One of my darling friends has hit a rough patch in life. Maybe the last she will have to face, but you know how hard those things are to predict. You may have detected this from the knitting in hospitals that I’ve mentioned a few times. But now we’ve passed that stage. Her family decided to move her to a nursing home nearer where they live, and far from where I live. It’s one of those tough situations where my friend isn’t able to make big decisions for herself at present, and she has been fragile and struggling for too long. It’s likely she will not be able to live independently again, and supporting her from far away has been very hard for her family, while many of her friends have struggles of their own that make it difficult for them to visit her. Some of them are no longer very mobile themselves. In this way she will be nearer three generations of her family and meet great grandchildren she has never been able to see.
I met her at handspinners’ guild, and when I first met her she was knitting a complex Aran sweater for one of her sons (her sons are about the age of my parents, some of them are older). In recent years she has knit the same distinctive hat over and over again, and then sometimes I’ve driven her to Guild and she has enjoyed the company and sat with her knitting in her hands. She has been unable to spin for a few years now, and couldn’t face knitting in the recent times I’ve visited her in hospital wards and nursing homes.
Finally one of her sons and one of her daughters-in-law came here to clear out her beloved and now empty home. They were overcome by the task of figuring out what to do with her fibre stash and it was something I could do to help, to figure out how to manage that. I spoke with her a couple of times about what she would like to happen but she couldn’t bring herself to care much. Those wishes that she expressed to me or to her family, were all honoured. I met that part of her family, we shared a little of our mutual grief and some of our happy experiences of our shared human treasure, and then I took away fabric, spinning equipment, wool in every stage from raw fleece to rovings and batts to spun yarn, and so much more. Like the inside of her home, everything was impeccably organised and meticulously stored.
I’ve organised for equipment to go to people who can use it or to the Guild for resale. Yarns have gone to knitters–the vibrant rainbow-dyed yarns she favoured creating in the last few years to people who love colour; the mohair collection to someone who delights in mohair; fleeces were sold at the Guild to people who will appreciate and spin them; and equipment for all manner of crafts she enjoyed over the decades has been passed on to people who will use and enjoy it. Her sewing machine is in the shop for repair prior to rehoming. The electric spinner she never really made friends with has gone to someone else who is finding treadling harder and more painful (just as she did) and who can return to loving spinning as I result, I hope.
In the meantime, I’ve found myself spinning all kinds of fibres from her stash, starting with small quantities of things that didn’t seem sensible to try to re-home. I’ve also been knitting hats from smaller quantities of her undyed handspun and some of the small balls of rainbow dyed yarn that didn’t fit into the packs that went to people who love to knit. It has felt like a way to hold her in my mind in these times when she is suffering and yet hard to reach. She has suffered a further injury and is back in hospital far away and in such difficulty she is hard to understand on the phone. So, here’s to Joyce, her sense of humour, her enjoyment of wool and her love for a snug hat.
As autumn has settled in there has been some final harvesting. And perhaps the final hat. You just never know.
It’s made of an alpaca yarn left over when my mother-out-law made a vest, and some eucalyptus dyed handspun alpaca. It has already gone to a happy new home as a birthday gift.
My colour work still needs some practice. In my efforts not to pull too tightly on the floats I have some overly loose stitches. But actually, I think this turned out really well. I loved the pattern at first sight. It’s the passerine hat by Erica Heusser. Somehow the crown on mine looks totally different to all of her images (and I see the same result in some other people’s versions on Ravelry). But it is not a problem of any kind. It’s a completely charming design and I’d knit it again, except that I seem to have moved on from hats for now and I am working on another project that needs to get knit, because autumn is moving all too quickly into winter!
The hat jag didn’t stop with those shown in the last post, but there came a day when I was ready to try something new and I chose Donna Druchunas’ Persist Hat. Well, mostly. Needless to say I modified it a little. The design features the word persist, naturally. And the sign for infinity. I chose to feature the word more and the infinity sign a little less.
The first one made me think my colour knitting had improved a bit! I used some lovely soft local Polwarth yarn I had spun from the stash, and some leftover equally soft alpaca rich commercial yarn that was lying about.
After that, I made another one, because… repetition seems to be in my blood. And “persist” is a concept I embrace. And I liked the first one and had ideas for further mods. I went with a contrast cast-on and a twisted rib brim. I like it. One of these hats was always planned for the daughter of friends who is a high school activist. I chose this pattern with her in mind. She has been in a protracted campaign to establish a gay-straight alliance at her school. She and I talk about it every time we meet up, and I am constantly holding out for the need to build our capacity to persist in the face of injustice. I hope she might enjoy a soft and snug reminder of that principle.
The recent period of incapacity and pain has somehow led to an outbreak of hats. I was talking it over with a considerably older friend whose mobility is now quite restricted and whose everyday life has become a challenge in its own right. Formerly a proficient and very adventurous knitter (when I first met her she was knitting an extremely complex cabled jumper in a traditional style), she has been knitting the same hat over and over for the last few years. When I said to her that I had been feeling as though perhaps I just didn’t have the mental space to attempt anything more complex than a beanie and then another beanie, she said that was how she felt.
First there was this. It is closer to Jared Flood’s Turn A Square than any other I have made more or less following the pattern, but it’s handspun and the colour change in the yarn turned out to be almost at the crown!
Then there was an alpaca-dyed-with-eucalyptus hat. Then I knit up a ball of possum wool that remained from a trip to Aotearoa/NZ. But somehow the casting on kept happening… in this case oatmeal corriedale hand dyed by The Thylacine and spun into yarn by me, cast on on the train.
And pretty soon, there was a pile.
Suri alpaca… oddments of eucalyptus dyed wool, two colours of eucalyptus dyed + naturally black alpaca, corriedale! It was about then that the colour work began: a sign that the pain has been abating and also that the casting on keeps occurring. It’s great to have whisked through some of the small quantities in my stash, and it is also a happy thing that the cold weather has arrived and we are going to a shed warming where many people with all kinds of head sizes and tastes and tolerances for fibres will be there. I can feel a beanie giveaway coming on!
Happy international women’s day, my friends! I am feeling grateful today for all the women who came before me and put in such hard work to see that future generations (me included) would have the benefit of the vote, the right to run for parliament, and something much closer to equal pay than they ever knew. And access to the professions, and to choices about marriage and family life. And education. And meaningful responses to violence in all its forms. And so much more!
These images are of two of the champions of women;’s rights in my own little part of the world, Mary Lee and Dame Roma Mitchell. I am celebrating today by going to sing I Can’t Keep Quiet in the International Women’s Day March. We did a lovely flashmob a few weeks back with MILCK’s song, so some of us have practised up! And in preparation for today, I knit some pussy hats. I began with cochineal dyed wool. I had been wondering when I would ever use it, and recognised this as the time!
Soon, I was off!
I decided to knit my pussy hats in the round, because, you know. That’s how I roll on anything that could be knit in the round, and I’m not afraid to graft (Kitchener stitch).
Knitting while blogging?
Knitting on the train, because I usually do. I just kept churning them out until I ran out of wool. Then I had some pinky purple-y handspun and it was a faster knit than the 8 ply (DK) commercial wool. Finally, I had 4 pussy hats and a lot of conversations with people about what I was knitting that led to raised eyebrows and then conversations about contemporary politics and the inappropriateness of bragging about sexual assault. I popped them in the mail to an Education Union in Victoria that was calling out for women to wear them in their IWD march. I’m a member of a different education union, so that seemed completely appropriate to me. I hope some women in Victoria will be stepping out in handmade pussy hats tonight and feeling fine!
At last! I have finished a larger version of the Rhode Island Red hat. It took some doing. I cast on at least three times. I was clearly having some problems with sizing, and thinking straight. Plus, inexperience with provisional cast ons. I cast on once at home and knit the entire band… enormously…
Then twice more in a hotel in Melbourne. It was a comedy of errors! But I started to lose my sense of humour by the time I had knit the band three entire times, instead of knitting the whole hat!
I may have put the hat in the naughty corner for some weeks at that point, as th0ugh the hat was the one creating the trouble. But now, it’s done and it’s glorious!
Last night it headed out into the world to warm the head of a delightful friend who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a chicken fancier with an entire flock of hens to tend to in all weathers. Plus, more plans for rare breeds. And, it’s her birthday any minute now. She has a wonderful chuckle, and this hat brought out the chuckling. And she liked the softness of this lovely pet polwarth sheep a lot too.
I made a Turn a Square.
It travelled all kinds of places and some of it was knit in Sydney. Here we are waiting for someone else’s lunch to be ready.
And here we are with muesli and yoghurt. Who knew??? Muesli and yoghurt don’t look this awesome at home!
There was yarn left from this skein, so I reverse engineered Turn A Square and knit it from the centre out so I could use the whole skein. It seems like the right season to be making a few hats… and Students of Sustainability seemed like the right people to give them away to!
In the latest issue of Knitty, there is a stranded colourwork hat featuring a Rhode Island Red chicken design by Pam Sluter. I don’t know Pam, but clearly we share a love of chickens, wool and knitting. In short, I had one of those moments, and decided to cast on RIGHT AWAY! Because, I have these handspun yarns. Mmmm. Polwarth, my friends. Soft as anything. Perfect for a little hat.
I had an early period of doubt, because provisional cast on, and then three circular needles in play for a while. I held my nerve. I consulted a book on cast ons and bind offs. I love a good book.
I tried to talk myself out of taking it on the bus. Because charted patterns are not really ideal for bus knitting and I have a perfectly charming sock on the go. No hope of resistance. I kept wondering if the woman on the other side of the aisle could really be staring at me as intently as she seemed to be from the corner of my eye. How can my eye possibly be following the chart, keeping track of two yarns on the needles, and still noticing a total stranger? Eventually as we neared our destination I looked over. Yes! She was utterly intent. It appeared we didn’t share much common language so I showed her the picture. She grinned.
Here is the finished hat, being blocked over a big jar. But you know, not a jar as big as my head.
I did not do a gauge swatch. Risk taking knitting, I tell you! I went up a needle size as even when not using two colours, I tend to be on the tight side with knitting, and stranded colourwork has a tendency to mysteriously come out smaller than planned. Especially in the hands of a novice. Especially with long floats. Well. Not truly a mystery, then! This is the medium size and I have to say, nowhere near fitting on my head. I didn’t swatch because I was quite prepared to give this hat to whomever might like it and fit into it… and I am thinking of starting out with one of my very small friends. Who would look cuter than any button in this…
The other night, treasured friends came round for dinner and brought with them someone I hadn’t met before. She saw the display of tea cosies and loved them. She collects. The honest truth is, I don’t even drink tea. Nor does my beloved. I just buy random teapots at the op shop and make them cosies for my own entertainment and the joy of giving them away.
Naturally, I said ‘would you like to take one home?’ She struggled to choose and I offered that she take two, but that wasn’t happening… it is difficult to make people understand just how far I am from having a yarn or tea cosy shortage. So a particularly ugly teapot was disrobed and a corespun cosy with recycled sari silk threads went home with her. That had me in a tea cosy frame of mind… So I delved into the stash and came out with this the very next night:
The yarn is felted wool blobs spun onto crossbred wool from a sheep known by the glorious name of Macchiato the Mongrel. I believe the epithet was added after Macchiato ate the neighbour’s pea crop and had to be found a new home. That fleece came to me from a friend of a friend who lives in the hills. The pattern is a fast and loose adaptation of Funhouse Fibers’ Fast and Fun Tea Cozy.
This twining vine yarn (commercial wool top, felted leaves) was in the same bag. I started in on a cosy and the audience decided it was too cute and really should be a child’s hat. I guess we’ll wait to see who it fits come winter! I started with a three stitch i-cord and made the rest up, ending with a stitched cast off for stretchy edge…
And, some silk cocoons went off to be reeled by a friend with a lot more patience than me, and here are the rest. I have no idea why they are in two colours, but if anyone else knows, please tell. I keep thinking I will finally get back to the nettle stems, but I fear it won’t happen today…