Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's a Good Thing

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It's been a great month for new knitters at Little Red Mitten.  The number of young people who want to knit - for a new baby, for themselves, or because their friends have inspired them, continues to grow. 

It seems that when more people knit, more want to learn. Non-knitters watch the relaxed faces of those who knit ...and they want to go to that place, too.  And what could be more exciting than jumping into a hobby so full of possibilities, designs, colour, texture and cosiness?

So what prompts people to want to learn to knit?  Is it the popularity of handknitted garments?  Is it the desire to carry on a tradition?  Maybe it is mankind's innate need to create.  Or is it all about the comfort of creating something with love for someone you love? 

What do you think?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Congratulations, Roxanne!

Roxanne of Zen Yarn Garden hits the big times! 

You may know Roxanne as the talented dyer from Bright's Grove, ON who dyed our exclusive St. Thomas Landscape Series last year. 

The beautiful yarn colours were based on the Clark McDougall painting, Talbot St., 1964, and several of you knitted one of my Talbot Shawls in her yarn. 

Another one of her colourways was inspired by a photo of our Jumbo monument with the red caboose in the background.  (This is a Talbot Hill Shawl.)  Yummy!

Here's a Talbot Street Shawl done in one of her Landscape Series colours in Zen Yarn Garden Heavy Lace.

This week, Roxanne was mentioned in Clara Parkes well-respected Knitter's Review.
Clara got her hands on some "Serenity Silk Single" and plans to feature Roxanne's 75% superwash Merino, 15% cashmere, 10% silk yarn in one of her regular swatch tests.  Why is that a big deal?  Clara is the author of The Knitter's Book of Wool, The Knitter's Book of Yarn and the Knitter's Book of Socks. Her weekly online Knitter's Review has been devoted to all things "yarny" for eleven years and has a readership of 34,000. 

That's a lot of knitters!  Way to go Roxanne!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Roc Day 2012

Since January 7 fell on a Saturday this year, we just had to celebrate Roc Day
...and honour our spinning heritage! 

Did you know that some form of spinning has been practised by humans for approximately 20,000 years?  In France, there is a bone carving of the fertility goddess Venus wearing a string skirt.  The sculptor has engraved the twists in each string and has even included the fraying at the ends of the twists these skirts cannot have been made from leather or sinew, but must have been made from twisted fibre.  (For more info, see Women's Work - The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.)

Fast forward many generations to experience a Roc Day or St. Distaff's Day celebration.  In the Christian tradition, spinners would take a holiday during the Twelve Days of Christmas.  On January 7, the women would get back to business using their spindles, wheels and distaffs.  The celebration would include pranks by the men such as setting fire to the spinning fibre while the women retaliated with buckets of water, drenching the men.  (The ploughmen had time to play because they didn't have to return to work until the Monday following the 12 days of Christmas - I wonder who made up that rule!!! )

The St. Distaff's Day poem, below, is by Robert Herrick (1648). 

Partly worke and partly play
Ye must on S. Distaffs day:
From the Plough soone free your teame;
Then come home and fother them.
If the Maides a spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-haire.
Bring in pailes of water then,
Let the Maides bewash the men.
Give S. Distaffe all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good-night;
And next morrow, every one
To his owne vocation.

The Illustration is from Wikipedia.  The distaff was used for storing the spinner's fibre while she worked.  And I did say, "while SHE worked."  Spinning was most definitely women's work, so much so that the legal term "distaff side" means the woman's side of the family.

And now to 2012.  Here's Jean at her beautifully restored wheel:

Doesn't it just seem to fit in with the old floors and windows in our 1842 upstairs classroom?  We had 12-14 spinners with us at our Roc Day celebration the tradition continues, but without the fire and water :)