Thursday, April 26, 2012

3KCBWDAY4 All Things Woolly and Wonderful


On the day that I was born there was a snow storm, and when it subsided my mother went for a long walk.  It was January, and my family was living in New Jersey.  Perhaps it was this trek in the snow and my childhood home state that shaped my relationship with the climate I live in now and the type of knitter I am today. 



While not Maine or Canada, Jersey does have some cold winter days, so that typically, when I was a child, each year there were at least several days when it was safe to ice skate on a nearby pond.  Even if it meant feet that ached miserably when they thawed out after a day's skating, the lure of the activity was inescapable.  And, even though I am very sensitive to the cold, when bundled up properly, the northeastern winter weather does not bother me.  Rather, cold days, then and now, tend to invigorate me--as long as I am wearing layers of my favorite woolens.  In fact, when I was in college, I spent a weekend cross country skiing in upstate New York and I was the only member of my small group of friends who did not get painfully cold because I was wearing a zip-up sweater, hat, mittens, and leg warmers made of Icelandic wool.  I wasn't a knitter at the time, but had begged my mother for these expensive items for some time, until she finally bought them for me as a Christmas present.



Ironically, as a lover of all things woolly, I now live in North Carolina, where during some winters there are only a handful of days when wearing wool or alpaca makes sense.  In fact, many inhabitants of this state seem to forgo winter clothes entirely, and it is common to see people sporting flip flops and T-shirts on chilly December or January days. 



But, despite my southern locale, I can't say that the climate of the state where I reside has impacted my knitting much.  In fact, I have enough handmade woolen cowls, hats, sweaters, and shawls to outfit several soccer teams.  When the temperature is scorching in July and August, I sometimes find myself sweating under a blanket of a garment I am knitting, an item that is invariably made out of chunky alpaca or heavy worsted wool. I am simply a sucker for these fibers.



While our climate is relatively mild, we North Carolina residents
frequently have to deal with ice storms. 


It's not just the desire to wear warm clothes that inspires my purchases.  Some fiber, for me, is an avenue of escape.  As I work with wool, I imagine women of the past in Cotswold cottages, spinning by an open hearth, and then working up warm garments for their family.  I see a seaside cottage in some cold northern clime, the wind whistling outside, while the warmth of wool and tea on the hob stave off the chill.  I think about woolly sheep on some flowery meadow in England or Ireland, and how for centuries the natural cycle of fiber production has continued in this part of the world.  When I work with alpaca, I imagine the adorable creatures who produce this fiber and the long journey these animals (or their ancestors) took to farms in the United States.  While I'm not such a romantic that I consciously lose myself in these images while I knit, I do think that they linger in the back of my mind, inspiring me escape from my suburban schoolteacher life by knitting each day. 



Living in a geographical area famous for producing and milling cotton (industries which have since moved to other countries), one would think that I would be inspired to work with this fiber  instead of wool.   I do enjoy the feel and appearance of soft cotton yarns, yarns that would be lighter and cooler and would receive more wear in my part of the country.  Also, cotton yarns tend to come in spring colors, which reflect the bright colors of North Carolina's natural environment.  I have knitted a sea-foam blue-green lace vest, and the cotton is light and cool.  Perhaps I should work on something else airy and open using cotton or linen or bamboo.  Maybe someday . . .  But for now I've got a heathery wool tweed cape to complete, just perfect for walking on a snow-covered moor. 

9 comments:

  1. Love the picture of the alpaca! I loved hearing about your childhood connection to fiber. And yet again, you are making me so happy I chose to move to North Carolina. Although I'll have to admit that I will miss not being able to wear alpaca sweaters.

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    1. You'll have a few days you can wear them. And you can always drive to the mountains (where it's colder and there are some great knitting stores). Be certain to go to the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) in Asheville in October.

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  2. And didn't you guys just get a snowstorm? My mom lives in NC and we will be visiting her soon. I'm packing for summer weather, but I'd better throw in a cardigan, huh?

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    1. We haven't had snow this year in my part of NC (the Piedmont area), but its much colder in the mountains, with skiing, snow, etc.

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  3. Have to comment on this post too! Lovely atmospheric writing. I live quite close to the Cotswolds and you describe them and the rest of the English countryside so beautifully. Not that it's been all that beautiful the last few days when it has been very grey and wet and English in not a good way! I think the riot of the imagination that any kind of creative occupying-the-hands- activity releases is one of its best things. Stay with it and enjoy! E x

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I'd love to see your part of the world someday. (I've been to England once before, but spent most of the time in London.)

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  4. Here in Scotland it's always woolly weather! What a lovely read, thanks :-)

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  5. What a beautiful post! I especially loved your description of a cold English day. I love to read books that describe scenes like that as an escape too. And hello from a fellow North Carolinian :)

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