Planting the Seeds of an Issue


Pincushion, Knitted Like a Lemon from Weldon’s can help you de-stress on Tax Day.

I had never realized the similarity before, but editing a magazine closely resembles farming: you plan something that will hopefully produce a good crop, sow a lot of ideas that might not see the light of day, regularly maintain the fields, and then ultimately harvest something surprising.

The Fall 2015 issue of Knitting Traditions didn’t have a stated theme, unlike Spring 2015’s fascinating topic of explorers and adventurers. My call for submissions simply asked for articles and projects about “the transmission of techniques or styles across space and time.” That was it. Authors proposed articles on the Kitchener Stitch, department store knitting, colorwork traditions in the Northern Isles, and a 91-year-old woman who has knitted nearly 300 South American caps since 1992. Designers submitted Orenburg-style shawls, traditional English reticules, turban-style hats, colorwork projects, and convenient muffatees (handwarmers). Weldon’s Practical Needlework also supplied some inspiration. A reasonable person might look at this list and think it was like randomly choosing garden seeds from a catalog.

Yet the longer I worked with the stories and projects, the more connections emerged. This collection of articles and projects did speak to knitting across space and time. Sometimes techniques traveled slowly over decades; other times, a precipitating event such as a war or economic depression changed knitters’ practices. Supposedly random seeds were growing into a cohesive crop.

This vague theme about “transmission through space and time” even carries through our kits. Russia meets South America when you knit Inna Voltchkova’s traditional Orenburg scarf with a laceweight yarn of pure Suri alpaca in palest purple. Or travel back in time with Elizabeth Lovick’s Orkney Fair Isle Tam, made in classic colors using Fair Isle colorwork techniques, but with patterning from Orkney. Both accessories will warm you in style through autumn’s cooler weather.

The sheer beauty of this issue continues to amaze me. Plus there’s a side bonus stemming from my animal obsession: a horse, a dog, two cats, and innumerable sheep appear in its photos. Knitting Traditions may never again attain such a high critter count in a single issue. And if Mary Polityka Bush’s story on healing through knitting inspires you to create lemon stress balls for Stress Awareness Month in April 2016, try the Weldon’s pattern. This issue includes a varied harvest that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I have.