Knitting in public for a week.

During the week of June 12th to the 19th I chose to conduct my own little knitting social experiment in conjunction with World Wide Knitting Day/Week. It was a great experience in that it gave me a chance to just sit and observe the world for 1/2 hour each day while I also got to work on my lovely blue sock (made from left overs of On Your Toes Bamboo sock yarn and Tofutsies sock yarn).

Day 1 was at the very beginning of the World Cup and was the day when the UK and the US would be facing off again for the first time in something like 50 years. I could hear the hoopla coming from Jakk Tuesdays, the Sports Bar next to the store, while the Sock in a Day class was going on, so I was really looking forward to seeing the 2nd half of the game while working on my sock. Well... BORING! Obviously all the excitement took place in the 1st half when we could hear everyone cheering. Never mind...I did notice that when it's the 3rd game of the World Cup of soccer, and you're knitting in a sports bar - NO ONE CARES.
The next day I went to City Park at the corner by Bagot St. We lived about a block from this park when we first moved to Kingston about 25 years ago. How lovely to dig up the memories of the swings on a summer's night, with my much younger oldest daughter. I sat in the "Walk at City Park", a memorial garden sponsored by Hospice Kingston, offering a lovely treed shelter and fountain, surrounded by bricks, benches and other features dedicated to loved ones who have passed on.
The bench across from me said: "For the enjoyment of all, from the dog friends of Grace Howard." How sweet of dear Grace's canine friends. At my feet was a brick that mentioned that Robert (Bob) Snider had passed away on Sept. 12th, 2001. Not only is this the day after such a memorable date in North American history, it was also the day that Ernie Coombs, alias Mr Dressup, died.

Day 3 had me knitting at Loblaws after picking up some groceries where, continuing with the dog theme, I found this fellow to pose with my sock.

Day 4 I went to Progress Fitness (and I blush as it was the first time in about 3 months that I'd made it to the gym. )

Day 5 which was Thursday I like to go to the library for an hour or so before going back to the store to teach on Thurs. evening and Sockie came with me.

The next day I had to have the oil changed in my car and I sat in the waiting room at Edwards Ford.

On the last day, Saturday the 19th, I wanted to do something in solidarity with the knitters who were gathering in Cambridge Ontario to make an attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of knitters gathered together plying their craft. So off I went to Chapters and propped the sock up on an abbreviated edition of the record book that didn't seem to have much information at all about knitting except that the fastest knitter was from the Netherlands and the longest needles were BIG (I forget the exact dimensions).

So what did I learn from this experiment?

I observed that the only place that anyone even gave me a second glance was in the park, and there I actually had 2 people who stopped to talk to me, both of who had fond memories of mothers knitting in their past.

I've tried to come up with some reason why this was the only place where my knitting would attract any attention, and I believe that it has a lot more to do with the frame of mind of the people passing by than anything else. Most of these other venues had people who were there for their own specific purpose, and that it would take an awfully strange activity indeed to keep them from completing their task in the most efficient manner possible.

I must note that the park was also the only place where I actually noticed that people were less prone to scowl. Even at the library, the determination on the faces of the patrons surprised me as they focused on the search at hand. To me, it says a lot about the value of our green spaces and how we should maybe take the time to enjoy them a bit more.


Why I could never knit a true Alice Starmore design

As I was approaching the end of my Knit In Public week, someone at the store asked how my socks were doing and I said that all was on track - IN FACT, I was finishing a second pair of socks that weren't due until September. Hurray! 2 out of 3 WIPs (works in progress) nearly done!

I reflected later on that I was quite proud of this September pair of socks as they were the first project in many years that I had followed the directions to the letter. I did precisely their toe beginning (3 times on the 1st sock), I slavishly measured my gauge and did the precise calculations. I followed the techniques to the letter. I NEVER follow anything to the letter, but it seemed like an interesting experience and a challenge worth pursuing during my month of learning while I was away in May.

Boasting is not a good thing to do. It calls the gods down to laugh at you.

On Saturday evening, I finished the "afterthought" heel exactly as they described and voila: a sock that doesn't fit! I couldn't believe it. My daughter who will receive these socks has about the same size feet as I do and we both have tried them on along the way, to the extent that one can try on a tube before it's "afterthought heel" is put in. All seemed well, until you take in to account the fact that the human foot has an instep.

The way that you can tell that the sock doesn't fit without seeing the sweat on my face from wrestling it over my heel is the fact that the "bull's eye" effect of the heel has its centre under the heel, and by the tiny hole that I was going to secure when weaving my final ends in, which has blossomed from the strain over my foot into the size of a giant blueberry through which skin could be seen from across the street.

So much for my effort at following someone else's directions. I have since separated the leg from the foot at the "afterthought" line and will proceed to knit the feet with a regular heel and finishing with a perfectly lovely and acceptable Kitchener toe.

I don't follow direction well in most endeavours. It's not that I don't get what I'm being told. It's more often that I think that I know a better way of doing things. Or in the case of a recipe, I may not have the time, tools and/or specific ingredients to do it exactly as the chef prescribes. I can usually wing it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I do however appreciate that there are times when it is wise to just follow the leader. This lesson was learned by me in a most wonderfully humbling way with the rug that I hooked using my nephew's painting at right. He was 8 years old when he painted this, and his mom sent a beautiful copy to my parents. I was so taken by the flow and colours and the simplicity of the design, I wanted to do it in another medium.
As I got going with the rug hooking I believed that I would adapt it, to add some more warmth to the textures that the wool would bring to the piece...remove the black outlines around the bottom sections, change some of the colouring of the rocks to add more depth. Once again HA! The artistic gods and no doubt, my nephew, Andrew's innate sense of what works, put me in my place and I ended up changing back every modification that I'd made and the rug is a pretty faithful reproduction of the original - cause everything I tried wasn't as good as what a very talented 8 year old had already done before. I love it.
So the reason that I could never do an Alice Starmore design, such as the Mary Tudor shown below, and that I'm reading about in Adrienne Martini's book Sweater Quest, is that people who put the time and effort into taking on such a project actually want to make it exactly as it was designed, remaining as true and faithful to the colours and styling as is humanly possible.
When I knit, I usually have discarded a half dozen details in any given pattern by the time I get the cast on row finished.
It's not that I think I know better...well, maybe it is. What I mean is that it's more that I know myself and know what I'll put up with, or what I have the time to accomplish, or the money to purchase, or the inclination to complete. I know better what is possible for ME. And the unbelievable dedication to the cause required for such a mammoth project is beyond my scope or discipline.
This picture of the Mary Tudor sweater was taken in January of 2009 by it's owner, Irene who had begun it in 2004. Irene's blog is not a usual knitting blog in fact Irene and Man Yung's Tango Blog isn't usually about knitting at all. But who would know that behind all that Latin passion involved in their tango lives, Irene is an incredibly accomplished knitter who has more dedication than many of us can lay claim to. Check out this post as the pictures of the inside of the sweater are amazing.
Hats off to all of the consumed knitters how decide to pay homage to such talented knitting designers that elevate our treasured hand craft to an art form.


I'm a few days into my week of knitting for 1/2 hour in public each day and it's been an interesting experience. On day one, last Saturday, I spent my allotted time at Jakk Tuesday's, the sports pub next to the store (how convenient) where I knitted my way through the 2nd half of the US vs UK game. I'm actually a bit surprised at not hearing more of our customers coming in to pick up a specific soccer watching project. I'm sure that during the last World Cup there were more dedicated purchases, but actually most of the conversations with our customers are around the Inventory Sale so perhaps they are using their sale yarns, or maybe they aren't watching the games? I am.
While trolling the internet this week I came across these guys. Aren't they wonderful?
The pattern comes from a site called the Evesham Dallimores
named for the Dallimore brothers who live in Evesham, England; I have yet to figure out why they have a website but they do have a friend and "knitting expert", Marion Kinchin, who has written a simple pattern to knit the monkey (who is actually based on the star of a PG Tips tea advertising campaign in the UK). The pattern is designed to be made by children with some adult help. You can find it by linking here.
More about the other days of knitting in public later.
By the way, I love what an equalizer the internet is: after posting about Sweater Quest, the book that I'm reading, I received a nice little email message/comment from Adrienne Martini, the author of said book. Very cool. (Funny that I didn't hear from Stephen King when I wrote about reading his book: On Writing - one of my favourites and the only book of his that I've had the courage to finish.)


Sweater Quest

"I knit so I don’t kill people." —bumper sticker spotted at Rhinebeck
Sheep and Wool Festival
If you haven't heard of Adrienne Martini's book: SWEATER QUEST, My year of Knitting Dangerously, you are in for a treat.
Martini is funny. No she isn't Canadian, and she isn't the Harlot, but she is funny and writes very well.
This is the story of a woman in throws of young motherhood, who is trying to reclaim a small corner of her life where she might have some control. Much like Julie Powell of JULIE AND JULIA fame, Adrienne is not satisfied with any old run of the mill challenge. She has taken on the search, rescue and reclamation of the Holy Grail of the knitters pantheon: the "Mary Tudor" sweater pictured above on Alice Starmore's out of print book: TUDOR ROSES.
Now let me tell you my story about Tudor Roses. When I first brought it in to the store about 12 years ago, it was a very expensive book compared to others that we stocked. I believe it was about $30, maybe a bit more. I would order a copy and BANG, it would sell, despite the fact that the purchaser openly admitted that they would probably never make any of the sweaters; it was like a sirens call to buy the book that couldn't be ignored. So I would order another one and the same thing would happen within a few weeks so it wasn't just a couple of seduced spenders who were lured in.
You have to realize that aside from the price, each of these sweaters named for one of Henry VIII's entourage is made of fine "jumper weight" yarn - which translates to the thickness of a 4 ply sock yarn, which is comfortable and achievable for a pair of socks or baby clothes, but not the choice of many knitters at all for an adult garment, never mind a sweater of the intricacy of "Mary Tudor".
When things were slow in the store, or if we just wanted to show off what some crazy woman on a remote island off the coast of Scotland might dream up in her extreme need to keep her brain active, we would thumb through the Tudor Roses book. As an exercise one day, we decided to calculate the number and value of the fine pewter buttons on one of the sweaters: a beautifully cabled thigh length swing coat. I forget it's actual name and neither I don't remember the exact number but I do know that in 1999 Cdn dollars, the price of the buttons was $120!
As a great admirer of any breathtakingly beautiful piece of knitting and as summer reading demands a bit more levity, I thought that this would be the perfect time to share some of Adrienne's journey. So far so good, I'm really enjoying it.
I had bought the book at Novel Idea as a going away gift for Hillary, our Saturday student staff person and I thought I'd get myself a copy soon but was beaten to the punch by a buddy who has leant it to me. Book sharing friends are so nice. I'm sure that Chapters and Indigo probably have it too. I'll keep you posted as I make my way through her hear long quest.


Playing with my new camera

For 16 years now, I've been passing the sheep in the field at the top of our hill and often thought that it would be fun to go and take some pictures. So last night I set out with new camera in hand to see if they would pose for me. Well, sheep being sheep, one of them looked over at me and as soon as she did that, the rest of them looked over and started to move away. This picture is taken at the extreme zoom level and really fast before they all took off out of range. I was impressed.

One solace of having your things stolen, as my camera was on the last day of the train trip, is that you sometimes get to replace that which was taken with something even better. Last spring I took a short photography workshop and was pleased to discover that my old little point-and-shoot Kodak was actually not too bad but more important, I learned about the potential of other cameras that mine just nodded at. This new camera is just a step up from the last one, and I'm having a great time playing with it.

In another vein, I'm looking forward to Knit In Public Day/Week which for me will begin next Saturday, June 12th teaching the Sock in A Day class, then heading to the market Downtown to knit in the square for 1/2hour. I hope to keep up this knitting meditation in different places throughout the city for the week.

Under most circumstances, such a fun opportunity to knit for 1/2 hour each day would call for a special new project so I looked up a pattern that I had seen in a couple of the LYSs in my travels: The Travelling Woman shawl. I found the Free pattern up on Ravelry and was all set to take on the relative challenge of knitting a small lace shawl while sharing the benefits of knitting with strangers as they pass by.
Then the sensible angel on my other shoulder asked me precisely what I thought I was doing, beginning a new, unknown to me pattern when I already have a sweater and 2 sets of socks on the go, all of which I feel perfectly comfortable knitting while talking to passers by, AND all of which need to be finished for birthdays over the next couple of months.

So, properly chastised by my good angel, I will be working on these UFO's but encouraged to complete them so that I can get on with the Travelling Woman Shawl with one of our beautiful sock yarns that I haven't had the opportunity to try yet.


Cowichan Knitting in Vogue Knitting, Early Fall 2010

I always love to see the new magazines when they arrive at the store, and I had been forwarned of the latest issue of Vogue Knitting. Everyone who had it was asking me if I'd seen the article on the Cowichan sweaters.

Well, things being as they are when one returns from an extended time away, sitting down to peruse the latest knitting magazine was not at the top of the TO DO list, but I did make a point of checking out the article this week. What a lovely surprise: there they featured Emily Sawyer-Smith who was the lovely lady that I was speaking with during my trip to Duncan B.C. She is also the lady that I gave my copy of the Japanese book: Cowichan Sweater Hat and Small Goods pictured above. Link here to the latest WOOL-TYME Kingston newsletter where I describe my visit with Emily.

While searching the net for a nice picture of Emily to include in this post, I came across the best blog post on the Cowichan knitting tradition that I've seen so far, written by Ouno Designs of Vancouver who describe their blog in this way: "This is a long, messy, eclectic photo essay on design." It's actually a really interesting peephole into modern culture and certainly worthy of a good browse.
Among other rare pictures, they featured this amazing one of Canadian WWII officer Cecil Merritt in a Cowichan sweater sent to him by relatives in Vancouver – he’s photographed here in a Nazi prisoner of war camp along with fellow officers.

Don't you just love dawdling along on the internet, there are just way too many fun things to discover.