

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These days, the first thing a lot of non-knitters picture when they hear the word “knitting” is someone’s kindly grandmother in a rocking chair, needles clicking away. But that wasn’t always the case! When knitting first arrived in and spread through Europe in the Middle Ages, it fell under the jurisdiction of established guilds for handwork, where professionals—men—were required to study the craft for years to progress from journeyman to master. (Ordinary women learning to knit for themselves and their families, probably thanks in part to leakage of industry secrets, seems to have been something of a labor revolution.) Even after knitting spread all the way to Scandinavia and the Baltic, it was still common for men to engage in all kinds of fibercrafts; shepherds could use long quiet hours in the fields productively, and walking from place to place was time that could be spent knitting!

Today, knitting’s popularity among just about everybody is on the rise, and men who knit are everywhere, including TSB books! Take Arne & Carlos, the fan-favorite Scandinavian knitting superstars. Both grew up with knitting and crochet all around them and picked up handcrafts readily. As fashion designers, they’d been running their own label for years before they started to notice that their knit designs had the most flair, got the best response—and were the most fun for them, too.

“We discovered what we really wanted to do was right in front of our noses the whole time,” they say, and they promptly turned knit design into a career of 15 years and counting, with inspiration drawn from everything from wildlife in their own backyard to vintage Mexican embroidery, and over half a dozen books to their names.

Martin Storey was taught to knit when he was young, inspired by a teacher who saw nothing unusual in passing along a love of handcrafts to girls and boys alike—and is now one of the best-known knit designers in the world. It took years, and dedicated encouragement from a friend who was an art student, for him to pursue his love of knitting and turn it into a lifelong career. His work for influential yarn and knitwear design companies like Artwork and Rowan has led to multiple stunning pattern collections, and 10 books and counting, showcasing his love for cables, contrasts, and dynamic colorwork. Martin is a master at his craft and knows what knitters want—together with a fantastic eye for texture and color, this guarantees his garments are a joy to look at, to knit and, most importantly, to wear.

Ivar Asplund learned the basics from his grandmother when he was just five years old and found himself smitten right away. He loved to look at the projects she was working on, asking her to explain how she’d made them—and the answers were never as complicated as he feared. His grandmother taught him not only how to knit, how to work cables, and how to construct sweaters, but also to be willing to try new things and take risks: you’ll always learn something in the attempt, even if the results aren’t perfect the first time around! This has led him to favor deft, complex colorwork patterns, and stunning combinations of intertwined cables. Ivar’s grandmother passed away when he was 17, “but she continues to be with me in all my projects,” he says, “because handwork was how we talked to each other.” His first book to be made available in English, CABLE KNITS FROM NORDIC LANDS, is dedicated to her memory.

No matter how knitting might have come into your life, it’s worth inviting it to stay: knitting is enjoyable, relaxing, and productive, and all you need to get started is one pair of needles and a skein of yarn (even if you end up with … a little more than that, before you’re done!). It’s been both men’s industry and women’s work, and at the end of the day its appeal is undeniably universal.

Who do you know who might love to learn to knit—or might need encouragement to give it another try?

Find books by these authors and many others at the TSB online bookstore. CLICK HERE to explore our craft books now.

Trafalgar Square Books, publisher of fine equestrian and craft books, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

Knit Your Way Around the World

Knit Your Way Around the World

For the moment, travel in person is out of the picture for most of us. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t endless opportunities to go on a journey of another kind with your keyboard—and your knitting needles! Now more than ever, the internet has opened up whole new possibilities for visiting faraway places, keeping in touch with those around us, and exploring history, art, and culture: a trove of inspiration for crafts and creativity.

 

Explore Medieval Churches

Digital tours aren’t just for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With a single search online, you can turn up fabulous video and 3D exploratory tours of sights like medieval Norwegian stave churches:

 

And classic Swedish church art:

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Click image to take the virtual tour.

 

Both feature the same striking beauty, fantastical colors, and intricate patterning behind our pattern book MEDIEVAL-INSPIRED KNITS, which transforms centuries-old Scandinavian art into eyecatching, wearable garments.

 

Browse Digitized Museum Collections

The DigitaltMuseum is dedicated to preserving and displaying Norwegian and Swedish art and historical objects, collected from the catalogs of dozens of Scandinavian museums—and its comprehensive photographs served as one of the many resources employed to identify and reconstruct historical design motifs for our bestselling book SELBU MITTENS, the ultimate guide to these famous handcrafted accessories from the Norwegian village of Selbu.

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Click image to visit the DigitaltMuseum.

The Danish National Museum has also made an enthusiastic effort to share its collections with the world, and that includes photographs documenting traditional clothing in Denmark and the Faroe Islands: the gorgeous textured motifs and colorwork patterns that were the inspiration for TRADITIONAL DANISH SWEATERS and FAROE ISLAND KNITS, putting astoundingly beautiful time-honored designs at your fingertips.

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Click the image to visit the Danish National Museum.

 

We’re Tight-Knit

In these uncertain times, despite all the social distancing and self-isolation we’ve committed ourselves to, there’s a special beauty underlying the international interlace inspiration for VIKING KNITS & ANCIENT ORNAMENTS, from Elsebeth Lavold (author of the bestselling VIKING PATTERNS FOR KNITTING)—her extensive survey of global textiles, carvings, and manuscripts of all kinds led her to, as she puts it, “a very comforting conclusion: that the human race is really a tight-knit community, which more things tying us together than separating us.”

 

Make the time to stay connected to the world around you, and let us know where you’d like to be headed on your next knitting journey.

You can find any of the books mentioned here at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to explore our store now.

Trafalgar Square Books, publisher of quality equestrian and craft books, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Crafting Journey: The Bedspread That Crossed the Country

Crafting Journey: The Bedspread That Crossed the Country

In our new series of stories that tell us the personal journeys we experience when creating with our hands, TSB Managing Director Martha Cook shares the history behind the handmade lace bedspread that was knit on a road trip in the early 1960s. 

My father was a piano technician who for years was both tuner and travel companion to pianist Rudolf Serkin in the 1950s and 1960s.

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My father Oscar Ekberg (left) and Rudolf Serkin.

How does this have anything remotely to do with knitting you ask? In 1962, my mother, newly married, set off with my father across the United States transporting Serkin’s Steinway grand piano for a national concert tour. It would be their working honeymoon.

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My parents, Oscar and Ruth, on their wedding day.

The trip began in Brattleboro, Vermont, on November 25. My mom knew she would spend many hours in the box truck traveling state to state and at concert venues. She wanted to have a project that would occupy the long hours of sitting. As an avid knitter, she chose an ambitious pattern that would last the whole trip: a lace-knitted bedspread. Armed with the pattern, needles, and loads of off-white cotton yarn—and the piano, of course—off they went.

The finished double-bed-sized spread would be comprised of dozens of 10-inch squares.

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One of the finished squares.

This seemed practical to Mom since she would knit them one-by-one and not be encumbered by a huge cotton “blanket” as the states passed by.

From Vermont, to New York City, and on to Chicago, they drove, and Mom knitted. Besides being Dad’s travel companion, she was also his assistant for which she was paid $10.00/day. She took care of the accommodation plans and the bookkeeping. I’m lucky to have the little three-ring notebook in which she recorded their daily expenses.

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Their daily travel expenses in 1962.

Here are a couple days’ records once they were traveling along the coast of California:

The Flamingo Motel in Berkeley, one night @ $9.00
Breakfast, $1.39
Lunch $1.90
Dinner $1.92

Flamingo Motel

Now closed, this vintage photo of the Flamingo Motel from about the same time period, judging by the cars in the lot.

 A few days later in Santa Barbara, where things were a bit more “expensive”…
 
The El Prado Motor Inn, one night @ $12.00
Breakfast, $2.81
Lunch, $2.50
Coffee, 42₵
Dinner, $4.31!

 

El Prado

Long gone, the chic and oh-so-modern El Prado Motor Inn.

By the time Mom and Dad were traveling down the California coast, there were many finished knitted squares for the bedspread. The panel truck that carried them across the country was left in Los Angeles, where my dad’s brother and his wife flew from New England to drive it back to the East Coast. My parents and the bag full of knitted squares flew to Hartford, Connecticut, and then made their way back to Brattleboro, Vermont.
 
Once home, my grandmother helped Mom assemble the bedspread. It was made for the cannonball double bed that I have in my home today.

 

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I do not have photos of my mom knitting during the trip, but here she is at 96 holding the spread and telling me about the journey that happened over 50 years ago.

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My mother, Ruth, holding the hand knit bedspread she made in the early sixties.

I’m sorry that I do not have the pattern my mother used on her journey. When I saw the bedspread featured in our newly published book LACE KNITTING by Denise Samson, I was struck by the similarities.

 

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The bedspread pattern from the book LACE KNITTING by Denise Samson.

If you are interested in this pattern, or in other openwork patterns, LACE KNITTING is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

And do YOU have a crafting journey to share? We’d love to feature your story on our blog! Contact rdidier@trafalgarbooks.com.

Trafalgar Square Books, publisher of fine equestrian and craft books, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.