Saturday, February 16, 2008

Maybe It's in the Genes



I like fiber and it might just be in my genes. I like all types of fiber from the rustic variety shown above to the super refined silk that I recently used in my Silver Birch Hat. It's just fun for me to experiment with the different fibers and textures. I also want to learn to spin someday and I recently took the first step by subscribing to Spin-Off, a magazine focused on spinning and working with handspun yarns. I can't wait for my first issue!

Why I say it might be in the genes is because my paternal grandmother used to spin yarn and knit for her family. She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1898 to parents that emigrated from Sweden and Norway, respectively. In her mid-twenties she married a local farmer from rural Minnesota (just outside Swanville) where they raised six children during the great depression (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). By necessity she would spin wool and knit for the family as well as bake bread and perform all the other tasks that go with living on a farm. Then, when my dad was in the 3rd grade, a fire destroyed their shed along with her spinning wheel. Many years later (in the 1950s) knowing that his mother felt badly about losing her spinning wheel, my dad borrowed a spinning wheel and made her a new one - complete with inlaid woodwork.

I find it fascinating how in such a relatively short time our society and way of life has changed so dramatically. What used to be a sign of poverty - to wear homespun wool - is now a luxury item known as handspun yarn.

My paternal grandmother, incidentally, is the one who taught me to crochet when I was a child. Moreover, my father still has that spinning wheel tucked away in the attic and someday I hope it will be mine!

Where was I? Oh, yes, I like to experiment with fiber and the Gesta vest is my experiment with angora. The Gesta vest is knit with Noro's Kochoran (pictured above) a worsted weight yarn comprised of 50% wool; 20% silk; and 30% angora. But it's the angora component that defines this yarn in my view. It's very fluffy, warm, and does not have much memory. Although I don't think I would use this yarn again for that reason (lack of memory), it's a fun yarn and I'm glad I made this vest!



Pattern Specs: Gesta Vest; Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton, Hand Knitting Collection, Book Number Two; 3 skeins Kochoran; US 10.5 needles.

PS The pin I'm wearing is made from fine bone china by Crown English. I love china flowers and this pins adds a finishing touch to lots of my outfits!

15 comments:

Denise said...

That is so fascinating reading about your grandma and the spinning wheel (why might I ask is it stuck in the attic when you could be enjoying it now?) ;-) I know what you mean about how things have changed and it boggles the mind what the elderly must think who were born at the turn of the century. My mom is 82 and lived in England during the blitz/WWII (well actually she still lives in England) and she used to knit for us as kids, and bake her own bread using live yeast (none of these packets of dry stuff like they have these days). I remember how amazing she thought my bread machine was when I showed it to her years ago!!!
I love your top, and the pretty bone china broach just compliments it so much.
Hope you're having a great day.

Pat K said...

Very pretty vest, and lovely story. Is that rosemary blooming in the top picture?

fireflynights said...

I also loved reading about your grandmother and the spinning wheel. Your father must be very talented if he made her a new one including inlaid woodwork. Perhaps you could ask him to get it out of the attic so you can use it (and photograph it for us to see).

I'm glad interests in some of the old skills and old ways of doing things are being revived whether it's in fiber arts or breadmaking or something else our ancestors used to do.

The colors in the yarn for this vest are quite lovely. You wear all of the things you make so well, but I especially like these brighter colors. It looks great on you. I'm still struggling with that stupid mohair blend I picked for my first knitting project.

Is Mr. Puffy hiding? Or worn out from bragging to the other dogs about the beagle winning at Westminster?

Bridget said...

This is one of those "Twilight Zone" moments, 'cause I was seriously considering a subscription to "Spin Off" ...

What a great story about your grandmother and her custom made spinning wheel! I'll bet it's beautiful as a piece, besides being useful. I do hope that someday it is yours.

That vest and pin are such a pretty combination. I think it's especially nice when you can show off your handknits, and they can show off some of your favorite things.

Denise said...

sent you an email about Austin ;-)

tiennie said...

Wonderful post. Very pretty vest!

LizzieK8 said...

My maternal grandmother was born in 1899 and I often think of the things she saw in her life, going from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

She was a knitter and crocheter, too, but I think I'm the first spinner in the family.

My mother at 90 in a week or so still dislikes wearing hand mades...

jillian said...

What a wonderful story. Especially that there is a spinning wheel "in the family" with that history waiting for you.

I love your vest!

Silvia said...

The vest is really gorgeous- I'm not always a fan of variegated yarns, but I really like the way this worked (too bad about it's memory, though)!
I love the story about your grandmother. We lived in MN for 6 years, and that's where I learned to knit- you would fit right in with all the other scandinavians. Do you ever go there?

knitting dragonfly said...

Great post. I love the vest. I will watch with interest, I also would love to learn to spin but am afraid to start. I don't have anyone local to help me get started.
Vicki

Denise said...

Yes I am having email probs at the minute, I just emailed you again using my other account, hope you get it ok?

Monika said...

This sure sounds like a very special spinning wheel. Of course now I have to see a picture of it (some day?)! I can't believe you can make a vest with only 3 skeins of anything for yourselve! It looks nice, and comfortable. The china flower is something I've never seen before. IT's delicate and beautiful!
My grandma told me the other day, that her grandmother was spinning hemp and wool, and if she could, my grandma would love to give spinning a try. I wish she was around here, so I could let her use my wheel. She's still knitting though.

Knitted Gems said...

I've tried learning to spin on a drop spindle and a turkish spindle. I own two books and one VHS tutorial. I have two unused batts sitting in the cedar closet. I keep telling myself that I will pick it back up. Hopefully, watching you will inspire me. It's just that I found the experience to be frustrating, mainly because I didn't know what I was doing wrong ... or right for that matter. I couldn't get the feel for it.
What a treasure to still have your grandmom's wheel!
And I love your new vest and pin. They look very nice on you!

Hilary said...

First of all, that vest is ADORABLE! I love the colors, and with that fiber content it looks so luxurious too.

Secondly, thank you for sharing that great story about your grandmother and her spinning wheel. I love hearing about people's personal and familial connections to the arts that they practice. One of the things I love about knitting is that I feel like I'm continuing a tradition passed down from my maternal grandmother and her ancestors. Incidentally, my forebears are also from Scandinavia -- Sweden and Denmark -- and a lot of them came through Minnesota, too! So do you knit Continental style? I often wonder if I knit that way because my grandmother who taught me had learned from her mother, who had grown up in Denmark.

amanda said...

Very lovely vest - great colors on you. Thanks for the insight into your family history - it's always nice to get to know bloggers a little better :)