The author of AlterKnits Felt shows knitters how to turn a little yarn into fun projects and gifts—including baby clothes, bags, and household items.
“Two needles and one (or one more) skein of yarn—the possibilities never cease to amaze me,” writes Leigh Radford in the introduction to her new book. Radford’s fascination with the creative potential of these raw materials is evident throughout One More Skein, where she melds the alternative approach to knitting and felting she introduced in AlterKnits and AlterKnits Felt with the magic she worked with a single skein of yarn in the bestselling One Skein.
One More Skein features 30 diverse projects that can be completed with one or two average-sized skeins of yarn or multiple bits of leftover yarn. Projects include an earflap hat sized for the whole family; fingerless mitts; sweaters, britches, and capelets for baby; hemp jewelry embellished with jump ring “beads”; a felted, pleated sleeve to dress up a vase; and a multicolored blanket worked from assorted stash yarn. All of them are quick and relatively easy to make, without sacrificing beauty or ingenuity.
While I have always kept paint, drawing pencils, and a sketchbook close at hand, for most of the last decade I've been more focused on knitwear design than painting and drawing. For a long period I didn't really see a connection between these two sides of my creativity. But around the time that I started working on this book, I also enrolled in art school. Early on in my classes I began exploring how I might incorporate knitting into my paintings, for example, by knitting my own canvas out of laceweight linen. And now when I review the collection of projects that I've put together for this book, I clearly see that what I am learning in art class is seeping into and reenergizing my knitting.
In both areas, I am exploring ways to create aesthetically beautiful works as simply and cleanly as possible. These days when I come up with an idea, I ask myself if there is a way to pare it down in order to enrich it. The Pleated Vase Sleeve (page 107), for example, is a simple vessel "embellished" with only a few strategically placed pleats. The Mikus Linen Placemats (page 113) are my study of light and shadow. The Rosette Stitch Cowl (page 25) makes lace look simple and bold rather than intricate and delicate, thanks to large needles and bulky yarn.
In my book One Skein, I included only projects that could be completed with one skein of yarn. For One More Skein, I gave myself slightly more leeway: All of the projects are made with one or two skeins of yarn except for the Albers Stash Blanket (page 100), which is made with leftovers of many different colors (and is named for the acclaimed abstract painter and color theorist Josef Albers). I set out to develop classic projects that would be fun but not difficult to knit (and, depending on one's level of experience, might introduce a new technique), beautiful to look at, and useful for oneself or as a gift. Very few of them are worked at a small gauge, so they are quick to knit. There are quite a few projects for baby since, obviously, baby clothes require a minimal amount of yarn (often they can be made with leftovers from other larger projects), and because most knitters do tend to enjoy dressing up babies in handknits.
My favorite part of designing the projects for this book was the beginning, when I was sketching, swatching, and problem solving. Often I started with a simple concept instead of a particular type of project in mind. For example, I spent time sketching squares, manipulating them on a page, not at all sure where I was headed, before deciding that they would become the central motif of the Connected Squares Felted Handbag (page 79). For Sadie's Capelet (page 46), I spent time exploring the visual and textural relationships between ribbing and cables. In many cases, once I decided what I was going to make and figured out how to achieve my goals, I felt like I was finished. But, of course, I needed to knit the real piece and, a few times, I did alter my plans during that time. For example, as I was knitting the Circle and Stripe Cravat (page 28) I decided to devote more space to the cable circles than to the rib pattern so that when worn, the design would be asymmetrical.
The key to all of this was taking time to explore the creative process. That was a gift to myself, the same gift that I hope you will give to yourself, perhaps inspired not only by the projects you see here but by my experience of delving into other areas of artistic expression outside of knitting in order to refresh my perspective on knitting.
Two needles and one (or one more) skein of yarn–the possibilities never cease to amaze me.