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Originally published Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 6:02 AM

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Seattle knitters weave steampunk, needlecraft into book

The Ladies of Mischief, a Seattle knitters group, has so much fun with creating clothing and dabbling in steampunk, they decided to combine their loves into a book that contains knitting patterns and an adventure novel.

Special to The Seattle Times

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‘Needles and Artifice’

By the Ladies of Mischief, Cooperative Press, $29.95 for print/digital, $16.95 digital.

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Uh, looks like someone just likes the coolness of the word "Steampunk". I see... MORE

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If you think the words “knitting” and “adventure” don’t belong together, you obviously haven’t met The Ladies of Mischief.

The Seattle knitters group married the two with a book that’s part needlecraft, part adventure.

Steampunk is a literary genre and a subculture that often features steam-powered machinery or other Victorian-era technology — think something out of the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. The action typically takes place in Victorian England, the industrialized West or a fantasy world that marries machines with Victorian sensibilities.

“Needles and Artifice,” by the Ladies of Mischief, chronicles the escapades of a group of women through a mad-science-y world of airships, doppelgängers and friendship.

The characters’ independence makes them stand out in Victorian society. They fight, travel the world, conduct scientific experiments and make machines. They knit and drink tea. In a nod to the steampunk aesthetic, they also wear brooches that ding and whir when transmitting signals in the secret code the intrepid globe-trotters developed to communicate with each other.

Twenty-three unique knitting patterns are sprinkled throughout the book, charts and all. Each is accompanied by colorful, steampunk-themed photographs showcasing the knitwear and the knitters.

In one of the photographs, knitter Sarra Loew models a creation called “the Deviation capelet” with a snake on her shoulder. In intrepid fashion, The Ladies borrowed the snake from Central Washington University, the alma mater of knitter Valerie DiPietro, who is a cytogeneticist.

Sipping tea on a recent afternoon at B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle, a steampunky tea shop in Fremont, Loew sported the blue “Legacy” frock coat she designed and modeled for “Needles and Artifice,” accented with a purple knit scarf to match her spiky purple hair.

The idea for the book, she says, came after Loew and her husband threw a steampunk-themed party.

“We had so much fun playing in this steampunk universe,” she said.

Ladies of Mischief became a 12-member offshoot of the Capitol Hill Knitters of Doom (spelled with multiple “o”s). They knew they wanted to make something together, but they couldn’t have imagined that it would take two years to complete the book, Loew said.

“It was a lot more complicated than we expected, every step of the way,” she said.

The group wanted to support local businesses and the indie scene. The jewelry came from local artists and the yarn from independent yarn-dyers. The Ladies designed and tested each of the patterns for the book.

The knitters did just about everything themselves: Illustrator Nicole Allin is behind almost all of the whimsical illustrations. Photographer Jessica Glein masterminded the photo shoots. The members also did all the writing, editing and layout. DiPietro, the cytogeneticist, put in as many as 20 hours a week to help put the book together.

The result is unlike any other knitting book, said knitter Aimee Skeers. “Needles and Artifice” is a good fit for those who love steampunk, for younger and more- adventurous knitters, for those knitters who are not yet confident — they could be drawn in by the story, she said.

As for the Ladies themselves, writing the book helped them become better friends.

“If the zombie apocalypse comes, I want these people on my team,” Skeers said.

Katya Yefimova: kyefimova@gmail.com

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