Classes starting this week, and a peek at the past
A few words about classes starting this week….
Age of Brass & Steam: You know how many shawls start with those mystifying instructions for a “garter tab”? Sign up for this class, and get some tips and tricks to help you master the technique. The pattern uses about 200 yards of a DK weight yarn, so it makes a great one-skein accessory project. You’ll also learn a bit about shawl shaping, and there are easy eyelet rows to add interest. The pattern also features M1L and M1R prominently, so we’ll work on approaching them with confidence, and hopefully learn the skills to work them without referring back to the instruction.
The High Relief Cables Hat has interest whether you’ve knit cables for years, or are dipping your toes in the water. Did we mention that it is reversible? Why does that matter? I mean most of us can put a hat on right side out, most of the time. (Most of the time.) But what about scarves? This technique is adaptable to any situation where you want both sides to look good. (Think about the possibilities for knit-as-you-go edging on a cardigan front.
With the cabled hat class, there is a small amount of pre-class knitting, so if you’d like to join us, let’s get you signed up early in the week so you have a chance to knit a bit before Saturday’s class!
As promised, loads of Malabrigo Washted, one of the terrific options for the https://www.oliveknits.com/category/knitalong/4-day-kal/ (Malabrigo Rios and Berroco Ultra Wool are options as well.) The pattern is sized for bust measurements from 32” to 52”, and the yardage requirement ranges from 5-8 skeins. Yardage estimates include enough yarn to swatch with, and the pre-launch of the pattern includes swatching information for both the stockinette section and the lace pattern detail.
Is it July yet??
A FEW REMARKS ON KNITTING — BY THE COUNTRY CONTRIBUTOR
A few weeks ago, someone brought in a weathered newspaper clipping she’d found while sorting through some old things, and thought it might be interesting to me, and my customers. It sat on my desk for a bit—the type was very small. I looked for some indication of the original publication, or even a real byline, but neither was in evidence.
It’s an interesting primary source, and by cross-referencing some of the death notices printed on the reverse, I was able to determine that the piece was originally published in The Indianapolis News on December 15, 1917. “The Country Contributor” was Juliet V. Strauss, who wrote for the Indianapolis News from 1905 until her death in 1918, and was also a popular contributor to The Ladies Home Journal.
Since the scanned image is too difficult to read, I scanned the document, and converted it, partially using OCR technology, and partially using voice-to-text. Hopefully I haven’t inserted any gaps in the text! It’s an interesting view of wartime knitting efforts during the First World War.
I will make a few remarks on the subject ‘of knitting. I always feel a bit flustered after a bold announcement like this, lest I fail to think of anything worth while to say having made it. I always liked Mr. Riley’s remark: “Ef I can’t think of somethin’ good I set still and chaw my cud.” He came near to living up to this.
I am also reminded of the experience of a fellow-townsman who was presiding over a temperance meeting when the speaker failed to arrive. When it became evident that the worst had happened, and the speaker had not come, the president of the evening arose and after straightening his tie, pulling down his vest and running. His fingers through his hair announced that he would make a few remarks himself. This was his undoing. If he had just begun talking, all might have been well, but the bare announcement, the introduction, as it were, of hlmself, was too much for him. He opened his mouth, but no sound came, and ﬁnally, after swallowing his Adam’s apple, he sat down among the plaudits of the audience. However, if I can’t think of something to say about knitting it will be a poor story, since the gleam of ﬁrelight and candlelight on flying needles is one of my earliest recollections.
The click of them, together with the ticking of the Seth Thomas clock, comes back to me with the memory of silences that wore upon the heart of childhood a little, for the mystery of life falls heavy on a child, sometimes, and the tick tack of the clock sounds loud and solemn if grown folks are not talking.
“Life is a candle and its glowing wick grows shorter with the ticking of the clock.”
It was sometimes a sign that somebody was mad when conversation lagged and the needles went spit! spit! with the acceleration of repressed emotion.
But this did not often happen. We were a talking and a visiting family, so much more frequently the click of the needles was lost in general conversation and laughter, in theological discussions and loving reference to what John said or the gospel as told by Matthew or Mark or Luke. For, of course, everybody was knitting. In my childhood no woman sat long with her hands idle and the family hosen was a matter to be dealt with industriously.
There were approximately twenty of us, and this meant forty stockings in use at once, since we all had both our legs. This meant eighty, as we were supposed to change once a week, and as there was a special pair for Sunday this meant forty more, bringing the number up to 120.
This of course, must be doubled, since a like supply was due for summer--cotton in summer, wool in winter--making an alarming total of socks and stockings to be supervised in a year's time. To be sure this did not always mean knitting so many from the start. “Footing” was a very popular industry, and often children’s stockings were “topped” from the worn-out knees up, renewing that portion of children’s hose which is always a trial to the busy mother. To put a pair of brand new stockings on a child and have it return from school with a hole in the knee is one of the little trials that mothers meet daily and against which the modern woman has rebelled.
A woman without her knitting in those days was like a rose without perfume and the old expression “Come and bring your knitting”, was a concession to this great demand for labor on the part of woman, who in addition to working all day, must knit till bedtime while the men rested and smoked or read the papers. Besides stockings and socks there were mittens, for everybody had mittens in those days 'for everyday wear’, and sometimes we wore them on Sunday.
A pair of black silk mittens, clocked down the back and drawn around the wrist with a narrow black ribbon, tied in a perky little bow made a ﬁne Christmas present and when worn to church over a pair of black kid gloves (the mittens removed till after the service) marked a ﬁne dresser—one whose apparel was rich, not gaudy.
I can not here do justice to the sufferings of a little girl who was forced to wear home-knitted hose of various brilliant hues. I suppose no girl child of today is conscious of her legs. The female leg has surely had its innings lately, and it is nothing to see a female of no tender years stalking boldly along the street with some inches of stocking showing above a pair of pretty high boots. I. surely lived too soon; though I have been wont to feel many times that I lived too late.
I really, pity the fat little girl I was, in her dress curtailed by the exigencies of being made, as the folk said, “as big the rag"—that is, just as large as the sound pieces of the old dress it was being fashioned from could make it, and then put upon whichever unfortunate child it came nearest ﬁtting.
I really think our legs were needlessly plump. We were, doubtless, overfed. The anxiety on the part of relatives and friends lest we suffer want after our big, energetic father died caused them to stuff us more or less on buckwheat cakes and sausages, chicken and dumplings, ham and eggs, hot biscuits and honey, and other fattening food, which seemed in those days to lie around handy even for poor folk. Those were fat years in America. Crops were easily raised, chickens took care of themselves, pork and lard were drugs on the market, and turkeys had not succumbed to civilization.
I can still feel the pangs of anguished self-consciousness I suffered walking down the aisle of the Presbyterian church with the skirt of my bright green dress (green was hopelessly out of style then) hitting my white lamb’s wool legs just at the garter (we wore garters in those days--gay bands of elastic ribbon just below the knee), the fear that certain canton flannel garments not supposed to be exhibited to the public might protrude below, and the ghastly certainty that no other child in the congregation had to wear a red cape, pressing upon my soul.
They were lovely lamb’ s wool stockings. Grandmother sheared the lambs, washed, carded and spun the wool and knitted us each a pair of Sunday stockings for a Christmas present. This was some efﬁciency, if you please.
When I see children now in ﬁne white stockings, their mothers cultivating in them that lumpy look that is now the last note of “style" in childhood, I believe our legs, in their white lamb’s wool stockings and stout copper-toed shoes were in better form than we knew. But oh, how I did envy my playmates their “store stockings," (red and white in zig-zag stripes up and down), and their high boots with tassels on the tops? We were held strictly to every home industry that was possible. Lacking the ability to make money we had to atone for It by every possible means of economy and management. Nothing was wasted. Every shred of material was utilized. But I suspect we were extravagant as to food.
Not that we threw it away. The slop bucket was a means of grace (since we all raised hogs and poultry) and the soap grease was husbanded with care though I am not at all sure we did not then put things into it which we would now cherish as fats in our balanced ration.
But I do have to laugh a little when I go to a food conservation meeting to hear the instructions regarding economies I was reared on. It was a high crime and misdemeanor to waste anything in my childhood home, from an apple core to a piece of paper string. The child who threw a bread crumb into the ashes would surely go to the land of bones, and as for burning rags or paper, it was not to be thought of. We carefully trimmed the margins from papers and magazines to make "lighters" for candles and still conserve the reading matter. When I look at the immense amount of printed stuff that ﬁnds its way into my house daily, consider the circulars the pamphlets, the bulletins, all sorts of publicity stuff printed and typewritten, I wonder if, after all, we have yet learned much about real economy.
Have you thoughtfully considered the number of “causes” being promoted by different people, the “work” being done for various organizations and with various motives, the effort and the money expended on each one of them, great and small? Have you thought how much richer both spiritually and materially we should be if all this was just let alone and our lives were brought back to the simplicity and beauty of merely living and loving and fearing God and keeping His commandments?
Since I have been knitting for soldiers I have discovered why the women of my grandmother’s time settled down so early, in life and never got up things or cared much for gadding. Knitting has a very tranquilizing effect upon the mind. I thought for a long time that I would not knit. It seemed such a fad. I had grown so thoroughly tired of seeing women lugging gaudy bags with tomatoes and oranges and infant pumpkins and squashes sewed on them that I vowed I would never be caught carrying one of them. Nor will I. Some sort of bag is really necessary; but mine, when I get it, will be a plain one. My gray socks and big steel needles are plain, and the duty of knitting them had to be made very plain to me before I could consent to begin it. It seemed foolish to me to use up a dollar’s worth of yarn and many dollars’ worth of time knitting a pair of socks that could be bought for half the money. But when I was convinced that it was really essential, I began at once and now I am a Red Cross knitter in good standing. I can knit a sock a day if I hurry, and don' t go any place or do much of anything else. But there are not many days which I can devote wholly to socks. It is “pick up work, ” and I love it dearly.
I used to knit socks for my beloved to wear in winter. They were red yarn, “ribbed” all the long length of the leg, with white heels and toes and a white cuff at the top. I felt very loving and quite resigned to woman's lot when I was doing them. “He” was uptown having the time of his life. Mother and I sat by the fire and talked or read to each other if the children weren't having a spell of croup or there was nobody in to sit till bedtime. We used to visit in those days, but knitting is really good visiting work, though knitters are not naturally very talkative. I have grown in the grace of silence since I have been turning heels and toeing out. One thinks of something rather injudicious to remark, but: by the time she has slipped one, purled thirteen, purled two together, purled one and turned the work around it has escaped her or she has reconsidered and decided not not to say it.
There is no denying the hypnotic soporiflc effect of needles and yarn. If you doubt this try to speak to an audience of knitters. You will soon be convinced that it is the sleepiest stupidest. most bromidic audience you ever went up against. I do implore women not to take their knitting to lectures or church. The speaker has enough to contend with without having to overcome your inattention and the psychic influence it exerts over your neighbor.
As to Sunday knitting—it depends, I think, on the urgency of the need. Is it really necessary for us to knit on Sunday? Let me know that it is and I’ll do it.
I am peculiarly constituted, or was peculiarly brought up, in regard to laws of the land and the strong arm of the government. It never occurs to me to question anything which the powers that be have decided on. All I need to know is that the law says so, and all I need to learn (especially these days) is that the government needs my aid and it will be forthcoming. So if loyalty demands that I knit on Sunday, I shall knit.
Sunday is a hard day to get through unless you are at home in the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is here on earth as much as elsewhere, and all who have entered into it are superlatively at home at all times. Sunday, which bores many folks to extinction, being no exception. Books lose their charm sometimes. The family gets crossways. Nobody is happy; there is no place to go; nobody to come in with sweet gossip, and laughter, as there used to be. So Sunday gets our hearts quite down sometimes and knitting or any other industry seems a means of grace.
One of our friends who has lost nearly all that made life dear to her said to me (this was before the war): “I just simply crochet on Sunday afternoon and I don’t believe God cares.”
Well, I suppose He doesn’t, but the notion of not working on Sunday sort of sticks with me and hinders the needles a little. But I do knit on Sunday evening. At home our Sabbath ended at 6 o’clock. Sometimes we did go to “night meeting," but the. strict observance of the day was over and we used to put the clothes to soak and indulge in rather secular comments on the hats and dresses of the congregation and other topics not regarded strictly sabbatical. (I made up this word.)
A I sit by the ﬁre with my sock growing under my hands the idea of reversion to type is strong in my mind. It comes very handy to me to knit, and I smile at the gouging motions of the new knitters who hold the thread on the left hand and go after it crochet fashion This is the continental method, but there is too much Anglo-Saxon blood in my veins to permit of German knitting. I dare any woman to knit faster or better than Betsy Woods Humphreys or Louisa Smith King. It is their busy hands reproduced in their offspring that insist on holding the thread on the right hand and throwing it over the needle.
I am not essentially domestic. At least I haven't been all my life. But the domestic sense is growing upon me lately, since I see how much America has been needing women at home—how much she still needs them and their inﬂuence and example of fortitude and of self-sufﬁciency.
The soldier boy who has an old-fashioned, quiet Christian mother back in the sitting room at home—a mother whose soul is stayed on God, strong to protect, to encourage and to endure—has the rear guard everyone of us so sorely needs.
One evening last week my grandson William was sitting beside the fire with his father and mother. His mother was knitting. Suddenly William, age 11, broke out:
“If I were an artist I’d paint this in a picture—only I’d have father smoking a pipe and a kitten playing with mother’s ball of yarn. Then up in a corner I’d paint a vision of a boy marching to war and under it I’d write ‘keep the home fires burning.’”
When his mother told me this, I knew as I always have known, only with more force in its beautiful meaning, what we are here for and what a supreme importance attaches to every stitch we take, every meal we cook, every floor we sweep and every bed we make. I saw again the blessed vision of the spiritual shining through what we call the temporal, and I perceived our little cheap ambitions to “make our mark,“ to do something outside that would make us prominent, as they are—wholly flimsy and materialistic.
We are working in the ranks and nothing is more fatal than a break in the ranks. Every poor housekeeper, every woman of frivolous nature and doubtful character, every parasite living, dressing, sleeping and eating by the labor of others, every man who fails to recognize his moral and religious and civil and domestic duty is a break in the ranks of civilization.
My hero has always been the man with the musket. In my heart warmly enshrined and earnestly prayed for, is the volunteer in the ranks. I hope he will wear my socks. Black or white, rich or poor, high or low, the private soldier is my man.
You may have for your hero the man of renown, but the man with the musket is mine.
So wrote our Howard Taylor about the Civil War heroes. My heart always beats faster when I read these lines:
I knew him, I tell you! And also, I knew
When he fell on the battle-swept ridge
That the poor battered body that lay there in blue
Was only a plank in the bridge
Over which some should pass to a fame
That shall shine while the high stars shall shine!
Your hero is known by an echoing name
But the man of the musket is mine.
There is much to say of the astuteness, the look-out-for-number-oneness of the boys who jumped in and “pulled down” commissions. There is more to say for those who willingly serve in the ranks. Obedience and faithfulness, loyalty and allegiance, physical and moral courage, and the willingness to “give one’s body to be burned” unrecorded and with fame unsung—these are the great qualities that make the world go ‘round, these are the simple units of heroism that will win the war.
And so it is to the common folks, the home men and women devoted to the care and development of the precious souls committed to their care, that we must look for our national salvation. At home before he is seven years old the boy and girl must learn the lessons of patriotism that are to determine the future of a republic. We can not teach it in the schools. Home is the nursery of the race and we get the principles that stick with us through life in the nursery.
While I am thoroughly tired hearing the housewife bullied as to her duty—as tired as I am hearing “the farmer“ admonished by men who take him for granted (mind, I don’t mean by the government—it is a theory of mine that if there is any one thing the government has a right to take a hand in it is the crops—but this leads us to Socialism, do not forget that; it takes us to Henry George and his Pioneer wisdom; I mean by men who do not understand life, and there are more of that sort than any other)—I say that while I am tired hearing the housewife bullied, I must add my appeal to her to try to see in this sudden crisis of ours where the vital need is, and always was, at home.
When you contemplate a coarse, plain, gray sock you are looking at something very simple and very vital. If you have forgotten that the vital things of life are as coarse and as plain as that sock, refresh your memory.
Plowing soil, digging ditches, butchering hogs, curing meat, cooking, with its accompaniment of ashes and soot, grease and grime, these are the realities of life. Shall somebody else encounter these realities for you? Do not try to live too far away from them. The world stands today in crying need of people who know about such things and are willing to do them.
It has been a far cry from the elderly person who sat knitting in the chimney corner to the ostentatious knitter at church today. Women have traveled a
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long road. And yet, when war comes, when something real happens, how swiftly we revert to type! How instinctively the bare hands reach out for weapons like needles and skillets and spades and axes! Be glad and thankful if yours are the sort of hands that are accustomed to grasping them.
Knitting in itself is fascinating. It is a mental narcotic. It makes us forget our troubles. Some people assert it is a nerve sedative. Nerve sedatives, while making us forget our troubles, also have a tendency to make us forget our duties. We must watch this. A mother absorbed in her work often forgets the appeal of the little human being closest to her. Beware, child rearing is a great means of national defense.
Knitting is very comfortable work. No wonder the elderly women of a past generation were content to do it. The knitting woman who went about and lived in families for her board and keep, paying her own way by her knitting needles, was a familiar figure in my childhood, though we could never afford to have her visit us—there were too many females as it was. She was a strong, interesting character.
I remember cousin Eliza Wilson, who had no abiding place save the houses of her kinsman in the Shenandoah valley. Her worldly possessions were a sorrel mare and a sidesaddle. When the mare had a colt, some good-natured cousin gave her stable room and Cousin Eliza sold the colts [sic] to buy her clothes. She was bright, intelligent, good company, an addition to any house party, knit, knit, knitting her way through life, a cheerful spinster, well grounded in theology.
Labor-saving machinery and the ready-made regime took many a woman’s salvation from her. It is in the crude exigencies of real life that we find the light of God’s love about our feet— feel God’s great hand guiding us.
Do not knit because it is a “craze” or because you like to carry a swell bag that cost a lot, or sport a set of ivory needles. Knit because your country calls you today to every plain, substantial means of sustaining human life and spiritual light.
The Soldotna Crop is finished—with just a couple of modifications. The cropped length for the medium is 6.75” from the underarm. I normally add 2” to torso lengths, and here, I added another 2” beyond that. I also used both a tubular cast on for the neckline, and a tubular bind off for both the hem and the sleeve ribbing. I also added a few rows to the hem edge colorwork—this was mainly in service of adding length.