Monday, November 8, 2010

Looking Bookish

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.

* * * * *

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.
(Howards End house via here)

(via here)

(via here)

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.

* * * * *

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?

53 comments:

Miss Whistle said...

You are so clever. I would ADORE a scarf of my favorite book spines. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Miss W x

Mrs. Blandings said...

The content here is so remarkably fresh and original like its author.

Charlotte said...

Brilliant!
I would craft a "To the Lighthouse" sweater, all in soft blues and grays, with a lovely soft yellow sun peeking out of the pocket so that young James Ramsey can continue to hope that it will be fine tomorrow.

Daniel-Halifax said...

SO many parts of this blog I love I don't know where to start!

The Penguin Scarf is BRILLIANT! I honestly think I'm going to attempt it as soon as I finish the fishermans wool wrap for my friend.

I really do wish we lived closer, I see a kindred knitting circle.

As for novels I think of whilst knitting? 'The Heir' by Vita Sackville-West and on the polar opposite, J. Strange and Mr. N come to mind. Anything where lots of moody grays and blacks are involved.

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!

little augury said...

Enchanting indeed- it all is, I will leave the knitting to you and your creativity. wonderfully clever, talk to Penguin immediately!

Maria S. said...

In a similar but not exactly the same vein this book by the sister of a friend of mine. See www.missflitt.com. It's an illustrated Victorian mystery with knitting patterns.

Love the Penguin. There is a kids' swim team from somewhere in greater L.A. that has also co opted the Penguin. . .

Tree said...

Brilliant!

Modern Country Lady said...

Dear Lisa, what a fantastic idea!!! I love the house from Howard's End, and I love Penguin-books.I think I would knit one of my favourites, Margery Allingham's "The Beckoning Lady" which I would knit and then applique.Colours - bright and gaudy !!
Love love love this post!!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, you are killing me!! I don't have time to consider all this wonder! But you've captured my imagination and now I shall be lost inside this idea for days, I just know it.

I would have to do a My Family And Other Animals scarf, of course. With bumblebees, and dragonflies, and a big barn owl on my shoulder!

And now, of course, I am off to that fabulous website. Taking the phone off the hook!

Marianne said...

Love this idea. Immediately I thought of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. You could knit in gray stone colors with its arms afire! Or, knit a sweater in just bright yellow with handkerchief with the letter R coming out of the pocket. This is fun. Thank you.

Lee Nicholson said...

That is such a clever and wonderful idea for a scarf! I would most certainly love to wear one.

Karena said...

Lisa this is a time I would love to know how to knit!! Reading is a vavorite passtime!

Come read a great interview , then enter my latest Giveaway!!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

Terra said...

Brilliant; a Penguin book logos scarf.

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

Enchanted April would have to be wisteria. "Wisteria and sunshine" of course -- has there ever been a more evocative image on a grey day?

I love the Penguin scarf -- just wish there were better opportunities for scarf wearing here in Southern California! I would love a Penguin bookshelf throw blanket for my library, but alas, I don't knit.

Belly said...

Brilliant!
I'm re reading The Secret Garden for a tween book club I'm working on, and I think it could make the perfect little sweater (or maybe a shawl?).
The other book that immediately sprung to mind was Wuthering Heights, but this would make a less cheerful garment.

Julie Anne Rhodes said...

Ooooooooh squealing over the kindred knitting circle idea!

Since I'm working my way through A COURSE IN WEIGHT LOSS right now, my scarf would probably have the 21 lessons on it, or rather I'd have to knit 21 scarves since the first chapter about taking down the bricks in your wall would give me ample for one scarf.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Kate@SavoirFaire: Wisteria, yes! How did that escape me? Thank you. I'm changing it now.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

To All:

Loving all your creative and inspirational ideas -- keep them coming!

xxx

bluehydrangea said...

Brilliant!! I can't tell you how impressed I am that you knitted a penguin into your scarf!!

Sophie said...

Love love love this idea! I think your first concept is genius! You could totally sell these on etsy. Big, bold and graphic is the way to go!

Barbara said...

You are a delight in so many ways. Thank you for another wonderful post which leaves me in awe of your imagination and talent. I wonder what you could do with "Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively? Doesn't the name just invite a design?

24 Corners said...

Has Anthropologie called you yet?? This is pure genius Lisa! Your penguin scarf is adorable and such a perfect souvenier of something you love so dearly, and the cottage sweater I'd wear in a heartbeat, today!
The ideas are quite endless aren't they...I've been lately admiring the newer Penguin classics hardcover books, especially "Cranford" with it's pea vines...the colors and images are all so striking. They would make for pretty scarves I think (or wallpaper, or fabric).

Very much looking forward to seeing the progression of these beautiful ideas...I wish I could knit! xo J~

(I bet Luca has a book he'd love to wear too...and Piero could have "the Triplets of Belleville" on his") ;)

joyce said...

Lisa, the penguin is darling, what a incredible idea! Love that sweater, the shawl collar to me has so much atmosphere, charm and style. And you know what, so do you! Thank you for all the fantastic ideas.

TheWingchairTraveller said...

You have the most unique blog I have ever read. Keep these posts coming! And thank you for including Howard's End and giving us the wonderful link to Sweet Sunday Mornings.

Jen West Design said...

Stop it. You kill me.

dana said...

so clever and handy at the same time. it's almost, but not really, too much...I'm thinking of a big, soft, drapey wrap that could encompass a timeline, in icons only with only the centuries and major wars in dates, to commemorate the entire elswyth thane series that begins during the Revolutionary War and sadly ends after WWII...but oh, what we have in between. Because it's anchored in Virginia (and because I'm from there) I'd have to make the beginning and end images dogwood blossoms. The best thing about this thought is that it will always look perfect since I can't knit a stitch. What a great little diversion from the work I need to do. thank you.

Kay said...

Very creative!

How about a scarf of little books scattered, with different colors, sizes, and some with titles on them, but everyone has a worm or two wiggling/crawling into or out of it? The worms could be flat, or a crochet free form dangling off the book/scarf.

Susan in TX said...

Love it all! Off to ponder what I'd want to wrap around myself. :0

VictoriaArt said...

Love it to bits!

24 Corners said...

Okay, this has to mean something...just checked my inbox and sitting right there was the latest email from Anthro called..."KNIT PICKS"! I had no idea when I wrote my previous comment, stuff like this has been happening a lot lately. There's a darling 'fox stole/scarf'...could it be the Fantastic Mr. Fox?? Lisa, you are definitely on to something here... :)

Alcira Molina-Ali said...

You are an absolute genius, this is sure to be the ne plus ultra of knitwear.
Best keep a warm kettle on, as I have an inkling that Anthropologie is going to come a' knocking soon -- really soon.
Keep weaving your spell -- or is it knitting and purling?
Cheers, Alcira

thenerochronicles.blogspot.com

Follow me on Twitter at @nerochronicles

Grace said...

Mmmm. What about A Room with a View- most of the sweater is a field of Italian violets, with wisps of deep cerulean to represent the River Arno?

helen tilston said...

Wonderful post Lisa. You have me looking at my bookshelves and remembering good reads, I have chosen:
Tess of the D"urborvilles I would knit her a sweater in ecru fine wool in Aran pattern stitches symbolizing her life: honeycomb = hard work. Trinity stitch =Angel and Alex and Tess. On the left front at the shoulder I would drop a stitch which would ladder downward symbolizing her lost baby Sorrow. Buttons would be in red leather to symolize Alex's death. Two pockets would hold her linen handkerchiefs.

Teacats said...

Love the Penguin scarf -- and in all those wonderful colors! I would need matching mittens, headband and a flannel lined knitted muff for my hands! My fav books are the J.R.R. Tolkien ones -- a treasure trove for ideas! Maybe a scarf with swords and dragons? A cauldron? An Ent?

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Michelle said...

Without a doubt, one day I will be walking through a very eclectic, hip bookstore, and spy one of your scarves hanging on a rack. I will say, "I know that gal!" (sort of). My daughter is a knitter and I can't wait to show her this great idea. Love the sweater idea, too. Perhaps "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gillman in a sallow yellow color, with a horrid, sprawling flamboyant pattern. A bit hideous, but somebody might like it.

Sunday Taylor said...

Oh, Lisa, I am speechless! This is really the coziest blog post I think I've ever read. I love the Penguin paperbacks and just went to a Jane Austen lecture sponsored by Penguin and got a darling Penguin book bag. "Howard's End" is one of my favorite books. So is "Emma" and I would probably try to design something to represent all the wonderful characters in that book. Maybe with strawberries and dancing couples.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Your creativity is amazing Lisa. I love idea of the Penguin Classic scarf. I would create a piece of clothing after the book, "Little Women". I picture muted, feminine colors but not too sweet & tucked at the waist with a peblum bottom. Trying to capture the personalities of all the sisters.

Magnificent post as always!

Joyce said...

Lisa, I would like mine to look just like yours, same color and adorable penquin. Then I would put W A L D E N on the middle part then would sitch on Simplify, Simpify, Simpify on the other end. I love looking bookish, and love your 'Looking Bookish' post!!

Joyce said...

Lisa, Oh dear, I have one more. Scarf in black and white, with the adorable penguin on one end like yours, J E E V E S in the middle and 'What ho' sitched on the other end.

Joanna said...

I would totally pay to have that penguin scarf. I adore Penguin books, especially the older classic covers.

mae said...

An Olympia Le Tan "You Can't Judge a Book by It's Cover" handbag would go perfectly with it...

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

How awesome! Oh the beautiful possibilities!!! (The Howards End sweater looks cosy!)

Lucindaville said...

Lisa check out this entry at our Cookbook Of The Day site:

http://cookbookoftheday.blogspot.com/2009/01/artisan-bread-in-five-minutes-day.html

It really only takes 5 minutes and you can mark that "bread baking" idea off your list.

But then, I read your blog, and I think you get quite enough done! And you can knit. So go out and buy a nice, crusty loaf and stare out of Beaton's window!

L.A. PLAYLIST said...

lovely blog! :)

check out our blog at:

http://thelaplaylist.blogspot.com

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear, your penguin scarf is so cute. It's so 80s. Do you remember the bright pink black sheep jumper Princess Diana wore to the polo match? Yes, those were the days where people loved to wear hand-knit sweaters and fair-isle jumpers!!

Emily said...

Lisa,
You are a genius! I would love a scarf with my favorite books for the world to see! Hmmm, an article of clothing.....Maybe something with a lace collar attached to represent "Jane Eyre". I see you also love "Brideshead Revisited". Some type of piece to bring alive the Venetian Carnivale!

Ode to Beatha said...

How about a scarf for "The Scottish Chiefs" in blue with a thistle?

nathaliefoy said...

Fantastic! I have linked to your post from my blog, devoted to books about books.

nathaliefoy said...

Have you read any of the knitting mysteries by Mary Kruger or Maggie Sefton?

Stefanie said...

I love your scarf idea! Thanks for sharing it. I think it is time I get out my knitting needles!

Hill House Ramblings said...

Oh my...a book scarf and a Howard's End sweater? Genius. I know I would be thrilled to have both. Love this post and all the comments.

H.H.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

omg YES -ingenius! Love this idea. So glad to see brideshead revisited up first, but think of the myriad choices. Love to see them all hung up in a library / mudroom of some country house for guests to take -maybe with orange wellies beneath? Can't wait to see the final result.

Vanya Wilkinson said...

gosh I do love old penguins, I've been collecting them to see at the shop!

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