Sunday, January 17, 2010

jacob's ladder

Yesterday Diana and I spent hours in yarn stores, looking through skeins and talking about projects. When it comes to knitting, I know the basics and can whip up a basic scarf or hat without a problem—but Di is an artist and a professional. She knows tricks, terms, and yarn in ways I can not even fathom. She makes these beautiful and complicated projects that put my utilitarian work to shame. The night I picked her up at the airport she presented me with a beautiful ear-flapped winter hat. It was hand-knit from baby alpaca wool with delicate patterns of purple and blue on snow white wool. It was so comfortable I wore it to sleep.

Having a talented knitter was the inspiration I needed to expand my own knowledge. I wanted to learn to knit hats in the round (on circular needles) and for her to show me the right way to purl. Last night I got an all-out lesson but got horribly frustrated. I was trying to do too much at once, jumping into a project without even practicing on swatches to gain confidence. But this morning I started over with a deep breath and twenty stitches instead of sixty. I still messed it up, but I understood why. Practice is slowly making perfect. Every row gets a little easier and my fingers seem a bit more nimble. There's light at the end of this tunnel, folks. I'll get that hat made proper.

The real inspiration to get better at knitting comes from a line of yarn I found at Black Sheep Yarns in Dorset. Rowan Purelife has a series of skeins sold not by some whimsical name or combination of wools, but by the sheep it came from. The British Sheep Breeds series sells you beautiful 100% natural wool from heritage stock of Great Britain. I chose a coarse, brown Jacob. It was the same wool used for the sample hat—that just holding, made me want to jump on the back of a fell pony with a border collie pumping at our flanks as we'd ride up the hill to check on the lambs. Diana convinced me I could make that hat. I'm a sucker, so I believed her and bough the yarn to use to learn the new skill. My successes in knitting aside—as a shepherd in training I was thrilled to see yarn that actually talks about sheep. Hell, had their picture on the product itself with detailed information about the breed. Here's to keeping those old heritage boys alive. I'd wave a flag, but instead I'll attempt a fancy hat from Jake.


Blogger Unknown said...

Love the color Jenna!! I told Zach I want to learn how to knit. The Palmerton Library has a knitting class with Mrs. Danielson everyother Mon.
We has also discussed that we are going to have chickens. We are putting up a privacy fence so unless your sister rats us out we should be okay!!!
Farm show was awesome. Aside from the conventional meat and all (we go for the local business peeps). I watched how a mother brought her kids over to the 4 chickens in a cage laying eggs and was talking about where we "get our eggs". She thought this was the neatest thing. So sad. But the hot mustard we bought from a local guy in Scranton was simply worth the trip!!! Hope you are feeling better :)

January 17, 2010 at 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Georgia said...

If you're interested in a very straight-forward earflap hat, I'd recommend Thorpe. I've made tons of them for family and friends- they're my go-to hat pattern!

January 17, 2010 at 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun to perfect a skill.
Nimble knitting can be achieved more easily if you don't use wooden knitting needles - think friction on wood vs plastic.

January 17, 2010 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Can't wait to see the finished product...that yarn is gorgeous!

I've recently taken up crocheting(something my grandma tried to teach me years ago.) I'm doing a blanket for my baby cousin, but it may end up being a throw instead. Seems to be a little crooked and for the life of me I can't figure out why! I'm going to check out some classes up in Evansville...maybe they can help me get it straight. Literally! :)


January 17, 2010 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous NMPatricia said...

My unfortunate first thought was how much such fine wool must have cost. But my second thought (and someday I hope to be my first reaction to such events) is that how wonderful it is that you patronize local yarn shops and buy wool from where you know it comes. It makes each item very special. Although not quite as special, one of my favorite items I have is a scarf of yak wool of yarn that I bought in Nepal. A treasure for me. Once I use up my stash, I intend to begin to use yarn spun from around my town.

January 17, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That is a beautiful yarn - and how cool that it focuses on the sheep!
My mom is a very experienced knitter and made me a gorgeous poncho that I wear at work because I'm always cold and this year a lovely shawl from hand-dyed wool she found on her trip to Portland, OR last year. This fall, after more than 20 years since my last attempt, I asked her to teach me to knit. So far I'm toodling along on a simple scarf, 30 stitches no purling, on size 15 needles. Trying to purl makes my eyes cross, so we're waiting until I'm more comfortable knitting before throwing that back into the mix.
I want to be able to do hats, scarves & throws. So like you, I'm starting with small steps.

January 17, 2010 at 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Mary-Heather said...

Have you joined Ravelry?

I'm totally biased because I work for that site, but it's a (free) knitting/crochet database and community site and there's an amazing amount of information, help, and patterns there.

There are also groups for gardening, homesteading, local groups for your area, pretty much anything you can think of, but the wealth of fiber information alone is great for inspiration! : )

January 17, 2010 at 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful...knitting is addictive! I get much satisfaction from creating things from my Navajo Churro herd. Marcia in WY

January 17, 2010 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Abi said...

Oh, I love Black Sheep. I haven't been there in a long while. Anytime you get stuck, just give a ring or drop in. I am happy to help!

Georgia is right Thorpe is a great pattern! And Mary Heather is right too, if you haven't joined Ravelry, you should. Be prepared to be amazingly inspired and there are incredible amounts of terrific and free patterns there.

January 17, 2010 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

That hat suits you beautifully. You look mahvelous, dahling.

January 17, 2010 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Shannan said...

How wonderful is that wool, I wish had had better access to good wool here in the south. Online shopping is OK but sometimes you just like to hold something in your hands before you buy it. I have to admit that knitting is addictive I taught myself 5 years ago and I love it. Even though I do have a little knitting ADD right now, I have four projects going, my family think I am nuts. I will agree with everyone else Ravelry is a must thay have so many wonderful patterns on their I could spend a day just looking through them. I am so glad to hear that you got a chance to catch up with an old friend it sounds like you had a great time. Happy knitting!

January 17, 2010 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Yay for new hats and new knitting skillz!

I'm also especially happy about the yarn . . . I love yarn that tells you where it came from, and I'm partial to heritage breeds, especially Jacob -- I'm a shareholder in a local fiber CSA (Jacob's Reward Farm) that raises Jacob sheep among other things.

January 17, 2010 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Whoops, I missed the Ravelry comments . . . you totally should join, and join up with the Coldantlerfarm group that is over there!

January 17, 2010 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

there's a CAF group on Ravelry?!

January 17, 2010 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

lucky you, both about the talented friend and the rowan find! ( i have been looking for that one but our local stores do not carry it) You'll love knitting in the round! Now we just have to get you using a spindle to make your yarn!

January 17, 2010 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger thedoza said...

It's even cooler when you are knitting with the wood from the sheep in the field. I was lucky to get some romney wool from a farmer up the river. It was some of the first "real" wool on my spinning wheel. Yay!

naomi in eugene, or

January 17, 2010 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger Rene said...

My friend Anna built me a drop spindle for Christmas so I can start learning how to spin. Some day I'd like to own a few fiber goats so I think learning everything about fiber now will help me when I get to that point. I started out with crochet which I still think is easier no matter what anyone says. It takes one hook to make anything you want. With knitting you have to have 30 needles of the same size in different types. Making things in the round is so easy with crochet too.

January 17, 2010 at 11:08 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Knitting is the best therapy. While I'm twisting wool into a sweater or scarf, I'm unraveling all that's going on in my head...and sometimes it gets crowded up there. Good for you for learning more. Good stills to have for when you have LOTS of your own wool!

January 18, 2010 at 12:24 AM  
Blogger Fast Hands said...

I totally agree with your wool choice. The feel of the wool as I knit with it is wonderful. I think it also has a lovely bouncy feel when it is knitted up. I enjoy reading your blog. It is a pleasant respite from my life as a fifth grade teacher in an urban San Diego school. I'm thinking good thoughts about the possible home purchase.

January 18, 2010 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger Lorri said...

Debi - on the baby blanket, count your stitches. I have a long scarf that added some without telling me; which is how I learned one should count them :)

Jenna - yes, there's a CAF group.

January 18, 2010 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger MIB said...

Jenna, take a look at this any time you want some knitting inspiration -

January 18, 2010 at 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

I love the Rowan rare breeds. Your new hat looks great.
I saw your book on display at the Storey Publishing booth. They had a really great display and were giving away "I'm a Locavore" bags.

January 18, 2010 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

I never let my lack of skill stop me!!! I'm just starting a garter stitch cardigan tonight from my handspun jacob fleece, from sheep that live in the paddock across from my little cottage. They were going to throw the fleece away!!

Youtube is a great source for learning knitting techniques - lots of instructional videos.

Enjoy your wool.

January 18, 2010 at 3:26 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also enjoy the wool from KnoxFarmFiber on Esty. It comes with a photo of the sheep who "donated" the wool.

January 21, 2010 at 6:34 PM  

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