I love wooden knitters’ tools. I suppose it makes perfect sense that someone with a site called Knits From the Woodlot should be as enamoured of wooden tools as I am. The photo above shows my newest acquisition, a wooden swift from ChiaoGoo. It has the qualities that I value in knitting tools – graceful lines, touchable surface, quiet and smooth working order, functional.
I teach a class about fibres, all kinds of fibres – what’s good about each of them for us as fibre folk – and what isn’t. Here’s something I just learned about rayon. The production of rayon and viscose fibre for the fashion industry is responsible for the destruction of 120 million trees annually, an increase of 70% over 5 years ago. So much for thinking that a renewable resource, fibre from cellulose, was a good thing.
The issue of deforestation is particularly acute in Indonesia and in the redwood forests of Canada and the United States, where old-growth forests are logged for wood pulp used for fabric.
If you are interested in fibres, textiles, and the empowerment of women, you may be as fascinated with ClothRoads as I am.
Three women steeped in fibre, textiles, and design began ClothRoads, a company that curates indigenous artisan textiles and supplies from around the world, while promoting cultural and creative sustainability. Hand spun, handmade, hand weaving are all offered there. Notice a theme?
Decades ago I designed and made an Aran sweater. I was very proud of it, and still am, but I will make changes to the next one based on how my taste has evolved and on what I’ve learned about knitting and design. Such an interesting exercise to take a hard look at this garment. Try it yourself with a project from the past. See what you know now that you didn’t know then.
On the way home from a knit night, I listened to a fascinating podcast, The Philosopher’s Walk with Frédéric Bouchard that for me connected knitting, biology, and philosophy. Bouchard is a philosopher of science and biology at l’Université de Montréal. He walked through a city market, like Aristotle did with his students, asking questions – what exactly is an individual? Does our consciousness make us superior to other species? Or merely different?
An extraordinary event, the Pussy March, took place worldwide the day after the US inauguration. Women knitted pink hats by the thousands, for themselves and others, and marched in solidarity for the rights of all women. The creations for the event were not just pussyhats but also Quiet, a song performed by women who astonishingly met and rehearsed on-line. It’s become the unofficial anthem of the march. See it performed here and be moved, perhaps to tears like I was.
After 20 years of knitting and reading thousands of patterns, I have strong feelings about knit designs. The words love and hate express those feelings, although I thought I merely had biases before giving it more thought. Bias is just not a strong enough word. Hate might be too strong, so I’ll call them deep aversions.
When I look at any design, I check out five major issues. Do elements that show on both right and wrong sides look good on both? Are selvedges nicely planned so they are useful for seaming or, if left unfinished, are attractive? Is a too-simple ribbing used on hems, cuffs, and button bands? Do shoulders fit the model’s body well, without extra fabric under the arm? Are cables and texture stitches mirrored?
Cables look overwhelmingly complicated to the beginning knitter; they are not. New knitters want to knit cables, but avoid them because they look so difficult. How can someone who has just recently mastered knit and purl stitches possibly create a fabric that looks so beautiful?
That’s how I felt when I began to learn to knit. (Learning – the never-ending, mostly satisfying, sometimes frustrating process.) Cables were what I wanted to knit. Nothing else mattered – likely due to my Irish and Scottish heritage.
At my local yarn store, the revelation was patiently delivered. Just pull a few stitches to the front of the fabric, put them on a little needle, and knit them out of order. Repeat. Behold – the stitches cross and there is a beautiful, complicated-looking cable. Like most knit techniques, things do not stay simple for long. Immersing myself in Aran sweaters and the glorious patterns from Alice Starmore proved that.
I make bread every week. I have for years. There are so many great things about it. It’s delicious. It makes the house smell great. It makes a great gift. It takes a lot less time to create than something knitted and is frequently more appreciated, as much for its novelty as its taste.
When I was deep into bread making as a hobby, (sourdough starter included) I did a lot of reading and discovered mitts that bakers used to wear hanging from their wrists. When the loaves were ready, the bakers would give a quick swing of the wrists and their hands were protected, ready to pull hot pans from the ovens.