I'll never forget my first encounter with Richard Rutt's wonderful book, The History of Handknitting. I was attending the Frankfurt Book Fair for the first time, and was pretty overwhelmed by its vastness, variety, verbal hubbub (and my lack of German and stolen passport, but that's another story).
The British publisher of Bishop Rutt's book gave me a set of unbound galleys. "Do you think you might want to publish this in North America?" he asked. Well, I took it back to my teeny little hotel room, and stayed up all night reading every word. Hyperventilating. That book, which we did indeed publish, spawned an interest in historical and traditional knitting that has not abated.
And that brings me to PieceWork magazine. We launched it in 1993, predicating it on exploring the history, traditions, folkways, and personal stories associated with traditional textile crafts. Knitting has always had a big presence in it, from the very first issue with its reproduction Medieval relic bag (that would be for saints' bones) knitted from fine, colorful silk and copied from a painting of a knitting Madonna. We've featured sock patterns from around the world and over at least two centuries; lace shawls from northern climes; dear little baby garments that might have been worn by your great-great grandfather. Oh, and so much more.
The interesting thing to contemplate is that the originals of all these splendid knitted items were made of handspun yarn. We have translated them into contemporary mill-spun yarns for the magazine, but think how rich and exquisite the real things would have been with that special human touch in the yarns.
Since most of the back issues of this 17-year-old magazine are long out of print, we have collected 40-some of our favorite knitting projects from the past into a wonderful collection that will go on the newsstands in February. It's called Knitting Traditions, and you'll be able to find it at your local yarn shop or chain bookstore—or you can pre-order a copy now so you'll be sure not to miss it. I challenge you—pick a pattern, ignore the commercial yarn specifications, spin your own. What a treasure.