Friday, August 2, 2013

Winding Last September's Yarns

I am knitting mittens from Mountain Mohair yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery, a workers' coop which produces yarn with environmentally friendly methods. Although the company is located in Vermont, I bought this yarn from their booth at the 2012 Wisconsin Wool Festival.

Before knitting with the yarn, I needed to wind it into a ball. Since I don't own a ball winder or swift, I draped the skein over an old desk chair and wound by hand. The chair carries scratches from past moves, the fabric seat is stained, and the back sports a drip of pale blue paint from the most recent painting of my writing room. When I was nine or ten years old, Grama Dickinson placed her yarn over the back of this chair and showed me how to wind yarn. She also taught me to knit. After her death, I brought the chair and matching desk, which once had belonged to her mother Lucy, to my home. I now write at Lucy's desk (see an earlier post) and wind yarn from the chair.

Winding by hand takes more time than using a ball winder and a swift but I don't want more stuff in my house. When I draped this this skein over the chair, I recalled time spent with Gram. As I flipped the yarn over the back of the chair and pulled it through my fingers, I enjoyed the vivid blue color and considered other odd balls of yarn I could stripe into the mittens. I also noted this yarn was a little heavier and not quite as soft as Cascade 220 or Galway worsted yarns. Since Green Mountain Spinnery sources wool from New England sheep, the wool is sturdy and well suited to winter garments. The area sheep grew this fiber to insulate themselves from New England winters.

As the ball grew larger, I unwrapped the memory of attending the wool festival with my dear sister. We spent one day shopping and visiting with small independent companies selling yarn, fiber, books, and other fiber related accessories. We also enjoyed downtown Madison by eating dinners in locally owned restaurants and browsing a great independent bookstore,  A Room of One's Own.

For me, hand winding and hand knitting are time well spent. Knitting yarns spun from fiber of sheep, alpaca, llama, cashmere or mohair goats is my antidote to hard plastic chairs, styrofoam take out containers, and processed food. When I knit, my heart and respiration rates slow. My hands develop new muscle memory of the stitches. Depending upon the complexity of the project, I can learn new techniques, day dream about a happy road trip, recall stories about the women in my family, or figure out what to prepare for dinner. When I'm finished I have a warm and sometimes beautiful shawl, sweater, hat, mitten, or sock.

 The second mitten still needs a thumb but these mittens will be warm and bright on a winter's day.

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