I’m ecstatic for two reasons. For one, the Autumnal Equinox has turned, and two, both sweaters I set out to design & knit by the equinox are done & dusted! I did have to reknit an awful lot too. This is all you get to see of them for now, but we have the date set with my nieces to give them these and they will model them and we will have a boatload of fun with a photo shoot in Calistoga, and then you’ll get to see photos galore of them. Then sometime in October I will buckle down get the pattern done & dusted too. But for now, just a happy chirpy sort of pleased-with-myself post on the first day of Autumn.
And she is my own design !
And in the very very near future . . .
leftover yarn means a matching tam !!!
(I’ve already cast on !)
* * *
In closing, a spectacular view of mist-covered mountains,
from yesterday’s Knit~Walk, overlooking Autumn colors of what I like to the “North Bay Highlands” of California.
* * *
All posts about Really Red Cardigan ~~ here
Details on Ravelry ~~ here
Some vintage buttons I bought from Knitterly in Petaluma last February, especially for this sweater. They are wood, not sure what kind, but one thing is for sure, they are lacquered well. They were in the vintage odd bits bin, wired together and rather spendy. Twelve bux for twelve (and I will use nine), but you know, they were the only buttons of the seemingly thousands at Knitterly, which seemed to enhance the colors in the yoke. I’m so predictable to choose the natural materials when making things. What do you think? Shall I sew ’em on???
I’m performing cosmetic ‘surgury’ with a steam iron, on this badly fitting sweater. I’m doing things with moist rags I probably ought’nt, but I’m hopeful I can gently coax and block the fit into the right proportions for my shape. The couture of knitting, I’m finding is more and more important , as each project seems to have it’s own couturesque challenges. This one, as we know, has a whole nest of them !
Knitting again on this cardigan started last year, which went into hibernation due to other projects that came up, and quite frankly, was forgotten. Now near completion, I am in a total state of agitation, as I have had to knit the left, then the right button bands over, then bind off again & again. Soon it will be finished, and I can show you, after I get it all blocked a second time and buttons sewn on of course.
In the meantime…
I’ll show you some photos from yesterday’s knit-walk. I followed Emma down in the meadow above the canyon (coyote-ville), and to our surprise, Emma spotted something very curious flapping in the breeze ahead.
Closer and closer, curiouser and curiouser !
Ah ha ! There has been someone who has been adorning the mountain with Tibetan Prayer Flags around here lately. The Masked Flagger has struck again ! They are admittedly quite a spectacle of artistic beauty. (That is, until they become bleached by the sun and wind-whipped to shreds.)
Interesting improvisations I’ve done, with ‘His’ v-neck. I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to do it, never having done it before. But now I think it looks very unique ~ steeked on the body, then after shirt-yoke was finished up to the steek in front, I transfered the live stitches on to waste yarn while I continued the yoke across back to be grafted together. Finally I cut the steek, and then picked up the steek stitches , back edge, and live stitches all around for a K2/P2 rib.
‘Hers’ crew style neck was a cake walk ! I really love the tweedy look for these, sparkling with flecks of buff, browns, black, ivory, and occasional bright-colored Donegal nebs. I wonder do they do look a little long in the arms? Yeah, I guess, partly because they are sagging a bit off of the hangers (I know, not the ideal way to display a handknit garment such as these) however, I assure you these sweaters were custom measured, and I stayed true to the wearers’ measurements, but I believe I added an inch (or two) to the sleeves to ensure they weren’t too short, and the end result is, well, much longer sleeves. But we’ll see when they are slipped on Him & Her.
Here is the back !
Just look at that spectacular design of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s,
the seamless shirt-yoke . . .
I like to sew on the label just above the rib, in the back . . .
Now these his & hers pullovers get shipped to Michigan, to keep warm two very dear young homesteaders, Rosanna & Felix , in their first year of settling & farming, undoubtedly shivering in their yurt, in the soon-to-be snowy winter landscape. Not without a herd of goats, flock of chickens, geese, and a manic farm dog to chase after !
* * * * *
Yarn : Knit Picks Wool Of the Andes Tweed ( 80% Peruvian Highand wool, 20% Donegal Tweed) . Worsted weight.
Needles: size US#8 circular.
Pattern : Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Shirt Yoke sweater, in “Knitting Without Tears” ~ somewhat modified throughout.
Details on Ravelry here
All posts about this project here
Just look at that lovely switching of direction of the grain in the knitted fabric ! All knitted in, seamlessly, and very tidy. Isnt’ it just so exquisitely clever ? Just wonderful is the Elizabeth Zimmermann Shirt Yoke seamless sweater design ! I have done things a bit differently overall, but stayed true through the shirted yoke section at least, because that is the element of design I’ve wanted to learn. And learn I did. And I love, love, love the EZ Seamless Shirt Yoke !!!!
Am finishing off the neck with something different for me, as edge for a K2/P2 rib, I’m trying a 2-stitch i-cord bind-off ! Yes, the highly esteemed and beloved Elizabeth Zimmermann ~ Mother of Modern Knitting ~ is responsible for this knit-trick of the “i-cord” , and brought it into the limelight with so many of her designs, as applied, cast-on, bind-off, and anything in between. I don’t know why people just don’t refer to it as the ‘ EZ cord’ , or even the E-cord (for Elizabeth). I think I shall for fun. (call it the e-cord). I’m going to just ‘toss one on’ each of these neck finishes as a bit of an afterthought, because quite frankly… Everybody’s Doing It !
* * * * * *
Edit in : Both His & Hers sweaters are all done, washed, blocked. Need to just sew on the “hand-knit by Jennifer” labels, photograph & post final pictures of them…. then send them off to Mr & Mrs Homesteaders in Michigan. Yay… done & dusted ! I am off for a celebratory walk in the cold post-rainy mossy green woods, and I’ll be bringing my knitting of course. C’mon Emma, lets go stir up them giant salamanders !
I am knitting, ripping, and knitting over (and over) the section of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Hybrid Shirt-Yoke Seamless Sweater variation. The problem is not following the delightfully written instructions for it, in “Knitting Without Tears” (and which I talk about briefly in this post ) , but in my usual improvisation of the design , as one of the homesteaders asked for his to have a v-neck. The sweater design of the hybrid shirt yoke sweater of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s actually has a particular neck opening which results from the particular shirt yoke style, and it is not v-shaped in the least. So I have to figure out how to do it. Wingin’ it again. Never not improvising, which is exhilarating, but stressful .
Rip, rip , rip, knit again. Repeat.
I know eventually I will get it right, even though I seem to be losing confidence rather than gaining insight. Jeff seems to be surprised to hear as he comes through the door home from work, that again I’ve ripped back. ” No… not again ! ”
But to me it feels like this …
So I continue to knit & rip, and knit again…because I do know that only by doing this can I get ahead of the learning curve. Only by doing this an insane amount of times, can I truly understand how this all works…. even though at times I feel like a brainless knitting machine.
Oh hey !!! “Knit Again” brings something to mind I want to share. It occurred to me in my predicament to ~ finally ~ watch the foreign film that is all about this insane act of knitting and ripping, and knitting again. “Wool 100% ” by Mai Tominaga. This film grasps it truly ! A very abstract film, and a bit nightmarish in imagery, but clean enough. I highly recommend it for all foreign film loving knitters .
Finally the rain clouds have come and rained and everything is moist and the forest smells wonderfully spicey with Autumny smells. We’ve had rain this week enough to soak the forest and give the moss a good drink and I just love rain ~~ just look at those clouds !
I went for a knitting walk with this blue lump of a sweater, with about a half ball of yarn at the start, thinking I’d have plenty for a long walk. I managed to get all the way back to the house, and ran out of yarn *just* as I walked in through the door, just enough to splice on to another ball ~ I call this a grand knitting coincidence !
I’m almost at the section of the Michigan Winter Sweaters (thats two) where I must fuss about with a tedious new technique ~ the seamless ‘shirt yoke’ that I have never tried ~ which will involve knitting back and forth on a lopsided saddle shoulder which is wider on the back than the front, and knits itself into the body as it goes. This horizontally eating up the end of the vertical stitches, is making me nervous, because I’ve never done a seamless saddle-shoulder, but sounds exciting all the same ! Bless Elizabeth Zimmerman for writing the instructions out so dearly, but still I am not at all confident, because I really just am not a very good reader-of-knitting-instructions… don’t be surprised if I come back here and calling for help in another post soon.
I have been knit-walking rather obsessively lately. Some days I go out twice, and I am elated to say that as a result I am both knitting and walking an incredible amount more than before. In fact, I just can’t ever see myself ever again idly walking the mornings away without my fingers making silly loops, one after another. I know, actually rather weird when you think of it. So here are some photos from this morning…Nearby, where Emma’s absolute favorite trail takes us, we greet the nearby mountain tops on the other side of a steep and narrow canyon …
We like to hop over to the canyon precipice to take a peek down into the abyss…
Right at the precipice. Lichen covered volcanic rock, and grass as dry as papyrus, until it rains, which it hasn’t yet. We’re having our Northern Californian Indian Summer, where typically in October just after you feel the cool of Autumn, we get visited by the hot clear days for another week or two.
My temporary knit-walking bag, an old rather small hip pack I dug up this morning from the ‘gear closet’. I have been experimenting with all kinds of methods to hold the ball of yarn while I knit and walk ~ from stuffing it into various pockets, or inside the front of my shirt, or under my arm, or in one of Emma’s treat pouches, to wearing one of my felted knitting bags slung over my shoulder. I have yet to design a ‘ hiking knitting bag ‘ but this seems to do fine for this morning.
Is that a tweed sleeve hanging on a Cabernet trellis ?
Two sleeves done & dusted, two more to go, for Two Michigan Winter sweaters. Then I can join them to the bodies and begin the Elizabeth Zimmerman seamless hybrid ‘shirt style’ yoke I’ve been so looking forward to settling into.
I am calling them ” Michigan Winter “.
How could I already be nearly finished with the main body of two full-sized sweaters in one week? I’ll tell you how, because Emma and I have been doing a lot of walking this week, being sure to get in at least one walk a day, short or long, and well, I’ve taken my knitting along each time, and I tell you folks, it adds up !
Just as I’m plowing through these young homesteaders’ pullovers, I myself am getting fit as a farmer, and Emma is delighted about all these hikes too, as we go slower, further, longer, and linger at delicious smells in the forest duff.
Autumn in Northern California brings the leaves falling late,
but the Madrones are always first to drop theirs, beginning in July !
even as dried as parchment paper.
and Emma waits patiently in the golden grasses.
If you could see Emma’s right ear, it is about touching where we came from. . .
. . . and now it’s time to go back home Emma. We’ll come again soon… probably tomorrow.
( Autumn Sweaters 2011 in same location click here )
My nieces in their new Autumn Sweaters. We photographed in the same colorful Calistoga nooks we seek out each time we do the Equinox Sweaters. In front of Calistoga Coffee Roastery, in front of the mint-green building on the corner of Lincoln and Washington streets, against the terra-cotta painted wall outside Brannon’s restaurant, and the best, the most amazing painted mural in the alley across Lincoln from the coffee roastery ! These places just never get old, and they will be the back drop every time we photograph the Equinox Sweaters.
” Happiness is a new sweater knit especially for me ! “
Luckily they fit, and luckily the yarn which I over-dyed became colors they both approved of ! Oh, and can you believe we were having a major heat wave of the Indian Summer? I wanted to get the pictures taken before it got too hot, and the unrelenting sun was bleaching bright, and nipping at our heels the whole way. . .
Autumn Sweaters 2012
(( Compare with two years ago ~ click for Autumn Sweaters 2010 ))
And now, for a slideshow of the fun sweater frolick we had in Calistoga . . .
You may see all posts on the progress of the Autumn 2012 sweaters by clicking here
Knitting details about sweaters are posted over on Ravelry here.
Looking ahead a little bit.
I am looking ahead to some fast knitting-by-the-fire during the first rains of October this Autumn, ‘whipping out’ so to speak , a couple of these seamless Elizabeth Zimmerman designs in time for the big holiday, for two homesteaders dear to my heart, just starting out and in their first winter in Michigan. As I am exploring All Things E.Zimmerman these days, I’m considering a new style I haven’t yet tried.
I’m looking at this design . . .
I find seamless to be the most ‘ seemly ‘ in appearance, and well, I can’t afford to fuss about with anything else when I need speed and volume to be in my favor. My itinerary is to finish up nieces sweaters this month, then start right in on two of these in ‘ Hers & His ‘ style.
Elizabth Z. ~ I’m counting on you .
I would love to discuss the established Percentage Systems of Seamless Yoke Construction. Anybody game?
Here’s the deal, the sweater heaped on the chair, getting ripped back was because I mistakenly went along my merry way starting the decrease rows from the method I’m use to , a ‘percentage system’ of a kind that I came up from the charts I’ve used, completely forgetting how this time I wanted to try out strictly Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Percentage system. (no hybrid!) Feeling a little bit unsure with the over-all fit of another way, I am trying to anticipate the difference. I’m laying the math out and taking a close look.
Elizabeth’s Percentage System, or cute little title of “EPS” as it is known among the Zimmermaniacs of the Modern Knitting World, I will extract from her book which I bought recently (used) called “Knitting Around”. In EPS, the depth of the yoke is to be approximately half of the width of the main body before the sleeves are joined on (not circumferance, but laid flat, measured-across-width-wise measurement~ and then half of that is the “yoke depth”). After joining the sleeves to the body, all on one circular needle, EPS has you knit up half of the entire yoke depth before beginning the first decrease row, and continueing with only 3 decrease rows total, dividing the upper half into halves, (quarters of the total depth, actually) with the third and last decrease at the neckline.
EPS is roughly as follows: On the first decrease row , the total stitches are decreased by 25% , with *K2,K2tog* repeat. One knits up to I suppose about another quarter section of the whole yoke depth (perhaps after a decorative pattern allows), then begins the second decrease row, where the new total stitches is decreased 33.3% , with a *K1,K2tog* repeat. The last and third decrease, right before the short-row shaping at the back of the neck, is a decrease row which is a *K1,K2,K2tog* repeat which decreases the new total of stitches 40% and which then leaves the remaining total of stitches to be finished off method of choice. The last remaining stitches also is around 40% of the original casted-on total of stitches. That is roughly, a condensed summery I think, of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Yoke decreasing which I am about to try for the first time.
Now, the other yoke-decrease method , percentage system if you like, that I’ve been using up until now, is what I’ve come up with by following the instructions of the charts of the book of Ann Budd’s called “Handy Book of Sweater Patterns”, a great book loaded with charts so one can design just about any kind of sweater from any yarn and needle combination (within reason of course). This book has been my ‘bible’ up to now, along my adventure thus far of seamless yoke sweaters.
It goes something like this : The total yoke depth is likely the same as EPS, but one begins the first decrease row after only about 1/4 , or less, of the total yoke depth (instead of half). If you factor in the fourth decrease row at the neck, you’ve got the whole yoke depth divided into thirds, with the last and fourth decrease being at the neck. So far , are you with me ? That’s one extra decrease row than EPS, but different ratios of decrease.
The way I’ve managed to figure the math from the charts , and from my own ‘imaginary sweater’ which employs the EPS as a template ~ has had the first row decrease of 20% total stitches, with a *K3,K2tog* . The second decrease row , about half way up the yoke, decreases the new total of stitches 25% with a *K2,K2tog* repeat. The third decrease row about 3/4 or thereabouts up the yoke depth, (depending entirely which pattern one might design into the yoke) decreases the new total of stitches 33.3% with a *K1,K2tog* repeat. The last decrease row, just before the short-row shaping at the back of the neck opening, repeats the *K1,K2tog* pattern to arrive at the final neck finish total of stitches.
Are you still with me? Have I made any outrageous math mistakes yet? (If so, please point them out). So what I’d like to know, is if there are any of you reading, who has tried different yoke shapings, and can enlighten me to how the end result actually fits being worn. Until then, I will finish off my nieces Autumn Sweaters using completely Elizabeth Percentage System, and see for myself. I will no doubt, be anxious to spill the beans when the finished sweaters are all blocked out. I have a sweater which I haven’t finished (haven’t steeked yet) which is shaped through the decreases from the Ann Budd charts to compare the EPS yoke shape to.
Sit tight, and see me get giddy with my newly discovered math abilities (Yes, I’m suggesting that I always was a very bad math student). I’ve quite astonished myself actually ! See you back on the subject in a few posts.
Sunday I met my nieces in Calistoga , beneath the snow-capped Mt.St Helena. Weather permitted, but just. I photographed them modelling their new sweaters in and about the interesting nooks in Calistoga ~ our favorite being the mural of Old Town Calistoga ~ and among some colorful walls of the buildings.
Then afterward, as is our tradition,
because modelling is hard work !
* * *
Detailed in Ravelry here.
It’s time for me to begin designing what I will knit for my nieces’ Vernal Equinox 2012 sweaters. I’m thinking definitely seamless-yoke construction (as I am a hopeless addict) , definitely short-sleeved, but wool, as they must be cozy but not too cozy, for warming-yet-coolish spring days . They must be rugged, so I bought sock yarn, because the key word for the use of these sweaters is ‘play’.
I was fully expecting to design a stranded-color in the yoke with something decorative and showy, but the truth is, I want my nieces to actually wear and really love them. So I’m changing my course. I think bright, energized, and fashionably predictable is more their taste, and not my ‘downplayed artsy exotic traditional’. I chose colors which are not only the colors they asked for ~one will be turquoise with pink , and the other purple with light green~ but they are supposedly hand-painted varigated style yarns which will make them more intriguing all around. I am remembering what a great hit their last sweaters were Autumn 2011 indeed very stripey, and well, why not go with what works, and do another pair. Okay, decided !
Actually I’m quite relieved I’ve just been let off the hook to design and incorporate through a series of yoke decreases, a motif of some significance to each of them, because the hard reality that exists is I have bought fingering weight yarn (what was I thinking… um… light fabric for hot afternoons in the playground, breathable and loosely gauged? ) to knit up with #3 or #4 needles, and I’ll have a zillion stitches per inch. No stranding, nope, just straight color changes at the row. Can you just feel my sigh of relief ?
I’ve bought for each sweater, in KnitPicks “Tonal” ~ two 100g skeins of the main color and one 100g skein of a contrast, so the stripe pattern ought to be two-to-one, or there about. ( I’m planning on having yarn leftover). As always, the sweaters ‘ will be what they want to be’ (my motto since learning to knit in the 80’s). I am ready, the way to proceed is now nailed, and I shall cast on today after knitting a gauge swatch.
My thoughts about steeking are only that I am improving with each project. I am happy that I didn’t give up those first times when too many crocheted loops were making the edge ruffling out, or when I crocheted then tighter to compensate, and then distorting the edge as well. I’ve figured that similar to picking up stitches for the bands, that to crochet 3 rows and then skip a row, makes it seem to be just right, not too many, not too few.
Now, the big thing this time which I’m doing differently, is that I’m going to crochet the edges, finish it all off, then wash and block… all before cutting the steek. I can bet then that picking up stitches won’t be so difficult as I wouldn’t have varying length edges from mismatched tensions and washing/blocking with edges cut apart. Personally I think this discovery might be an improvement on the process of steeking.
Now it’s time for the magical soak !
This cardigan is the second sweater that I’ve bordered my signature rib with a vikkel braid stitch. I only say ‘signature rib’ not because I had anything to do with inventing, but it is a hybrid rib & moss stitch edging I made up for myself after some experimentation, and which I love so much that I don’t see any end to using. In particular, the bound-off edge I use matches it perfectly, or mirrors the vikkel, making the rib nicely bordered by a braid on both sides. With the addition of the vikkel braid stitch, I feel my edging style is symmetric, pleasing , and finished.
The vikkel works so well as a transition between the ‘body’ and the ‘edge’ because it seems to cover up a sometimes awkward and messy decrease row transitioning into the rib band that seamless yoke sweaters tend to have. Next time I may try two rows of vikkel braid stitch. Or three !
The finish of the two short seems at the join of the body and arms, has become a matter of finer finishings for me. I always do a rough job of sewing seams from raw bound-off edges, but I do love the grafting idea, so I just transfer the stitches onto two short needles (or scrap yarn, or stitch holder) instead of binding off, so they’re all ready to graft together with no hassle. In fact, I think next time I will graft first thing so I’m not having to knit the whole yoke with the hardware hanging out of the armpits. Get it over and done with!
Each time I do this grafting thing to bring the tiny seam together at the ‘arm pit’, I get better ( that is in theory, unless there’s a bit of a time lapse between the last, which in this case, may have been too long).
Practice makes perfect and I’m observing that once the stitches are taken off the needle and grafted together, that trying to take them apart to do over is courting disaster. So, rather than doing the grafting over, I’ll just leave it looking messy and smoosh out the bulky grafted seams when I wash and block.
Red Sea Meets Sandy Shore ~ Finally, starting the colorwork, in most unexpected combination, from the Really Red Cardigan I’ve been letting sit on the back burners while I finished up a few other knitting deadlines. Back some months, I posted the possible colors I was going to use, asking assistance, in this post here Well, I chose the two left on the bottom photo. Here it goes…
We met in Calistoga for Our Little Tradition of sweater gifting & photo shoot. This time a seriously awesome feature ~ right next to the Calistoga Coffee Roastery where we usually meet was this amazing alley way, with newly painted murals on each side ! Here my adorable, clever, and theatrical nieces seemed to step into a netherworld of characters and places of long ago. We then always always always get icecream, our tradition for four equinoxes running ! I hope you enjoy the little slideshow of them posing in front of the murals while wearing their sweaters for the first time, each very delighted.
Fare thee well sweaters, I’m happy to give you to your new happy homes. You were fun to knit, we thought…
Well, folks, I’m lost out in a field of redness again. “Really Red Cardigan” has been brought forth from simmering on the back burner as I knit up the Kilt Hose and my two nieces’ Mostly Green & Mostly Blue Pullovers. Again, just swimming in a beautiful sea of garnet red. Soon I’ll make it to a place where I make some decreases, or color changes, but for now, can you hear me calling in the distance ” Don’t expect me for dinner ” … and I can’t even decide which colors to put into the yoke yet ~ grey and black, or the earthy tones. Well, at about a thousand stitches per inch, I still have time to decide.
In some races, just finishing is all that matters. These Two Little Bears , though very simple pullovers with stripes, were lengthy projects, at 6.5 stitches to the inch. Finished the knitting on the Mostly Green pullover, below, and now I’m midway through the yoke decreases in the Mostly Blue pullover, and will have the Autumn Sweaters ready to gift to my two nieces and photograph this coming Sunday. As Spring was incredibly late this year, our Autumn characteristically is always. Leaves are just now starting to turn and flutter to the ground. Our Northern Californian Indian Summer I think is about to end, and to put these winter-worthy pullovers on my nieces to model this weekend ~I hope~ won’t be torture.
Look me straight in the eyes …
I had bought one of each color of green , and of blue, from KnitPicks Swish ( a yarn which I have found is a really nice choice for making sweaters for growing kids) and came up with this lot. I thought I’d be lucky to find any combination of a few shades, but I ended up loving the mismatched hues, and I bought more ! Blueish Teal with Olivey Mossy Green ? You bet ! Reminds me of Amish Quilt color combinations.
( Oh, and the row marker charm was made and given to me by Morrie. )
* * * * * *
So we returned from the “Out-and-About” Treehouse Village in Oregon, as last mentioned in this post . We stayed for two nights and two days, and I knit most of the time. This was my upstairs little knitting nook…
…and from within, this was my view of the rest of the place. There are catwalks up in the trees , between some really high-up treehouses, all interconnected in a web of rope and wood walkways, seeming to be about 50 feet in the air !!! But we stayed in one of the separate ones, which had steps up to it, called “Serendipitree”.
I thought to mention also, that indeed Autumn is approaching when it is harvest time in Napa Valley. I took this shot while driving along Rutherford Cross Road last weekend. (click the photo to see a detail of the cabernet grapes)
Can’t decide whether two of the three of the Autumnal colors (minus the green), or maybe instead the black and grey ~ as accent colors in a yolk design for the Really Red Cardigan.
Which would you choose?
I have been improvising sweaters with seamless yokes, and learning about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s countless points of design, including her “percentage system” . I think it’s beginning to all make sense, so that I hardly even have to consult the instructions anymore, but employ some simple math. I am so in love with the simplicity of the ‘seamless yoke’ type of sweater that I just can’t see myself stopping. I am going to try a new spin, upcoming. But first, let me post the sweaters I’ve knit which pre-date Yarnings …
~The sweaters I designed from 2010 ~
Nieces’ Autum 2010 cardigans (of my own design)
These sweaters folks, are the very first sweaters I knit for my nieces, for Spring 2010, modeled by Miss Ten and Miss Seven in the playground in Calistoga.
At first , there was a vest. That is to say, the vest was the absolute first thing I spun and knit, during the Autumn of 1987, and it was my first project in my Wednesday morning spinning class. But to start, a little backstory is needed.
A non-credit and free community college class , was the bright and lucky beginning of my love of spinning and of textile creations. On the brochure it was listed in its first semesters as just “Hand Spinning” , then later “Textile and Fiber Arts”, but the long-standing class which spanned two decades at the Goat Hill Farm was just one of those legacies which aren’t realized until they are gone. When one stepped into the class for the first time, it might be like falling into a dream, and stepping a hundred years back in time. I feel I was very lucky to be one of the people involved, even if mostly just in the first decade.
We gathered in the basement of Joanie’s Victorian house, there on the farm, a room she made incredibly charming for the classes and a delightful hybrid of yarn studio , livingroom, and country kitchen all in one. There were many places to sit in a circular fashion, of antique couches, loveseats, and chairs, with trunks and baskets of wool overflowing about the place, an electric drum carder, picker, carders and niddy noddys and impliments of spinning everywhere one looked. A section of the basement was partitioned into a kitchen with stove and sink whereby we dyed fleece, roving, and yarns , and there was usually a dyepot simmering . And if that wasn’t enough, there was always coffee, tea, and cakes or pies made gratis usually by Joanie, but also we ‘students’ would contribute, so there was always a bounty.
A photo clipped from a feature article I’ve saved, which ran December 2005 in the local newspaper about Joanie’s class during the height of it’s popularity, and just before it came to its end after 20 years…
I remember each Wednesday morning the basement room would crescendo into a loud cacophony of laughter, whirring spinning wheels, and gossip, and over those genuinely influencial classes, and fresh cakes, we more or less evolved into a bonded group of friends for a time. This group of spinners I met up with on and off for well over a decade.
Way Gone Days: Here is me at the farm where we met on Wednesday mornings to spin and knit, and I’m wearing my first-ever handspun & knitted vest, I think this would have around 1989-1990.
And admiring one of Joan’s baby goats, out in the barn, probably also 1987-8 . . .
Ahem …. back to the vest. For this vest I spun some Lincoln-Corriedale wool fleece ‘locks’ I purchased from the stash of fleece for sale at the Goat Hill Farm, my first spinning project on my brand new Peacock Wheel (also purchased through Joanie) and I spun the lock-like fleece uncarded and unpicked ! I had dyed the locks in the group with RIT dyes of greens and burgundies and browns (I still have those notes !). I had worn it throughout several winters in a row, washing it only ever once. A moth got to it, twice, and I’ve had to darn those holes. All in all, it is my most treasured knitted thing I have ever knit to date, having my mother’s instruction to shape the flat-knitted sections, sew together, and knit on neck, arm, and button bands. Her instruction is etched into my memory forever with this vest.
Another rather remarkable thing associated with this vest , is recalling a bout of tonsillitis I had come down with as I had been bicycle commuting all winter and on antibiotics and off of work (working at a bakery at the time) , and luxuriated in bed for two weeks, long enough for to knit this from beginning to end, with the help of my mom. A third and perhaps most special thing about this vest, was that in the excitement and encouragement of my first handspun & handknit project, my friend and duo-mate John made for me a set of deer horn buttons, from an antler I brought to him.
I watched in amazement …
… as John cut squares off of the antler on his band saw, shaped them so nicely on his sander, drilled holes in them with his drill press, then torched the edges, then gave them some wax. They absolutely make the vest the most beautiful thing in my cedar chest, like something from a museum !
* * * * *
This pullover is very dear to my heart, made in ’91. I carded a blend of fleeces from my own animals ! Among the fleeces used were ; a brown Lincoln- Corriedale fleece from my ewe named Hazel, mohair from my angora goat named “Nash” , dyed greens and turquoise and teals, and angora hair from two of my fawn colored angora rabbits, dyed old rose tones and maroons. The most memorable thing about this sweater is the fact that I had knit it three times !
I knit it first into a v-neck cardigan, shortishly cropped, which didn’t do, as the yarn was rather bulky and it looked very stiff and wrongly proportioned, and I had a ton of yarn left over. I then ripped that out and reknit into another v-neck cardigan style, longer(or maybe doubled the yarn?)… but didn’t do either, as I just looked and felt horrible in it. Finally ripped out and knit over into a pullover, tried hard to use up all the yarn I had spun, with the neckstyle crew and hemmed over. Not sure I like the neck, so I may still change the neck to a turtleneck, as I have still about a half ball left over and hiding in the cedar chest with it.