Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Review: Arctic Lace

It's my first book review! Yeah, not so exciting.

I was bored at work yesterday and typed this review to make myself look busy!

Arctic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories Inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters by Donna Druchunas.


This was my splurge book when I found out I had a job.

I was taking my trip to the local yarn store to purchase KAYE prize yarn for the upcoming months and I figured what the hell, as an Alaskan and a knitter, I shouldn’t feel bad for buying this book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book.

We moved to Palmer when I was seven and my Youngest Younger Brother works summers at the Musk Ox Farm they highlight in the book, I figured what new information could I possibly learn?

In all honesty, not much.

The book starts off with going through the conception and creation of the Oomingmak co-op that employs Native women in various Alaskan villages to knit the qiviut harvested from the musk oxen at the Palmer Musk Ox Farm into scarves and smoke rings to sell to unsuspecting touristas that flock to the state each summer.

Then it went into a breakdown of the various groups of Native Alaskans and the regions of Alaska they inhabit. It talks about what it's like to live in the middle of nowhere and how hard it is.

Reading it, I felt like I was in fourth grade again. In my old school district in fourth grade we were required to learn Alaskan history--from Vitus Bering to Athabaskans.

The book went on to highlight each of the villages that is involved with the cooperative.

What I did find interesting and did not know, was that each village where a group of women have opted into the co-op a “trademark” lace pattern is knit solely by those women. So if you see a star pattern on a scarf, that means it came from Shishmareff.

Or if you're cool, you just call it "Shish" like the people in Shishmareff do. (I had roommates in college from Shish.)

Later in the pattern section of the book, it offered many knock-off designs mimicking either a certain village's "trademark" design or a pattern based off of a Native motif that struck the author's fancy in her visit to Alaska.

One thing to keep in mind is that the trademark designs (while probably easily replicated by an experienced knitter) are held in great confidence and will never be published for general use.

The book also (of course) goes into an explanation of musk oxen, their habitat, and the big hooptie about qiviut.

One neat feature of this book that I had never seen in any other knitting book (but keep in mind my knitting book experience is pretty limited) was a section on how to go about designing your own lace projects and it gave several basic lace stitches to use in a sort of glossary format.

Overall, it's a book written by a tourist for a tourist or tourist wannabe.

She explores the romaticized version of Alaska and living in the Bush. She only briefly touches on some of the trials and tribulations of living in these villages (the use of honeybuckets and the financial necessity for some women to join the co-op to earn extra cash).

However, when you go to Disneyland, you don't really want to see Mickey Mouse sucking down a 40 oz of Budweiser from a brown paper bag and kicking Pluto. Nor do you want to watch Cinderella make herself throw up her dinner so she can fit into that pretty ballgown.

Of course not.

You want to see Mickey and Cinderella all pretty and happy and hugging little snot-nosed children.

All of that aside, I am infatuated with the North Star Tam.

North Star

About a year ago, I admired some handspun llama on Sarah's blog. She was nice enough to send it to me.

I’ve coveted this hank of beauty she spun up for quite a while just waiting for the right pattern to come along.


I think the North Star Tam is it. I’ll have to do some calculating on the amount of yarn, but I think I can get it to work.

The nice thing about the North Star Tam is that the author shows it knit in lace weight as well as worsted weight yarn.

Now I’m really not sure how I’d look in a tam come winter—I’m not really a winter hat person.

Whenever I wear one over the Olive Oyle bun I wear at the nape of my neck, the hat looks lumpy. Like I’m packing a turd strapped to the back of my neck or something.

If it doesn’t work out I figure I can always send it to Mom. I know she’d dig it. Plus I remember her wearing a beret/tam type winter hat when I was a kid. The stupid details you remember as a child huh?

So would I buy this book again? Yeah probably, but only because I'm a sucker for anything that puts P-town (which is what the cool people call Palmer) on the map.

Maybe I'll send it to my Younger Youngest Brother and have him sign it. Give it some provenance so when Chunky's kids try hawking it on Antiques Roadshow 3000 it might be worth something.



Blogger Poops said...

Well, if the tam doesn't work out I can always whip you up a shagarrific turquoise and pink bucket hat. You might still look like a freak, but at least it would be in more of an "I meant to do that" kind of way.

6:21 AM  
Blogger elan said...

Victorian Lace Today has a great section at the back about designing your own lace & adapting traditional patterns.

6:57 AM  
Blogger buttercup said...

I really like the tam. I'd never knit one since I'm a "run out of the house with my hair wet" kinda gal - all year round.

Thanks for the comment on my car. I did what you suggested and this year I'm way below the value. As long as I can keep the car till next year, I'm happy.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous OLPP said...

Good review! Thorough, informative, and it held my attention. I give it three and a half stars!
And you could TOTALLY wear a tam, all perched jauntily on the side of your head.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Batty said...

Maybe I'm the only one, but I'd pay to see Pluto suck down a 6 pack and go after Mickey. But maybe that's just me -- I've also been waiting for Rehab Barbie and Bulimic Skipper.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

What a great review! :)
I think the tam is gorgeous. I always like how they look in the book, but not on my head.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Amby said...

"Irreverant and Honest Book Reviews by Bezzie." Love it!

9:04 AM  
Blogger Alisha said...

I also think the tam is beautiful.

9:18 AM  
Blogger weezalana said...

Actually, I would LOVE to go to Disneyland and see Mickey Mouse sucking down a 40 oz of Budweiser from a brown paper bag and kicking Pluto.

10:04 AM  
Blogger sgeddes said...

I liked the book review. Hopefully you'll do more.

I had to google honeybucket; I didn't remember hearing that term before.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Yay! The llama! Funny, I think Laura is going to knit that same hat with the quiviut I spun for her!

My handspun just calls out to be that hat I guess....

11:04 AM  
Blogger cpurl17 said...

Good book review! I'll have to check it out. Someday I'll go to Alaska.

11:27 AM  
Blogger turtlegirl76 said...

Is that the Tam pattern VKnits did this last winter? Gorgeous.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Linnea said...

I've been oggling that tam for a while now, and wondering about the book. Thanks for the entertaining and honest review. But now I'm really disturbed thinking about Mickey.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is funny---Tourist writing tour books. Yes! I will wear anything that you knit! Love, Mom

11:53 AM  
Blogger Rain said...

It sounds like a lovely book.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Cheesy Knit Wit said...

"....packing a turd strapped to the back of my neck or something." Oh, the visual! Thanks!


4:07 PM  
Blogger Magatha said...

Yep, that's the right project for the yarn.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Stacie said...

loved the review!

9:56 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I have had this on my wish list and I am interested to see a review of it from an Alaskan perspective. I am intrigued by the "design you own lace section" though....

I too tend to have the Olive Oyle bun thing going....

10:30 PM  
Blogger DomesticOverlord said...

So are you going to give us the real lowdown on your homestate? Alaska: Drunken Moose and Frozen Tundra a Bezzie Travel Exclusive. I'll tell you what you do a travel review over here and I'll do one on my blog, what do you say?

1:10 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Funny, that's exactly how I felt about the book. I've been to the musk ox farm a few times and have some pics from their little "museum"

I miss Alaska.

2:30 PM  
Blogger maryannlucy said...

Great Book Review! Go for the Tam, I look forward to seeing it soon.

PS I have been tagged, and need to pass it on 7 times so I have tagged you - see my blog for details ;-)

4:39 PM  

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