Settle in, friends. We have a lot to discuss today.
There are knitting books. And there is this book.
Bristol Ivy’s Knitting Outside the Box is a stunner. It functions on several levels at once, and that’s its sneaky brilliance.
One one level, it is a book of patterns. Fifteen projects, each one lovely, surprising, varied.
But that’s the least of it. What sets this book apart—and by apart, I mean way over there in a category pretty much by itself—is the view we get of the thinking behind these projects. Knitting Outside the Box is a window into the mind of a designer who is operating at the highest level of conceptual sophistication. Bristol Ivy is an original—she’s designing far, far outside the box.
Her book reminds me of Debbie New’s Unexpected Knitting, the 2003 book that dazzled me and left me shaking my head at the inventive curiosity of a woman who sees knitting as an open-ended odyssey. Debbie New knitted a teacup. A boat.
Bristol Ivy is likewise unapologetic in her willingness to explore, to go all the way in. She’s not interested in knitting curiosities—so far, she hasn’t knit a canoe. Her obsession is the creation of knitted fabrics, and she’s content to work in the realm of garments, wraps, and accessories. But not a bit of it is predictable or familiar, and that’s why we will have such a fantastic time making these projects.
She sees a snowdrift and ends up with an elegant shawl full of slanted triangles. She looks short rows straight in the eye and doesn’t blink. She is completely, totally game.
Having Fun, Bristol Style
Bristol assumes that we are all going to use this is a guidebook to creating our own projects. And indeed, the three parts lay out very specific concepts about designing our own projects. She writes, “You are completely, utterly, infallibly, 100% in charge of your own knitting destiny. Knitting is a blank slate: it is an amorphous, inchoate, and imminently malleable art form, and it is yours to do with whatever you wish. So let’s have some fun.”
She lays out the building blocks of knitting: increases and decreases, short rows, and stitch patterns. She encourages us to mash up patterns, to mix and match, to make it our own. Finally, in Part 3, she gives three case studies of how she uses these components to create projects that began with a “what if” idea.
It is heartening that she trusts we are capable of the mental gymnastics that she performs so easily. And for many knitters, the puzzle of knitting is a big part of the fun.
For me, I’m perfectly OK with being a consumer of her work without needing to go beyond the fifteen patterns she gives us. Most knitters like to knit, period. And this book gives us ample opportunity to make stuff.
But I hope, when you get your copy of Knitting Outside the Box, that you’ll look at these patterns, then spend time with Bristol’s explanation of how she got from initial inspiration to final product, and be grateful that Pom Pom Press had the wit and smarts to catch all this thinking in such a beautiful, rare book.
The print edition, with a Ravelry download code for the ebook edition, is available directly from Bristol here in the U.S. and at yarn shops across the country. The ebook-only edition is available at Ravelry. In the UK and EU, from Pom Pom Press.
Yarn Dreaming with Bristol’s Patterns
One of my favorite armchair knitting games (other than actual knitting which I typically do in an armchair, now that I think about it) is Yarn Dreaming. The minute I got my copy of Knitting Outside the Box, I did one of my favorite things: scheme up yarns to use for these patterns.
Here are a few of the projects from the book, with yarns we love and carry in the MDK Shop. (I could tell you about all fifteen projects, but I’d rather let you have the fun of discovering them yourself. The Yarn Dreaming is endless.)
At Rhinebeck, Kay and I gazed upon this sweater and simultaneously declared this A Sweater Most Coveted.
Our second simultaneous declaration was “Sylph!” To be sure, Jade Sapphire’s cashmere/linen blend is an indulgence. But this pattern has such classic, everlasting lines that it’s a worthy match for a yarn that is so special. Our selection of neutrals is particularly tasty here.
Rain Shadow, Loam, Puddle, Rustle, Eddy, Hush
Triangles, when Bristol gets hold of them, come together in an asymmetrical wrap with slip stitches and all kind of angles.
My yarn brain instantly leapt to our Milo by Manos del Uruguay, the merino/linen blend that has such a lightness and drape to it. We recently added a new shade, Campo, a green that may be my favorite.
Baltico, Tundra, Bizance, Natural, Manchester, Venezia, Alaska
This is the result of an idea that led Bristol down a rabbit hole. Chevrons, garter ridges, all kinds of scheming led her to a result different from what she’d expected. This is an asymmetrical triangle, just lovely in texture.
My pick for a Dryuan Wrap? Our Shibui Drift blend of merino and cashmere. It’s smooth, soft, luxe.
Ash, Field, Velvet, Graphite
Pure play with garter stitch, increases and decreases, and a bit of simple lace. Comfort knitting.
A couple of skeins of our Backyard Fiberworks MDK-exclusive colors would work up into a luminous swath of Keep You Warm.
Clockwise from top right: Patio, Local Honey, Pumpkin, One Thin Dime, Jamberry, Inkling, Pepper Sprout, Wine Dark Sea
And our Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply is juicy, too.
Tweed Imps, Deep Forest, Dove Stone, Deep Aqua
I love a big shawl. I love a shawl that’s six feet long. That’s about right. There are times when you just need to gird yourself against things, and the scale of this shawl is such that you could survive pretty much any inclement weather, no problem. It would look amazing hanging off the end of your sofa, too.
I’ve been working with Fyberspates Vivacious DK recently, on the Little Tern Baby Blanket. The subtle color shifts are glorious, and the merino is of course a joy to knit. A couple of Little Tern kits would be plenty to create this juicy wrap.
Deep cables make a luxurious yarn even more special. The dimensionality of these cables is what cables are supposed to be: deliciously smooshy.
This lush brown instantly got me thinking about our Caravan by Crave Yarn. The Tilly shade, in particular. Merino, cashmere, camel, and mulberry silk in a beautiful mash up.