Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas


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Knitting for Comfort During the First World War

During a recent trip to Bristol I visited an exhibition called ‘Parcels of Comfort’ in the Cathedral in the centre of town.  This small display used textiles to illustrate the contents of parcels which were sent to British Army soldiers during World War I.  Most remarkable was the way that much of the work on view was produced by GCSE students at a local secondary school in Cotham.

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The exhibits illustrated the crucial role played by women and girls in the fabrication of garments for serving soldiers and how they plugged the gap left by a shortage of woollen garments.  Magazines of the day provided patterns.

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The most common items were gloves, socks and balaclavas.  These were known as ‘comforts.’

Socks were deemed to be the most important items to send as a fresh supply of clean dry socks could prevent the onset of ‘trench foot’ which is a fungal infection that can lead to gangrene or even amputation.  For me the eeriest item was the rifle glove pictured above.  This has two significant apertures- one for the thumb and the other for the trigger finger. I can’t imagine what it must have been like knitting one of these for a close relative knowing that the hand that it is being made for may kill or that the person wearing it may die from a hand wearing a similar garment.

Blankets were also knitted for hospitals.  During this war wool was in short supply and had to be imported from Australia, New Zealand and even South America.  Women were encouraged to use subdued colours such as grey, khaki and brown but occasionally brighter coloured wool was used.

This exhibition was thought provoking for me.  It made me consider the ways that women were unofficially used to assist the war effort.  It is very hard to gauge their motivation without being there to judge the mood of the day.  I have no doubt that patriotism was involved but surely by being emotionally attached to a loved one away fighting was reason enough to produce these ‘comforts.’

 

 

 


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Way home Knitting

 

Every evening, on my way home from work, I drop into my mother’s house.  This is our time to have a catch up chat about how the day has gone and to get on with our knitting.  My mother is currently making me a navy pullover which is very close to the end.  She’s working on the collar at the moment and I am so looking forward to it being finished.

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By contrast I am working on a small jumper for my cousin’s little lad Diarmuid.  I leave this in my mother’s house and pick it up every evening to do a few extra rows.  It’s really knitting up very quickly.

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Please note the funny faces on the needles.  These were the only pair of 4mm needles in the house but they work perfectly.

 


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Meet the Olympia Cardigan…the Olympic race that finally saw the finish line!

Early in July, during a weekend in Bristol, my husband and I decided to go to a sale in John Lewis to look at shirts…..Whilst perusing the menswear section it came to my attention that there was a sale on in the haberdashery area so I needed to investigate.  I was in so much luck as there was a large area brimming with various yarns and wool all with discounted labels.  A few of them had been bagged up as job lots.  This is where I came across the beautiful pinks and greys in the Debbie Bliss Elektra yarn…all ten balls of it (each of 50 grammes).  There and then I had to have it as I was sure that I would get a complete garment from it.  This was going to be my new project to accompany me during my Olympics viewing.

I knew that I wanted to make a large, cosy cardigan for the chilly evenings to slip over whatever I happened to be wearing.   Following a quick swatch using 6mm needles (the label suggests 8mm) and a few rudimentary measurements I got started.  I must say that this was the most liberating project.  No pattern was used other than a basic idea in my head of how I wanted the cardigan to look.  While the games on the telly got underway so did I.

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As everyone knows ‘Life is what happens when you’re making other plans’ and on a number of occasions both my cardigan project and my Olympic watching were interrupted with more pressing matters at work and home.  I was able, though, to pick it up easily and carry on when I was able to snatch a half hour here and there and it just grew and grew so quickly that it was very gratifying.

I knitted it all in one piece from the bottom up.  I split the stitches at the armholes for the back and the fronts and continued in stocking stitch up to the shoulders.  Next I sewed up the shoulders, picked up the stitches from the armholes and knitted the sleeves from top to cuff.  Finally I picked up and knitted the stitches around the collar using garter stitch and did the same for the button band.

I managed to finish it this week just when the Para Olympics started  (so I am still within the  Olympic timetable) and I love wearing it.

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Those needles ROCK!

KNit drummer

I really wish that I had taken this photo but it is a clue to the punch line of a story that I am about to tell you.  Yesterday I visited our local €2 Shop in Navan for nothing more than a browse when I came across these massive wooden needles on a shelf in the back of the store.  They were size 20 mm and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them to start experimenting.  I brought them up to the young male cashier who looked puzzled when I handed them to him.  ‘I didn’t know we sold drum sticks!’ he declared.  When I told him that they were meant to be knitting needles we both began laughing.  It was a lovely exchange.

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Meanwhile, back at home, I decided to give my new ‘drumsticks’ a go with some super thick wool that I recently bought for another project.  I couldn’t believe it; fifteen stitches and you have enough width for a scarf.  Utterly wonderful..not to mention how fast the knitting grows.  Obviously there are slight drawbacks e.g. the weight of the needles for a start, and the fact that my index finger isn’t capable of flicking the wool around the needle with as much ease, or for that matter, with any ease as my whole right hand has to leave the needle to complete the stitch.  All that said, I am really enjoying using them and simply having a go.  I don’t know that I will go much further than the picture shows as this wool is ‘earmarked’ but I won’t rule out the odd scarf being produced as Christmastime approaches.

 

Minty Humbug

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I’ve started Minty Humbug, a new pullover for a little person in Berlin.  It is being made with handspun yarn from Albie’s fleece and Aran wool from Bunratty Woollen Mills.  So far it has been knit on a circular needle up to the arm holes and then straight needles were used to work the upper front and back.  The collar and one and a half sleeves have also been produced since this picture was taken so it is very close to finishing which will be great.

Rain prevents shearing

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Albie and Bootsy desperately need to be shorn however the weather has been so wet recently that there hasn’t been an opportunity to do this.  It’s really crucial that their fleeces are cut soon as the later that it is left the colder it will be for them come the winter time as there won’t have been enough time for it to grow back so I’m hoping for some good weather this week and a shearer who has time for a visit.