Celebrating a Traditional Craft
Hand-Knitting is a traditional craft that has been with us for hundreds of years. My own entry into this craft was via my grandmother, whose family had emigrated from Cornwall, England. She taught me how to knit and crochet at a very early age as she had been taught by her mother. This is how a traditional craft is passed down through the generations, and in knitting, it was generally from mother to daughter.
The history of knitting fascinates me. I am amazed at the ingenuity and skill of our forebears, especially from Northern Europe, which is my heritage, who took two sticks and string and created beautiful, functional clothing to keep their loved ones warm and dry.
Coloured patterns (e.g., Fair Isle) and texture (e.g., Aran cables and fishing ganseys) provide extra warmth by creating insulation through a second layer or by trapping air. In our eastern provinces, settlers used these skills to create their own traditional patterns for mittens, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, thrummed mittens were created.
In my own knitting, I honour those who have gone before and hand-knit traditional patterns or create my own interpretations, using traditional motifs and stitch patterns.
My knitted dolls are my own creations, and I design the clothes to fit the character that I have imagined. My fibre of choice is pure sheep’s wool, minimally processed, which has unique qualities which make it perfect for clothing. Wool is elastic, resists absorption of moisture, insulates against heat and cold, and resists flame. Lightly processed wool retains its lanolin which makes such wool water-repellent. Washing wool takes some care but is not difficult and well-cared for woolens will last and wear well. I do use some superwash wool or wool blends as well as other fibres, including acrylic (e.g., for dolls) but pure, minimally processed sheep’s wool remains my first choice.
My primary sources for heavy-weight wool are from Canadian mills that source Canadian fleece and minimally process the wool, without harsh chemicals. My primary source for lighter-weight wool is Shetland wool from the Shetland Islands, long celebrated for its unique properties.