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Audio Book Review: KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting’s New Wave by Sabrina Gschwandtner

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I consider myself a fairly conservative knitter, preferring to create warm practical wearables over art statements. Toques, mittens, scarves, and slippers in warm, single colour wools are what I tend towards – I do live in a climate where it is winter for over half of the year. Without a doubt my most ambitious project to date was a collaborative knit farm playmat, created with nine other knitters for the debut issue of Living Crafts magazine.

Each participating knitter designed a square, and knit it up for each other member. Once the mailing was done we stitched our squares together to create our own personal playmats. It was a huge undertaking and an even larger mat, but the experience pales in comparison to any of the knitting projects described in the cutting edge KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting’s New Wave by Sabrina Gschwandtner, now available as an audiobook from Knitting Out Loud.

Spinning out of her work on KnitKnit, the highly collectible, limited edition, edgy knitting zine, Gschwandtner drew together a collection of 27 avant-garde knitting artists and activists. Traveling worldwide to visit studios and conduct interviews, Gschwandtner compiled the book in her own words – summarizing her findings, detailing the knitting she found, and directly quoting the knitters throughout. Unlike a number of recent interview-type Knitting Out Loud releases, Gschwandtner interprets her experiences in her own writing rather than editing and compiling the written words, or transcribed interviews resulting in a consistent voice throughout.

For a knitter like me — dependent upon straightforward patterns and mathematical formulas — listening to the radical departure of knitters for the previously unknown frontiers of the craft felt somewhat voyeuristic. The world of a performance artist who uses industrial equipment and utility poles to knit huge pieces of installation art seems far removed from my own domestic sphere of knitting. With eyes agog and jaw dropped I listened to Gschwandtner read the text of her book, detailing tiny miniature sweaters knit at 80 stitches per inch, hand knitted breasts for mastectomy survivors, and complete knitted rooms that become wearable when art patrons slip into the knitted garments attached to the walls.

Gschwandtner also interviewed knitters who incorporate knitting garments as a form of political activism, and a group of knitted graffiti artists – who would have thought? While the inspiration and motivation of these artists to take knitting forward into bizarre, cutting edge applications seems beyond the comprehension of a work-a-day knitter like myself, Gschwandtner does her best to illuminate the purpose and passion of both a general artsy/political ethos, as well as the individual artist’s purposes for their work.

The complete text of KnitKnit is read aloud by the author herself, but the book itself is abridged in that the photographs of the artists, their work, and the pattern they contributed to the work are not included, neither are the knitting patterns themselves. If you’ve always wanted to knit a fiberglass teddy-bear you’ll have to pick up a copy of the print version. This is the only Knitting Out Loud title I’ve listened to where I felt the lack of a visual component. Listening to the stories of each knitter and their unusual projects led to an intense desire to view their work. A purchaser’s only page with a select sampling of photographs — a mini book portfolio — would be a great addition to the audio book.

Adventurous knitters will be inspired to take their unique style and vision further than ever before as they listen to the stories of success, studios, book deals and design lines. Those of us who are a bit more pedestrian in our knitting aspirations will appreciate Gschwandtner's insight into the unusual and the odd in the modern knitting scene. If nothing else this offbeat survey of the knitting fringe will leave you thinking, “Huh, who’d have ever imagined?”

For a full listing of available knitting audio books, please visit Knitting Out Loud. Audio books are available for purchase on CD at Knitting Out Loud, Amazon.com, Interweave Press and are available by download at Audible.com

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About Jennifer Bogart