Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Table Talk for Newbie Knitters

Welcome and hello to my fellow Table Knitters and other hand crafters.

I started this blog a few years back when I had the crazy idea of buying a fleece and starting a sweater from scratch. Read all about it if you feel so inclined. Yes, I am indeed crazy!!

I would now like to turn this blog into a bit of information for you all to help you on your knitting journey. For those of you, who want to learn some rhymes to help you along, here you go...

For the beginners:

Knitting English (this is the way we will learn)
In through the front door
Once around the Back
Out through the Window
And off jumps Jack.

Knitting: (for little kids)
Into the Bunny hole
Run around the tree
Out of the bunny hole
Away runs he.

Knitting Continental (where you hold the wool in your left hand)
Under the Fence
Catch the Sheep
Back you go
Off you leap

And for the *Tough guys* (in case you want to teach any boys to knit)
Stab 'em
Choke 'em
Drag 'em back
Throw 'em away!

Here are two for purling:
In front of the fence,
Catch the goat,
Back we go,
Jump off the boat!

Catch the sheep,
Back we come,
Off we leap!
Here is a good video to help you figure out the Cable Cast On.

For the more experienced:

 A good place to start to learn  how to read knitting patterns is here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FInally Finished!

 Well, I am have finally completed my hand spun sweater, the lovely Rhinebeck cardigan designed by Lisa Lloyd from the book, A Fine Fleece. And it is not so itchy after all,  thanks to Donna, my spinning teacher, who told me to put some hair conditioner into the water when I blocked the sweater. I think using the outrageously expensive Aveda Be Curly, as the conditioner, as it was the only thing I had in the house, probably made a difference in the softness of the fleece.

I don't know what I was expecting when I started this project, perhaps some kind of epiphany , when there really has been none - just a lot of hours and hard slogging. I found out it is ok not to know where you are going when you start out on something, the joy is in the journey and sharing that with people you care about.

I am pretty sure that I am glad not to be a pioneer woman, like Ma on Little House on the Prairie, who had to balance making clothes for her family, with all of the other things she had to do, like putting up food for the winter, chopping logs and killing bears. I thought about her as I sat spinning in my basement with all of the comforts of my life as I watched enless reruns of Six Feet Under and the Young and the Restless. I wonder what Ma would say about the TV and how so much of our lives are spent watching the invented lives of others.  Ma would have been spinning her wool while Pa, her husband, played the fiddle as she sat by the fire. I think they would have told their own stories.

I do want to thank all of my dear friends who gave me support on this project - Greg, Sheila, Annie, Mary and my family members -- Rick, Char and Nora. A special shout out to Nora, my sister, for learning to made socks, when she was staying with me last winter.

Finally, a special greeting to my dearest and oldest friend, Owen, who is celebrating her birthday today. Thank you for the loan of your spinning wheel and for helping me get started.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mother Nature's Lessons

Mother Nature is a cruel teacher, I have decided today. I have been knitting my sweater now for about two weeks and it is coming along nicely.

If you like a giant brillo pad to wear. Oh, and I can't get this post not to centre as I type. Darn it.

The darn thing is very itchy. I probably should have made a bathmat out of it but since I have spent a good 50 hours or so of my life spinning it, that is not going to happen.

I must be some kind of masochist to sit and knit an itchy sweater in August but I will finish this.

Damn it.

I have decided that I am going to give this sweater to my darling husband as he has much thicker and less sensitive skin that I do and will wear it. I probably would not.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

lisa lloyd, texture maven

A Fine Fleece is quite a book. I want to make the sweater from my fleece from one of the designs in it but I am not sure which one yet. Tons of beautiful aran patterns that are not for the faint of heart with all kinds of cables, stitch patterns and interesting shaped garments. Can you say "saddle sleeve"?

I have to say it is what we fiber obsessed folks call "Yarn Porn". Lovely pictures of his and her models, textured cardigans, pullovers, socks, buttoned vests, scarves and a cap. A simple, homey yet seductive picture of a drop spindle with some perfectly spun lace weight on it.

I am in awe of Lisa Lloyd, the author of this book. Apparently each of the patterns has not only been knit by her in hand spun and commercial yarns, but she also spun all the yarn as well. You can learn quite a lot about the properties of the different sheep fleeces from the book.

Others have written detailed reviews of the book and I won't do that here, but one of the things that made me want to knit my fleece up from this book was the fact that everyone seems to talk about how the patterns are "sized large" and that is a good thing for zaftig gals like me.

Lisa Lloyd is a knitting superwoman, for sure. I think of myself, taking a year to spin to the wool for one of her sweaters and cannot understand how she could spin enough wool for the following:

7 ladies' cardigans

6 unisex pullovers

3 ladies' pullovers

2 ladies' cardigans/jackets

2 ladies' buttoned vests

3 lace scarves

2 textured scarves

3 socks

1 cap

I am going to write her and ask her, I think. A total of 29 garments. If she did nothing else but knit and spin, then maybe this would be a five year project. Maybe like some great artists, she has spinning assistants. Does she use test knitters?  I sure hope so.

The reason that I wonder is that it took me a year to make her Town and Country cardigan and I am still not finished it, as apparent in the above picture of it being blocked. I have to go to buy some buttons and put the thing together. Not sure about doing mattress stitch on seed stitch so I will have to ask a knitting store owner such as the lovely Meko at the Purple Purl in Toronto. I told her I was knitting an aran cardigan and she said to bring it in so I could pick out some buttons. Nothing screams knitter like aran cardigan.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

twenty two inches

Finally done the spinning. The first chapter of this journey has taken me just over a year. How did those pioneer ladies do it and make sweaters for their whole family? I guess other family members helped them but no one I know in my family seems to like spinning very much and think that it is crazy to do this kind of thing. I suppose I have the satisfaction of knowing that I did this all myself. Of course, the slowness of the endeavour was due, in part, to several other projects that called to me but I now have a large amount of grey itchy wool that shall be made into a sweater, god damn it. Five pounds of it.

So, one thing did happen that seemed to be a little bit of serendipity. It struck me as rather interesting, maybe even some kind of sign. When I had finished plying my wool, I only had 22 inches left over of wool between the two plyed bobbins and that has never happened to me before, that I had calculated so closely and had such a small amount left. I guess I was channelling the pioneer women as I watched the Young and Restless while I plyed.

My little cairn terrier Penny likes it too. She and my sheep tape measure are posing below with the twenty two inches of wool just to the left of the tape measure to show their approval. Now I just have to figure out which pattern I am going to knit. I knit up a practice square of the basket weave pattern and it looks pretty good.

I have posed the wool and the sample with my latest botanical obession, hens and chicks, aka houseleeks or sempervivum. Such a cheerful and low maintenance plant.  Don't they look nice planted in some old  army boots from the Salvation Army? At $2 for the boots, that was a good deal.

Monday, May 10, 2010

the people you meet

Back to reality from my lovely odyssey to Peru. I made some new fiber friends from different parts of the globe and they are all into knitting and weaving. Kindred spirits all.

One in particular -- Marilyn -- from the south of England, is an inspiring woman who embraces everything that the world has to offer. Her life is like a skein of handspun wool with all kinds of texture, color and variation. She made me feel lucky to have met her.

Marilyn is an alpaca farmer who also raises chickens. She explained to me all about the wonders of getting fresh eggs every morning, chickens who will hen peck a rooster to within an inch of its life, and how a fox will come back to the hen house once they get a taste for the chickens. I think if we ever can get our by-laws sorted out here in Canada, and can have chickens in our own backyards, I would love to try this kind of thing. Just a couple of chickens running through the backyard would be fun to add to my little menagerie of two cairn terries and a tabby cat. I can see my husband wondering about the wisdom of two feisty terriers and chickens as I write this.

Then there is the fact that Marilyn has a heart bigger than the Colca Canyon - the canyon in Peru that is bigger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. She has taken in three adults with Down's syndrome whose parents have died. What can I say about that? Those people are very lucky people to have someone like Marilyn on their side.

The last thing I want you to know about Marilyn is something she did for me. She bought her hand made sweater that she spun from her own sheep to show me in Peru. She hoped to inspire me in my own project fleece to finish the darn sweater that has been dragging on for a whole year. My energy for the whole endeavor -- endless spinning that is not finished yet -- has been given a shot in the arm by seeing her sweater. A soft yet sturdy creation of creamy southdown wool with intarsia flowers and a beautiful sawtooth edging finish on the bottom and at the ends of the sleeves. AND, she also gave me a pair of alpaca slippers that she spun from her own herd to wear when my feet were cold at night.

Marilyn, thank you for the heartwarming gifts of your slippers and your friendship.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ropa bordada

The Colca Canyon. At 3,800 meters above sea level, the place leaves you gasping for breath. Drinking lots of coca tea helps, as does chewing coca leaves with a piece of volcanic stone to soften the leaves. The whole endeavor leaves your mouth numb and gives you a bit of a buzz. I am here now and continuing on my fiber adventure in Peru.

I have bought some amazing hats from the ladies in the markets/mercados we passed along the way. And there are the little children who, for one sole, which is about 30 cents will let you take their picture. I saw a baby alpaca about 2 months old taking it easy on a table of tapestries that the woman was selling. I really do feel like I am part of a National Geographic special, it is all so different from what I am used to back home. What a turista I am!

This is the place where some of the world’s finest fibre comes from -- alpaca, llama and vicuna. There seems to be a debate about which is a finer fibre, vicuna or cashmere. All I know is the adorable animals, with their giraffe like necks, long spindly legs and their huge brown eyes, are very strange to look at and part of an endangered species. One vicuna scarf costs $500, so it is out of my price range. Then there are the three alpacas who are cutting the lawn at the guest house where we are staying. Much prettier than our regular lawn mower from Canadian Tire! I want them to come home with me.

I have seen so many beautiful fabics, all machine embroidered in motifs called ropa bordada. Most women wear these traditonal outfits to show that they are part of a group and have been doing so for the past 500 years or so. These outfits form their identity. They started using sewing machines to embroider the fabric the last 50 years or so. Who can say no to the modern convenience?

The full skirts of this outfit look cumbersome to me but apparently the skirt can be quite functional to their daily lives and looped up around the waistband, it can serve as a large pocket, that is handy to carry lunch to your husband in the field, taking groceries from market or sowing quinoa seeds.

These outfits cost a lot to produce and they also seem to be a form of status, much like designer jeans would be to me. There seem to be a lot of turistas buying the hats, passport, cell phone and digital camera holders with the ropa bordata on them so I suppose that is a good source of income for the folks from the Colca Canyon. It is all very interesting, this blending of traditions and cultures. I think the Peruvians have a lot of ingenuity -- selling us rich North Americans stuff for our technology toys!