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.

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.

Books

I’ve been writing about knitting a lot lately, and technically this blog is supposed to also be related to the fact that I am a librarian. So, without further ado, some book-ish things (though some of it is still yarn-related, but I digress) :

The Toronto Public Library’s Arthur Conan Doyle Collection recently acquired an autograph notebook. This item was purchased from someone who found it at a flea market in England.

What makes this find so interesting is that it seems to have belonged to two children with the last name Cubitt. On one of its pages they concocted a unique code using images of dancing stick figures.

This was in 1902. In 1903 Doyle signed the book for the children.

What is interesting is that in that same year Doyle published his Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” and Holmes’ client in the story bears the last name Cubitt. Additionally, Doyle is said to have gotten the idea for this inventive code after seeing some stick-figure letters drawn by a young boy in an autograph book. Intriguing, wouldn’t you say? Full story here.

Sometimes I wish I worked in a collection like the Doyle Collection. For one, I’m a nerd who likes history and having the responsibility of preserving it, but another reason is that it would get me out of public service.

Don’t get me wrong, 90% of the time I like it. You get your difficult patrons, of which there have been many of late for some reason, but the good experiences make up for it. And I’m too social a person to be content hiding behing books all day. It’s just that this coming week I have my first class visit :S

I love doing storytimes for the kiddos, and have been doing that for almost two years, but this is another level. It’s not just fun and games, read them books, teach them songs, and just get across that literacy = fun. I have to talk about what the library is and offers… to 5 year olds. Do they even know what “borrow” means? Probably not. I need to remember to explain absolutely everything, but as simply and non-boringly as possible. And their teachers will be watching. Adults are so much harder to please than kids…

This brings me to this new book I’m quite impressed with:

Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuburger has been giving me lots of ideas of things to try next week. It might just save my bacon…

And now for the latest editions to books-Erin-shouldn’t-be-buying-but-did:

Sewing Basics : All You Need to Know About Machine and Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell I am hoping will answer all of my myriad of questions as I enter the netherworld of sewing machine use. By the look of things, it will:

That's a lot of types of machine feet...

So excited for Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson, which I scored for $10. Priscilla also wrote this other gem, which I wrote about here. It’s not flashy, but it is packed with information. If you are at all interested in textile history, this is one you should pick up.

I got these two books at the Creativ Festival today, where I modelled for the fashion show displaying local designers, organized by Creative Yarns. It was a lot of fun and very inspiring (we have a lot of talent in Toronto). Off to bed now for round two and more shopping tomorrow.

I leave you with the progress I’ve made on my fingerless gloves WIP…

and Ozzy the alpaca.

And as a bonus for making it to the end of this post, have some free book plates I’ve pinned on Pinterest. Cheers!

Ewes-ful information

Lookit! My last entry got noticed by Geek & Sundry. Thanks for mentioning me, guys 🙂

Speaking of things that are both geeky and awesome, I am very excited about something a friend showed me on Patrick Rothfuss’ website:

This is totally what I wear to work... I do want those shoes, however. In flats...

Speaking of work, I stumble across this post on Tumblr, which sums up why I’ve decided I want to persue work as a children’s specialist:

Sidenote: I have recently become rather obsessed with Tumblr (in addition to Pinterest…) Follow me!

The full quote, from Neil Gaiman (who else?):

“Stories that you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely visit.” ~ from M is for Magic

Something else library related that I think will make your day:

Recently, a library customer left her laptop at the bus stop outside a library. Another library customer found the laptop and took it into the library, on the assumption that the owner might return to the library to look for it.

That’s exactly what happened. The owner took a cab back to the library and found the laptop waiting for her there. She left the note above for her anonymous saviour on the bus stop hydro pole, thanking him/her and relaying the cabbie’s similar story that he shared during the cab ride.

After a shitty day at work, with printer problems, kids breaking the elevator, and grumpy old men being indignant over having to prove they still live in the municipality once a year (“I’ve lived here for 40 years! I’m not moving any time soon.” Well that’s great sir, but I have no way of knowing that and unfortunately your word is not going to cut it with the Public Libraries Act) I really needed to read something like that 🙂

The CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) ended on labour day weekend. Here is a round-up of yarn and fibre-related goodness. Sorry, they’re cell phone pictures…

The Peru booth of hand-knits and crafts was a stop I had to make.

A close-up of the 100% alpaca coat. The fibres were more glorious in real life.

Incredibly detailed kids and baby sweaters.

This fantastic crochet top, I mean lady, sat in front of me at the talk by Richard Palmisano on hauntings at the CNE grounds.

These three pics below are of a display on sheep at the Farm Building ❤

Actual sheep!

This llama was not impressed with my taking her picture.

Alpacas with funny haircuts.

And now I’m off to finally start work on my shrug. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

I know I’ve been rebloging lately, but I’ve bee loving reading this vivid photographic journey through Peru focusing on it’s rich textile culture, so I had to share. The author’s company, LN|, sells items that are hand-knitted & hand-crocheted, in Belgium as well as in Peru. In her own words, “whereas in Belgium my beloved co-workers are grannies, in Peru they are young mothers who find themselves in difficult familial situations and rough living circumstances. There is a lot of unemployment in Ayacucho, making it difficult to create a good economy. That’s why good-cause organization Solid International, founded in 2000, tries to create employment and better living conditions by combining knowhow and experience from a team of experts. It has no use to just give money to the poor, which is in no means sustainable. Solid tries to find small employees to create employment, and so me, LN|, is one of them.”

Awesome, no?

LN|Knits

Finally, back to writing. We have been extremely busy these past few days. The busier, the better, so we like!

Let’s start off with day 16. Last Wednesday was the first day that me and Griet had to work apart from each other. Griet is namely not only here in order to take stunning pictures for LN|Andes and LN|Beanies, but also for Solid International. So in the morning she went to the ‘campo’, and I finally had some time to sit down and work. And so I did, in the sun, on the terrace, it’s not bad working here I must say!

In the afternoon I was hunting delicious pies since I wanted to do and bring something for my beloved young girls and elegant ladies. Armed with which I recon 4kg of Peruvian pie I headed towards DIA to participate in a second workshop and, of course, to…

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Storytelling and fibre art

The weekend before last, I had the opportunity to take a course through Storytelling Toronto. It was a great learning experience, and to my surprise I was able to successfully complete the weekend’s goal of learning and telling an oral story. I chose this story, one close to my heart as a nerd where Celtic myth is concerned.

One the way home on the Saturday, I got to thinking about the tradition of storytelling. Of our mostly illiterate ancestors, sitting around fires or hearths and passing on their oral history with a dual goal of entertainment on long winter nights and establishing cultural memory. Often they did this while engaging in handicrafts that were necessary in order to food and clothe the village.

This made me wonder if there were myths and legends featuring knitting, weaving, or spinning. If so, how many? How are these crafts portrayed? In my research, I came across some interesting resources:

This page on allfiberarts.com features a pretty decently extensive list of myths featuring fibre arts, complete with links to the myths themselves.

 

 

I also enjoyed this blogger’s post on the knitting Huldra character from the folklore of Norway.

 

Speaking of the northern reaches of Europe, here is a great piece, featuring gorgeous photographs, on the traditional folk costumes of Scandinavia, which of course features lots of knitwear. They even have a book available on the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course, one can’t talk about European knitting traditions without mentioning Estonian textiles. Nancy Bush’s seminal book on the subject is something every knitter should read, in my opinion, but the essays of  this blogger makes for pretty good reading as well.

There is of course a rich knitting history in the British Isles too. Here are some great sites on the art of Fair Isle, Arans, and Guernseys.

Heading around the world now to the Andes of Peru, no tour of knitting culture would be complete without mentioning the rich textile tradition found there. I could not find as much knit-related folklore from the area (not in English anyway), but this photographic travelogue richly illustrates the vibrant culture and mentions some folk traditions, as do the essays located here and here.

 

The Folk Knitting Flickr group has a great bibliography of books on folk knit patterns and history on the bottom of their description page. Being a librarian of course, I have a few gems I would like to add.

1) Folk Knits: Traditional Patterns from Around the World by Melinda Coss. It’s out of print and hard to get your hands on, but a few patterns can be found on this Flickr user‘s account, mostly on the 2nd and 3rd pages.

2) Knitting on Top of the World by Nicky Epstein

 

 

 

And on a related (to knitting, folklore not so much), the Toronto Star published this article on the rise of the knitting commuter on the weekend. I was so pleased 😀

It’s been a good week

So, if there is some delay in future posts and knitting projects, this is why…

———- ————– ——— ———— ————- —————— —————— —————- ————— ———— ———– ——— ———- – —— – ———- ————- ————– —————- ———— ———— ————– ————– ————– ———— ————— ———— ————– ————– ———— ————- ————— ————— ————— ————– ———– ————– ————— –   – – His name is Desmond (after much deliberating), he’s 7 mos, and he’s the biggest suck I’ve ever encountered.

Unfortunately he also seems to have a taste for yarn already. We’ll have to work on that… — – – – –  – – – – – – ———– ————- ————– ———– ————- ————— – —— —— ————– —————- —————– —————– —————– —————– —————————- ————- ————— ————- —————— ————————

In other news, I caved and bought an interchangeable set.

And to help assuage guilt, I am attempting to sell my old needles. Tell your friends!

————– ——— – –   ———— ————– —— – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – ————- —————     ——————     ——————————    ————- —————– ————– ———— —————– ——————————– ————- ——– ——– —– ——— —— ——- ——– ——- ———- ———- ——— ——— – ——————– ——————— ————————- ——————————- — ———— — Speaking of old. Check out what my Grandma found and gave to me over the weekend! (I’m referring to the books, not my Grandma of course. Love you Grandma!)

Notice the 50 cent price tag!

Grandma said she remembers making a sweater with this bear motif on it for my uncle when he was a baby. I love that it’s still around.

The Granny Squares one is so awesomely 70s. Would be worthy of appearing in the Museum of Kitschy Stitches. Then again, they have been making a comeback in recent years, albeit in rebooted form.

——————- —————– ————- ———— ————— —————– —————- ———————- ——————- —————– ——— — – – — – – – — — – — – —— — —— ——– ———– ———- ——– —– —— – — – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – —

One final sharing: here is the back cover ad from Granny Squares.

I especially love the line “it takes a very special yarn to make a sweater that can be handed down to every kid in the family.”

Not that, you know, it’s every younger child’s source of embarrassment or anything. Naw, they’ll love it!