Friday, January 10, 2014

Craft magazine review: Piecework Magazine

Today is the last day to enter the contest for the free Owl and The Pussy Cat Hat pattern.  E-mail to enter!

I'm still working on my grown-up looking scarf to go with my grown-up looking hat.  I am much happier with how it's turning out now, and hopefully I'll be able to show it to you soon.  I bought a pair of 99 cent black "stretchy" gloves (the only kind that work for me) to replace the lavender ones I've been wearing with my new coat.  Steve said, "You're becoming a fashion plate."  That makes me laugh.

In the last 10 years or so I've found myself fascinated by the origins and backgrounds of things like words, phrases, and foods.  I used to be a frequent listener of the "A Way With Words" podcast.  In their own words:
A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show about language examined through history, culture, and family. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies. The show is heard by more than a quarter-million listeners each week over the air and by podcast.

I don't know why I stopped listening.  I need to start again, because I do find it fascinating.

When I started knitting I found myself wondering how people figured out how to do all of these stitches with just two pointed sticks.  When I started circular knitting I wondered how people invented double pointed needles, and when I made my first cable I wondered who invented that and how they thought it up.  I've also wondered how things have changed over the years.

I subscribe to a number of the Interweave e-mails including Jewelry Making Daily and Crochet Me.  Of course I get advertising e-mails, too.  One day I got an ad for Piecework Magazine.  It said they had "a perspective on historical needlework you won't find anywhere else!"  I was intrigued and read on:
Do you love history and needlework? Are you interested in vintage techniques and patterns, stories of needleworkers past and present, and heirloom-quality projects you can make? Then you need to take a look at PieceWork.

is the only magazine for those who adore historical embroidery, knitting, crochet, embellished clothing, and exquisite lacework—all made by hand. With beautiful photography and well-researched accounts, every issue explores the life and work of traditional needleworkers, takes an in-depth look at needlework techniques, and gives you instructions for making heirloom-quality projects of your own.
I said, "Oh?  I am interested in all of that!"  I looked up how much it was in print ($24 for 6 issues) and digitally ($21.95 for 6 issues), and I chose the digital option for my Zinio app on the iPad.  The free gift that was offered for print subscriptions didn't seem to apply for digital subscriptions, but I'm okay with that.  I prefer to not have more clutter in the house and to save a few dollars.

My first issue (November/December 2013) arrived in my Zinio library very quickly after subscribing, and the current issue (January/February 2014) came about a week later.

I was enthralled from the first story I read: "The Roosters in the Gore: A Connecticut Mitten Mystery in Two Museums".  It was about the mittens shown on the cover:

The article describes how extraordinary this child's mittens are for around 1875.  For example, there were no stranded color work mittens in the era's periodicals, so these were likely designed by the knitter.  It also shows a matching pair of mittens knitted for a boy that they found in a museum in another state!  The author does some digging and found that the recipients (Clara B. Barrows and Robert Mason) were related.  How neat is that?  The pattern for the mittens follows the article with a few modifications to smooth out the decreases at the top of the fingers.

The next article is "Big Lessons from Little Stitches: Needlework Magazines and the Education of Young Girls in the Early Twentieth Century".  That gives some historical perspective on needlework in the 1920's and 1930's and even has snippets from the actual magazines.  I loved reading the actual words written to little girls about how to make the outline stitch, which is "quick and easy to do, once you have learned just how to do it, and practiced a little - which is true of other things besides stitches, you know."

The rest of the magazine was just as interesting and was a trip around the world and through time.  The articles include: Flappers' beaded dresses, a fox traveling bag inspired by an afghan pattern from 1862, a Chinese silk baby carrier to knit, and First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley's 4000 pairs of crocheted slippers.  Many of the articles had companion projects, and the instructions seem very easy to follow.

Here's the cover of the most current issue:

Aren't those gloves gorgeous?  The pattern, along with information on where they're from, is included!

As this issue says, it's all about knitting.  A number of the articles talk about how little we know of a workman's attire.  When pieces of clothing are found, either in an archeologist's dig or in a shipwreck, it's a monumental task to not only figure out how it was made but with what kind of fiber.  In the first article, a grave was found in a bog in Shetland, and they found a hat in perfect condition.  The research team "plied, spun, knitted, and fulled several different wools until they began to understand their behavior, trying to duplicate the original inner fabric of the man's hat to determine if his belongings were made with Shetland wool."  There is a picture of 9 different swatches tagged with yarn information and knitting needle sizes.

There's also an article about excavations in Magdalena de Cao Viejo in South America and the stockings found there.  They might be the oldest knit garments in the New World.  There's a companion project of socks inspired by the two knit stockings they found.

Other projects are two men's hats recreated from those worn on ships, those gorgeous Sanquar gloves from the cover, Lithuanian wrist warmers, a Spencer jacket (think Jane Austen), and a baby sweater that is a tribute to children imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Remember when I talked about Paracord?  One crafty woman in Crete took apart the cords from parachutes abandoned by Germans in 1941 and made a wedding dress!

I can't recommend this magazine highly enough.  In just the two issues I've read so far, I've learned so much and appreciate even more how vast and important handicrafts have been throughout the centuries.  The articles draw you in with pictures of original objects, illustrations or photos from the time period being discussed, how the excavation sites look now, and more.  The projects are all very pretty and updated for currently available materials and with any irregularities like pattern repeats worked out.

Each issue is no more than $4 when you subscribe for a year, which is an unbelievable price considering all of the research and history included, not to mention the number of projects.

If you're at all interested in the hows and whys and whens of handicrafts, please consider subscribing to Piecework Magazine.  If you don't like it, I'll knit the General Carleton Cap and eat it.  No, I won't really do that, but I do hope you find the magazine as intriguing and fascinating as I do.  Click here for more information and to subscribe.

(In case you're wondering, I'm not affiliated with Piecework Magazine at all.  I just really, really, really like it!)

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