Thursday, May 27, 2010

Square Knitting Needles & Whether you're a Process or End Product Knitter

It was interesting at the Yarn & Needle Tasting on Saturday that nobody liked the square needles I had out for "tasting". I'd been receiving a lot of calls recently inquiring about whether I stock them or not. I had decided last year not to stock them because I hated knitting on them myself. But after all the calls over the last month or so, I began questioning my decision not to stock them. But when not a single one of the Needle Tasters on Saturday liked knitting with them, I was assured that my decision was the right one.
I know there's some chatter out there amongst knitters that feel the square needles are easier on their hands, but for me, knitting on them is jerky...rather like driving down a road filled with pot holes....bumpy and jerky like the very very long dirt road we traversed on Sunday to get to the trail head for West Mountain (the views from on top you can see here). Somehow the square edge "catches" so making a stitch is not fluid. That's my experience anyway.
Yesterday a customer was in and mentioned that she's been knitting on the square needles but doesn't like them. That led us to a discussion about whether we knit for the "process" or for the "end product". I know I knit for the process more than the end product (not that I don't love the end product too!). But I know that even if I and everyone I know never needed another sock, mitten, hat, scarf, shawl, sweater, etc, I'd still knit, felt, spin and weave because it's an important creative outlet for me.
Where do you come down on this spectrum....more about the process or the end product?

As a side note, I too suffer from terrible hand pain sometimes when knitting or felting. My solutions include wearing the compression gloves & bamboo needles when I knit with the non elastic fibers like cotton, hemp, linen, soy, etc.(although I still love my Addi's for protein fibers), also stopping every 30 mins to stretch the hands, fingers, wrists, arms and front chest muscles really thoroughly, alternating between continental and my expedited version of throwing the yarn, and lastly, working in a crochet project between knits since it uses different hand motions!
And as for tips I have for saving the hands from felting strain... I am just trying not to do so much squeezing as I used to use in the final felting steps.
Does anyone else have suggestions or thoughts on saving our hands for our fiber addiction?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The St. Croix Hair Sheep

Mother's Day and it's snowing like a blizzard out there! I thought the 6" of snow we had on April 28th was unusual and kind of fun in its novelty, but this is ridiculous! I had planned to garden today but knew as Chloe and I were returning from our early morning walk and I could see snowflakes building up on her black coat that we were in for it! So I thought while I enjoyed my second cup of coffee and before I laid out some felt slippers for next weekend's Footwear and Sox Extravaganza, that I'd blog about another one of the unusual sheep I encountered at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last weekend(there's a little blurb on the Ouessant Sheep in the latest newsletter which you can access from the website's homepage if you're interested)...
There were several sheep breeds at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last weekend that were new to me. It seemed to be the year for "island" breeds...the Barbados Blackbelly, the St. Croix, and the Ouessant (from a small island off the coast of Brittany)!
None of these are breeds that are going to take the spinning, knitting or felting world by storm since they either have no wool or little wool but just the same, I thought it interesting to learn about them if for no other reason than they are relatviely rare and it is nice to see that there are breeders doing what they can to preserve some of these unusual breeds. Diversity is a good thing.
The St. Croix is a hornless, all white sheep that does not have wool but rather a hollow medular hair that sheds on its own. While shedding, the St. Croix look rather ragged, as you can see from the photo of the sheeps back, above. I wish I could have gotten a photo of a ram's is really lion-like! Unfortunately,the only sheep I could get head shots of were the ewes, shown above. St. Croix's feature a fine grained, low fat meat(my apologies to all vegetarians for talking about them this way!) and since they don't require the cost of shearing, have few hoof problems and a great inherent resistance to internal parasites and fly strike, they make a lot of sense to raise if you're raising sheep for meat.
I suppose the St. Croix hair, like horse hair or the outer guard hairs of other double coated sheep, might be good for spinning into a coarse rug warp or into twine, but from what I gleaned from the handlers at the show about this sheep, if anyone offers you some hair from a St. Croix sheep for your fiber arts activities, you might want to pass on it and save your precious time with a nice wool!