Fictional Characters – Fictional Knitting

As you delve deeper and deeper into the yarn life, you begin to notice other devotes to knitting and crochet, especially when you’re participating in one of the greatest of crafting rituals; crafting and binge watching.

A couple of weeks ago I dived beck into The Golden Girls. I remember a few episodes from my childhood when it was still in production, and more so once I hit the college years and syndicated episodes always seemed to be playing on one of the 10ish cable channels available in the dorms. Despite the passage of time, the series is still topically relevant.

Through this trip through the late 80’s I notice Sophia was a crocheter and has never finished what looks like a scarf with a bright orange border. I’ve giggled a few times, that someone thought enough to actually put together a decent prop but never had it progress, but then there are continuity errors left and right through the series. The idea of someone streaming an entire TV series from first episode until last and someone catching those errors had to be fairly foreign. I don’t remember the first box sets of TV series popping up until DVDs became easily accessible in the mid-90s.

Besides Sophia Patrillo, who else has busted out yarn on screen?

Molly Weasley – Harry Potter
Her monogrammed sweaters were pretty infamous. One day I need to get around to making on of them for myself.

Morticia Addams – The Addams Family
From TV series to movies, both Carolyn Jones and Angelica Houston can be seen with knitting needles in hand.

Izzie Stevens – Grey’s Anatomy
Izzie may have been the most noticeable character playing with yarn in the series, but there have been a lot of background characters through the seasons that have been working on projects.

Hawkeye Pierce – M*A*S*H
Yep, probably one of the few male characters that I can think of.

Old Nan – Game of Thrones
She gets the award for giant sized double points for what I think may be giant sized socks for Hodor.

I’m certain there are dozens more that just haven’t popped into my mind.

Slowly but surely, yarn crafting my be getting a little more screen time as it’s popularity continues to grow….but there’s a catch….as you see character’s working, are they doing it correctly? See how often you can catch an actor, well, acting how to knit or crochet.

Who else can ya’ll think of?

Fiber Menagerie – Part I

SophiaImagine it: Gainesville, Monday night, June, 2019, sitting on the Square, a knitter is asked what’s in her yarn by a non-knitting friend. Three natural fibers rolled out of the knitter’s mouth. Now that Sophia Petrillo has set the scene it’s time to get down to business.

There is actually a lot of fiber that can be spun into yarn and there are times the choices can be a little overwhelming.  I’ve not written an educational post for a while so it’s time to put together the mini primer for fiber basics.

Fiber can really be split into two main categories, natural and synthetic. This will be split into several posts over time because we are finding new ways to create fibers not only from natural sources but creating new synthetics ones, but we’ll start with some of the animal sourced fibers first.  I think we can comfortably say, most of the animals that produce a usable fiber that can be used sustainably in yarn production have been discovered.

All of these fibers come from animals that have either all or part of their wool/coat/fur harvested through shearing, combing, or collecting natural sheds during the spring and summer.  If done responsibly it does not injure the animal.  Although many of these animals are now found all over the world, many of these fibers are still harvested closest to the areas where the animal was natively found and domesticated.

The Natural Critter Sourced Fibers

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Baaaaaahhhhhh!

Wool! More specifically sheep’s wool is the most common animal sourced fiber spun into yarn.  It’s nature’s first dri-fit material.  Yep, wool will wick moisture away to be evaporated and despite the belief that wool can only be worn during the cold months it can be worn year round because of its wicking and thermogenic properties.  It also has UV resistant properties.  There are a few types of sheep wool fibers to watch out for, other than the generic wool term, you’ll find a couple of specialty sheep provided goodies.  Merino is a specific wool fiber that is less likely to cause allergic reactions and is touted as softer than most wools.  Shetland wool is specific to the Shetland Islands.  Icelandic wool – well you can guess where it comes from.  Regional wool varieties and types can cause this post to go on and on, but overall most sheep wool has similar properties. Sheep wool is harvested all around the world, but most notably the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

 

 

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Cashmere Goat

Cashmere! Also called Cash Here in some circles is supplied by the Cashmere goat.  It has a silky feel and is great for anything worn close to the skin during the cold months and is more or less the fiber gold standard – for now – cashmere’s supremacy is beginning to be challenged by other animal fibers that are more sustainably produced.  It’s very warm and very soft and incredibly insulating.  It’s pricy because of the time and effort it takes to comb and sort the useable fiber from the undercoat instead of the more coarse protective topcoat. The Cashmere goat is native to Tibet, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh and Baltistan (Kashmir region).

 

 

 

 

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Angora Goat

Mohair! This is a fiber produced by Angora goats.  These goats have a curly locks and the yarn spun from this fiber will have a natural “halo” or fine fuzz to it.  It’s another very warm, insulating fiber, where a little goes a long way.  A garment made from lace weight mohair will be just as warm if not more so than an item made from a bulky sheep’s wool.    The Angora goat originated in the district of Angora in Asia Minor, but are now more common in Turkey, Argentina, and the United States. 

 

 

 

alpaca
Emo Alpaca

Alpaca! It’s soft, it’s squishy, it’s warm (okay most animal fibers are) and it’s possibly hypoallergenic.  It has the best silky soft features of cashmere without the price tag.  Alpaca seems to have grown in popularity over the past decade or so.  I can understand why, I could cuddle up and sleep in a mountain of Alpaca yarn.  This is another fiber that is know for its moisture wicking properties making it great for garments and gloves. Alpacas like the higher elevations of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Northern Chile.

 

 

 

Bunneh
Fluffy Bunneeeeee

Angora! Not all fiber comes from goats and sheep.  This one comes from bunnies.  Angora like cashmere can be a little on the pricy side.  It has the feel of cashmere with the halo of mohair.  The fiber is collected by pulling the loose shedding fibers from the rabbit.  If you happen to wander of to a fiber fair you may see hand spinners with a rabbit sitting quietly in their lap while they pull the fiber and spin it seconds later.  Properly done this does not hurt the rabbit at all as it’s the loose fiber that has to be brushed from it’s fur on a regular if not daily basis.  Angora rabbits originated in Turkey and quickly spread throughout Europe in the 1700s.

 

 

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Yakkity Yak

Yak!  This may be one of the largest animals fiber is harvested from.  Handlers brush the undercoat out of their longer guard hair.  Yak is gaining in popularity since it has many of the features of cashmere with the soft silky feel, but is considered a more sustainable alternative since yaks are more adaptable than the cashmere goat and produce a greater amount of fiber.  They are native to Tibet, Mongolia and Russia.

 

Ox
Musk Ox

Musk Ox!  I had to toss an odd one in there. If you think cashmere is pricy, let me introduce you to qiviut. Qiviut much like the most of the other fibers is good ole undercoat that will naturally shed from Musk Ox when things start warming up.  Musk Ok are native to Alaska and parts of Canada and the fiber is generally collected from the natural sheds from the ground and whatever the Ox is rubbing up against.  There are some farms that are able to comb their Ox but I’ve been told from a pretty reliable source that Musk Ox can be a little testy and it’s just easier to pick up the fiber. This fiber is warmer than wool and proven to be softer than cashmere.  Qiviut production has deep ties into regional First Nation’s yarn production and knitting culture (sounds like a topic for future blog posts).  Qiviut has become a little more mainstream with blends becoming available.

I’ll touch on this subject again, there are so many usable fibers out there that trying to cram them all into a single post would be exhausting, and quite possibly a novella in length.  Stand by, more fiber education to come.

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I saw this video yesterday and it hit a nerve, especially when a significant portion of the country is in the grip of a deadly polar vortex with record smashing lows.  Living in Georgia I cannot even begin to fathom how cold stepping outside with a -50 degree windchill is.

I remember some very cold days during my school years in West Virginia, but nothing like the temps we’re seeing this week.  I was fortunate to have the coat, gloves and hat as I needed them.  I’m fortunate to have those items now, and even have the ability to make my own.

I’ve heard of programs where crafters are making items to give to children at their local schools to help keep children warm, but in my initial searches I’m not finding any locally in Northeast Georgia or in my home state.  Just putting the bug out there, do any of you know of such programs, or have participated in them?

The Stories Strangers Tell: Knitting Adventures at 39,000 Feet

As a habitual knitter there’s always a small project that lives in my bag or backpack to work on if there’s a bit of downtime. It’s much more appealing to craft something tangible if a couple of rows can be thrown into a project than sitting and poking at a smart phone screen.

While sitting on a flight I pulled out a pair of Knitted Knockers (hand knitted breast prosthesis) to work on since I was trapped in the dreaded middle seat and there was absolutely no chance of a nap. Once in a while I’ll get a question or two about what I’m working on, but largely the yarn fidgeting goes unnoticed, other times like several other knitting in public adventures, there will a conversation I won’t forget.

Being trapped, both passengers on either side saw what I was up to pretty quickly. The first was a man in his mid-twenties who had just pulled out a game system. He commented that if he wouldn’t be teased that he would love to learn how to knit. Our conversation fell along the lines, of why worry about what his friends think, if he wanted to he could just knit in private, and there were plenty of men who knit. He asked a few more questions about where and how to start, and he was pointed towards his local yarn shop in Pennsylvania.

Now on the other side, sat a woman, well into her retirement years with a thick Brooklyn accent. “I knit. Mom taught me. Nothing fancy. Mom could really knit.” Really?

Her mother would knit her and her siblings new sweaters every year, ripping apart the sweater from the year before, knitting it a little larger and adding more yarn when necessary. When the yarns were finally too worn to reuse for the next year, the kids would pick from a handful of colors for their next sweater. Nothing too bright, nothing to extreme, simple colors that could matched if more yarn had to be added to in following years. She missed her yearly sweaters.

She asked me how I learned, and I filled her in. She asked where I bought yarn in Georgia, since she was going to be staying for a few weeks and wanted to make a couple of scarves for her grandkids. Filled her in there too, and how I was always there on Saturdays, but since it would be a long drive for her, I told her about a few shops I knew about near the family members she would be staying with.

Then she asked the big question. “What are you making anyway?” Knitted Knockers were explained and her expression changed entirely. It’s hard to describe what I saw on her face. Pain, grief, a touch of happiness, surprise. It was hard to read. I froze, and didn’t really know what to say.

She spoke first. I can still hear her story in my head.

Mom died in the early 80s. She found a lump in her right breast, and went over a year before going to the doctor about it. You’re far to young to know how cancer of any type was treated then. It wasn’t talked about, like it is now. There wasn’t support groups. There wasn’t information out there. The treatments were brutal. Mom had her breast removed. It didn’t heal well. It was always painful, there was no reconstruction choices. She was told to stuff the empty place in her bra, and go on with life. She began isolating herself. She was a housewife, she only left the house for errands stuffing her bra and wearing the baggiest clothes she had.

Mom found another lump in her remaining breast two years later. She chose to let it take her and was gone within a year. If she had one of these knitted things and felt better about herself, maybe things would have been different for her.

The woman went silent. I didn’t know what to say other than I’m sorry.

She spoke again.

The woman who started this organization and the people who are knitting these things are doing a great good in this world.

She picked her book back up and began reading. I took that as a sign that I should pick my needles back up and not speak further.

Others around us had heard her story and began sharing their own stories about family members that had fought cancer in many forms. I sat, worked, and listened. My neighbors in the row sat and listened.

The woman next to me, put her book back down, sat and listened in silence. Knitting triggered her memories of both happiness and pain. There were no more words between us for the rest of the trip.

I hope that the happy memories of the childhood sweaters and the scarves that she will make for her grandchildren will bring her comfort.

It’s been a few weeks since our conversation on the plane, she never made it up to Yarn Rhapsody during the time she said she would be in Georgia. I wish her nothing but peace.

Save our Soles!

Socks.

Most of us wear them, all of us know what they are.  Depending on the season they keep our feet warm and dry, or cool and dry.  Feet are pretty happy when they are comfy and dry, and with all the abuse they take, they deserve the best.  Right?

A good pair of hand knitted socks is quite possibly one of the best treats for the tootsies.   But why would we knit them when you can easily pick up a pack of six at Wally-World for about the same price as the ball of yarn required to make a single pair? 

COMFORT.  Period. End of conversation.  

Well, not really or this would be the shortest post I’ll ever compose. Comfort is a huge factor though. Hand knit socks are custom made to fit your measurements, this is awesome for folks who find store bought socks too tight or too loose.  After my first pair of socks came off the needles I immediately started knitting another pair and the collection is growing. If I’m wearing store bought socks it’s because the hand knit ones need laundered. 

Quality. Let’s be honest here, socks won’t last forever. You wear them and they take a beating. I can promise that a well made pair of hand knit foot covers will last longer than store bought, and even when they do begin to get a little thin in places they can be fixed with a little darning. 

Style. There are probably hundreds of thousands of sock patterns out there ranging from plain vanilla patterns to complicated cables and lace. Toss in the endless range of yarn choices and the perfect pair of tootsie toasters can be yours. 

Portablility. Socks are quite possibly one of the easiest projects to toss into a bag to keep handy for those situations where you would rather do something besides poke at your smartphone.  

Easy to do. Alright I can see people rolling their eyes here. Socks are actually pretty easy once you get through your first pair. They seem intimidating at first. I knitted for 7 years before attempting my first pair and laughed over the fact it took me so long to try.  Once a newbie knitter has knit, purl, and decreases under their belts, socks are a good project to learn short rows on, opening the door for bigger projects and greater skills later on.  

Seriously, stop being chicken, make socks!