Sunday, June 12, 2011

EntreKnits and Colorways, two new eMags from Interweave!

Until now, I was not that enthusiastic about digital magazines. I gave Zinio a try a few months ago, downloading an issue of a knitting magazine that shall remain nameless. I found the experience to be awful. Here's how it went: Scroll, scroll, zoom in, zoom in, scroll, zoom out, scroll. It was cumbersome, and I thought, not ready for prime time.

Earlier this week, I saw in Knitting Daily that Interweave was releasing a new eMag called EntreKnits. I am a bit of an Interweave fangirl, because they just seem to get everything right, so despite my previous experience with eMags, I decided to check it out. I was very glad that I did!

Interweave's eMags do not use Zinio, but instead use Adobe Air, which is a free download. Installing Adobe Air and downloading and installing EntreKnits were extremely simple to do. When I finished downloading it and launched it, I was very impressed. Since I'm a former software tester, I'll start with the user interface.

In total contrast to Zinio, the user interface is very user-friendly and intuitive. It's a rich, interactive multimedia experience. For example, to learn more about a yarn, you can just click on a picture of a swatch. And there are videos embedded in the articles! As you read, you can find a how-to video or informational video right there in the article. I love having instant access to all the information I need.

Just like the printed editions of Interweave's magazines, the presentation is very polished, the photos are excellent and it's a delight to look at. Also like the printed editions, the information inside is high quality and on the cutting edge.

EntreKnits focuses on modular knitting, domino knitting, mitered squares, entrelac and other geometric knitting techniques. It's definitely not for the total beginner, but seems to be geared more toward an advanced beginner and beyond. It's for a knitter who knows the basics and is ready for a challenge, ready to learn a new technique or two. There are articles by Annie Modesitt (about knitting and math), Meg Swansen (about entrelac) and other top designers. There are six beautiful, inspiring patterns to knit that look like fun challenges... there's a blanket, a bracelet, a shrug, a cowl and others.

There are hardly any ads, and the few that are there are tasteful and subtle. The last couple pages consist of resources (where to buy yarn, designer's and article author's websites, etc.) and an inspiring last page, which consists of photos of geometric objects designed to get the reader thinking about where they can find inspiration in their own surroundings. Already last night I photographed some stepping stones in my garden that now scream "Fair Isle!" at me, while I hadn't noticed them before.

When I downloaded EntreKnits, I also downloaded another new Interweave eMag, Colorways. Since I just got back to spinning and dyeing fiber and yarn after a 4-year break, I could not resist this one.

It shares the same sleek, user-friendly interface as EntreKnits and the photos are so inspiring and pretty. Colorways takes you around the world of natural dyeing and this topic is of huge interest to me, so this eMag fell into my lap at just the right time. I have two small children, so I am not going to be dyeing fiber with a kettle full of toxic chemical dyes in my kitchen. So far, I've used the jar dyeing technique since it's free of mess and fumes, but I want to do more with dye than that.

Colorways is exactly what I needed, because it illustrates a variety of natural dyeing techniques from around the world. It's a fascinating, very beautiful trip! The photos of artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico and Africa are beautiful and inspiring, as are the video interviews with the artisans that once again are embedded right into the articles. I found out how to dye with natural substances such as chamomile, marigolds and even ONION SKINS! I'm really intrigued by that and am planning to save all the onion skins from my cooking to use for dyeing fiber. The effects produced are so subtle and pretty.

I also learned that once again, Seattle is a great place to be a fiber artist. Colorways contains articles about Earthues, a natural dye company in Seattle and Fabric of Life in nearby Edmonds, WA, a fair-trade store that sells fabric dyed by women in Mali, West Africa. The story reminded me a lot of the Oomingmak Co-op in Alaska that I talked about a couple posts back... another wonderful story of women being empowered by becoming skilled in fiber arts and using those skills to make money. I am very intrigued and inspired and have GOT to get to both of those stores!

I did not expect to like eMags, but I am very impressed with these two and already can't wait for the next issues of each. I am going to re-read these many times, just like I do with Interweave's printed magazines. The only bummer about the eMag format is that I can't put them in a stack next to my bed!

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