Friday, November 14, 2008

1940s- The Yarnie's Challenge: Pelican Baby Sweater

I set out to make this baby sweater from a vintage pattern I discovered at Brimfield Auction. Though Lacey's does not have a publication date, I would estimate that it was published sometime in the 1930s-1940s. Now, it doesn't take a degree in history to realize that 1940 predates the fiber Renaissance in America which is how we are all furnished with more beautiful yarn than we can shake a stick (or two long pointed ones) at. Pretty much, yarn during that time in history was sold at the 5 'n'dime stores or departments stores such as Woolworth's in small Skeins, sized 1oz, 2oz, and 4oz and was described as 3ply baby yarn and 4 ply knitting worsted yarn. Though jumbo yarn was available, the more common yarns were sport and DK. By the 1940s, women were looking for ways to ease their considerable domestic burdens as well as their financial burdens, and the introduction of machine-mass-produced acrylic yarns provided the answer. "The first synthetic, rayon, made from cotton or wood fibers, was developed in 1891, but not commercially produced until 1911. Almost a half a century later, nylon was invented, followed by the various forms of polyester." Thus is was that, the vast majority of knitting patterns destined for the typical American housewife would have involved acrylic 3 ply or 4 ply yarn., and the resultant look of nearly anything made with said yarn is almost immediately recognizable as "retro," and to some extent, the limitations of the time define the look we now recognize as vintage. So, though I am loathe to use any yarn containing synthetic fiber, I folded to history and found a Rowan Yarn compromise: Cashsoft - made mainly from ultrafine merino and cashmere, but also making a modest acrylic bow.

The down side of knitting vintage patterns is that, owing to the fine gauge of the yarn, the projects take longer than many modern American women are willing to spare. This project - chosen for the bird (stork? Pelican?) motif - was knit on US size 2 needles and took an unbearably long time to complete. Still, the very act of slowing the pace of my knitting down had an pacifying effect ...and, on a positive note - though published well before the Zimmermann 70's, this sweater is knit in one piece, top-down, leaving only the lower halves of the sleeves to be sewn.

I will add a link to the pattern HERE, along with the with my adaptations for knitting this vintage piece in our modern world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Maine Yarn II: Romney Ridge Farm

This little beauty is Katie. She is a Babydoll sheep, and though Kelly -the owner of Romney Ridge Farm- is a purveyor of both fine yarn AND fine sheep, Katie is NOT for sale. Let me repeat that...she is NOT for sale. The reason this darling is not for sale is that Kelly (her owner) raised her like a baby...on her lap drinking from bottles. Kelly's philosophy is that good yarn comes from happy sheep and so, she has devoted her life to raising happy well-loved sheep...and it shows. In addition to devoted husbandry, she also donates time to the Lincoln County Animal Shelter AND to the local agri-business council to encourage humane and no-kill farming strategies.

I visited her farm unannounced in August while staying in nearby Damariscotta. While my friend, Elizabeth (a new knitting convert), and I salivated in the yarn stand, our assemblage of 5 boys interacted with the sheep and goats...and enjoyed playing with her son on his swings.
For an interesting read, head to Kelly's blog HERE. It is particularly fun to read about raising Katie...start in the archives around June of 2008. Should you be interested in purchasing any of her special sheep hybrids (Romney (for long fiber length), Correidale, and Babydoll Southdown (for cashmere-like-softness and thickness) or custom blended yarns, it can all be done online at the farm's WEBSITE.