Old Wives mostly got it right.


Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

If you’ve been hanging around the shop recently, you know that Liz and I are “racing” to finish our dueling sweaters.  It started about 6 months ago when a young sternman came into the shop with a pair of neoprene wristers in his hand and a gleam of hope in his eye.  (For those of you who don’t know what a sternman is, he is the second working man on a lobster boat.  His position is toward the stern of the boat…hence the name.)  This particular sternman had a sweater he loved but it had some flaws and it was wearing out.  Sternmen get wet while they work and their sleeves catch on the wire of the traps and other things.  In Maine, the ocean water fluctuates between about 45 and 55 degrees Farenheit.  That, my lovelies, is cold.  And on a brisk mid-winter day, when the wind is whipping and the temperatures plunge, wet cuffs can be awfully unpleasant.

maxi

We all know the fiber your clothing is made from is important to over all comfort.  Any maritimer will tell you, cotton is a deadly no-no.  Polar fleece can block wind and keep you toasty, but loses all its effectiveness if it gets even a little damp.  Divers will tell you that neoprene will keep you warm, and they are right up to a point.  Thinsulate?  Maybe, but again wet is an issue.  Our sternman was hoping we could make him a new sweater and attach neoprene wristers to the sleeves in an attempt to keep the wet out…in the hopes of keeping dry and warm.  What to do; what to do?

fisherman-1

Now I can hear some of you shouting from the ether because you already know the answer.  For those of you who don’t already know, wool has a wonderful property; it retains heat even when it gets wet.  Yup.  There’s a really good reason all those Irish and Scottish and Scandinavian folks developed their various sweaters and shawls and mittens and socks.  They live in cold damp climates with maritime traditions and they needed ways to stay warm even if they couldn’t stay dry.  For hundreds of years, long before the invention of polar fleece, neoprene and Thinsulate, those folks relied on wool.

images

They developed techniques and traditions of using wool that incorporated making it thicker, too.  Stranded color work, heavy cables and…fulling.  What’s fulling, you ask?  These days we call it felting, but they are technically two different things.  Felting is when you use unspun fleece and apply moisture and agitation.  Fulling is what you do after you spin and knit wool.  All of these methods make the worked wool thicker, more wind and moisture resistant, and more hard wearing.  Sounds perfect for a working stern man, right?

632dd38e43796311fd30bed62bc2fd77

After Liz started working on a traditional boiled wool sweater for our stern man, I got in touch with Captain John of the J&E Riggin.  Low and behold, he has the same criteria for the perfect sweater.  Wind and moisture resistant, warm and hard wearing.  So…Liz and I are knitting dueling sweaters.

dae068254eb6d288496596e84fc94088

Old Wives may tell tales and you might be tempted to discount what they had to say, but they often had good reasons for doing things the way they did.  And we’re taking their advice.  Stay tuned, and we’ll tell you how to do it, too.

imgres-1

One from the vaults.


Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Everything old is new again…sort of. I’ve been a knitter and a crocheter for most of my life. I’m the daughter of a life long knitter and crocheter. Some of my fondest childhood memories of the fiber arts world were the arrivals of the magazines. My mum went grocery shopping every two weeks and, while my siblings flocked like seagulls around the peanut butter to see who would be the first to put a finger track through the virgin smoothness of a freshly opened tub, I would make a dive for the knitting magazines that periodically graced our shopping bags. The hours I spent pouring over the designs and trying to figure out which sweaters I would ask Mum to make for me…or, later, which ones I wanted to make myself.

To this day, I don’t have subscriptions. I love the hunt and the moment of serendipity when I run across a tried and true favorite, or discover a new title. Interweave and VOGUE probably wish I would just go ahead and subscribe, but then the joy of pulling a fresh copy out of a shopping bag would be lost.

And I am nostalgic enough to have saved many of them. My mother’s hand written notes or hash mark in the margins where she modified a pattern or was counting rows are part of my knitting legacy. Like a scrap book, they make my past so immediate. There’s no way I’ll part with them. I’m also nostalgic enough to pick up back issues and genuine antiques when I run across them. I have boxes and boxes of old McCall’s and 101 Sweaters Workbasket from the 1950′s onward.

You see, I owe a debt of gratitude not only to my mum for teaching me the stitches, but also to the stable designers whose name I never knew and the editors who kept putting out the information I craved.  It was in the pages of these magazines that I learned to be a knitter. It was there I learned my psso from my k2tog. It was there I learned my sleeve length to blouse size ratios. It was there I developed my sense of knitwear fashion…and color…and fit…and proportion…and the passage of time.

Let me share with you something fabulous…

 

IMG_1609

 

Remember the 80′s?  I know you’re tempted to roll your eyes and mutter something about big hair and awful color blocking, or the decade long obsession with Victorian florals.  Or maybe you’re a hipster with a nostalgic eye for the retro statement of dolman sleeves.  Okay, I admit all of it.  But there are a few other things in these pages.  Look at this beauty.IMG_1617

I know, I know.  No one is ever going to put me a mock turtle neck again, either.  I have no real neck to speak of and the mock turtle line just makes me look like Uncle Fester.  And I gave up shoulder pads a long time ago.  And a great sweater should never stop at the natural waist.  And the gathered sleeve caps; don’t even get me started on the gathered sleeve caps.  But here’s the deal.  Once you’ve learned the building blocks of great design and how to manipulate them modifying this pattern for an updated fit is quick and easy.  And all that’s good about this pattern is still there for you to use.  The lace work is very pretty.  The proportion of vertical stripes to graceful arches is eye catching and flattering.  If you’re looking for a spring/fall sweater or something to layer under a blazer for business wear, you could go farther and fare worse.  It only takes a little reworking.  Shorter sleeve cap and deeper armhole, scoop neck, longer waist.  Can you see it?

white lace redux

A little imagination, a good handle on the building blocks and a little time and this gem gets a new lease on life.  And it was in the pages of this magazine and ones like it that I learned the imagination, the building block and how to manipulate them.  Because of them, I’m the boss of my knitting and I can do what I want.  The next time you see an old magazine at a yard sale or in a book shop, take a minute to see what’s inside.  Or if you ask at OTR, I’ll show you some of my collection and we can parse it together.  There’s gold in them thar pages…and everything old can be new again.

Looking ahead


Friday, October 18th, 2013

I really, really, really wish we were all on our way to Rhinebeck, but it just doesn’t seem to be my fate this year.  I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing to make it happen and it just keeps eluding me.  But there are still things to look forward to.

It is half way through October and I’m already planning my NaKniSweMo sweater.  Some of you may remember my adventures last year with Corinne and Boyfriend.  This year I am planning to do Kerrera  in Cascade Lana D’Oro in a beautiful ruby red.

IMG_1253

This is Justine wearing our sample.  Isn’t it lovely?  (Yes, I’m sure Justine is lovely, too, but I mean look at that beautiful sweater!)  I’m charmed and I want one in my size.  I want to cast on right now!  But I’m being a very good girl and waiting until November 1.

Meanwhile, I have started on the crochet version of the Through The Woods hood.  Justine is doing the knit version.  Knit version is in Berocco Voyage.  Crochet version is in Cascade Eco+.  They are both red, heavily cabled and beautiful.

IMG_1258

Are you sensing a theme here?  Can you guess what our November windows will feature?

And I have the Community Blanket to bind off.  And if I get all those things done, I’ll do a pair of mittens or two for the Mid-Coast Mitten Tree.  Surely that will keep me busy until November 1 when I can be with my true love.

 

Ethical Dilemma


Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

In most cultures in most times in history there have been standard openings to stories.  Think about it.  ”Once upon a time…” is one we’re all familiar with.  Or how about, “A long, long time ago in a land (or a galaxy) far, far away…”  Or maybe, “In the beginning…” There is a category in certain storytelling traditions known as the “No s*%t, there I was…”  You’re probably familiar with the format.  It comes at the beginning of a story that is wild enough that you’ll be tempted not to believe it, but is true none the less.  Well, during the Community Blanket Marathon I was thinking of you guys because…no s*%t, there I was…

The shop closed at 7pm as usual, but I wanted the clip board with the whole knitting roster on it, so I would know who was supposed to be showing up, who was late, who didn’t show up, etc.  So I went back to the shop to pick it up.

There is an alley between us and the insurance agency next door that is the habitual parking place of our insurance agent.  This alley is also the shortest route between the overflow public parking lot and the big art museum, and the art museum was having a gala opening for their big new show.  There were people coming and going throughout the down town area, especially to and from the museum.

It was about 8pm, the insurance agency was closed and the parking opportunities were slim, so I parked in the alley.  Before going in to retrieve the clipboard, I decided to download a Vine app onto my smart phone so I could post videos of the blanket in progress.  I sat quietly in my car wrestling with my iTunes password, wondering why it never seems to work the first time and not really paying attention to the people coming out of the museum across the street in front of me, or the people getting into their cars across the street behind me…or the couple who were walking down the alley chatting.  On some level I registered that it was a man and a woman and that they were on their home, but I didn’t clue in to what they were talking about until they got just to the front bumper of my car.

That’s when I tuned in and realized what they were talking about was whether he could have a quick pee in the bushes without getting caught.  Yup.  Standing beside the front bumper of my car, where I was sitting bathed in the blueish glow of my smart phone, not six feet away.  The wife said she thought he could manage it if he were quick about it and that she would stand guard.  She walked to the end of the alley behind me, looked both ways and told him there was no one around.  He hadn’t even waited for the all clear before unzipping and  beginning to tinkle on the rhododendrons.  They continued to chat about emergency peeing as it pertained to toddlers and others.  Apparently the woman had had a three year old in tow, once upon a time, who had watered that exact same patch of ground some years before.  They decided that it was probably more common than most people realized.

I was stunned.  I couldn’t even decide what to do.  I have several objections to public urination on public health grounds, not to mention olfactory esthetics in the immediate environs of my storefront.  I have other objections to being the unwitting observer of said acts on ground of privacy…mine!  I don’t really want to watch while a stranger hoiks out his apparatus and performs a pretty intimate maneuver in a public place.  Public.  You know, public?  Like in “there are people around!”

Why didn’t he go before he left the museum (which I happen to know has nice bathrooms) or where ever it was they had been?  Why did either of them think it was okay to irrigate the posies in the insurance agency’s garden?  How did they miss seeing me illuminated in my car with my mouth hanging open in shock?

Before I could even figure out how to respond, he pants-ed up and they wandered to their car and drove away.  I went inside, got my clipboard, and went back to the blanket marathon.  And I put I put it to the knitters; what is the ethical thing to do?  Interrupt him in mid-stream (so to speak) or stay still and silent and let him get on with it?

Some said I should have honked my horn and embarrassed him.  Maybe it would be a deterrent to future urinary adventures.  One said I should remain silent so as not to startle him and ruin his aim.  Another said I should report it to the police.  Really?

So now I put it to you… What would you have done?

Community and Blankets


Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

It has been a whirlwind season since I wrote here last.  It seems strange that so much time has passed me by without me really noticing it.  But here we are and I really want to tell you about our great “I Love Yarn Day Adventure.”

As many of you will recall, last years blanket marathon was held on the coldest day of the season with gusty winds and rain in the morning.  This year we had perfect weather.  Warm and clear and calm.  Setting up was a breeze and just as we finished setting out the chairs, a black clad server brought a fresh, hot pizza with compliments from from Bricks restaurant.  When the first knitters arrived we got down to work with a sense of comfort.  I got to knit with the starting crew while the blanket itself was still so small we all had to lean in close and knock knuckles as we worked.

As the blanket grew, more knitters came and went and the talk rambled back and forth from work concerns to “Orange Is The New Black” vs “Scandal” TV critiques.  We had folks drop by to chat and folks drop by to put in a few stitches.

IMG_1228

 

IMG_1221

We had some repeat knitters from last year, and some new folks to round out the shifts.

IMG_1215

IMG_1214

 

IMG_1225

IMG_1216

As the knitters worked on into the night, Tim Horton’s sent donuts and coffee, Justine brought cardamom buns, and everyone brought their best good cheer.

And the non-perishable food just kept coming.  Area Interfaith Outreach beat out Pope Memorial Humane Society by one food item to be the recipient of this years raffle.  Altogether, the non-profits were able to give 554 pounds of food to the food pantry.

IMG_1232

The raffle proceeds will arrive just in time to feed some hungry people during the holidays.  You can get your raffle tickets here at the shop to help support this much needed community resource.

I’m so grateful to everyone who knit, everyone who voted with food, everyone who brought snacks, everyone who stopped by to chat, everyone who kept the shop running and everyone who showed up to the 12 Weeks Of Christmas Week #2 even after they knit all night.  Special thanks to Cascade Yarn for sending such beautiful colors of 220 Superwash.  All in all, it was a smooth, comfortable, fun extravaganza that proves how much we love yarn and our community.  We’re moving into our holiday knitting with a deep sense of satisfaction.

IMG_1234

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together and takes on a life of its own?  Yeah; me, too.  So long, Community Blanket.  See you next year.

IMG_1242