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Off-topic: Learn to Knit!

If you hang around at recorder workshops, you’ve no doubt seen the occasional participant or teacher knitting in the corner – maybe with a group of other knitters, maybe finishing up an item to donate to the auction. Personally I find knitting to be enjoyable and relaxing, and a satisfying way to fill time in between things, while waiting for things, on trains and planes and buses, etc.

So this year I decided to work on indoctrinating the next generation. My neice and nephew are getting to ages that I was when I started learning how to make stuff in various ways, so for their gifts I wanted to give them each a kit that included instructions plus yarn, knitting needles, and a small swatch already started that they could practice on. I was underwhelmed by the books I could find – nothing seemed appropriately geared toward getting a total beginner from zero to a satisfyingly finished project. So I wrote my own.Knitting for James and Ellen

And I’m also sharing the book with you!

Knitting for James and Ellen

The book contains simple, straightforward instructions with photos of every step, on how to knit and purl, how to cast on and bind off, and how to make a very easy hat and an even easier ear warmer. Photos show both English and Continental styles of knitting (the difference is which hand holds the working yarn). If you’ve never knitted before, this is a great place to start! If you have knitted before, but would like to teach a friend, it makes a great starter pack. Put together the yarn and needles mentioned in the book (Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick, which is easy to find although obviously other extra bulky yarn can be substituted easily) and either print the book or include a link to the PDF, and you’ve got a learn-to-knit kit that you can customize for the recipient’s preferences.

This isn’t a comprehensive guide to every stitch under the sun, but there are lots of books and videos and websites that do that. It just gets you started and knitting something you can use right away.


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Upcoming Recording Project: Songs from Home for Recorder and Guitar

UPDATE: CD’s are here! You can order a CD or a download right here on the Canzonet site!

I’ve made music with my family for as long as I can remember. But now for the first time, I’m collaborating with my dad, Michael O’Brien, on a recording project! We’re making an album of music we love for recorder and guitar, including Baroque pieces, traditional tunes, and new compositions. Please check out our Indiegogo campaign, and consider supporting us or pre-ordering your copy if you are so inclined!

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Introducing Canzonet!

Hello, everyone!
Longtime recorder players will be familiar with the ubiquitous black roll-up Cavallaro cases, which have been the standard for decades. They’ve been so well used and loved, and the basic concept so functional, that they’ve been nearly the only choice for much of that time.

Sadly, the company that has made them for many years has recently gone out of business. As a professional recorder player myself and former employee of the Von Huene Workshop, I’m introducing Canzonet cases to help step into that void.

I’ve made some minor changes to the basic design and materials. The biggest is that I never really liked the faux shearling lining that Cavallaro cases used for padding. It can leave fuzz behind, gets sticky when instruments have been excessively oiled, and can potentially snag on the pins and corners of historical styles of keywork. So instead I’m using a fine untreated natural cotton lining, with a thick quilt batting. This combination provides at least as much padding as the shearling did, but it’s cleaner and smoother. The untreated cotton is a lovely, soft, densely-woven fabric that won’t scratch instruments and has no bleaches or dyes.

For the exterior, I’m switching from the coated nylon to a sturdy but soft cotton canvas with a water repellent treatment. Having seen lots of instruments that got musty, moldy, and mildewy from being put away damp and then sealed into nylon cases, I think this fabric will provide a nice balance between protection from the elements and breathability.

That said, I do know that some players prioritize protection from the elements! I ride my bike most places I go and in all weather, so I understand the need for more impervious materials, too. So I will also offer options for materials that are more impervious to air and water alike.

I’m also using a different style of buckle that I think are quicker to use, and making some less obvious changes to the basic construction.

About me: I’m a professional recorder player, and I also run a business called Dill Pickle Gear making custom bicycle luggage. I’m a constant tinkerer, and I love coming up with new designs for bags and cases or thinking of ways to make existing ones better. In my musical life I’m also a huge proponent of new developments in recorder design, particularly the Mollenhauer Helder; and of the work of living composers writing for newer recorder models. So as I get this site up and running, I’ll be offering some of these new compositions for sale as downloads in order to make them as widely available as possible. This is not to say that I don’t love historical recorders and perform Renaissance and Baroque music too! I very much do, and that will never change. But I also don’t think that the development of our instrument and its repertoire needs to end at 1750, and want to do my part to help it continue.

So, welcome to Canzonet and please be in touch! I would love to hear your comments and feedback.

Emily O’Brien