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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
Paperback. 181 pages. Chock-full of inspiration.

Lara's Library: Diagonal Knitting

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This, and its description, is on page 142.

I have a confession. I don't re-read books very often. Usually, even with knitting books, I give it one thorough read-through, mark the sections I feel I might like to read again, then only go back to my marks.

I tried that with this book and I had to stop - by the time I was into the second chapter, I had torn my paper bookmark into 10 pieces, to mark 10 different places, and I was frustrated that I didn't have more paper.

Katharine Cobey identifies herself, not as a knitwear designer, but as a scupltural knitter or fiber artist. Like many wonderful things, you could read this book from many angles.

It could be a book about sculpture. There are many examples of installations and pieces Cobey has made in the course of her installations. Some of them take place in traditional museums. Some, like her Ritual Against Homelessness, have been shown in museums and also outdoors.

It could be a book about knitting. It is stripped down to its basics, turned around, and explored thoroughly. Probably the best description and diagram I have ever seen about how to make a slip knot (or a three-stitch slip knot!) is on page 21. Many terms are clarified or used with more precision than is usual. A list of definitions at the end of the book helps prevent confusion. "Torso break" is a much better term than what I have been saying for "that place where the underarms meet the body of a sweater".

It could be a book about the history of knitting. The suggested reading list of books in the back of this book is as good as many I have seen. It's only marred by the fact that many of the books are out of print, so are hard to find, and/or extremely expensive.

It could be a book about using different materials in knitting. Plastic bags are transformed into garments. Wire is used. Underlying structures of steel and wood are used to support skins of hand-spun, hand-knitted yarn.

It could be all of those books, and maybe more. Instead, it is all of them.

The photographs in the book are clear and colorful. The diagrams are easy to follow.

Also, it is a description of a life lived through, and within, art. Cobey's description of why she made "Slick", the first thing she knit in plastic, keeps me up at night.

"News coverage during the First Gulf War showed an oil-covered cormorant dragging itself along the edge of the water...In memory of that bird I decided to make a coat from garbage bags and install it as a crawling figure."

Devastating and beautiful. Haunting and powerful. Like all true art, honest and harrowing.