Having a yarn shop next to the artistic gardening of Lars Shick at Yonder Mountain on Main Street in Bethlehem, makes everyday in the summer both a joy and education. One day he’s putting in a new stone wall, tucking in chunks of Peach Citrine he recently acquired. The next day he’s poking little succulents into a rock garden. Then this morning, on the way to the shop, I spot curved iron rods spanning from the house to the shed, getting ready to support some climbing plants (maybe Hardy Kiwi or Honeysuckle?). Then the plants! The native Showy Lady Slipper; an unusual Chinese hydrangea, Deinanthe Caerulea; native Twisted Stalk (Varigated Streptopus); the intersectional Peony, Itoh Peony, a cross between a Tree Peony and a Herbaceous Peony. Lars is into edibles, also: he has American Chestnuts, fruit trees, Skirret (a sweet white root crop that was popular in Tudor England), Hardy Kiwis, amongst others. The rock gardens, the ponds, the chicken coop, even the old bus, make exploring his gardens a requisite when visiting Bethlehem. So if you are my customer, I’ll be asking, “Have you been next door?”
That’s what I said when I looked through the new Interweave Knits. The cardigan by Sarah Solomon on the cover is so beautifully designed for me: long, loose, with cables and pockets, I wanted to cry, knowing how long it would take to knit it. Then there are these fabulous men’s cardigans and sweaters on gorgeous models and the tears started welling. Why can’t I just knit all day? This collection poses some interesting combinations—a linen stitch, zippered motorcycle-style jacket, a cable and fair isle sweater, a drop-shouldered sweater with a long sculptural hem, a truly elegant poncho. Even if you never knit one of these patterns, you’ll enjoy suffering and sighing as you linger over collection.
Many of us love to knit with a combination of alpaca and wool–it certainly is my favorite–but finding an American combination has been challenging, especially hand-dyed. The Alpaca Yarn Company has just launched “Symmetry”, a 50% baby alpaca, 50% fine wool, in sport weight, kettle-dyed in 18 beautiful colors. This is a perfect yarn for garments that are soft to the skin and warm to wear. You have to see it to appreciate the colors, with deep and pastels partnered for those two color projects. Join us on Friday the 10th from 5-7 to check it out.
I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Francis Chester-Cestari, the shepherd and owner of Cestari Sheep and Wool Company in Virginia. He is passionate about increasing the number of wool sheep on the East Coast and has started a “Let’s Grow Sheep Together” program to encourage the breeding and shearing of wool sheep. Although the world population of sheep has gone from 1 billion to 1.1 billion, most of the increase is from meat breeds, or hair sheep, that do not need shearing and thus save meat farmers that expense. (He argues that the meat from hair breeds is not as flavorful (i.e. strong) as the meat from wool breeds. According to the American Society of Animal Science, hair lamb tastes more like goat than lamb. If you like lamb, you may want to talk to your local suppliers, find out what type of lamb they have, and do your own taste test. Heritage Foods USA has information on the taste of heritage breeds.)
In addition to promoting wool, Francis is adamant about processing wool without the use of harsh chemicals and maintaining the lanolin and natural characteristics of the fiber. He believes the current “super wash” processing of wool, which uses chlorine gas to strip the outer fibers, then Hercosett 125, a plastic, to coat the fiber, leaves a product that is no longer wool at all. Next time you are knitting with super washed wool, have a good feel of it. You too will wonder about the content of it. Merino wool, which is naturally fire resistant and water repellent, can be machine washed in cool water and hung to dry. It can’t be thrown in the dryer, like super wash, but you can feel good about the product you are wearing.
Cestari wool and local cotton is hand dyed or kettle dyed. At the Yarn Tasting on Friday, October 13th from 5-7, we knit/crocheted with their Mt. Vernon line of 100% Merino, Old Dominion Collection of 100% Virginian cotton, the Traditional Collection of 100% wool, and Ash Lawn Collection of 75% cotton, 25% wool. The Mt. Vernon made a lovely tonal fabric, perfect for sweaters. The Traditional Collection still has the smell of the sheep and the grease of the lanolin, another great choice for a sweater. I’m using the Ash Lawn for a baby blanket, with it’s cotton/wool easy wash fiber and gentle pastels. The cotton will make great dishcloths or cotton tops. Come check them out!
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 No matter what your religious or political affiliation, giving can bring you a sense of worth and fill you with gratitude for what you do have. As Winston Churchill once stated, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” As knitters and crocheters, we have a “one-up” on some people, because not only can we make something useful for someone else, but there are many outlets for our talents. We don’t have to look around and say, “What can I do?” No matter what the cause, hand-made items are in demand and often the knitter or crocheter has to look no further than the stash in the closet to find the yarn needed.
There are a number of charitable knits we are doing at Love.Yarn.Shop. that you can jump in any time to contribute:
CHaD: We starting two years ago pairing children’s books with knitted animals. This has been so popular with the tutors at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth that we have been asked to continue. The tutors take the book and animal to a long-term child in the hospital for a reading lesson and then the child gets to keep both the book and the toy.
Purple Baby Hats: Littleton Regional Hospital is calling for purple baby hats to be given to new parents as part of their education about Shaken Baby Syndrome. These are quick and easy.
Chemo Hats: The Oncology Department at Littleton Regional Hospital has a basket for chemo hats. Patients can pick up a hat from the basket. These are always needed and I hate to see that basket empty when I know many knitters and crocheters are asking themselves, “What should I knit next?” While thinking about your next project, make a hat.
Welcome Blankets: The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is calling for 40” x 40” blankets for a display of warm welcome to equal and counter the 2000 miles of wall Trump wants to build along the border. The blankets will be distributed through refugee organizations after the display is taken down.
Knitting and crocheting charities abound at both the local, national, and international level. Feeling guilty about how much yarn you have? Get those needles out and knit a hat, or two, or ten!
As the petals of the hydrangea blush into pink and the leaves on the maple pop orange overnight, the call of wool tugs knitters and crocheters into the yarn store to sniff out their next project. They squeeze skeins and flip through magazines in search of the perfect fall project to ease them into winter. The Fall Interweave Knits issue is just the magazine for them. It has twelve patterns for pullovers and cardigans, all of which are interesting, modern, and beckon to the knitter. I had a hard time deciding which ones to highlight, but two weaknesses intervened: fair isle and men. The Prairie Wind Cardigan by Amy Gunderson is a knit-in-the-round, steeked hoodie, a perfect blend of traditional and modern. The Nelson Pullover by Irina Anikeeva takes its queue from athletic wear with a drawstring tie on a cowl neck. The Whiskey Creek Pullover by Amy Christoffers has a shawl collar which is reminiscent of the military pullovers of the 40’s and 50’s. All are worsted weight and knit in the round for the majority of the body, which is my preference when knitting sweaters. Come in and take a look!
Although we have read many articles about how knitting reduces stress and creates a sense of well-being, this Guardian article by a doctor about how being creative drew her out of her depression and continues to be an important part of her balancing the work in her life, is a personal testimony that speaks to anyone in the medical field. As busy as she is, she makes a little time every day to be creative, whether knitting, writing, or drawing.
The rise in popularity of “paint and sips” makes me think that there are many people who have written off their creative talents– “I can’t draw. I’m not creative.” — but who, in fact, feel a need to create and feel safe in a class where everyone is doing the same painting. The arts at all levels, and our ability to participate in them, define who we are as a society. Let’s celebrate and support them in our communities by attending public performances, classes, art shows, and by making time every day “to knit four rows.”
In honor of Women’s History Month, I decided to print off photos of women who were recognized as the first female in their field to do something. As I was reading through the extensive history, I was struck how each one of these women worked her entire life in a career, often a career in service to others. No doubt she worked under various forms of discrimination. “Nevertheless, she persisted,” and she succeeded in previously held male-dominated fields. Kudos to the women who have gone before us. Kudos to the women who are currently competing in male-dominated fields. Kudos.
Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. That’s the theme set by the United Nations today for International Women’s Day; the history goes back to 1908, however, when 15,000 women marched in support of the garment workers, demanding shorter hours, better pay, and the right to vote. Whether you stay home from work, don’t shop (gosh, you could shop at women-owned business, couldn’t you?), or attend an event, the important part of recognizing this day, is revisiting and remembering the historical struggles of women since the early protests of the 20th century…and teaching our children this history. One film I used to show my 8th grade students when doing a unit on Women’s History was Iron Jawed Angels, which always was jaw-dropping news to them. One early exhortation to keep history alive comes from Deuteronomy 4:9
- 9Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy son’s sons …. “
Aside from the gender-biased language, the sentiment is one we should take to heart, lest we forget, lest we lose what we have gained.