The Year in Review
Word on the streets is that the knitting industry is finally calming down after several years of annual growth at 30% or more. Whether you call it a slowdown or a market correction, most people knew it was coming and were prepared. Fear not, knit will always happen.
It's a good time to catch our breath and reflect on the highs and lows of this year, and where we'd like to go in 2006.
By eschewing its wholesale vendors and reshaping the company as a cost-cutting vendor of its own yarns, Knit Picks definitely stirred up the pot in 2005. My profile of the company early in the year garnered some criticism from store owners and advertisers, but there was no denying people's interest in the subject: It was also one of our most-read articles of the year.
Biggest Surprise Hit
Another of the most-read articles of the year wasn't about a yarn, a book, a tool, a technique, or even a festival. It was the first and only time I've reviewed a knitting bag: the Heather French Button Bag. Sadly, public access to the Heather French Ltd. Web site appears to have been disabled. You've heard of the curse of the love sweater, could there be a curse of the positive review as well?
Most Books on a Single Subject
The single most prominent book topic this year would have to be things that go around your neck. Scarves, shawls, wraps, ponchos—they all got ample attention in such books as Wrap Style, Viva Poncho, the Little Box of Scarves II, Knit Ponchos, Wraps & Scarves, Ponchos & Wraps: A Knitter's Dozen, Vogue Knitting on the Go: Ponchos, the Little Book of Knitted Ponchos and Wraps, Scarves: A Knitter's Dozen... to name a few.
Design of the Year
It'd have to be the Clapotis, Katie Gilbert's intriguing and adaptable scarf pattern published in Knitty. Although it came out in the fall 2004 issue, wherever you looked this year someone was wearing one or knitting one or choosing yarn for one, discussing it on their blog, posting in our forums, or participating in a Clapotis knitalong.
Biggest Online Group Activity
Speaking of knitalongs, they continue to flourish. And that's why I voted them biggest online group activity of the year. Knitalongs are the online version of a camp counselor yelling out, "OK gang, now we're going to make lanyard keychains!" Only in this case, someone decides on a topic and makes the announcement online.
A Web site is created where everyone can post comments on their progress (the site is often hosted by one of the blog services). And most important of all, all the participants can download a graphic promoting their knitalong, which they prominently display on their blogs or Web sites.
Knitalongs cropped up on themes such as men in hats, llamas, knitting on the road, qiviut, thrifty knitting, and helmetliners. Publishers intelligently jumped into the fray with official knitalongs to support the products in their books—such as the Handknit Holidays knitalong, the Knitted Babes knitalong, and the Scarf Style and Wrap Style knitalong.
(View a list of more than 120 knitalongs of 2005, with links.)
Most Unusual Knitted Item
I'm not sure when it was conceived, but Matie Trewe's knitted digestive system certainly got a lot of attention this year and, as such, I declare it the most unusual knitted item. It's remarkably detailed, and she includes the pattern!
Most Scandalous Knitted Item
If you thought "scandalous knitted item" was an oxymoron, think again. In June, an exhibit of sculptural knitting and crochet opened at Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space in Washington, D.C. Among the objects on display were several crocheted nude figures by Ming-Yi Sung.
The gallery was located in an office building, and several people from the upstairs offices complained about being exposed to nudity on the way back and forth to work. The artist compromised by covering up lower parts with crocheted fig leaves and cod pieces, and the exhibit was allowed to stay. View works by Ming-Yi Sung.
Best Way to Model a Knitted Bikini
During the SOAR fashion show in November at Park City, Utah, Jeannine Glaves defiantly pulled out a handspun, handknit bikini. Only instead of modeling it herself, she slipped it on a pink cutout form complete with two pink balloons to fill out the front, and two to fill out the back side.
The theme for the fashion show was items to wear in the snow, and Jeannine claimed her bikini was for a member of the Polar Bear club. Well done, Jeannine!
Most Missed Yarn
We lost several fantastic yarns this year—including three of my very favorites. These were all knitted tube yarns containing various blends of luxury fibers, and all behaved like plush perfection.
We bow our heads and bid adieu to Jaeger Cashair and Chamonix and Berroco Pleasure. We will miss you.
Loveliest Staple Yarn
If I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one yarn with me—and that yarn needed to carry me through as many different creative endeavors as possible—I'd choose Alice Starmore's Hebridean 3-Ply. The yarn, which we reviewed in March of 2005, comes in a stunning array of colors and behaves perfectly on the needles.
In fact, I'd probably hide from the lifeboat if one ever came to rescue me.
Best Natural Rendition of a Novelty
Late in the year I got a care package from ArtYarns that contained a wonderful surprise. Iris Schreier had found a fluffy cross between chenille and fur, but made almost entirely of wool.
Aptly called Wool Fur, the yarn comes in all sorts of colorways, both solid and multi, and is priced at $22.50 per 84-yard skein. It has a distinctly matte appearance rather like a super-thick chenille bathrobe. But because it's wool, this warm yarn is perfect for fluffy winter scarves.
Yarn I'd Review in a Second If Their Web Site Were Working
As a general rule I won't review a yarn unless you can easily obtain it online. Last fall when I traveled to the Wool Festival at Taos, I discovered a remarkable cormo yarn from Elsa Sheep and Wool Company.
The simple, pure honesty of her yarns, paired with a buttery softness and delicate texture, enchanted me. And, as soon as her Web site is up and running, I'll tell you more. In the meantime, you can call them at 970-884-2145.
Most Deceptively Expensive Skein
If you were casually browsing online and came upon this plush and springy 12-ply cabled cashmere, you'd think the store owner had made a typo in the price. How could one skein possibly cost $280?!
Because one skein of Classic Elite Embrace has 625 yards in it, that's why.
That comes out to $0.45 per yard—actually two cents per yard less than the similar-spun Jade Sapphire 12-Ply Cashmere, which comes in 70 yard skeins for $33 apiece. (I should note that although the spin is similar, Embrace is finer than the Jade Sapphire 12-Ply Cashmere, which knits up at a chubby 2.5 to 3 stitches per inch.)
Not that I'm urging you to commit financial foolishness. But if you wanted to blow a car payment on a skein of this yarn, it'd make a Clapotis fitting for a queen. Or if you're extra thrifty, you could dole it out in smaller quantities, say, a hat and mittens or a pair of bed socks.
My Personal Favorite from 2005
With just a few exceptions, I write everything you read in Knitter's Review. And the one article I most enjoyed researching and writing this year was The Anatomy of a Knitter, in which I analyzed four and a half years of poll results and created a composite persona. How intriguing to explore our commonalities and contradictions!
What's in Store for 2006?
I began Knitter's Review in September 2000 with just a few dozen readers. I flew under everybody's radar screens, furtively buying my review materials and constantly fielding the question, "You publish Knitter's what?" Even my parents weren't entirely sure what their daughter was doing.
Today, Knitter's Review is emailed to more than 27,250 knitters around the world each week. This is significant growth in a short period of time, driven almost exclusively by word of mouth. A few more people know about KR, and many forward-thinking yarn manufacturers send me their products for consideration.
As Knitter's Review grows, and I become a "they" in many people's minds, I know I must work even harder to earn and maintain your trust. And in that regard, dear reader, please know that I am deeply honored—and excited—to be your guide as we navigate the ever-changing knitting waters in 2006.
- Clara Parkes