A photo of my daughter Devan wearing the Artchitexture Scarf done up in a worsted weight Cashgora spun by Jonamo. The yarn is available for purchase through Peacefleece and clicking on the link for the Artchitexture Scarf will take you to the Ravelry page where you can purchase the pattern. The Peacefleece site has a wonderful history of the yarn and the women who spin it. I am just going to go on and on about the qualities of the yarn and what seems to me to be its strengths (many) and weaknesses (only one). As the photo above shows the yarn has amazing drape which is a strength and potentially a weakness since it also is less elastic. This is only a relative lack of bounciness; say 5 out of 10 with 10 being Maine Mitten Wool. Experienced knitters will already know that bounciness and softness have an inverse relationship to each other. The softer the yarn the less elastic it is apt to be. The Cashgora has middling bounce and a Truly Awesome softness. The cashgora goats that the Tajik women are spinning from are a blended breed of cashmere goats and Angora (or Mohair) goats. So you get the right next to the skin softness of cashmere along with the longer fiber of the Mohair which gives you some bounce and a really beautiful sheen. The softness has been tested on my scratchy wool sensitive Daughter in Law. She cannot tolerate wool of any description (yes even Merino) next to her skin but has worn her Cashgora Architexture Scarf, which is a duplicate of Devan's, many times this winter, wrapped warmly around her sensitive throat. You can also see from the photos the way the slight sheen of the longer fibers works beautifully to highlight textured knitting stitches.
The photo below is a beautiful shawlette knit up by my friend Jenny with only one skein of the fingering weight yarn. It is a beautifully done lace handkerchief shape with some clear crystal beads worked into the pattern. I cannot describe to you how gorgeous this is. The natural color of the yarn, which reminds me of fallen oak leaves, in combination with the icy sparkle of the beads is just a perfect combination of fiber, pattern and workmanship.
The cowl above is knit up with a very simple Feather and Fan stitch and then grafted together. My friend Marie knit this up with her sample of the Cashgora yarn and wore it around her neck through our long Maine winter. The above photo was taken last November when the cowl had just been completed.
The photo alongside is a closeup of the cowl after a winter of steady wear and this was a surprise to me.
Usually an incredibly soft yarn like Cashgora will felt or at least pill a bit with the abrasion of wear. I want you to look at this closeup view of the cowl; a very slight increase in halo, but absolutely no sign of felting or pilling! I looked closely and there was literally not a pill to be seen.
So a list of knitting qualities is laid out for you below:
This is a photo of the studio this morning, with the intense northern light blasting in through the 1910 glass windows. I just wanted to show you all the love gifts that randomly show up in my day.
The yellow couch and the glass top coffee table are gifts from my sister Peg.
The green leaf pillow on the couch and the knitted lace curtains reflected in the glass top were both made in Hawaii over 15 years ago. The lace curtains were knit to go in the windows of that Hawaiian house that we were planning on building, but we only built it in our minds. When we moved into this New England home they fit perfectly in that window...so evidently I actually made them for this house.
The white lace blanket on the couch was made by me from Harrisville yarn well over 30 years ago. It is a single ply undyed wool that Harrisville no longer carries, but if you click through you'll find the closest thing they have right now. I remember wrapping my son Blake in it to take him out to see the moon. He is now 31 and has a baby boy of his own.
The beautiful vase is a gift from my friends when they came by last spring for a Soup Day with the R&R Spinners. The tulips are a gift from my friend Ollie Groves who came by the house last Saturday for dinner with her husband, Joe's cousin Karl. The green coffee mug is a gift from my son Joshua and his Patti. It has become a regular morning feature since I received this Christmas. The half mitts are knit up from Peacefleece wool and the pattern is available. The white nubby blanket that you can see through the glass is a baby blanket that my Great-Grandmother made for my brother Mike (who is now 57ish years old). And the project in the middle of it all is the one I am currently working on....a pair of Christmas socks for my sister Peg which she will receive as soon as they are done. I'm pretty flexible about the Christmas gifts. You might get a Christmas gift at any time.
I have had friends ask me how I manage to stay so happy and hopeful despite some pretty rough chapters in my life. This is it.....all the love. I am grateful for all the love.
Peace Fleece has acquired some luxurious cashmere yarn made by talented women spinners from Sheghnan village, Afghanistan. The women are part of a newly formed spinning group supported by a development project funded by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and managed by AKF (The Aga Khan Foundation). Last year I purchased some of their mohair yarn through Peacefleece which I knit up into the scarf you see below. The women have switched from spinning mohair to cashgora which is a remarkably softer, but somewhat less sturdy fiber. Some of what I purchased last year seemed similar to cashgora to me, and I recently purchased some worsted weight cashgora spun by Maliknoz. When I compared these two fibers they seem very similar in softness to me. Now the project is also focusing on the Afghan women just over the border from Tajikistan. The project supports the women from this Afghan village in developing their own spinning business and in finding export markets for their yarn.
Last Wednesday I was invited by Pete Hagerty, the owner, with his wife Marty, of Peacefleece, to come and bring some of my pals from the R&R Spinners group to meet with some of the spinners and leaders of the co-ops along with Leba Brent who is an International Development Consultant who specializes in women's economic development in areas where women are suppressed. This photograph is of Mukadis, who is one of the best spinners. She is very happy to have the opportunity that the co-op provides to do work she loves, to spend time with other women, and to contribute to the health and education of her children. I hope that I am getting the names right and if not I apologize. But I do have a very sharp memory of the faces and voices of these women. I admired so much their bravery in coming so far, to such an unfamiliar place, in order to find out more about the lives of the women who are the most likely purchasers and users of their yarn. They are so justifiably proud of their work, and so open hearted. They do run some risk in having their pictures and bios on line, and in coming to visit in America. The Taliban are not in control of their village, but they are a looming threat in areas not too far from their homes. It is an act of faith for them.
This is Jonamo. She believes that she is about 40 years old. She would like to have a nice house with some amenities, and she hopes her children will be able to find work. Jonamo knows how to build a traditional outdoor oven for making bread, and described it to us with a great deal of mutual interest and delight. People invite her over to make such ovens for them. My friend Chris McDuffie was particularly interested since she is thinking of building an earth oven for her island house here in Casco Bay.
Jonamo is very resourceful and good at managing her household. She had to have her language (Afghani I believe) translated by her friends into Russian, which was then picked up and translated into English by Leba. You would have thought that this would have put an insurmountable crimp in communication but the discussion of the earth oven went very well with only minimal help from the translators. Evidently smiling and enthusiastic hand gestures work very well for women of like minds.
This is Oigul. She is 40 years old and is a real powerhouse, in person and in her the lives of her family and village. She is the leader for her particular co-op and is able to handle the accounting and finances for her group because she is bright and educated. Her husband her son travel to Russia to work for a large part of the year, which leaves her with her daughter and her parents to run their small farm, their apricot orchard, and the work of her compatriots in the co-op. They were able to use the money that she has earned to build a house. I was so impressed with her focused attention, her eagerness to help with the translation in our little meeting, and her curiousity about our lives and willingness to share the details of her own.
I will be participating in some of the knitting research for these spinners that will be taking place at R&R Spinners, and will keep you posted on developments. In the meantime do go to the link at Cashmere People and at Peacefleece
Adam is also showing the hat with the bottom edge folded up. My husband Joe is always moving the band up and down to adjust the temperature on his head. Rolled up like this your ears are warmer but your forehead is cooler. I have seen him roll it up like a yarmulke when he is working outside...which looks rather silly but is evidently cooler for him. He and Adam have the same "haircut" and Joe's hat is very similar to Adam's, although it is 10 years older. When it is warn out I will replace it, but evidently these things last forever.
After Christmas every year I usually settle down to do some intensive knitting for myself. This year, however, I was too sick between Thanksgiving and New Years to get off the couch so my Knitting Giftees had to make do with boxes of yarn, needles and proposed patterns which is a kind of Promise of a Gift rather than the Gift Itself. So after I began to recover I settled in to knitting for Christmas Just Passed. Once those were out of the way I realized that my go to winter footwear, which is hand knit socks inside and hand knit socks inside boots outside, had not been attended to for several years. There were holes everywhere....just everywhere. Now I could just mend by darning but I find those wodgy bits under my feet to be really annoying. So I did an assessment of what I loved, and what I could wear to bed until the holes were just too much.
Now notice the blue socks on the sock blockers on the left above. Those are basic, knit out of worsted yarn, old fashioned Maine Winter Socks. They are warm and serviceable. They are very easy to knit which is both a blessing and a curse. I can crank them out but I hardly ever do because they are boring. So I had only one pair of those with holes in the feet. These have become bed socks because they aren't interesting enough to warrant mending. Therefore they will get worn until they make it through this winter season and then they will become mulch...for the garden. If you put your little plant into the sock full of dirt and then into the garden the wool will wick water, gradually decompose and keep the roots slightly warmer than they would otherwise be. And it allays the guilt of just tossing them out for those of us with creeping hoarder tendencies. Ahem....
Now those others are the interesting socks. Don't want to mend them by darning, but also don't want to dispense with them because they are lovely. So I have figured out a couple of ways to resole them. The rose brown ones with the striped soles were made from Peacefleece which is a lovely yarn but too soft for the wear and tear of the soles of socks worn continuously on my hardwood floors. But I really loved them. So I clipped the toes, unraveled the socks up to the bottom of the ankle bit and then used the yarn to reknit the top portion of the sock foot only. I then used the raveled yarn together with some new sock yarn (which has nylon in it and is tougher) to knit up the striped heels and soles and toes, joining on to the edges of the instep as I went. This seemed like such a good idea that I decided to make the socks at the far right, which are new knee socks, with this method from the get go. If those babies get holes I'll just clip the toes, unravel the striped portion and reknit without going to the trouble of reknitting the top of the foot section.
If you look at the blue socks second from the right you will see another method of reknitting the soles of the socks, which is EZs (Elizabeth Zimmerman's) moccasin sock sole. Also a fine method of resoling socks although I believe the stripey version may be more hard wearing. I will road test this year and let you know.
I now have two more pairs of knee socks to resole and then I will have caught up. And Joe has finally worn out one of his sweaters so I should be getting to that as well. And by then winter should be over don't you think?
I was recently asked to rework my Fishbone Lace Scarf in Quince's Piper for sale on their website, Quince and Company. I have followed Pam Allen's work for decades....since we lived in Hawaii where I bought American Knits from the newly opened Barnes and Nobles in downtown Hilo in 1994. Pam had a wonderful pieced knit coat, hat and mittens that were modeled on her lovely young daughter. I was doing a fair amount of knitting at that time, but it had to be shipped back to the nieces and nephews in Maine, of course. Not a lot of demand for woolen mittens and socks in Hawaii. I have had an ongoing need for knitting, however, since I learned at the age of 4 in order to maintain my equanimity in the face of .... life stuff. You know how they say that knitting is therapeutic? I require daily therapy so the knitting takes place whether I am living in the tropics or in Maine. I have continued to follow Pam Allen's career as the editor of and a prolific contributor to Interweave Knits through the start up of her yarn company Quince which is located here in Portland, Maine. This is also, conveniently enough, the location of my home and Threads of Meaning studio since we purchased it in 2009.
I was surprised and very pleased to be asked to contribute something to the Quince endeavor. This scarf is knit up with one skein of Pam's Piper in the soft rose color Odessa. Knit in this fine 50/50 Texas mohair/merino blend one skein makes a beautifully airy, long, luxurious scarf about 7x60 inches. Two skeins would make a scarf twice as wide, twice as long or 1/3 wider (about 11 inches) and half again as long (say 90 inches). This single ply yarn knits easily on size 7 needles with no catching or awkwardness and the pattern itself is very simple. It is an excellent project for a first time lace knitter since you have a "working" row, followed by a purl row, and then another "working row" followed by a knit row. In other words you have resting rows in between the attention paying rows which is soothing and therapeutic. You can purchase the pattern through Ravelry, or by visiting the Quince website where you can also pop over to buy the yarn. There are some lovely colors in Piper. I knit up this sample for them but am considering knitting up one for me in the Teal hand dyed to go with my grey wool winter coat.
I could also have called this post the Apotheosis of Lace knitting I guess -- given that these two talented knitters are standing in front of the lace curtains at the end of the studio hall. These are Pat (red sweater) and Brenda (green sweater). They are very good friends and are two of the cherished Studio Knitters that come by Threads of Meaning on Tuesday nights. These two sweaters are both the Katherine Hepburn which I notice is available as a free download on Ravelry. These two were knit up from Pam Allen and Ann Budd's Lace Style by Interweave which is a book that I recommend as very worthwhile for lace knitters with some experience. They are also both knit up of Quince (Pam Allen's yarn company) in the sportweight Chickadee. I have heard wonderful things about the Quince yarns in general and raves from these two ladies in particular. It is a lovely soft merino wool with great bounce, softness and what we refer to in the studio as "squishyness".
Links to all the pertinent details (where to buy the book, where to buy the yarn, what other people at Ravelry have knit up this pattern) are all embedded in the text. But what I would like you to notice is how happy these two are, what good friends they are, and how they are working on the rest of us to do a Threads of Meaning KAL so that we can all go out in public in matching sweaters. (Actually I don't know that last part for sure....I'm just suspicious.)
Here is the Bag of Tricks when it was new -- about 10 years ago. This was my very first felting project and it came out, I think we can agree, quite well. There was a bit of a learning curve however. Notice the nice egg shapes in the body of the bag? Those are knit up of hand dyed yarn scraps of merino, cashmere, mohair, etc. The body of the bag is knit from hand dyed Maine wool. Notice how the top of the bag is kind of kerfluffled? That was not intentional. The plan was that the bag be straight and flat. I hadn't realized that the different fibers would felt so .... differently. I was not at all pleased. I loaded up the wet bag with a garbage bag full of books to block it and wandered around it muttering under my breath for a couple of days while it dried. In the process of the wandering I happened to notice a pair of old worn out linen pants that someone had given me to add to my fabric stash. The color went nicely with the bag and I thought to myself...lining? I yanked them out and noticed the worn out, tired elastic at the waist, and the pockets. Eureka!! Everything fell into place. I cut off the legs and sewed up the holes, stuffed the result into the bag and sewed the facing at the top over the worn out elastic. The result was the lovely gathered thing going on at the top which gave everything a kind of Victorian carpet bag feel. I went from Bad Mistake, to Wonderful Design Element all in a flash. Sometimes life surprises you like that.
And here is the Bag of Tricks, 10 years later, in the Siena Plaza del Campo in Tuscany. I had to replace the handle, finally, because this bag has been used many, many times to carry everything in my life that will fit into it. I had no idea when I made it that it would ever go to Italy. And I have the strong feeling that the Bag of Tricks is not yet done providing me with wonderful surprises. As you can see it is as strong, sturdy and beautiful as ever and will undoubtedly last for another 10 years. So many moments of my life are carried in the fibers of this bag and I can connect back to them easily using it in a kind of Dr. Who Tardis way. The last decade of my life is in there....and the next one too.