fiber

A CHRISTMAS KNITTING ROUNDUP

 
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I can never decide if what I love most about knitting is holding the fiber in my hands, smelling the fiber, or gifting the finished product. All three in equal measure, probably. I rarely knit things for myself because it's just so dang satisfying to give the gift of wool (cotton, linen, etc.). Everything I knit feels at least a little bit like it is mine. After all, only I know where the mistakes are hidden (hopefully). This year I focused on hats to maximize my gift-giving capability, and stretched myself to learning stranded knitting (more than one color in the same row), and to whip out two cabled hats in under a week. The pointy elfin hats pictured are my go-to Favorite Thing to Knit. So easy and adorable. (Specs are below.) 

Now on the other side of Christmas, which was sheer delight and joy, I am content to work on fun projects both slow and quick. Pale pink yarn is en route to my doorstep for a baby blanket (not for me, though I wish); I made a tiny stuffed knit bunny for the baby; and I'm using up stash yarn for mittens and hats. Turns out my husband needs a wool hat that actually covers his ears. My field bag (above) is filled with four skeins of Irish wool (via Retrosaria) that I'm ruminating over and smelling . . . a lot. I hope your holiday was truly merry and bright, suffused with love + joy.

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for the curious, the pattern + yarn (+ accessories) specifications:

Derek's ski hat:
Pattern: Banff by Tin Can Knits
(modified to add ear flaps)
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Quarry, colorways Gypsum + Hematite + BT's Arbor,  colorway Firebush

Baby Aurora's ski hat:
Pattern: Garter Ear Flap Hat by Purl Soho (modified) with the stranded pattern of Banff
Yarn: same as Derek's ski hat

knitting bag // Field Bag by Fringe Supply Co.
enamel sheep pins // Twig & Horn
 

Isaiah + Judah's elf hats:
Pattern: Garter Ear Flap Hat by Purl Soho
Yarn: Quince & Co. Lark, colorways Parsley + Stream

Janet's cabled hat:
Pattern: Far Hills Hat by Jared Flood
Yarn: Green Mountain Spinnery Mewesic, colorway Diamonds and Rust

John's cabled watch cap:
Pattern: Divide Hat by Emily Greene
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Quarry, colorway Granite

 


—S

A VISIT TO A VERMONT FIBER FARM

 

Tammy White is the sort of farmer who makes you want to be a farmer—actually, no, she's the sort of farmer who makes you believe you can be a farmer. Or, in our case, fiber farmers. For a few idyllic hours, we left the land of dairy and butterfat to walk around with, learn from, and posit many a question to Tammy, the shepherdess at Wing & A Prayer Farm. She offered guidance on curing goat skins; taught lessons on the fiber of different wool breeds; humbly explained how her family survived after their first alpaca gave birth to a cria (baby alpaca) when they didn't know she was pregnant; plus, we briefly discussed bartering mucking for natural dyeing/spinning lessons. (A dream.) We went with the knowledge that a visit to her farm would surely deepen our desire to someday grow a fiber flock, but we left with the deep need to include a miniature donkey (or four, like her) in our plans. If you need evidence of why this is so, behold Kalinka and Bilbo, the mini donkeys below. You understand, yes? The small farm community in Vermont continues to inspire in us the drive to do good and to be open to others who might want to see / participate / believe in a different way. 

For a bit of fiber animal guidance, the animals pictured within are: sheep, miniature donkeys (not fiber animals, but good guard companions), angora goats (with the ringlet curls), and alpacas (the goofy other-wordly creatures).

While walking the grounds at Wing & A Prayer, you cannot help but feel included among the menagerie of breeds and species. For one thing, the animals around you are so clearly happy and loved—a contagious disposition, if there ever were one. Beyond that simple fact of life on the farm, Tammy and her family has spent decades creating a warm, welcoming, and educational environment. As you look around, there's a morsel of information about this animal, a tidbit about that one, a hopeful message here & there for anyone who dreams of farming, or who is simply curious. After a long and hearty pasture walk, we settled in her big, well-lived in kitchen so that Sam could touch all of the yarn and talk knitting for a little while. (Their scrumptious farm yarn can be found here. Shetland is wow, wow, wow.)

She is a small farmer with big vision. She is quite what we aspire to be — a breath of fresh air, really. For an industry that can often feel insular—reclusive, maybe?—her farm is a reminder of the good that small farms can do for animals, for communities, and for the Earth, our common home.


—M&S

FIBER | A WOOLEN WRAP FOR MAMA

 

It's a wonderful feeling to be on the other side of a knitting project — from a long-term work-in-progress to a finished object draped over the shoulders of the person for whom it was always intended. This particular wrap (a modified version of Brooklyn Tweed's Guernsey Wrap) was a labor of love, a Christmas collaboration between my dad and I for my mama. For the three weeks leading up to Christmas, I woke up an hour early to knit by the light of our Christmas tree. Having this garment on my lap every morning was like having my mama with me; there she would be, always on my mind. The subtle power of knitting for a loved one. For the yarn, I used a merino wool for its utter softness and lovely drape (in worsted twist, colors sea salt and berry). The wonders of knitting with natural fiber—or plant and animal yarns—continues to propel my own fascination with the craft. To make something out of something else that grew from the earth, naturally . . . what a wild and beautiful act!

The "Gurny Wrap" might be beautiful, but the Gurny (her name, as chosen by her grandchildren) is simply ineffable. 


—S

KNITTING | SLOW FASHION + A WOOLY WARM SCARF

 

On the heels of the worst retail weekend in our culture, I wanted to share a different sort of post. A slow post. A post that took weeks to even be possible. One that cannot be made with one-click shopping; a post that is not eligible for free two-day shipping, and will not cost less if you sacrifice Thanksgiving pie to wait in line early. Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, what a blight. I want to outpour my heart to every retail and commerce employee who willingly sacrificed and suffered in the name of a Good Deal.

I feel especially saddened (ok, angered) by this weekend because it impacts my family directly. For two decades my mom has been in the Black Friday fire as manager of a large retail business. Never defined by her work, but rather by her family and her life, she muscles through the hellish Black Friday season (yes, it's a season) with grace. It's we the kids who get fired up. Anyhow, she is better known for styling women in a line of slow, high-end fashion wear called cabi. (Although, Mark loves wearing cabi linen pants as much as I do.) To my mama, and my grandmother—an insanely talented seamstress whose artistic range spanned doll clothes to wedding gowns!—and the many women in my life who have opted for needles, hooks, bobbins, fabric and fiber rather than a quick deal: I have joined you.

I have fallen in love with natural fiber and consider knitting with animal and plant fibers a way to concretely support farmers. I knit this scarf for Mark using two skeins of undyed Icelandic sheep wool from a farm down the road. The wool is soft, the seed stitch pattern is squishy, and the tight knit makes it extra warm for braving this northern climate. The yarn cost $22 per skein, which is not inexpensive, but neither is the cost of raising, feeding, growing, and shearing sheep for the farmer. For a slower system, we must place worth on the whole system, not just the final product. Before box stores, before self-serve gas stations, before Amazon, commerce and trade were two-way transactions. More methodical, slower shopping is experiencing a revival, to be sure, and I am all in. Both feet in. As soon as I finished Mark's scarf, I wrapped him up in it and promptly got new wool onto my needles.
So it goes, slowly.


—S