Up in the northcountry

Only the weekend after Rhinebeck my knitting group had our annual cottage trip.

It’s always a great time, but an added bonus was that this year was especially productive for me.

Exhibit A) I learned how to chain ply on a spindle! In beautiful surroundings, no less.

You might recognize the Briar Rose roving and David Reed Smith spindle from my last post.

PS: if you haven’t heard of chain plying, you should look into it. It is magical, time saving, and generally awesome.

Exhibit B) I  learned how to use my spinning wheel. A big undertaking considering last time I tried it was at the Frolic.

After a bumpy start I finally got something that resembled yarn 😀

Exhibit C) Happy Seamstress let me use her drum carder!

Wensleydale + second quality angora I got at Rhinebeck, plus some firestar = pretty AND pretty soft.

But perhaps the best part of the cottage is the time away from the city with friends, fibre, yarn, and good food.

Yes, that is a chocolate marshmallow. A HOMEMADE chocolate marshmallow.

I’ll leave you with the doodle Lynn left in the cottage owners’ guest book.

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The Most Canadian Sweater Ever

So I was shopping at a flea market with the family and my mom pointed this out.

Bless her.

As soon as I saw it I HAD to have it.

It’s Cowichan (see more about Cowichan in my post here) with maple leaf and curling motifs. CURLING.

Did I mention it’s handmade? And IN MY SIZE?!

It’s a bit bulky, but then that’s how cowichans are supposed to fit. At least it’s not a man’s size and I’m swimming in it.

Knitter’s Frolic

So this past weekend was the annual Knitter’s Frolic. I went with some members of my knitting group, and we had a lot of fun.

  Above photos from CanadianChia.

And saw some amazing things.

  CASHMERE ROVING. IT FEELS LIKE CLOUDS.

And when it comes to shopping, I made out like a bandit this year. A bandit who pays for all their loot, but a bandit nonetheless.

Everything there was just SO AWESOME this year. More awesome than it already normally is. Plus I got more back that I thought I would with my tax return, so happy early birthday to me.

Here is the pile, in all its glory:

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And now for the breakdown, minus the Addi Turbos and the Indigodragonfly project bag with the hilarious print.

First we have some beautiful lace weight. Seriously, the picture does not do the emerald tones of this skein justice. It’s Shalimar Yarn‘s Breathless Lace in Loden. Handpainted! 850 yds! $30! 😀

I plan on making this beauty with it.

Then I stopped by a family-owned farm‘s stall and grabbed me some more hand painted goodness:

Once again, my camera does not do the deep hues of this yellow any justice. I normally don’t go for yellows, but it was so gorgeous it had to come home with me.

The Black Lamb (another local yarn producer) had this at their booth:

Merino mixed with angora rabbit! Get in my shopping bag now please!

Then at the booth for Gateway Fibreworks (another local outfit that makes yarn from Ontario alpacas – noticing a “local” theme yet?) I saw this skein, the last one they had of it’s colourful yet undyed (these are natural alpaca fleece colours) kind and had to have it.

While I was there I grabbed these mini skeins because alpaca mini skeins.

I’m thinking it should be enough for fingerless gloves.

So that’s it for the local fibres. I had planned on buying only local, normally-hard-to-get-your-hands-on stuff, but then…

Classic Elite Yarns Provence on sale for 30% off at EweKnit‘s booth.

Since I needed some DK weight cotton for this vest, I figured I might as well buy it while it’s on sale.

This Habu skein was also 50% off at Unraveled. I’ve always wanted to try Habu (the ones that brought you yarns made from paper, steel, and etc) and at this price for a little skein I figured why not?

It’s called Kibiso silk. It may not look very silky, but that’s because it is actually made from the waste silk, which is the fuzzy bits on the surface one gets when you reel silk from a cocoon.

And last, but not least, we have this skein from Skein (har har). When I saw it at Shall We Knit‘s booth, I had to have it. It’s just so different. The colourway is Tuscany.

I also got a good deal on hand carders from Gemini Fibres. I’ll need them if I ever actually start spinning.

Speaking of starting spinning, I’ve taken a step in the right direction! I took Barb Aikman’s class on the Sunday of the Frolic.

I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s a start. I had trouble with the single treadle I was using, so a fellow student was kind enough to let me try her Ashford Joy2. Muuuuch better.

…aaand now I want an Ashford Joy2. It’s a beautiful machine.

But, before I can think of that, or use all this new yarn that is burning a hole in my stash, I must finish the baby knitting (yes, there is still another set of these:

as well as a blanket to go) plus the shawl I’ve started for myself:

I think I needed to finally make something for myself. People are starting to ask why I knit so much but hardly wear any knitwear :S

Luckily this shawl is in worsted weight, so hopefully it won’t take too long.

For the love of yarn

It’s been officially over a month since my last post. It was the holiday season and I was furiously knitting, crocheting, and sewing, so I make no apologies. More to come on those adventures soon. For now I’ll continue on the topic of my being a process knitter, or “knitting for knitting’s sake,” lest things get disjointed.

More proof of my process bent can be found in the fact that I recently got a copy of this in the mail:

One of EZ‘s best, but perhaps most esoteric works. Lots of great patterns and knitting advice next to divergent stories about her life. Because of this, some find it tedious and lacking in enough patterns to be “worth it.” Yet I find her life supremely interesting: her stories of first learning to knit as a child, how this creative spark later translated into going to school for fine art and into starting her own knitting related business, how she loved to create clothes for her family and ended up passing her passion on to her daughter Meg. To me it’s inspiring.

Let’s be frank, my love for “Knitting Around” isn’t just proof of my being a process knitter, it also exemplifies the extend of my nerdiness. Take, for example, this other tome I bought (I use tome judiciously – it is rather large):

As this review states, the book is a sort of social history told through mittens. It is a collection of traditional knitting patterns and the stories behind them. Robin Hansen “gathered them from authoritative sources in New England, the Canadian Maritimes and Scandinavia—from knitters who are grandmothers, fishermen, lumberjacks and farmers, men and women, and who learned them from parents, aunts and neighbors.”

Does this kind of talk get the interests of you guys piqued, or is it just me?

As a side note, Hansen also wrote Sunny’s Mittens (which I’ve written about previously) and this other kid’s book I just stumbled across:

As a knitter, history lover, and children’s librarian, I heart you Ms. Hansen.

The same author appeared mentioned in another book I’ve read lately:

The author, Gwen Steege has put together a great compilation of things you need to know to be a knitter who can truly say she knows her craft. In it she mentions Hansen’s “Favourite Mittens” and talks at length about her work on twined knitting:

“Twined knitting was used throughout northern Europe and the Middle East whenever a firm, flat edging was needed, such as on scooped necklines or stocking caps. Today it turns up in eastern European and Middle Eastern knitting as a decorative edging, often called ‘braided edging’, although the effect of the two-color twined purl is more like a series of sideways chevrons than braid. The apparent reason for twined knitting’s demise in many regions has to do with the spread of the German or continental method of knitting in much of Europe… In twined knitting two strands are worked alternately, usually two ends of the same (quite small) ball. The strand for the present stitch is brought consistently either under or over the strand just used, creating a half-twist between stitches… The knit side is typically quite flat and firm, and the fabric has only slight elasticity… Although working twined knitting initially seems slow, the resulting fabric is firm, warm, and durable and, depending on the yarn and ornamentation, can also be quite elegant.”

A great tutorial on twined knitting by Knitty can be found here.

Since books seems to be the theme (yet again) I have to share this other recent acquirement (sales! all sales! I swear!) :

By the great Margaret Radcliffe, this is hands-down the best book on colour knitting I’ve seen.

Lastly, I need to share this:

“From the neo-feudalistic slubs, the corn-filled world of Tane’s youth, to his apprenticeship among the deadly saleswarriors of Seattlehama–the sex-and-shopping capital of the world–to the horrors of a polluted Antarctica, Yarn tells a stylish tale of love, deceit, and memory. Tane Cedar is the master tailor, the supreme outfitter of the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful. When an ex-lover, on the run from the authorities, asks him to create a garment from the dangerous and illegal Xi yarn–a psychedelic opiate–to ease her final hours, Tane’s world is torn apart. Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine, and his wits, Tane journeys through the shadowy underworld where he must untangle the deadly mysteries and machinations of decades of deceit.”

Um, awesome? It’s on my to-read list.

ADDENDUM: while on the topic of nerdy knitting things, I just found this post on knitting in Shakespeare by fellow blogger Katknit. “I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit” – I might have to use that in my wedding vows…

Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

It is no secret that I have a passion for traditional and historical information on both knitting and fibre art in general. Arans, Guernseys, Fair Isle, Dutch knitting, Peruvian knitting, Bosnian knitting, Shepherd’s knitting and crochet, Turkish socks, and medieval knitting and spinning have all featured in my blog at some point. Examples include this post and this post and this post and this post. Well, it’s been a few months since such a post, and I’ve a) found some new crafts to share, and b) have some updates to the ones I’ve discussed before and to my recources. Excited? So am I!

I’ll start with a wonderful recent post from a fellow Toronto blogger (who also happens to run Wise Daughters) on her great aunts’ samplers and the emotional connection we have to tradition and herilooms.

I was perhaps most excited to find out about the ancient art of nålebinding. Nålebinding is a Danish word literally meaning “binding with a needle” or “needle-binding”, also spelled naalbinding, nålbinding or naalebinding. In English it is known as “knotless netting,” “knotless knitting,” or “single needle knitting” according to Wikipedia and this blogger. It is a predecesor to knitting that was used by the Vikings and employed only one needle. I have a large list of links indexed in my Delicious account if you’re interested in finding out more. This is what it looks like:

Click mittens photo to see more. Heck, click it to see a whole lot more pretty pictures of Northern European reconstructionist living. Including lots of textiles. I’m seriously drooling a little bit right now… Here’s the permalink to the photographer’s Flickr.

Nålebinding techniques were not limited to the Vikings. Many cultures used single-needle tools to make knitted-like fabric. Some of the different stitch styles can be found in my Delicious links, as mentioned above. It is still practiced in parts of Peru. They use it to make bracelets. It used to be used for hats like these before knitting needles were introduced:

Speaking of Peru, I found another great article on textiles in that country in an issue of Twist Collective.

Nålebinding was even practiced in ancient Egypt too, where these socks are from.

Did you know that true knitting, meaning the less sloppy two stick variety, started in Egypt? At least that is where the earliest example has been found, dating to about 1000 CE. Knitty has a good overview of the beginnings of our favourite craft here.

I also need to share Kate Davies’ blog with you. I mentioned her, though not by name, in my Storytelling and Fibre Art post as a source for info on Estonian knitting. Little did I know the treasure-trove I had stumbled across. Suffice it to say she is a historian specializing in textiles who publishes her own e-zine called Textisles. She’s where I found out about the Irish Hands book I discuss below.

Antique pattern library is another amazing recource I recently stumbled across while trying to help a patron at work find J.P. Coates’ filet crochet book on insertions by Anne Champe Orr from 1910. It has hundred of now public domain pattern books available as pdf downloads. My iPad is now full of ’em. I’ve also been pinning all kinds of other free, public domain patterns on my History and Folklore of Crafts and Vintage boards on Pinterest since then…

Another cool resource I’m glad I found is this great site by Gordon Reid on the history and creation of ganseys and guernseys. He led me to this book:

Cornish Guernseys & Knit-Frocks by Mary Wright. It’s short, but absolute perfection. Read it. Now.

The beautiful free wool I recently acquired from a generous de-stashing friend, which you may remember from this post, got me interested in the mill it came from – Briggs and Little in New Brunswick. They pride themselves on being Canada’s oldest woolen mill and use only Canadian pure wool. They have also published a book called Knits from the North Country that I would really like to get my hands on. Alas, it’s quite expensive and a little too obscure for libraries to carry. Maybe one day…

Speaking of Canadian knitwear…

I recently took out Sylvia Olsen‘s Working With Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater from the library and am quite impressed so far.

Ms. Olsen has also written a very charming advanced picture book on the subject called Yetsa’s Sweater:

Index

Speaking of Canadian traditions, I want to include Marilyn I. Walker’s Ontario Heritage Quilts. It isn’t knitting related, but it’s still a handicraft and many knitters quilt and quilters knit, so there. I was just excited to find out we even have heritage quilts in Ontario.

Another book I’ve been coveting is Annemor Sundbø‘s Invisible Threads in Knitting. It is essentially her richly illustrated musings on knitting history based on years spent, and treasures found, in the Torridal Tweed factory she acquired in the the early 1980s. Unfortunately it is mysteriously hard to find. Unlike her other, very popular, books, this one is only available for sale through her website. The large format and glossy photos also help to make it rather expensive. Luckily, Ottawa Public Library owns a copy, so I put in a request with my library to borrow it from them (called an inter-library loan). This is why Worldcat is my friend :). My review? The accuracy of all of the information is suspect (Sundbø does repeatedly remind the reader that these are her personal observations), but still highly worth a read. She’s one of knitting’s gurus, afterall.

Irish Hands by Sybil Connolly is the book that Kate Davies recommended. It is full of information and beautiful photography. And it’s not all romantic Celtic knot work. Sybil Connolly was (she sadly passed in 1998) Ireland’s grand dame of textiles – she knew her stuff. Since it’s an older book, it is very easy to find copies of this on used book sites for quite cheap.

I’ve mentioned Nicki Epstein’s wonderful Knitting on Top of the World in pervious posts. I recently was given a copy of Lela Nargi’s Knitting Around the World and must say it gives Epstein’s work a pretty good run for its money. I think it actually has more historical information than Epstein’s does.

B.T. Batsford Publishing’s “Complete Book of Traditional…” series is older, but also worth a look (though I’m not a fan of the Aran one).

Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor

Aran Knitting by Shelagh Hollingworth

Scandinavian Knitting by Sheila McGregor

Traditional Knitting by Rae Compton

Speaking of Scandinavian knitting, another great book is Annemor Sundbø’s Norwegian Mittens and Gloves.

Index

There is also this really cute little book by Robin Hansen called Sunny’s Mittens. Similar to Yetsa’s Sweater, it is a picture books about a girl learning to knit from her grandmother. However in this story, they are making Swedish folk mittens called Lovikka mittens.

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A pair of Lovikka mittens:

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Finally, we have Wrapped in Lace: Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World by Margaret Stove. Though Interweave Press is often critiqued for the historical accuracy of some of the books it publishes, I have to say that it looks like Stove has really done her research in this one. Plus, the creations throughout are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

And that’s a wrap! (Sorry, bad pun). All of the resources I’ve used can be found not only in the posts concerning them, but also on my links page as well.