The Yarn Documentary

This SXSW Official Selection now has a trailer up for the public. I can’t wait to watch it!

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Maker Bracelets

1) Paracord Emergency Bracelets

I’ve recently fallen in love with paracord. It’s strong (it was designed to be parachute cord) yet not overly thick and comes in bright colours. You can use it to make bracelets out of 8+ feet of cord. So, if you’re ever in an emergency situation just unravel it and you have a lifeline, tow line, or whatever it is you need. These are called “emergency paracord bracelets” and there are lots of tutorials on the Internet on how to make one.

So, when I was trying to think up maker programs that can be done inexpensively in only 45 minutes for our maker club at work, I naturally got to thinking about paracord.

The kids ended up all making one to take home, but in order to make it “maker” I started with an exercise to show them how paracord works and how different knots should be used for different situations. The tutorial that follows is also available on Instructables.

Materials:

  • paracord rope
  • thicker rope (does not matter what kind, by the more slippery the material the better)
  • a bucket with weights in it (we just used paint cans for weights)
  • large print-outs of how to make different knots: buntline hitch, half hitch, square knot, sheet bend, zeppelin bend

1) Have one approximately 2 ft long piece of each type of rope per group of kids (we had them into teams of two, but whatever works)

2) Talk a little bit about what paracord is and give some examples of situations where one would need such a strong rope and need to know which knots to use (i.e.: towing objects, creating a life line to save someone from drowning, etc.)

3) Have the teams decide amongst themselves which knot is best to tie the two pieces of rope together: square knot (not good for anything with weight to it) vs. sheet bend (ropes of unequal size, therefore the right answer) vs. zeppelin bend (two ropes of same size)

4) Have the teams decide amongst themselves which knot is best for tying to the bucket: buntline hitch (best) vs. half hitch (too weak)

5) Let the teams take turns tying one end of their rope to the bucket and hoisting it up by the other end. There should be fairly obvious strain and slippage of the knots if the wrong knot(s) have been used, which you can point out. The team that got the most right wins. In lieu of actual prizes, which we are getting low on, we just let the winning team get first choice of which colour of paracord they wanted to make their bracelet.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this turned out as a program. The kids got really into it, debating which knot they thought would work best, and coming up with testing methods on their own, such as tug-of-war to test the knot’s strength. Definitely maker!

 

2) Bottle Cap Bracelets

In a few weeks from now, we will be having another craft event. It doesn’t have to be maker per see, since the theme is just “art, community, and history,” but I think the program I came up with has some elements of it all the same. We’ll be making personalized bracelets from bottle caps. Participants will be able to get creative and find images that they like or resonate with using donated magazines from a variety of cultures, religions, and interests. After all, diversity and multiculturalism are big part of the community my library is located in.

All I did was take a bottle cap, cut out an image to fit inside and then used mod podge to glue it to the bottom and seal it in. Not surprisingly, I used a scene with sheep as my image for the sample 😛

I then used the metal punch from my jewellery making kit (available for under $20 at most beading or craft stores if you don’t already have one) to poke holes in the side for split or jump rings and simply used rainbow loom elastics to make the bracelet part. You could also use hemp or leather or just link multiple bottle caps together if you have enough of them.

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 nĂ„lebinding. NĂ„lebinding is a Danish word literally meaning “binding with a needle” or “needle-binding”, also spelled naalbinding, nĂ„lbinding 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.

NĂ„lebinding 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.

NĂ„lebinding 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 SundbĂž‘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 (SundbĂž 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 SundbĂž’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.

Index

A pair of Lovikka mittens:

Prodimage_2202

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.