Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Knitting Studio

Today's Featured Mittens
Gentle Dawn and Blazing Sunset

     I have reclaimed my daughter Emma's bedroom as my Knitting Studio.  I (almost) literally shovelled the last of her belongings into the closet and carefully closed the door.  I then set about creating my space for "woolgathering."  The redecoration is not quite complete, but it is gradually evolving into my space. 

The Knitting Studio
     This may look messy, but it is a "working" studio.  Everything there, and everything in its place. 
The Artist's Palette
      This definitely looks messy, but it is not.  This is a collection of leftover yarn from my own projects as well as from friends who are happy to unload their leftovers on me.  I am pleased to take them and make use of them, eventually.  One of the reasons I annexed this space as a knitting studio was so I could spread my dribs and drabs of yarn out, grouping like colors together. That way I can better see what I have and what colors might go together in a suitable design.  Much better than having them hidden in plastic bags but you do need quite a lot of space to do this.  

     I have some very small bits of yarn that I cannot bear to throw away because I am cheap, a hoarder and like the challenge of finding a way to use these scraps in mittens.  The balls are so small, however, that they get tangled up easily and cause a mess.  So I have borrowed from the toolshed practice of putting nails, screws, nuts, washers, etc of various sizes into glass jars so you can see what you have at a glance.  I am also happy to reuse glass bottles that would ordinarily get thrown away. 
       I also have the new stock displayed on open shelves so I can see the colors available.  Sometimes, sitting in a rocking chair or re-charging on Aunt Gladys' cot, I will get an inspiration from looking at the yarn.
Design Department
     Well, really it's just a corkboard with some crucial notes and pictures tacked to it.  Useful!
Entertainment Centre
     Among my tools, I have my now retro Radio/CD player so I can spend time with Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Fred Eaglesmith, Jian Ghomeshi, Eleanor Wachtel, Shelagh Rogers, Rex Murphy, Bob Dylan... the list goes on....
Tea Time
Always time for a cup of tea....
Aunt Gladys' Cot
     The cot does list a little to one side but is adequate for naps of short duration to recharge creativity.  It is covered by the Dresden Plate quilt my mother made me when I graduated from high school 39 years ago.  The quilt is tattered and torn but keeps me in touch with my mother and her creative handiwork.  Goldilocks has slept in this spot.  It was "just right"!!!

Finishing Department
     This crucial piece of equipment has not yet found its exact place in the studio.

The Dressing Room
     I found this heavy old mirror at Value Village for $10.00!! The maintenance crew does not yet have it hung on the wall.  As you can see, the maintenance crew has a rather hang-dog demeanor. 

Production #1

Production #2

Quality Control #1


Finished Products
     Named, turnip-tagged and ready for shipment.  (Starry, Starry Night; Aurora Borealis: Snow Flurries at Night)

Ice Wine
     Ice wine container--perfect size for a pair of children's mittens.  Enhances the winter theme....snowflakes and the word Neige...(Mittens: SnowFlecks)
Single Malt Scotch
     And then there is the Glenfiddich container for the adult sized mittens. (Mittens: EarthBound)

The Daily Gleaner 

The blue plastic bag the newspaper comes in everyday (Mittens: North Pole) 

 Wall Art
Awaiting the maintenance crew for installation.

Punching the Clock



Until next time....







Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Knitting in Custody

Today's Featured Mitts
Pebbles in the Stream
(Texter/Smoker Fingerless Mittens)
           Michelle, a former colleague of mine, recently sent me an article about men in a Maryland prison learning how to knit (link to article).  The article explains that initially when the knitting instructor, Lynn Zwerling, offered to teach the prisoners how to knit, the burly prisoners were not very interested.  Once started, however, it has become the most popular class in prison.  Over the last two years Zwerling and her associates have taught more than 100 prisoners to knit and there are several names on the waiting list to get into her class.  The men started out making comfort dolls for children being removed from their homes due to domestic issues.  They then moved on to making hats for under-privileged children.  Zwerling believes the men have found the "zen" nature of knitting.  The assistant warden observes that the dynamic within the knitting class is soothing and calm, and that this dynamic goes with the men when they leave knitting class to return to the mainstream of the institution.  When Zwerling was asked in an interview if the men were reluctant knitters, her response was, "They want to knit, they just don't know they want to knit."
The High School Knitting Club
(Chapter 1)
        This prison article reminded me of a "knitting in custody" experience I had in my career as a high school teacher.  At the suggestion of some of my students who knew I was a knitter, one year I started a noon hour knitting club at our high school.  The club was a moderate success, attracting a diverse group of teens who were interested in learning how to knit and how to drink tea.  (I was known to have the occasional tea party for my various English classes.)

        The Knitting Club was rather fluid and relaxed as far as rules, and the students came and went to the weekly meetings.  The closet in my classroom held all the tools necessary for a Knitting Club---needles, yarn, teacups, teapot, teakettle, teabags, the occasional package of cookies.  The Knitting Club was a comfortable place to be and I did actually teach some people how to knit! 
Knitting in Detention 
(Chapter 2)
       During this period of my career, I was not a fan of detentions as a classroom management tool.  There were times, however, when I was forced to impose detentions to comply with school rules. There came a day when I had to impose detentions on one of my homeroom students, John,  for his repeated tardiness.  I had a good relationship with the young man and he was totally cooperative when I told him he had to come to my classroom at noon hour to serve a detention.  I was not content with him sitting there doing nothing and since he had no schoolwork to do, I gave him a tangled mess of yarn that needed to be untangled and rolled into a ball.  I got him started and I worked at my desk while he quietly finished winding the yarn.  When his period of incarceration was over, I released him back into the halls of the school.  The next day he inquired about joining the knitting club.  I encouraged him, of course, and he came to the next meeting and untangled a few more messes. 

 Knitting and Hockey
(Chapter 3)
           Shortly after this incident, one Saturday morning I was walking through a parking lot near my home when I heard someone calling my name.  I looked up to see John, my detention/homeroom student, about to board a yellow school bus.  "Mrs. Fullerton," he yelled across the parking lot.  "I learned how to cast on last night."
         "Really?" I responded, rather surprised at his enthusiasm.  "Who taught you how to do that?"
         "YouTube," he answered.  This was before YouTube was very popular and it was definitely a new field for this middle-aged knitting teacher.  I was impressed but did not want to scare him off with an over-zealous response.   
          "And I bought some white yarn this morning," he added.  "I'm going to knit my mom a scarf." 
         "That's great, John. And where are you off to today?" I asked. 
         "Playing hockey in Harvey," he replied.  "Gonna knit on the bus.  See ya Monday!"
         "Yeah, see you Monday," I answered as he boarded the bus, hockey bag in one hand, knitting bag in the other.


        Until Next Time........


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Turnip Tags

Today's Featured Mittens
Evening in Paris
        When I started naming mittens, I used the backs of old cards to make labels.  After all, recycling and being cheap is part of my "philosophy". I cut the card backs into star shapes, labeled them and tied them to my mittens.  Example below---"Rainbow Through the Fundy Fog".

Rainbow Through the Fundy Fog
              A few months into the mitten-making craze, I remembered the turnip tags I had recently been given by my sister Kathy during her clean-up of the family homestead woodshed.  She had proudly and sarcastically gifted them to me as part of my inheritance.  The turnip tags carry a great deal of memory and were the perfect size to work as mitten labels. 

Turnip Tags 
 Memories on the front.....
Moss Glen
Mitten names on the back.......
Candy Cane

A Turnip Tag Memory:

 When I was a little girl (how many stories start out with this line?), growing up on a mixed farm, everyone in the family had jobs from a very early age.  Although I do not remember the actual incident because I was only three years old at the time, my subsequent work experiences and memories confirms it as truth.  Family legend has it that I was invited to go to visit my Aunt Gladys and her family for a sleepover.  I was very happy to go to her house to visit as the recent birth of my sister had displaced me as the baby in our house.  When I visited Aunt Gladys' house, I was the baby again.  And there was a houseful of people to dote on me, including her elderly parents-in-law.  On this particular visit, I was only allowed to go if I took my work with me.  My job, at age 3, was to string turnip tags on three foot lengths of baler twine.  We used the tagged twine to sew up the top of 5o pound burlap bags of turnips, one of the vegetables we sold from our farm.  So I took my turnip tags and baler twine and went to Aunt Gladys's house.  Once there, Grandpa Harry, Aunt Gladys' father-in-law, felt sorry for me and did my work for me.  Thank you, Grandpa Harry!

Until next time.................

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Casting On: Daycare and The Mitten Tree

Today's Featured Mittens
Aurora Borealis
       I had already started my "named" mitten craze last winter when one of my sisters told me about a daycare in the south end of Saint John,  an economically-challenged neighborhood, that needed wool mittens for their children.  They used to buy wool mittens at craft fairs and church sales but it had become too expensive.  Many of the children were coming wearing dollar store gloves and they were not warm enough.  I had lots of left-over Briggs and Little wool that could easily become mittens for little hands. 
      Unlike some other members of my family, my sister Gail thought the naming of mittens was a neat idea and that it might prevent loss of mittens.  Her idea was that if your mittens had a name, you would try harder to hang on to them.  She thought that might work well in the daycare.  So I made 20 pairs of little mittens for the daycare out of Briggs and Little wool, the best yarn in the land. 
The Children's Line
(Photo Jennie Breen)
     And despite my daughter Emma's initial "reserved and worried" reaction to my naming the mittens, I left the 20 pairs of mittens with her and her friends to name one evening---over a couple of beer, no doubt.  They sort of enjoyed it!  I told them I wanted them to reflect New Brunswick nature.  And here are some of the names they came up with: 
  • Bonfire on Poley Mountain
  • Saint John Bluejay
  • Farmers’ Market Berry Smoothie
  • Fundy Footpath PineNeedles
  • Crabbe Mountain Sunset
  • PineCone Birdfeeder
  • Belleisle Bay Lupins
  • St. Martin’s Shore at Sunrise
  • Fundy Fog at Sunrise
  • Dark Forest in October
  • Autumn Acorn
  • Birchbark Twigs
  • Tabisintac Dreamcather

      I asked Emma's friend, Jennie, to take the mittens out for a photo shoot.  I sent along the Mitten Tree I had made myself from items on hand.
The Mitten Tree
(Photo: Jennie Breen)
       I made The Mitten Tree from a piece of railing left over from the construction of the deck at our cottage, branches I gathered from the woods, and a piece of 2x6 also left over from deck construction.  I trimmed the branches and, using fence staples, attached them to the railing.  Voila!  I love making something from scraps.  Again, recycling and cheap, like the scraps of wool I use to make mittens. 
The Empty Mitten Tree 
Bare bones.  Looks a little crooked but that is the photographer (me), not the construction. 
The Mitten Tree Today
 And this is what it looks like today, with my available stock. 

         And, back to those cold little hands at the daycare in dollar store gloves....  I am of the belief that mittens should be made of wool, not acrylics, as wool is warm and even repels water to an extent.  One should not waste one's time using synthetic yarn for mittens.  (I have broken that rule on occasion to get a certain color or texture.)  

Briggs & Little and Nugget
      My dog, Nugget, believes in Briggs and Little wool also.  A lot of this yarn will be used in a sweater and the left-overs will become mittens. 

The Children's Line
(Photo Jennie Breen)
Until next time....

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Knit One Purl One

        I like the double meaning of "woolgathering" to describe my new blog.  Dictionary definitions include "to engage in fanciful daydreaming; idleness; absent-mindedness; indulgence in fancies and in daydreaming; imaginative thoughts indulged in while awake; dreamy in mood or nature."
       I am not sure that I live up to all those descriptors, but I do to an extent.  As for the literal meaning of wool-gathering, ie collecting wool, I do live up to that.  I may even be classified as a wool hoarder......but gathering is a much nicer word than hoarding.
        So I intend that my blog will be about the "fanciful daydreaming and  imaginative thoughts" as well as literal wool-gathering and its related activity of knitting and such.  I may be optimistic in suggesting my thoughts will be fanciful, imaginative and dreamy so let's just say it will be about my thoughts and observations in my rather ordinary life. 
       On the literal wool-gathering front, currently my focus is on mittens and I may be a little obsessed.  I have made hundreds of pairs over the last couple of years.  I make the mittens, name them, photograph them, post them and sell them.  Here is an example.
      These mittens are called Tapestry.  The photo is taken on the deck of my cottage on the St. John River.  I gave these mittens to my niece, Kimberley.  I want to make sure that I make some item for each of my nieces and nephews so that when I am old, they will remember me with fondness (maybe) and cater to my whims and wishes (maybe).  Old Age Insurance. 
        I called these mittens Tapestry because they are made of left-over tapestry yarn given to me by my husband's Aunt Irene.  That is another one of my obsessions or challenges.  I like to get people's scraps, ends, leftover yarns and create the mittens from them.  The challenge is to find colors and patterns to suit the scraps and to use up almost every bit of yarn.  It is partly recycling and partly cheap.

       I started naming my mittens because I was inspired by colors and sights in nature that reminded me of the colors of yarn I was using.  And vice versa---colors of wool I was using reminded me of nature.  So originally the mitten names were nature-themed such as the following....
Purple Violets by the Fence.....

Birch Woods.....

Snow Flurries at Night......

Smokey Mountain High...
Emerging Spring....

Smoky Asters off the Path...
Then I got a little literary. 
Evening Snow Shall Bring Such Peace....
I'm not sure if David Adams Richards knows that some little girl is wearing a pair of mittens named after his novel.
And a little musical with Bob Dylan mittens:
Tangled up in Blue....
Then into the movies with:
Pretty in Pink....
My daughters thought I had gone over the edge when I started naming the mittens.  They might say I was....

Madly off in all Directions....

Until next time...