30 March, 2011

Ersatz in the Confederacy

As I told you Saturday, some members of my guild and I went and spun yarn to demonstrate handspinning for the public at a museum that interprets the Confederacy side of the American Civil War.  I'm Canadian and even though I've lived in Virginia for a while now and have even demonstrated spinning at another museum for the same time period, I have only a basic understanding of what went on in daily life.  So I asked for help in getting ready for the demo.  Mary Massey's Ersatz in the Confederacy was recommended to me.  Massey gives a good picture of what went on regarding textile shortages, substitutions, and production.

As it turned out, I got few questions about history and handspun from the onlookers during our handspinning demonstration.  It was good to be able to volunteer snippets of information I learned from the book but as usual my time was largely spent showing the drop spindle in motion and talking about the mechanics of handspun yarn.

Back to Massey's book.  It was mentally and emotionally difficult to read just how unprepared the South was for the switch.  Before the war, they had regular trade and, well, you can't call it importation since they bought from the more industrialized northern states in their own country before the hostilities and embargoes, but anyway, clothing and sheets and stays and shoes brought in from outside their area.  I should qualify that: there was trade for those that had money and choices.  They transitioned to an almost completely collapsed system of outside trade with inadequate home production and materials to take its place.  Made me wince to hear how optimistic they were at the start about ramping up production, and how quickly and decisively they were brought up against physical limits.

Eighteen months, that's how long people had before they needed to replace their goods, the clothes that wore out and the linen sheets that they tore up for bandages.  From the book it sounds as though they never did replace their goods satisfactorily.  They got a lot done and did what ordinarily they would never have done.  They wore wooden shoes, made shoes out of old leather from pocketbooks (which are what they call wallets in the South), learned to spin and weave at home, made handcards in factories for preparing cotton for spinning or brought handcards through blockades, pieced old material, cut down curtains, cut down adult clothes for children, refurbished hats, knit nonstop, lined their clothes with sheets of newspapers, and appropriated cloth meant for enslaved people.  I won't tell you what they did with dogskin because you would not like it.

The positive aspect is Massey's description of how civilians applied themselves, learned, and produced what they could when their clothes depended on it, and how, along with professional itinerant teachers, the poor and enslaved people (who knew how to spin yarn) taught the rest.

I think it's worth pointing out, and this is my leap of thinking not the book's, that fossil fuel use increased enormously during the American Civil War and fabric was already being produced in factory settings with waterpower, mostly in the North.  However, despite this, you can tell from Massey's descriptions that Confederate textiles for civilians were made for the most part by hand on a cottage industry level for personal use.  Given the inadequate local industrial infrastructure, the fossil fuel resources applied to ships, trains, and iron foundries, the impossibility of bringing large looms through the blockade, limited money to invest, and the need for a quick response, hand tools–in many hands wherever they were–were it.  Like victory gardens in England in the Second World War.

A pair of cotton handcards in the American South cost about 40 cents in 1861 but $30 in 1863.  Today, they cost about $72.  Shows you how highly a tool is valued when necessity drives, and how crucial good fibre preparation is to handspinning.

As I said, the chapter was difficult to take.  The people on the homefront were highly stressed, displaced, overcrowded, and underfed for the most part.  They were put to extraordinary measures that you could tell from the anecdotes were demoralizing to them.  Mostly, they came into textile production underprepared, under-skilled, under-equipped, and so on to the point where I was flinching thinking how much different their lives could have been if they'd made suitable investments in advance.  But I guess in advance such a need was pretty inconceivable.

29 March, 2011

Tell Me a Homespun Story

When you spin yarn in public, strangers talk to you.  Sometimes they tell you stories.

A man told me that in the 1950s when he was a boy, early in the morning after his paper route he would stop by a fabric mill to listen to the workmen start up the engine, engage the drive belt, and start up all the looms in the factory which took up more area than a city block.  One drive belt ran the whole thing, he said.

A woman told me that in Yemen they still spin yarn.  They keep their own goats and sheep, and they make mats for sleeping on, dyed blue and white and (I think) red.  The mats are good for rheumatism.

Some children came with their families to the museum this past Saturday where we were demonstrating handspinning.  I gave them simple handspun bracelets–"manly wrist straps" for the boys–and they liked them.  Two little sisters got to pull on the loose Romney wool I brought in hopes kids would do just that.  I helped a boy try my spare drop spindle.

A museum visitor said he had an antique spinning wheel at home but didn't know how to work it.  We'll help you, we said, bring your wheel to a guild meeting.  Do you make house calls, he asked.  Turned out he was from Nevada.

We had a good selection of fibres to exhibit.  People were quite interested in the flax, and one mother and daughter pair couldn't get over how shiny bamboo is.

We exhibited some of the clothes we have made.  Someone asked if it was possible to buy some lacy alpaca-fibre mitts that were out on the table.  Their maker sadly had to say the mitts were part of her current wardrobe and unavailable for sale.

A museum worker asked one of us whether she had ever dyed wool with butternuts.  I knew why he was asking; the museum interprets the Confederacy side of the American Civil War and Confederate uniforms were dyed grey with butternuts.

Another museum worker was wearing a reproduction Confederate uniform.  I admired the cloth of the coat so I asked him about it.  He told me where he gets his clothing.  He added that such things are only worth getting from people who do a good job with good materials.  I said as handspinners we find that quality materials are important to us too.

28 March, 2011

Like a Dinner Party, But With Yarn

The educational handspinning and weaving demonstration Saturday at the museum was quite enjoyable.  There were eight of us from our guild that came out, and we had ample time to talk as a group together during setup and lulls between tour groups.

The arrangement produced a pleasantly different dynamic than we normally have.  Our guild meets in a community hall with forty or more chairs arranged in a large circle.  At a guild meeting you can expect to have a conversation with one or two people at a time.  You and everyone else are spread out around the room and you are half-listening to the background noise of chatter, which cuts down to almost nil your ability to catch an interesting conversation and join in.

In the museum sitting in a group, we felt more like close friends at a dinner party.  We all chimed in and contributed and took the conversation where we willed.  The exception was our weaver, only because the staff assigned her display tables on the opposite side of the foyer too far away for casual earshot, so we went over singly every so often and talked with her.

We covered all sorts of fibre topics amongst ourselves.  The erratic nesting habits of first-time pregnant Angora rabbits.  The possibilities (and pervasiveness) of being self-taught in diverse handspinning and knitting techniques using online video tutorials.  The fascination and limitations of book learning.  Shopping at Pennsic War and how ordinary non-reenactor folk can get access.  What a flax strick is.  How thick cotton can be spun and how aggravating cotton is to spin on a drop spindle.  The impressiveness of a great-wheel spinner who knows what she's doing and uses a wheelboy to really make it go.  At what point a handspinner stops being a novice.  The many ways to justify a wheel purchase.  The whys and wherefores of true woolen spinning.  Softness of hoggett Border Leicester locks relative to adult sheep's locks.  How pungent spun dog fur smells when wet.  The price of qiviut.

We tag-teamed the museum vistors' questions too.  A man asked which of the spinning wheels was the oldest.  I was startled when three friends pointed to my spindle and said, "That!"  My spindle was made last year.  The man may have meant which wheel was assembled the longest time ago; my friends meant which was the oldest technology.

I would be surprised if any of the castle spinning wheels were older than ten years old.  Not the models but the actual wheels.  Most of the wheels were castle (upright) spinning wheels.  A couple were modern ones that fold for travel and one was a Kromski which looks like a reproduction of an old style.  The sole Saxony, a classic Ashford Traditional of which there are probably more in existence than any other model in the world, was vintage I believe.  Maybe thirty years old.  I should remember its age, and I should remember the makers of the upright wheels (Lendrum?  Majacraft?  lovely metal hinges on the footman on that one) but I don't.

I should have cleared up the ambiguity for the man about oldest technological model and oldest actual construction.  I wished I could have had my great wheel with me for just that moment.  The great wheel is an intermediary technology, falling between drop spindle and flyer wheel.  There are newly-built great wheels, but the one I have is antique.  It dates back to the American Civil War, which is the time period the museum focuses on and presumably the time period the inquisitive museum visitor was interested in.

But I left the wheel at home.  The great wheel, all six feet of it, does come apart for travel but I haven't figured out how to conveniently carry all the pieces at one time.  Maybe if I stick the legs and post in a long pouch and strap all of the parts except the wheel to the little folding hand truck I have and carry the wheel in the free hand, it might work.  Would look odd, to say the least, and opening doors would be problematic.  You can imagine why the folding castle wheel with carrying bag is such a popular choice for handspinners who spin in public.

26 March, 2011

Missing a Guild Sale

I can tell you what I am not doing today.  I am not on vacation in Nanaimo, B.C., buying up all the fibre at the local guild sale there.  A handspinners' guild sale is like a rummage sale but with wool and used spinning wheels packed into a hall to sift through.  In other words, fun stuff.  Scattershot inventory, of course, but part of the draw is never knowing what you'll find.

I went a couple of years ago.  There were secondhand looms and weaving tools; the Mid-Island Weavers and Spinners guild has both spinners and weavers.  There were buns and hot drinks.  There were local vendors with booths.  I heard afterward that by noon some of the destash fibre was marked down to almost nothing–probably the stuff from an estate the guild volunteers didn't want to take home–and ever since then I've wanted to shop the sale again to see it at closing time as well as opening time.  But, sadly I am a little too far away to nip in and browse.

I mentioned destash fibre.  I mean fibre for handspinning, whatever it may be (wool, mohair, angora, alpaca, silk, etc.) that someone bought intending to use, subsequently changed their mind, and decided to resell or give away.  Destash fibre is different from retail fibre that a vendor obtains from a producer, miller, or wholesaler to sell to customers.  If you don't spin yarn, you've probably never thought about the secondhand market for fibre, eh?  I myself destashed some merino, merino blended with bamboo and nylon, and local merino crossbreed fibre last weekend.  Tastes change.

I can tell you what I am doing today.  Today some members of my guild, including me, will be demonstrating handspinnng and weaving at a museum.  The museum we're going to interprets the Confederacy side of the American Civil War.  It's exciting, getting to talk to people about handspinning.  Almost exciting enough to make up for missing the guild sale.

25 March, 2011

Wool Production in Canada Publication

I read the Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd and Canadian Sheep Association industry publication, "Wool Production in Canada."

I learned that "since 1920 annual raw shorn wool production has not met the requirements of Canadian consumption," and that we export wool, 70% of which goes to China.  I suppose we buy it back as finished goods?

I learned that "overfed ewes will have coarser wool."

I learned about crutching, where a ewe gets a trim so everything is sanitary when she lambs and nurses.  I will hazard a guess that this sheep in the first photo has been crutched and the sheep in the second photo has not:



The publication is very much geared to industry, concerned with managing every aspect in order to get a good return when selling in bulk to the wool clip.  Naturally-coloured wool is a dreaded, contaminating influence.  Shearing is invariably done under a waterproof roof.  There is talk of micron testing and statistical analysis.  So, a different side of wool than the handspinner usually sees.

The definitions throughout and the glossary at the back are helpful.  If I'd only read them a day earlier, I could have been much more precise and concise in a letter I just sent to a shepherd asking if it was possible to buy washed, unmilled wool.  What is the expected shrinkage and yield of raw fleece after scouring, that is what I wanted to say.

24 March, 2011

one hundred-first skein


The one hundred-first skein I've spun, dark Blue Face Leicester wool, 108 yards, 25 grams.

23 March, 2011

Sheep in Highland County, VA

Pasture out near the sugar farm tours
Went to the Maple Festival in Highland County, Virginia.

Saw sheep.  My husband got them to pose for pictures by calling, "Hey, Ewe!" to them.  We didn't get a photo of the lambs, a great pity since some were all black and very cute.  For the photo above, I am no shepherd so I don't know but I suspect lambs are due soon there.

Saw two craft show vendors knitting and another weaving on an inkle loom.

Bought half a pound of local DorsetXHampshire roving from shepherd Theresa Wagner at Wool Becomes Ewe in Monterey.  Wagner says she plans to raise Rambouillet in the future, including some with natural colour because she knows that's desirable to handspinners and knitters.  One of the bumps of roving I bought was naturally dark.  That and the fact that it was raised locally may help you understand why I uncharacteristically bought down breed wool.

outside Wool Becomes Ewe shop
Breathed the ambrosial smell of slightly burnt maple sugar at one of the sugar farms.  When I say maple festival, people usually ask me where the maple festival is.  I tell them, follow route 250 all the way out, almost to West Virginia.  It's the sort of place where the local cafe's window displays a spinning wheel with a bobbin full of plied yarn on it.

22 March, 2011

Fibre Combed is Forever Changed

That mohair skein I showed you yesterday started out as pieces of roving.  The strips were compacted from whatever natural dye bath they had gone through.  The colour showed variation where the marigold blossoms had come in contact and given yellow, green, and dark green.  The staple included both long and short fibres, as well as little balls of tangled fibres.


I took my Viking combs and changed all that.



Isn't that a thing of beauty.  Lost two-thirds of the fibre to waste but it was worth it.  Fibre prep makes such a difference to handspinning and to the final product.

21 March, 2011

one hundredth skein


See that shine?  That's mohair for you.  Love it.

My one hundredth skein comes in at a little less than an ounce, 128 yards, and who know how many wpi.  Call it laceweight or close enough.

19 March, 2011

Alice Starmore's Fair Isle book

I bought a reprinted copy of Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting last weekend.

It wasn't a purchase I absolutely need or plan to use imminently.  My reasoning went like this, "I am here in this bookstore that is going out of business and discounting its inventory and since I can't take them all home with me, I will pick this one weighty book that I have been eyeing online for a while now."

I haven't knit colourwork or a sweater yet, and the book should give me a good basis to go on when I try.  I have read to page 175, almost to the end, though I skipped the full sweater patterns.  Much of the book is general information aimed at letting you improvise your own combinations of colour and pattern.

Two things.  One, it's hilarious to hold a new book that thinks Estonia is in the U.S.S.R.  That there is a U.S.S.R.  (As I said, it's a reprint.)  Two, I like peeries.  Peeries in Fair Isle knitting are the smallest patterns that are worked only over a few rows.  From a Scottish word meaning small.  Very similar to peedie, I guess, which I've heard is used in Orkney to mean small, as in Giddy Limit comic strip #289.

You might also like #280 because it's about a handknit gansey and a peedie boy writing his aunt a thank you note.

18 March, 2011

Take It or Leaf It Cowl with Mods


I have finished my Take It or Leaf It cowl, with the following modifications to Marilyn Porter's pattern.  I knit it flat.  I made it to button up in the back.  I used six pattern repeats, less than were called for, and started out with extra reverse stockinette stitches between repeats, gradually decreasing them away.

Conforms to the shape of my neck much better than the first version did.

I wish I had made the button holes smaller.  This was my first time knitting button holes.  Had no idea and grossly underestimated the size of button that could pass through a button hole done over two stitches with this gauge of yarn.

Handspun with five strands plied together really, really gives the embossed motifs extra punch and texture.

16 March, 2011

Strange Scottish Blanket

I have a copy of Burham's The Comfortable Arts: Traditional Spinning and Weaving in Canada.  I love the abundance of photographs and diagrams–the book is a catalogue of a National Gallery travelling exhibition–as well as the curated nature of the collection but because the explanatory text is necessarily brief, sometimes the book leaves me wanting more.  For example, this tantalizing tidbit:
An even stranger survival of Scottish tradition is that the herringbone pattern does not come to a point at the axes of the chevrons but the weave breaks (Diagram 67) making the lines of the twill alternate rather than meet.  This is the way that herringbone twills had to be woven, given the technical restrictions of the ancient warp-weighted loom....[it is] a ghost-like reminder of the fact that traditions survive long after any technical reason for them is gone.
I can see in the photo of the blanket and in the weaving diagram that the herringbones do not come to a point.  I cannot make the leap from that to what I know of warp-weighted looms to figure out how such a loom limits twill weaves.  How would you do a twill weave anyway, how and where would you set up the heddles?  I've only seen diagrams, pictures, and videos of warp-weighted looms set up for tabby weave.  I could guess, I suppose.

15 March, 2011

Bill s-226 Maple Leaf Tartan Act

Bill s-226 is an Act to recognize the Maple Leaf tartan as the national tartan of Canada.  Heritage Canada says it's just in time for the first Tartan day in Canada on April 6th, 2011.  The senator who proposed the bill, Elizabeth Hubley, says the government was premature announcing the tartan's official status since the bill hasn't (hadn't?) passed yet (CBC News, "Tartan notice hasty: PEI senator," March 11, 2011.)

You can see a picture of the tartan in that article.  An explanation of the symbolism of the colours is here, along with descriptions of provincial tartans. British Columbia's provincial tartan can be seen here on the B.C. government's site.

To go slightly off topic, I haven't read Ken McGoogan's How the Scots Invented Canada yet, but I heard a CBC Radio interview on The Next Chapter podcast with him.  The title cracks me up.

Don't know how I missed the Maple Leaf tartan until now.  Perhaps I don't spend enough time looking up my family names in Scottish shops for tourists.

Tartans and plaids always look so well balanced in the arrangement of colours and so diverting, the way the colours cross and change their intensity and effect.  I am thinking of weaving a chequer cloth, when I get to weaving.

14 March, 2011

Long Draw

The weather warmed up enough for me to venture out to the bothy and use the new great wheel.

I was able to draft cotton into impossibly fine strands but unable to make them hold together.

After cotton and I re-affirmed our mutual antipathy, I delved into the depths of my stash and found a whiskery bit of wool someone destashed to me when I first learned to spin.  I managed to spin this:


I am much slower with a great wheel than I am with a spindle, unaccustomed as I am.  I gingerly turn the wheel, frequently check the yarn's twist, and generally feel like I am doing something completely foreign.

Before I could get the drafting results I wanted, I had to remind myself not to make the classic novice handspinner's mistake of keeping a death grip on the fibre.  I also had to predraft the roving to make it fluffy and loose, similar to the density of a rolag.  I probably should use rolags, but I'm not.

I draft fibre with a short draw when I use a drop spindle.  The great wheel requires me to spin with a long draw.

Switching from short draw to long draw is akin to switching between a stick shift and an automatic, or between a Mac and a PC.  The discombobulation is not as great as when trying to write with the non-dominant hand, fortunately, even though I am using my left hand to draft long draw whereas I use my right hand to draft short draw.  This is because short draw requires fine finger control.  Long draw needs long sweeps of the arm.

12 March, 2011

ninety-ninth skein


The ninety-ninth skein I spun is very much like the ninety-eighth, which is good because it was done to match.

11 March, 2011

Looking at Tudor Shirts

In Burnham's Cut My Cote, there's a pattern diagram and drawing taken from a shirt recovered from a ship wrecked in the late sixteenth century.  It is representative of the kind of shirt worn by men and women in portraits painted in the Tudor period.

I could see from the drawing how the shirt would look but had trouble imagining what a man or a woman would wear with it or over it.

Fortunately, there were reproductions worn in a 1980s BBC film production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing I watched recently.  It is amazing how the cut of a coat collar or a bodice could cause the shirt collar and the pleated folds across the front to fall in different ways.

10 March, 2011

15th C Gold and Silver-wrapped Handspun

Recently got a close look at gold and silver handspun from the fifteenth century, embroidered in a couple of ecclesiastical textiles.  The metal was beaten and cut in strips, then wrapped around a fabric handspun yarn core.  Places were worn away, allowing you to see the workmanship.  The time and skill involved doesn't bear thinking about.

09 March, 2011

Woad Paint

I listened to the Maiwa podcast "European Blue: Woad and Bleu de Lectoure" with presenter Denise Lambert.  Hearing about someone's adventures with stinky dye vats is always fun, especially when there's no chance of getting a whiff myself.  Lambert gives historical context that captures the imagination.  She speaks with passion about woad's colour and complexity.  Lambert gives you a glimpse into her life running workshops for tourists, collaborating with couture houses, and transferring traditional techniques to the modern industrial scale.  And she is wonderfully funny.  In the question and answer period someone asks what she did before all this.  She says, "wife."  She tells stories about garments that went in the woad vats and how the dye reacted to silk and cotton, to perspiration stains, and to the shirt whose pieces came from different bolts of white cotton cloth.  She covers practical ground, too, such as the way they keep their woad plants from acting as an invasive species.

She and her late husband got into woad, Isatis tinctoria, and built their company after falling in love with some old shutters on a house they bought, shutters painted with real woad paint.  Bleu de Lectoure now sells woad paint suitable for painting wood, called Bio-Rox Bleu Charrette.

You know what this means.  I could have a blue drop spindle, a spindle decked out like Picti about to go whale on a Roman legion.

08 March, 2011

A Walking Wheel of My Own


I bought a spinning wheel, an antique walking wheel.  I bought it from Tracy Miller of Tracy Miller Designs and Silkenstone on Etsy.  Miller designs vector surface art for various materials including fabric.  Miller says this wheel was used to spin cotton in her family three generations ago.

I am no longer an oddity among handspinners, owning only drop spindles.  But I trust I remain sufficiently eccentric?  This is not your typical wheel choice.  I still have to stand up while spinning.  I still have stop spinning to wind yarn on the spindle.  The wheel is twice the size of a typical Saxony or castle wheel.

It comes apart for transport and stows more easily than you'd think.

Saw the ad on Friday night and bought the wheel Saturday morning.  This was an impulse buy I've been waiting two years to have the chance to do.

07 March, 2011

499th blog post


We're almost at the five hundredth blog post here, and I'm two skeins away from having spun a hundred skeins total.  You'd think I would be cunning and contrive to make these coincide.  But no.  Decided to take it easy instead.

I do, though, have something to show you tomorrow that, if not better than a milestone skein, is assuredly bigger.

05 March, 2011

ninety-seventh and ninety-eighth skeins


This week I wrote back and forth with with someone about spindles.  Mentioned that I really ought to quit thinking I'm some sort of spindle test pilot pushing the envelope to see how much yarn I can spin at one go.  I proceeded to push the limit exactly that way with the top skein pictured above and paid for it, so I backed off the weight for the successive skein.

What happens when you cram too much yarn on a drop spindle is that the cop begins to turn independently of the spindle.  Turning the spindle becomes difficult and so does keeping the yarn from hopping off the hook and unwinding off the shaft.

Here are the ninety-seventh and ninety-eighth skeins I've spun.

The ninety-seventh skein weighs 1 1/3 ounces.  I started with a package of 4 ounces of natural dark BFL and divided the wool into thirds, thinking that I would ply three singles together for a knitting yarn.  I changed my mind and used Andean plying to make 2 ply.  I have ambitions to weave handspun cloth (any cloth, but handspun cloth certainly) and 2 ply is good for weaving.  The spindle that has a hook and a shaft large enough to take 3 ply has not yet had its appointment with epoxy.  That left the laceweight spindle whose hook can just manage a fine 2 ply without the yarn slipping out from under and causing me aggravation.  Got 164 yards in the skein.

The ninety-eighth skein is 25 grams, a little less than an ounce, and 102 yards.  There should be two more like it when I'm done with the package of wool.

04 March, 2011

Cowl Has More Flare Than Flair


The cowl is showing more flare than flair.  Flare in the wrong direction, sadly.  I'm trying to decide what to do.

It was worse before I undid the sewn bind off and put seven decreases evenly around in the second-to-last row but that measure still didn't correct the outward curl.

I could rip back to the halfway point and strategically place enough decreases over the right amount of rows.  I would need to narrow the motifs, altering without distorting them.  That would take some figuring.  This fix risks making the circumference of the top edge too small to fit over my head.

I could rip back to the halfway point, knit garter stitch rows to match the cast on edge, and bind off.  This would turn it into either a very short cowl or an ear warmer band.

I could bind off, pick up stitches around the edge, and knit from there decreasing rapidly toward the center and closing it in.  This would turn it into a toque-type hat.  I never wear a toque and there's no way I'm giving this to anyone else after all the work I put in, so a conversion like that seems wasteful.  I popped it on my head to see, though, and the effect was stunning.  And toasty even with the holes.  I could never knit and wear a sweater out of this handspun: I'd cook.

I could start again and adapt Porter's Take It or Leaf It cowl pattern.  I would work it flat.  No trouble there, the even-numbered rows are dead simple and could be knit on the wrong side without much thought.  I would make the cowl much more fitted and funnel-shaped, using one less pattern repeat and starting with extra purl stitches wherein to hide the decreases.  That means there's no need to alter the width of motifs and no risk of wrecking them.  I would give the cowl a button closure so its shape is not limited by the need to fit over my head at all.

I am thinking of option B.  Possibly D as well, although I might save the yarn and make cabled mittens instead.

03 March, 2011

Buy Spindles with Canadian Tire Money?!?

ACME Fibres takes Canadian Tire "money."*  And sells drop spindles from Houndesign of Vancouver.  Marvelous.  I'm not sure which is better, but I know which makes me laugh.


*a chain store's rewards program whose "money" is a pop culture institution in Canada

02 March, 2011

Browsing Other Embossed Exchange Motifs

I went browsing for other embossed exchange motif patterns since I like the look of their undulating raised surfaces so much.

Carol Sunday's Milkweed looks very delicate and feathery, with long slender leaf shapes dappled with many lacey holes along their centres.

Madelinetosh's Creature Comforts Cardi has bold leaves shaped like oak leaves.  I squinted at them for a while trying to decipher the way the lower lobes of the leaves are formed.

Lori Law's Whither Mitts have simple, straight leaves.  I like the upward direction of the leaves.  Law's Sleepy Hollow Socks have the same leaves pointing downward.  I imagine (in my yet-to-knit-a-sock state) you could improvise and create a sock with leaf shapes going upward.  You could knit from the toe up.  Or, you could cast on with a provisional cast on around the ankle, knit down to the toe, go back and pick up the live stitches, and knit up to the cuff.  You'd have to allow for increasing the width of the sock as you knit up.  Certainly I would think that decrease stitches going down (which I assume are in the pattern, I haven't read it) would be easier to do and less noticeable.  Practical constraints are definitely practical considerations.

Is there such a thing as armchair knitting, like armchair travelling and armchair quarterbacking?

The leaves point upward in Natalie Bursztyn's Midsummer Night's Dream socks.

Melissa LaBarre's Ashfield cardigan has slim vertical panels of overlapping pairs of leaves on either side of the button band.  From the same book, Cecily Glowik MacDonald's Derry Raglan and Cowl patterns have a detail described as knitted lace that looks like an embossed exchange motif to me.

Ysolda Teague's Snapdragon Tam has small leaves in the reverse stockinette fields between cables.  Not an exchange motif I don't think but certainly an embossed one.

01 March, 2011

Corrected My Mistake in the Cowl


I've corrected my stitches in the Take It or Leaf It cowl.  Has taken a high level of concentration.  The effect of the embossed motif makes the effort worthwhile.

I frogged all the way back to the cast on and modified the shape of the cowl from a straight tube to a slight funnel.  There are 14 extra purl stitches tucked in between seven motif repeats.  The extra purls gradually dwindle away one at a time row by row until only the purl stitches given in the pattern are left.  A funnel means the bottom of the cowl will flare out and cover the opening of whatever tee or sweater I have on but the top will look orderly and trim rather than droopy.  Hopefully.

Now that I have knit a complete set of 16 rows and am ready to repeat, I am daring to dream that I will be able to finish.  Those leaves tilting to the left, they bear watching while in progress.

I'd like to wear the cowl ever so casually to the local yarn store in secret hopes that the staff will notice.  I hardly ever go there but for once I actually have a reason to go, to pick up the new knitting needles I ordered.  They are double points from the Brittany company, like the ones in the photo, only much more slender.