. Celebrating Historical Fiber Arts in Maine


Celebrating Historical Fiber Arts in Maine

Category: Hand-knitting

As I mentioned last week, I had a little adventure/vacation as a participant in an archaeological dig in Damariscotta. There were indeed no golden idols nor Nazis, but there were many pieces of ceramics, and a fair number of diabolical biting flies. One of the coolest finds was a button with a copper shank, complete with a scrap of thread still in place. But while I was geeking out over 18th century items, archaeologists in England discovered a ball of thread from 3,000 years ago! They’ve also just posted a photo of a bobbin still wound with thread from the same site at Must Farm.

Photo credit: Must Farm Archaeology

3,000 year old thread! Photo credit: Must Farm Archaeology

Clearly, it’s a great time for historical fiber arts around the world, and Maine is a good place to be. This weekend is the Annual Open House at Bartlettyarns in Harmony. Friday and Saturday, August 5 & 6, visitors can tour the mill and check out the spinning mule, one of the last of its kind. We carry yarn and roving from Bartlettyarns, and love them for their classic strength, and beautiful colors, and the fact that they’re made right here in Maine. I will have to wait till next year to attend the open house, but you should go this year and tell me all about it! (Take photos!)

The Waldoborough Historical Society is also getting in on the fiber action this month, hosting a Rug Hooking Demonstration. Waldoboro (the modern spelling of my hometown’s name) used to be known for beautiful hooked rugs, and Kathie Hills will be doing a demo on August 28th at 1 pm. The Historical Society Museum is definitely worth a visit — it’s located right by Moody’s Diner (itself a piece of Waldoboro history), and includes the old stone animal pound where they used to corral loose farm animals until their owners could come claim them. The museum is free to the public, and the collection also contains locally made quilts and cross stitched items.

I love that fiber arts have such wonderful historic roots, going back thousands of years. It always boggles my mind when I’m doing a complicated cable or stitch pattern and I pause to realize that someone, decades or centuries ago, was knitting away and thought, “I wonder what happens if I do this?” — and behold, a gorgeous cable! As a history nerd, it warms my heart to know that thousands of pairs of hands throughout time have done exactly what mine are doing when I cast on for a cozy hat. The tradition and history behind knitting definitely factors into my enjoyment of the craft, and when Maine winters are long and cold (unlike last winter), I imagine the ghosts of Maine women of yore, knitting right alongside me by the woodstove. May society never “advance” so far as to lose our fiber arts traditions!

I Knit in Public

Category: Hand-knitting

Hi, Readers. My name is Jennifer, and I knit in public.

Yes, it’s true. I carry my knitting with me in my purse, so that I’m always prepared. Traffic jam? No sweat. Delay at the doctor’s office? Take your time, Doc. Waiting for my partner to join me at a restaurant? No awkward phone-browsing for me — my needles are clicking away, and I’m happy as a clam. In fact, I think that I’ve knit in most of the places that Dr. Seuss’s Sam-I-Am suggests for the consumption of green eggs and ham (though not with a goat, or a fox). I sort of assumed that everyone knit in public; why wouldn’t you?


Would you, could you, on a boat?

But apparently it’s somewhat unusual. I’ve gotten odd looks from bartenders, and the tooth-grinding “Oh, I wish *I* had time to knit” from my waiting-room companions. I’ve even gotten seats to myself on crowded buses, because no one wants to sit next to the lady with the pointy sticks on a moving vehicle (ok, so that’s kind of a perk). Imagine my surprise when I learned that Saturday, June 18th was World Wide Knit in Public Day! Wait, there’s one specific day a year when I’m supposed to knit in public? What about the other 364? I can understand that there are some times/places where knitting might be inappropriate (church, funerals, workshops), but generally I don’t see anything wrong with a little multitasking (Let’s talk about phone use in public, if we’re going to discuss manners here).

For me, every day is Knit in Public Day. Throw a portable project into your bag the next time you’re heading out the door, and see how much better it can make you feel. No high blood pressure while you wait (and wait) on Route 1 in the summertime. Reduced anxiety as the click of your needles drowns out the whine of the dentist’s drill. And zero resentment when your dinner date is running a few minutes behind (Ok, I should confess that I’m almost always the late one in that situation). We already know that knitting is good for your health, so why not do it more often? Besides, if I only knitted at home, I would NEVER get anything finished. Like the dishes.

Where do you knit?


My Top 3 Knitwear Designers

Category: Hand-knitting

I’ve already confessed to spending too much time on Ravelry, and not enough time knitting. Part of the problem is that there are Just. Too. Many. Patterns. out there, and more are being designed every day. While I love discovering new designers, I have a handful of favorites who keep me coming back, every time. Behold, the list of my Top 3 Knitwear Designers:

Eased (Bulky version) ©Aliciaplum

Eased (Bulky version) ©Aliciaplum

3. Alicia Plummer. For starters, she lives in Maine, so we already know she’s awesome. Her patterns are beautifully textured, and they all look wonderfully wearable. Alicia’s designs make me want to go camping, or curl up in front of a fire with a good book. She loaned us some of her sample garments once, and I got to wear Eased. I have to tell you, I almost didn’t give it back, it was that cozy (and it was my color, too). Even though it’s summer (at last!), I’ve got this urge to knit with Mirasol Ushya, a luscious super bulky on our shelves — and it’s all Alicia’s fault! She has designed a cowl called Au Courant that absolutely must be around my neck by the time the first snow flies: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/au-courant. The only question is which color to choose (which I will agonize over for an inordinate amount of time).




© Tin Can Knits

Snowflake © Tin Can Knits

2. Tin Can Knits. This designing partnership of Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel is my go-to when I’m knitting for young’uns. The Gramps Cardigan for my favorite toddler came from them, and they’ve got a whole collection of adorable, pint-sized patterns. One of the best things about Tin Can Knits is the way they size their patterns: almost every pattern is sized from Newborn to 4XL. Yes, you read that right. No more envy of those stylish babies, no more wondering whether you could figure out the math to size it up for yourself. Alexa and Emily have got you covered. My guy even requested a matching Gramps Cardigan so he and his young buddy can be twins. (So far, I’ve resisted — the cuteness might be too much for the world to handle.) Many Tin Can Knits patterns also come with ultra-helpful tutorials, just at the points where you find yourself wondering, “Am I doing this right?” The gorgeous sweater pictured here is Snowflake: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/snowflake-123, and is one of several Tin Can Knits items on my to-knit list.



Venus © Rowan Yarns, 2011

Venus © Rowan Yarns, 2011

1. Martin Storey. My long-time knitwear designer crush, Martin Storey, is in a league of his own. He has over 30 pages of patterns listed on Ravelry. He designs for Rowan. The men who model his designs are ruggedly handsome and look like they should be striding across the heath or else helping you aboard their yacht. The women all look like they own homes in the English countryside yet are completely approachable, and might invite you to join them for a glass of wine in the garden, which of course you would say yes to, and then the two of you would become inseparable friends, and she might convince Martin to design a sweater for you, too. I am clearly insane in love with the world that Martin Storey has created with his knit designs. His patterns for children are equally lovely and classic. You really can’t go wrong. My current favorite is Venus, pictured here. http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/venus-9.

Who are some of your favorite designers?