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KNITTING NATIONS TOGETHER

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In person, British author Rachael Matthews is just as outlandish as the illustrations in her new guidebook, "Knitorama: 25 Great & Glam Things to Knit." The self-appointed knitting ambassador made a special appearance at the "Holiday Craftacular" in Greenpoint on Dec. 17. While wielding four-foot-long knitting needles ("to knit carpets and curtains," of course), Matthews (pictured) wore a knitted duck, perched on a knitted nest full of knitted eggs - on her head.

Her whimsical hat couldn’t help but draw attention to Matthews’s mission to raise enthusiasm about "knitting in public," her personal catch-phrase.

"It’s really amazing and different from what we have in England," said Matthews of the "Craftacular." "People were openly inquisitive about the craft. In England, people are supportive, but don’t ask so many questions about how to do it."

Through her book and through her nomadic club, Cast Off, which she co-founded in London in 2001, the East London resident is encouraging folks to take their knitting into unexpected places: posh bars, nightclubs and on "the tube," London’s subway. (Of course, for nightclubs with poor lighting, Matthews recommends wearing a miner’s hat.)

Matthews’s book sets itself apart from the usual manuals with instructions on how to make clothing by encouraging readers to tackle soft sculptures: knitted cakes, ham sandwiches and pints of stout. One might call these examples of Matthews’s "extreme knitting."

"It’s a 3-D medium," said Matthews. "There are so many different yarns and needle sizes, you can work in 2-D and 3-D. There’s a lot more freedom once you get past the idea of knitting clothing."

But she does include patterns for wearable art, too, including fried-egg earmuffs and a hip (and seemingly easy to make) cardigan made of 30 rectangles and four buttons.

"Knitting is really important for your well-being, for therapy and love, really," explained Matthews. "When you’re knitting for someone else, it’s for love. So whether it’s done in a lonesome way [at home] or teaching the world to knit, I like to live craft as a way of life."

"Knitorama: 25 Great & Glam Things to Knit" by Rachael Matthews (MQ Publications, $16.95) can be purchased through www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. For more information about Cast Off, visit www.castoff.info.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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