Ann McCauley’s new book

posted in: Creativity, Knitting, Web/Tech | 4

Talk about needing to get caught up! I started this post about Ann McCauley's new book, Together or Separate: Knitting the New Twinset on October 8. Apologies for the photos, which were done with the camera (which was handy) rather than the scanner (which was not). They have some glare that doesn't do them justice. You'll get the idea, though.

Those who know me in person will strongly suspect (some would possibly swear under oath) that I am not a "twinset" type, unless that means wearing a jeans jacket with jeans once in a while. But usually not. They'd match too well.

What Ann has in mind for "twinset" is not the typical sweater-plus-cardigan-plus pearls (so hackneyed that Wikipedia even defines it that way). Then again, Ann's design sense, while classic, is far from typical or traditional, as demonstrated by her first book, The Pleasures of Knitting: Timeless Feminine Sweaters. (In that case, the word "feminine" means not "frilly" or "frivolous," as it might, but "intended for women, and having a type of grace associated with women.")

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"Twinset" in this case means complementary pairs of knitted items;
their relationships in this book vary from skirt-and-jacket to sweater-and-vest to cardigan-and-socks. The non-twinset types among us, like me, will be most tempted by single items, although I might make both partners in the set . . . in colors or textures not intended to match.

Here are a few of my favorites from the book:

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That brown cardigan would dress me up while still being comfortable to wear. In the book, it's accompanied by one of the most extraordinary and appealing hand-knitted skirts I've ever encountered (I'm basing my assessment on having seen and handled the actual item). I'd love to have the skirt as well as the sweater. Alas, I'd be hard put to find a place in my life to wear it. The sweater, on the other hand, would look terrific with my best jeans.

I also am fixated on this cardigan, on which I might not even change the color, which is one of my favorites:

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This camisole could be really useful for summer . . . for me, in a color other than white:

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Some folks would love the camisole with the coordinating cardigan that's in the book.

And this vest (which goes with a useful, midweight turtleneck sweater) could be a wardrobe standby, and also a quick knit with details to add interest during both making and wearing:

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Interestingly, the turtleneck (shown on the cover, in the image above) and the vest are worked in Brown Sheep's slightly different shades of white: one pure (underneath), one warmer (on top). They're also in different weights of yarn. It works.

Ann writes some of the most thoughtful knitting patterns I've encountered. Where she surprises, and she does, is in the careful choices she makes and the subtle touches she adds, like that color shift.

Her decisions about yarn are extremely deliberate. The alpaca she chose for the brown cardigan (above) and its matching skirt holds its shape exquisitely, even in the stress of skirtdom. The only mistake I made in knitting one of Ann's designs from The Pleasures of Knitting was working with an economy-level yarn; the garment (Peri's Parasol) would have been better in the yarn Ann specified. I substitute all the time, and rarely end up thinking that. Although I wear my sweater a lot, I plan to re-knit it some day using a different yarn. . . I'm not sure which, because as I recall the yarn Ann used has been discontinued. There will be something equally good, of course. It just may take me a while to find it.

Peri's Parasol is one of the most satisfying knits I've ever made. It's
based on the Barbara Walker stitch pattern after which the garment is
named. That particular stitch pattern is a serious challenge to chart,
for those who like puzzles. The stitch counts change on most of the
rows. I actually ended up knitting the sweater from line-by-line
instructions, which I resist strongly, so that shows the appeal of
Ann's design. (I did get the pattern charted—after I'd finished the
sweater, mostly to prove to myself that I could. I'm not sure it was
worth it, even for a chart diehard like me.)

The ways in which Ann selects, combines, and transitions between the parts of the garments and the patterns within them are equally conscious. As a dancer, she understands movement, and that knowledge shows in her garments.

The results of her efforts don't strut their stuff as well in the pages of a book as they do in person, and the pleasant, mainstream models in the two-dimensional presentation give the impression that these designs are more "normal" than I find them to be when I see them in person. Fortunately, Ann has all the garments from both of her books and brings them out for trunk shows. It's remarkable that even the pieces she has worn for years look brand-new (she's undoubtedly not as hard on her clothes as I am on mine, but I think they'd even hold up reasonably well for me).

So I drove to Boulder early in October for a trunk show of Ann's work, held in an upscale clothing shop where those knitters who walked through the door would be ideal candidates for making her designs . . . although Ann's designs also work for those of us who want a whiff of that elegant world in our lives, even though we don't regularly shop for investment clothing (or, rather, define "investment clothing" as a high-quality t-shirt).

The striped sweater and cowl Ann's wearing in this photo are one of her sets of "twins," knitted in a choice of gauge and yarn that doesn't scream "handmade," with a quality that embodies "custom."

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If I had time, I'd be thinking about knitting a couple of those vests from Ann's new book (shown in white) as gifts for the upcoming season. I am sorely tempted by the brown sweater.

Because I don't have time right now, I'll be thinking about this for a while, and it is pleasant pondering.

And I trust that when I choose to knit one or more of Ann's designs from either of her books, I will . . . as I did on the first . . . find it satisfying to knit and a reliable, versatile addition to my wardrobe.

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Computer update: I think I have the book file to a stable point. When I removed the trial version of InDesign CS3 that I downloaded in one of my tech-support-guided attempts to solve the corruption in the book file, it took thirty-five minutes to uninstall. Yesterday morning, my regular version of InDesign crashed twice before it would open and play nicely . . . following a reboot.

Typepad's new composer works fine on my desktop computer but does not like my laptop, which is the machine I use for blog posts.

One of the three wireless access points I've been using around town has upgraded its security to a type of encryption that my wireless card balks at. I haven't been able to connect.

Did someone say, a long time ago, that computers were going to make our lives easier and save us time? I have been doubting that lately.

Although I finished a MindMovie (visualizing smooth work flow and improved, regular income production) and I couldn't have done that without the computer, and it all went along just fine. I'm actually thrilled with the results, and they reinvigorate my hope that computers may be productive tools (sometimes) after all. Alas, I can't share it here. Although most of the images I located to use that are not my own are covered by Creative Commons copyrights that permit noncommercial use with attribution, a small handful would need copyright clearance for anything beyond personal, private use, and I don't have time to do that.

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4 Responses

  1. gayle

    I absolutely adore that vest. And the two sweaters. Looks like I’ll be saving my pennies for both of those books!
    Thank you very much for the review – I have to mail order books, since I live out in the boonies. A thoughtful review is very helpful!

  2. Nancy

    Ann’s concept of the twinset is indeed invigorating. Having been raised by a matchy-matchy lace mother, I always balked at the pearls and twinset. But this evolution of the concept is one to which I could become accustomed. Thank you!

  3. Deborah Robson

    Aha! The yarn Ann chose for Peri’s Parasol has not been discontinued! It’s Tahki’s Cotton Classic, with the alternative S.R. Kertzer Butterfly cotton. I’ve used both yarns; I think I’ve even got some Butterfly around here that I haven’t used. . . . But is it the right color for another Peri’s Parasol . . . ? Or will I need to acquire a few more skeins?

  4. richardquillan

    As a house wife, I am very interested in knitting. I will definitely buy the book for knitting a small sweater for cute pie. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

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