Monday, April 14, 2008

A knitting and felting tale....

Once upon a time there was a little knitter with a reputation for tackling the insane and impossible. Her friend Kathy came to her and said "Little Knitter, can you make me a Ginormous Felted Bag, sort of like this one that I designed, and can you have it done, dried and ready to go by Tuesday?" The little knitter had a really hard time saying the word "no". She'd spent so many many years saying, whispering, shouting, screaming it at her various children that she just could not make her mouth form the word any more. Instead of a logical "No, I don't have time..." what came out of her mouth sounded more like "Awesome. Can I color block it? How big you want it? Really huge? Like, how ginormous?"
The knitter and Kathy decided on a color scheme for the project. Purples. And chose a yarn. Berkshire Bulky. 3 balls of Red Purple and 2 balls each of Pale Lilac, Periwinkle and Amethyst, along with some US 15 needles. Little Knitter returned to her home and began to knit on Thursday. She knit and she knit and she knit. Relentlessly, endlessly, just like during the 36 hour cashmere sweater. By Friday she looked like this:
For a little while the bag looked like this:
And by Sunday it looked like this:
It is Ginormous and I love it. I'd knit another one for me if I had time. Perfect for sheep and wool season, which is upon us. MUCH room for the buying of yarn and fleece and roving and such. Here's what you do - buy The Vermont Felted Bag pattern from Webs/Valley Yarns. Cast on twice as many stitches as the bag calls for. Work in garter stitch for 8 rows instead of 4. Then begin working color blocks, each 34 stitches wide, for 50 rows. Change to the other two colors and work another 50 rows. Make the bag bottom the same size as the Vermont bag, then complete the other side of the bag just like above. Handles should be 5" longer than the originals before felting, and should be 8 stitches wide. Then you felt the whole shooting match by running it through your washer in hot water. After it's felted fully, brush vigorously with a dog brush which gives the bag a great halo. Find huge buttons and use them to attach the handles. Then carry it everywhere. I'd love to see it done in other colors, too...and embellished...I wanted to embellish it in the worst way, and line it as well.
Last week I met up with Kristin Nicholas at a cafe nearby to discuss my book and technique, as she'll present it on Knit and Crochet Today. While I was waiting for her, sipping my latte and watching my laptop download updates and podcasts, I let my mind wander over our meeting place. When I was a teenager it was my favorite hang-out. My friend Kim and I would go in with our limited cash flow and order ice cream, or a grilled cheese and fries, or just Coke from the fountain. Real Coke, syrup and water with bubbles. It was a bustling hub of a place, with booths and counter service seats with spinning stools and lots of activity; local color you'd call it in a vigorous New England small town. I miss the original. The reinvention, Cafe Koko, is coffee and sandwiches, little tables, and free wifi, always a benefit. Very hip and funky looking place, and I found it relatively comfortable. Time and big box discount retail and recessions of varying degrees have done a number on the community and what was once thriving is now worn and dying. Businesses don't last long when they manage to open. Industry doesn't live here any more. I yearn for the good old days, when it was the Corner Cupboard and the waitresses got mad as hell at me and Kim for splitting without tipping; when every shop on Main Street was bustling with activity, and it was a safe and comfortable little world, or so we thought. I found a piece of the old there, nestled in among the bright colors of the hand-decorated ceiling tiles and the buzz of the espresso machine. Green spinning chrome stools. Diner stools which comfort me and make me feel at home.
My best friend manages a store in town, and works closely with the business association to revitalize the area. I hope she is successful. The county seat should be more than what it is today, more like what it was then. And I need to talk to Cafe Koko about a gluten free menu.

Lois writes:
I started reading your blog because of your mention of Shelburne Falls and surrounding area. My in-laws are from that area. I am in Arkansas so it is always interesting to read your blog not only for the knitting but also for the references to the surrounding area.

I enjoy posting about the area. I have lived here for all of my life, grew up in Northfield and Greenfield. As I said above, I miss what the county once was, but I have hope that the area can thrive again. Places I remember from my childhood had no choice but to close up when business dried up. The demographic has shifted dramatically and unhealthily. It's sad to think about the bad changes, and it's not the way I'd want things to continue. I'd like to see an influx of business and industry, enough to reconnect the town with vital financial resources. The two largest employers in town are gone and with them went the life's blood of the whole county. It's very sad. Even our local newspaper has given up on Greenfield - The Recorder cut at least 16 local jobs and moved it's printing operation to Northampton. The Recorder is now printed in the same facility as the Gazette. I am so disappointed by this decision that I do not intend to renew my subscription. Something has to change to keep jobs IN Greenfield, and bring new business in. OK. Hopping off soap box now.

Technikat asks:
For a city girl, why are those sheep wearing coats? And why doesn't the tan one have a coat too?

I can't answer specifically for Barb's sheep, but generally sheep wear coats to keep the stuff we kindly refer to as vegetable matter out of their fleece, and sometimes for added warmth after shearing. These ewes are mostly all about to lamb (actually, as I write this, some of them have given birth - look!), so a clean, short wool coat is a good thing to have. The big ewe in the back who's not in a coat is also not bred, nor has she been shorn recently.

Rudee says:
Your reddish colored smooshy looks like mine. Is that Chinatown Apple?

Yes, Chinatown Apple and Beach Fog. Love it. It's not going to work for the project I had in mind, however, so I bought some Mountain Colors Bearfoot instead. More about that next time!

Exciting news - Ravelry has added pattern purchase options! I currently have one pattern for sale via download, my Sojourner Socks, and a free download of the Happy Butterfly Headwrap pattern. We'll be adding more patterns for sale soon, and an additional free pattern. I've got five sock pattern just waiting to be formatted and tidied up. I'll post pictures of them here as well.

Deep and abiding trauma - I am nowhere near the Nerd I wish I were. Sigh.

I am nerdier than 64% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!


Yarnhog said...

Having recently made a ginormous bag myself, I can appreciate both the size and the oddly compelling nature of knitting row after row on something that more closely resembles an afghan, knowing that you're going to shrink the thing down to half its original size (and kinda wondering about the sense of all that...)

Yours looks awesome! I love the shape and colors. I never thought of brushing felt after its done. I can see how that would make for a lovely, fuzzy texture.

Rudee said...

I love the bag. Very pretty choice of colors!

It's so hard to watch the economic decline of many small towns and big cities. The effect of losing manufacturing jobs to other countries is devastating. Repercussions do trickle down slowly but surely. Our hospital which used to operate modestly in the black is now in the red due to loss of automotive jobs and health care insurance in metro Detroit. Surely, this needs to end. I hope your friend can make a healthy go of her business.


tina said...

That Kathy is one lucky girl! LOVE the ginormous bag. Sooooooooo, just how long DID it take you to knit????

I don't for the life of me know why I am such a sucker for great bags!

Kristi said...

Love, love LOVE IT!!!! I am a purple girl myself. I believe that the only thing better than shopping for a new bag is to shop for the yarn to make the new bag. Two loves in one!

Anonymous said...

Don't you find Cafe KoKo smells disgustingly like old bacon? I can't get past it. And it's usually got a crazy homeless person or three in it. Greenfields Market has a nice little coffee nook in the downstairs.