Martina says: "Sometimes, the world around me seems a little bit too loud, too crowded, too busy. When that happens, I take out my knitting, find a place to sit and feel how the noise slowly disappears while I knit one stitch after another. As I focus on the work of my hands, I notice how my mind regains clarity and strength - a state called 'Samadhi' in the ancient Asian language Pali [...]"
Karie Westermann (designer of the Vedbaek shawl*, among many other lovely things) has just this morning launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a most interesting-sounding project. This Thing of Paper is, in summary, "a knitting book with ten patterns and accompanying essays – all inspired by the age of Johan Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press."
This is Daughter of a Shepherd yarn. If you've not already come across the story behind it (click here, here, here, here, and for a bit more background, here) it's very much worth reading, and if you have a liking for 'real' wool, then snap up a skein or two if you can*.
It's the colour of bitter chocolate, darkest peat, or good earth, it's soft but characterful, and it smells deliciously of sheep and hay and fresh air. I like it so much I've ordered more.
If you struggle to avoid the little 'hole' which occurs between the heel and the instep when knitting socks, help is at hand. When you've turned the heel and picked up the stitches on the edge of the heel flap, patterns often tell you to pick up one extra stitch before and after working the instep part of the round, but I've never seen one explain how best to do so. I've tried various permutations of knitting through the back loop, or into the row below, and sometimes this does the trick, but it's hit-or-miss.
Paula Emons-Fuessle of The Knitting Pipeline has helpfully filmed a short tutorial showing a good method of avoiding the hole; I've just used it for my current sock (pictured above, one round after picking up the heel stitches, and below, a little further on), and found it excellent for closing the gap after you've picked up the left-hand side of the heel stitches, less good - for some reason I do not understand - on the other side, but I shall persevere.
Edited to add: if you're still having trouble, try these socks in which the holes become part of the design.
Purely by chance, all things Irish converged in these socks: the pattern is called Dublin Bay, the wool is Cork-based Hedgehog Fibres' Sock Yarn ('Wish'), and I finished them on St. Patrick's Day. In real life the colour is more peacock green than emerald, and it's richer than the picture suggests. That said, gallons of dye came out when I washed them and I fear there's more to come next time, so be aware of that should you choose this yarn.
This was a straightforward knit, and a good one to try if you're prone to getting little holes at the 'corners' when you pick up the heel stitches because you knit into the openwork section on both sides so any gap becomes a design feature! My project notes are here.
"In the lovely Estonian town of Viljandi there lives a young artist by the name of Kristi Jōeste who has knitted hundreds of pairs of exquisite gloves. [...]
Every knitter and every glove has a story to tell.
Museums have preserved many wondrous old gloves but very few stories. [...]
Kristi Jōeste invited her childhood friend, the well-known Estonian writer Kristiina Ehin, to write the stories.
And so this isn't by any means a typical handicraft book.
In this book art meets literature in two creative women, one who expresses herself by means of knitting and the other by means of words.
Kristi Jōeste's lively use of patterns from Estonian folk art, her carefully chosen colours and tight weave as it was done centuries ago are compelling in their perfection.
Kristiina Ehin's sensitive and imaginative stories about Estonian women who knitted invite us to travel with her in our thoughts to the times when a magical world of glove patterns was created in the grey day-to-day of nearly every farmhouse."
I'm reading Ornamented Journey by Kristi Jōeste and Kristiina Ehin, from which the above is the introduction. It's not a book of patterns, although there are instructions for some of the techniques involved in the designs, but you could adapt the designs to patterns you already have - should you not wish to knit at the gauge of some of the work shown: e.g. one-ply yarn on 0.7mm (US 000000) needles, 172 stitches around the hand!
The book tells us that gloves accompanied Estonian people throughout their lives, and patterned gloves were believed to increase good fortune and keep evil at bay, which is no doubt why such skill and artistry went into their making. The gloves, mittens and wrist warmers shown involve various techniques such as embroidery, appliqué, entrelac, Roositud inlay, beading, and colourwork, and all are beautiful. The stories - I'm in the midst of them now - complement them perfectly.
Lastly, a word on where to find the book. I put it in my basket at Loop's online shop and took it out again when I discovered how much the postage would be. You can get it from the publisher, Saara, via Amazon which is what I did; the postage was very reasonable and it took a week to get here. I've since discovered that you can order directly from Saara where the book is cheaper, but I can't speak to the cost of delivery. They also sell yarn, needles, kits, and other bits and pieces.
When Blacker Yarns released their limited edition Cornish Tin to mark their 10th. birthday, I managed to get some of the 4 ply in Botallack Blue. It's a blend of ten fibres: alpaca, mohair, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Texel, English Merino, Falklands Merino, and Gotland/Romney Cross, and teamed with some Blacker Classic for contrast heels and toes, it has made a sturdy, warm pair of socks. I like the woolliness of these socks, their dense fabric (56 stitches on a 2.25mm needle), and the way the mix of fibres takes the dye and adds depth to the colour.
The world's largest collection of blue wool* grows a little bigger.
Above is newly arrived Anzula Squishy from Meadow Yarn, while on its way to me is a little something from Miss Clack Clack whose wares I discovered just the other day; her inky, purpley blues especially are hard to resist.