Sometimes when I knit, I think of my grandmother, who patiently taught me to knit when I was little. Her needles flew, with a rapid click-click that never seemed to stop. She lived in England, so when she wasn’t visiting us, she would mail me books, comics, and nature articles clipped from magazines. I became a voracious reader, and while those Rupert Bear books will always have special place in my heart, my favorite stories soon became the fairy tales.
Have you ever noticed how often fiber arts come up in these types of stories? Is it because knitting, spinning, and weaving were integral parts of daily life for the original tellers of our favorite tales? Or is it because the fiber arts have a kind of magic of their own — a something-from-nothing spell? Fairy tale characters are often clever and resourceful — dare I call them “crafty”? The craftiest one of all might just be Anansi the spider from African folklore. Anansi spins stories as well as webs, and frequently uses his weaving/spinning ability to get himself out of a tight spot or to get the better of a rival.
Many of the fiber artists in stories are strong, resourceful women. The most well-known example might be Penelope, of Homer’s Odyssey. In a bid to delay having to choose a suitor, Penelope states that she will make her choice once she has finished weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law. Every night, she unravels that day’s work, postponing her decision a little longer. While Penelope cannot forcibly eject the suitors from her hall, she utilizes her knowledge of fiber arts to outsmart them until Odysseus returns home.
In Cap O’ Rushes, the heroine, cast out of her father’s house, is able to disguise herself by weaving a cap and cloak out of reeds. No one recognizes her for the noblewoman she is, until she chooses to reveal herself. Because she knows how to transform grasses into garments, she survives and even lives happily ever after.
The magical power of knitting features prominently in The Wild Swans, where a young woman must make a special sweater for each of her brothers, who have been transformed into swans. (In some versions, she sews shirts.) The sweaters must be made from a specific plant, which also varies from tale to tale, and she may not speak until the project is completed. In the end, the young woman runs out of time — one brother is left with a swan wing, as his sweater was missing a sleeve. However, her determination and skill saves all of their lives.
I feel a thrill to know that I share skills with these impressive heroines. Traditional fiber arts skills have been passed along for generations, and now I am a part of that story. While my sweaters may not be able to break a spell, there is something undeniably magical in the creation of a garment out of sticks and string.
Do you have fairy tales from your childhood that feature fiber arts as well?
It’s officially pumpkin-carving, hot cider & cozy pajamas weather! While I’m grumpy and slow to get out of my warm bed this time of year, my better half is capering around, crowing about how much he loves fall. For me, the one thing that makes fall more bearable is that it is also officially knitting weather. Here at the shop, we’ve started seeing reps, and we just received our first big yarn order of the season, from Plymouth! We’ve added a few new colors to existing lines, and brought in three brand-new lines.
Chunky Merino Superwash is a machine-washable, 100% merino yarn that knits to 3.5 stitches to the inch on a U.S. 10. It’s soft and lovely, and I’m already knitting with it! I’ve cast on for a hat, and I’m really enjoying working with it. We got a beautiful rainbow in this yarn, including perfect colors for a Gryffindor scarf! Our rep (also a Jennifer) is using Chunky Merino Superwash for the Biscotti Sweater by Kiyomi Burgin, which is absolutely stunning.
I’m excited to announce that we also just got Gina Chunky, the big sister to our regular worsted weight Gina! Gina Chunky captured my heart right away with its fun, bold colors, and will make for some quick knits this holiday season. I fell in love with the Zig Zag Cowl by Vanessa Ewing, and it’s only a matter of time before I give in, shove my dirty laundry in the closet, hide my dirty dishes in the oven, and cast on for this one. Honestly, just look at those delicious colors:
And now for something completely different: we’ve been bitten by the speckled yarn craze! We now have Happy Feet 100 Splash, a hand-dyed yarn with pops of color sprinkled throughout. This yarn is machine washable and has 10% nylon for durability. Come try out a skein — it would make splendid socks, or an adorable lightweight baby sweater.
Happy Feet 100 Splash in the skein…
…and knit up. Like confetti cake!
We’re excited for you to try these new yarns and let us know what you think! Don’t hesitate to ask us for pattern suggestions!
I love Halloween. A holiday all about chocolate and costumes? Yes, please! (I am equally passionate about theme parties, for similar reasons.) Whenever possible, I like to make my own costumes, and I actually think that’s part of the fun. I recently spent a little time browsing Ravelry for handmade Halloween costume items to share with all of you, and there are some really fun pattern ideas out there!
The Lassie Wig Hat by Charlotte W. is a great foundation for any costume that calls for a wig. You can do braids, or pigtails, or even wind the braids on either side, space-princess-style. Thread sturdy wire through the braids and you’ve got Pippi Longstocking! Throw a horned helmet on top and you can be a Viking!
The Dolly pattern by Mary Scott Huff is perfect for a number of classic costumes. Goldilocks, a rag doll, Shirley Temple, Little Bo Peep… This knitted wig also features a hat base, to help your curls stay in place, and it would be easy to make longer curls if you need them. With any hat-based wig, you can pretty much create any hairstyle — simply weave or tie the yarn into the hat base.
Masks and disguises: As a crafty person, you can custom-make a mask to fit your face, which means no more ill-fitting costumes that slip down over your eyes!
The Disguise Mask by Ana Rosa is a delightful yarn-y take on a classic. I especially love the option for the fuzzy eyebrows. This disguise can stand alone as a costume, or be part of a Mr. Potato Head!
Mask Gone Batty by Cristina Mershon is a slightly more elegant mask option. Crocheting this in aran weight yarn will make for a quick, last minute option. Add a black lace shawl — bonus points if you made it yourself!
There’s still plenty of time to grab some yarn and add a handmade touch to your costume! Ravelry has pages and pages of Halloween goodies, and we have skeins and skeins of yarn! Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll just be over here making a wearable cloud out of FiberFil and hot glue. Get crafty!