Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yarn Snob: To be or not to be

Several of my knitting groups have been discussing the no-no word of a-c-r-y-l-i-c. I don't consider myself a yarn snob although I prefer my daughter's hand spun lace yarn. I knit with yarn most suitable for the occasion. When I knit hats for our local elementary school, I use a acrylic from a stash that is both old and self-perpetuating. In other words, the more I knit, the fuller the tub seems to be. One of these days, I have to be able to get to the bottom of it. On the other hand, I also buy "step-up" acrylics, if and only if they are on sale and dirt cheap, again for charity projects. I also have a large stash of 100% wool yarns, to be used when the urge strikes me. Right after my daughter's hand spun yarn is yarn on cones, both reasonably priced and 100% natural fiber.
So with this in mind, I thought I'd share two pics of shawls I knitted from a cone of Wildfoote sock yarn (Brown Sheep) for which I paid a whole dollar. It was an off-color and my then local yarn shop gave it to us at cost at one of our knit nights. What a deal.
Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi shawl knit with Wildfoote Yarn

Spiral Shawl
from a Gathering of Lace
Wildfoote Sock Yarn

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Of Borders and bargains...

Almost a week has passed since I last posted. Time flies when you are knitting. I have the misfortune to simultaneously come up with two borders for two different shawls. Both are done, but for the lace border. Now those of us who knit shawls that are finished with lace borders know that 576 stitches on the needles means having to knit 1152 rows in order to complete the border for the shawl. For me, at least the border normally takes just about as long as knitting the rest of the shawl. Knitting 1152 rows of any pattern is tedious. There was a discussion on a group to which I belong about how to get around the tedium, but after all is said and done, the no. of rows remains the same, whether I divide the task into 20 stitch sections or have a bowl of MMs beside me. Celery sticks were suggested for those who are diabetically or dietetically challenged, but I do not consider celery sticks or carrots a reward.
In the meantime, the glutton for lace knitting that I am, I have started a third shawl, the Gracie Shawl from Myrna Stahman's book on Faroese Shawls. It's an easy lace pattern and there is a rhythm to the pattern that makes it easy to follow. I found the yarn at my "local" LYS. To be truthful, my daughter actually found it for me. My local LYS (local yarn store) is about 50 miles away, but that's as local as it gets around this part of Michigan. It's a pound cone of natural colored Brown Sheep Company wool (Nature Spun fingering weight). The color is a tan/gray, and the wool has the feel of yarn with little processing. What a find, on the bottom of a shelf in the far corner of the store, hidden behind a basket of something.

On the same shopping trip, I also found a copy of the first book in the Jamieson series, at 40% off. The colors are beautiful. Before I go to knitter's heaven, I will absolutely have to knit one of the Fair Isle sweaters in the book, even though knitting sweaters is not my idea of having fun. Ah, the pleasure of the hunt!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The doily is done in plenty of time for Christmas. Unfortunately, my back problems prevented me from properly blocking the edging, so that each point was properly pointed. Oh well, only other compulsive blockers will care, and only momentarily. It was fun knitting a small project, and it has given me impetus to knit some larger projects I've been drooling about. I have this massive collection of German lace knitting patterns (Kunststricken) that I've been itching to get started on, such as Duchrow, Niebling and Engeln. The only problem I have is selecting one project. I don't think I have enough years left to knit every one of them. I wonder if I'll be able to take my knitting patterns and stash into the afterlife? You know there is a serious addiction problem when you dream about knitting, take your knitting to bed with you and on getting up, right after grabbing your glasses, you grab your knitting. Knit On! Renate

Sunday, November 12, 2006

More of the Dutch Lace sampler

Here are two more photographs of the Dutch Sampler. This is the right side of Pattern 18; however, the "wrong" side would also make a good pattern. In fact, I think, the pattern would look nice as part of a rectangular shawl.

Sections 15 through 18

Dutch Samplers and Memories

We are almost at the end of the Dutch Sampler Knit-Along from It's been fun just knitting without any specific project in mind and reminds me of the first samples of my own knitting way back when I was just five years old. Of course, the original sampler was knit as a learning tool by a young girl, probably under the guidance of her mother or grandmother.
Ah, my own journey in knitting started right after WWII. I can still see myself sitting on a stool in the beauty shop waiting on my mother to get a permanent, toiling away on my garter stitch, holes and all. Mother's hair in curlers wired to the "permanent-giving-machine" which in turn was plugged into an electrical outlet. (I found the above picture of the machine. The machine was invented in Germany by one Karl Nessler.)My mother (Mutti) was generous in many ways, and I am sure she unraveled another piece of knitting or bartered for the yarn, in order to give me enough yarn to knit the potholder. For those were hard times and yarn, or anything else for that matter, was not wasted. No going to the local LYS and picking up a ball of Peaches and Cream. Even if the money was available, there was no local LYS and there was no cotton yarn available in 1945 unless you had it from before the war or were able to obtain it on the black market. While I do not remember, I am sure the pot holder was unraveled and knit into something else. Come to think of it, the same color showed up in some undershirts later on.
By the time I made it to first grade, I was an "expert" knitter, at least as far as first graders were concerned. My first grade class started to learn how to knit while I was sick with the German measles. When I returned to school, I sat down at my desk and knit myself a potholder to the amazement and copious praise of my teacher. Nary a mistake in it.
As a 10 year old, now going to the German secondary school system, I had to knit a pair of mittens. When I had finished the thumb gusset, I went to the teacher to proudly show her my knitting. I remember Mrs. K (in opposition to my first grade teacher) looking at me, saying "Why didn't you come to me earlier?" to which I replied impertinently, "Why should I? I know how to knit mittens." Of course, I did not endear myself to her with that comment. Funny, I can't remember her name, other than it started with "K" and that she always walked to school with Mr. Honig (Honey). This was an all girls school full of bright, precocious and, therefore, bratty kids who were convinced that Mrs. K and Mr. H had something going on.
My next adventure in the fiber arts was learning to crochet. Our first project was a lace insert for a pillow. Not exactly a beginner's project, but that was the assignment. I never did learn to hold the crochet hook correctly and my lace insert was appropriately dirty from the sweat of my grubby little hands. My mother must not have liked crocheting either, as she got her girlfriend to help me finish the lace. It was a good thing that the lace was washed and blocked before it was presented in class, because one could clearly differentiate between the portion of the lace my grubby hands had touched and the portion my mother's girlfriend helped with.
The next step in my education in the fiber arts was making a tablecloth with Hardanger cut work. We were still too poor to afford the material, so a neighbor bought the materials in exchange for the table cloth. She got a good deal and I got my grade.
I never learned to sew, although I had two cousins who were professional seamstresses. Sewing machines were unavailable in school. Once I was married and had children, I taught myself how to sew, out of necessity.
Despite the hard times, the hunger and deprivations, they were also good times.

Happy reminiscing. Renate

Larch Trees

This photo was taken on my way into town on one of those rare northern Michigan November days when the sun shines and the temperature is moderate. The larch tree, which belongs to the genus Larix, is distinguished among firs by its deciduous foliage. I have not seen the Larch south of where I live now, in the north west corner of Michigan. It stands out in the Spring with its light green needles and then again in the Fall when the needles turn golden. The Larch tree seems to drop its needles far later than any of the other deciduous trees and thus stands out in late Fall. I hope you enjoy the photo. Renate

Friday, November 3, 2006

Hats, hats, and more hats

Each year I knit hats for our local elementary school. The school desperately needs them and the knitting of a hat gives me a break between the knitting of complicated lace patterns. For mindless knitting, hats beat everything else. And yet, I get immense pleasure out of knitting them. The hats have been finished since May of this year, but usually I take them to school sometime in the middle or the end of September. This year I've been procrastinating with taking photos and dropping them off. I am not too sure why. My daughter, Angie, finally got fed up with all these hats laying around the house, so she took matters into her hands and took pictures this evening . Alas, she photographed them on my messy bed, so I motivated myself and retook them. It's one thing to have a messy bed and another thing to show actual pictures to the whole wide world. So Monday, the hats shall get dropped off at the school. The weather has gotten cold, the snowflakes are flying although sparsely, and the wind is blowing somewhat fearful; a good time to get rid of them and have the kids wear them.
If you are interested, the rest of the hat pictures (all 30 of them) are in the photo album under "Charity."
Peace, Frieden, pax, paix,