Welcome to Over The Rainbow Yarn, where your fiber dreams come true. Centrally located in the Mid-Coast between Camden and Damariscotta, right in the heart of downtown Rockland, we are curating a collection of quality yarn and tools to support all fiber artists.
From the most inexperienced beginner just making his or her first stitches, to the most accomplished knitter or crocheter working on his or her latest, most complicated creation, we have everything you need to bring your most cherished wooly vision into reality. Needles, hooks, patterns, books, and yarn, glorious yarn in lace weight, sport, DK and bulky, wool, alpaca, silk, blends, even cashmere! Come see us when you have some free time. We’re waiting to inspire you.
In addition, we offer individual and group knitting and crocheting lessons. We’ve taught clients from a wide range of ages, as many have either found knitting or crocheting to be a worthwhile hobby or a valuable skill to learn, while more advanced peers have improved their technique and knowledge base to make more intricate pieces, then use them for personal use, as gifts, or even as a way to earn money.
Regardless of whether you are looking for knitting supplies, or you want instruction to hone your craft, a trip to our yarn shop in Rockland, ME, can help you do just that.
When I was 11 years old, my mom was knitting matching sweaters for my dad, my uncle and my two brothers for Christmas. They were beautiful Aran adventures and I was fascinated. Eventually they looked looked like this…
That’s my dad on the left in the traditional off white. My Uncle Mark is on the right in baby blue that brought out all the bluey-green oceanic highlights in his lovely Finn eyes. Those are my brothers, Michael on the left and Matthew on the right in bolder warmer orange and red. They were all thrilled to get their sweaters on Christmas morning. And no one noticed a thing.
See…I had a guilty secret. When Mum was working on Dad’s sweater, I had picked it up out of her basket and was looking at the rope cable on the side of the front panel that goes up to the shoulder. She had finished the armhole decreasing and was about 2 inches from finishing the front. When she saw me turning it around and poking at the yarn, she went wild. In a voice that will ring in the naughty girl corridors of my mind forever, she yelled, “PUT THAT DOWN! You’re going to drop my stitches! Do you have any idea how much work I’ve put into that…” and more in that same tone. Well. I put it down fast enough, and she thought no more about it. But I did.
About an hour later, Mum blithely went out shopping. As soon as I heard her car turn the corner, I was back in the knitting basket. I picked up that beautiful sweater and was poking at it again, trying to figure out how she had done it. When I heard the kitchen door open, I thought Mum must have forgotten something and come back to get it. Knowing she would be very cross indeed if she caught me with her sweater again after expressly telling me to leave it alone, I ditched the thing as quickly as I could and was innocently reading in the corner of the sofa when my brothers careened through the room on their was somewhere else. A narrow escape, and I went back to pick up the sweater.
That was when I saw the disaster. The exact disaster Mum had been afraid of. I had indeed dropped stitches. I had dropped eleven stitches, to be precise. They had run down several rows in the middle of that cable on the right shoulder.
At this point in my life I can acknowledge that we would all have gotten over it. Eventually. Probably. But at that moment my breath caught in my throat. My life flashed before my eyes. At that moment I was certain I was going to die. I was certain that my mother would end my life. Unless…
I’m not ashamed to admit that when my life was on the I though briefly of framing one of my brothers. Trouble was, neither of them had ever shown the least interest in knitting. And I had already been caught messing with that sweater. There was no way Mum would believe the boys had had anything to do with it. My only option to save myself was to put those stitches back the way I had found them and vow to never touch yarn again.
There is a way, in moments of stress, when ones senses can be heightened and the ability to focus on the smallest details can become crystal clear. I had one of those moments. The world fell away and I saw only that off white wool and its serpentine path through the knitted work. Each stitch rose up as a cul de sac in the ongoing road from the cast on row, through the overpasses of the cables, the roundabouts of the honeycomb center panel, the cobbled surfaces of the purl stitch ground and the textured stitches rising like causeways. To this day, I visualize knitted fabric as a kind of intricate road map where everything goes in its proper direction to its destination. When I was able to see it that way, I was able to see how to reconstruct the parts of the path that I had destroyed. Using the tips of the needles, I picked up the stitches where they lay and pulled loops through loops, crossed stitch path and lifted those columns back onto the needles in the proper order. The adrenaline burned to process into my memory more than any other knitting I have done since.
When all eleven stitches were reconstructed and back on the needles I was able to let my breath out and time seemed to flow around me again. I gave a few gentle tugs to even out the tension and carefully put the sweater back in the basket. I was again reading in the sofa corner when Mum arrived back home with a car load of groceries. In the next few hours, I was on tenter hooks waiting to see if she would be able to see the patch job. All through dinner and evening TV I was waiting for some repercussion. As I went to bed I was especially nervous; after we kids were in bed was prime knitting time for Mum. I went to sleep waiting for a shriek of discovery that never came.
On Christmas morning when Dad, Uncle Mark, Michael and Matthew tried on their new sweaters and posed for the picture above, I almost couldn’t watch for fear that some one would be able to tell what I had done. But, nope. As you can see, they are smilingly oblivious. And I bet you can’t see any mistake either.
About 30 years later, I was at Mum and Dad’s for Christmas again. I was knitting in the kitchen while Mum did something with the grandkids in the living room, and my sister asked my how I learned to pick up dropped stitches. As I finished telling her my story, I heard my mothers voice from the living room saying, “I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE THAT SWEATER ALONE!” This time, I was pretty sure she was not going to kill me. The statute of limitations has run out; that sweater is long gone. Besides, necessity is the mother of invention and that is how I learned to pick up dropped stitches…and cross cables, and much, much, more knitting arcana. So I laughed at her, and she admitted that she had never noticed, so I must have done a bang up job of it.
I’ve never again been afraid of knitting. I am the boss of my knitting thanks to my mother…sort of.
This is the Tulip Pattern from Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.For those of you who are familiar with the collection, that’s the blue one or the first one. It’s on page 25 and is worked as follows:
Over a multiple of 3
Rows 1 and 3 (RS) – Knit
Rows 2 and 4 (WS) – Purl
Rows 5 and 7 – K1, * p1, k2; rep from *, end p1, k1.
Rows 6 and 8 – P1, *k1, ps; rep from *, end k1, p1.
Rows 9 and 11 – *P2, k1; rep from *.
Rows 10 and 12 – *P1, k2; rep from *.
And it looks like this:
It’s not super stretchy so it won’t nip in like straight up ribbing does, but has a combination of knit and purl stitches that makes it lie flat. It gives a bit of textural interest to an otherwise plain stockinette fabric, or is subtle enough not to draw too much attention on something more complex. It could also be used as an all over fabric. The example you’re looking at is still on the needles, but I’m thinking it will flatten out a bit with washing and blocking. All in all, a sweet edge treatment.
A man approached me at Farmer’s Market today wearing a worn-looking shirt with the sleeves cut off, work jeans and no shoes. He was middle-aged, his face was handsome, tanned and deeply lined and he was rather muscular.
I stood behind my tables covered with brightly-colored knitted *things* and smiled, hoping he was going to buy something for the wife that had wandered past to the vegetable stand.
He fingered several of the hats, then a cowl before saying, “I started teaching myself to knit this past winter. Can’t say’s I’m gonna remember any of it but I ‘tend to pick it up again come cold weather.”
I tried to swallow my surprise as suddenly as it appeared – he did not look like the ‘knitter type’.
“Oh!” was about all I could manage at first, then I got ahold of myself and added, “That’s great!”
Because I am a brilliant conversationalist.
“Yeah…” he continued, looking first at the delicately stitched wool and silk scarf I had resting on the farthest edge of my stand, then turning his head towards the bright sky with a squint, “I like it well enough, just decided to try it. Supposed to be relaxing but my tension is so tight still. Gotta work on that…”
“That will get better. Just relax your shoulders. Breathe. It takes practice. My husband was the same way when he started. You’ll get it.” I smiled again.
“I really liked to sew when I was a kid, then I worked as a mariner and you know a mariner ain’t worth his salt ‘less he knows his way around with a needle and thread…” He waited, leaning his head forward as if to remind me that it was my turn to say something.
“Ah yes. I think that’s wonderful. I think all men should know a little something of the fiber arts…” I could feel my ‘men should knit too’ speech coming on. “You know, knitting used to belong to men for the most part. It’s only relatively recently become a ‘womanly art’. It’s like spinning and weaving – some cultures considered them too sacred to be given over to the ladies. I certainly don’t agree with *that*, but I don’t believe that men have lost any right to it by sharing with the rest of us. It’s your birthright – keep at it, you’ll get.”
I offered him a couple of simple patterns to work on and then he left.
He was the first of several men who stood and talked to me knowledgeably about knitting. I am so impressed by the rich tradition of knitting that’s to be found here in Midcoast Maine. I am fascinated and inspired to hear the stories of these gentlemen who are either drawn to knitting personally or have stories to tell of their grandmothers and grandfathers or parents knitting thick woolen mittens, socks and sweaters for the lobstermen to wear to keep their hands from freezing off. They hold this history very dearly, I can tell by the light that comes into their eyes when they talk about it.
One man told me today, “You don’t know how important those mittens were! The fishermen used to say, ‘if you lost your mitten, you’d lose your hand’. I remember my mother knitting thick mittens using wool spun in the grease** and then boiling them to get ‘em good and thick. Then my wife and I raised sheep and would shear them and then she’d spin the wool and make mittens to sell… The fishermen needed them. Acted just like wetsuits, get their mittens soaking wet at first then put them on and they’d keep a layer of warmer water by their skin. Pull their gloves off at the end of the day and their hands would be steaming warm.”
Another, older man mourned the fact that, “…nobody knows about wool anymore. Wool is perfect. Wears like iron. I hate to say it, I hate to say it but that polar fleece stuff is good. I admit it – that polar fleece stuff is warm and light, but it still ain’t wool. What happened to the wool? I remember having wool sweaters my mom made me being so warm and thick they were waterproof. Polar fleece is something – but it sure ain’t wool. We’ve lost that.”
Hopefully, we haven’t lost it completely. I’ve never knitted a pair of mittens in my life, but this man’s sparkling eyes convinced me that it’s time to learn. And not just any mittens. I’m going to make traditional, boiled wool fishermen’s mittens.
“You think you could make me mittens? Wool mittens?” He asked.
“You want them fulled? Good and thick?”
“Oh yeah – I didn’t want to ask. No one knows about that anymore. I’d love a pair of thick mittens like they used to have.”
“I think I can do that.”
I took some measurements and hope to start them some time next week.
I wasn’t born here, I don’t consider this my heritage by blood, but I am a knitter to the core and feel a deep kinship with anyone who has worked with fiber to create something that has a legacy of its own. We knitters are often remembered by the mittens we make – I don’t know much about that man’s grandma, not even a name, but I know she used her skills and her birthright as a creator to make something that helped to keep a vital industry thriving and alive. She probably didn’t romanticize it that much, she probably said, like her grandson,
“The fishermen need them.”
** ‘In the grease’ means all of the natural lanolin has not been removed from the yarn. “My wife would wash the yarn in something like Ivory soap, enough to get it clean but not enough to strip the grease from it. Made it waterproof, sure did.”
We’re having a trunk show at The Shop this Wednesday (August 20th) starting at 10:00am and running right on through the day until 7. Come try on some gorgeous goodies and don’t worry – we’ll all be drooling and cooing like babes…
Swan’s Island Yarn Company is based right here on the coast of Maine, they say of themselves;
“The Swans Island process is a labor of love and a meditation on the beauty and value of a handmade life..”
We like this.
They are a certified organic mill and produce their luscious array of colors using only natural dyes;
“Each one is subtle, sophisticated and has a richness not found in other solid, chemically dyed yarns. The history of natural dyeing is a long and rich one and we are proud to be carrying on this time-honored textile tradition.”
This event is definitely something you don’t want to miss – so come on down! We’ll be looking for you…
*quotes taken from the Swan’s Island website: www.swansislandcompany.com