Knitting Everyday Finery
We chat to Mel Clark about her new knitting book
I loved Knitting Everyday Finery, Mel Clark's second book before I even opened it. The cover features a lovely woman with a beautiful stash of yarn, a cozy shawl and a cup of tea. Yes, please! Every project had me thinking "Ooh, I want to make that!" and even though it's been a while since I've knitted, her patterns were so well laid-out that I wasn't left wondering how my rusty skills would hold up. Each page had me itching to pick up my needles again.
She wrote her first book Knit 2 Together with her friend, actress Tracey Ullman. Both of Mel's books get very high ratings on every website I saw them on and she also has a great website: slipslipknit.com. My favorite patterns in Knitting Everyday Finery were the Croissant Bag, Shiraz Slippers (I want to knit these for everyone I know!) and the Lulu Scarf. There was a nice variety of yarns used and there was something for everyone: men, women, babies, and children. I got the chance to chat with Mel a bit and she was just as lovely as her book would imply!
Win a signed copy of Knitting Everyday Finery
We've got five copies of the book, signed by Mel Clark to give away to lucky readers. For your chance of winning, simply leave a comment below telling us what you'd like to knit in the new year. Good luck!
Competition closes: February 20th
Congratulations to TinyTessieG, Gemma T, Amy B, MischievousRaven and Joe W.
How do you narrow down which patterns to include? It seems that it would be hard to choose, almost like leaving behind one of your babies. Is it a collection of things you knit often or patterns that you thought would appeal to knitters the most?
I like to keep everyone in mind, beginners and experienced knitters, and I try also to keep different tastes in mind. I like variety and have fairly eclectic taste myself, so my choice of patterns will always reflect that
Do you miss owning a knitting shop?
I miss the knitting community, the lovely customers and teachers, and the laughter. It was great fun.
How does your knitting differ when living in different places? Does the climate affect what kinds of projects you are drawn to?
Well it’s colder here in NZ than it is in Los Angeles, my former home, so I do tend to be thinking gloves and sweaters here more. I don’t think I would’ve made the Tangerine Tights if I’d been living in LA!
What is your favorite thing to knit?
Something that turns out well! Since my book has been published I’ve made four pair of the Shiraz slippers and two pair of the July Gloves so I’d have to say I like making accessories. I also love to make bags, top down sweaters, and things for my house.
I sometimes feel like someone who doesn’t knit can’t fully appreciate the time and love that goes into a project. Do you get a lot of requests from friends to make them things?
Yes I do, mostly from my son and husband. Recently a friend offered to pay me for a pair of slippers. She’s a crafter herself so she knows how much work is involved. I ended up making them for her birthday. I make things only for people who appreciate the time it takes.
Do you believe the old saying that knitting a sweater for a boyfriend is bad luck?
It came true for me when I was 19. I had a boyfriend who practically stood over me while I finished a cabled sweater vest for him, then he left me for someone else! I was at university at the time and had to tolerate seeing him wearing it, hand in hand with his new girlfriend! I don’t think it’s a superstition, just a result of someone who’s not ready for a commitment being scared away by the obvious devotion involved in knitting a sweater.
What is your current favorite yarn?
I’ve just made a baby jacket with Cascade Eco Cloud and I am in love with this yarn. It’s chunky, but very light, and ultra soft. I like it so much, I’m going to make a sweater for myself.
Do you have plans for a third book?
I’ve just finished work on a book of knitted baby gifts, which will be published in 2013.
I love that you were knitting long before the huge resurgence. Was it a great feeling to finally have your craft recognized and appreciated by a lot of people?
Yes, it was great that it became popular once again. It makes it more exciting and enjoyable for everyone. The more knitters there are, the more variety of yarns and patterns there will be.
It seems that you enjoy hobbies where you can use your hands (gardening, knitting) what other things do you enjoy doing?
I love cooking, reading and sewing. I’d love to do more needlepoint (several unfinished canvases languish in my closet) but I do so much knitting there’s no time.
What size needle do you find you knit with the most? Do you prefer metal or bamboo needles? Straight or circular?
I use a variety of sizes and circulars mostly, although some projects work better on a straight needle. I love short, straight needles for a scarf. I prefer bamboo or wood needles although I occasionally use metal circulars.
I love the idea of fitting small luxuries into your life everyday. In what other ways do you do incorporate that idea into your days?
I like to cook with good quality ingredients and will pay a little more for organic olive oil, for example. Being able to eat vegetables out of my own garden is, to me, a luxury, even though I have to work for it. The little luxury I appreciate more than anything is a lovely bar of soap. My kids know this and give them to me for my birthdays. It’s about being grateful for everything we have. Anything can be a luxury if we have a deep appreciation of how fortunate we are.
For me, it’s hard to find great projects for men. What is your favorite thing to knit for men?
Socks! The sweater curse doesn’t apply to accessories, so you’re safe there, and they fit everyone. Every man wears socks.
I live in Texas where it is hot with lots of bugs. The year I moved here from California most of my yarn and roving were eaten by moths. What is the best way to keep your yarn safe from critters? I’m afraid to buy nice yarns in natural fibers now.
Oh, that’s too bad! I use cedar blocks and balls, and scatter them in my cupboards and drawers. I also wash my knits regularly with lavender or eucalyptus, because I’ve heard that it helps.
Out of all the crafts I’ve tried, knitting has been the most obsessive. Do you find this to be true? What are you currently obsessed with?
Yes, it’s very addictive, in a good way. I’m currently obsessed with making myself a sweater with a particular cabled yoke, and also with making a series of fingerless mitts out of all my scraps of yarn. I get obsessed with every project, and with the long list in my head of things I plan to make one of these days.
Anything else you’d like to say about knitting, your book, your blog or anything else I didn’t cover?
If everyone knitted, the world would be in better shape.
You can pick up a copy of Mel's book from Anova Books now.
Next year I would love to knit an underbust corset. I saw some picts on the net and I want one for me.”