Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Made in America?

Courtesy of www.westfield.ma.edu

Growing up, I remember many of my "Lowell Relatives" working in the textile mills in Lowell Massachusetts.  In fact, my grandmother left school after fifth grade because a financial need in the family meant that she go to work there.  Of course, this was not unusual in that day and age. Years later, we would sometimes go to the "mill stores" along the Merrimack River to purchase seconds from the factories for our home sewing.  When I moved to Georgia, my best friend and I made more than one such trip to the southern textile factory that was fairly close by.

Today, I try to carry American made products in the shop whenever I can, but the majority of fabric is produced overseas and then imported.  I have better luck with locally and American produced yarn and also carry a line of knitting needles and crochet hooks, Brittany Birch, that are a totally American production.  But again, some of the yarn and notions I carry are produced overseas.

Courtesy of Brittany Birch Co.


So, it was with pleasure that I read the following in a Knitting Daily email I received about the editor's recent trip to India to visit the Knitter's Pride factory:


We also became acquainted with the company's corporate giving, which includes establishing and continuing to fund a rural school that prioritizes the education of girls. Knitter's Pride executives are passionate about the advancement of girls and women, as the company's hiring policy demonstrates: any woman who wants a job with the company is hired, no exceptions. For women in remote villages, such economic opportunities are rare.

Because the end users of these needles are predominantly women, it's encouraging to know our crafting cash goes back to women in some important way.


Courtesy of Interweave Press

I agree!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Of Memories, Mothers, and Making Mistakes



It's been months since I posted anything on this blog, despite my good intentions to do so.  Three topics have been running around in my mind and I've decided to combine them, if for no other reason than the wonderful alliterative quality of the title above.

The first topic has to do with memories and how people who make it up the twenty stairs to The Quilted Purl want to share those memories.  The most common trigger for these memories are the three antique sewing machines in the shop.  The one pictured above is my most recent addition and came from right here in Georgetown.  So many folks turn to one another, or to me, and recall how Mother or Grandmother had one just like it.  Or they compare and contrast my machines to the ones of memory.  If the folks are related in any way the conversation often turns to, "Whatever happened to that machine?  Who has it now?" and occasionally,  "Do you think it's worth anything?"  And then there are the beautiful reminiscences of the items lovingly made on those machines.  For a few moments we are all transported to the past and the loved ones who spent time creating clothing, bedding, and memories.


Of course while folks are tapping their pasts, it's my past and the women pictured above that come to my mind.  My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all  figure into my thoughts of knitting, sewing, and crocheting and provide such a sense of continuity not only of love, but also of handwork.  And it's the same for so many folks.  

In November of this past year, I lost my Aunt Ann with whom I shared a love of knitting socks.  My brothers, both Catholic priests, concelebrated the funeral Mass and one of them said this in the homily:

Brothers and sisters,
we believe that all the ties of friendship and affection
which knit us as one throughout our lives
do not unravel with death.

Just two weeks ago when I visited in Kingston
I remember seeing some knitting on two needles,
on the floor next to Ann’s chair.
And I remember wondering two things:   
First: what was she making?
And second, would she have time to complete it?

Sadly, the skein of Ann’s life came to an end
before she finished her knitting.
But there was another, more important kind of knitting Ann did:
the knitting of friendship and affection,
the knitting of a love that does not unravel, not even with death.
Whether you and I know how to work with those long needles or not,
we are all called to fashion those same
 “ties of friendship and affection,”  ties of love,
that bind us together with God and with one another.

I don’t knit.  I’ve only watched others do it.
But I know that knitting is a slow process,
where every single “knit and purl” counts.
It’s one stitch at a time, over and over again, one row at a time…
And I know that sometimes a knitter “drops” a stitch
and needs either to rip out some of what’s been done
or go back and, cleverly, pick up a dropped stitch.

(For the rest of the homily click here.)

A few weeks ago, one of my cousins posted on Facebook a picture of the socks Ann had made for her.  One by one, her siblings all commented on the pair of socks their mother had made for each of them, and the joy they find in having them.


This fall a young woman who lives in town, came by wanting to brush up on her knitting skills.  Through chatting I learned that her mother, a great knitter, had passed away this summer and now she wanted to get back to knitting in her memory.  In fact, she brought by yarn that had been made from the fleece of sheep her mother has raised.  What a lovely tribute to a mother so missed.  Which leads us to the third topic, making mistakes.



Which of us hasn't made a few mistakes in our lives, only to have the help of a mother or grandmother in correcting them?  I make mistakes everyday as I knit or quilt and have the tools at hand to correct those mistakes.  Sometimes it's just a matter of a few stitches to tink (think "knit" backwards) or maybe I have to frog a whole piece (think of what a frog says) and rip it out.  The seam rippers and I are on very good terms and they have saved more than one disaster at the sewing machine.  The young woman mentioned above has been in several times for a bit of help with correcting a mistake and it's a pleasure to see her satisfied look when she's able to recognize and correct the mistakes herself.

Some mistakes are more serious and call for greater correction.  A few months ago, the man who runs the programs at the county jail came by the shop wondering if I might be able to donate some yarn for a  crochet project some of the women in the facility were working on.  The requirements for the inmates were that they produce three projects (in this case, infant blankets) for charity and then could make something for themselves or a family member.  I was happy to oblige and asked if they knew how to knit, which they did not.  So, two women from town and I volunteered to teach knitting at the jail.  

We had no idea of what to expect.  Actually, we were a bit surprised that the inmates would be allowed knitting needles at all and it was with some trepidation that we approached the meeting room where we would be locked in with the inmates for a hour or so.  They quickly put us at ease as one by one, they introduced themselves, shook hands, and thanked us for taking the time to teach them knitting.  For the next ninety minutes, we were simply a group of women chatting, laughing, and knitting or at least attempting to knit.  

Week after week, we were never sure who would be there, who may have made bail, or sadly, been transferred to another facility.  There were two constants: gratitude and the mention of mothers.  Some of the inmates were mothers themselves and talked about their children and their hopes for them.  Not all had the benefit of a mother to set a good example, but all spoke with love and acceptance, no matter the circumstances.  Several remembered mothers or grandmothers who knitted or crocheted, and one wanted to knit because her daughter had learned how and she wanted to be able to share that with her when she was released.

These last two weeks, we had no one for the class as not everyone meets the criteria to be eligible to attend.  Our two most faithful students had both moved to different facilities, the program director told me when he came by the shop earlier this week and none of the other women were eligible.  However, there were  a couple of men (trustees) who were interested in learning to knit if we were willing.  We were. So this morning,  Sandi and I spent ninety minutes guiding three men through the mysteries of casting on and the knit stitch, amid laughter and gratitude.  And of course, one of the first things one of the men said was, "My mother used to do this.  She made me an afghan."  And he said it with great love.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Preserving the Past (and a few strawberries)


A few days ago, I put up a double batch of strawberry-pineapple jam while my mind took a walk down memory lane.  

My first memory of making jam goes back to when I was a very young girl, perhaps only five or six years old.  The setting was my grandmother's kitchen and the cast of characters included  Memere (my grandmother), my mom, my aunts Jeannette and Theresa, and myself.  

The kitchen was definitely a "women's place" in my family in those days, and at last I was to be part of that special group.  My job was to wash the fruit and hull the strawberries, as I was too young to be involved with the boiling water bath or the melted paraffin wax.  No matter:  I was now part of the "in crowd" as far as I was concerned.  And it felt just fine!

Through the years, we would continue to make the delicious jam as soon as the fresh strawberries adorned the shelves at Antoinette's small fruit stand.  The glasses would be washed, the strawberries prepared, sugar added, and the magic would take place.  As time went on, I was trusted with more dangerous work and became more a part of the conversations.  Sometimes, it would be just me and Mom making the jam at our home and that also felt just fine.

As a young mother, my family moved to Georgia and I met my best friend, Maria Elena.  Before long we were putting up peach preserves at her house and making strawberry-pineapple jam at mine.  Sure enough, her daughters Colleen and Maria Elena were involved, and sometimes we had the wonderful help and company of Maria Elena's mother from Chile, Abuelita.

I was all by myself this week as I made my first batch of jam in years, and probably my first solo batch ever.  But, my mind and heart enjoyed the company of so many special women in my life.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Four Pieces of Wood



Generally, I follow the same route on my morning walk which means that I pass these trees several times a week. They're by the side of the road, not hidden in any way, but I had never noticed them until about a week ago and then only because my grandson, Austin, pointed them out to me.  He  told me there was an old ladder there - and, sure enough, there is.  Well, really only four pieces of wood, but arranged so they could be a ladder. 

A few days later, my husband and I were driving Austin and his sister, Ruby, home.  As we approached the trees, Austin called out for Grandpa to stop the car to see the ladder.  Then our grandson told us a delightful story of how a fox had built a tree house up above but that both the fox and the tree house were now long gone, with just the ladder as a reminder of the fox's fun there.

I wish I could think as a five-year-old...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Block of the Month in Czarist Russia?

One of our many ports of call was St. Petersburg, Russia.  As we toured the Hermitage, Peterhof, and the Yusupov Palace, I was probably the only person taking more pictures of the flooring than many of the other amazing architectural wonders and works of art.  But I kept wondering, did Catherine the Great belong to a Block of the Month Club?











Saturday, June 8, 2013

In Touch with the Past



When we arrived in Aarhus, Denmark, we were greeted by this charming young woman with information and an invitation to visit Den Gamle By.  We'd already chosen this outdoor museum as our destination for Aarhus, so we didn't need to be sold on the idea, but noticing the beautiful shawl, Nancy and I had many questions about the possibility of finding some yarn there.  The young lady had knitted this traditional shawl herself and assured us we wouldn't be disappointed.  We weren't!



I was able to purchase a kit for this traditional tie shawl at the museum store.  The directions were all in Danish, but included an email address to get the "recipe" in English!  They sent it along with good wishes for my shawl knitting.

Here are a few pics of the sights at Den Gamle By that concerned fiber processing and sales in the past.  Hope you enjoy them!







This flight of stairs led to the looms above.  I don't want to hear any more complaints about my stairs at the shop!


Finally, my favorite picture from Den Gamle By ...



Thursday, June 6, 2013

On the Sea Again

European additions to my stash
My husband Bob, sister-in-law Nancy, and I recently returned from a fantastic "trip of a lifetime."  We crossed the Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale to Cobh, County Cork, Ireland.  From there we had stops in England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Russia, finally flying home from Vienna, Austria.

Nancy and I decided to give the "Knitters and Natters" group on board ship a try and were the first to show up at the appointed spot, 30 minutes early.  Though they were an interesting group of women, Nancy and I both agreed the amount of "nattering" wasn't conducive to too much knitting.  In fact, we both ended up frogging our work from that meeting.  Several of us were a little horrified when one woman told us she hadn't brought her knitting because the yarn would take up too much space in her luggage!  We were ten days at sea before our first stop - I can think of any number of items that would be ditched before my yarn and needles!


Of course, my search for local yarn shops and locally produced yarn continued on this trip.  We made a return visit to Vivi's Trading Company in Kinsale, Ireland and picked up a couple of skeins of "Soft Donegal" and had the chance to see how Vivi's has grown in its first year and as you can see, it's doing well!


Inside Vivi's Trading Co.




My favorite stop on the cruise was in Tallinn, Estonia.  Right on the dock are a set of shops that give a taste of what a tourist may want to bring home.  At my first stop, I met and chatted with the owner and knitter, Mary Ann, a delightful woman.

Mary Ann in her shop at the Tallinn Dock

Most of the knitted goods available in Tallinn are machine knitted and extremely well done. At the end of the day, I returned to Mary Ann's shop to purchase one of her beautiful sweaters for myself and a couple of Christmas gifts.  From the dock, we headed to Lower Old Town where, in the shade of the town wall, knitters set up stands to sell the products of their hands and machines.






Such a treat to be able to meet the women who have created such lovely items.  They know the worth of their products, set a very fair price, and don't bargain!  My kind of women!

While in Tallinn, I was able to find the colorful ball of yarn on top of the pile in the picture at the top of this post.  It apparently is a popular colorway as it can be seen in most of the shops.

From inside Kalliver, a "linen" shop in Lower Old Town Tallinn 
Next up - Den Gamle By, Aarhus, Denmark!