Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Newsflash! Other Crafts Claim Equal Rights With Knitting!

Isn't email great? I've had some lovely messages recently. One was from Dez who came over from Yarn Harlot's site - welcome to Ireland, Dez! Your Irish great grandmother came from Co. Clare near the mouth of the Shannon, and you hope some day to visit here yourself and stand where she might have done before leaving for ever. Dez, I can't resist such thoughts! I'm hunting through the image collection right NOW and will post some pictures of where your roots lie just as soon as I can.

And I had a really nice email from the Ukraine which restores all my faith in eBay buying. I'd ordered this gorgeous-looking laceweight yarn in silver, but when it arrived it was more of an untreated-flax-brown. I didn't have much hope, but sent a message to the seller via eBay. I got a prompt reply in very careful English, asking me to send it back. Which I did. (Funny thing, my post office didn't even raise an eyebrow at a Ukraine address - I wouldn't have been able to resist shrieking, 'Wow - the Ukraine - now there's somewhere fascinating' - but then that's probably why I'm not a postmistress.) And today I got another message, telling me they'd received it safely AND sending an image of three balls in a row to choose from.

Now doesn't a business like that deserve support? (You'll find these yarns on eBay under Lace-Weight Fine Wool Yarn SILVER (or whatever colour) 400 gr at a great price. Go Ukraine!)

Last night I succumbed to the siren call of the ocean and ordered not just one but two skeins of Sea Silk in Berry from Knitty-Noddy. Yes, I know I said I'd wait until I got to Canada next month, but the way things are going in the airline world, I'm wondering if I'll even have my purse, let alone a suitcase when I do get there. Anyway, it will be a practice run (albeit an expensive one) for buying MORE when I get there.

I was delighted to read that Peg doesn't like Addi Turbos either. I held forth at length on this topic in Knitter's Review Forum but thought it worth saying again. THESE DON'T WORK FOR ME. I was cajoled and dragooned into buying a pair last time I was across the herring pond, but despite all the claims for beauty and simplicity and speed and happiness, they were a no-no from the start. Unlike Colonial rosewoods or Lantern Moon which were instant love affairs. I'm offering mine to whoever wants them when I can find where I hurled them in a fit of rage.

And still on the topic of needles, I have been finding working that Elann cardi sleeve on either one or two circulars really hard work for some reason. OK, I'll try dpns. But this is Ireland. 6mm dpns? Gosh no, there's no call for those (the usual dismissal when you ask for something other than the blindingly obvious). But in my LYS in Cork, the ever-helpful Bernadette asked why I didn't simply get a pair of bamboos and cut them in half? Cut them in half? Well yes, why not? Maureen, she said, her fellow-shop owner, always turned her broken bamboos into cable needles. So I got a pair, took them home, and spent a happy half hour in the basement workshop cutting and sanding (a pencil sharpener did fine on the rough work for the tips).

How do they look? (The cardi had to be bundled up - it's getting way too long and tangly and awkward at this teenage, hoydenish stage.) Yes, you do see rubber bands around the needles. That's because - yes, OK, they're a bit too short. But I'll MANAGE. I'm not going back and buying two more pairs to get four too-long dpns... at least I don't think I am.

It was reassuring to find that others enjoy thrift stores too. Anne talked wistfully of the days she used to get old sweaters to make into hooked rugs, before knitting became king. And Angie remembered a dream she had of finding or at least recreating those wonderful traditional English smocks which she'd seen in a local museum. Which brought on another soapbox surge from your Irish correspondent. Listen now, and put down your knitting for a moment. There is nothing, do you hear me, NOTHING wrong with hooking rugs. Nor is there anything wrong with smocking, embroidery, lacemaking, macrame, any other fibre craft, or indeed any craft at all - be it woodwork or sculpture from discarded freezers. Quite the contrary, all of these are wonderful, important, vital, and beautiful activities, without which the world would be a poorer place. How would we get on without those divine spindles, those crochet hooks, those circulars from Jenkins Woodworking , tell me that? You don't need rugs on your floor? Chairs at your table? Curtains at your window? A work of art on the landing? You've never knowingly allowed a lace item into your house? (You don't have a house because you don't think woodworking or dovetailing or jointing or whatever is an acceptable craft?) Come on!

I'm shouting this extra loud because I have come across weblogs where people are positively snobbish about 'other' (and by implication, lesser) crafts. Crochet, for example, is considered downmarket, not the real thing by more than one. Why? Isn't it beautiful? Yes. Isn't it intricate and clever? Yes. Well? Just because you may not be good at one particular craft doesn't mean you can't admire it - not unless you have a very small mind indeed. I can't conquer tatting, no matter how much I try - but others make some beautiful and fashionable chokers and bracelets. My silk spinning and dyeing aren't as good as they could be - but boy can I admire other cleverclogs who create incredible yarns that way. One day I will be able to work in wood, if I live long enough. In the meantime, I'll envy and buy from those who already have this talent. I'm no elitist and I don't think anyone else has the right to be either. The world would be a pretty depressing place, not to say uninteresting (and possibly dangerously unbalanced), if we were all devoted to just one craft.

I've stopped shouting now so you can take your hands down from your ears. I went looking for those venerable volumes of Golden Hands last night and found a treasure trove. I mean, some of the things being illustrated in those weekly issues almost forty years ago are stunning. Here are just a few I photographed for you.

Just look at that jerkin of many colours. Do you think this is where Kaffe Fassett got his inspiration? What a skilful choice of colours and shapes. Actually I think I prefer it to Kaffe's designs - it's cleaner, less fussy. Here's another.

No, it's not crochet, it's macrame. Not a craft in which I'm very experienced, but I'd certainly like to try this. It's pretty fashionable for today's teenagers, I think too. Now take a deep breath and look at this one.

Ignore the two dated guys and feast your eyes on that knitted lace wedding coat. It's trimmed with tiny pearls as buttons all the way up the front. I don't have a wedding coming up, I don't know anyone who has a wedding coming up, but I sure want to try out that utterly beautiful garment. It would need to be in a very light yarn, otherwise there would be a risk of the weight dragging downwards. Isn't it superb, though? If anyone really wants it, I'll work out a way of getting it to you. (What do you mean, life's too short? Do you mean to tell me that if you sat up on your deathbed and found you had finished and tidied away every single project, you'd be happy? Of course not. You'd cast on for another gansey immediately.)


Anonymous said...

Now I desperately want to scavenge thrift shops and used book stores for vintage knitting books and patterns. That wedding coat (which at the speed I knit would take me to my deathbed to complete) is breathtaking.

I did make a couple of book finds last night I'm very happy about, one from 1970 and one from 1980, both on spinning and spinning wheels. Now all I need is a free quiet night curled into the corner of the chesterfield with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) to delve into them. Not easy to come by with a 5 year old boy in the house...

(just so you know, the Harlot freely admits her objection to crochet is based on her inability to 'get it' the way she does knitting, spinning and sewing. It frustrates her. There are a couple of very talented crocheters who come to our SnB every week, and I'm hoping to draft one of them into helping me learn to make a blanket for my aforementioned 5 year old boy)

rho said...

oops -- I think I mentioned my rug hooking that has languished in the back room -- but don't feel bad for it. I'm a typical Gemini and I want to learn how everything works then I go on to the next thing normally. I have done some miniature bird carving (the dog ate it so I figured I was so good it was lifelike and I didn't have to try anymore) I did the rug hooking, I have done stained glass, and I learned how airbrushing works in a class, and on and on -- But for some reason Knitting is getting its hooks in and I think it will be permanent. I've also played clarinet and accordion (which I would kind of like to find one again to play with)

And Rich is an enabler because he is a Gemini too and he understands the whole "got to learn how things work" idea. But he does tend to stick with things more than I do LOL

So I'm not a craft snob (or any other kind heheh) I just
need to learn how things work and there isn't enough time to keep them all up and still move on to the next thing.

You should travel with us -- we stop at places like a Mennonite furniture store and manage somehow to get taken on a tour of their work facilities to see exactly how they make everything. And microbreweries which are closed by the time we get there for the tours and end up with personal tours that are so much better than the norm. and then are invited out with all the workers and owners.

Must say though we do manage to have lots of fun :D

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about other crafts. Over the years I've done many and enjoyed them all. Knitting has come out on top for me - so focus now on it and expanding my designing and finishing skills. I agree that the world would be a much less wonderful place if other skills and crafts were absent. I enjoy talking (and watching) people that have a passion for doing what they do. Their enthusiasm energizes me!

Anonymous said...

Back to that thrift shop ! They had the whole set of Golden Hands but come to think of it space ! We got a huge folder of "Country Living" for Hols there but it weighs a ton. Trip to Hobbycraft today only came back with a few beads as they had all the same yarns our L.Y.S sells.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

I am a thrift store shopper - even have purchased knitting needles, yarn and books!! It is amazing what people toss out!
I was a 'hooker' and hooked rugs for walls, pillows, etc. The thrift store was my shop for woolens! Even did a nude with no breasts - that's me - and worked out some of my sorrows through rugs. You are right, all crafts are deserving of honour in my world.
Love the gal in the workshop with the needles - how did DH take to a second visit with knitting in hand! I have used a pencil sharpener to make dpns out of plastic needles, but never on bamboo.
Just couldn't wait to get your hands on Sea Silk - can't blame you. What are your plans for it? I am currently working on a shrug and think the Sea Silk would be perfect for one for me!
The gal at my LYS yesterday says that she gets a headache when she tries to knit with Addi Turbos - the light flashes off their brilliance! Brilliant in their material, but not in their application!

Fiberjoy said...

What a whirlwind trip! From unique yarn in the Ukraine, to cleverly crafted dp bamboo needles, on to a spine tingling shouting ending with pictures of rekindled retro knits!

I'm a bit breathless.

Good for you Jo to stir us up on the merits of handcrafting in all its wonderful variety and the endless creativety of humankind.

I'm one of those whom dh shakes his head at but generously supports none-the-less. So many fiber arts call for exploration.

There is wisdom in having only one passion. Ed is able to work at wood wholeheartedly with an occasional foray into metalworking but usually that gets incorporated into his woodwork. Whereas I leap crazily from craft to craft, master of none.

Anonymous said...

you crack me up! the wedding coat is so lovely—jo, it would make a wonderful short sweater too for yourself, no? i can totally see you having that! or even to just below the knee over o longer skirt or pants. it's really great!
yes, get those thrift store treasures while you can! i still LOOK for them everywhere, but they are a lot more expensive and picked-over here. i am green with envy over your finds!

and you are so right about respecting all crafts—sometimes i joke about crocheting, but i hope it isn't taken the wrong way—i would feel bad if someone thought i didn't respect it (especially since i have a box full of crocheted lace pieces here somewhere . . . i made them all years ago and don't know what to do with 'em)

ps: i am just reading through and all of us are apologizing for mentioning other crafts in less-than-golden light hahaha!

Anonymous said...

pps: and the photography in those old books is ACE! i love all those really stylized poses.

Lynn said...

Wish you were here. I bet I could teach you to tat, and I quite understand how hard it can be to learn. It's the hardest thing I've ever taught myself to do from a book, and it would have been *so* much easier if I could have found a teacher to slow her hands down and explain the "why" behind each part of the stitch.

There is one small trick to learning to tat, so that your stitches slip neatly along the carrying thread. And I could show you in about 15 seconds and probably have you working slowly but confidently in about 15 minutes.

It's basically macrame worked on a round carrying thread. And if you can lay hold of a large-ish, tightly spun rope or line and work with a one-yard length, treating one end as if it were the bobbin thread and the other as if were the carrying thread, you can get a sense of the motions involved.

(If you know how to tie up a horse to a fence rail, you're more than halfway there, because the basic knot is the lark's head knot from macrame, or a half-hitch followed by a reverse half-hitch.)

Dez Crawford said...

Thanks for your comments on craft snobbery. I can't stand it when people become competitive about craft "superiorirty."

By the way, the Irish Great grandmother I have been talking about also made beautiful crochet.

I am a thrift shop junkie and have found many knitting treasures there, including , once, a fairly large box fulll of angora yarn.

That wedding coat is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

First thing I thought about the wedding coat is, Wouldn't that be stunning as a shawl with the hood.
I just love the look of hoods. How lucky you are to have the pattern. Please let us see your results.

kelli ann & lorie said...

hello erin !! am very glad that i followed a link from MDK to discover your beautiful blog. it's wonderfully written, warm and thoughtful. reading it with the 7-month-old balanced on my shoulder, and getting ready for this morning's Guild meeting. cheers!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I used to think that because Sonny and Cher can no longer get back together to sing 'I Got You Babe' at my wedding (Sonny being dead and all) that I'd probably never get married. But now I'm convinced that if I have that wedding coat to wear I'll definitely get married. I'm pretty sure I don't need to be the one to knit it either. So if anyone out there wants to knit it for me.....?

Anonymous said...

That wedding coat is stunning and I have been looking for something similar for AGES!
Seeing as I have just gotten engaged (and at my age, that's a statistical anomaly - but at least I'm still able to bear children...just!)
I should be so thankful if you could forward any information on this pattern to me! I only have a year...eek!
You can find me at
With my thanks!

Anonymous said...

the wedding coat is amazing. do you have the pattern? is it one you can share? if not can you tell me where i can get it? thank you. lynn

TheHippyWitch said...

Oh goodness gracious me! I just received a stash of gorgeous Blue Heron Rayon Metallic Yarn. Been trying to decide what to make, and found your post about the wedding cloak. Would love to get the pattern any way possible.

Anonymous said...

My Mum got married in one very similar to that, which I had always dreamt of wearing, but have since found out it was my Auntie's, who has since passed away and I have no way of finding out where it is! I've been searching high and low to find one, but to no avail..... :-(

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Laura, you don't have an email address where I can contact you. Email me at kerjoATgofreeDOTindigoDOTie and let's see what we can do.