You may be wondering why I haven’t written anything about my big trip to Russia. Did something really embarrassing happen there? Did we unleash an ancient evil sleeping in Lake Baikal and have to trick the demons into matryoshka doll traps, then swear never to tell anyone what had happened lest someone try to free the demons to gain ultimate power?
No, not really.
I’ve been thinking about writing a “personal story” for one of the fiber publications about my trip. I haven’t completely decided what will go into that essay or even if I will try to publish it, but I didn’t want it to look like I had just cribbed the essay from a blog post. So I haven’t written anything about the trip here yet. I think I can at least narrow down what won’t be in the essay at all- I started an outline of the knitting/fiber parts of the trip and realized that there was just too much there for a short essay. You’ll hear all about it sooner or later, just that some parts may be much later.
As you may know, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, I am a stitch dictionary addict. All it takes is one motif that I haven’t seen to make me buy the whole book. It might be a sickness, really. I have books in English, French, German, Japanese, and now: Russian.
When we set out for Russia, I wanted to bring home two souvenirs: a Russian knitting book and a spindle (that story will be later). All I needed was a good bookstore to find a knitting book, I knew. I was sure that I could find the craft section of the store and from there find the knitting subsection. I was right, although it took until almost the end of the trip to get to a big bookstore that wasn’t just Pushkin’s fairy tales or tourist guidebooks. In St. Petersburg, we went to Dom Knigi, or House of Books, which is located in the old Singer Sewing Machine Company building; you can see the old Singer logo on top. This place was great- I felt just as comfortable there, despite the different language and alphabet, as I do in any bookstore in the US. Bookstores and libraries are my second home; I could have spent hours there.
Dom Knigi has three floors. I did a quick walkthrough of each floor, through the Russian teen-fiction and the self-help books and the multi-language souvenir section. I didn’t see a craft section and honestly, I got a little worried despite my confidence about bookstores. Maybe there wasn’t a craft section- But then I found it, tucked between the travel and cooking shelves. The end cap with pictures of embroidery and crochet was a dead give-away. I started by pulling books off the shelf at random (I put them back!) to find the knitting section. It started after sewing and ended at crochet; sound familiar? I have to apologize for not having a picture of the shelf in question… I was determined to find the perfect book before I had to meet Lowell at the entrance (I also had to find the bathroom in that time!)
“But, Cailyn!” I hear you interrupting. “Can you even read Russian knitting patterns?”
Don’t interrupt! I’m getting to that part.
I have rules about foreign language books. 1, it can’t be just a book of sweater or hat patterns; those require actual reading. That usually knocks out most of the books on the shelf. It also can’t be a “learn to knit” book, which takes care of another ten books or so. 2, it has to have charts. Bam, there goes half of the remaining books. I couldn’t actually read the spines of the books, so I had to pull each book off the shelf and look through it to see what it was. There were some interesting sweaters (think 1980’s) and lots of “learn to knit” books. I found some books with some charts but mostly patterns (and not very stylish ones at that). But finally, I found my book.
It’s a small, thick book, about 5” by 8” but 2” thick. I have no idea what the title is, but it’s full of knit/purl, lace, cable, and colorwork stitches. There are a few full-fledged patterns at the back, but mostly it’s a stitch dictionary. And I don’t even need to read Cyrillic to enjoy this book.
Behold, the wonder of The Chart! (You can behold it bigger if you click on the thumbnail.)
It’s pretty obvious which stitches are knit, purl, a yarn over, or a decrease. There are a few symbols that I haven’t deciphered yet in the slip stitch section, but a little trial and error will fix that. You can bet that my next few patterns will incorporate something from this book. I mean, look at those cute little elephants!
Next time you’re in a foreign country, I highly recommend stopping by a bookstore and acquiring yourself a stitch dictionary! Just make sure it has charts.