Back to Basics

GrannySquare1974Please tell me that I am not the only woman of a certain age who shudders and pales as she remembers the 1970s women’s GrannySquare4fashions utilizing granny squares!

Oy vei!  

Yet at the time, it was ever so fashionable to look as though you had turned the family afghan into an article of clothing.

And sometimes the similarities were remarkable.  :)

GrannySquare5 (2)Now imagine this eye-catching poncho draped on a nearly 6 foot tall skinny teenager.  It is really embarrassing to meet friends at a party and have one of them say loudly, “Why are you wearing the afghan from your mother’s couch?!”   As all eyes turn toward you, try responding to that one!  (“No, it is not the afghan from my mother’s couch.  That one is a different color.”)

GrannySquare2 (2)It is no small wonder that my boyfriend loved it when I wore halter tops such as those to the right (pic source).

I also crocheted a bikini remarkably GrannySquarebikini (2)similar to this one.  After I finished it, my mother cut it up and threw it away (much to grannysquare6my boyfriend’s disappointment!).

Of course, I don’t remember him wearing granny square based clothing.  And, yes, granny squares were used for men’s clothing as well.  GrannySquare7And, no, the granny square male ensemble wasn’t sported just by musicians.

There were many young men GrannySquareChild (2)whose girlfriends crocheted them garments.  If a young man wanted to keep his girlfriend happy, he sort of had to wear the crocheted gifts.

Nor were children immune, poor little tykes, as can be seen of this picture of a child stoically wearing his granny square vest!

For reasons that seem obvious (to me at least), I hadn’t crocheted a granny square in many years (okay, decades).  Yet recently, the thought of crocheting a pile of granny squares seemed, well, comforting.  So out came my crochet hooks and yarn, and I started to crochet squares for Granddaughter F’s Christmas present – an afghan.

GrannySquarePileI had forgotten how fast crocheting granny squares out of worsted weight yarn can be!  No surprise to Thor, I got a bit carried away. After crocheting 12 squares (2 of each of these) in 2 days, the arthritis sleeping in my right wrist woke up.

I haven’t been able to knit or crochet for a week!  :(

Lesson learned:  Moderation in all things crocheted – well, at least granny squares!

Two questions:

  1. When was the last time you crocheted granny squares?
  2. When was the last time you turned granny squares into a garment or accessory and wore it?!
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Shetland Sheep – the beginning of a blog series


Great post – about Shetland sheep and crofting!

Originally posted on Jamieson & Smith:

Recently I had the idea to begin a series of blog posts going more into detail about all the ranges of yarns we carry here at J&S.. from Cobweb up to Chunky!


Oliver pointed out, correctly, that we should begin the series with some posts about where it all comes from! So this first post is about the Shetland Breed of Sheep, written by Oliver Henry, manager and top wool man here at J&S.. take it away Oliver..


The Native Shetland sheep are part of the North European short tailed breeds and have been linked to breeds such as Icelandic, Finn, Romanov, and Scandinavian breeds’ such as the Spaelsau. It is the smallest of the British sheep breeds and it maintains many of the characteristics of the wild sheep.


One of the first surveys carried out on Shetland sheep in 1790 published 1814, for the Board of Agriculture, reporter John…

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Looking for Stretch?

I never particularly liked knitting with cotton or linen – not enough “give” in the yarn for my taste.  After I injured my hands some years ago, I became even more particular about yarns.  Two people close to me, however, Thor and a dear friend, cannot wear any woolen fibers without displaying any variety and combinations of severe reactions: eyes swelling shut, wheezing with a slight blue-ish tinge to their lips, and/or getting nasty, drippy red rashes on their skin.

Stretchy1So what fiber could I use my dear friend for her upcoming birthday?  It’s an important birthday; she’s turning 60 (and looks and seems much younger).  After I explained my dilemma to the helpful folks at Nitro Knitters in Stretchy2Portland, a helpful clerk introduced me to Skacel’s HiKoo CoBaSi.  CoBaSi is a combination of cotton, bamboo and silk.  It is also 21% elastic, which makes this yarn enormously stretchy.

I bought the yarn, even though was sure I would despise the elastic feel.  But, I reminded myself, my friend was worth it, so no matter how awful the yarn might feel, I would just have to suck it up and persevere until finished.  (My grandfather’s words rang in my ears:  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”)

Lo and behold, once I got used to the elastic stretchiness, I loved it!  I can’t yet post a picture of this project as my friend follows my blog.  But I will after her birthday.

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Knitters and Gifts

Most knitters (and crochers) I have known or met are very giving.  They love to knit or crochet and then gift their creations.  Too often, however, newer knitters plan grand knit gifts for their friends and families and find themselves in “over their heads” or with scant time to knit for themselves.  (By way of example, a good friend of mine started a large all-garter stitch blanket when she heard she would be a grandmother.  Still unfinished, her grandchild is now four and now has a younger sibling.)

I urge newer and less experienced knitters to remove some stress (and cost) and knit simple (but nice) gifts.  Such gifts show your love and, if they are useful gifts, the recipients will think of you every time they use them.  Here are some ideas.

  1. xmasornament (2)If your friends or family observe the Christmas holiday, visit  Lorna Pearman’s site where she explains how she made this lovely knitting-related ornament.  Minimal knitting involved!  (Even though Thor and I don’t celebrate Christmas, several of our friends and family members do, and I think I may have to make a couple of these.)
  2. Washcloths … I can’t say enough about the utility (and beauty!) of even the simplest of washcloths knit or crocheted from a nice cotton.  Strikkelysten, a knitter with self-professed limited skills, regularly makes lovely but simple washcloths.  Visit her site and be inspired!  soapwashclothIt’s a great way to experiment with simple patterns too.  If you prefer a little more challenge,  try Fiber Trends “Bathing Beauties.”  I have knit and gifted all the sets multiple times but kept this blue soap jacket for the guest bathroom and this red lace washcloth for myself.  (I knit both of these at least 15 years ago.)
  3. Headbands are another quick knit, for instance, Drops Design 86-10dropsheadbandSimple to make yet, when knit from a nice yarn they are quite stylish.  (My daughter loves hers and, during those one-month winters she has in California, wears it.)  If you want to expand your skills, headbands possumbandmake a good project to try cables.  Chic Knits Elisbeth Collection contains has a lovely cabled headband pattern that I’ve knit several times.
  4. The “Easiest Wristerwarmers” by KiwiYarns Knits are indeed the easiest fingerless easy-fingerless-gloves-21gloves or wristwarmers I’ve ever made.  (In fact, Granddaughter O is working on a pair.)  Newer knitters won’t be bored senseless by miles and miles of garter stitch.  Rather, they can quickly knit these wristwarmers (perhaps out of yarn leftover from something made for themselves?!) to wear or gift.  These also make a great and unique gift to knit up and take to a holiday gift exchange.
  5. FusciaFlowerFairy (2)If you like knitting with sock needles (and lots of different colors!), how about something like this little creature?  It’s the “Fuscia Flower Fairy” by Lorna Pearman and is approximately 6″ from tip to toe.  She has several DollTopsydifferent flower fairy patterns available.   To the left is a picture of a knit doll I first saw in a 2001 issue of Interweave Knits.  The Topsy Turvy Doll is actually two dolls in one.   (I always thought I’d make it, though I haven’t yet.  The issue still sits on my shelf waiting for me to make it.)

We like to think someone to whom we give our handmade creation will appreciate and value it.  Too often, sadly, that’s not the case.  So even for us experienced knitters, knitting and gifting simple gifts that bring us pleasure to both make and gift is a way to not be too upset if your labor of love is re-gifted or ignored.   Plus it’s a great way to use up small amounts of nice yarn in your stash!

Call to knitters and crocheters:  What other patterns or ideas that are fast and easy-to-make and that do not take up too much fiber have you found to be good fiber creations to gift?!

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Fana Mitts and Breads

Thor requested a pair of fingerless mitts he could wear when he played the guitar.  He asked that they be low enough so as not to interfere with strings when playing and curved to match the slope of his knuckles.   He also requested that they be “unusual.” (How’s that for guidance?!)  :)

I used a silk-pima cotton blend, probably DK weight.  I knit the remaining yarn into a matching (sort of) hat.  Thor likes his ensemble.

LarryFanahatThose familiar with traditional Scandinavian patterns will see that my design choice was influenced by Norway’s traditional Fana pattern.  As explained Susanne Pagoldh,

“Fana, which is just south of Bergen, gave its name to Fana sweaters (Fanatrøjen) … The sweater, or cardigan, was originally part of the traditional man’s costume in Fana and evolved from an everyday undersweater which was worn under the vest and tucked into the trousers.”  (Nordic Knitting, 46)

To see a picture of my mother sporting a Fana sweater and matching hat (both knit by my grandmother, of course), sometime around the beginning of Germany’s occupation of Norway, take a peek at one of my earlier posts.  Decades later, people still use the Fana design!  If you’d like to see its influence on a modern sweater, take a look at Norwegian book309_fanadesigner Sidsel J. Høivik‘s Bolero Fritt etter Fana.  Stunning!  You may also want to visit Two Strands‘ recent post that opens with modern Fana sweaters for children from Dale Garn Kids’ Book NR 309.

Some (but not all!) of recent breads.

I have been corresponding with a weaver who is also a committed artisan bread maker.  Thanks to her encouragement and guidance, I tackled:

struan21.  A multigrain Struan bread adapted from a Peter Reinhart’s recipe in  Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.  Starting a few days in advance, I made a Struan1biga (white whole wheat) and a soaker (white whole wheat along with an array of goodies – oatmeal, polenta, rye flakes, flax seeds, wheat bran, oat bran, and sunflower seeds).  I made the dough today and, after two proofs, baked it in a Romertopf Clay Baker.  Since this first Struan effort, I have also made it using Humphrey (my rye starter who lives in the refrigerator) in place of the biga.  Works perfectly well!

ThomLeonardLoaf2 ThomLeonardLoaves2.  Two deliciously sour loaves based on Thom Leonard’s Country French Bread (Maggie Glezer, Artisan Baking).  I baked one loaf in the Romertopf Clay Baker and the other in my Emile Henry Bread Cloche.

I use the EH cloche and R clay baker whenever possible; it avoids a lot of burns on my arms that came with turning my ordinary oven into a steam oven.

(Note:  I say “adapted from” or “based on” as I tend to approach recipes the same way I approach knitting patterns:  As suggestions and/or guides!  [I’ve always liked that the word oppskriver in Norwegian translates to either patterns or recipes!])

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Corralling Stitch Markers

I use different markers for specific marking purposes and thus had multiple little containers of an array of stitch markers.  Of course every time I needed one, I had to root around in my knitting bag for the right little container or check bookshelves looking for an elusive package of markers.  When I couldn’t find any I’d start searching between couch cushions!  Worse, when traveling I dragged my whole knitting bag with me just to ensure I had my various notions should I need them.

SnapNGo2Then one day I popped into a weaving store and saw a neat little notions case for $5 US.  I quickly grabbed the last one (pink).   What a great SnapNGo3size – neither too large nor too small – with 6 separate compartments in 3 different sizes.  By the evening I had my stitch markers all organized.  At last!  (I just noticed there’s a pink split ring marker in with the green and orange lock markers.)  I was one contented knitter.

A few months later as my daughter and I sat companionably side-by-side knitting, she asked for a stitch marker so I passed her my pink notion case.  “Neat,” she exclaimed.  “I could use that!”  After she flew home, I tried to find this notion case locally – to no avail.  I found them, however, on Exchanging Fire website!

SnapNGoCase3Exchanging Fire carries the Snap ‘n Go Notions Case in two sizes – Jumbo & Original – and in several different colors.  I already had a pink original and realized I need (yes, needed) the jumbo in lime green.  As you can see, it’s slightly SnapNGo4thicker and larger than the original but not enough to be cumbersome.

And, of course, I ordered two more originals – one in blue for SnapNGo6my daughter and one in pink for my pink-crazy granddaughter.

I urge you to visit Exchanging Fire and check out the knitting and crocheting notions available.  (Also, be sure and take a peek at the Ruched Eye Sleep Mask pattern.  I saw it and thought “this year’s holiday gift!”)

BarnStrikkerAs an aside, my daughter has started to knit even when we’re not visiting each other.  In fact, today she told me she’s finished the body of her top-down knit sweater.  She’s waiting for my arrival (coming up quickly) so I can help her knit the arms and button bands.  Also, the last time I visited, Granddaughter F graduated from the knitting spool to knitting (Continental) on a set of needles (pic at right)!

maiden__mother__crone_by_ellenmillion-d5wffwjIn a few weeks, we, three generations of women – maiden, matron and crone – will be knitting together.   (Pic source)

(By the way, the woman on the right represents the “crone” aka me.  In fact, with the longest hair of the three of us, I frequently wear my (silver) hair just like that.  Coincidence?  :) )

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“What’s That You’re Doing?”

knitting continentalAs I learned to knit from my Norwegian mother and grandmother, I knit (and purl) in the Continental style (Wikipedia pic source).

Many times knitting quietly in a public place (e.g., park or coffee shop), in the U.S., someone comes up to me and asks what I’m doing.  When I tell them I’m knitting, the response I frequently get is:  “No,  I’ve seen knitting and that’s not it.” :)

Of course I see it as my duty to educate the person on different styles of knitting, historical shifts, and so on – undoubtedly giving far more information than the person ever thought s/he would receive!

I know how to knit in the English style but use that only when knitting with more than three colors in any one row.  (I can knit three different yarns off my left hand; any more than that and I have to use my right.)  I think the Continental style is faster, though I’ve heard a skilled English style knitter can be equally swift.  Perhaps.  I do think, however, that the Continental style uses less hand motion and as such is probably better physically than the style adopted by most English style knitters.  Everyone I’ve taught to knit I’ve taught the Continental style.  When I am helping someone who has already learned to knit in the English style, I have to rethink how I teach so as not to confuse her or him!

Undoubtedly you hear my bias.  :)

So, what knitting style do you prefer?!


Posted in Knitting, Miscellany, Norwegian Knitting | 24 Comments