Knitting Out of Africa


About three years ago at a Nordic Knitting Conference at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum, I took a class by Danish knitting designer Marianne Isager. I didn’t really know who she was then, and had no idea what a treat I as in for. We had a really enjoyable class, but the bonus was being introduced to Isager’s work, which typifies everything that is good about classic design. She understands color and structure, and designs sweaters that are artful while still beautiful to wear.

One of the really juicy part of classes such as these is all the amazing knitted samples the instructors bring along. This class was no exception–included in the items shared were African textiles that inspired sweaters from one of her books, Knitting Out of Africa: Inspired Sweater Designs

Although the book has been around for a few years, I just looked through it again and am adding some of her designs to the project queue, which is saying something, because I try really hard NOT to add new things to my overly long list of projects.

I want to invest my time in classic designs that I can wear in ten years, which is why I’ve avoided knitting a shrug (having lived through the 60’s and 70’s, I KNOW we will find today’s retro designs unflattering and hideously ugly).

Which brings me back to Isager’s book. The subtitle is no exaggeration.


The author has drawn motifs from the fabrics and handicrafts she found there and incorporated them into timeless designs that will wear well for decades. And one of the really interesting techniques she uses is combining fingering weight yarns for color interest–between two and four held together, depending on the gauge she’s trying to achieve. The book covers a range of techniques–entrelac (used wonderfully to create a pinwheel effect), intarsia, two-color patterns and double knitting. I wouldn’t call it a beginner’s book, but the effort you put into these sweaters will give you some real pow value. I have just purged my yarn storage space of all but the good stuff. Looks as if I’ll be adding more.

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