Saturday, June 28, 2008

Phew, weekend, weeds

Aren't  these Mulleins wild weeds? They are in my neighbour's driveway, growing from the crack between the asphalt driveway and the house. They're in their second year and will no doubt be pulled up shortly as the house is due to be painted next month.

Couldn't knit a stitch last night due to Friday night neck strain. Funny, when you're young, you just itch for the end of the week, then later in life you're content to relax at home and recover from the week.

I now have a deadline of July 16th to finish the baby blanket I am working on so I'll have to put my other projects aside until I have make serious advancements on the baby blanket. Here is the latest picture of Big Baby, the cardi based on on EZ's Baby Surprise Jacket: :

I have since finished the garter stitch border along the bottom and picked up a sleeve on dpn's and started to knit it. It's big enough that the knitting is rather clumsy and I wish I had a suitable circular needle instead.

In other knitting I have finished one pair of the lurid socklets and continue to doe a few rows every day or two on the KPPPM cardigan.

The garden beckons. Summer here is short. If you're not careful, it becomes a row of dates on a calendar and if you shut your eyes, it's gone.

This year has been fairly stressful for some plants and trees. It's alternately hot and cold and there have been great dumpings of rain on an irregular basis, so alternately too dry and too wet. Looked at the Saucer Magnolia this morning and it has a fungus (!).

But then there are strawberries which are doing very nicely

And daisies:

And day lilies. Here are some common ones, gowing out on an angle from under a bush:

The peonies are over of course, but they were lovely. I've moved all of my peonies to get ready to build the porch and the ones that I moved last Fall aren't what I'd wish. This lot were moved 2 years ago and are looking fine:

Now that we have a back porch, we're able to wander out into the garden into the morning. This fits well into any stress reduction plan. Hope it can help with neck strain...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clarification on last post

Quick update. I found a better microfilm copy of the Democrat and Chronicle from October 30, 1935 and can tell you this.

In the period between 1932 and 1935, the Knitting Section of the Rochester Branch of the Needlework Guild of America took in 4,385 hand knitted garments from about 100 expert knitters. The bigger number, 15,425 new garments, that is referred to at the end of the article must refer to sewn garments as well. After all, it was the Needlework Guild.

So. Our intake though the community knitting program of the Rochester Knitting Guild today is not so shabby after all. For the past couple of years, we have collected over 1,000 items from our members each year. I know it's not a competition, but it's still interesting. I'll get back to my mittens now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Coming along

Reading through all these old newspaper articles about the Knitting Bureau has got me thinking about our Guild's fall drive for mittens for the Rochester City Schools. Last year a teacher approached the person in charge of Community Knitting and asked for some insane number of mittens for her students. Of course, there was no time to knit them and so we agreed that we'd try for the coming year. Here is my first pair. I knit them using Elizabeth Durand's Basic Pattern for Children's Mittens and some pale pink Germantown I salvaged from a friend's attic. Hey, it only took a couple of hours to do and I feel much better about this than I did about those yellow socklets I was knitting.

Anyway, about Rochester Knitting History. There is so much to tell and so little time to write. I'll just keep posting it in snippets here. I dug up another article from the Democrat and Chronicle from 1935 talking about the Knitting Section of the Needlework Guild of America that reports on their progress and fills out the picture a bit. I've typed it out here from a very bad copy that was difficult to read. I am uncertain about a few of the numbers and words and I'll verify them as soon as I can get my hands on a better copy.

Democrat and Chronicle Wednesday October 30th 1935

"This is the fourth year a group of knitters has done this work for children in need of pure wool clothing. Started in 1932 with a fund in memory of Emily Weed Hollister, president of the Rochester Branch for many years, the work has continued successfully each winter. About 100 expert knitters took part in this work under direction of Mrs. Spencer and her assistants Mrs. E Bernard Finucane and Miss Eva Howe and Mrs. Harry Beardsley.

Each Saturday these gay colorful but practical garments go out in comfort and make happy a large group of Rochester children sent to the Red Cross by the family care agencies and the School Referral Bureau. Mrs. Alexander Lindsay and Mrs. H Douglas Mitchell are in charge of the distribution.

The designs for the knitted articles have been carefully prepared by the work committee. The Guild does not encourage the careless worker to take out yarn. Many enthusiastic and experienced workers have offered their services, as shown in the exhibit last Spring in connection with the Women's Crusade.

Mrs. Spencer, general Chairman of the Knitting Section says: "The extent of our accomplishment rests on the number and faithful work of our knitters, on the willingness of those who can afford to do so, sharing the burden of expense by buying their own wool from the Guild at wholesale prices and by the replenishment of our wool fund from time to time by voluntary gifts."

Rochester Women are asked to co-operate in a city-wide effort to salvage yarn to be made into mittens. Yarn any weight or color, in large or small amounts will be received gratefully at the Red Cross Headquarters, 307 Plymouth Avenue North, or at the home of Mrs. Spencer, 1006 East Avenue.

The "voting" of garments means that the Guild endeavors to divide fairly among the various social agencies the articles collected during the autumn or the annual drive. The Knitting Section which started work Oct. 25 at Red Cross Headquarters continues to work as long as the weather lasts and distributes clothing to children during the entire winter.

The Needlework Guild of America which has completed 50 years of service, has 1,306 branches today. The Rochester branch supplied 15,425 new garments to meet the local clothing problem." End of article.

"100 expert knitters?" "Careless workers?" 15,425 garments - I'm guessing that a lot of these were sewn rather than knitted. And what about the Women's Crusade in Spring 1935? What's that about?

There is so much more. Did you know that there was a Susan B. Anthony Knitting Society? Must track more down about that. Or, that the Knitting Society raised funds to support the antislavery movement in the 19th century? So, I'll just keep on cracking away at this and posting about it when I can, just to get it on the table.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On and Off the Needles

I've gone totally off the rails as far as my knitting is concerned. I've started yet another sweater and the only thing I've finished is one socklet. I got drawn into knitting the adult version of Elizabether Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. It's called February Lady on Ravelry, but I'm calling mine Big Baby. Yep. That's about it. Big Baby. 

Well, the Cobweb Crepe Baby blanket is well on it's way to completion, about 70%, I'd say and how long can you knit on that pattern before you loose your marbles anyway? I really have to be in the mood for those miles and  miles of Feather and Fan stitch.

Then there's the Big Swatch. Body is done and blocked, sleeves are started and calculations made. OKAY.

Let's not forget the Mini Weaver shawl, that tawny beauty. May have to unravel it as I have purchased skeins of matching lace weight mohair which goes so well with the Alpa Fine. That's the same combination of yarns as in the grey blanket I made in the winter.

Don't even mention the Breton Jacket. That is inches away from being done. I only need to concentrate long enough to figure out how to do an afterthought gusset in the sleeve.

Finally, as Shari pointed out in the comments, it is time to start knitting mittens for the Knitting Guild Fall collection of such for the schools. Whatever would Mrs. Nellis say? She's the dame on the top of the last post.

I leave you with a lurid photo of the wretched socklet...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What went on in the Fitch Building anyway?

According to an article in the Democrat and Chronicle from New Year's Day, 1933 (Women Knit to Save Needy Tots from Cold),

"The Needlework Guild Plans to recruit three groups of skilled knitters: one to make articles such as mittens and infants garments from small lots of salvaged yarn, another to use wool supplied by the Guild and made into garments in accordance with designs and specifications of the Guild, and the third group, made up of knitters who can afford to purchase their own wool at wholesale prices from the Needlework Section...Mrs. Spencer stated that all garments made from the wool supplied by the Guild are to be returned for distribution through the Emergency Clothing Bureau to those who need such articles. Mimeographed directions for the making of sweaters, caps and mittens for boys and girls have been prepared and will be distributed to those applying for yarn... Volunteer committees will be set up at the Section Headquarters at 362 East Avenue, on the second floor of the Fitch Building..."

I just love this stuff. I feel more connected to the city knowing some of its history. So. Next I went to the web site of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester. A quick search told me that there was one collection there that contained some relevant information.

Lo and behold in the Hollister Spencer Family Papers (yes we collect such things!) Box 1 folder 7 is devoted to "Volunteer Knitting Section of the Needlework Guild of America, Rochester Branch, 1933." Here are some scribbled notes by one of the family members who had been involved in some way with the Needlework Guild and took a few notes and preserved some of the "mimeographed sheets" referred to in the D&C article.

What is very clear is that they were extremely organized and thrifty. There are detailed instructions for knitters and for those working in the Knitting Bureau. They were very concerned about making sure that no yarn was wasted and any that could be salvaged was re-used. "Even the smallest leftover can be used for trimming baby garments of making quick Knit mittens." "... even the smallest amount will make stripes in mittens." The sheet "Suggestions to Knitters..." ends with this, "All knitters are asked to assist in a City-wide program for salvaging odd lots of leftover yarn. You can greatly assist this program bu bringing in all such wool you can collect." Wouldn't they be horrified by our huge stashes!

Another sheet is labelled "Notice - Daily Supervisors - Wholesale price list on Wool sold at Knitting Section"
"Baby Shetland pink blue and white 1 oz skein 10 cents each. etc. Knitting Worsted 3 and 3 quarters oz hank 30 cents each. Small size sweaters took 2 hanks and large ones 3 hanks. There were prescribed colours for boys and girls. Boys got solid coloured garments in navy, brown gray, or dark or bright red. Girls garments could be two- toned: Rose with lighter rose trim, blue with lighter blue trim medium brown with tan, navy with bright blue trim, navy with red trim. Dark brown and shaded brown....etc. etc. Really they seem quite fussy to me now and I quote "Do not use light colors or shaded yarns for whole garments. These are provide for trim only."

Unfortunately, there weren't any patterns included in the file. The other thing there was a letter from the Chairman of the Volunteer Knitting Session to the Chairman of the Rochester Clothing Committee which contains detailed instructions on who should receive the pure wool garments knitted by the people of Rochester, namely children who had a "tendency to tuberculosis, to be underweight or otherwise physically unfit...We feel that the knitting public would be especially interested in working fo rthe program above outlined and such interest would soon be translated into a greater number of sweaters."

Is that wonderful - the knitting public! If you are wondering how much they managed to produce, the D&C reported on November 16th, 1933 that "Volunteer knitters have made it possible to fit an average of 50 children with sweaters caps and mittens each Saturday morning at the Red Cross Headquarters." 

Now that puts things in perspective.

Photocredit: Samantha Stanton Nellis poses for a photograph with her knitting. 1919.
Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rochester, New York - Knitting History

A few months ago I was invited to help gather material on the local history of our craft for a talk that our guild president, Jeannine was preparing for a fundraiser for the RPO. As a librarian and an old reference desk hand, I was quickly drawn in to the search.

Jeannine covered the history of the Rochester Knitting Guild itself which was founded as recently as the 1980's. But what about earlier history? We know that everyone and their uncle knit on a regular basis, but was there a predecessor of the RKG? What kinds of activities and organizations were there for knitters?

I began by reading "No Idle Hands: the Social History of American Knitting by Anne MacDonald looking for reference to our town or region. There's only a few lines concerning bazaars which were held by various neighbourhoods to raise money for this and that. OKAY, but not much detail. This is a good read though and generally very interesting and well written.

I next turned to the Internet and searched Google Book Search. I know that Google Book Search is frustrating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many of the recent books allow you to view only a snippet of content if anything at all. It is a boon when you want to do keyword searching in older, out of copyright books and has endless use knitting mills and machines in the area and not much about hand knitting.

I started to hit the motherload on a site called This little known site is the brainchild of Thomas Tryniski in Fulton New York. It indexes and provides the full text of many upstate newspapers starting with 1832. This includes the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. It's a heck of a site, but you really do need to be persistent to use it. It's no Amazon, but it does present the full digital image of the newspapers. So. What did I find on our craft?

I tried using the keyword search for "knitting and rochester," but the results were too many and cluttered with those darned knitting mills and machines. I got the best results by searching for an exact phrase. There's a ton of stuff under Needlework Guild of America. I scrolled through and picked out the items that appeared in the local paper. The most informative of these were published in the 1930's during the Great Depression.

The Knitting Bureau: 362 East Avenue, second floor

The Needlework Guild of America's Rochester branch was founded almost the same year that the Guild came to North America and in the 1930's it had a "Knitting Bureau" on the second floor of the Fitch Building down at 362 East Ave. This building seems miraculously to have survived until today as the address 360-364 East Ave.(I think folks here must have worshipped Robert Moses cause they tore down a lot of of buildings in the 60's a raised up highways around the city). Anyone up for a raod trip? Take your camera! City Hall has this picture of the building. Just imagine. Well it's one of these, whichever one is called "The Fitch," that is it. Here was a place you could go and pick up yarn and needles to do community knitting.

Coming soon... What went on in the Fitch Building anyway?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Big Swatch Update: knitting in the wet

Finally blocked the fronts and back of the Big Swatch and pinned them out on the spare bed. Pins were used very modestly. Really, I just spread the pieces out, measured and patted them a bit and pinned a few corners for form's sake. In case I have to frog back, I left the skeins attached to each piece. I put them all into a plastic bag to keep them dry and out of the way during the soak. I was oh so careful.

Wouldn't you know it, as I patted out the last piece, I noticed that the top had come unravelled. I hadn't secured the yarn correctly and a bit of self frogging had occurred - about six rows worth. Wah! Here's a grainy photo, taken with shaking hands.

I grabbed the needles and as best I could, picked up the 30 stitches and knitted the last rows and cast off over again. I was very conscious of the fact that the knitting, besides smelling like a wet dog, was stretching as I tried to reconstruct the last rows. I think it turned out OKAY though and was able to pat it back into shape. We'll see how that turns out. Here's the general view of the Swatch as it dries:

Next will be to work out the sleeves. I'm holding Prime Time Knitter's recent post on the subject as a kind of totem to help me through it. I haven't read it through carefully yet but I look at it from time to time to make sure it's still there for me to refer to.

In other knitting, I am well past the halfway point in my current mindless knitting project, the second Cobweb Crepe as well as a socklet. Yes, it is lurid, but what can you do but hope that somehow it will look better when done. Next time: Rochester knitting history.