"Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber." Proverbs 31:19 NLT

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Mother Once Knitted Some Love

I was looking through the book My Grandmother's Knitting by Larissa Brown.It's such a lovely book with stories from various knitters/designers, some famous (i.e. Meg Swanson) and some not as much, about memories of family knitting - a dear read. The last portion is of knitting patterns, some vintage.

At the end of the introduction the author says, "I'm sure you have family memories as vivid as the ones retold on these pages. When I close my eyes, I can see Nanny and her summerhouse so clearly, from the big mimosa tree that we climbed and the pebbly front yard to the the fringed blankets on the pull-out couch. I can hear her voice telling me how to move my hands to form purls or eyelets, or exclaiming that I'll "'ruin my eyes' with the dark-colored yarn I preferred. And I can see her hands - lined like mine are becoming now - holding her cool metal needles. Close your eyes.  What do you see?"

So I did.  I closed my eyes and what I saw surprised me, and made my eyes cloud up a bit. I saw a pair of dark lavender knitting needles, 12 inches, size 2 and a little variegated green hat laying next to them. Those 2 items are in a neat little box tucked inside a drawer in my spare bedroom/craft room.

I was 6 years old and in the first grade in Muncie, Indiana. We lived a few blocks from Garfield School and I walked to and from school every day AND home and back for lunch. The first memory I have of that little hat is getting home from school one day for lunch and Mom being very excited that she had finished my hat.  It was green variegated wool. It is a bit itchy and I've never liked green too much. But at 6 years old, you don't really know those things.  I don't think my mom loves green either, so why she picked that yarn, we can't tell. Maybe someone gave it to her. I'm thinkin' it might have been Lion Brand back before acrylic was very common.

At any rate, it must have been a chilly day because she could hardly wait for me to put it on and wear it back to school. I suppose I ate lunch but I don't remember.

I was about 5 here but you can see all the doilies.
She did the pop bottles and starch thing.
What is amazing about this scenario is that my mom was an avid crochet-er. She still crochets from time-to-time but back then, she crocheted doilies by the dozens and sometimes sold them. 

My mother took this photo for her mother who lived 300 miles away.
After Grandma saw this, she told my mom, "Don't let those
children starve because of all your crocheting."

We always had lots of finely knitted, lacy doilies on our end tables and dresser tops and any other viable surface. Her mother had done the same and had taught my mother how to crochet. But that little green hat was the only thing my mom ever KNITTED.

As you may be able to see, the hat was garter stitch. She only knew the knit stitch, never learned to purl. And she had no pattern and knew nothing of decreasing so she just kind of gathered up the edges with thread and then sewed little braided ties to the ends.

I never cared for the look crocheted garments had in those days so when I was about 12, I wanted to learn to knit.  Mom didn't know any knitters so she dug up an old set of short, wooden knitting needles with one tip broken. She barely remembered the simple cast on and showed me how to do that and the knit stitch. She could not, however, give me any guidance as I struggled along. I remember knitting so tightly that I had to push the needle back out of each stitch with my left "pointer" and had a very sore fingertip! My one and only project for many years was that bright red head band on which I struggled to learn to knit. Don't know what ever happened to that thing but I do remember wearing it.

Years later in my late 20's, after I was spinning yarn, I realized I needed to learn to do something with the yarn, forgetting I had ever knitted. I had been meeting with the local spinning guild where most of the group were knitters. Someone showed me how she knitted on her project and so the next day I bought a set of needles to try what she showed me. The casting on came back to the forefront of my memory.  And then the knit stitch. At first I was impressed with myself at how easily I was learning to knit.  I mean, I must be some sort of genius or something. Until I had a flashback of those broken wooden needles and my garter stitched headband.  Eventually someone in the spinning group told me to do the opposite of the knit stitch and I'd have a purl.

(Even though I have stated that I don't care for green, I have in my possession some Lion Brand variegated green yarn, 100% acrylic, I might add, along with some Lion Brand black to knit one of our grandsons [whose favorite color is green] a Faire Isle hat for Christmas this year!)

Mom laughs with embarrassment now whenever we talk about the little green hat and then always adds, "I just wanted my little girl's ears to be warm." I suppose it all started back when my non-knitting mother once knitted me up some love.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Toasty Toes

I've knitted for probably 32 years but didn't make my first socks until 2 years ago. I had knitted a vest out of hand spun from some processed merino roving that I purchased from Susan's Fiber Shop. It's a great little bag of fiber called Gummi Worms. She usually has it in stock.  (For more on Susan's shop, click here.)

 I spun it up and plyed it with processed merino dyed navy blue: 

When the vest was finished it was too wide, not from a gauge mistake but an apparent over-estimation of my backside. So I pulled it all out AS I KNITTED a great little hat for a friend and a pair of socks for myself. (I had never knitted one garment directly from another one.) I still have enough for another pair of socks or some other little project.

The sock pattern was from Knit Socks by Betsy Lee McCarthy, page 40, Fireside Stripes. We were going on a long road trip and I was determined to make socks. I decided to take my own advice. When people say, "I can knit but I can't read directions," I say, "Just go one step at a time. Don't look ahead to get overwhelmed, just go step by step." I thought, "I can make socks if I just take it step by step." So that's what I did. I was amazed at how the heel just sort of appeared by simply following the directions. And here's the end result.

Right away, my son wanted a pair. The yarn I used for his pair was some I had spun with natural colored corriedale wool and, at some point, needed some black yarn for something-or-another. The only black dye I had on hand was RIT dye! But all I got was a medium/darkish gray, although, my son insisted it was purple!  However, let it be known that I would not recommend RIT for wool - the result was not satisfactory and the yarn went unused until I needed yarn for this second pair of socks. (Side note - with each washing, the socks get lighter. There is nothing wrong with light gray socks that are becoming natural colored again. But the dye has been neither color fast nor predictable.)

With all that said, these corriedale socks are wonderfully soft and absorbent, despite the color changes.

I love making socks. Even more, I love wearing soft wool socks. In these long Wisconsin winters, toasty toes are a nice commodity.

I've done a little reading and apparently the Civil War soldiers agreed with me, home made wool socks are the best.  That is another soon-coming post.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another Wrap - "Everyday Wrap"

I just finished another wrap. However, this one was started before the last one was ever started. This one is very easy but once you've gotten it stitched together, you have to pick up stitches to make the ruffle. I sort of stalled at that point and made this shawl instead. Once I had completed the Faraway, So Close shawl, I thought I better not leave this unfinished project laying around. I might need the needles.

I first saw the Everyday Wrap on Pinterest and then located it here on Ravelry. It looked so elegant but everyone said it was easy.

I had some yarn I had gotten on eBay that was shipped from Turkey. I had another project in mind for it - a shawl woven on a triangular loom. But when I got the yarn, it was sooooo thin, weight #1, that I wasn't sure what to do with it.

I had tried it with a lace pattern but soon discovered the piece was knitting up very small. I know I'm a tight knitter but this was ridiculous. I looked closely at the tiny label and discovered that the yarn had 30% Kid Mohair, 45% Merino Wool, 10% Viscose, 10% Polyester AND 5% ELASTAN!  HAHA on me! It is very nice yarn, however, and I like the ice blue color AND the stretch. So I decided to try it with the Everyday Wrap. I just cast on 60 stitches instead of the 52 in the pattern. (It would have been better with 70 stitches, I think.) You knit a long 48 inch rectangle, bring it together as directed by the pattern, stitch it up and then pick up the number of stitches you cast on and begin knitting the ruffle. Ah, the ruffle - isn't it just simply delicious:

It is knitted onto those picked up stitches in stockinette but every knit side, you K1 in front and back, thereby doubling the number of stitches every other row. On Pinterest one of the comments was that the ruffle should be knit a bit longer so that's what I did - just two extra rows, which gave me 480 stitches before I bound off. But by doubling the stitches again and again, it just formed into this ruffle. I suppose that's not news to most knitters. But I'd never done that and was so pleased with the results.

Oh, and because of the elastic yarn, I still did not get the piece to the prescribed dimensions of 13" wide.  But, because of the elastic yarn, I was able to use a lot of pins and block it to the correct width. (It is blocked before you seam it up and make the ruffle.)  I'm very pleased with it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wrap Me Up, Too

A previous post of mine was about this fabulous shawl that I was working on. I finished it Thursday evening and put it on the blocking board (actually an old blanket with an old, heavy Christmas throw on top)

So by this morning (Saturday) it is GOOD TO GO! I'm pretty excited about it, it is so nice. To recap my previous post, I purchased Faraway, So Close, a shawl pattern at Carina Spencer.com. There are a lot of great patterns at the website. The yarn I used is Plymouth Yarn, Encore Colorspun and the color is #7518 - Jolly Rancher.

The pattern calls for size 10 needles but I didn't work out a gauge swatch for a shawl. However, knowing that I knit on the tight side, I just used 10.5 needles.  There are two lengths on the pattern and I did the longer one.

As previously mentioned, I almost lost it when I got to YO2, YO3 and, of all things, DROP stitches!! I just...can't...drop...a...dear...stitch. Once I composed myself, I remembered good ol' You Tube and found this video. It was wonderfully instructive and I then understood what I'd be doing. Not that it was super easy, mind you. The first set of multiple YO's and dropped stitches on what would be the shorter shawl was a piece of cake. But, have I mentioned that you increase by 4 stitches every front side row. So, by the time I was doing the fifth and final drop stitch pattern, there were 245 stitches. And the T.V. was on. And my husband and son were both quite talkative that evening. I had to rip out that section TWICE!  I certainly was tempted to leave my mistakes and go on. I mean, I was so close to the end. But sanity prevailed and I GOT IT RIGHT...the third time. It was the charm!! Well, actually, it was a lot of concentration.  (I should mention that you aren't really dropping stitches.  You drop the multiple wraps of the YO2's and 3's from the previous row, which gives you the wavy effects.)

Getting to the end point of the shorter length was very fast. The longer length became a bit tedious because, by the end of the edging, there are 403 stitches, but it really didn't take very long. It did help that I've had a stomach bug all week and I sat around a lot. It would have taken longer if I only worked evenings on it. Nevertheless, it goes much quicker than you would think.

This picture is when I was just 2 rows short of being finished.  

It looks small and just feels like a blob of yarn on your lap.  I used my circular needle set and had the 2 longest lengths together for a loooong circular needle. Here it is while blocking. The metal "rod" is a yard stick.
You can see the dropped stitch sections. The shorter version ends with the section just above the last 2-row lace section. At that point you would begin the edging. On this longer version, the edging begins with the last 1-row lace section (the single row of yo's is the first row of the edging.)

And here is the finished product taken just this morning.

It may not look too spring-y or Easter-y. But we do live up here in Wisconsin...and it has been cold. I just may wear it tomorrow morning to church when we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and our chance for eternal life.  :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Love of Spinning

If a woman is married to a man and she dies. Then he gets married again, are his new wife and his late wife related? They may not be but somehow, in the events of life that follow, the new wife may very well be related to the remaining family members. At least in the heart.

This story is about that very thing. You see, when my husband, Dean, and his late wife first got married in 1987 (for the second time each), they began attending the church that I attended with my late husband and boys. Dean's two children lived with them (one, a 16 year old boy), so they left promptly after the service each Sunday - to feed the kids, I'm thinking. As a result, I did not get to know Judy for a couple of years. Dean was always just "Judy's husband" to me and we may have never said anything to each other in those years. Maybe a "Hi" in the foyer. Maybe.  

Unknown to me and shortly after they were married, Judy's Swedish mother gave her a family treasure she had stashed up in her attic. It was a Swedish spinning wheel from her grandmother and Dean believes it was brought to "the new country" from Sweden. Judy was hoping to be able to spin with it.

Now one day shortly after that, maybe in 1989, I was demonstrating spinning at the county fair during the sheep show. None of the other ladies in my spinning group could make it that day so I was there alone, in the middle of a sand floored metal building with the sheep ring all down at one end. It might have looked a bit strange and I was feeling slightly out-of-place. But all of a sudden I heard my name, looked up and there was Judy and Dean watching me spin. Judy was very excited to learn that I was a spinner since she was hoping to learn the craft.  

She came to our next monthly spinning get-together with her beloved antique wheel. But we found that it was a flax wheel with a teeny-tiny orifice and it was a bit creaky and grumpy, as old peopl...er...things get. The wheel was better left as an heirloom.

They began looking to buy a newer one for a reasonable price. Stopping one day after work at the late GREAT Weaving Workshop in Madison, WI they found on the bulletin board, an ad for a used wheel for sale at $50.00. 

They found a solid walnut, handcrafted wheel made by a person named R. Pessig. How do I know this, you ask. The name AND address is stamped on the bottom. Long story short, they bought it, Dean was able to make the orifice on it much bigger with a bit of copper pipe and Judy began learning to spin.  

And she LOVED it! Judy had been a single mother for many years and had to work very hard to support her and her growing daughter. I don't know what all she had for jobs but by the time she met Dean, she was a corporate fund raiser with InterVarsity. Her daughter was in college by then but Judy had quite a high pressured job. Spinning was just "the ticket" for her to relax. She thoroughly enjoyed the process and made very "thick & thin yarn," the stuff we pay big bucks for.   

I became good friends with Judy when we went to the Wisconsin State Spin-In in about 1992.  It was "up north" somewhere, maybe Phillips, and we got a little log lodge for the weekend. After that, we shared many good times together, working on various church committees and, of course, spinning.  I never really spoke to Dean until both of our spouses had passed away.

But I have, and her family has, very fond memories of the joy that spinning brought to Judy. We have just one picture of her at her spinning wheel.

The few items she knitted with her hand spun, I've since given to her daughter as, in her daughter's words, "gifts from Mom." But I did find some wool she had bought and spun it up for a hat for Dean's daughter and a scarf for Judy's daughter.

I don't have pictures of those items either.  boo-hoo  But I have one last photo: while Judy was still alive, my sister-in-law, who was also Judy's sister-in-law  :)  took some of Judy's hand spun and knitted a little teddy bear for Dean.  

We can all spin memories, with or without a wheel.  But wheels make it very nice.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Love Does Not Die

I buried Richard, the husband of my youth, on my 47th birthday. He had been sick with prostate cancer for a year, with a very aggressive cell type but didn't appear extremely sick until his last couple of months. That kept us optimistic, despite the statistics of a man his age. As a physician, he knew his chances better than I did. But as we, my sons and I, saw him go down hill, we feared what we saw. That did, however, give us a chance to prepare for what we were observing and it allowed me to accept his death with a bit of grace and preparation. As 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, we do not need "to grieve as those who have no hope." I was with him when he died and I had a very strong impression of him going up, up and into the arms of Jesus Christ. Richard had a strong faith and there was such comfort in that.

I got remarried again fairly soon, too soon for some who thought it meant that I never loved the father of my children. On the contrary. Death cannot kill love. Dreams may die, plans, hopes, lifestyles all may die, or at least change, when loved ones die. But not love. Death is much different from other separations, such as divorce in one very important way: those left behind are not left with memories of hostility, arguments, hatred, resentment. You are left with memories, not all perfect memories but a lot of good, happy memories. That can free you to move on, to continue living, if you let it.

I remember in the first day or 2 after Richard's death, having to decide what clothing to take to the funeral home in which to have him buried. My first thought was how much he loved the hand spun sweater/jacket that I had knitted for him in 1986. It was supposed to be a cardigan to wear when he needed to keep the chill out.  But I had spun fairly thick yarn so the sweater got heavier and heavier as I knitted until it was quite clear that this was for outdoor use. He loved it and wore it most days in the springs and falls after it was finished. The year I finished it, I won 1st place at our small county fair.  I don't believe it was the best workmanship entered but by sheer volume, it was chosen.  :) It seemed fitting to 'lay him to rest' in it.

But the thought of burying him in his beloved sweater didn't last long. I realized that it held too many memories to put into the ground with him. In fact, seeing the sweater only brings back the fondest of memories. Memories like, all during the spinning and knitting process, I kept asking him if he wanted pockets. He always insisted that he didn't need them.  Until the sweater was finished. Then he needed pockets. We laughed many times about that. And memories of how proud he was whenever he wore the sweater and people would compliment it.  He would go on to tell them how it came to be. Usually they would react with amazement, which pleased him greatly. I would ask him if they asked of his wife, do "her children arise and call her blessed?" (That didn't come until years later.)  

The sweater to which I refer was in a Leisure Arts Leaflet.  Do they even make those anymore? For reference, it was Leaflet #265, named Shawl Collar Cardigan. Here's the color photo from the leaflet.

I have looked for the pattern to link to but to no avail. It has been almost 30 years. I will gladly scan it and send it via email to anyone wishing it. (Oops, I just heard back from Leisure Arts and it is not legal to reproduce in any format, even though it's no longer in print. If you like the sweater, let me know.)

The yarn I used was spun from a brown corriedale sheep. As you might have guessed if you read a previous post of mine, Knitting Love, I'm rather partial to brown wool. (But I'm not restricted to brown alone!)  Here is the best picture I could get of the small ball of remaining yarn.
It is, I think, slightly thicker than worsted weight but, true to corriedale wool, is a very springy yarn. Love, Love, Love Corriedale.

I believe my oldest son, who is built the most like his dad, will want the sweater when he's older and becomes "more of a sweater guy."  :) In the meantime, Dean, my very tall second husband, who says he isn't "much of a sweater guy" does don the sweater on chilly evenings indoors.
Here's Dean modeling for me.  I love how the corriedale has variations in its fleece.  It shows up as an almost variegated look.

Here's the "Shawl Collar" named in the title of the pattern.

And here's one of the "added later" pockets.  

I'm very glad that I kept the sweater - it just may become an family heirloom one day. At least, for me it is a family treasure.

God bless you,

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy - a day trip

Yesterday hubby and I had to go to Madison, WI so I batted my eyes at him and ask if we could swing on around to Columbus to two of my favorite stops in this neck of the woods: Susan's Fiber Shop and Sassy Cow Creamery. Being that he is such a nice man, he agreed. Actually, the creamery is one of Dean's faves, too. First stop:

Anyone who reads this will think that Susan paid me to endorse her. But she did not. Her shop sells itself and I am going to show you how by several pictures. You walk into the left hand door and immediately you are face-to-face with YARNS and more YARNS. Along with books, spinning wheels, already made knitting projects to highlight special yarns, theme-related jewelry, needles, and on and on. I don't think I have ever been inside a larger yarn/fiber shop. It is a gem of fiber shopping experience and it's tucked away, off the beaten path. You probably need a GPS to find it (address at above link.) Or call her - she can give you directions. (I think she is closed on Thursdays.)

And when you go on toward the back you see an entrance into the older part of the store - a place brimming with FIBER and more FIBER, raw, processed, dyed, whatever you need. And more spinning wheels. And looms. You really have to see it to believe it. Which you are fixin' to do, right here - well as much as a small camera can capture.

 Just the first section of the back.

 See these bags - wool, all raw wool.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Susan goes to many fiber shows but if you happen to go when she's around, you'll see her smiling face. She knows almost everything she carries and is very knowledgeable about what else might be available and how to get it. She tries to find the most reasonable prices to match your needs and wants. A wealth of knowledge. But beware, she is definitely a Type A (AAA).  :)

Here she is showing off her latest coloring technique. She took some of her beloved Teeswater wool and, I don't know, I think she said she used black Wilton cake color, which became 8 different colors and then she sprinkled a bit of ammonia on top, just for interest. I wanted to eat it up, it looked so fabulous.  Click here to see a photo album on the shop's Face Book page.

Wall art some creative person hung from a weaving shuttle.  It is a drop spindle, one of the earliest forms of spinning equipment.  More on that later.

And here is a picture of a part of Susan's Teeswater flock.  They usually greet you with a "baaa" and they are right outside the back door of her shop.  They were recently sheared or else you would see their magnificent fleeces.

Second stop:  Sassy Cow Creamery.  Can't go to Susan's without stopping here.

It's a small building but is full of cheese, milk, butter, fun t-shirts and ICE CREAM, made right there from their sassy cows.  I had my favorite, a waffle cone with cherry, dark chocolate ice cream.  Dean had his fave, butter pecan.  We even brought a gallon of ice cream home.

 I tried to get him between licks - but it was a difficult task.

Sassy cow offers tours of the creamery, in the summer but not very often, so notice the days:
You could call or go to their website for times.  

 A peek through the big window into the creamery.

And one last fun photo.  Notice the names and types of Sundaes.  Cow Sundaes.

It was a fun day.  I even bought some (more) fiber.  ;)  Later post.

God bless you.