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Saturday, 15 April 2006
Countrywool in the News!

The Berkshire Eagle ran a story about knitting today, and Countrywool got some play. Nice article about shop owners and their take on the industry and knitters in our area.

Posted by countrywool at 7:00 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006 7:02 AM EDT
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Thursday, 6 April 2006
Next in the retreat plans...Faroese sweaters
Topic: faroese knitting
I have been fascinated for a long, long time by the ethereal beauty of Faroese color patterns in sweaters. Simple, simple, natural sheep colors used in small repeated patterns make for easy knitting and warm clothing. In the Norwegian tradition, such two layer fabric can weather hard wear, and is very beautiful.

"The Faroe Islands are 18 tiny islands situated in the North Atlantic, between Iceland and Norway. Only 45.000 people live on the islands. Still it’s a nation of it’s own with own culture and own language."
So begins an intro on the Faroese design website of Gudrun & Gudrun, two designing women from the Faroe Islands. Sheep and wool are enjoying a resurgence and are once again a good business there, but it was not always so. The Islands and the sheep have struggled over the centuries. If you find their history as interesting as I do, you will enjoy this article.

Knitting came to the Islands in the late 1500's, and within a very short time, the quota of knitted socks that were exported reached in the hundreds of thousands. Sweaters were hand knitted at large gauges and sold in the mid 1900's. Here is an original design by Meg Swansen with Faroe color stitch patterns. Many times the marketed sweaters were turtlenecks. Most were steeked to add in the sleeves. Many sported natural sheep colors and all had lovely, simple to knit repeated small color stitch patterns that employed almost no float wrapping, which would slow down a knitter.

Over the years I have dabbled with Faroe stitches in some hat patterns I've written. On the left is FAROE BANDED HAT and on the right is FAROE VINE HAT. They are quite fun to knit and go remarkably fast even with two colors as there is no fiddling with the carried color. For the three sweater patterns, three hat patterns, and one sock pattern I have in my head, I hope to fully explore the use of 9 different natural sheep colors in the next year. I will break with tradition to create sweater patterns that do not have steeks, but rather raglan shoulder shapings, so that the entire garment can be worked continuously on circular needles, with only a few underarm stitches left to graft at the end.

Posted by countrywool at 8:08 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006 8:12 AM EDT
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Friday, 31 March 2006
Old friends, new friends and good knitting
Topic: Knitting Retreats

You never know what will happen at a Knitting Retreat.

Oh, we have the requisite yarn tricks and "aha!" moments, and it's all good. But, the icing is the unplanned stuff that tends to crop up whenever knitters get together.

Enter Dolly and Jousting Peeps.

Apparently Dolly (far right) makes the rounds with the Kids From Camp (Martie, Sue, Jud and Janet were the bunch that made it to the retreat) and she brought with her Peeps for Jousting. So, when we had covered the class topic on Saturday morning (can we all sing "HEMS!") and there was a fragment of a lull in the conversation, the topic turned to the annual Peep games first espoused by the KNITLIST in the 1990's. Of course, the Kids from Camp had come prepared for a match, so the microwave, toothpicks, paper plates and two yellow marshmallow Peeps came out to entertain the group.

I must say...I have not seen a retreat dissolve in helpless laughter quite like this one.

I was gifted with the lovely Stuffed Peep, shown at center above with a (double pointed needle)spear in her wing, lolling on the deck railing with Dolly and a handy skein of Bearfoot, as a memento of our time together.

Posted by countrywool at 9:14 PM EST
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Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Knitting For Peace
Topic: charity knitting
I got an e-mail from Randy in Sweden that struck a chord. I don't normally jump on bandwagons, as mine is rolling too fast already, but I like what is going on here.

On March 21, Randy spends all day knitting...for peace. Contemplating the world and all its problems, but also how connected we all are, there is hope that through our common ground we'll find a way past the anger and dividedness.

I've posted Randy's letter here. I invite everyone who might be interested to come and knit with me in town on that day. We'll hang out at The Spotty Dog in Hudson. If you need yarn or needles or ideas on what to knit, give a holler and I'll help you get organized.

March 21, 2006
Knitting is a peaceful activity. Sheep are archetypically placid. When they cross a road that you are driving down, there is nothing to do but wait. It never crosses your mind to honk the horn or try to drive around—where I live the sheep graze in fields so rocky that you’d pierce your muffler if you tried—you just turn off your engine and admire the ungainly woolly lumps brushing past your front bumper. Knitting starts with the sheep.
I like natural yarns that are full of lanolin. That way I can feel the life of this animal that needn’t give its life to yield up this wonderful product that I use to knit. I fondle the yarn and start to rack my brains and my library for inspiration. My knitted things have no borders. I use a Swedish wool to knit mittens using a twisted Eastern stitch. The mittens turn out not to be warm enough, so I knit mitten liners out of Chilean alpaca. The hat on my head is of Japanese yarn, knitted from a Norwegian pattern. I knit my hat in the round from the top down, and once I passed the awkward double point stage and worked onto a circular needle, I slipped into the meditative state that arises when I knit stocking stitch in the round. My mind wanders, first to my work day then, eventually, to the private part of my day, my family, my friends, the wild thyme that the sheep graze on in the rocky fields up the road. I become part of a world bigger than that enclosed by the ends of the sofa where I sit knitting. My mind wanders through the world that has led to the knitting in my hands and because I am knitting, engaged in this quiet, peaceful activity that starts with the placid sheep, my mind wanders through a peaceful world.
Knitters radiate peace. When I see a stranger moving a pre-natal sock around and around a ring of double points, he is engaged in creating warmth for someone he cares about, an expression of peace. When I see a friend with a lap full of grey alpaca, lovingly being worked in moss stitch for her new baby, her quiet handiwork sings peace.
I would like to channel this peacefulness. On March 21, every stitch that I knit will be dedicated to peace. I would like to invite everyone who knits to join me on that day. Will it stop people from hurting and threatening and frightening each other, the antithesis of peace? Who knows. When I knit on March 21, I will be saying with each stitch that peace is possible, that human intelligence and compassion can triumph over fear and greed, that terror and war can give way to discussion and peace.
Knit for peace.
* * *
Randy Sklaver
Visby, Sweden"

Posted by countrywool at 7:21 AM EST
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Monday, 20 February 2006
Knitting This Week
Topic: nordic knitting

This one's for Elizabeth, my fellow Children In Common knitfriend. She's the organizer of the CIC LIST that coordinates donated knit/crocheted/woven clothing for the thousands of kids in orphanages in the former Soviet Union. She's a sock knitting fiend, also.

The reindeer chart got tweaked a little in anticipation of multiple sock sizes ahead, and I am not happy with the color placement on the border charts, but a New Idea came to me last night and I'll work on it later this evening. (Pattern is on its way, E).

And, I finished another colorway for the Nordic Knitting Retreats. I like dark sweaters, and using black as a licing color gets me there while allowing for a real color as the base.

Dark sweaters are very practical to wear everyday, and HEILO is the best wearing 100% wool yarn I've ever knitted with. I plan to make my everyday sweaters and socks out of it from now on.

Posted by countrywool at 9:03 AM EST
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Friday, 17 February 2006
Dancing Reindeer
Topic: nordic knitting

Done, ends woven in, washed, blocked, worn twice and now photographed for the pattern.

I opted to make this tunic length, for I live in leggings and BIG handknit socks all winter.

I just need some reindeer socks to go with it.

Posted by countrywool at 5:18 PM EST
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Writing Patterns

(Pat...the duck above is for you, and will be included in the optional chart patterns for the Nordic Knitting Retreats at Cape Ann and The Catskills).

I was chatting in the shop yesterday about writing patterns. I LOVE to write patterns! I look forward to that part of any knitting project. It does take a fair amount of time, and I am constantly challenged by making stupid mistakes, but using all my computer skills and workhorse software is enormously helpful. And satisfying.

I rely on my digital camera for shots of difficult parts in the pattern (one picture is truly worth a thousand words) as well as a final all-over photo; Microsoft EXCEL to work out all the math as I carve out the sizes I want to include (and many thanks to Dee who helped me understand how to use it!), Microsoft WORD to write and format the pattern; EXCEL to create the charts (it works easily and beautifully!) and my humble calculator when there is so much going on in EXCEL that I can't see the forest for the trees.


For instance, the pattern for the LUSKOFTE IN THE WOODS (or Lice in The Woods Sweater...which title do you prefer?) has a lovely ring of pine trees at the base of the yoke. The chart stitch repeat is 15. There are 12 adult sizes from 38 through 60". That's 12 sets of numbers that have to be decreased around equally and logically so that the pine trees fit where they should AND so they look good arranged on the sweater AND so the decreases do not cause bunching, etc. This is a job for EXCEL to keep track of, but for me and my little calculator to consider from size to size, pondering as we go.

Math is an amazing companion in tracking a sweater's changes, and I am grateful for its power and predictability. I am even more grateful for the work of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen, who opened designing doors for me in the 70's. With one piece of paper, a gauge swatch, sweater measurements and a percentage concept of clothing a body, anyone can knit a sweater that fits. This is the legacy we knitters come from, for back in the fishing villages where knitting thrived in centuries past, there were no patterns, yet, everyone wore sweaters.

Posted by countrywool at 7:53 AM EST
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Thursday, 9 February 2006
...getting closer
Topic: nordic knitting

It is always a shame a circularly knit stranded sweater cannot look as good as it will be while it is still on the needles. But, I am nearing the end and wanted to share. I have taken my time knitting this (although I do have a deadline which looms over me) in order to protect my hands/wrists/arms/back. So I do only a few inches a day. I am on round 42 of the 63 round yoke, and with all the decreasing, I may finish it tonight.

I snuck in some short rows between chart changes, and all told there will be almost a 2" higher back when I hit the top. This pleases me enormously, as the fit will be that much better.

I am thinking a stand up collar would be a snappy finish, to match the hem style at the cuffs/bottom edge.

Stay tuned.

While I am working on this sweater, the next one is dancing in my head.

So many good sweater ideas, so little time....

Posted by countrywool at 6:52 AM EST
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Wednesday, 8 February 2006
Knitting Olympics

Knitting blogland is alive with news and plans for the Knitting Olympics. Embroiled in my own deadlines, I cannot participate, but I am enjoying chatter about the event.

Beadlizard has summarized the most incredibly helpful information about protecting your muscles while production knitting and I highly recommend her advice.

Sleeping with your arms in the right position will do much to help your muscles relax. It takes some work to achieve this, but it is well worth it in the long run.

Posted by countrywool at 7:19 AM EST
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Friday, 3 February 2006
Nordic Hat (Lice In The Woods)
Topic: nordic knitting

So, here is the hat the Cape Ann and Rip Van Winkle Nordic Knitting Retreats will be making as a gauge swatch for their sweaters. It will also be the topic of the March 11 KNITTING LAB at Countrywool, where we will concentrate on the two-handed color knitting technique that makes this sort of project knit faster and with less muss and fuss.

The pattern and a Pattern/Yarn pack is also available at Countrywool. The pattern comes in 6 sizes from toddler through men's extra large, and the kit includes Heilo Norwegian wool yarn in the colors of your choice.

Posted by countrywool at 8:10 AM EST
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