Although I mostly avail myself of all the excellent free stuff on the internet, one of the unexpected joys I'm discovering about knitting (yes, it's true, I do rather like knitting, did I not say?) is the literature of it. I never knew! Some of this comes across as rather smug lifestyle porn: produced from knitting cafés full of preposterously slim, glamorous people who seem to have nothing to do but sup on dainty cakes, practise yoga and pilates, hang about the edges of the film industry and create teeny-tiny bijou sweaters and jackets from sock wool (you have to be skinny and/or leisured ever to finish a sock-wool sweater that you can get into). But the best of it, from the chatty, quirky, witty style of Elizabeth Zimmerman, who's like a really good, funny, enthusiastic blogger, giving a vivid impression of her unusual character and way of life, addressing the reader with irony and affect, quite unlike any other writing on this subject or probably any other of the period, to Nancy Bush's remarkable, scholarly, ethnographic travelogues, knitting books can be so much more than just collections of patterns.
One that I've enjoyed lately is called 'Knits Men Want' by Bruce Weinstein. As well as achieving what I regard as the almost technomagus-like feat of creating universal patterns so that you can knit the given garment for any size person in any yarn, by a kind of matrix whereby you cross-reference the number of stitches per inch with the measurements of the person concerned, he intersperses each of these with an essays and advice about what one needs to consider when knitting things for men. He observed from his own knitting groups that women were frequently disappointed when presenting the men in their lives with lovingly made and, as they considered them, suitable gifts, only to have them unappreciated. So as a man himself and a knitter, he decided to address the situation. The chapters have headings such as 'Rule 1:Men Can't Fake It', 'Rule 3: Men Sweat', 'Rule 5: Not All Men Are Worthy of Cashmere', 'Rule 10: When In Doubt, Make Him Something Basic', are very funny, and while somewhat hyperbolic at times, contain some useful and interesting observations.
It has certainly made me appreciate what a good sport and loyal husband my Aussie brother was to wear the forget-me-not blue fluffy mohair sweater my sister-in-law made for him when he went on his long pilgrimage walk last year*, since other pieces of advice the writer gives, are to avoid itchy fibres ('men are babies') and stay with subdued colours ('think under the rainbow - most men want to live in Kansas, not Oz'). Bearing this in mind, when we went into the lovely wool shop in Morlaix, I picked out a nice flecky grey wool, possibly something from the soft underbelly of a yak or similar, and offered to make Tom a scarf.
'Bit dull,' he said 'what about this?'
and selected a ball of sock wool in glowing red, russet, grey and anthracite. It was Lang Jawoll Magic degradé, - shade no.85.0028, if you do follow the link. In fact his initial choice was 85.0017, and it was I who demurred and suggested there was perhaps a little too much pink and purple in it for comfort, though to judge from our friends' account of spying two notable French icons of film and fashion in Paris lately, the men's department in Marks & Spencers on my England trip, and our lovely doctor's new pullover the other day, pink and purple are cool for men just now.
The photo doesn't really do the colours justice, indeed neither does the colour chart in the link, it really is very rich and does glow like embers. Another of Bruce's counsels is not to make scarves for men too long, but Tom says that one skein's worth isn't enough, he envied his granddaughter her long scarf, and would like this one well wide enough easily to loop round double, and as the 4 x 4 rib makes it a bit narrow, that's just as well. And as it's sock wool, this makes it something of a work of patience, so I doubt he'll get it before Christmas, as I still need to have more than one thing on the go at once to avoid boredom. But since it's still very mild, and as he's not going for walks much since he stepped in a rabbit hole and twisted his knee (poetic justice perhaps after all the cursing of bunnies he did when they were coming into the garden earlier in the year?), that doesn't matter much either.
I promise, no more knitting for at least one more post...
* though in fact it was reported that this made him something of a 'cuddle magnet', in our other brother's words; women who were complete strangers came up to him at bars and hostelries and snuggled up to him, or at least to his jumper.