Monday, January 30, 2006

Me old china....

For those not born within the sound of the bells of St. Mary - le - Bow, the complete phrase is: "Me old china plate - me mate." It's a Cockney phrase. When you refer to someone as "Your old china.." you are actually calling them your mate or friend - it loses a lot in translation, but it has a wonderful old country feel when rattled off by the barrow boys in Petticoat Lane or Portobello Road.

My father, who was stationed in London during WWII, came home with lots of London expressions just like that. It was enriching. It reminds me of James Joyce who made up so many words and phrases because he felt that the English language was too narrow; it restricted so much of his creative expression.

I am always amazed that editors give writers a list of words to stay within when they are writing books. How limiting. Does this happen in knitting design too? Certainly the larger yarn houses have to have patterns done in their yarn - a little restricting. I often tell designers - don't do crochet - it doesn't sell - another restriction - more on that later .

It is hard for independent designers to sell sweater and vest patterns because we are flooded with all the designs in all the magazines at least 4 times a year - more competition or restrictions
Still there are some designers who never seem to be restricted. They can turn the simplest motif into that must have pattern. I promised you pictures of Sasha Kagan's patterns from china plates - there really was a method in my madness! - well here they are. They can be found in her book - The Sasha Kagan Sweater Book - and there are kits available for a good number of the designs in the book, from Sasha's web site.

Above is Willow from the classic blue willow pattern. At the left is Double Dutch from Delft pottery. Both just too delicious to resist! I think that Sasha has captured the fragility of china and pottery in the not so fragile medium of knitting. Still tiny stitches in fine yarn have their own delicate nature. We treasure our knitting as much as we treasure other keepsakes. Great designers seem to sense this double entendre. They enrich their work on many levels, reflecting in their patterns the richness of life!

Sasha answered my request to post pictures of her patterns with a very generous...

Dear Carol

I would be delighted for you to post the 3 pictures of my designs on your weblog.

They are from "The Sasha Kagan Sweater Book" published by Dorling Kindersley in the UK and Ballantine in the USA ISBN 0-86318-051-5 first published in 1984.

Please give this book info and point people to my website Signed copies of this vintage knitting book are available from my studio price £20 plus £3.50 p&p ($36 plus p&p $13.50) Original kits also available.

Knitters still send up for kits from this book even though it is 22 years old.

The classic look does work!

Thank you for your interest in my designs. Thank you Sasha for responding!!!

Here is the third design that Sasha refers to. I knit it for my husband from Sasha's book mentioned above. This pattern is called - Copper Diamonds. It was worn with so much love, that it was worn out! (Hopefully not the love - just the sweater.) It was a joy to knit and a thrill to see worn almost daily. We knit so often for ourselves, but we love when the knitting is shared!!

Have a good one!


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Signs of Spring

We are starting to see the signs of Spring.

1. In January the raccoons come out of hibernation. Some believe they never really go into hibernation, but the naturalists who write their columns, swear that there is a month or so when they are not knocking over our garbage cans, exposing our secrets to the world, or at least the neighbours!

They can be a real nuisance; but they are so darn cute. My neighbour tells me that raccoons are related to the bear family. Yes, I can see their resemblance to the Panda.

2. Children have already lost at least one of a pair of mittens, if not a hat or two, scarves plus lunch boxes, school bags, boots, socks, shoes - you name it. However, it was because of the lost mitts, that I created the patterns for my character mittens. The idea is to knit just one mitten (not a pair) of a whole series of animal mitten patterns. They fit either hand so you just take another mitten from the menagerie of mitts, if a mitten gets lost. You're on your own for the other things!

3. February 2, of course is Ground Hog Day. The creatures of the earth are getting restless. The days are growing longer. We pick Forsythia and bring it in for forcing. In a month's time, the Cardinal's song will change to that wonderful, "what cheer, what cheer - pretty, pretty, pretty". He's applauding our knitting, of course! Thank heavens for the Cardinals and the Blue Jays - they stay with us throughout winter and add colour to the grey days.

Barb Telford of Woodsmoke Woolworks has created several wonderful hats with these winter birds as motifs. Barb's patterns in sizes from XS to XL are available from your LYS or on-line retailer.

I e-mailed Barb for permission to post her pictures in my blog and she kindly added some design information:

Barb Telford says:

"Today I put aside a cable sweater that I am working on, picked up the important needles and worked out a tiny lion and giraffe. Not a clue why that was so important.
At least the birds I can explain. We are on an important migratory bird route here. Every year we have a big weekend celebrating our fine feathered friends. I was asked to do something that we could give to our special guest speakers. Things with birds were appropriate so voila bird hats. The cherries are there so they have something to eat. I am a bit obsessed with food, what can I say. I have some waterfowl patterns as well but still ( years later ) haven't got a danglie that makes me happy. I kind of liked the cattails but they are just a bit too close to looking like something from the wrong end of the bird. "

Thanks so much Barb - I love the way the creative mind works - never in a direct line - watch out for lions and giraffes some where. The "danglies" that Barbara refers to are the wonderful miniatures that hang like tassels from her hats. I have begged her over the years for more - maybe in other garments. But art has its own agenda.

Have a good one


Sunday, January 22, 2006

To a poet on his birthday

January 25 is Robbie Burns (1759-1793) Day. It will be the 247 celebration of his birthday! This is the day we serve Haggis - or a more palatable substitute (read sausage and mash with neeps - turnip.) We read: To A Mouse, To A Louse (has nothing to do with dead beat husbands) and address the Haggis or palatable substitute. We read: I Love My Jean - not jeans, Highland Mary and My luv is like a red, red rose - time not to smell the roses and for those devotees among us, the very special poetry people, we read Tam O' Shanter - in whole or in part.

We do not knit, unless it is to knit some ancient pattern from some obscure corner of the Scottish universe in homage to a man, a poet, who sought to preserve for all posterity, the language and culture of the common man, as he spoke, lived and loved in the land that gave us Shetland wool, fair isle and Auld Lang Syne!

I love Robbie Burns. He set out to preserve, the song, the poetry, the lyrics and the lyrical, all that is wonderful about an old language, an old dialect and an ancient life style. He immortalized the words (from To A Louse):

"O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us." 
and the lines that are spoken daily at Infiknit (from To A Mouse) 
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
an' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy." 
and the wonderful - "Cutty sark" or short skirt worn by the winsome wraith in Tam O' Shanter whence cometh the phrase, "Well done, Cutty sark!" or "Bravo". The clipper ship of same followed, with sails like short shirts, and the Scotch flowed - er- followed later. 
Here are my knitted offerings on Robbie Burns day. Plaid Tidings of great joy - stolen from the name of Branksome Hall's winter event - any alumni here?

I was experimenting with plaid in this fair isle sweater that I knit quite a long time ago for my daughter. If I were to do it again, I would not reverse the colour placement in the middle section. I would just have it as one repetition of the starting and ending sequence. The edges are from a mosaic pattern done in 4 colours and the sides are joined together by picking up stitches along the under arm and sides of the garment, knitting a row or two of garter stitch and then doing a 3 needle bind off.

The idea was to be able to make the sweater bigger as the child grew, by unravelling the bind off and adding rows.
Another without the middle experiment and some hats. Pulling these from bins and storage boxes under the stairs, remembering how I struggled at times with the pattern and the structure of the garments, also finding the odd moth hole reminded me of a poem that I think is a lovely image of Robert Burns' work. The poem addresses a "highland lass" who is singing, as the poet suggests, of "old forgotten far off things and battles long ago."
Two skeins of organic cotton to the first person who can post in the comments the title of the poem and its author. Hint: it is not Robert Burns. 
Happy Birthday, Robbie!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

On skiing and sleeping in the snow....

My daughter went camping last weekend. It was the 20th of a somewhat mild January but still the forcast was for -5 degrees C. She slept outside - under canvas with snow in the forecast. There are other ways to wait for Spring, then knitting. One could, simply, wear the garments knit for them and ski or sleep in the snow!

Well, she went camping, but did not take the sweater that she had commissioned last year. " I would like a sweater in two shades of blue and two shades of green." A done deal! I think that one of the greatest pleasures a knitter has, is to have someone wear, the garments knit, with love, for them. Obviously, I have failed as both a knitter and a mother.

I am not sure what it is in this basic crew neck pullover that doesn't make it! I see a "fuse" there - OK it's not green. I see flowers. I even see divining rods. But somehow the force has not been synergized. Any ideas?

I wear it - I have drawers of sweaters - mis-fits that I wear. Do you think that someone is trying to tell me something? First, there are the "sausage sweaters" - sweaters just a tad too small for the recepient. "It's lovely, dear, and I am sure I'll lose weight - sure you're 100 something lbs now - if you lose anymore weight, I'll be knitting a coffin sweater - you know the ones with the pattern on the front only!

Then there are the n-i-c-e sweaters, as in, g-e-e-e this is really n-i-c-e...NOT! I am sure I have knit a few of these over the years, but everyone has been too polite to return them, has never worn them, and I have forgotten about them, having extracted my pleasure in the knitting of them.

I try. I knit very plain ones - too small - yes I did my swatch - you grew. I knit fancy ones - too big - you shrunk. Nice but I don't like green. Great, Mom, but.... I know it... doesn't have the Nike label on it.

Please, give me that pattern that will connect with the 13 & 14 year-olds of this world, so as not to have my children sleeping outside (on supervised camping trips only) in frigid winter in some polar fleece from W...M..T or the like.

Perhaps I will just have to be content with wearing the sweaters that others won't.

I treated myself to a ski outfit this year. Yes, it was on sale - last year's stock, but it was new and the right colour - loden green. But not the right loden green to go with the aforementioned sweater. Colours, some how, are never the "right" colour. There is a conspiracy in the fashion industry to alter just slightly colours from year to year so that you are forced to either spend hundreds - some spend thousands - on new clothes or look hideously mis-matched.

I lean to the hideously mis-matched. In fact, I think that there is a cult out there, or at least there should be, for our ilk. Anyway, once again, I tried to "fit in". I had to go hunting for a sweater to wear that would "match" the ski jacket. I vaguely remember a tweedy green thing being knit on vacation in Scotland - we were visiting my sister-in-law in Edinburgh - and I had a pretty good idea where to find it.

AHA! There it was under 3 basesball outfits and a pair of soccer shorts - almost never worn - dream on. It was never worn! I put it on. It fit perfectly! and matched the ski jacket. Hand me my poles, my MP3 player, point me in the direction of the slopes and push!

Have a good one.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower - The Garden Shawl

Dylan Thomas is one of my favourite poets. He is another icon of male decadence, also Welsh - hmmm, must be something in the water - "shaken not stirred."

If I were to pick a knitting pattern that exemplifies this creative "force" - call it Spring in the seasons, call it life in nature, call it creativity in the work of man - to knit, while waiting for the epiphany of Spring! I would pick Dorothy Siemens' (Fiddlesticks Knitting) Garden Shawl. This is just my choice to-day. I know that there are lots of patterns to be knit while waiting for Spring - here is the place to share them!

There is something, however, in the green Artisan yarn that Dorothy chose; something in the beautiful shetland patterns that she selected and definitely something in the flowing drape of the airy, diaphanous wrap, that whispers, no beckons Spring, as does the siren's song, with images of "glory in the flower and splendour in the grass." (2 skeins of green organic cotton to the first person who can post in the comments the title of the poem and the poet.) I know it was Natalie Wood and....... - anyone cotton up his name? in the movie - but the poem came first!

I asked Dorothy if she would be willing to share her experiences designing The Garden Shawl and she graciously accepted. Here are the designer's own words. Also a big thank you to David - Mr. Fiddlesticks Knitting for the pictures.

Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting says:
The Garden Shawl, one of my first lace designs, is also one of my most popular and enduring designs. What is it about this shawl that seems to strike a chord in so many people? I think this shawl works for a few different reasons, and if we could find a formula and put all those variations into each design we created, all of our designs would be best-sellers!

First of all, it has great visual impact. A common reaction from people seeing this shawl for the first time is an indrawn breath or gasp, followed by comments such as, "This is just gorgeous," or "I would never be able to knit something like this!" There is a reason why traditional Shetland lace shawls (and this shawl uses mainly traditional Shetland lace motifs) are forever popular, and that is that the lace itself is so beautiful. It is difficult to design something unattractive with traditional Shetland lace.

Furthermore, the particular motifs I used are so appealing. I find that people like shawls and scarves with themes. The Peacock Feathers Shawl (my very best-seller to date), Creatures of the Reef and Romance Shawl, for instance, have very recognizable imagery or themes that people can relate to. The flowers and leaves of the Garden Shawl are romantic, pretty and approachable. Even if the lace looks daunting to knit, people are eager to try, and enjoy seeing the motifs appear beneath their needles. I think that even the description on the pattern helps to lure people in: "Create a figurative garden as you knit this shawl. Stroll with your needles down the flower-strewn paths that frame drifts of leaves, ferns and flowery borders." Who wouldn't want to live in this dream world?

When I first conceived the idea for this design, I wanted to create a traditional Shetland lace shawl that did not follow traditional structure. I set certain parameters for myself. I wanted it to start in the middle and work outward in one piece, for ease of knitting. All the knitting is on the right side, so even though the lace is complicated and much of it is worked on every row, one is not having to work decreases on the purl side. Many shawls worked from the centre out form a square, with the increases worked along the diagonal lines of the square. I thought, why not divide those diagonal lines to create a sort of cross-which became my garden pathway with flowers growing in it.

This flower motif was adapted from one I found in Sarah Don's The Art of Shetland Lace. You can see it in a photograph on page 100. I also adapted this motif for the flowers with stems that form the larger lace border near the bottom of the shawl. Other motifs that I used in keeping with the garden theme were the overlapping leaves, the zig-zag dewdrops, ferns, daisy clusters at the bottom, and the lacy leaf edging. Planning their placement took much swatching, some adaptation, and a lot of charting.

Getting back to the visual impact of the shawl overall, there are another couple of reasons why it is satisfying to look at. It is interesting because of the contrast between the various elements. We have larger elements juxtaposed with smaller elements, busy elements against quieter ones, and open space against densely filled texture. There is also rhythm and flow, with the eye following the "garden path" in one direction, and the "dewdrops" around the shawl. The motifs interlock and fit together like a jig-saw puzzle, looking almost as though they were made for each other. Not everyone understands how to create a good or interesting design, but I think most of us respond positively, even on a subliminal level, when we see it. I like to think that the Garden Shawl creates this reaction in viewers, and of course, knitters, who have been so wonderfully supportive in response to my designs.

Thank you so much, Dorothy, for such a clear, detailed explanation - so much thought, so much effort and the results are "sublime". Obviously a good part of creating a breathtaking knitting pattern is time, thought and effort. Dorothy's instructions and graphs are as carefully constructed as her description above. You are in for a very pleasurable experience, should you choose to knit The Garden Shawl. Please make sure that you are working from an original pattern. Support Art's enrichment of your life! Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Knitting and "the Force," in Winter

There are things that those who live in the North do to make believe that Spring is just a snow drift away. We plant Spring flowers - indoors, of course. We plant paperwhites in January. We marvel at the speed at which their roots appear and their green shoots sprout. We inhale the smell of the damp earth, when we plant them and revel in the perfume of their flowers when they bloom.

We plant Amaryllis bulbs too and watch them inch their way up to towering spikes of splendid colour. We discuss over cups of tea, mugs of coffee and glasses of wine, how much further along they are to-day than yesterday. We muse about their colour and how many flowers they will have. We compare them to those we planted in other years and so on, and so on.

Wait....did I hear someone say "get a life.." But surely, this is life. This is time to smell the roses - OK - paperwhites. This is the artists' time to think, to dream, to imagine, to create. Great ideas, great projects need time. They need walks - or as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says "stomps in the park." They need whole days of lists, no pressures, no must haves, must dos. They need just being....!!

Sometimes Winter is a great time for just being, because, we spend 4, 5 maybe even 6 months - in a bad year when it could snow in April or even May - imagining or just being. Perhaps this is why knitting became so popular in the North. Yes we needed sweaters for warmth and woolly socks to wear and sheep seemed to take to these frigid climes and yes it gets dark around 4:00pm and stays dark until 8:00am. Lots of time to knit and not feel guilty about making hay...or something...when the sun is shining - that is when it shines, as often it doesn't. And yes it is cold - very cold at times, so knitting keeps the hands moving and warm. We look at the growing garment in our hands and not the blizzard blowing against the icy windows outside. This is our quiet time to be and wait in a suspended state. Think of Yoga and all those who meditate, emptying their minds of the trivia in their lives, to be one with the "force". Waiting, or knitting, for Spring, maybe our way of being one with the "force" - rising to the sublime.

I have a copy of Shirley Scott's "Canada Knits - Craft and Comfort in a Northern Land." It is a wonderful history and superb collection of knitting up here. Many of you will know Shirley Scott, as Shirl the Purl, former author and owner of Knitter's News. I have two issues with Shirl.

1. She is not publishing Knitter's News anymore and I remind her everytime I see her how much I enjoyed her newsletter. I miss all the references to knitting that she unearthed in novels and stories and movies. I had forgotten socks being knit in Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." I don't think there was any mention of knitting when Elizabeth Taylor and that icon of masculine decadence - Richard Burton made "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Do you think that Elizabeth Taylor knits? It certainly would have changed the movie and perhaps the course of knitting.

I also miss Shirley's profiles of knitters and designers. I especially remember Shirl's article on the knitter who had knit all of Lucy Neatby's patterns to date. Including The Duck Sweater at left - inspired by the work of M.C. Escher. Now that is something out of this world both the knitter and the knitted.

2. My other issue with Shirley is that she used the word "craft" in the sub-title of her book. Is there a chance of a re-write - Art and Comfort in a Northern Land?

Well Shirley needs to do another book, because all this time to knit and dream has spawned some pretty amazing designers, north of the border, since Shirley first published her book with McGraw Hill in 1990. In fact an article in the paper the other day was touting Toronto, as the knitting capital of North America - OK it was a Toronto paper - and it was a slow week for news - there's and election on. What can I say. Anyway the article listed some of the famous names in knitting that live in Toronto. I have started a list below of Canadian knitters that are known widely because of the popularity of the books or the patterns they have published.

Anyway here is the beginning of the list. Please add to it any I have missed.

The sweater is Erik by Jennifer Appleby, who is being regularly published in the knitting magazines. It reminds me of the Cowichan sweater patterns. Cowichan knitting is covered extensively in Shirley's book.

Those with books published:

Shirley Scott
Lucy Neatby
Deb & Lynda Gemmel - Cabin Fever
Sally Melville
Debbie New
Fiona Ellis
Stephanie Pearl-McPHee - The Yarn Harlot

Those with patterns published

Dorothy Siemens - Fiddlesticks Knitting
Sivia Harding
Lucy Neatby
Robyn Gallimore - Red Bird Knits
Barb Telford - Woodsmoke Woolworks
Maddy Cranley - maddy laine
Jennifer Appleby - The Woollen Earth
Maureen Mason-Jamieson
Deb & Lynda Gemmel - Cabin Fever

I know that I have just scratched the surface and I apologize now for any I have missed. Please comment so I can add.

Have a good one.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tea and Empathy

I know that the title of the film is Tea and Sympathy. It is one of the few films that I have seen. I have a weakness for films about schools. "Goodbye Mr. Chips" is one of my favourites. Actually one of my regrets in life (along with never having dated Robert Redford) is never having studied Latin at University - I know there is no comparison. I'll leave that for another post.

Anyway. I love Debbie New's teacups and here they are. I empathized with them immediately. They are the kind of knitting project that you either like or don't. When trying to sell the kits to stores, shop owners would often say - but who would want to knit a tea cup? - indeed, who would want to go to the moon?

Well, over the years, a number of people have knit them. They were knit as gifts for teacup collectors, for Mother's day, for mothers to give to daughters and the occasional son as keepsakes. Some knit them for the challenge of knitting something new and different. Others knit them because they were there. I knit them for the fun of trying to translate a treasured teacup pattern into knitting.

I suppose I could have just knit a sweater, the way Sasha Kagan did. I'll have that picture soon and the name of the book. But I wanted to get inside the form too.

To me there is something sublime in the picture of the knitted teacups. There is a peace, a serenity that is made even more poignant by the introduction of the element of knitting. There is form and order in the tidy room. There are memories of cups of tea with relatives, perhaps relatives that knit. There is warmth and comfort and security.

I send this card to someone who has experienced a tragedy or is in need of some comfort. It reminds me that there is an enduring structure to life and that things will fall into place again and life will go on.

I was, as a teenager, a teacup collector. I don't collect them anymore - I have to dust now - I didn't then, neither did my mother, come to think of it, - there wasn't a lot of form and order in my mother's house - but there was a lot of "creative" mess!!

Here are some of my attempts at trying to translate teacup patterns in porcelain, into perle cotton. This was fun. Thank you, Debbie, for pushing me on!

Now where is that boat pattern?

Debbie's cards are available from Philosopher's Wool.

Have a good one

"Wicked" Wikipedia

I just visited Wikipedia to-day. I know I should have done it ages ago and in deed I have been meaning to ever since I read about it in a business article. The article was actually a comparison between Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia. For those of you who aren't familiar with Wikipedia, it is a free on-line encyclopedia that is being constantly updated by those who visit - yes that means you or me, if we think that a little piece of information is missing or needs clarification or whatever.

Of course, I went to look up knitting. It was amazing - so clear, so fresh, so up-to-date and so detailed. I felt that I was in a newly opened yarn store or a yarn store that may have been around for eons but had kept up with all the changes and maintained a very fresh face with all the new ideas. I just read the basics. If I had read every click through to explain every concept - i.e. yarn, fibre\fiber ( both spellings) intarsia etc. I would have been there a week - I'm a slow reader much information and links that referred you to sites that would teach you how to knit goes on and on. The article actually reminded me of a yarn store that I sell to in Vernon BC - "The Never Ending Yarn". I told Marianne one day that I loved the name of her store. She said well really it is a comment on the state of the art - maybe even a state of the art comment, who knows, but it goes like this:

You buy some yarn to knit a project. You have a little yarn left over and so you buy more yarn to add to the little left over to make another project. Well then you have more yarn left over and so on and so on until you have a huge stash of yarn, hundreds of projects and guess what - no time!!!

Take heart! A friend of mine passed away a year ago last December. She had quite a number of unfinished projects left. Well a neighbour, who also had a closet full of unfinished projects, dropped by to ask if there were anything she could do. Of course the family - which was actually just my friend's mother, who is well into her 80's said - no, thank you, your thoughts are help enough. Well this amazing neighbour asked if she would like her to finish the unfinished projects. Now this has to be a gesture not of this earth. I think that it comes pretty close to the sublime.

I understand that 3 or 4 projects have been completed with more on the way. So knit away. If not finished in this life - maybe in the next!

Oh, yes back to Wikipedia. Well, to put my experience of my first visit to the Wikipedia site into words, I have to say "wicked", as my 12 year-old would say of the snowboarders who push the limits of their art.

I am constantly "blown away" by the possibilities of the internet. I often think that Marshall McLuhan should be alive to-day to see his prediction of the global village a reality with so much more.

Here's the site: enjoy!

In the meantime Debbie New contacted me with her
e-mail address and a definite OK to post pictures of her tea cups - not this one - which I will do tomorrow, I hope. No this is a pattern I did after Debbie taught me how to knit a teacup. It's called Tea Roses and it is me pushing the limits of my ability in knitting.

Debbie is pushing her (our) limits again. She said that she is working on a series of things that are changeable. Perhaps simple mechanical things or other means of altering or playing around with knitted things. I said that I had fixed a mortis lock on the weekend - but it wasn't knitted - somehow I don't think that this qualified!

It does, however, remind me of an old joke - a real estate agent trying to sell an ancient & reportedly haunted house was searching around for the key, when his colleague said - don't worry - it's a mortis a skeleton will let you in. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Have a good one.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

On folk music from the fold

Robyn Gallimore of Red Bird Knits sent me an e-mail with this picture. It is one of her sock of the month patterns - Scarborough Fair - with the comment, "Since you like fold(folk) songs, here's one for you!"

I replied, saying that she had been knitting and spinning too much - I liked "folk" music - not "fold" music. Her reply was fabulous - "Fold songs are for a very small group of people with VERY good taste. Folk songs are for everyone."

I now have this image of choirs singing "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" or "Good King Wensleydale" - I know, no Carols after Christmas.

I don't know the breeds of many sheep so I went looking - to make up even more inane titles - and came across this site which lists almost 300 breeds quite a few, but not all, the listings have pictures.

What???? you have better things to do than look at fuzzy faces all day! Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Some of them are so cute!

For those who have better things to do - such as, knit. Here are some patterns with sheep motifs. This is not meant as a solicitation. I just thought that you might like to see a whole group of them together. Any of these patterns can be purchased at your LYS or on-line retailer.

Now back to my soup stock, with Parsley - (not Sage, Rosemary or Thyme) picked January 14, 2006 from the garden - just 2 blocks south of 44 degrees North latitude. I am in avoidance mode - cooking & cleaning etc. I have a scarf pattern that's not working out.

More on that in another post.


Friday, January 13, 2006

The Prayse of the Needle

Somehow I felt that the coracle posting needed a poem. I googled up "knitting poetry" and came across Jean Moss' site I think that the muse may be very close at hand here. Take a look, if you have a minute.

I also found this poem, which is old and charming and probably very close to a knitter's heart. It is so good to feel connected to an ancient art form, which we bring to life daily.

The Prayse of the Needle
To all dispersed sorts of arts and trades
I write the needles prayse (that never fades).
So long as children shall be got or borne,
So long as garments shall be made or worne,
So long as hemp or flax, or sheep shall bear
Their linen woolen fleeces yeare by yeare,
So long as silk-wormes, with exhausted spoile,
Of their own entrails for man's gaine shall toyle,
Yea till the world be quite dissolv'd and past,
So long at least, the needles' use shall last.
John Taylor 1580-1653

I also thrashed around - literally - for some "old" knitting. Well the best I could do were some swatches done in organic cotton. "Old?" you say. Well given that the organic cotton that I distribute now comes from a mill which is overseen (is this a word?) by an anthropologist, because it processes cotton that is grown now the way it was, and always has been, 4,000 years ago. Hate to tell you that they are still operating on the time lines established back then too. I order in April for June and it arrives in November. Who knits with cotton in November?

Anyway, some old swatches. Some of these were actually made into garments.

The pretty one on top hasn't been developed yet. Maybe its time has come. The fair isle in back is a crew neck pullover. The one on the left became Gingerbread Vest. I often thought that some simple baby outfits would work in organic cotton.
Maybe that's what the top one will be.

Some more clippings from the cutting room floor.

I actually really like this stitch to the left. It reminds me of the Celtic cross. Maybe some day. But in the meantime, it's Friday and the house gets cleaned - I use the term loosely - on Saturday. No skiing this weekend, it's been too mild and the temperature is going to drop so that the hills will be sheets of ice. I also have a music project on Louis Armstrong to finish - well it's not really my project, it's my son's, but guess who gets to do the prodding and half the work. Hope to post over the weekend. Have a great one!


Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Artist Among Us

I have just sent an e-mail to Debbie New via Philosopher's Wool. Over the years and several hard drive failures I have lost her e-mail address. I have talked about the strawberry hat and Debbie's knitted teacups as a way of beginning or at least as how I began in knitting as a first love and as an attempt to turn that love into a way to eke out a living so as to be immersed in what you love and not to have to devote too much of your time to the other rather mudane ways of earning a living!

Take a deep breath - there are times when I think that I may be related through a long labyrinthine DNA process(or subordinate clause) to either Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy - actually I think that I am closer to Thomas Hardy - even though his heroines rarely prevail and if they do it is through some fatalistic mischief a foot and I am sure that I could never have married a man called Angel Clare. All comments welcome!!!

I wanted to show you Debbie's knitted teacups. I just wanted her OK for this. I did a google search and pulled some interesting comments about Debbie's work. She has been called the "Salvatore Dali of wool" and the knitting artist who raises the craft - how I hate that word - to the level of art.

Debbie New is indeed a "knitting artist". She is as, the books of aesthetics will tell you, the one who questions, through her art - which happens to be knitting- the world around us. She forces us through needles and yarn to look at things in a different way and I mean a really different way.

Who in their right mind would knit a lace boat - a coracle. It is actually a circular boat that the Celts used for Siene fishing. Basically one achored one's nets at one side of the river, rowed across the river in this coracle and anchored the other side of the net, on the other side of the river. The tide either came in or went out - either way your net trapped fish - you gathered your nets in, garnered the fish and - lived for another day!

Well this is the way the Irish in their curroughs, the Welsh in their coracles and the Bretons in their......... - I don't know what the word is in the old Breton language - any help? plied their trade in their circular boats.

Think of this in "lace". What is Debbie trying to tell us? Certainly it is nostalgia - I think that the coracle is like the birch bark canoe - a museum piece. Not many make these relics to-day. But they were a way of life not too long ago - I know a welshman who used a coracle from time to time to fish in his youth. It makes me think of the fisher wives of the Shetland Islands who produced the most amazing lace while waiting for their husbands to return. We read in these stitches their angst - enough said.

Nostalgia, though is not really an emotion recognized in the artistic community, perhaps it was something else - the fragility of life, the harmony of man and nature - yes we ate the fish, but we had to work for it! The beauty of the handcrafted tool - the boat, made with love, made with a symmetry that would do the job with as little impact as possible on the environment. Who knows. Please comment. I need a broadening of the artist way.

Anyway, here is the coracle. I have taken the picture from one of her cards. Debbie's cards are available from Philosopher's Wool and 3 pages are given over to the coracle in
Unexpected Knitting.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

In the beginning again....

To everyone who e-mailed me that the link didn't work, may I say, that, if stupidity were an asset, I wouldn't have to work for a living! You may not really want to know what actually happened - but follow this "blog" as an example of what not to do, when setting up a blog

1. I followed the template in Blogspot - very easy, very user friendly, that is , if you can spell. I was able to spell - divineknits with Infiknit- just fine, but then I had to spell it again - well now I know why you have to enter your e-mail twice whenever you set up an account with anyone - because they know that 75% of the world has some form of dyslexia, ADD, verbal , graphic, numeric - you name it- dysfunction and we have not even got to the second story of the house!

2. So I spelled divineknits, "devineknits". Now this would have been OK, if my first or last name were Devine. Not a bad idea at the moment - just change your name and disappear - I'll keep that one on the back burner. It only surfaced when I went to register the URL - taken (actually a site for children's knitwear - not bad, but not me). Then I tried a few other combinatons which were already taken, I now know why I really like the Simpsons- can I say that & still keep a readership? Finally, I followed a suggestion by Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting - include Infiknit in the title - did I really want to drag that one through the mud too..? So I registered and will eventually move this weblog over when I figure out how.

3. And so we, I - I know you won't make the same mistakes - begin again. Actually we don't have to begin all over again - there were no mistakes in the notes about Miriam and Debbie, about the teacups and the Fruit Caps. Somethings were just meant to be.

But there is a "mistake" in the strawberry hat. I know it is a mistake because, I presumed that the pattern would read K 3(red), K 1 (green) when it came to do the fair isle for the "pips" in the strawberry. In fact it didn't.
The original actually reads: K 7(red), K 1(green) be the judge, what looks better - K 3 or K 7. Perhaps, it depends on the head size? I was working with a small head size - go figure! I guess I'll just have to knit various versions - this is beginning to look like a life's work - to see at what point the design shifts. I think that I might just wait until Spring. Make a mess of strawberry shortcake and decide, if I really want to knit the hat in Berry and Loden from Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk or some other gorgeous yarn. My daughter has already said that at 14 she would never wear a strawberry hat - where have all the romantics, madcaps - no pun intended- gone?

However you choose to knit it, do make sure that you are working from an original pattern. There are a lot of photocopies out there. They might be free, or you might even end up paying someone else the money that should be going to the designer, for the pattern. This design and so many others from gifted designers are too precious to be cheapened by photocopying. Support the designer and they will reward you with more and more wonderful designs!

Have another good one!


In the beginning.....

This is the first posting to Divineknits so I would like to make my apologies before I begin:

Divineknits is intended to be a discussion about, a journey through, and perhaps even a discovery of, that aspect of the creative process that raises knitting designs from the average to the sublime. Think of the diviner(s) (you don't have to read the book) searching with crossed sticks for that deep well of inspiration that once tapped infuses mere knit and purl, ribs and cables with an element of magic. As a result a garment - scarf, sweater, hat - what have you - is produced that is so special that knitters rush to knit it themselves. The pattern endures for decades, renewing itself with each new generation of knitters. It somehow takes on a life of its own as in, "oh, I see you've knit the......" or "you're wearing the...." and again "I promised I'd knit the....... for him."

I thought that this would be an easy place to begin....any ideas?

Actually please post references to special patterns, and\or designers. I will be asking designers to visit from time to time to comment, possibly post "snippets" of their work in progress. Please ask questions about patterns. Bring your own ideas to the blog for comment, help, inspiration.
Tell us what you would like to see "designed".

When I am not oooooing and ahhing over patterns, I am distributing them to stores, so I have favourites and I know what has been requested often over the last 10 years. Here is a perennial favourite. I have to believe that it strikes a chord with most knitters. It may not be art and it may not be divine, though many look divine in it. It is from Ann Norling's Fruit Caps pattern - the strawberry hat.

This is a pattern that has been requested again and again over the years and it is where I got started in wholesale distribution. I was actually trying to sell kits for knitted teacups to yarn stores. I was fascinated with Debbie New's teacups. I asked her to teach me how to knit a teacup. She did - Debbie's original pattern is now available in "Unexpected Knitting" by School House Press. With Debbie's blessing, I made several designs in slightly thicker cotton and was convinced that everyone in the world would want to knit teacups.......NOT!

I know that all the business books say - "don't give up", so I didn't. I pressed ahead and called stores that I had mailed information to and endured their comments. I still didn't give up. In fact one of my calls - it may have been my last call before I actually gave up was to Prairie Lily Knitting & Weaving in Saskatoon. Miriam Blackman, the owner then actually had bought several kits - even knit several teacups. She politely corrected all and I mean all the mistakes in the patterns and said that she didn't really need teacup patterns, but could use a pattern for a strawberry hat. Eureka!

The business books also say - adapt and change. I found the strawberry hat pattern from Ann Norling and about 25 others that she had at the time. I was given the OK to distribute Ann Norling patterns in Canada and have been doing so ever since.

I owe a lot to Miriam Blackman and would-be-designers just starting out, will find that there are Miriam Blackmans out there willing to help.

After all, I understand that Lily Chin started out trying to sell designs for crocheted G-strings to Family Circle magazine. Well all of that is history now.
Have a good one