Here's exactly how it all went down.
I was standing in front of my library shelves yesterday reminiscing about all the meaningful moments spent with their contents over the years. I found myself wishing I could carry the comforts of some of my favorite novels with me as a talismanic charm when venturing out into the world.
But what could I make that was soft and tactile and symbolized the transformative power of the written word? As I stood reading the titles of my little collection of Penguin Classics, a cold breeze swept in through the living room window and instantly I knew.
Q: What's even better than re-reading a favorite book?
A: Keeping it close to your heart.
I would knit a book scarf.
A Penguin Classics book scarf.
Having recently discovered a website that lets you print graph paper for knitting, I took a stab at translating the world's most iconic penguin into squares.
(Knitting paper available here)
Using size 7 needles, it took about 30 minutes to knit up my prototype. For the actual scarf, I'll adjust my gauge slightly to make him taller and slimmer, but I think he's pretty cute.
(Sample section of my Penguin book scarf)
As for the design of the rest of the scarf, I could go big and graphic and knit the whole thing as a single book, like this:
(Note: For the title, knit a plain white background and then embroider the letters over it in chainstitch.)
Or I could knit a row of books and just keep adding "shelves" until my scarf reached the desired length:
I mean, come on. Wouldn't it be amazing this winter to see people walking down the street wearing their favorite novel around their necks? Talk about a conversation opener.
(My inspiration board. That's Beatrix Potter in the hat.)
This wrapping paper is a great example of all the lovely colors that vintage Penguins used to come in.
(Penguin spines wrapping paper, available here)
If I make either scarf, I promise to photograph the results along with any pattern I create. I post my ideas/sketches here in the hope that they'll inspire some of you to use them as a jumping-off point. Let me know.
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But I wasn't quite done. From vintage Penguins my memory veered to long-held images from some of my favorite books. The house in "Howards End", for instance, is a constant source of inspiration, fulfilling as it does every fantasy I have about English cottage life. Centuries-old brick covered in ivy and climbing vines...what could be cozier? If only there was a way to get inside those walls.
Below, I present to you my design for a "Howards End" sweater. The inspiration? A brick wall covered in ivy. I would construct it with a deep shawl-collar for some old school glamour and a knitted belt to keep it snug and sexy around the hips. The pieces of ivy would be sewn on afterwards and could be either knitted or made out of felt.
("Howards End" sweater)
Depending on the book in question, the variations are endless. For George Eliot's "Middlemarch", you could knit the same sweater in slate gray and appliqué with pink rose blossoms -- how else to symbolize Dorothea's passionate ideals amid the restrictive rules of village life? For Elizabeth Von Arnim's "Enchanted April", I would knit the body of the sweater in a muted gold (the color of a Tuscan villa at sunset) and attach wisteria flowers to it. You get the idea.
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Is there any book that could inspire you to create an article of clothing? What colors and textures and patterns bubble up inside of you when you think of it?