MKG Cable Gram—Volume 23, Number 3
Hello! I’m a member of the Northern Lights affiliate in Duluth, and I am picking up the pen (oops, I mean turning on the word-processing program on my computer) to write a column for you about a knitter’s experiences here, near the shores of beautiful Lake Superior.
This summer I finished knitting cotton and summery blend yarns into a couple of summer tops and a dress. In between those bigger projects or while visiting with family and friends, I’ve been knitting fine-gauge wool socks with those wonderful sock yarns that are available these days. I love those types of socks. I have a couple dozen pairs now, knitted over the past five years or so, and they’re the only kind of socks I wear during cool or cold weather. Contrary to how careful I am with washing most of my other handknits, I throw those suckers directly into the washing machine (regular warm/cold cycle) and dryer (hot) along with all my other laundry. They’ve held up wonderfully, but I have had to patch some of them (I wear them out under or on the side of the heel), darning them with yarn left over from the original knitting project. (I wind a tiny skein of yarn from most of my knitting projects, then save it in case I need it for repairs later.)
By the way, I entered the dress (a sort of caftan), a top, and a pair of socks at my local fair, the South Saint Louis County Fair. I encourage you to do the same at your local fair next year. You won’t earn much money from prizes, but why not enter some of your projects in order to ensure a large display for fair visitors to see? Who knows when a viewer will be inspired to learn the craft, or to pick up a long-languishing knitting project? Entering a local fair is a more “home spun” sort of event (dish cloths and hot pads are welcome) than entering the Minnesota State Fair, where the knitting competition is fierce and even the most skilled knitter will be hard-pressed to win a prize. While the displays of magnificent knitting at the State Fair can be awe-inspiring to advanced knitters, they may actually be intimidating to beginners. Displays at local fairs often show projects that a beginner might find more doable, so I always like to enter things that might be encouraging to them.
On another topic (vegetarians beware!), I learned something new about knitting the other day — from, of all people, my non-knitting uncle, who has been a trapper for about 60 years. He was showing his brother and me one of his freshly-tanned fox skins, and he asked me if I knew that some fur coats were being knitted these days. Now, I’d heard of yarns that contain the hair of mink and possum, but he said these coats were being knitted of narrow strips of real fur pelts. That was news to me! He said that the coats were being touted as lighter and more comfortable to wear in a wider range of temperatures, since they have fur both inside and out. They also breathe better because they don’t have a fabric lining.
So I just had to look up “knitting fur” on the Internet. It appears that Paula Lishman was the “inventor”; she has even patented part of the process. You can learn a lot about her ready-made knitted fur garments and the “yarns” on her Web sites at www.paulalishmaninternational.com and www.furyarn.com/main. The hide is dyed to match the color of the fur so that it doesn’t show through the knitting (colors include naturals and any color of the rainbow), and the pelt is cut in one continuous narrow spiral, so that the “yarn” has as few ends as possible. It appears that sheared beaver is the preferred fur pelt for knitting, but there’s also mink, fox, muskrat, and even rabbit. Here’s what the Canada-based business site said about the yarn: “The pelts are hand-cut into a narrow, one-eighth-inch wide strip. This strip is re-enforced with colour-matched cotton and twisted, so the leather is on the inside covering the cotton, with the fur radiating outwards from the centre.” You can buy completed projects, yarn (beaver, fox, or rabbit), or knitting kits for a variety of projects, but be prepared to pay dearly. For example, the sheared beaver “Fur Mitts” kit is priced at $257, and the price of the beaver yarn is $110 to $125 for a 50-gram ball, about 25 yards.
Some other sites to visit include www.firststreetleather.com/paulalishman.htm and www.rusclothing.com/casual-clothing/fur-scarves. Knitted fur projects on the various sites include scarves, jackets, coats, “sweaters,” vests, capes, stoles, a midriff-baring bolero, pillows, hats, scarves, and mittens.
I’m thinking of cutting up an old fur coat I have and seeing if I can knit with it, but, at the other extreme, I’ve also been thinking about trying to knit with old videotapes, too. We’ll see which one I try first.
Rita O’Connell is a member of Northern Lights, an affiliate of the MKG.