Stone Age Spinning

Just read a fascinating article describing the discovery of ancient, twisted, wild flax fibers, embedded in soil samples taken from the Dzudzuana Cave in the Republic of Georgia.

Carbon dating places the habitation of the cave to the Upper Paleolithic period (32,000 to 11,000 years ago). The evidence, microscopic though it may be, suggests that the invention of twisted fiber cordage or twine dates from this early era. Cord remnants dating from 19,000 to  17,000 years ago were previously discovered  in Lascaux, France, and at the Ohalo site in Israel, but the fibers used to make the twine are still unidentified. The Dzudzuana flax fibers also contain knots and traces of color, suggesting that dyeing might also have been practiced, though it is equally possible that the color was absorbed simply from contact with mineral sources.  Representations of woven cloth appear on figurines of the time.

It’s intriguing to picture Stone Age people wearing turquoise and pink linen! But whatever the truth of that matter, the craft that we now refer to as spinning appears to have developed long before anyone thought.

Photos of the flax fibers
and the full article.

 

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My Favorite Felted Mittens Pattern

photo: LGP

This past winter, I knitted, felted and sold about 20 pairs of felted mittens at pre-holiday craft fairs. I don’t mind making socks on circular needles, but not mittens – guess the hole for the thumb bothers me, I dunno. Anyway, I use the 2-needle pattern below, but I make the mittens much larger than if they weren’t about to be felted. That means, for a child, I make a small adult size. For men, the bigger medium or largest  size. You have to use your judgement and know your yarn. Use your judgment for women.  For felting, I’ve found that Paton’s 100% wool worsted weight gives me predictable results. It is readily available, inexpensive, knits up beautifully, and comes in many lovely solids and blends. Yarns made specifically for felting shrink too much for this application.

Traditional two needle mittens work up quickly, and suit everyone from child to adult. Use up your yarn stash and knit a pair of mittens in a different color for everyone in the family.
Sizes: small child, medium child, large child, adult

# Materials: #5 and #7 needles
# 200 yards of worsted weight yarn
# 1 stitch holder
# 2 stitch markers
# tapestry needle

Gauge: 5 sts = 1″ on #7 needles

Cuff: With smaller needles, loosely cast on 24(28-32-36)sts. Work *K1, P1,* ribbing until piece measures 2 1/2 (3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2)”. Change to larger needle.

Hand: Row 1 (right side): K2, inc in next st, K to last 3 sts inc in next st, K1. Row 2 Purl. Continue working in SS until piece measures 1″ (1 1/4, 1 1/2, 2″) from end of ribbing, ending with a P row. For the last 3 sizes only Work 2 more rows. (SS)

Thumb Gusset: Row 1: K12 (12-14-16-18), place marker on needle; inc in each of next 2 sts, place marker on needle: K12 (14-16-18) sts. Row 2: and all even rows Purl. Row 3: K to marker, sl marker, inc in next st; K to st before next marker, inc in next st, sl marker, K to end. Repeat Rows2 and 3 until there are 8 (10-12-14) sts between the markers; end by working Row 2.

Divide for Thumb: K12 (14-16-18), drop marker; K8 (10-12-14)sts for thumb, and then place thumb sts on holder; K 12 (14-16-18) Work even in SS until work measures 4″ (5 1/2 -6-7″) from start of Hand, ending by working a purl row.

Top Shaping: Row 1: *K2, K2tog; rep from* across. Row 2: Purl. Row 3: *K1, K2tog, rep from * Row 4: Purl. Row 5: K2tog across; break yarn, leaving 18″ end. Thread yarn into tapestry

needle, run needle through remaining sts. Slip sts off needle, pull yarn up tightly and fasten securely. leave yarn for sewing.

Thumb: Sl sts from holder to needle, purl one row. Work even in SS until thumb measures 1 1/4 ( 1 3/4-2-2 1/4″) ending with a purl row. Next Row: K2 tog, rep across row cut yarn leaving 12″ end finished the same as above. Fold mitten and sew seams.

Your mittens will be comically large and floppy. That’s OK, that’s what you want. Follow your best felting instructions until they shrink to size. I’ve been known to throw wet mittens in the dryer, medium setting, to get to where I want them.

Good luck, happy knitting , let me know how you do!

(updated 2/2/11)

One Cable Hand Warmers

imageToday I discovered my next ” muffatees” project. At the Connecticut  Works festival this afternoon, which was held on the beautiful grounds of the Avery-Copp house museum in Groton,  I sold a pair of cabled arm warmers that were cabled from fingers to elbow. They were very pretty, but felt too bulky for my own use and I never wore them or made any others. When I arrived home,  I found that a very similar design for shorter mitts had  magically appeared in my email,  from the Blue Sky Alpacas newsletter.

The pattern is free, but you do have to create a free account to access the download, which you can get here . The beautiful worsted hand dyed yarn shown is named “Petunia”, and should work up quickly on the recommended size 9 (US) needles.

Fall Knits: Katia Poncho

imageI don’t generally go in for ponchos, so was surprised when this pattern caught my eye. I love the cables, drapy-ness, and color, and it looks like the back and front can be sewn part way up to make a sort of loose pullover. Onto the TBK list it goes!

The recommended yarn is Katia Merino Baby, which is sport weight and comes in truly lovely colors. Oh, I see that the beautiful mulberry shade is out of stock on the web site. Will either have to wait or find it somewhere else.  The cost is $6.50 a ball. Size medium requires 9 to 10 balls. Needle size 6 (US). The pattern can be downloaded here .

Chiengora: Knitting with Dog Hair

Repost of an article in at modernfarmer.com, written by Anna O’Brien, the veterinarian daughter of a good friend of mine.

  Hair of the Dog: Wear  Your Best Friend

Move over, sheep. Adios, alpacas. You don’t need a pasture or hay to make soft, lovely yarn. Just a lowly pooper-scooper. Clothing and other items made from dog hair, sometimes referred to as chiengora (chien is French for “dog”), isn’t a new niche fad—in fact, it’s been around for centuries. The Salish, indigenous North Americans who lived in the Pacific Northwest, were known for making blankets from dog hair. Nowadays, considered a luxury fiber by those who spin it, dog hair has yet to make waves on the commercial market. Instead, commission-based spinners craft individual keepsakes as long as you supply the hair. Most spinners working with dog hair were lured into the craft by their interest in spinning and the convenience of having their own (hairy) dogs. Such was the case with Doreen Kelly, of West Seneca, N.Y. A spinner for 12 years, Kelly has two Collies and “an endless amount of dog hair,” she says. Doreen Kelly spinning dog hair with her two Collies / Courtesy Doreen Kelly The so-called “double coated” breeds of dog are the best for making yarn. Breeds like the Collie, Old English Sheepdog, Burmese Mountain Dog, Samoyed and Golden Retriever have a dense, soft, insulating undercoat beneath their water-propelling outer coat made of stiff and much thicker guard hairs. The undercoat is mostly what is naturally shed, ends up on your couch, and can be turned into items such as mittens, scarves, pillows and blankets. Is there a dog breed above all others that makes the best hair for spinning? It doesn’t seem so, although everyone has her favorite. Patty Kruthers, a spinner from Bethlehem, Pa., once had a Briard named Britty who was her inspiration to knit dog hair. “Briard hair is primo to spin,” Kruthers says. But with commission work, other breeds are showcased, too. “Samoyeds make particularly nice yarn,” she says. “It’s a nice length and it’s not pure white; there’s a lot of variation in the color that you don’t really notice until you spin it. It’s a beautiful yarn.” Of course, even variations in coat quality within a breed can make a difference. “Between my two Collies, my female has a very soft coat but the male has much coarser hair,” Kelly says. “Like people—some have very fine hair, others very coarse.” Structure influences function and with fiber it’s no different. Sheep wool is known for its stretch and shrinkage, which is due to the natural crimp of each individual fiber as well as the presence of microscopic barbs. “The reason wool shrinks is because those little barbs that are on the hair catch on each other and keep catching. That’s why the item seems to get smaller and smaller,” Kelly says. Dog hair can be up to eight times warmer than sheep wool. In contrast, dog hairs have neither crimp nor barbs, which means no stretch and no shrinkage. However, you may not want grandma to re-knit you that sweater a la Fido just yet—dog hair can be up to eight times warmer than sheep wool. “Dog hairs have a hollow core that acts like insulation,” Kelly says. “If you wanted to make a sweater with all dog hair, it would be really, really hot to wear.” Spinners describe the care of dog hair items as similar to things made of wool. “I wash dog hair the same way I would wool,” says Kruthers. “You treat it like you would any good wool garment.” Another striking element to knitted dog hair is its halo, a knitting term for the soft fuzz that outlines an item. Angora rabbit fur has a similar feature, which adds to softness and is considered luxurious. Many spinners liken dog hair to Angora rabbit. “If you held an item made of dog hair up to the light, you would see this beautiful fuzz that sticks out,” Kelly says. This halo also adds to dog hair’s warmth. The Briard dog, Britty, who got Patty Kruthers into spinning dog hair / Courtesy Patty Kruthers It doesn’t take too much dog hair to make a small item. “If you have a brown paper grocery bag full of dog hair, that would probably be enough to knit a scarf,” Kelly says. “That would be about six ounces.” One serious grooming session with a brush—or vacuum behind the couch—may be enough to make those mittens you’ve always wanted but spinners warn not to use hair shaved from a dog. “When you clip, you get stubble along with the long hairs,” says Betty Kirk, who teaches classes on different types of spinning and weaving in Lemont, Illinois. Perhaps part of the reason dog hair may never be mainstream is a certain reaction to having a clothing item made from dog hair. Fiber length influences the strength of the yarn being made. Dog hair about two inches in length is ideal for spinning. “If the length of the hair particles is too short, it ends up being a very weak yarn,” Kruthers says. “The longer the hair is, the stronger the yarn you will make.” Individuals interested in an item made from their dog’s hair can mail the hair to spinners who will then clean the hair, spin it to make yarn, and then knit the yarn into a final product. “People like it as a memento,” Kirk says. “Sometimes I’ll get a panic email saying someone’s dog just died.” As for what the future holds for the chiengora enthusiasts, it seems it will stay a niche market. “I think it’s a thing, just not a big thing,” Kirk says. “Like, don’t dump your whole inheritance into it because you won’t become rich doing this. But, you’ll always have a little niche.” Perhaps part of the reason dog hair may never be mainstream is a certain reaction to having a clothing item made from dog hair. “Usually people think it’s pretty cool,” Kirk says. “But once in a while they think it’s gross. You can just point out that your silk blouse is made from worm spit. I’d rather have dog hair.” 1234 1A bundle of the dog hair yarn / Courtesy Patty Kruthers 2A pair of mittens made from the hair of a Samoyed / Courtesy Doreen Kelly 3Kruthers makes a winter scarf from the hair of a Shetland Sheepdog / Courtesy Doreen Kelly 4A coin purse made from the hair of a Husky / Courtesy Doreen Kelly Part of the stigma is from the incorrect assumption that something made from dog hair will therefore smell like a dog. “People don’t understand that if you have a wool sweater, when it gets wet, it smells like wool, not like the sheep in the barnyard,” Kirk says. Likewise, wet yarn from dog hair smells like wet yarn, not like wet dog. “I just think it’s cool because it’s such an odd thing,” Kruthers says. “My dog Britty may be long gone, but her garments live on. Everyone has too much dog hair lying around anyway. It’s very comfortable and very pretty.” This sort of thing might make one wonder what else out there could be spun. Domestic cat hair reportedly can be used, but what about something more exotic? “I’ve spun a lion’s mane,” Kelly says. “It was from a circus and someone wanted to make bracelets for the employees. That was pretty neat.” CULTUREDOG WEEKWOOL Related

Jordaan Cowl

Just back from a Caribbean vacation, where knitting took a back seat for a week. Settling in at home today, catching up on email, etc,  I found this lovely, lacy cowl pattern from Tahki Stacy Charles. Named for the canals in the Jordaan section of Amsterdam, it’s made on size 9 (US) needles with two laceweight yarns held together. The free pattern is available for upload here. You can order the yarns from the TSC site if you like.

Two Favorite Crocheted Cowl Patterns

Lion Brand has come a long way, baby, since the days of their generic acrylic yarns in basic colors.

Last month, a friend asked me to crochet a cowl for her, using a pattern she found on the net. I prefer knitting to crochet, but the cowl came out so beautiful that I just had to make one for myself, in the same colorway (Lion Brand Homespun, in Tudor, a blend of natural, blues, and lavenders.) The original sports a button closure, which I decided to forego in favor of joining the edges to make a ring. The pattern can be purchased at etsy. Lion Brand has a similar pattern, free of charge, here.

cowls

The single crochet cowl, in Lion Brand’s new line, Unique (I used 2 skeins in Oceania), is very simple to make, mostly single crochet through the back loop. That pattern can be found here.

Both of these creations elicit admiration each time I wear them, and they’re both nice and cozy.