Thursday, June 16, 2005

Blushes and Rants and Musings...Oh, My!


Many thanks to everyone who gave me such enthusiastic comments on the Buegler Feather and Fan Shawl (pictured below). I’ve blushed steadily for over a week now!

I have been asked for some additional details on the yarn; I didn’t spin the alpaca for this one. I was in more of a knitting mood than a spinning mood, and I was already spinning for a couple of other projects (like the wedding veil that’s going to be made from reeled silk after all my work). I had read nice things about KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud yarn in Knitter’s Review, so I wandered over to their website ( ) and took a look. When I saw that I could buy enough of their Midnight color to make the shawl for less than $25 including shipping, I didn’t even try to resist.

I was slightly disappointed for about a half-second when I opened the yarn, as I was expecting a more blue-colored yarn, but I had opened the box in the early March sunshine – as soon as I realized that it was an iridescent green/blue thread that ran through the black background, and then picked up the yarn, I was in love! I can’t say enough extravagant things about the hand and live feel of this particular yarn. I normally get rather bored with a large project at about the half-way point, and it gets put aside for a few months until I’m ready to work on it again. But the feel of this yarn slipping through my fingers kept me steadily plugging away, and I finished up the shawl in less than three months of spare-time knitting – between two other projects!


I got to do one of the things I enjoy most this past weekend – demonstrate spinning in public! I love to teach (as you’ve probably figured out already), and of course, you can’t teach something that nobody knows about! So demonstrating is always fun for me. This weekend was especially nice, since my husband and younger son decided to join me at the Norris Dam State Park Homecoming Festival. Saturday was fairly busy in spite of intermittent rain and cloudy skies, and it was a good thing that the East Tennessee Fiberarts Guild was well-represented – we had 5 spinners and made a good strong showing with my cross-stitching husband and knitting son thrown into the mix.

It was totally great to have my husband and son along. It’s amazing how many closet knitters, weavers, quilters and cross-stitchers are men! They’re frequently the last men you would expect to show interest. We had one motorcyclist quilter, complete with black leather riding gear and tattoos asking questions about dyeing, and a knitter who looked like a wrestler commenting on my son’s knitting, left in a chair while he took a break. Those don’t really surprise me that much anymore, but the welders and machinists and mechanics do. And they never say a word unless there’s another man sitting there doing needlework! I talked with more men this weekend than I’ve done since the last time the ‘guys’ helped out. I’ve never understood men’s shyness about doing needlework…it’s not as if it’s a gender-specific activity!

Before you read this next bit, I’d like to reiterate that I enjoy demonstrating tremendously – I do at least four public demos each year. That said, I always come home wondering at the ignorance of the general population about where their necessities originate! I’m not talking about electronics, but about food and clothing! I know that I had a somewhat unusual childhood in that it spanned two very different worlds. My parents were a part of a very technically-oriented group – employees at the government’s Oak Ridge facilities were cutting-edge in technical matters – while my grandparents were coal-mining small farmers in one of the poorest counties in East Tennessee. But even those of my classmates who were so-called ‘city kids’ knew the realities of where their meat, veggies and clothing came from.

There were still farms in close proximity to Knoxville and Oak Ridge in the 1960’s and 1970’s (in the areas now known as West and Northwest Knoxville), and the family that didn’t grow a vegetable garden in the summer was unusual enough to cause remark. Cotton and linen might not be grown by everyone, but there was still enough around so that you could see what it looked like as you trundled past in the bus on your way to school. And while cows, pigs and chickens were more popular small-farm animals, sheep were not that uncommon. School field trips to farms were not even a topic for conversation – everybody bought truck produce from local farmer’s stands, or picked fruit, beans and tomatoes at various farms when they were ripe and canned or froze the produce. Farms were simply a part of life – not remarkable in any way.

Things have definitely changed. Farms are necessary field trips now, and it requires a 20-30 minute school-bus ride to reach them, even in my so-called rural area. We read stories, shepherd preschool through 3rd-graders through once a year for an hour and expect them to pick up the rudiments of where their clothes and food originate. Let me tell you, it doesn’t work! These children – and their young parents - have no idea where their food comes from other than ‘the grocery store’. Their life experience doesn’t encompass the reality of farming. They only see the neat packaging – never the messy reality of dusty feed and dirty bedding and blood draining into tubs. I’m not sure we’re doing them any favors by removing them from the realities…but mandatory time spent working on a farm brings up mental pictures of the sort of horrors China perpetrated during their Cultural Revolution. The cure is worse than the disease!

The comments at demonstrations have become rather predictable through the years, and the responses are now automatic. “See, that lady’s weaving cloth!” gets the response, “Not quite yet – you have to make the thread or yarn before you can weave the cloth. I’m spinning that yarn now. There are samples of woven and knitted cloth on the table over there.” “They have to kill the sheep to get the wool.” is met with “Farmers would never kill an animal that could bring in ten years worth of money for top-quality wool – they’ll take very good care of it in order to get that money.” “But how do they get the wool?” is responded to with “They give the sheep a haircut – just like you get!” “What holds the thread together?” earns the response “Friction, created by the twist you insert into the fibers, turns a bunch of 3-inch long fibers into hundreds of yards of thread.” “You can buy socks at Walmart for about $1 a pair.” earns a response almost equally rude, but in a very sweet tone – “Yes, I could, but I prefer to keep my hands and mind busy and have something to show for my time.” That one usually takes them at least a few seconds to work out. Then they tend to either wander away with a red face or get belligerent enough to attract Security. In either case they’re out of my hair. Ignorance can be cured with factual information and a little experience, but there is no cure for that sort of rudeness except elimination from the gene pool.

Enough ranting – I have it all out of my system now!


I’m working steadily on a design (although at this stage it’s more of a concept) for my daughter’s wedding veil. After much waste of time and drafting paper I’ve decided I can’t modify a square Celtic Knot pattern into an octagon. Maybe a better mathematician could manage it, but I can’t. So this will NOT start with a central Celtic Knot. I’m not sure I’d really like the look of a mostly-solid knit area right around the face, anyway. I think it would be much prettier to have a very fine, lightly-patterned lace netting, and then switch to the mostly stockinette designs at about chin or shoulder level. That way the weight is where it’s needed most to help create the proper drape, and the stockinette won’t hide her hair.

So I’ve decided I’ll start with about 18-24 inches in 3x3 Leaf Stitch from the Waterman book (Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, Martha Waterman, Interweave Press). That should be easy to increase properly from a center beginning. The rate of increase is going to be 2 stitches in each of 8 sections every other round, which matches the 2 stitches in each 16 sections every 4th round rate of increase recommended for circular shawls – either way you’ll get a total of 32 stitches increased after every 4th row. And if I begin with 6 stitches, I can start the pattern on the 5th row - this way:

Row 1: Knit the 6 cast-on stitches
Row 2: Knit 1, yo, and repeat around for a total of 12 stitches (6 increases)
Row 3: Knit around
Row 4: Knit 1, yo, and repeat around for a total of 24 stitches (12 increases)
Row 5: Begin pattern Row 1.

Hopefully this isn’t too rapid a rate of increase – I’ll try it tonight and make sure. But I do want to get the pattern started as soon as possible. I know we aren’t going to be folding it exactly in the middle (you definitely want the top layer shorter than the bottom one), but I want that central increase section to be as minimal as possible. It will take 6 rows from Row 5 to get the other 4 pattern repeats incorporated (48 stitches), so I’ll have the 8 rays of my circle set up by Row 10.

The only other question I have is one that I’ll also have to work out by sampling. The actual pattern is:
Row 1: yo, sl 1, k2 tog, psso, yo, k3 (a double decrease to take care of the two yo’s)
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: k3, yo, sl 1, k2 tog, psso, yo (a double decrease to take care of the two yo’s)
Row 4: Knit

What I’m wondering is if I substitute a k2 tog (single decrease) in the repeats on either side of the 8 markers on each pattern row, will that automatically give me the 2 increases I need in each section? It should, logically – I’m only decreasing 1 stitch instead of 2, and so there’s an extra yarn over. It doesn’t work out on paper, though. I’ll play with it tonight and see and try to report back tomorrow. With any luck I’ll have an actual sample to show you!

1 comment:

flwrhead said...

I am laughing so hard right now! Do you mind if I borrow your WalMart socks response? That is classic. I just discovered your blog and I am thoroughly enjoying reading every entry!

I don't suppose you plan to attend the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville next month? I'd love to meet you (no, I'm not a blog stalker!) and admire your work!